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My Tribute to my Teacher — Grand Prix Horse Romie

Dear Friends of Mane Imports,

It is with a very heavy heart  and hand that I share this news with you.  I lost Romie,  my greatest dressage teacher and partner April 2nd, 2011 to a severe colic and stomach impaction en route to California.  She left my life, as unexpectedly as she came into it.  Romie was once in a lifetime horse.  Not only because she was a talented International Grand Prix competitor but also because she was my friend.  If you don’t mind I would like to tell you our story.

One  day in March 2009,  my business partner, trainer, and friend Peter Borggreve called from Germany and announced that Romie’s owners had decided to quite abruptly to sell her.  Peter started working with Romie at the age of 3 and 10 years of training and competition together they earned a place on the Germany B team.  Because of her successful show record, buyers from all over the world were lining up to purchase her and she would soon be whisked away to an unknown home unless Peter could think fast.  He was so panicked because the owners of Romie, the Grand Prix horse that he trained and were together on the German B Team, were going to sell her.  “Did you see my email? he asked.  I said no because I just gotten home after a day at the barn and I was not expecting a message from Peter at nearly 12 midnight Germany time.   “Read your email and get back to me right away.”  I read the email written in German and he said in the email that he  negotiated with Romie’s owner to sell her to me, for such a low price that my heart nearly stopped.  However, the stipulation was that I would retire her and that I only had 24 hours to make my decision.

I called him back immediately and our conversation was very emotional.  I didn’t have the money to buy her but he knew I had two young horses that if I could sell one I could purchase her.   Peter didn’t want her to sell to strangers.  I told him I would call him in the morning.  Well, after a night of fretting and talking it through with my husband and my friend Jessica,  we came to the decision that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and I would just have to do it.

I called Peter back in the morning and told him we would make it happen.  He got the contract together, which wasn’t hard because the owner’s of Romie were my friends too.  However, I needed to go to the bank and get the loan for the deposit.  We agreed that the final payment and transfer of ownership would come when I could sell one of my horses.

I had to make things happen and fast so I decided to sell  the best horse of the two at the time.  His name was Franz and he was a young horse that captured my heart from the second I met him.  I was planning on keeping him and moving him up the levels.  I can write a whole story just about him.  I was truly crushed about having to sell him but it was not in my future to keep Franz.  I put him on the market and worked hard to sell him in 6 weeks.  Franz is now with a to a wonderful woman named Kim out of British Columbia, Canada.

With the money from Franz I had the final payment for Romie in hand; I could begin to  sleep peacefully.  I kept Romie over in Germany so Peter could finish out his tour with her at the CDI in Hickstead, England.  I think he finished 6th in the Grand Prix.  I will have to update this post.  Anyway, it was coming time for me to bring her to Colorado.

After a tearful goodbye from Peter and his family,  I left Germany with Romie late on a rainy night in September 2009. With the rain it felt as Germany was crying because she was leaving.  My mind was full of worry as we drove to the Amsterdam airport.  Did I make the right choice? Would I be able to live up to Peter’s expectations? Would I be able to connect with Romie in the same way as Peter?  Would she love me?  We arrived in Amsterdam and somehow she listened to me and got on the container without much trouble.

We took the flight to LAX and we drove back to Colorado without a hitch.  I had made a special effort to set up a CEM quarantine at the barn where I was boarding because I wanted to look after her first hand.  Those weeks of quarantine were cold, snowy,  and wet but I spent every hour I  could blanketing and unblanketing and just trying to bond with her.  After about 20 days she was released from quarantine and the process started for her to become my teacher and my horse.

At first, I was so scarred to do anything because I just felt like she wasn’t mine.  But with every ride and a few clinics over the first months we gradually became more comfortable with each other.   Then my friend Shannon said, lets go to California to train and ride!  I had very little money but but my husband and I decided to go for it again.  We went out to Murietta, California to train with Kathleen Raine for the month of April 2010.

