From Rescue to Royal Champion

Rachael and Nicole Cullen stand ringside at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair with tears streaming down their faces. The girls’ beloved pony, Mud Slide, rescued 16 years ago from a meat auction, is now a Canadian Champion.

“We knew he could do it, he wants to win,” Rachael said, wiping back a tear. “When they announced he’d won, I saw that our rider, Ayla Torigian, was crying hysterically. I just started crying, too. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house”.

Janet Rowe is the owner of a horse rescue stable in Bracebridge, Ontario. In 2001, she went to the Ontario Livestock Exchange, an auction sale barn in St. Jacobs. Most animals sold there go to slaughter. Her eye caught a 13.2 hh paint pony. He was severely underweight. She noted he was moving as if he was foundered and in a lot of pain. “I just kept coming back to him.” explains Rowe “Even though the little guy was in rough shape; I knew in my heart that he had more life in him.”

Rowe paid $75 for the pony. “When he got to the farm, we found he was worse than I originally thought. We guessed him to be about 3 or 4 years old. He was still a stallion. He required a lot of attention to correct his feet and loosen his stifles. Most of all, he needed to eat…food, lots and lots of good food”.

It took Rowe almost a year to get him comfortable again. She began riding him and soon sold him to a friend as a lesson pony. Rowe lost touch with him after that, until this year.

In the meantime, Mud Slide’s career had taken off. In 2006, the Cullen family bought him for their eldest daughter, Rachael, to show in the Medium Pony Hunters. “He was still inexperienced, but my coach thought the pony had a raw natural talent. She said we could work on the rest” explained Rachael.

The two went on to win numerous championships and, two years later, qualified for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, considered the Canadian Championships for English style Hunter/Jumper style riding. “He loves showing indoors. It’s like he knows this is the best horse show in Canada.”, smiled Rachael. He would return to the Royal in 2011, ridden by Claire Fleming, and left as the reserve champion. Mud Slide also took the younger Cullen sister, Nicole, to the Royal, winning a class. Last year, he repeated as reserve champion of the medium pony division with yet another little rider. “We were joking with Ayla that he has won every ribbon there is to win at the Royal, except Champion.” Nicole recalled, “He has that now!”

The girls never knew Mud Slide’s background, so they said they always made up stories about his past. “We knew he was likely abused because, to this day, he still hates men. He is not comfortable around adults, but men especially.”, Rachael speculated, “However, he is protective of his little riders. He just loves kids.”

A few months ago, Rowe saw Mud Slide at a horse show and instantly recognized him. She contacted the Cullens to let them know how far their pony had come. “While it is so tragic to find out that he had been dumped at a meat auction to be slaughtered, it is relieving to know his past. I can’t thank Janet enough for saving him” says Nicole, “He is so loved right now, and will be with our family until his last breath.”

Winning the championship at the Royal means he is automatically qualified for next year’s show. “He is 20 years old now, so we are going to find a little rider to show him in the mandatory 4 shows next year to officially go to the Royal” Rachael explains. “But he is getting close to a well-earned retirement.”

Right now Mud Slide is back at his farm in Waterloo Ontario for a well-deserved rest.

Ayla Torigian and Mud Slide PC Robin Hannah Carlton

Ayla Torigian and Mud Slide
PC Robin Hannah Carlton

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2013 Update … finally!

Since I don’t have time to do a post (and with mommy brain I don’t trust my writing skills at the moment), I am just going to rip off a few stories others have done on me, my recovery and my babies in 2013.  Enjoy :)

Horse Junkies United (Nov. 11th, 2013) –

CBC Morning (Nov. 13th, 2013) –

Road to the Royal Blog:

Blog 1

Blog 2

Blog 3:

Read the March Issue of Horse Sport (they didn’t put anything on line)

and I have to give J.P. a shout out – he is following in Mommy’s foot steps.  Stay tuned as I am hoping all three will do a lead line class in 2014. – Barrie Examiner

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I’m Back … well sort of

OK – I realize it has been 15 months since my last post. Since my pregnancy was considered high risk it was weekly medical appointments and when I wasn’t sitting in a doctors office or at a hospital, it was physio on my legs. Once the babies came it has been non-stop chaos. So I promise in the next few days.. ok maybe weeks (hopefully not a year) I will update our news feed :)


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1st overall in the Zone

What an exciting (and successful) summer it has been!

