Kalin was still far too thin in March, but by July, he’d recovered his health completely and once again headed to the nationals. It was Julia’s second year with him, and she was determined to do well, but on the first day of the championship Kalin knocked down two bars, and they was already out of the running. There was one more day, but they couldn’t make up the lost points.
The next day was rainy and cold – and Julia somehow got into a fight with her instructor, and ended up alone at the show. It wasn’t Julia’s fault – but the strained atmosphere of the championships frayed everyone’s nerves and Julia was just the last straw for the overwrought instructor. So, Patrick accompanied her to the ring and warmed her up, and her father and I stood in the deluge and filmed her. There were over 150 riders that day, and Julia and Kalin did an incredible round, coming in third overall for the day. If she’d gone clear the first day, she’d have been on the podium. But that’s jumping – and her third place finish didn’t bring her enough points to get a ribbon. But she was thrilled. Third out of a hundred and fifty was a fabulous result, and she now had complete confidence in Kalin.
Their third year together was just starting, and it was promising to be a good one. Out of their first three shows, they came in first twice, and third once. October was nearly over, the leaves were turning gold, and then one day Kalin started to limp.
At first, we thought he’d stepped on a stone and bruised his hoof. His tendons were still hard, cool to the touch, and the flex test didn’t show any lameness. His hoof seemed all right too, and the blacksmith didn’t find any bruises. We decided it may have been a kick on the shoulder from one of the other horses in the field, and we let him rest a week. Then he was back to work.
He did another show with Julia, and came in ninth, knocking over the first bar. He didn’t seem “right”, and I asked the instructor to let him rest a bit. But he was now a club horse, and they needed him for lessons. For a month, despite getting new shoes with soles, he continued to limp a bit. He was still working, even winning a horse show. But I felt he wasn’t quite sound, and again asked that he be put in a stall and rested. That meant taking him out of the club and paying for boarding him, but Julia’s instructor thought he might have a deep abscess in his foot, so we pulled his shoes and wrapped his hoof in hot linseed. The abscess showed up, and the blacksmith lanced it to let it drain, cutting the back of his foot back, but not shoeing him. One day, they let him out in the paddock, and Kalin, out of sorts and stressed from being cooped in a stall, jumped and bucked, slipped – and bowed his left front tendon.
It was a disaster. He was dead lame, and now his whole leg was swollen and hot. The instructor called me and told me the bad news, and I spent hours that week hosing the tendon with cold water and putting plasters on it, wrapping and unwrapping it, and making sure he walked a small bit each day, and grooming him.
Julia was beside herself, but at the same time, she hardly had any time to ride. She was studying hard to pass her baccalaureate, and so we decided Kalin should go to the countryside and stay at a friend’s farm while she finished her year at school. There was always next year, we reasoned. There was no reason why six months or more of rest shouldn’t put his tendon right.
Kalin must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven. He went to Normandy, and found himself in a huge pasture, knee-deep in rich grass, with apple trees and sleepy cows. He had his own cave for shelter, a stream for drinking, and since he was so gentle, they even put a pregnant mare in his field to keep him company and soon they were best friends.
It was harder on Julia. Her horse was happy, and recuperating, but she missed him. She passed her baccalaureate with flying colors – getting an A+ in math, and an A- overall, earning her a mention. She was accepted into an exclusive literary prep school, but she didn’t feel well. In fact, she started to complain of constant headaches, tiredness, and one day she had a fainting spell.
We took her to the doctors, thinking it was a flu. It was far more serious. In fact, it was her heart. The doctor sent her straight to the hospital, where she spent the night in the emergency ward having tests done. Then it was to different specialists, back and forth – until finally it was decided she had to take beta-blockers, probably for years, and, the worst news, she had to stop riding competitively.
Kalin was doing well, but now he had to stay in Normandy while we decided what to do. Julia wanted to keep him, of course, but according to her doctor, she couldn’t show jump anymore. After going to see more specialists, it was decided the best thing to do would be to operate. The operation might get rid of the extrasystoles, and she could stop taking her medication.