I grew up in the suburbs, far removed from the agricultural community in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. I was born starstruck for horses. Visions of magnificent steeds galloping across green, lushous fields filled my head. I would relish at any chance to see a horse, following horse trailers down the highway until they moved out of sight, wondering where they were going, or pretending to be a Grand-Prix rider in my backyard, jumping over whatever makeshift jumps I could find. I was raised by an incredibly strong, and wonderful single mom, but between me and an older sister, funds were limited. I was not one of the fortunate kids who was granted a pony at a young age, but this did not deter me from finding some way to be around velvet noses. Starting in middle school, I became a working student. Learning the valve of a hard day's work, in exchange for any saddle time they would grant. Even one hour a week in the saddle was enough to spark inspiration for the rest of my life. I was not the most advanced rider, but I was beginning to build a practical knowledge in equine care. Since horses cannot speak to us, equine professionals must develop a careful eye for noticing subtle differences. I began to learn the unspoken language of horses through the expression of their emotions in their eyes, ears, and body language.
Once I started my undergraduate career at Texas Tech University, I believed that the only way to work with animals was to become a veterinarian. I was determined that this was my path as I had envisioned doing this my entire life. It wasn’t until I faced an unexpected tragedy did I realize this isn't my path.
After experiencing a traumatic fetal injury of a beloved horse, I was detoured from the field of veterinary medicine. I had spent my entire life believing I would be a veterinarian, and I was very confused and lost following this decision. However, following a car accident that required me to take a virtual semester, I found my answer in a very untraditional experience. Wanting to be reconnected with the horse industry, I began to work at a local barn.
I started by just feeding and cleaning stalls, working myself back from a head injury I had sustained in the car accident. After being cleared, I slowly began to ride again .There was one horse in particular that I had been allowed to ride that I immediately felt a connection with, Chrome. He was very malnourished and abused, and he was quite the handful to ride. He was terrified of everything, but there was a softness to his eyes. Something about him spoke to me.
After two months of passing him treats over the fence, I longed for the ability to work with him more. Finally I was granted the opportunity. It took a month of gaining his trust before I was truly able to train him. For so long, he had suffered through nutritional deficiencies. He was weak and constantly terrified, unsure if someone would show him kindness or beat him. He began to turn a new leaf, beginning to trust in me. However, as we were starting to prosper in training, his abusive owner decided I was no longer to ride or train him as Chrome had started like me more than his owner.
Chrome went back to sitting in a field, withering away. His coat began to dull as his skin shriveled over his sunken bones. It broke my heart to watch him waste away. Finally, I gave in and began to feed him again. Afraid his spirit would wither with his body. It was then I learned his owner had committed suicide, leaving Chrome behind. Chrome returned to my care, and I spent every day working with him again.
Once he was placed onto a proper diet, and his strength was replenished, he became an entirely different animal. It was not an easy process. It took careful consideration and trudging through the worst conditions, twice a day to feed him. I wanted nothing more to purchase him at this point, but I did not have the financial means. I continued to work with him, building his skillset and body condition in the hopes he would be bought by a deserving family.
Eventually, I returned to college, transferring to Texas A&M. I returned often to see him, and he was used in some capacity in the lesson program. However, it was quickly discovered he was not a lesson horse. He began to have behavioral issues again, and he was returned to sitting in a field. After completing my first Fall semester at Texas A&M, I came back home to work with him again. Once again, he flourished.
Sadly the break came to an end, I left once again. This time to a warmblood breeding facility. I learned a great deal there. Learning the breeding and foaling process, training, barn management, and the nutritional requirements of broodmares, foals, weanlings, yearlings, working horses, and studs. It was during this time that the COVID pandemic rocked the world. As the world shut down, I returned home. Returned to Chrome. It was during this time, I began to work for the barn again. I continued to work with Chrome, finally earning the means to make him my first horse.
It was through the story of Chrome I found my path and inspiration for my future. He is one of the kindest, most athletic horses I have ever had the privilege of working with. When I first met him, he and I were both injured in some capacity, but together, we healed each other's wounds. I have learned so much through his perseverance and the process of training him.
Since then, I have completed my undergraduate at Texas A&M. I graduated Magna Cum Laude in Animal Science. During which time I completed research projects in animal behavior, equine infectious diseases, and ruminant/monogastric nutrition. Following graduation, I started my Master’s in Biomedical Sciences. My current research project looks at the correlation between fecal particle sizes, low-quality hay and the correlation of this to impact colic. I am privileged to work under incredible professors such as Dr. Arnold DVM, Ph.D, Dr. Wickersham Ph.D, and Dr. Leatherwood Ph.D. I am scheduled to present my research in June 2022 at the Annual Animal Science Convention in Oklahoma City before graduating in May 2023.
Outside of research, I am blessed to have been involved in so many equine disciplines. The bulk of my training comes from the Hunter ring, where I have trained and competed for about ten years. I have recently switched into the jumper ring, before taking a temporary break from jumping. I have transitioned into focusing on flat equitation and dressage, as well as dabbling in ranch reining and trail courses. Additionally, I have competed in collegiate polo for about 3 and a half years. Becoming a team member at Texas Tech, and an officer at Texas A&M. Being cross-disciplined has given me the opportunity to work with a wide variety of horses, riders, and owners. This knowledge has helped me in my endeavours of nutritional advice.
Going through these disciplines, research, and Chrome, it has become my life goal to help others improve their horse's life through the power of nutrition. Nutrition is often seen as a small part of a horse’s overall care, but it is one of the most important ones. As it plays a critical role in the immune response, bone and muscle health, and gut health. Newer sciences have begun to reveal the significance of nutrition in connections to behavior as well. It is my hope through this blog that I can help to translate all the information I have learned in academia, the industry, and peer-reviewed scientific literature into a manner that is easily-accessible and simple for everyday horse owners.