The powerful American Warmblood! We are celebrating them as our July Breed of the Month on YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose American Warmbloods as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the American Warmblood Registry and the American Warmblood Society & Sporthorse Registry are both participating organizations
Here, a determined equestrian shares about taking the chance on a horse overcoming a broken leg, and how trying dressage united them and gave her mare a new lease on life.
By Paige Emerson
Simi OVS, sired by Whitesville out of Fox Valley Raven, was born on April 19, 2006, in Wisconsin. Now I know this much because of her registration, but other than that, I’m not completely sure of her story from her birth in 2006 to the time I purchased her in October of 2020.
I first saw Simi’s ad on Dreamhorse in September of 2020 and was immediately drawn in by her photo. Then, I saw the title of the ad “ Warmblood mare” and then the price “$1,000.” I instantly passed knowing there must be something very wrong with the horse for it to be that price. About a week later, I stumbled across her ad again and something told me just to take a look and give her a try, so I did. In the ad, her previous owner had stated she had fractured her leg in 2016.
At the time, I must have been crazy as I contacted her owner to get more information and x-rays. She had fractured her left hock, and although it was not a well-placed break, it was a clean break. I was never given a timeline of events or injuries, but with further examination, my vet and I found an old fracture in her cannon bone and a serious injury to the coronet band, which affected the structure of her hoof and her coffin bone. We can only guess that this happened at the same time she injured her hock. After the multitude of injuries in that leg, she now has bone spurs in her hock, calcification on her deep digital flexor tendon, and a permanent scar crack in her hoof that is affecting the structure of her coffin bone. With this long list of probable career-ending injuries, something still told me to give her a try, so I did. Never in my life have I ever sat on a horse and felt so at home. The saddle was tiny, and I had never ridden such a huge horse, but it felt like where I was meant to be. I purchased her a week later on October 12, 2020, and brought her home on October 20.
The first few months were very rough for her. Her previous owner had loved her dearly, but I’m not sure she could afford the proper care that Simi needed. Simi was lame the day I brought her home. That same week, the jumping trainer I had been riding with had come to the barn to drop off another horse. They absolutely loved Simi and thought she was an amazing horse, until I told them she had broken her leg and had a multitude of injuries. Instantly, they flipped, saying things like “you should get rid of her,” “she’s useless,” “just put her down.” You never forget when people you looked up to say such horrible things to you or about something you believed in. I tried finding other trainers that would help us, as I had no clue what I had gotten myself into, but they all turned us away saying she was too much of a liability. So, I started watching YouTube videos and reading articles and decided to take matters into my own hands.
It took all winter to get her sound again and back into some regular work after having the previous four years off, other than a couple walk/trot rides during the rare occasion she wasn’t lame. During this time, I was taking some dressage lessons at a nearby barn as something more to do while I was rehabbing her. One day, I decided to start trying dressage with her, even though I had no clue what I was doing. That decision changed the course of our lives in a way I would never have imagined. I never planned on her being a show horse or even much of a riding horse, I just planned on her being my best friend and taking it day by day.
I knew Simi had an eventing background and loved to jump, but unfortunately any high-level eventing wouldn’t be much of an option for her anymore. She was so excited to get back into dressage though. She kept teaching me more and more, all while helping her to rehab. As I got more experienced in dressage, I found an amazing trainer that will come and work with us from time to time and has really helped us both. In April of 2021, I took Simi to a hunter show, where we were planning to show over 18” fences. She had been doing well over fences at home and I wanted to see how one show would go. We never made it past schooling day. She was not a fan of the different jumps, and I didn’t have the strength to force the issue. I decided that as much as she loves jumping, it would just be something fun to do at home. The next weekend, I took her to Dressage at Albion College, where my trainer thought we were just showing in Intro classes, but instead, I signed us up for all three Training Level classes as well. I had never ridden any of the Training Level tests, but we went to the show and came home with five first place ribbons, one third, a champion in Intro Division, and reserve in Training Level. Now, I don’t necessarily remember the scores we had got, but this show had shown me that maybe dressage was our thing. She loves her job at home, but once we step foot in the ring at a competition, it’s like her mind turns into game mode and she goes and tries her heart out for me.
Show after show, we repeated these results for the rest of the season and, in October, we found ourselves at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 2 Dressage Championships. We had an amazing show, scoring very well and achieving our first 70% in the show ring. Unfortunately, we got disqualified from our championship after carrying our whip, multiple errors, and a stubborn bird on X that wouldn’t move.
After a successful year that I never thought would happen, we pulled Simi’s shoes for the winter and let her be a horse. I never thought pulling her shoes would become such an ordeal. She is honestly the best horse in the world, but she hides being lame very well. I couldn’t tell she was sore until it got to the point she started lashing out because of it. We made the decision to put her shoes back on, and she injured herself in the process, resulting in her being on stall rest for some time. Coming off stall rest in January of 2022, it seemed like she lost the love of this sport, and I questioned even showing this year and considered retiring her instead. I kept trying and changed things up.
Our first show of the year, we tried First Level with great success, but it still wasn’t the same horse I had last year. We kept working and went to our second show where, despite an awful fight at the start of every test, she still managed to get some great scores, even into the 70s. At that show, she had cut her stomach open where the girth sits while kicking at flies. After coming home, I gave her some time to heal and we took time off of dressage in favor of just having some fun rides and trail riding. Eventually, she got sick of trail riding and I decided to start her training back up again. I don’t think she has ever been happier in her life. She is now excited to do her job again and is so proud of herself after a good ride.
Simi may have been the horse I never knew I wanted, but she is the best horse I could ever ask for and my best friend. She has inspired me so much in my life. Despite all she has been through, she is still excited to work, and I swear when she hears someone tell her she can’t do something, I think she does it just to prove to them she can. My dream is to take her to the 2022 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, before I retire her to a more relaxing life and maybe only do small schooling shows. I want to share her story to show people that even the underdog had a chance. You don’t have to be rich, have a fancy horse, or even have a trainer to do great things. You can truly do anything you set your mind to, no matter what others tell you.