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Saving Each Other – Lauren & Macy

For the last three years, sixteen-year-old Lauren Whitt has been on an unimaginable journey.  In February of 2011, what started as physical exhaustion and just generally feeling unwell, turned into violent episodes of abdominal pain.   The 45-minute attacks started like clockwork once a day, then worked their way up to three times daily on a relatively predictable schedule of 9am, 12pm and 4pm. 

In the beginning, Lauren was seen by multiple hospitals and specialists that could not find anything medically wrong with her.  Her mother Alicia, knowledgeable of medicine as well as being an herbalist and student of aromatherapy looked at how to help her daughter from both western and eastern schools of thought.  Lauren eventually lost 25 pounds and was in such a weakened state that Alicia pleaded for help to a friend that is an anesthesiologist at Denver Health.

Denver Health welcomed Lauren and her family with absolute compassion and understanding.  They allowed them to stay and evaluated Lauren for five days.  At the end, with no medical findings to point to, they determined that simply put, her Central Nervous System had somehow gone haywire.

Alicia, determined to find a way to break the cycle of Lauren’s attacks, decided to try a suggestion from a friend, horse therapy.  Barbara Wright at Harmony Horseworks allowed Lauren to come ride a little and be around the horses, but she was not strong enough to continue going after a while.  Finding enough strength to get back around the horses, they found Janine Nold, a trainer at Swede Gulch Farm who was close to their home and had a love for American Saddlebreds.

Lauren started taking lessons with Janine a couple times a week as well as just grooming and being around the horses.  The lessons had to be planned around the schedule of her episodes.  At this point, Lauren had been out of school for four months and had not had any social interaction with other kids her age in a while.  Even though Lauren was so thin and frail, she felt accepted by the other students in the barn and by the horses.

Her abdominal episodes started to decrease as she continued to spend time with the horses.  Lauren explains that her level of depression was so high and that, “horses were her big break point.”  Her episodes gradually ceased completely.

Lauren & Macy

Lauren & Macy

Her love for horses grew and unbeknownst to her parents, Lauren started searching the Internet for her dream horse, an American Saddlebred chestnut mare.  For a couple of weeks she had been messaging the owner of a horse she found interesting in Littleton.  She brought it up to her parents while on a family vacation.  Shocked and upset that their thirteen year old had been shopping and communicating about the horse, they eventually agreed that they would look at her.

They found Macy as an almost six year old, neglected and in a padlocked, filthy stall.  Christina, the owner failed to show up but called and said they could ride her.  They learned from the stable owner that Macy’s owner was very unstable.  The other horse owners at the barn had been pitching in for her care.  Janine had come along to see Macy as well and felt that it was safe for Lauren to go in with Macy and eventually they rode her.  They could see that Macy had a good mind and she immediately took to Lauren.  Lauren and her mom decided whether they kept her or not, they could not leave her in the conditions she was in.

Janine understood their need to help Macy, but told them, “don’t expect anything”.  Best case, she may be able to show as an entry level Country Pleasure horse if they were very fortunate, she may only be a trail horse, or she may not be suitable for anything. When Janine went to pick her up, she called to tell Lauren and her family that she was concerned that Macy had foundered.

They were devastated, but Lauren said, “I am not giving up on this horse.  This was my chance to save somebody.”  She felt that the doctors had given up on her, but she was not giving up on Macy. With the help of supplements that Alicia had researched that increase Nitric Oxide in the body and the body’s ability to help itself, Macy’s founder diagnosis was reversed (www.harmonyequinescience.com).

As they tried to complete the purchase of Macy with legal help, they ran into multiple hurtles.  It turned out that the owner had warrants out for her arrest, she had six different aliases and she had even sold Macy to another family in Illinois that thought she had been lost in an accident during transport. As they worked to get her ownership papers transferred with the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA), the association just could not match up the signatures from the owner. Finally, Alicia met the President of ASHA at a show and was able to explain all that had happened and eventually get the papers straightened out.

Now officially Macy’s owner, Lauren was set on showing Macy in the American Saddlebred Pleasure division classes.  Trainers told her that Macy had no worth and she should give up before she wasted time and money on her, but Lauren tenaciously believed in Macy.  Lauren spent countless hours preparing and training for showing Macy.  Overtime, Janine saw potential in Macy.  Once she hit the show ring, Lauren did not wear the typical black or gray show outfits the other riders wore, but the stand out, white jacket and pink vest.  She believed so much in Macy and that she was truly a special horse, she couldn’t hide it.

More than that, she wanted to show her in Park Pleasure with professional trainers and experienced riders as their competition.  Show after show, Lauren and Macy were dead last.  Her mom cried hidden tears for her and wanted to help her, but Lauren was determined and never failed to believe in her and Macy.  She left every class with a smile and held tightly to her positive attitude.

In order to move up to showing in other states, Lauren and her family decided to move Macy to Parker Valley Farm to be with top American Saddlebred trainer, Tom Volz.  Lauren started taking lessons twice a week and Tom worked with Macy.  Lauren and her family appreciated that Tom recognized Macy’s desire and willingness to do whatever she was asked.

