Kim Herslow and Reno are biding their time

By Nancy Jaffer
February 7, 2016

Kim Herslow and Reno at her barn in Wellington, Florida.

An incredible performance in the Intermediaire I at last summer’s Pan American Games in Canada put Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin in the spotlight as they made a major contribution to the gold medal that qualified the U.S. dressage team for the 2016 Olympics. It was a triumphant moment in which years of training had paid off  handsomely.

Everyone was looking forward to seeing what the horse would do when he moved up to Grand Prix. But their planned campaign at the next level has been postponed. Always in tune with the special horse she calls Reno, Kim was feeling that as he had to “sit” more for the piaffe and passage movements of Grand Prix, he wasn’t totally comfortable.

“I wasn’t going to try to just push him through it; I know this horse and how willing he is and how happy he is to offer the work to me,” said Kim.

She had been taking lessons with U.S. Equestrian Federation Developing Dressage Coach Debbie McDonald in Florida after heading south from her base at Upper Creek Farm in Stockton, but she called a halt to the work to get to the bottom of what was bothering Reno.

Exploratory arthroscopic surgery at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic revealed a marble-sized cyst on the cruiciate ligament on Reno’s right stifle. Three veterinary surgeons–Dr. Alan Nixon of Cornell University, Dr. Ryland Edwards III of Fairfield Equine and Dr. Ben Schachter collaborated on removing it, noting they had never seen a cyst in that location. Happily, there was no damage to the ligament itself. Stem cells taken from Reno’s sternum were used to help the healing process, which will take as long as he needs.

“The fact that this horse did everything he’s done up until now with that issue is amazing,” said Kim, who watched the surgery.

“It breaks my heart to know that that’s been there all this time and that he’s given me as much as he’s given me and tried so hard with that there. It’s a relief to know now we’ve fixed that problem.”

When she looked back on Reno’s training with new perspective, Kim remembered, “As a 4-year-old,  he struggled with his canter balance on the right lead. I feel like this is probably something he’s had since he was started under saddle.” With muscling to compensate, training moved forward until the Grand Prix work brought up the issue.

The highpoint of Kim Herslow’s career with Reno was the Intermediaire I at the Pan American Games last summer, helping the team to a gold medal.
Having found the source of the problem, “It gives me a lot of hope that going forward, he’s going to be better than he’s ever been. He does all the Grand Prix work already. I’m excited about all of it and grateful we know what we know now, and we can give him the help he needs to be a better horse,” she commented.

 But the recuperation will be a careful one.

“I won’t sit on him until June,” she said.

“He’ll just start handwalking down here until I get home.”

There, he will go to High Brass Farm Pittstown for work three or four times a week on an aqua treadmill.

“It’s good for muscling and getting his fitness back,” she explained.

Once she finally gets on Reno, she’ll just be walking him.

“I won’t be trotting until September,” she said.

“It’s a long process to bring him back the right way. I don’t want to rush the healing process. I want him to have the time he needs to feel as good as he can feel. I think he’s going to come back with an amazing ability he never had before, to feel really strong behind and not have anything feeling like it’s going to hurt him.

“I’m always on top of what my horse needs. That’s the most important thing for me. I’m his advocate,” she said, as she stood next to him in his stall, human and horse perfectly at home with each other. Competition goals aren’t really important now, but if all goes well, Kim would like to try for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, back in Canada.

“I know he cares about me and always wants to give me 110 percent. So I’m going to do whatever I can to make him do the job better. I am so relieved and grateful we were able to help him, and he’s still just coming 11. The fact that he’s done everything he’s done with that there is just incredible. I’m really excited about the future now.”

And after the way the situation transpired with Reno, Kim has a message for other horse owners: “I want to emphasize how important it is to listen to your horse, because if you don’t, you won’t have one if you just push through things.”

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