Emma the Enigma

My mare Emma is the one who I credit the reemergence of my horse addiction to. I rode sparingly through college, but once W and I were married and life settled I started back into lessons with a local trainer who would become one of my very good friends, Courtney.

After about a year of lessons here and there, my trainer needed to rehome her mare who wasn’t getting much use. Very nicely bred, Emma was an unregistered Thoroughbred Hanoverian cross aged about 15. Courtney had trouble in the past keeping her from abcessing in a sensitive foot, so I took over her care with the understanding that she probably would not be much more than a pleasure horse.


It didn’t take me long to find out that this mare was not to be judged by her cover. We figured out the correct shoeing solutions to remedy her foot issues and began to get her going very well in the dressage arena. However, we couldn’t figure out why she seemed thin yet disproportionately heavy in her belly. We wormed her with the strongest concoction and adjusted her diet but as time went on her figure and coat quality seemed off.

Eventually we put two and two together. Courtney had lent her out on a breeding lease, and when the vets told the lessee she had not gotten pregnant, they returned her a year early and voided the contract. We thought that perhaps they had gotten it wrong, but a second vet examination told us she was unlikely pregnant.

Surprise, come May Emma gave birth to a healthy Friesian Hanoverian colt. His propensity for running straight into things gained him the name “Harvey Wallbanger”, and it was very fun to watch him grow up. Since I was straining under just single horse ownership, it was happily agreed that he would be kept by Courtney, after all she was dying the have him and I was stressed at the thought!


After Harvey was weaned, we began to get Emma back into work and her surprises didn’t end there. Even at 16, her years off in middle life left her with a lot left to give. I began to have lofty ambitions with my riding all over again just like high school me. My trainer and I started to work towards goals of working Emma and I both up the eventing ladder. We were scheduled for our first show together when it all got derailed.

In a turnout accident, Emma got kicked by her pasture mate and fractured the delicate bone in her elbow called the olecranon. At her age, and due to the nature of the break, we would be lucky if she was to survive the months of recovery much less ever ride again. However, you can probably guess Emma’s common theme of life – she surpassed our every expectation. Although the fracture has still not fully healed, now a year later, she is pasture sound, happy, and above all else a survivor despite multiple infections and many roadblocks. Today she can even be ridden lightly at the walk and trot, and goofs off in the pasture like not a thing ever happened.

Because of her injury, we were prompted to begin our hunt for a property where I could keep horses, since I wasn’t ever going to “get rid” of Emma just because she was a little broken, but I needed a new horse to ride and boarding multiple horses was impossible. If it weren’t for her and such a heartbreaking event, my farm life wouldn’t exsist. As they say, everything happens for a reason.

Still, having the opportunity to ride such a nice warmblood as Emma left me with a hole that even my full-of-potential baby thoroughbred can’t seem to fill. The knowedge that I could never afford to outright buy another horse as nice as her made me decide to breed her again. After all, the last one was surprisingly successful, and now I was in the position to keep the baby.

A stallion was chosen, and we began to track her heat cycles through ultrasound and finally inseminated her in April. The day of insemination we were positive she wouldn’t take as she had already ovulated – but, sure enough, Emma pulled out her bag of surprises, and we were able to locate the developing future dream horse at her two week and thirty day ultrasounds. I was unbelievably excited. I don’t yet have kids of my own, so you can only imagine that I couldn’t wait to share the news and fake out all my friends with their young human families with a ultrasound of my future “child”.


This past Thursday was the 45 day ultrasound, and while my vet is normally quiet and focused, I have seen enough of my horse’s insides to kind of be able to follow along what she is seeing. Several minutes ticked by without her doing the typical “freeze frame” followed by the saving of a snapshot. She finally looked at me with a mixture of doubt and upset. She couldn’t find it. While the amniotic sac was there, and a developing umbilical cord was visible, nothing  else was comig into view as it should’ve been. Knowing her history of having secretive pregnancies in the past, we drew blood to double check, results I should recieve tomorrow.

In typical fashion related to anything Emma, I was surprised at how overcome with emotion I was at the disappointment that we may not have a baby next season. And even if we did rebreed her next year, I feared being let down again. When W asked why I was so sad about things, I explained that I never really got to live out all of Emma’s potential. This piece of her seemed like the second chance to experience everything she had left to give.

As I wait for the test results, it is a sad reality that even the facts those results will provide won’t ease my questioning – after all, last time we were told time and time again she was not pregnant, and they were all incorrect. Next spring we will either have new life or new plans.

I suppose at the end of the day I just have to trust that despite her constant surprises, Emma always seems to show me that everything happens the way it does for a reason, as unexpected and unplanned as they may be. She is my reminder that life is chaotic yet beautiful, and even something as heartbreaking as loss gives way to glorious new paths.



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