Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Getting to know Amelia from Dark Jewel Designs

Today's post is a little different. I've been chatting recently with Amelia from Dark Jewel designs (creator my growing collection of custom browbands for my dressage and jump bridles) about all things horses... Starting out mostly whining about Isabel's and my jumping woes, but then branching out into more general conversations.

We ended up talking about her horse Duke and their most recent event. And I realized that it was exactly what I wished I could write about on this blog, exactly what I love to read from other horse people. A story of adversity, perseverance, and, ultimately, hope.

So obviously I asked her to write a guest post introducing herself, her business, and, of course, her longtime partner Duke. I hope you all enjoy reading along as much as I did!

****

Hello Blogland!  My name is Amelia Pitts and I am the owner of Dark Jewel Designs Custom Browbands. Emma was kind enough to let me take over her blog for a day and tell you my story.

My inspiration was my horse and he is actually my logo!

Dark Jewel Designs was created because I was looking for something I couldn’t find.  A few years ago, when I was getting ready to do my first event with my own horse I decided I wanted a blingy browband. Since I didn’t like the prices I was finding, I figured I could try making my own.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a crafty individual. I have grand plans and ideas but by the time they are executed they look nothing like I had envisioned.

So, I experimented. I had some failures (ask me about the time my browband fell apart right before my dressage test!)  I tried a bunch of different variations, stuck myself with needles enough times to know that I was NOT for anything doing any sort of sewing on these and finally came up with a design that worked! Because of my own browband search, I realized that there was a niche in the market that I could fill.  I could supply a product that could be completely custom, interchangeable and affordable.

Now 4 years later, DJD has grown in ways I would never have believed. The best part is getting to work with all of my fantastic customers!

So much bling! and HATS! I actually have my own hats now! Unreal!

Who am I apart from the owner of DJD?  I’m an adult ammy who works full time and enjoys low level Eventing.  My partner in crime is Duke – a 21 year old Irish Sport Horse.  Duke is actually my first horse and I got him with I was 32. We’ve had quite a journey in our few years together!

Still can't believe he is mine.
Duke: "The most important lesson for you to learn human, is treatz go here!"
{Editor's note: those ears tho!!!!!}

I grew up your typical horse crazy girl who thought her life would always be horses.  After graduating college with a degree in Equine Science I realized that the professional horse world is a tough, tough place to eke out a living in and that it wasn’t for me.  I changed jobs, got married and horses fell by the way side for quiet a few years.

After helping my best friend and her husband host a Boyd Martin clinic in 2008, I was bitten by the bug again and began taking lessons at their farm. A few years later, the fates aligned and I was finally a first-time horse owner!

Loving XC!

When I got him, Justa Believer was 17 years old. He had a long eventing career and had spent quite a while at Training level, although he had been sitting for a few years since his old owner got out of riding. Duke and I started out by doing a few events a Beginner Novice the first summer I had him. The next year we did a full season of Beginner Novice, working on my confidence and our partnership.

We had our Novice debut in 2014 and even though I was plagued by a few stadium demons we had a successful outing. It MAY have involved me freezing before the first fence and my saint of a horse doing his best to not crash through it, but we completed with a number!

Schooling for Novice

The rest of 2014 was supposed to be our Novice season, but it didn’t quite work out that way. We were out cross-country schooling the just after the Fourth of July. I had warmed up and we were just starting to get rolling going through the water and out over a small log.  Duke took the log, landed and went to take his next stride away from the fence.

Two things happened simultaneously and fast. I felt Duke lurch, and I thought I heard a loud crack. In a split second I realized my horse was hopping three legged lame at the canter. I attempted to pull him up and jump off him while I could hear my trainer shouting at me to stop him. We had a very long walk back to the trailer and an hour ride home.  It was one of the longest days of my life.

