Kathryn and Calabrae

Kathryn and Calabrae

My name is Kathryn Hitzig, and I’ve been riding horses for the last 19 years.

Currently, I’ve shown through 3rd level at USDF-recognized dressage competitions, and have one score left at 3rd level to complete my USDF Bronze Medal.

Additionally, I have two of the necessary four scores to complete my USDF 2nd level Rider Performance Award and three of the necessary four scores to complete my USDF 1st level Rider Performance Award.

While I keep working towards the USDF Bronze and Silver Medals, I remain fixated on my goal: to one day participate in the elite Grand Prix competition.

A Dressage Riding Love Affair

My horse riding love affair started at an early age. My family and I lived down the street from a famous baseball player who owned a large family run farm. I used to drag my mother up the road all the time to go and see the horses. At the same time, I had a very good friend who was an eventer and a very serious rider. I loved hearing about all the horse stuff she was doing, and was dying to try it myself. I finally convinced my father to take me on a trail ride, and I haven’t quit since!

After first trying my hand at western and hunters, I began working with a trainer who was a lower level dressage rider. She gave me my first introduction to the sport. Soon, I began studying all things dressage, and even though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or whatDressage Today was talking about, I was hooked! I thought that the perfect harmony between horse and rider was amazing. The horses resembled dancing warriors, and the riders were seemingly born on their backs. I vowed that I too would one day be able to ride like that.

Finding The Dream Horse

I almost talked myself out of going to see Calabrae, since he was stationed 900 miles away round-trip from my home. The then 17-year-old Hanoverian/Holsteiner gelding had an impressive pedigree – he was bred by Grand Prix rider and 1984 Olympic alternate, Debbie Bowman – and had an incredible competitive track record. Initially, I wondered if he was too much horse for me. But as soon as I watched the first 20 seconds of Calabrae’s video, I thought, “That’s the horse!”

He was amazing! In the video, Calabrae came out strong with full pirouettes in both directions on centerline. His gaits were expressive and fluid, and his passion was undeniable. By the time the seven minute video was complete, I was in love! I immediately booked the trip to visit him.

Struggling with Horse Health

Thrilled with my beautiful, talented horse, I brought Calabrae home. It quickly became apparent that I had a LOT of horse to deal with, and as time went on, things only got worse.

Calabrae spooked at everything. He would rear, jump, bolt, and run backwards for apparently no reason. I couldn’t even ride down the long side of the arena without him losing it. I spent a whole year trying to figure out why my dream horse seemed to be having a meltdown every time I got on him.

It was odd for a horse who had accomplished so many feats in his lifetime to be truly psychotic. Like any responsible horse owner, I sought answers. I left no stone unturned, and finally, after a full year of trying everything imaginable to fix him, the source of his problems became apparent.

Calabrae had gastric ulcers. Multiple 30-day treatments of Gastrogard and Smartgut for maintenance provided temporary relief, but the ulcers kept recurring. As it turned out, Calabrae was unhappy in his environment, and the stress was fueling the ulcer problem. The stable he was at was gorgeous, but since it was private, he lacked the usual stimulation from other horses and riders that he was accustomed to. Two years into owning Calabrae, I moved him to Twin Ridge Farm in Warner, NH and began working with the owner and trainer, Jerilyn Nieder.

Successes and Setbacks

For a while, that seemed to do the trick. Calabrae no longer needed ½ tube of Ulcergard every day to survive, and my once stoic horse began to come out of his shell. We began training with Jerilyn three to four times a week, and we were thriving as a pair under her expert tutelage. Calabrae and I enjoyed a wildly successful show season in 2011, showing through the 3rd level.

Then came another setback. We had an unfortunate turn of events in the beginning of September 2011 when a new farrier over-trimmed the soles of his front feet. Calabrae could barely walk, and spent a week at New England Equine recovering. Our glorious show season was over, and the one more score that I needed at 3rd level to obtain my USDF Bronze Medal would have to wait. It was a devastating blow, but I was grateful that he was going to be OK.

After weeks of stall rest, Calabrae got the all-clear to go back to work. But he was still not right in his left-fore. This off-ness made for a lot of inconsistencies in his work schedule. Calabrae is a highly regimented horse and gets disturbed when his schedule is out of whack. He truly enjoys working, and the time off stressed him out. As a result, the ulcers came back.

Looking for a Healthy Solution

Soon, Jerilyn noted that Calabrae’s manure looked dry and was not very well formed, and recommended adding oil to his diet to lubricate his gut. Calabrae’s manure also had the most awful smell, due to the acidity in his stomach. I immediately started researching different oil ideas for him. I wanted to make sure that he was on an omega-3 oil, since research has shown that corn oil for example, can lead to a breakdown of fluid in the joint capsules. Knowing fish to be a good source of omega-3, I thought to myself, “I wonder if they make fish oil for horses?” As it turned out, a company in Venice, FL named Wellpride made just what I was looking for.

Initially, I was a bit concerned about the fish oil’s palatability – Calabrae is the pickiest eater. He gets 3lbs of grain per feeding and if there’s even the slightest bit of powder or liquid in sight, forget about it. I was downright shocked to see him dig right into his grain with his usual enthusiasm with 2oz of Wellpride in it.

Calbrae has been on Wellpride fish oil for three weeks now, and is doing wonderfully. The smell of his manure no longer clears everyone out of the grooming stalls, and it’s nicely formed and moist. He is practically floating on the lunge line! Even his “warm-up cough” isn’t as prevalent.

Calabrae is currently undergoing a 30-day Gastrogard treatment for gastric ulcers, which is working in conjunction with his Wellpride fish oil. These two products go as effortlessly together as Adequan and Legend do!

I’m looking forward to seeing Calabrae continue to flourish. Calabrae is one of the best moving horses I’ve ever seen. Even at the age of 20, he shows no signs of slowing down. Calabrae is a perfect example of how older horses still “got it”, regularly besting fancy horses that are less than half his age! I feel this is largely due to not only what an amazing horse he is, but also a credit to all of the wonderful equine products that keep him young and healthy – particularly Wellpride.

About The Author

Kathryn Hitzig is a USDF (United States Dressage Federation) Bronze Medalist and USDF L Graduate with Distinction. Kathryn has 23 years of performance horse experience and has served as a Working Student to various FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale) trainers. Kathryn has also managed peformance horse facilities and most recently served as Assistant Trainer to a Grand Prix rider and trainer. Kathryn was also a professional International Ski Racer and has competed in the 2001 World Championship in St. Anton, Austria and the 2003 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland; in addition to three World Cups. Kathryn also attended Harvard University Extension School from 2007 to 2011. In her free time Kathryn enjoys cooking , running, and spending time with her dogs. Currently, Kathryn operates KH Dressage out of Steel Mangolia Farm in Chichester, NH where she trains and teaches. Kathryn is also a popular officant at dressage shows throughout New England.

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