Thursday, October 03, 2019

Resilience: Debbie Grose and Jackpot Jackson

by Jo Christensen
October 2 2019

Each month on the banner of the PNER (Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides) FB page, we have feature someone or something that exemplifies the “heart and soul” of the PNER. This month we feature a horse-rider team who exemplifies a core quality of the organization and our community of riders: RESILIENCE.

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Resilience is exemplified in its extreme this month in our feature horse-rider team: Debbie Grose and Jackpot Jackson.

Debbie is an endurance rider from Mountain Home, Idaho. Her partner is a thoroughbred-something cross, “Jack.” Amazingly, she had never owned a horse in her entire life until 2013, when she was 48 years old, and Jack “fell in her lap.” He had a "sketchy" past, supposedly having been used to pack and move cattle. Sketchy as in it took her 2 years to get a farrier under him and to get him to load in a trailer. Yet somehow, the two of them worked it out.

Debbie wasn’t much interested in riding boring circles in an arena and neither was Jack. She had heard about endurance and said that’s for us! Four seasons of endurance followed and the two forged a close partnership on the endurance trails all across the PNER region. However, their partnership was tested by a very unfortunate turn of events in July.

On Day 1 of the Top of The World Pioneer ride, they were riding alone and nearing the end of the 1st loop of the 50-mile ride. She dismounted to go through a gate and then jumped up on a rock to climb back on her 16.2 hand horse. She dryly observes “apparently my rock picking skills need to be honed…” Her mounting rock rolled out from under her and she tumbled to the ground. As she fell down the incline, she instinctively put her right arm out to break her fall.

She reports when she came to rest, she looked up at her patiently waiting steed, who seemed to be saying – “nice stupid human trick, can we get on with this now?” The problem was, as she got to her feet, it was apparent that her arm was “not in its natural state of straight, and had some pretty sexy curves going on.” The limb was clearly broken, or at least severely dislocated. But nothing was falling off, and no blood was gushing so she remounted her horse (from a different, very stable, rock,) and rode the last ½ mile into camp for the vet check.

As she rode into camp, news of her brokenness had already spread, and the family that is endurance ride camp swung into action. Someone vetted her horse through while others fetched water and ice for her arm. Volunteers with medical training looked at her arm, and she informed them she intended to finish the ride. She reports that they looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and splinted her arm. Moreover, in true endurance rider fashion, she was thrilled that the vet wrap they used to keep it secure perfectly matched Jack’s tack!

When their hold was up, they headed back down the trail together. She declared she would not be getting off my horse for anything on the final loop and she was able to tag along with a couple other riders who opened the gates. She found that at a walk she could keep her arm stable and elevated across her chest but at a trot, it was necessary to hold her arm out at a 90-degree angle to allow for some shock absorption. She says “I kind of felt like I was stuck in some kind of weird parade wave pose, and suppose that I looked even stranger than I felt.”

Now, it was Jack’s turn to rise up and lead the partnership. She reports that he was a wonderful partner for that last 25 miles. “He was calm and patient even though my reins were all over the place, and my head was swimming.” They were able to finish the 50 miles, in 13th place and Jack earned his 1000 mile endurance patch that day.

Most of us are amazed at the well of resilience in Debbie- that she was able to remount her horse after a serious fracture, ride back to camp, and then go out and ride for another 25 miles! Yet she shrugs this off as nothing and credits the support from her fellow riders, vets, and volunteers.

It’s true that the support of our community allows us to dig deep and find resilience, yet it’s obvious that Debbie has quite a bit of inherent ability to “recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” She says “some have called me a 'badass' for riding with a broken arm, I just figure that’s what endurance riders do. Isn't it?”

Debbie goes on to reflect that “To finish is to Win – that’s what I heard when I was first introduced to this sport of Endurance. I love my big lug of a horse, and I think he loves me too. We have learned to take care of each other and work as a team. Now, we finish when we can, and learn something when we cannot. Either way, I feel that any day spent with my Jackpot Jackson is a WIN!”

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