Dec 04, 2021

Now On Course: The Four Year Journey with My Horse Cross Match

Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlands Photo

On a crisp morning in December of 2016, I dragged my husband to Penn National to look at some horses to hopefully be my next eventing partner. I also had a horse to look at in Maryland at Kate Chadderton's farm. Keep in mind every horse I wanted to look at was a gelding. I did have a couple at Penn National that I really liked and then went to look at the one Kate had. After I rode the gelding at Kate's she asked me how I felt about mares. My response was, "I don't, but bring her out."

Out came this 4.5-year-old bay OTTB mare named Cross Match. I watched Kate ride her around and pop over some jumps and I told her I wanted to get on her. As soon as I started trotting her I could not stop smiling and took her for a canter and popped over some jumps.

"I think you are going to make me buy a mare," I said to Kate. My husband and I went to lunch so I could mull it over and discuss her with a few friends. We went back to Kate's and I bought myself a mare! Kate told me she would be a challenge, but she would also be my horse of a lifetime.

The first year was just spent getting used to “Teagan” and learning her quirks. There were many days she tried to launch me out of the blue and I somehow managed to stay on each time. The following year I was still having a lot of problems with her and I could barely jump a crossrail without feeling like I was going to get planted into the ground after. The flatwork was a hot mess, but I attempted a couple of dressage shows doing walk-trot tests. Most of the time we cleared out the warmup, and I was lucky if she stayed in the dressage arena. I did attend a few clinics with her with some very well-known people and they basically said in a nice way to sell her. This absolutely broke my heart as I knew what kind of horse I had and I just needed to find someone to help me become a partner with this mare.

In the summer of 2018, I attended a clinic with a well-known clinician at Hitching Post farm in Vermont and again was asked if I really want to have a horse like this. I was about ready to give up until I met Donnacha Dermody while I was there. We chatted about Teagan and I told him I was on my last whim with her as we were just not meshing well. After getting home from the clinic and thinking about what else I could do, I called Donnacha and asked about training board. I brought Teagan to him for a month and went up on the weekends to have lessons with him.

Photo by Joan Davis /Flatlandsfoto

The first weekend I went up he had ridden her for a week and had some good results with her. I had my first lesson and for the first time in a year and a half I jumped my horse over an entire jump course and it felt amazing! The next day we did cross-country and she jumped everything I pointed her at, even a couple of Training level fences. This feeling was absolutely amazing and I was finally having hope.

After she came home we kept doing our homework and I was having great rides on a regular basis. We did a dressage show and her first schooling horse trial and she won them both! Then came the first big hurdle. The chiropractor was at the farm doing a routine adjustment on Teagan and she called me and asked if I noticed anything funny with her eye. She told me to have my vet come out to look at it. I was now in a panic and had the vet out that afternoon and then I was told this looks like uveitis. My heart sank, “what do I do know?” I asked.

I brought her up to the ophthalmologist at New England Equine and we came up with a plan. We treated her eye twice a day for a couple of months and she had a positive check-up. The new plan was to change her meds and get her off the steroid. Within a day of using the new eye ointment, Teagan had a bad reaction and her eye ulcerated badly and things just went downhill after that. We struggled to keep her comfortable. Months went by and her eye kept getting worse and she was truly uncomfortable. I had the heartbreaking conversation with the ophthalmologist about Teagan potentially losing her eye. We tried one more medication as a last-ditch effort and within two weeks her eye miraculously started to get better.

We started getting back to work in 2019. I spent the season getting Teagan ready for some schooling horse trials. We had done several shows at the Advanced Elementary level and had great results. We were on fire! In September of 2019, I finally moved her up to Beginner Novice at the Scarlet Apple schooling trials and she felt amazing. Much to my shock, we won our very first Beginner Novice! I was on cloud nine; it was all coming together.

The next day I left for vacation and then came the next hurdle. I got a call from the barn owner that Teagan had a wound on her right hind fetlock. She sent me a picture and I felt my heart drop. It was a puncture wound and there was joint fluid coming from the wound. I called my vet immediately and sure enough, the puncture wound went to the joint. Off to Tufts Teagan went where she spent 13 days having two limb perfusions and received strong antibiotics. She came home after that and the rehab process began.

The goal was to have Teagan eventing again by the late summer of 2020, so I began bringing Teagan back to work. Once we were back jumping things were not the same. I had lost all of my confidence and this led to Teagan losing hers. We entered a schooling trial at Advanced Elementary and we had a good dressage and SJ round but we were eliminated on cross-country. She stopped at almost everything. I felt so defeated and did not know where to go from here. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive trainer and group of friends, and we went back to the basics. The rest of the season continued to have challenges in the jumping phases, but I kept pressing on. We did our final show at the end of the season at Beginner Novice and we finally had a clear and confident cross-country round. I was in tears after the final fence and pat Teagan on the neck and said "we did it."

After a bit of a rough start to 2021 when Teagan managed to get an upper respiratory infection (leading to time off so that she could recover), I set my sights on my goals. I had three goals this year: to finally do a sanctioned horse trial at Beginner Novice, move up to Novice at the end of the season, and do a first-level dressage test. We smashed every single one of those goals. We finished fourth at our first sanctioned event at Valinor Farm Horse Trials. I moved her up to Novice in August and she jumped around like a pro.

We were entered in the Novice at the Apple Knoll September Horse trials and sadly it was canceled. We were able to do their schooling show the next day over what would have been their sanctioned course. I was nervous as there were a lot of things on the course that Teagan had not seen yet. We put in a fair dressage test and a clear show jumping round and off to cross-country we went! She went around the course like it was no big deal and we went through the finish flags with a clear and confident round.

Photo courtesy of Dawn Briand.

When the results were posted I was shocked! We had won and I was on cloud nine all over again. All the blood sweat and tears have paid off and I could not have been more proud of us. At the beginning of October, we did a dressage show and I entered her in her first First Level test. She was relaxed and ready to go and down the centerline, we went. There were some moments of tension but she was so rideable and I was more than pleased after my final salute. I was in disbelief but beyond proud of this mare after I saw we had won the class.

If I can say anything to someone else that is ready to throw in the towel, it’s to not give up! Surround yourself with a supportive group of people and don't give up. It may have taken me four years to get to where we are, but the journey has made me stronger as a person and a rider. Keep on kicking on and it will be so worth it in the end!

The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Meagan DeLisle to be featured.

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