Guest blogger Drew Kemerling – “Knowing When to Wave the White Flag”

Waving the White FlagI am SO excited for this week’s blog. I want to introduce you to a very good friend of mine and fellow eventer, Drew Kemerling.  I have known Drew since I was about…13 years old?  She was the first friend I made when I started eventing and we have kept up with each other throughout the years…that’s what I love about horse people, always have something in common!

I asked Drew to be a guest blogger for me this week because I think it’s important to get outside voices from people I trust and value.  She recently went through a transitional period where it was time to say goodbye to the old and say hello to the new. I know we can all relate to that, and I hope I can get Drew to come back and blog for me again in the spring as she and her new horse progress 🙂 Thanks so much for writing Drew!!

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We have all probably had that horse in our lives that we thought “everyone says you can’t do it, but I’m going to prove everyone wrong”, right? Demi was that horse for me. I discovered Demi as a giveaway on the COTH forums about five years ago. She was sold to me as a flighty, scared-of-her-own-shadow, typical Thoroughbred-type six year old with a bit of an attitude problem. The trainer I was with at the time (and many others) told me that because of her attitude issues and the fact that she stood at a mere 15.1 hands, she probably wouldn’t do much for me in the long run and I was entirely too inexperienced to deal with a horse like this.

However, I was determined. When I moved to Kentucky for my freshman year of college, Demi came with me. We started our eventing careers off with a bang, winning the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge with a score of 34 at Beginner Novice. I thought to myself “she’s it. She’s the real deal”.

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Drew and Demi

Fast forward a few seasons and Demi and I were unstoppable Novice champions. Sure, we didn’t win everything and sure, we had trouble making distances sometimes but nevertheless the horse and I were a true team. My new trainer and I worked hard to erase “can’t” and “won’t” from my vocabulary. This was a true testament to her training program considering I am a naturally timid rider.

Eventually after a few hyperventilating sessions and some good cross country schooling, Demi and I moved up to training level. Mind you, I had never gone training in my life and neither had the horse. After a great run at Jumpstart Horse Trials in the fall of 2012, we worked hard all winter and decided to aim for Maydaze Horse Trials in May. There, we had our first clean showjumping and cross country at training level and I was on cloud nine!

drew and demi sj
Drew and Demi with beautiful form in a Training level stadium round

My horse, well…she wasn’t so thrilled. Champagne Run rolled around in July and Demi decided she was a bit over-faced. We always knew training was Demi’s max, so this wasn’t a huge shock. However, it was a big blow to my newly-formed confidence. Demi and I took a few months off from showing and refocused our goal on Jumpstart 2013 at Novice. The event didn’t go well for one reason: Me.

I can look back and see that by then, our relationship was pretty well beyond repair. I didn’t trust her, she didn’t trust me. Period. That’s when I knew it was time to step down off my high horse (or short horse as it may be!) and wave the white flag in this relationship; both for her benefit and mine. This is not to say that I didn’t love the little hot head, because I certainly did. I wanted better for her than what I could give her. I was the one who over-faced her. I was the one who was not brave enough to bounce back and give it another go. She deserved better than that.

Demi has always been a strong dressage competitor. After the whole fall season fell apart due to my lack of confidence in my partner, we ventured our way into the world of long whips and top hats. We did a First Level 1 test in August and she WON with a 73%! Finally, we had found a way to communicate and trust each other again. We continued onto Snowbird in November and put in our very first First Level 2 test and won that as well. Great as that may be, dressage is not what I want to do for the rest of my riding career.

It is extremely rewarding to be able to ride a fancy mover like Demi in the dressage arena but with our history, I don’t think we will be eventing again. I chose to put Demi up for sale. Not because I “can’t” or “won’t” progress with Demi, but again, I felt she deserved better and we had taught each other enough.

ImageThe above picture is of Drew and her handsome new OTTB, Century Shake Up

While Demi was still on the market as a dressage horse/low-level eventer, I was anxious to find my new partner. This past month, I found the new love of my life, Century Shake Up; a 3 year old OTTB that I found through Second Stride, Inc. He seems to be perfect in every way and with the tools that I have from riding Demi for so many years, I hope we can make some real progress together.

I can’t begin to describe how guilty I felt for bringing my new partner into the barn while Demi is still with me. However, I know that by waving the white flag on the relationship between Demi and I, something new and wonderful has blossomed for both of us. By letting her go, I have opened up an entirely new opportunity for Demi and her new person (whomever that may be) as well as allowing myself to open up my heart to a new horse.

My experience with Demi has taught me that you can love a horse and still need to let them go. Believe me, the day she finds her new person, I will cry. I will cry not only because I will miss her but also because I will be so deeply happy that she has found someone who loves her the way I do. When that day comes, I can also give myself a pat on the back because I gave her the opportunity to create another lasting relationship by waving the white flag on ours.

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