During the last week we competed  the PSG and I-1 at the Del Mar National Horse show, one of the biggest horse shows in the country.  When we got to the  show grounds and I was surrounded by Olympic riders and horses and my eyes got large.  But you know what?  I wasn’t even nervous because I had Romie and she had the experience of competing at similar sows in Europe many times over.   I schooled with Kathleen each day of the competition and we did it!  We even won money in the open class!  My favorite memory is of the announcer calling out “Jasmin Becker and her horse Romie – out of Rubistein I” over the loud speaker in the Del Mar arena.   I truly felt like a Rock Star!  We did our test and even with mistakes we placed 4th, against some stiff competition. That show and that ride will live in my memory forever.

In the summer of 2010 we competed throughout the rest of the Colorado season with a high score of a 66% at the I-1 with an overall average of 65% for the year.  I was thrilled beyond belief that I could ride this amazing horse with respectable scores.  She was huge (17.3 hands) with long legs and a beautiful neck. Peter who trained her  is 6’5″, so I was amazed I could ride her because I am only 5′ 6″.

As the year was winding down my sights were set for the Grand Prix in 2011.  But the next obstacle was she really needed to become my partner and my friend to make that happen.  In the fall I focused on getting her physically ready for the challenges of the Grand Prix.  I needed to change some things with the shoeing and maintenance and that took months to get it just right.  By January things were looking great for her physically and I had California on the brain.  Romie had so much potential that I worked hard to get financial support to fund another trip to Del Mar.  With significant effort I earned grant money from the Dressage Foundation and AHTF, as well as some donations from individuals close to me.  I had the funding and I was headed to California to train the Grand Prix.  All was moving into place.

Our rides in the month of March were some of the best in my life on any horse, and I thank my friends at the barn where I board for their effort, support and encouragement.   We put a lot of effort working with her to make her lighter and easier for me to ride.  Both the barn owner and Shirley said on separate occasions said  “that the people in the warm-up arena would be shaking in their boots if they saw myself and Romie coming.”  It was almost unbelievable; I was going to do the Grand Prix at Del Mar!

I got everything prepared to leave for California and then my dog Ella got very sick.  A bunch of mistakes with her and vets delayed me by a day and it was decided to go through Pheonix, AZ first and then onto California after the weekend.  After I got everything prepared we left for California on the morning of March 31, 2011 with Romie, my 9 year old De Libris, and my client’s horse Levi.  We planned to stop in Phoenix for a couple days so Alex could continue with her L judges course.  After  16 hours we arrived in Phoenix early Friday morning.  All looked fine, but we soon  realized how hot the temperature was going to be.  By Friday afternoon,  the temperature spiked to 102 degrees in the shade and everything went down hill from there.

Romie was not drinking water and she had not manured.  I was starting to panic.  She would not take any Gatorade but she would eat her carrots and bran mash.  I called the vet.  Right before the vet came she looked like she would recover.  I almost told the vet to go away.  We checked her vitals and examined her.  Everything looked good but the decision was to tube her.  The first time putting the tube in did not go well at all.  I panicked again.  But again the thought was to tube her.  The second tube went in and the liquid went into her stomach.  Within minutes she dropped to the ground.  I cried out and the vet came back.  From that point forward it was almost impossible to keep her up.  There was a nice lady next to me that told me to talk to her as she was on the ground.  I cried.  I went into shock.  This mare had travelled all over Europe, England, on a plane to America, in America, she had never had a lameness or a colic in her entire life and here she was collapsed on the ground in front of me.

We had to heavily sedate her to get her on the trailer to the clinic.  I was weeping and the guilt was already setting in.  We arrived at the cinic and Dr. Matyjaszek (Dr. Maddy) met us.  She expected the mare to be on the ground but she seemed to do better after the trailer ride.  So began the rollercoast over the entire night into the next day.