It turns out that Duke had suffered a non-displaced fracture of the radius, probably resulting from a kick we never knew he had taken. The treatment?  At least 10 weeks in a sling, suspended from our barn ceiling.  My heart broke at the thought of him stuck in a sling for that long especially during the hottest months.

I swore if he was miserable I’d do right by him. But I underestimated him.  My smart old boy knew we were helping him and was a model patient.  He handled the sling perfectly, including being hoisted a few times a day to rest and learned how to lean his head on shavings bags we stacked for him so he could rest.  He even perfected the art of swinging in the sling so he could itch himself.

Looking at this still makes me want to cry.
{Ed. Note: This is basically the stuff of nightmares!}

We were given the all clear to begin rehab in September 2014. We kept the rehab slow, more time at each step than was recommended. I had vowed to myself that if he didn’t come back well or indicated that he didn’t want to jump that I wouldn’t push it. We would switch to dressage.

But, my amazing old man horse who was now 20 came back with a vengeance. Our flat work improved, our jumping improved, and our connection was amazing.  It was time to see how he would handle an event.

I missed riding so much! First ride back!

2015 was a dream season for us. The fact that we HAD a season was amazing.  I burst into tears the second we crossed the finish line at our first event back. We finished in the top 3 at all of our regular season events. We qualified for Area Champs at our first run of the season. We had personal best dressage scores, and I finally FINALLY learned how to let go and trust on cross country.

At Champs we finished just out of the ribbons, due to rider error in stadium (I blame extreme heat and pressure on myself!). We had fun at each and every outing. We won an event! To top it off, we finished out the season by attempting Novice again - and we finished on our dressage score.  

Best feeling ever! He was back!

Even with my stadium demons (WTF hands?)

Novice is no big thing, and we like blue!

This year he’s still going strong and we just had our first event of the season at Novice. It wasn’t our best performance – no one told him that fire-breathing dragon mode is frowned upon in dressage and I let my nerves get the best of me until about fence 5 in stadium, but we killed it on XC.

We have two more entries in (hopefully we’ll smooth out the rough spots) and we’ll take it easy during the heat in July and August.  I’m just delighted that I get to have the opportunity to still learn from him and to enjoy every ride with him.

Such happiness
No XC demons! His most favorite thing

Thanks for letting me share my (and Duke’s!) story.  It truly is because of him that Dark Jewel Designs exists. It’s because of him that I am able to interact with and meet so many fantastic people. It’s because of him that I now live my life by a motto which has an effect on every aspect of my life. Just Believe.

Just Believe.

48 comments:

  1. Damn what a story! I'm kind of in love with Duke now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know right? So much heart!

      Delete
    2. Awww, thank you He has heart for days, but he can be a total ass too! He has amazing aim with his tail (wet especially) and targets the vulnerable spots.

      Delete
  2. Oh my gosh, what a great story!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is amazing! Not to mention Duke is so handsome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! <3 Duke thinks so too, and hates having to be my guinea pig for browband designs :)

      Delete
  4. Oh wow, great story. So incredible to come back from that! Love Duke's ears!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He surprised everyone involved with how well he came back! He does have big ears, but the angle in that one photo really makes them look huge! He LOVES to have the inside of them curried.

      Delete
  5. Wow, that's a hell of a comeback!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It'd be so much more dramatic if we were talking upper levels, but it's still pretty incredible! Not to mention I'm liable to start hyperventilating at the thought of Novice still, so it's plenty! :D

      Delete
  6. OH MY GOODNESS... this blog is making me cry on the daily lately!! What an incredible story, incredible heart in that horse, incredible Amelia for sticking by him through that nightmare.. just wow. All the feels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thank you! From the second the injury happened, I just wanted to do what was right for him, regardless of how I felt. Thankfully my vet was AMAZING and she'd seen this type of injury before. She presented it to me as "this is what is wrong, and this is how we fix it." There was never any talk of any other option and thankfully he handled it well and avoided the feared complications (like laminitis). Even when I was worried about his age she said it shouldn't matter.

