Mar 25, 2020

Mellisa Warden: Making the Most of a Difficult Situation

Photo courtesy of Mellisa Warden

I'm a technical delegate (TD) and judge (and still compete) in Aiken, S.C. and as can be expected, most of my jobs have been canceled or postponed.

In July 2019, while visiting my military husband in Germany, I hit a trolley line on a bike and went flying which broke my ankle and dislocated my foot. I was rushed to surgery and while being wheeled back, I was given a 50 percent chance of losing my foot. I spent two weeks in the hospital with an external fixator, then was pinned together, but the post-trauma damage has been exceptional.

I was back competing a few months later, but in November I was told I'd never run again, then in December was told by another specialist I'd be lucky to trail ride within a year. Up until that fateful day in July, I was an ultra runner and looking to move my gelding up to Intermediate, so the injury has been crushing. It became apparent that my extremely active lifestyle may need to adapt to the new limitations placed on me by my accident.

The mention of amputation has come up a few times, so in one of my anxiety and pain-ridden nights I stumbled on Certified Prosthetists and Orthotists (P&O) and the need. I have a B.A. in Political Science and International Politics, and I worked for campaigns, and now I spend most of my time as an eventing official, which has been a fairly logical transition. After the accident (I still walk with a severe limp), I found being a technical delegate almost too demanding physically and decided it was time to go back to school. When I literally stumbled upon the P&O Masters, it was like the universe was speaking to me. There had to be a silver lining!

Mellisa and her horse Deadpool at an Eric Smiley clinic in early March. Photo courtesy of Mellisa Warden.

In February I began taking the needed math and science prerequisites to apply to the Masters program and started an internship at a local Prosthetic and Orthotic clinic which does all their own fabricating and works with athletes. The humans are phenomenal! The stories of those who have lost limbs are unbelievable. . . and I have friends who ride and are amputees and event, so the idea of being able to be involved in creating better alternatives for them and others who are only limited by the lack options of is the goal!

The internship has since been put on a hiatus with COVID-19, but the online school work has been a great distraction. Over 20 years ago I took statistics and that same class has been my reintroduction to being a college student. So while my 14-year-old daughter is home from school doing work, I'm matching her with classroom time and furthering my education with the goal of applying to a Masters program in Prosthetics and Orthotics within the year.

We also opened our home to foster dogs from the local animal shelter whose transport north has been canceled because of cases of COVID-19 in the destination shelters. Normally our hectic schedules wouldn't allow a foster, but now we are officially open for business! Current foster Brendan - a middle-aged beagle full of squishy love - spends time in the barn hanging with the horses and loves rolling in the grass.

Foster dog Brendan enjoying a nice nap. Mellisa Warden Photo.

In the south we have a huge issue with animals not being neutered and surrendered or abandoned. Many have never been in a home situation and fostering allows them the opportunity in a halfway house situation to learn skills involving socialization, love, and behavior appropriate to their future families without the terror of being in an overcrowded shelter. With the COVID-19 pandemic, shelters are closing, volunteers aren't able to help, and there are still animals being taken in daily. Fostering relieves the stress on those trying to save lives while enriching the lives of those who share their home with an animal in need. It's a win-win!

And my horses? After an intense spring of USEA Young Event Horse classes and events for the 4-year-old, jumper shows and events for my Preliminary level horse, and clinics scattered between, they are enjoying a much deserved vacation. In the age of year-round eventing, finding time for a true turnout vacation is not always popular, but so needed for everyone's mental and physical well-being. The moment I heard we may be on hiatus, I stopped all riding with the intent that they needed a chill-out time. The 4-year-old is stoked to have me as her personal entertainment, but boredom kicks in quickly with perfecting a selfie. Next week we will begin hacking and take advantage of the downtime to do more cavaletti work and even *gasp* change courses and exercises on a more regular basis . . . maybe daily!

There are so many ways we can improve our lives and those of others during this time through education and even opening our homes short term to shelter animals while they continue to have intake and limit their staff. Who knows, if the cancellation continues long enough, perhaps my house will actually get cleaned and the barn painted!

Survive Beer, because we need to have a sense of humor! Mellisa Warden Photo.

We are lucky to horse show. None of us would subject our horses to competing if there was a viral outbreak in the equine world and we need to be thoughtful about other humans who are at risk. While many of us are fortunate to be home with our families, there are a large number of our fellow eventers and riders who are doctors, nurses, emergency medical service providers, and anyone working in healthcare who are at risk and saving lives. They are not as fortunate as we are. But we are resilient and scrappy by the genetic makeup of our sport from the trenches and war.

This is a great time to master barn selfies, paint poles, and spend time with our best equine partners. Nothing bad ever came from building a bond with our horse and we are fortunate to have sound horses and be able to go outside and ride! When we are able to go back to competing, we will be more grateful for our opportunities. I hope to see everyone smiling as they gallop cross-country and to share beverages after successes, so be safe, stay healthy, and get plenty of Vitamin H - Horse!

In this unprecedented time with events canceled all around the world, eventers need to stick together even more (virtually!) Share your story with your community – how are you staying busy with your horse? What goals are you setting for the downtime? Do you have any advice on staying positive? Email [email protected] with your tips, tricks, and stories as we navigate this together.

May 25, 2022 Profile

Now On Course: Handing Over The Reins

I’m not one for the spotlight. As the voice of the Association, you don’t need to know my personal views, political, eventing, or otherwise. So despite my byline appearing on thousands of articles on the USEA website and magazine, this is probably only the second time I’m writing about myself (the first was about my love for lessons, and reading it now makes me laugh as I am still 100% addicted). But as I am now just a USEA member I thought I would share a bit of my journey to add to our member spotlight series, Now on Course.

May 24, 2022 Education

Tips for Successful Haul-In Schooling

You’ve likely spent some time scouring the USEA Calendar to line up your 2022 competition schedule. Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to plan some cross-country schooling outings to make sure you and your horse are as ready as possible. If you own or manage a facility that welcomes guests for haul-in schooling, you’ve likely noticed horses and their humans showing up in droves to get their practice in. A successful off-site schooling day has many, many moving parts. From paperwork and payment to safety, these best practices for hosts and guests will help everything go as smoothly as possible.

May 23, 2022 Eventing News

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S

US Equestrian is pleased to announce the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S at CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, from July 1-2, 2022. The team will be led by Chef d’Equipe Bobby Costello.

May 23, 2022 AEC

AEC Countdown: Less Than 100 Days!

The countdown is on for the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds! This year, the USEA AEC moves to the beautiful Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana. The AEC will move back to the Kentucky Horse Park in 2023, so if you have ever dreamed of riding in the Flathead Valley of Montana with views of Glacier National Park, you won’t want to miss this year’s very special opportunity.

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