Nov 14, 2018

Now On Course: Nick Hinze Won't Let Cancer Slow Him Down

It’s amazing what can happen when you expect nothing and just let things come to you.

At the end of last November, I suddenly had a thumb-sized mass appear on the side of my right leg. It was right in the middle of the scar from my melanoma surgery I had in 2014. Melanoma was back after being dormant for three years. Surgery was quickly performed in December to remove the tumor and some lymph nodes. I’m now a Stage 3C cancer patient.

Surgery recovery lasted a few weeks into January. The surgery site on my leg healed properly, but I had large fluid build up in my groin area where the lymph nodes were removed.

Hinze's "shark bite" where the melanoma was removed. Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

January consisted of more oncology appointments and the beginning of my oral chemotherapy treatment. This new preventive treatment is designed to reduce the chance of melanoma reoccurrence. The treatment has many side effects and every patient reacts differently to it. It turns out I would experience almost all possible side effects and it took months to find the proper dosage that my body would tolerate. The side effects I experienced are varied:

  • Fevers: highest measured was above 103F.
  • Chills and shakes: first I would get really cold, then I would shake uncontrollably for one or so hours.
  • Sweats: after the chills and shakes, I would feel really hot.
  • Lack of energy, lack of motivation, inability to think and pay attention.
  • Whole body aches and soreness.
  • Severe carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands and arms.
  • Numbness and pain in both hands and arms.
  • Mood swings.
Hinze with his recovery companions. Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

The treatment is designed to last for one year and would therefore last the entire riding season. I did not have much hope of being able to ride Patch consistently, much less compete. Tracy and I decided to take it a day at a time. I started riding Patch fairly consistently in between my major side effect flareups. Some days were good, some days were not. Luckily, Patch is a fairly consistent horse and doesn’t need to be ridden every day.

The first show of the season arrived quickly. Tracy and I planned to compete at the Stable View Horse Trials in Aiken, South Carolina in March. I felt fairly good the days leading up the event. However, two days before the event, I started getting some major side effects. Then, I barely had enough energy to walk my course the day before the event. I had to take breaks at each fence to catch my breath. I did manage to walk the course twice. Needless to say, I would not be able to compete the next day if I felt like this.

Patch being awesome at Stable View HT. Eileen Dimond Photography Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

Tracy and I would end up not getting much sleep as I would go through a rough night of chills, shakes, and sweats. The next morning, Tracy got both horses ready and braided and off we went to the show. Tracy did all the work at the show, because I needed to preserve as much energy as possible. The rest is a blur. Somehow, I did manage to ride all three phases, finish double clear, and somehow win the Training Rider division! Credit goes to my super groom Tracy and super pony Patch.

It was exactly what I needed. Maybe I can do this. It won’t be easy, but maybe it can work out. The two days after the horse show were spent on the couch. I was not tolerating and not recovering from the treatment very well. On top of it all, The Chronicle Of The Horse called for an interview.

By the month of May it was finally decided that I could only tolerate half of the recommended dose of my treatment. Things started to become a bit easier and major flareups reduced in occurrence and intensity.

Hinze and Patch through the Modified level water at MCTA. Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

Tracy and I travelled to MCTA Horse Trials and it was to be my move up to Modified. The course looked tough, but that is what Patch and I needed if we want to make it to Preliminary one day. Patch and I ended up in the middle of the pack of a large division after dressage. We then show jumped double clear before tackling the cross-country course. Patch made easy work of the course and we had a blast. I was completely out of breath by the end of the course. All the hard work payed off and we finished in second place! Is this really happening?

As the summer approached, the temperatures and humidity increased. Tracy and I discovered that my treatment made me especially sensitive to hot and humid weather. I would get out of breath rapidly. Even walking to the barn was difficult. I started riding Patch late in the day to try to avoid the heat.

Tracy and I were very concerned about the potential hot weather at the Maryland Horse Trials in July. It was clear that I would not be able to complete a cross-country course in extreme heat and humidity. By some miracle, the temperatures ended up being in the 70s with low humidity for that weekend!

Are you kidding? Temperatures in the 70s in July at MDHT? GRC Photography Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

Our dressage test was fairly solid, but we were last in 13th place. However, Patch and I went double clear in show jumping and cross-country to take the win! Cross-country took it out of me again and I was completely out of breath for the last third of the course.

Tracy and I travelled to Five Points Horse Trials in September after a bit of a summer break. This time the hot and humid weather persisted. My performance was not as good and I struggled a bit in show jumping. I could barely breathe half-way through my cross-country course, but I still managed to complete. Patch and I finished sixth.

Hinze and Patch on their way to the new sunken road at MDHT. GRC Photography Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

In October we traveled back to the Maryland Horse Trials. The weather was friendlier. Patch and I had one of our better dressage tests at the Modified level. Sadly, we had one rail in show jumping, but we again jumped clear around the cross-country course. We finished in second, right behind Lauren Kieffer! I was fairly out of breath after cross-country, but my stamina seemed to be improving.

Tracy and I finished the season at the Virginia Horse Trials. I was certainly looking forward to the nice cool weather. Saturday I was not feeling well due to a headache that I could not shake. I managed to ride a solid dressage test, but ended up with two rails in show jumping. This put us last in a large division. Sunday I felt good and Patch and I had an awesome round around the cross-country course. We finished tenth.

Patch enjoying his time off until January. Photo courtesy of Nick Hinze.

None of this year’s success could have happened without the help and support of many people. Special thanks go to my wife, Tracy Hinze, who provided constant over the top help and support. To Tracy’s parents, who provided much needed help around the farm. To my parents for moral support. To Jan Byyny and Ragan Roberts for the eye-opening lessons of the past year. And to all my friends providing words of encouragement and support. It takes a village!

Oct 30, 2020 Competitions

Martin, Smith, & McEvoy Top the Galway Downs International Opening Day Leaderboards

The first CCI4*-L of 2020 officially got underway this week at Galway Downs International in Temecula, California. It is Boyd Martin and Luke 140, who topped the 12-pair field with a 29.40 from FEI ground jury members Sandy Phillips, Wayne Quarles, and Valerie Vizcarando-Pride.

Oct 30, 2020 Instructors

ICP Spotlight: Area IX

For over 20 years the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) has been educating all levels of eventing instructors to confirm their knowledge base, both theoretical and practical, upon which they will continue to build throughout their teaching lifetime. The USEA is now shining the spotlight each month on some of the 300 ICP Certified Instructors.

Oct 29, 2020 Young Event Horse

Redfield King Crowned Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Friday Champion

2020 has been a rollercoaster of the year and unfortunately, it didn’t stop with The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse 5-year-old Championships as the jumping/gallop portion of the competition had to be halted today after the first 25 horses due to deteriorating footing and challenging weather conditions.

Oct 29, 2020 Eventing News

USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship is Underway at Galway Downs

Many of the country’s best eventing athletes are at the Galway Downs International Event in Southern California this week to compete for the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship. This is the first time this championship has been held on the West Coast, and several horse-and-athlete pairs have made the trip across the country to participate.

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