Two years and a half ago, we got Sedona intending her to become Chloe’s new barrel racing horse. Our daughter needed a step up horse, a steed who could help Chloe reach her full potential as a rider and a competitor.

Chloe rode Sedona bareback the first day we had her. It’s one of the happiest moments I have ever witnessed. The two made a quick bond and practiced together any chance Chloe could find. Sedona was a little overweight so we placed her on a strict diet and had her exercising in the round pen daily. We took her out for walks and runs on trails and roads. Sedona worked her muscles walking up and down a hill we affectionately refer to as “the butt kicker hill.”
photo courtesy of Susan Shouse Photography

Sedona competed with Chloe through most of the 2019 rodeo season and we watched as both the girl and her horse made improvements in their skill. After the Covid pandemic ended everyone’s rodeo season for 2020, Chloe continued to ride and work with Sedona. She had her eyes on the future. She knew that one canceled season was not the end of anyone’s rodeo career. If she was going to compete again, Sedona would need to stay in shape.

Chloe hustled. Sometimes she begged to do it and other times we bribed her. With the 2021 season approaching, we hired a trainer to work with Chloe and it looked like Sedona was going to be the perfect partner.

Then April 22 happened.

Like many other days preceding it, Chloe and Sedona were in the round pen working. My daughter stood in the middle directing the speed and direction for her horse to run. Some occurrences come out of nowhere, freak accidents you are unable to explain even as you watch it happen. One moment, Sedona was running like a race horse, the next she was spooked and tried to jump the gate. Sedona is not a jumping horse and she was too short to clear the gate. Instead of landing on the other side, Sedona’s front right leg slipped into the smallest space possible: directly between the wood post, the end of the metal gate, and the chain looped to keep the gate closed. Sedona’s sudden predicament scared her even more and she started thrashing around, aggravating any potential injury caused by her dreams of flight.

Chloe, Christian, and I made quick efforts to free Sedona while JJ ran in the house to get Annie. The next few hours were spent trying to calm the horse and clean her wounds. Phone calls were made to the emergency overnight veterinarian who gave us practical advice and we arranged to bring her in the next morning. We feared she would need to be put down. Chloe feared losing the bond she spent two years building with Sedona. We worried about the potential costs about the veterinary care Sedona would need.

In the end, all our fears were relieved. Miraculously, Sedona did not break any bones. Her official diagnosis was a complete degloving. This is a severe injury where she did more than tear away her fur – she also ripped off the outer layers of her skin and connective tissue. She managed to deglove a solid ring around the lower part of her leg, requiring multiple stitches and isolation while she healed.
This picture is her wound several weeks after the initial injury. The first photos we sent to the veterinarian are too gory to share.

Results were better than we imagined possible. However, Sedona still had a long road ahead of her. The next few days were chaotic and filled with sleep deprivation for both horse and humans. She would need regular bandage changes for several weeks, requiring sedation for her to allow us to wrap fresh bandages around her leg. The vet prescribed antibiotics and pain medications, both of which Sedona hated consuming. Finally, she would need to miss out on the 2021 rodeo season.

Instead of forfeiting the season Chloe chose to train Renegade; the result of her decision is a beautiful and victorious story deserving a blog post of its own. Sedona slowly recovered, eventually rejoined the heard, stopped exercising, and ate a bunch of hay. She regained a bunch of weight but she would live, nay … thrive.

Sedona’s injury did more than complicate Chloe’s rodeo season, it threw a wrench into our wedding plans. Annie and I had arranged two horses to go with us to the wedding: Sedona and Roxy. After exchanging vows on the beach, we hoped to ride off into the sunset together. With Sedona’s injury, that possibility was cast into doubt. Renegade has a habit of bucking and throwing riders and we only have one other ridable horse – the mare Annie planned on using.

We kept Sedona healthy and fed. We let her walk the pasture at her own leisurely pace. Gradually, she built up her strength. Her wounds were scabbing over. It was clear I would need to begin working with her soon, shed some of the belly weight she added while in recovery, and build a bond with her so she trusts me when there are ocean waves crashing next to us.

Sedona’s most common recent interactions with me were through the ritual of medicating, sedating, and changing bandages. None of those activities were experiences she enjoyed; she actively attempted to avoid it as much as she could. She wanted nothing to do with me but she didn’t keep that attitude. First she let me approach her while she was munching on hay. Next she allowed me to scratch her neck and ears. Then she started lining up with the other horses when she saw me walking from the house to the barn to feed them. She would follow me as I dragged a bale into the pasture and stood patiently while I broke open the twine. As soon as I threw a flake of alfalfa, she’d turn away from me to go eat. Finally, on a Monday night a few weeks ago, I took a bale out to the horses while all the horses were grazing in the back half of the pasture. I looked up and saw this running at me.

Instead of waiting for me to toss some food in her general direction, she walked up to me and invaded my personal space. I spread out several flakes; the other horses found their own personal pile and started to dine. Not Sedona. She stayed with me. I picked up her feet to check her hooves, rubbed her back to see if she had any sore spots, and patted her neck to let her know she’s a good girl. As I was running my fingers through her mane, she rested her jaw on my shoulder and turned her neck to place her head behind mine – the closest imitation of a hug a horse can give.

I knew then it was time. It was time for me to start working with Sedona in the round pen. I knew it was time for her to have a rider. I knew it was time for me to (figuratively and literally) get back on the horse.

Last Saturday, we did a thing. While the family completed morning barn chores, I got Sedona into the round pen and strapped a saddle to her back. We walked around in circles in the round pen for a while, both of us reacquainting the experience of riding (me) or being ridden (Sedona). Feeling brave, I followed Chloe out to the back half of our property. It’s the first time in a couple years we’ve rode horses together. We did some practicing in our arena and I had Sedona walking through a pole bending pattern. I even got her into a trot.

Three weeks from now, Sedona will be introduced to a new environment: road trips and beaches. A couple weeks ago, I was feeling nervous about how she would handle my weight or how I would manage to control her in the sand. Now I feel much more confident and prepared. I think Sedona and I are going to enjoy our time together.