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News

MIRACLE HORSE DEFIES ODDS

October 25th, 2019

By: Autumn Fickel

When Andrea Schafer arrived at the Congress, she already considered herself and her horse winners.

Horse and rider have had a long road to get to their very first Congress, where they were Reserve Champions in the Amateur Select Hunter Under Saddle and Champions in the NSBA. 

Hailing from Denton, North Carolina, Andrea and Robert Schafer are the proud owners of Promote This Hotchip, or Jackson, a 7 year old bay Quarter Horse. Standing at 16.3 and a half, Jackson is a leggy, gorgeous, gentle giant. But Jackson has been through more than meets the eye.

Jackson had a surgery 18 months ago to fix a nerve impingement, or pinched nerve, by boring a hole in the C6 and C7 vertebrae and fusing the bones with a metal plate. This type of nerve condition is classified in levels, with a level 4 being beyond medical intervention. When Andrea and Robert caught Jackson’s, he was between a Level 1 and 2.

Jackson had been in a training program over the summer, and when he came home for the winter, the Schafers began to notice the neurological issues. They consulted their veterinarian, something they are grateful for, who diagnosed the nerve impingement and said that euthanasia was a viable option and one that is often employed in these situations. Andrea and Robert were told that surgery was an option as well.

“I didn’t even have to think about it; I wasn’t ready and he [husband Robert] wasn’t ready,” Andrea remembers. “He [Robert] just said: let’s do the surgery.” Andrea says that having a supportive husband and the encouragement from Dr. Stephen Reed, a veterinary internist specializing in neurology at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, are what helped her make the decision to move forward with the surgery on Jackson.

Dr. Reed felt that Jackson was a good candidate for the surgery, so the Schafers loaded up their horse and drove him to Kentucky.

“We had a difficult time even getting him on the trailer,” Robert said. After a successful surgery with Dr. Reed and Dr. J. Brett Woodie, who flew down from New York for the procedure, Jackson was hospitalized while he recovered enough to travel to North Carolina. Jackson was released as safe to ride, but the Schafers were given no guarantees on his future as a riding mount. Andrea says she would have been happy if he could simply be a weekend trail horse, just as long as he was here.

Andrea rehabbed Jackson at home for 9 months, hand-walking him and then gradually building up to light riding. Robert built small obstacles out of PVC pipes for her, and together they taught Jackson to use his back legs again. After seeing improvement every day, and recognizing the amount of fight that Jackson possessed, Andrea called her trainer Carey Ready of Carey Ready Performance Horses, based in Horatio, South Carolina. Ready came to see the gelding ride and agreed that he was ready and able to be in a training program. Jackson then went to train with Ready for 9 months leading up to the Congress, where he then showed and won big, something Andrea and Robert never even imagined 18 months prior when their journey began.

When asked about her reaction to winning Reserve Champion and NSBA Champion, Andrea says she was in total, utter shock.

 “The first thing I said was ‘Thank you, Jesus,” Andrea said with a happy smile.

Andrea shared her favorite quote, which she feels is very fitting for her experience with her beloved Jackson.

            What we obtain too cheaply

            We esteem too lightly

            It is dearness only

            That gives anything its value

Andrea says this fits Jackson because of the pure struggle he has had to endure to get to this point: when you work your tail off and struggle, pay your dues, the victory is that much sweeter.

“I felt like I’d already won, just the fact that he’s here,” Andrea remarks about her true miracle horse.