Hack Division Champions at RCRA in August

Mia Amore and Steph Palmer finished the show season 1st overall in the Hack Division for the Central East Zone.  They managed to get Champion or Reserve at almost every show – even though the pair only sees each other at the shows (because Steph lives in a land far far away).

We are now gearing up for the Trillium Championships September 7th-9th.  We show first thing Sunday morning.

Mia Amore and Steph Palmer at Palgrave

Oh and Trina is pregnant with triplets… So we didn’t breed Sophie because 4 babies is a bit much :).


****Update ***** At the Championships S2 were 5th in the Show Hack and 9th in the pleasure hack.

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Boobs and Breeches

Maus Equestrian is very pleased to support Hayward’s “for the cure” clothing line. Hayward has a line of equine and human clothing, where part of the proceeds goes to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Trina’s step sister is a breast cancer survivor, so this is something that is very near and dear to her… and Lou loves boobies!

Hayward has everything from coats to totes, and bonnets to bags supporting this good cause.

 Here are a few pictures of some of the new duds Trina and Lasting Freedom will be wearing.  For more information contact Rhonda Thuna at

Bonnet "for the Cure"

                                                         Trina and Lasting Freedom


                                                         Jacket “for the Cure”


Jacket "for the Cure"

     Tote “for the Cure”

Tote "for the Cure"

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Return to the Ring

It has been a year in the making, but we finally did it.  Lou (Lasting Freedom) and I were back in the show ring.

Last Tuesday my surgeon cleared me to horse show.  He agreed that horseback riding has helped my recovery, and getting back into competition would not hurt (might even help, mentally).  I had to promise that I would not lift anything heavy, and that I would not fall off.

Wednesday we taped up my ankle and attempted to jump a course. Lou was amazing.  He is so smooth that there is little impact on my body when we jump small fences. Since the jump school was so successful we decided to show him in the .75 meter jumpers at the Joker’s Hill Hunter Jumper Trillium Horse Show on Saturday.  It is the lowest level we could enter.Lasting Freedom - .75 m jumpers at RCRA Trillium #3, April 21st  2012

I only entered in the first clear round class – and figured we would let my ankle dictate how much we could do.  I was also being cautious, while this would be my first horse show in over a year, it has also been that long since Lou has been at a horse show.

We got there early to warm up in the ring before anyone else arrived. Lou was tense, but didn’t dare put a foot wrong.  I could tell he was nervous, however he never spooked or acted up.  He just wanted to make sure I was safe.  The first round he jumped around like a seasoned pro.  We were clean.  I decided to do the whole division.

This is where having a Thoroughbred came in handy.  We were not going for speed; our only goal was safe, steady controlled rounds.  Lou is so naturally fast we ended up 7th in the first class and 5th in the second out of 20 riders. The ankle, despite being taped up (and iced), got sore in the last round, so I ended up dropping my stirrup after the third fence and finished the course up with only one.Lasting Freedom - 5th in the .75m jumper speed class

 Lou has always been there for me during my recovery, pushing me to keep moving forward.  Thanks to his exceptional performance at the horse show, he has now given me the confidence to know I can still do the jumpers, despite my disability.

 I also have to thank my huge support team.  It took an army to make sure the horse show was safe and smooth for me.  Pete had to lift me on and off of Lou, and walked him after my classes so I could sit down. Steph Palmer drove up from her home (in a land far, far away) to help me and walk the courses. Sasha came along to do all the heavy lifting and extra work I can’t do, since I am not allowed to weight load my ankle yet.  A huge thank you to my father who was there for moral support.

