Dec 03, 2008

Help Eventer Kim Meier

In 2007, three-day event rider Kim Meier was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a freak horseback riding accident. Proceeds from the sale of Finding My Distance will be donated to Kim and her daughter, Kelly, to help offset staggering medical costs and other living expenses.

Buy Finding My Distance today! (Check back later for exerpts and reviews from this wonderful book!)

This is Kim’s Story.

Kim Meier was born with her boots on, but the Long Island suburb where she chocked her wagon didn’t come with a lot of hitching posts. “You can go back 100 years on either side of the family and nobody had horses. They just walked around or rode trolley cars.”

Kim’s connection to horses – their size and smell and the sounds they make trotting and grazing and talking to each other – was immediate and has lasted a lifetime. Her parents were teachers. Her father taught art and her mother taught physical education. Getting artistic with horses and getting physical with them was a natural outcome.

At age four she hit the big time. “My mother bought a summer girls’ camp in New Hampshire. We’d go there on the weekends and all summer long. Of course I rode and when I was eight started taking lessons on Long Island too. We moved to the camp for good when I was eleven. That was also when my parents devised a plan to help me lose interest in riding. They made me do all the work. Obviously their plan backfired. I went from two ponies to four to seven to twelve and I trained them all for the summer camp riding program.”

Kim’s parents fed carrots to horses on the ends of pitchforks. Not having any experience with riding meant they weren’t able to correct her position or her jumping style. Kim had to learn to correct herself. She got used to doing it herself and doing it alone, from posting trot to digging post holes.

“My mother’s next brainstorm was to make me do pony club. She took me to the toughest club in New England, which was GMHA in Vermont. Unfortunately I loved it. I was up for my A rating three times but just missed each try. One of my legs is longer than the other and I was told my horse drifted left because of it. The next year I was told my horse drifted right.”

Kim’s best move during her GMHA years was to get involved with Denny Emerson. “He could coach you every stride without getting in the way. After a few years he let me manage his Vermont training program which was a lot of fun. Later when I wanted to start breeding my own horses he helped with that, too.”

Kim’s youth wasn’t completely one dimensional. Although she disliked team sports, occasionally she picked up a water color brush or a tennis racquet when the moon was right. And if she wasn’t holding onto reins she was holding onto apron strings. Those belonged not to her mother but to her grandmother. “I loved her so much. She lived in a small gate house at the girls’ camp. I followed her around the kitchen all the time, chopped everything known to man, learned about herbs, breads, cakes, icings. She was from Czechoslovakia so it was a lot of Middle Earth stuff: vegetables that ripen underground, meat, sausage, a couple of gypsy spices.”

We’re sitting in Kim’s kitchen while she talks. This is very special real estate to her even today. She keeps photographs in here of her Rolex horse Test Run, some of her dad’s paintings, a three ring binder of her family’s recipes – all her most prized possessions. Kim’s spice rack wouldn’t be complete without a few tiny jars of sarcasm perched between the sage and thyme. “You don’t have to do that,” she says when I get up to rinse some lunch plates before putting them in the dishwasher. “It’s one of those old-fashioned models that actually clean the dishes for you.”

It isn’t long before we’re back on the topic of her grandmother. “For most people the honeymoon is the best part about getting married. For me, the best part was having my Gran dance at the wedding. When she died a few years later she left me a small purse I used to buy this farm. So in a way she’s still here with me.”

Kim’s grandmother also gave her a hand in upper level eventing. When her two star horse Moon Pilot died from colic, Denny introduced her to someone who knew of a horse near Cape Cod. Kim asked her grandmother for $5,000 – an unbelievable sum in everyone’s eyes. She was given the gift, but the owner wanted six thousand. “The hardest thing I ever did wasn’t Rolex or Burghley – it was going back to my grandmother to ask for another thousand.” Kim started that horse from scratch and was thrilled when Luke became her first three star horse.

“Once we had the farm, breeding made so much sense.” Among her many accomplishments, Kim is able to boast of having started five of her six big time horses. Four of these she also bred. “When you start with that 80 or 90 pound foal and bring him along and teach him to steer and then to run and jump – well it’s the most incredible way to develop a partnership.”

One of the best examples is Test Run. Kim bred his mother, his grandmother, his father and his father’s mother. The sturdy gray completed his first Three Star Event at Bromont. Then came Fox Hall. At the Rolex Four Star Event she finished tenth out of 72 starters. Her strong rally in stadium jumping got everyone thinking and talking about Burghley. First there was the money problem. “We roasted a bull. Sold cakes. Had a casino night. Raffles.” Of course she got where she wanted to go. Not only by the kindness of strangers, but mainly through her intense personal drive, her burning desire to succeed made of equal parts ambition and nostalgia.

