From Hospital to U.S. Junior Reserve Champion Horse in Three Weeks

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Downtown about to get a big hug from Rebecca Cohen who finished her ride with tears streaming down her face. © 2012 Ken Braddck/


GLADSTONE, New Jersey, June 10–Just three weeks ago, the 16-year-old gelding Downtown was released from a veterinary clinic after a week of intensive treatment for an infection that looked like it could sideline Rebecca Cohen’s dream to compete in the U.S. Junior Championships.

Downtown, whose barn name is “Daddy,” could not make the 1,200-mile (1,900k) by road from Wellington, Florida, to New Jersey for 10 days until veterinarians gave the go-ahead.

Then, shortly after arriving in New Jersey, Downtown, a Westfalen (Del Mar x Jade x Joachim) that Rebecca has owned for three years, suffered a colic that was serious enough for her to tell her trainer, the Florida-based Australian Ilse Schwarz, she may not have to make the trip north to coach the pair.

Rebecca, who at 16 is the same age as her horse, had high hopes for the national championships after she returned from boarding school at the end of January to be home schooled so she could pursue riding. The pair were active on the intensely competitive Florida winter circuit seeking to become one of only 12 combinations from across the country invited to the national championships.

While the infection was a setback for her dreams, her focus was on the welfare of her horse

Veterinarians and other professionals, some of whom were from elsewhere in the nation but were in New Jersey with the top horses competing in the championships, pitched in to help Downtown.

Daddy recovered in time for the veterinary inspection. It took six bags of IV fluids to treat the colic two days before moving into the show stabling.

Ilse Schwarz with Rebecca Cohen on Downtown. © 2012 Ken Braddick/

Ilse flew north as planned and coached the pair through the junior rider team and individual tests over two days.

On Sunday, Downtown and Rebecca became reserve U.S. National Champions.

Ayden Uhlir, 17, of Arlington, Texas, and Sjapoer, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding, were crowned champions.

Rebecca, whose next goal with Downtown is the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Kentucky in July, was reluctant to talk about the tribulations for her horse and instead talked about how well Daddy performed for her in difficult circumstances.

When asked, she explained that Downtown had lymphangitis, a serious bacterial infection in hs left hind leg, and was hospitalized for a week. He was released three weeks ago.

To stay riding fit whle Downtown was being treated, Rebecca rode her mother’s horse.

“It’s really incredible that we did this here,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Ilse Schwarz said, “Rebecca’s mental state through all of this was remarkable. She was unable to school her horse properly for a whole month and certainly not able to ride through the tests.

“She handled this way beyond her years.

“If it had not been the national championshps we would not have shipped the horse out of Florida.”