 The next horse show is May 5th – S2 will be competing in the hack division!

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S2 – Back in the Winner’s Circle

I am starting to think that the Central East Show committee have it out for me.  The third show in the trillium series went yesterday (April 14th) in Newmarket… exactly a month after the last show (which was a month after the first show.)  For anyone who owns a mare they might know what I am talking about.

The first show, Sophie was just coming into season – so she was well behaved despite being a little cramped up.  Last month she was in raging heat and her ears were flat back in more than one of the pictures.

S2 - 1st place in Pleasure Hack

All this week I have been basically only doing what Sophie wanted to do (any man will agree you can’t argue with a woman when she is hormonal).

I warned Steph that Sophie was very cramped up and “not herself”. After arriving on Friday, Steph noticed the mare wasn’t tracking up at all. So we didn’t do much.

Saturday morning, while I was braiding, Steph gave Sophie a huge massage.  We loaded her up and headed to the show.  We have figured out the best way to ride Sophie during this time of the month, is not to ride her at all… just sit there like a passenger.

S2 - 1st Show Hack

It worked!!!!!  The pair was near flawless in the Hack Division.  Steph basically told the mare what the judge wanted (walk, trot, est.) and then stayed off her mouth and back.

They won the show and pleasure hack, and placed second in the road hack. For the second time this season S2 was awarded the Championship ribbon in the Hack Division.

S2 - Hack Division Champions

Congrats!!!! Now that doctors have cleared me to horse show – we may have to flip a coin to see who gets to ride this amazing mare in May. (Don’t worry I have a double head sided coin … ummm … I pick heads)

Huge congrats to Top of the Hill Rider Rachel Sweeney and Dylan for their Championship in the Open 2’6” hunter division.

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S2 Settle for Second

Mia Amore (Sophie) and Steph Palmer (AKA S2) pulled off the impossible at the second Central East Trillium Horse Show at RCRA in Newmarket on March 15th.  The hack division went on Friday, what!!!! – now to get (beg) for time off work. Our real jobs that pay for our horsey habits.

Steph was able to get the Friday off, but not Thursday… so very late Thursday night she drove up from where she lives (a land far far away) to our place.  She made it just in time to fall asleep and get up for the show the next morning.

The mare was a little … ummm … marish in the morning, but pearked up when she saw Steph enter the barn.

We loaded up and headed to the horse show. Despite not seeing each other since the last show the pair picked up where they left off and ended up Reserve Champion in the hack division.

S2 - Reserve Champion Hack Division, March 15th 2012

After the horse show Steph mentioned she will be back to show Sophie in April, whether my ankle is better or not.  (I think I have lost my horse to another rider).

Big Congrats to all the Top of the Hill riders – Anna Ayers and Peace Keeper were Short Stirrup Champions.

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Week Wrap-Up (and what a crazy week it has been …. )

We finally got the western saddle that Pete won in a photo contest sponsored by Greenhawk. Pete tried it on Mia Amore (Sophie) and it was a perfect fit. It looks like Sophie has another job … cow pony.

Sophie and Pete - first time for both riding Western


We are still thinking of breeding her – I have emailed the owners of Apiro, just waiting to hear back (I guess he is playing hard to get). Any suggestions?

Lou and I have been working really hard to get my heel down … that was until he threw a shoe. So I got on Sophie the other day – she was very quiet, but boy is she bouncy. I think I will stick with Lou until I get a little more flexibility in the ankle. Lou gets his toes done Thursday night – so hopefully I will have an updated ankle picture Friday.

Team S2 will be back in the ring next month. Steph has agreed to show Sophie at the next Central East Trillium Hunter Jumper horse show in March – the only catch – the hack division goes on Friday. So Steph is going to take the day off work and drive up (she kind of lives in a land far far away). She won’t be able to actually sit on Sophie until the day of the show. S2 isn’t too worried (S2 is Sophie and Steph for those who missed the earlier post).