      Delete
  7. What an incredible story, and one hell of a comeback!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Replies
    1. Thanks :) I loved reading about your recent event with Moe. I love knowing that there is another senior who loves his job and is still out there doing it! Sometimes I feel guilty that he's still competing at his age, but like Moe lives for cross country.

      Delete
  9. SO many feelings. What a sweet story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thanks. I couldn't get into it too much, but there are so many personal connections and people who helped behind the scenes. We couldn't have done without them!

      Delete
  10. omg thats INCREDIBLE!!! i loved reading about it, thanks for sharing! and thanks for sharing your ridiculous artistic talent in the form of sweet browbands <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I love being able to share with you guys! And I'm so grateful for being able to connect with so many amazing people because of the browbands.

      Delete
  11. I already loved Amelia after she dealt with my indecision on having a browband made for me and a friend, but what an amazing story. Duke sounds like such a special guy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. <3 Thank you! And I love reading about Mr. P too! Again, I have such a soft spot for the older ponies.

      Delete
  12. I just really want to thank Emma again for wanting to share our story with you guys! Duke is such a special horse in so many ways, I'm glad to be able to share him with the blogging world. I really skimmed the surface of the injury, treatment and rehab so if anyone wants more information (which I'm happy to give), you can feel free to email me. Or maybe I'll bite the bullet and finally start my own blog :P Thanks for reading Emma's and commenting on our journey! (And THANK YOU to Emma for being awesome and sharing her blog with us!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks so much for sharing with us!!! and i'm definitely a vote for your own blog - Duke is so cool, i need all the updates always!!!! :D

      Delete
    2. I have thought about it. General consensus is that I don't have a lot of extra time. But, we'll see! I throw the idea around often enough!

      Delete
    3. Have you thought about submitting your story to the rehab contest on EN?

      Delete
    4. I hadn't actually, because I didn't think I had time to write it up. Clearly, I did! I may have to go check out the contest again :) Thanks!

      Delete
  13. What an amazing story and horse!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! He is a special guy. His personality and disposition were really what allowed him to heal properly. He was SO GOOD for everything.

      Delete
  14. Awww I love them. So glad they're back up and at 'em!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too! :) You know some of the story - it's been crazy. I've very glad that you are still sharing your journey with Courage too! That's a special one in it's own right!

      Delete
  15. What a great story, thanks for sharing! I've got an old man horse, too and I am hoping to move up in the jumper ring this/next year. If Duke can go through all that and still compete at Novice, I feel better about dreaming of 3'6" mini prixs on Cosmo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of my sponsored riders has a student going Prelim and doing her first 1* this weekend. The mare is 21, but don't tell her that! And last year at a local event, a trophy was given out to the highest placing, oldest horse. 22 I believe at Training level. So it's certainly possible!! :)

      Delete
  16. Wow, inspiring story or what! Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Amazing! Thanks for sharing. Injuries requiring slings terrify me so it's nice to hear of such a great outcome :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a cute face!!! I love the top pictures of his wiggly little nose :) Thanks for sharing your story and your browbands are so lovely!

    ReplyDelete
  19. wow what a story...what a come back!

    ReplyDelete
  20. This story makes me so happy! What a special horse and you two must share a very special bond! Glad to get to know you better. Your browbands are gorgeous, and I can't wait to have an excuse/horse to put them on. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Your story is so inspiring and remarkable! Kudos to you for doing everything in your power to do right by Duke. He certainly is special and it is nice to see you guys back out there, living your dream!

    ReplyDelete
  22. what a crazy and exciting story!! thank you for sharing it

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a wonderfully inspiring story, thank you so much for sharing it with us!
    ISH are the best ♡♡♡

    ReplyDelete
  24. Cue the tears! Thank you Emma for bringing Amelia to us and thank you Amelia for sharing this wonderful story!

    ReplyDelete