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Visa's Ribbon Box

Visa’s Corner

My heart horse passed unexpectedly on April 17, 2012. He was my first horse and I owned him for seven years — the best seven years of my equestrian life to date. The day he died I felt like a fish out of water for many reasons: one being what, exactly to do. Visa was no small pony: at only 15.1, he wore a size 80 blanket and I’ve never met a horse (excluding drafts) with a broader chest, bigger shoulders and more well-sprung ribs. It’s not a joke when I tell people I used different leg muscles to ride Visa than any other horse.

We grew up together in a different city, at a different barn. My parents live in the suburbs 140 miles away: we couldn’t bury him the backyard like we did with our cat. So I did the only thing that felt right: I brought Visa home.

Thus began Visa’s Corner. Sam and I have a small apartment, but we do have a second bedroom for his office. We re-arranged a few things, and I got a while corner just for Visa. It took me a really long time to decide exactly what I wanted to do, and honestly, it was a lot more painful to try to fit our whole lives together into a corner than I thought it would be. But now that it’s done, I’m so glad I did it.

It started out with Visa’s box. When I decided to cremate my heart horse, I didn’t really think about the practicalities. The only experience I had previously was with small dogs. Those boxes you can fit onto a shelf or a mantle. Visa’s box is probably 50 lbs and decidedly not going to fit on a small shelf. So I did what any sane horsewoman would do: I bought him an end table. Just for his box.

Visa's Box
But the end table looked sparse with just his box on it, so I added a few accessories: his leather nameplate halter, a huge year-end championship ribbon and one of his shoes. The end stable still had a shelf on the bottom, and I didn’t want it to just accumulate junk (because that’s what all available surfaces in my house seem to do). So I made a ribbon box. Which is super awesome because my mom is the craftiest person on the planet and helped me make it. It’s the perfect size for the end table shelf and fits all of the most important ribbons in it, plus a bunch of extras to hold them in place.

Visa's Ribbon Box

So I made my project bigger and decided to add photos and do a registration paper/photo collage. Except the photos I wanted to use were professionals… from horse shows in 2007. But with some help from friends I tracked down the photographer who dug up his CD archive and re-printed a few copies and shipped them to me. Ron Schwane, you are a god.Finally, I knew I wanted to display Visa’s registration papers: they have my name on them and they are old and crinkly… and I love them. When Visa was around, I don’t think I looked twice at them; but now that he’s gone, they seem like a really big deal to me. So I set upon an adventure to find a frame… which didn’t exist. Apparently AQHA made odd-sized registration papers in the 90’s that are not 8″ x 10″ nor 8 1/2″ x 11″… thus no frame in existence worked.

So on Saturday, Sam and I cleaned up the office, hung the collage and added a few extra touches to complete Visa’s corner: county fair high-point over fences trophy, 4-H state fair qualifier plaque, 4H collage poster and our third place state fair win photo. Not too shabby of a resting place, if I do say so myself.


Jan. 31, 1993 – April 17, 2013
Collage of Visa photos

“Some horses come in and out of our lives without a second glance, but others leave hoof prints on our hearts.” 

Visa Photo Collage

One Year

Today I’m writing a blog that I didn’t have the strength to write exactly one year ago.

Dear Visa,

I love you. There are so many things I wish I could have done differently in your life. I made mistakes, but I hope you know that I did my best to correct them and I hope you can forgive me for being young and stupid.

I hope you know that you are a huge part of our family, and that since you’ve been gone, not a day has gone by where I didn’t think about you. I miss you so much.

You were the best first horse a girl could ever ask for. Steadfast with the biggest heart I have ever known, the only time you ever refused a fence was when I was falling off and you swerved so I wouldn’t. You never backed down from anything — showing in literally every class in 4-H and kicking a** in all of them. Together we learned about success (and failure) and you taught me that hard work pays off.

You cultivated my love of horses and my passion for the show ring. You helped me pick my major in college, get my first job and most importantly, you showed me true love. We went through so much life together, that now it’s a little hard going at it without you sometimes. But I’m lucky, because you vetted Sam, and made sure he was good enough, before you left. And you were right, as usual — he’s definitely a keeper.