Blood work normal, ultra sound normal, fluid normal.  But then she got uncomforatble again and we put her on IV fluids.  Everything was going the right direction up until 2:30 am.  She started to be in pain and the surgeon said “we need to do surgery.”  I cried, I called Peter in Germany, I called my husband in the middle of the night to fly out from Colorado.  I waited and waited.  I called the surgeon twice but they were still in surgery.   After 4 1/2 hours of surgery I got the phone call that they were done.  They fixed a slight twist of the colon, a slight twist of the small intestine, however there was a very big problem.  There was food stuck in her stomach and there was no way the surgeon could fix that.  The only way to do that was by lavaging, but the surgeon said she had the biggest stomach that she had ever seen.  I knew right then and there it was almost over.  The reason was because we tried to lavage after the first tubing hours before and it was fruitless.

I needed an hour of rest and woke up with a feeling of numbness.  I looked at the phone and the doctor called.  I missed the call by only a few minutes and called her right back.  It was the phone call that all of us as animal lovers do not want to hear. It was her time to go.

I jumped in my truck, with the trailer still attached, and drove to the clinic. I went into the recover room and she was currled up facing the left.  The room was small.  I called her name and she forced her head with all her might to swing to the right to put her head down in my lap.  She listened to me as I cried and cried.  I hugged her I kissed her and I thanked her for everything she gave me in such a short period of time.  Peter called me while I was in the room.  I told her how much he loved her and hugged and kissed her for him.  She was dying and I knew it.  She would have died in my lap I am sure of it.  I told the doctor it was time and we started the process.  She went so peacefully in my arms, it was almost surreal.  Here she had given me so much and I could give her peace.

In those last moments together, Romie told me that I should continue on to California.  A voice just came into my head as she was passing.  I was confused very confused because up to that moment I had intended to go back to Colorado. After Romie passed, I sat with the surgeon for over an hour.  She helped me get diesel for my truck.  We talked and cried together and she too encouraged me to continue to California.   We both shook hands to not feel any guilt but we both knew when we separated that we would need each other strength to get through this loss.   Then I spoke with Peter and he told me to continue forward with my boys.  I left my Romie and drove to the hotel in a daze.  My husband arrived and told him what happened and what Romie, the surgeon, and Peter said.  He cried.  We both cried.  The decision was made.  I was to continue on to Ranch Santa Fe, California or all the effort that Romie and I had put forth in the months leading up to this point would be in vain.

My husband Derek and I left in the middle of the night and drove through  to California.  I am here in California now, and the other horses are safe and sound, but I feel so much guilt and sadness for Romie.  How could this happen under my watch?  I am just brought to my knees.  I am devastated.

These past days have been almost impossible but I know coming to California was the right thing to do. Had I come home I  would not have been able to bear her empty stall.  But now, I am in a new place, with a new trainer (s), new people – everything is new.  The barn, the trainers, and all the people have been wonderful.  I have had so many text messages and emails and calls from people in Colorado that knew that Romie was special.  But even with all that,  I can’t stop thinking about her.

Romie gave me confidence, she showed me patience, she taught me the feeling of every movement, she helped me train my young horse and give him his tempis.  I had always thought that I would have her  a stall for the rest of her life because she was such a princess.  She loved her stall.  I pictured her at the ripe old age of 26 with a hanging lower lip but hot as ever.  But is not to be.  She died 12 days short of her 15th birthday.  I ask my self why every day. I  miss her so much that none of this seems possible.  I am living in a dream world and a lot of the times a nightmare.

I am hopeful for each new day but I can’t escape the loss.  I miss my teacher and my friend.  When she passed the look in her eye was of love.  Prior to that moment, I always wondered whether she really loved me because she had been Peter’s horse for so long.  But I know now that she really loved me and that is what gets me through each day.  I loved her so much.  I just wanted her to love me and in the end she gave me that too.

I will never forget my teacher and my partner Romie.  I love her so much and forever.

Romie April 14, 1996 – April 2, 2011

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