I was honoured to be mentioned in a post by Carley Sparks. She called me both crazy and awesome in the same sentence. You should check out her blog because she is a crazy awesome writer.

It was also nice to be mentioned in the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society newsletter for Sophie’s win at the Royal.     (page 5)

 I am sure there is more, but it is midnight and way past my bedtime.

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Back in the Saddle again!

To say it has been an interesting year, is an understatement.  2011 started out with such promise. After a minor injury in 2010 – Lasting Freedom (Lou) was back and jumping bigger than ever.  We also had a talented young mare, Mia Amore (Sophie).

I was very excited for the upcoming show season, after both horses were champions at their first show – Lou in the jumpers and Sophie in the hunters.

Then it all came to a crashing end, literally.  In April, a horse flipped on top of me (Trina), shattering my left ankle and breaking my right ankle and ribs. (****Even though I was just flatting the horse, I had a helmet on! – always wear your helmet****).

To be honest, I did not realize how hurt my left leg was – the first clue should have been when the hospital in Orillia said they were not equipped to put my leg back together.

I was sent to Toronto where I met Dr. Johnny Lau (ankle surgeon for the Jays and Raptors). He told me that he would have to fuse the ankle and I would not be able to walk properly, let alone ride, again.  I told him to fix it.  He said he couldn’t.  I said fit it.  So Dr. Lau shook my hand and said “if you are ready for this, I will try”.

To save all the gory details – it took 4 surgeries – one 9 hours long – 6 plates and more than 40 screws to put my legs back together.

While I was in the hospital I got a hospital-borne infection and became very ill. A spore got into my intestines and was sending deadly toxins through out my body.  At one point doctors decided to remove my colon and some intestines to try to stop the spread of the infection. I am so grateful it did not get to that point.  Pete told the doctors to give me some more time to fight the infection. He said, “I have seen her ride a very tough horse, so this spore is nothing”. It worked.  I came around on my own.

When I was finally allowed to leave the hospital in June, we thought that the worst was over – boy were we ever wrong.  When doctors took the plates out, the left leg re-broke and I had a reaction to the antibiotics.

After 4 months and huge efforts, the “new” break showed no signs of healing, and Dr. Lau told me that I might have to live with a broken ankle.

Tuesday (Feb. 21st) we got the news no one was expecting.  A cat scan showed the break was almost healed. (Holy Crap!)

After consultation, my doctor agreed that riding (with a stirrup) would be excellent rehabilitation for the ankle, and work out for my whole body.  The ankle is still broken, but it is now structurally sound enough to get more aggressive with rehab and hopefully get some of the flexibility back.

Once Dr. Lau said it was ok to ride again, I knew exactly who I was going to get on.  People cautioned me not to get on Lou (he can be a handful to ride sometimes), and use a school horse instead.  But my gut told me, if any horse would understand I needed to be looked after, it would be him.  He has been with me through this whole process.

Lasting Freedom and Trina - Feb, 22nd 2012

When I first got out of the hospital he would stand quietly while I patted him from the wheelchair. Eventually I started brushing him and when I moved to crutches – he would take baby steps (did I mention he is a 17hh monster) so I could lead him.  This “high strung” thoroughbred jumper turned into the quietest horse to handle.

He was the perfect choice. My horse, who never liked mounting blocks, stood like a rock while I got on.  He quietly walked forward with his head down as he was lead with me on his back. He was so happy and content to just to walk while I played with my ankle in the stirrup.

This is as far as the ankle will go down

My ankle is very stiff – as you can see in the picture – I can’t even get it parallel to the ground.  I still walk with a limp and it is sore… but I know with the help of Lou, I will be back in the show ring in no time.

My next “step” is finding someone who can make a brace for the ankle to help support it when I ride.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in my recovery- It really did take a team.

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