Kim breaks her story here. We’ve been pausing every few minutes so I can reach over and bring a glass of water to her chin. She lips around the straw, drains an inch after latching on, lets the straw out of her mouth to tell me her mouth is wet enough to speak again. We’re getting to the place where the new story begins – her accident on Test Run – that she doesn’t know how will end. We have talked on and off about suicide and euthanasia: “If I were an animal. I’d be put down. It would be considered inhumane not to do so.” The look in her eye is almost wondering would I do the humane thing for her, right now, if she asked me.

Kim tells me to stare at her bare legs. “The left one, just look at that.” And so I stare at the legs that have hugged the ribs of the most beautiful and bravest creatures in our world. I stare at the legs that have won silvers and bronzes at Prix St. Georges. The legs that have ridden-out at Chesterfield, Rolex, Legerde, Fox Hall, Bromont, Radnor. Maybe her left leg moves an inch.

I have to ask the question I’ve driven 150 miles to ask. “When you dream are you still there? Competing? A whole person in the tack?”

“Oh there’s that. Yeah. But it doesn’t get me like the ironies. My fifty acres are now just a bedroom and a kitchen. And I’m stuck in a chair on a farm without animals, on a dead-end road, on the Eastern Shore which isn’t on anybody’s way to anything. And I’m still dreaming the same dreams I had before the accident. What I miss most is what I longed for as a kid – the day-to-day being with horses, their smells, their sweat, their nickers and neighs. That’s what I crave. That and being a do-it-yourself type and now having to ask people to scratch my nose.”

The talk goes on. We let the dogs out: her border collie, my chocolate lab. They come inside. Kim’s nurse Coretta returns from doing errands and fusses with some of Kim’s wires then waits in the other room. There’s talk of how a fraction of movement, a wiggle in the rein finger can open up a horse in the bridle and how today her struggles open nothing. There’s talk of her ex, his recent excesses and various unwillingnesses. And there’s talk of her friend Robert who tricked her into staying alive when it would have been so easy to let go by refusing the antibiotics she needed to live.

“I used my voice-activated software to write him a letter,” she says, smiling. “No matter how many times I said ‘Dear Robert’ the computer would spell out ‘Dear Rubber.’ I must have tried it fifty times. ‘Rubber’ kept coming on the screen so I figured why not? Now I call him ‘Rubber’ and the name sort of fits.”

I expect Kim to send me away when I propose a new business. The last thing she needs is for someone who can walk to tell her how to live her life. “There’s a chubby ex-Technical Delegate guy roaming the parking areas. He signs people up for DVDs of the jumping. Sometimes does dressage too. So people e-mail you the DVD and you do a critique for a small fee.”

“Some people send me tapes but it takes a long time to upload a DVD,” she says grimly.
“Nah,” I say. “Way too old school. The video guy, we make him upload the DVDs to so you can watch them instantly. We ask the guy to send out flyers with the DVDs to all his customers.”

“OK, so this might work.” She smiles a little two inch smile but it’s the first time she wasn’t talking about the past so it means more to me even if it’s on the smaller side. Definitely something to think about on my drive back to Baltimore and her drive back to bed. We kiss goodbye, once for luck and twice for love. Maybe days are only made of hours, but tomorrows are made of quiet exhilarating moments like this one and right now we got a big bushel of them.

Jun 29, 2022 Eventing News

USEA President Max Corcoran Appointed USEF Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator

On May 1, 2022, Max Corcoran was appointed as the Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator. In her role, Corcoran will support the areas of communication, logistics, and management of the teams for the Eventing Programs to deliver sustained success at World and Olympic Games level. As the Facilitator, she will work closely with the interim Chef d’Equipe/Team Manager, Bobby Costello, and eventing staff to build solid lines of communication with athletes, grooms, owners, coaches, veterinarians, and all stakeholders linked to the athletes and develop the structures around the Elite Program and senior U.S. Eventing Team.

Jun 29, 2022 Education

A Case for Warming Up (and How to Do It Correctly) with Kyle Carter

Imagine: you are at the biggest sporting event of your life. The stakes are high, and you have spent countless hours preparing for it. However, you are expected to just show up and immediately perform. You cannot stretch or take a practice swing. You have no time to loosen up or sharpen your eye. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Just like us, our horses need adequate time to warm up each day. A warmup is any preparation for work, and it is often the leading edge of that work. It is the small aid response that becomes the more advanced aid response.

Jun 28, 2022 Hall of Fame

Newest Invitation to USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame Extended to Trish Gilbert

This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founding fathers, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches

Jun 28, 2022 Rules

Rule Refresher: What Will Be Expected of Me at the Training and Modified Level?

Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels.

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