My life with Evil Munchkin: Part 1 – From tragedy to triumph

Evil Munchkin and me. This little horse could jump and as a result he brought me a great deal of joy and success.

I rode Evil Munchkin, aka Rambo, for seven years. Together we went from Beginner Novice all the way to the two-star level. This winter, I made the gut-wrenching decision to sell him because I realized it was what needed to happen to keep me in this expensive game and it was time for him to teach someone else the ropes of Eventing. We won our last event together, the Intermediate Rider division at Rocking Horse Winter III H.T., on a Saturday and he was sold and gone to his new owners on the Tuesday. I was an emotional wreck at the time he sold, I knew he was going to a 10-star home but he is my baby. His new owner is a junior rider, Haley Rosenberg, and I could not have asked for a better new jockey for Rambo.

This weekend, I finally got to see them in action at an event together at Virginia H.T. where, they took on the Preliminary division and qualified for the Bromont CCI1*.  Will Coleman’s Olympic partner, Twizzel and Boyd Martin’s previous four-star mount, Remington XXV were both competing at Virginia giving their junior riders confidence and experience. Although Rambo never campaigned to as high of levels of those popular horses, he was my top horse. It was not as tough as I imagined it would be to watch him compete with someone else now. You could spot from a mile away that he is loved just as much as I love him and he is incredibly well cared for. Haley and Rambo got their final qualifying score for the CCI1* at Bromont next weekend, and I am looking forward to cheering them on there as they aim to qualify for this year’s NAJYRCs. 

My journey with Rambo was a long one that was full of highs, lows and everything in between. Our story together began as a result of tragedy. I am going to share our story in a series over the next few weeks, here is how our story began…

 

In 2007, I was Eventing my two quarter horse paints and despite how pretty they were, it became obvious that neither had the ability to get me to NAJYRC. My parents and I began the search for a new horse.

We eventually found Shrunk ‘n’ da wash. He was a horse imported from New Zealand and he had just competed at his first Intermediate with Karl Slezak. From the moment I met him – I was smitten. He was only 15.2hh but could jump to the moon. I finally had a capable horse. It was now up to me to put in the time and learn the skills I needed to be able to ride him up the levels.

Shrunki & I in a jumping lesson...

Shrunki & I in a jumping lesson…

The next summer, we competed at the Pre-Training (Novice) level and toward the end of the season we did my first training level event placing third. I was looking forward to the next year and my thoughts were abuzz with the possibilities.

In late August 2008, on a very warm evening, Shrunk and I were playing in our “field of dreams”. I was jumping him over an entry-level hogs-back and for some unknown reason, he did not quite go over and his two back legs slid between two of the logs on the jump. I came off as he panicked at being trapped. When I stood up, I realized he was stuck and I could not get him out. I began screaming for a saw and tranquilizer. My mom got word back to the barn on what we needed. Chuck (a retired vet) could see the situation from the distance and he thought we were going to require the tractor to move the jump off of him.

When Shrunk realized he could not go anywhere he actually calmed down and began eating grass. I waited there petting him, but terrified at his condition and how we were going to get him out. The barn was a fair distance away. I watched as the tractor approached. When it got about half-way, Shrunk freaked…I will never forget the noise of the squeaking and cracking of bones when he hit the ground. I thought his legs were broke. I remember collapsing to my knees and trying not to throw up. Chuck approached with the tranquilizer and my mom and I laid on Shrunk to try to keep him from thrashing. As the needle took affect Shrunk became still.

My mom and Chuck began frantically sawing with the only tools available, two old rusty hand-saws. I watched in shock as they worked as fast as they could to get him released before he came to. Eventually, the log fell away. Chuck checked his legs and miraculously they were not broken. We wrapped his legs while Shrunk was still unconscious and upon coming to he whinnied and after a bit of a struggle stood up.

Very slowly we walked him to the barn. The vet arrived and we gave him fluids and stabilized him before moving him to The University of Guelph, a five hour drive away. At U of G they realized that it was his shoulder that was damaged and they explained to me he would never event again.

After a few days the swelling reduced and he underwent surgery. When they opened him up they realized there was nothing they could do to make him paddock sound. They phoned from the operating room and my mom gave them permission to let Shrunk go and he never awoke from his operation.

I was 13 and it felt like my life was over. I cried myself to sleep for nights. I was physically sick and emotionally drained. I could not get it together to attend school for a few days. But eventually the grief began to subside, life resumed, but I did not stop missing my Shrunky.

After a couple of months passed, my mom told me that Nicole Stewart Harding (Shrunk’s previous owner) had a five year-old gelding for sale. Nicole made it clear that the horse was green and was currently in Virginia being trained by Will Coleman. I watched his free jumping video and I was really excited to try him out. My mom contacted Will to get his opinion on the horse. Will said the horse had very limited experience but with time and training felt the horse was capable of doing Juniors at NAJYRC. That was all we were looking for so we made the trip to Will’s farm in Virginia to check him out…and the horse too.

At the moment Rambo (Evil Munchkin) trotted into the jumping ring I was in love…with Rambo…and Will (I know, he now has a wife!!!). But Rambo was single, and after riding him, the deal was sealed. I left Virginia with my new horse on the trailer and memories of Will Coleman giving me a leg-up!!!

At the time, I never thought that the loss of Shrunk was part of what would be two journeys to the NAJYRCs and  several other two-star competitions, but looking back it lead me to Rambo.

Legendary, Evil Munchkin competing at Virginia H.T. with his new rider Haley Rosenberg.

Legendary, Evil Munchkin competing at Virginia H.T. with his new rider Haley Rosenberg.

 

Read the full Evil Munchkin series to find out how our lives played out together:

 

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