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EC Blog – The Hamstring, aka “The Glitch”

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Ashton and Zips Terrific Kiss, aka “Zip,” by Jeff Kirkbride Photography

By Ashton Brandt

Author Ashton Brandt was given a freshman writing assignment to write about a life changing event but with a twist (hence the title, The Glitch). She wrote the story of her heart horse, Zip, tearing his hamstring last year prior to the Pinto World Championship Show, but she allowed Zip to tell the story.

Candid photo by the Pinto Horse Association of America, a favorite image of Ashton’s.

I’ve had so many kids call me their own over the years but only one has treated me like the prince I am, and has loved me like no one else ever has. Hi I’m Zip. I’m a pinto/ paint horse and I’m 19 years old. I’ve had lots of kids that have ridden or shown me over the years but this one girl was like no other. Her name was Ashton. She and I became a team in 2021. I knew instantly she wasn’t like the others. She and I didn’t click right away but slowly over time we got really good together. We won a lot and lost a lot but we had so many good memories together that I will never forget. We were a team until 2023, and that’s when my life changed forever.

We had been doing great all show season but in February of 2023 everything changed. I had done something and was a little sore but I felt completely fine other than that. We went to a show one weekend in February, and when Ashton and I were practicing showmanship before the show, I felt a little funny but I didn’t worry about it. There was a burning feeling in my left back leg. Then when we showed showmanship I was a little more sore but I pushed through for my girl. When she was riding me to get me ready for our riding classes I was really sore but I didn’t show it because I wanted us to do good, and I love her so I didn’t want her to worry. I went through my hunter under saddle classes fine but when we got to the equation class, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I bucked a couple of times. My leg was just burning so bad I couldn’t stand it. Ashton was so confused and I felt bad. After that class Ashton and her mom knew something was wrong so they had me bemered (this cool thing that uses magnets to help soreness), and that helped some but not alot. The next day when Ashton and I went to the show, I was still really sore, and Ashton could tell, so we didn’t show any more that day and we went home early.

Ashton and her mom knew something was wrong with me, so Ashton’s mom took me to the vet the Monday after the show. After about an hour and lots of X-rays and ultrasounds, they found out that I had torn my hamstring. I was listening to them talk about how I could have gotten hurt, and I couldn’t even remember what I did to tear my hamstring.  The vet told Ashton’s mom that they would probably never know for sure.  He said I might have gotten kicked by my friend Grace (she can be kind of mean when I bug her) or I just have taken off wrong after rolling.

I knew Ashton would be devastated when she found out but I was so glad that we had found out what was wrong with me. When Ashton came to the barn after school, her mom told her what happened, and she came to my stall crying. I knew she needed comfort so I let her cry into my neck for as long as she needed. I remember one thing specifically that she said to me.  She said: “No matter what happens, we will always be a team and I will always love you.”

They moved me to another barn where I had to stall in a stall all day, everyday.  They started doing all this stuff to me to try and help heal my hamstring. They put this pad on my butt that had a bunch or red lights on it twice a day.  They said that the lights would help keep the tear loose, and not as sore. They also had me getting weekly massages, and those were super nice. Deb (the massage lady) became another one of my favorite people).  It was fun getting to see Ashton every morning at 7 AM, that had never happened before.  I also went back to the vet a few times to get this thing zapped on my hamstring.  It was a little scary but the vet gave me a shot that made me sleepy so the zappy thing didn’t hurt as much.

The thing that I didn’t like though was Ashton had to walk me for what felt like an eternity every day, but I found out it was really only like 20 minutes every day. I just wanted to run and play with my pasture friends.  I hated being stuck in that stall. The one up side was I wasn’t getting worked near as much which was nice to have some time off. This went on for about 3 months, until my hamstring healed a lot but not fully.  Then when I went to the vet one time, he said Ashton could start riding me again. At first, it wasn’t bad because I was so happy to be out of that stall and doing my job again.  But then when she started pushing me more it hurt again. I figured out that hiding it wasn’t working for me, so I showed it, and they did more things to try and make me comfortable.

Our first show back, I could tell that Ashton was so happy to be back in the show pen and I was glad that I was right by her side again. Ashton wanted to take me to The Pinto World Show which was in Oklahoma. Ashton and Traci (her helper) knew that if they wanted to go to the World Show with me, that they couldn’t push me very much, so they decided that we were going to skip out on one of Ashton’s favorite shows, All American Youth Show. Ashton was really bummed because we had hoped to do really good there.  When we went to the World Show in June, I felt pretty good for the first half of the show.  We even got our number called a couple of times.  Ashton and her mom were so excited when that happened.  I knew I had done good.

Then one night while I was eating hay, this crazy storm came through the fairgrounds.  There was glass shattering and horses nickering and the wind was stronger than I’d ever heard or felt.  It was pretty scary.  But then it all just stopped.  Everything was dark but I could hear people walking around, so I knew my girl would be there soon.  When Ashton and her mom finally got to my stall, they shined a light in on me to make sure I was ok.  Ashton said a tornado had hit the fairgrounds.  I could tell that she was really scared, so I let her hug me for as long as she needed until she was calm again. All I got from listening to all the humans talk was a really big tornado/ storm hit the fairgrounds and the rest of the show had been canceled. I don’t think I have ever seen my girl cry so much, so I stood with her until I could tell she felt a little better.

 After we headed home, Ashton told me we were going to go home and show at the county fair. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been there over the years, so I was ready. We missed the weekend classes, but showed in the special skills classes.  I was really good until I went over the logs and then, I’m not sure what got into me, but I bucked after the logs!  I knew I wasn’t supposed to but something just came over me.  Everyone laughed so I didn’t get in too much trouble.  The next night was the biggest class of fair, versatility class. We showed versatility, and we won Senior Grand Champion, which I know made Ashton a little less sad about missing the rest of the World SHow.

After that we went to the State fair and a couple of other shows, but in August, my hamstring started hurting again, and I tried to push through, but it was really hurting. I tried to do my job, but  since Ashton knows me so well she knew something was wrong. Turns out that even though everyone thought my hamstring was all healed, I did end up getting some scar tissue,and that’s why it was hurting again. I just couldn’t keep up with the level of work Ashton needed me to do.  After a long talk that I heard between Ashton, her mom (Britney), and my first dad (Gil),  they decided what would be best for me would be to be semi-retired. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to work with my girl all the time anymore and when Ashton got a new horse, I was sad at first because I wasn’t getting all of her attention anymore.  But then I watched them working together and knew it was for the best.  I’m was so happy for her, and I knew she would never forget all the memories she and I made in the 3 years we were together.

I can say that tearing my hamstring was the worst thing that ever happened to me and Ashton in our lives. I think it was almost as hard for everyone that was involved with the whole situation because no one could fully fix my injury. The upside is that Ashton and her new horse are still at the barn where I live.  I still get to see Ashton every single day.  She is even still giving me a mint every day from this huge container she bought me.  I’m back to going out in the pasture everyday with my friends and I still get ridden a little, so it’s not a horrible life. I will never forget the amazing adventure Ashton and I shared for 3 years.

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