In 2013, Lauren and Macy showed throughout the year, including two trips out of state to Kansas City and Las Vegas up against some of the best competition they had seen to date and they did not come in last place!  In fact, at the end of last year, Macy and Lauren were the Colorado State Champions in the Park Pleasure Division!!!

Lauren is in Parker at least three days a week riding two to four horses each time to prepare herself for the upcoming show season.   Horses and ultimately Macy helped break the malfunctioning cycle of her Central Nervous System and draw her out of her depression.  It is hard to know where Macy had been before Lauren found her or where she would be with out her, but Lauren and Macy certainly saved each other.  Lauren plans to become a psychologist to use what she has been through to help others.

Heather McWilliams © 2014.






4-H Barn Dance Fundraiser May 3 – Sign Up Now!

4-H Barn Dance to Kick up FUNds!

The Jefferson County 4-H Youth Development Program will hold its first 4-H Barn Dance on Saturday, May 3, 2014, to be held at the Event Center on the Jefferson County Fairgrounds at 15200 W. 6th Avenue in Golden.  Agape Distributors, the main sponsor for the event, and 4-H members and leaders invite you to put on your boots and hats and join us for a fun evening to help support 4-H activities at the fairgrounds!  The fund-raiser begins with a BBQ dinner from 6:00-7:00pm catered by Tin Star Smokehouse and Granny Scott’s Pie Shop.  A silent auction will  open at 6:00pm and close at the band intermission. There will be a live auction at 6:30pm with auctioneer Kevin Rutter. Then, from 7:30-9:30pm, dance to The Tyler Walker Band! Tickets are $10.00 for children 10 and under and $25.00 for everyone else. Call CSU Extension at (303) 271-6620 for more information or to purchase tickets.  Online ticket sales are available at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/jefferson-county-4-h-barn-dance-tickets-10497715951?aff=rss.  We are thankful to our additional sponsors Jeffco Fair Inc. and Rocky Mountain Safety & Security for their help making this event possible!

Note: Tickets are advance sale only and non-refundable.  A service fee for online ticket sales is added to the ticket price.

Flowers For Food! Colorado Horsecare Foodbank Fundraiser

We are collecting your personal pots to start planting so you are ready for spring!  Our Spring fundraiser, Flowers for Food™, begins its sixth year in 2014. We offer deck rail planters and hanging baskets with flowers we cultivate in the Foodbank’s two mountain greenhouses. While the snow is still swirling in Evergreen, we get our greenhouses growing! Pricing for our exquisite planters is very competitive; our plants are hardy; and we spend hours selecting plants that offer more interesting colors than you’ll find at local nurseries. Give us a chance to beautify your home environment—you’ll be supporting a great cause in the process.

Pre-Orders & Refills:  Would you like to have your own planters refilled next year? Prices for refilling your pots and/or planters vary depending on the volume of plant material needed. If you would like an estimate of the cost, please call Juliana Lehman at 303-670-1474.

Click here for order form:  Flowers For Food Order Form

Considering Clinics – A Lifetime of Learning

In our everyday interactions, horses always have something new to teach us.   If we are actively seeking to further our knowledge of a particular horse discipline, riding in or auditing a clinic is an excellent way to do so.  Clinics are usually individual events that last anywhere from one day up to several days and feature a nationally or even internationally known expert in a specific field of riding.  Some examples of types of clinics are Cutting, Dressage, Jumping, Driving, De-Spooking, Eventing, Reining, Horsemanship and Trail.

In 2010, the High Plains Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society brought Dressage trainer, breeder and judge, Hilda Gurney, to 8th Heaven Farms in Castle Rock for a Symposium November 6th and 7th.  Hilda breeds, rides, and trains out of her Keen Ridge Farm in Moorpark, California and has a long list of achievements, including the an Olympic team bronze medal, and individual gold and silver, and three team gold medals at the Pan American Games, 6 USET National Grand Prix Championships, and 15 USDF Horse of the Year titles.  In this recent clinic with Hilda, horse and rider teams were selected from a number of applicants to ride at each of the nine Dressage levels: Training through Grand Prix.  The clinic was designed to have Hilda work with each horse and rider team and also include the auditors in the education process.

Evergreen resident, Deborah Carter, and her fabulous seventeen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, La Vie Nouveaux, were selected to ride at the Prix St. Georges level.  La Vie, by the celebrated Dutch stallion Voltaire, was imported by Deborah from Holland in 2002.  La Vie is not only an amazing athlete, with an elegant style all his own, but also a perfect gentleman to be around.  Deborah is an accomplished Dressage rider, earning many awards throughout the last 25 years in the sport.   She has worked with such top clinicians as Steffen Peters, Debbie McDonald, Axel Steiner, Jan Ebeling, and Peter Borggreve.  In 2009, after showing successfully in Prix St. Georges, Deborah and La Vie were schooling Intermediare-1 in preparation for the 2010 show season; however, a tendon injury temporarily sidelined La Vie for the first six months of this year.  This clinic with Hilda Gurney was a great way for the pair to get back on track for 2011.  In this article, Deborah will help us to look at the benefits of attending clinics, as well as how to choose a clinician.

