Reclaiming Joy

Photo by Michelle Morgenstern Photography

By Sharielle Lawrence

HS Wrosaletti, aka Rossi, is my 2010 Hungarian gelding that was gifted to me in 2017 as a complicated rehab case. His prognosis for returning to mounted work was guarded, and his surgeon cautioned against any expectations of him being able to do more than low level work while staying sound. After several years of rehab, training, injuries, and the usual chaos that comes with horse ownership, we had high hopes for our 2021 show season. While the show season started well, it quickly went off the rails when I ended up in the emergency room for an unrelated problem. Long story short, I ended up needing a hysterectomy in August 2021 because I was dying, and it was a high risk procedure. It was a whirlwind summer, but we had a great schooling show season, and I once again had high hopes for our 2022 show season.

Rossi and I have a complicated relationship, because he is nothing like my first horse. I adopted Merlin from school when he was 23, and he was the perfect schoolmaster for me. Anyone else was fair game for his patented naughtiness, but he always took great care of me, and it was hard to disassociate one from the other. I foolishly expected Rossi to step into his older brother’s shoes and take care of me the same way. I was reminded frequently, and often painfully, that was not the case. Where Merlin was unflappable, Rossi is the spook king. I could wander around the farm bareback on Merlin, but instead had to say a mantra of, “Friends don’t buck friends off” to Rossi every time I stepped in the irons. It was jarring and frustrating for me in a time where I was not in the best mental state.  After years of spending a lot of money on saddle fitting, chiropractic, acupuncture, ulcer treatments, rehabbing from field injuries, and training, we finally seemed to be in a good place. I had gotten a flying change over the summer, we were schooling all the work for 3-1 without the clean change, and planning to focus on showing Second Level for 2022. My awesome trainer showed him at 3-1 at our schooling show with a 66%! I didn’t start as a competitive person, but as we began getting better scores at shows and winning classes, I started pushing towards higher goals. We started actively working towards my USDF Bronze, local GMO awards, and trying to qualify for the Great American/USDF Regional Championships.

When we started our dressage journey

The tides changed, and Rossi had come up slightly lame the weekend before our July home show. Not a major crisis, but concerning, so he got a few days off with PEMF treatments, and adjusted our classes down to First Level to keep it easy. Thankfully, the morning of the show when I sat on him to gauge if he was fully sound or if I needed to scratch, he was sound and off to dance in the sandbox we went. It was a good show, and everything was looking up. That Friday when I got to the barn and went to pull him out of his stall, I immediately knew something was wrong. He was standing stock still, just staring at the corner of his stall, when he still had a full hay bag that he should have been steadily demolishing. I tapped on his hind end to get him to move over, since our gates swing inward, and his right hind leg was dragging. I panicked first and then my vet tech side took over to start assessing the situation. I was able to get him to pivot enough to open the gate and then coax him out to the crossties. From the hock down, his leg was doing its best tree trunk impression. I called my vet and got one of the associates out to check him, plus give me more meds to make it through the weekend until my vet was able to come out for an ultrasound.

I pretty much lived at the barn that weekend. I ran out to the tack store and, luckily, they had a hock Ice Vibe in stock, so I was able to alternate icing, cold hosing, and using my Bemer set for PEMF therapy. My friend came out and did an emergency acupuncture session. I was massaging it with Surpass, and poulticing at night. Monday morning, the good news was that he hadn’t torn any of the tendons, but there was fluid in his gastroc.

We started an undersaddle rehab plan with stall rest to have controlled exercise, which worked for almost a week – and then he put me in the hospital. He bolted as I was getting on, and I ended up landing behind the saddle. He launched me clear across the yard, broke his bridle, and went bucking around the property. I still don’t know how I didn’t get severely hurt. I was angry at him, and myself, for a while after that. I had bruised ribs so I didn’t ride for a few weeks, and he was still off. Once I was able to take deep breaths without being in pain, I started riding again, but with help. We worked, slowly, back up to being able to run through First Level tests, and showing at Training Level to get my Rider Achievement Award. We weren’t going to be able to qualify for Regionals, but I could still do our local Championship shows. I spent a lot of time working on building back our trust and relationship to be able to put our best foot forward. It paid off.

Photo by Michelle Morgenstern Photography

We earned Reserve Champion at the East Coast Regional Dressage Association (ECRDA) Championship show. Three weeks later, we came in 6th out of 8 at the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association (ESDCTA) Championship show. But the placing wasn’t even important to me. It was how we performed at the ESDCTA show that I was most happy with, because it was held at the New Jersey Horse Park, and the last time we were there, it was not a good outing.

This time, he stepped off the trailer like a seasoned show pony. He was fairly quiet in his stall, which is a rarity, and was a superstar in the warmup. He was forward without being out of control, and we were fully in sync. I was absolutely overjoyed. I remembered my tests, we got all our correct leads, the transitions were fluid, and he actually tried in the medium canter! The show photographer caught so many great images of both tests, and there were so many good pictures that I had to buy the entire gallery. The best part was that this was all solo. My trainer was actually one of the judges in the corresponding Open show, so one of our barn kids came with me to groom. I am so thankful for Delia because she was integral in what was the best show experience we have ever had.

Photo by Michelle Morgenstern Photography

Rossi is the greatest gift I’ve been given and the hardest challenge I’ve ever had. We are ending the year as Reserve Champion First Level Adult Amateurs for the Hungarian Horse Association of America, and I earned my First Level Rider Achievement Award. I am looking forward to attending the Adequan®/USDF Annual Awards Banquet in December. I am aiming for Champion next year!

I am laughing while riding again, and I hope you all are too. 

You can follow Rossi and Sharielle’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram.


  1. Thank you for sharing this; a great reminded of how rewarding dealing with a difficult horse and a difficult set of circumstances can be. Your perseverence and dedication to your horse is inspiring.

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