I hope you know that I’m going to buy another horse someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, and I believe that that’s what you would want me to do. But I also want you to know that no other horse will ever have the same spot in my heart. You will always and forever be my first horse, my first love and I will never forget all that you taught me.

Love Always and Forever,
Tracy Signature

Visa Jumping

January 31, 1993 – April 17, 2014

Visa grazing

A Trip To The Vet

Ever since our return to the show ring last August, my goal has been to compete Visa this summer for a year-end award. At 19, I know his time is limited and I really want to end on the best note possible. But now, I’m just not sure how possible that goal will be.

First, some background information. Over the winter, Visa was just “not quite right” for several months, meaning he wasn’t lame, but he wasn’t moving 100% either. We did a round of hock injections, followed by a round of stifle injections, hoping those would help so we could begin to prepare for shows over the summer. But it’s the end of February now, and things are going downhill fast. A week ago, Visa came out of his stall limping horribly, unwilling to bear hardly any weight on his left front foot. At first, I kind of freaked out. Visa sustained a pretty serious injury to his left front back in May 2010 (a bone chip beneath the hoof, as well as ringbone in the coffin joint). But because this lameness was so sudden and so pronounced, I hoped at first it might just be an abscess.

After a few days of soaking in Epsom salts and no signs of an abscess even close to bursting, I called a farrier. My current farrier lives about two hours away, which has never thrilled me, so I called a more local farrier that comes out to my barn for several other horses. What he found did not make me happy: Visa’s feet were unbalanced side-to-side, his shoes were too small, he had no toe support and worst of all his shoes were put on crookedly. New farrier said these issues could definitely be causing Visa’s lameness, so I immediately asked for a trim and new shoes.

And it definitely had an instantaneous effect: Visa went from three-legged lame to just unsound. But at the same time, my horse wasn’t fixed and New Farrier did not see any signs of an abscess. My options were to wait and see if Visa had any continued improvement, or call in the next professional. So I made plans to visit the vet.

Visa's shoes before and after
Visa’s front shoes before [inside set] and after New Farrier [outside set]
Our vet appointment was scheduled for this week, so on Saturday we loaded up [which turned into a miniseries of its own…] and headed to the clinic. The appointment itself went mostly the way I expected: Visa flexed positive on both front feet, so we moved on to x-rays. Luckily the wait wasn’t long, as in fairly short order we were looking at pictures. Visa’s x-rays showed bone fragments as well as ringbone in both front coffin joints. So my diagnosis was pretty much the same as it had been about two years ago, and so were my treatment options: surgery or injections. And I made the same decision I did then. I’m not putting my 19-year-old on the table for surgery in his hooves, with a year plus recovery time. Even with injections, the vet recommended only light jumping, maybe a few jumps on the weekend with the aid of bute before and after.

We continued to talk as we then compared the x-rays from 2010 that I brought with me. Unfortunately, I only had pictures of the left front, none of the right. Immediately, the vet noted that not much had changed, at least in the left front. But considering the previous treatment hadn’t done much and that we were now facing similar issues in both front feet, our diagnosis got worse. We would still inject, to try to keep Visa as comfortable as possible, but the vet recommended no jumping at all.

As we drove home, at first I was devastated. All I heard was “no jumping,” meaning no show season. No chance to prove to everyone that Visa and I could overcome our challenges and be successful; no chance to have one last hurrah. But then my boyfriend said “He’s 19, of course he has arthritis. Isn’t that why they make medications for that?”

And he’s right. Normally, I am totally against medicating a horse to get him to do something. And obviously I need to see how things go—maybe things have changed for Visa since last summer and jumping will hurt him. But if I have to give him a little bute when he jumps, why can’t I? I only want to jump 2′ for one summer; for five shows, in one division at an unrated local series. Obviously I won’t get to practice jumping like I had planned, but Visa doesn’t need to school fences. I can take lessons on another horse to work on my form, ride Visa on the flat to keep up his condition and work on his adjustability. We might not do as well, but for me it’s not about the ribbons, it’s just an accomplishment to be there and showing.

I guess in the end it’s the same diagnosis that I expected: “Let’s inject his coffin joint and see how it does.” If Visa doesn’t want to jump, I know he’ll tell me.