Clinic Benefits –  With horses, no matter your length of experience, education or knowledge, there is something new to learn every day.  Regarding the riding aspect, Deborah states, “any sport, especially a horse sport, if you are going to be serious and competitive about it, requires that you pursue your education.”  That education is really multi-faceted.   You have the work and the relationship you build on a daily basis with your horse at home, the foundation that you learn and build upon with your regular trainer, and the specialized knowledge you gain from participation in clinics.

By auditing and attending clinics, “you have the opportunity to work with someone who has extensive experience and specific expertise, either as a successful international competitor, a member of the U.S Equestrian or Olympic Teams, or a Dressage judge.  Such individuals have learned, seen, and experienced so much and they have brought so many horses along themselves.  Often they have increased their skills and education though successful breeding operations, judges programs and improving their own skills at riding and training.  It is somewhat like going to a brain surgeon instead of a general practitioner.”

Another benefit of going to a clinic is that it helps you and your horse get over ‘stage fright’.  Deborah states, “preparation for, and participation in, a clinic setting elevates all of the nerves and performance anxieties of both athletes, so it is almost like going to a show.  You have a bigger crowd watching you.  More is riding on your performance.  It helps you get better at overcoming ‘show nerves’, so your horse doesn’t feel you tensing up when you enter a show ring.”  In addition, your horse becomes more accustomed to being in a different environment with new objects, loud speakers, other horses, activity and spectators.

Deborah considers working with a local trainer on a consistent basis to be an imperative aspect of an individual’s training program.  However, in our region, clinics can be a great complement.   Deborah explains, “Colorado is an interesting place because we don’t have an abundance of local trainers with national or international experience.  We have some excellent trainers, and you can get a solid foundation of the basics and what you need to move up the levels with your equine partner if you work with someone with whom you get along and knows your style of riding, your horse’s capabilities, the goals to which you aspire to.  But we Dressage riders her in Colorado are blessed with many top visiting  clinicians and if you budget for this enhanced learning opportunity, you can increase your education. You can take certain revelations or exercises away from what you learn at a clinic that you then can plug into your work at home and your work with your local trainer.  It is really a whole different aspect of your and your horses continuing education.”  The key to getting the most benefit out of a clinic is choosing the right clinician for you and your horse.

Choosing A Clinician – Even though there is something to learn from everyone, it is important to choose a clinician thoughtfully.  For Deborah, she seeks out “clinicians that have the qualities I would want to have as a rider and a trainer:  understanding the horse, being kind and fair to the horse, but being precise and clear in my communication.  You must strive to be very specific about body position and movement and the way you educate and correct mistakes.”  In order to make her selection, she may first go watch a potential clinician compete and ride or watch them in videos.  She has often had the opportunity to be riding with these same individuals in the same show warm-up ring prior to a test.  This way she can see what parts of their program apply to her and appear to be qualities that she wants to assimilate.  People who are good clinician candidates inspire her to say, “I want to look like that, I want to ride like that.  I want my horse to go that way.”  Deborah adds, “I (like to) see the horses that they ride in their barns so I can see if they are happy or stressed.  That is a big thing for me.  I don’t want to force a horse through all of this and have an unhappy, stressed horse.  I have a partner.  That means something, and I want to develop that partnership over the years.“

Also consider finding clinicians who come yearly or regularly so they become familiar with you and your horse.  They then can develop and understanding of where you are at, how you have progressed, and where you need to go from here.  On the other hand, avoid clinicians who ride differently or treat their horses differently than you would want to.  Or people who ride or train in a way that you wouldn’t or couldn’t, perhaps because of their physical attributes alone.  These less well-suited clinicians, while still potentially very successful, talented, or helpful for some, are not going to be the right fit to help you take the pieces and plug them into your own training program.  Plus, if you choose to go to several different clinicians, pick those with a similar training approach and ethic.  Going to many clinicians with different styles may give conflicting messages to you and your horse.  Instead, find programs that can build upon each other, one to the next.

No matter who you are, one sign of a true horse person is the humility they possess toward the horses and all that goes with them.  Challenge yourself to continue to learn and become a better rider and caretaker of our magnificent horses.  In closing, Deborah states, “These horses are a gift.  Having them in our lives is a privilege that we need to safeguard and take care of them.  They give us so much.”

Deborah and her husband Mark have three incredible kids, four horses, five dogs, three cats, numerous fish and a love of family, friends and travel.  Deborah is intentional, thoughtful and a consummate professional in whatever she does – parenting, Dressage, painting, photography, quilting, hay farming, law, and “hands on” equine health and wellness care; just to name a few. 

Heather McWilliams (c) 2014.