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of problems. During surgery the veterinarians noticed he developed atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as “a-fib.” This is a condition where the heart becomes irregular in its rhythm and the heart must convert back to normal. Horses in intense work should be treated since longstanding a-fib can lead to cardiac disease. After two weeks of treatment and monitoring, Bergie’s heart finally converted back to its normal rhythm. Meanwhile, Roberta had carpal tunnel surgery herself, so they both recuperated together.


Eventually she started him up again, and in June of 2001 he was going walk/trot/canter with her wrist healed. However, that summer Roberta started feeling something different in the saddle that was hard to describe. “He would briefly lose all his energy for a few seconds and then continue on. It was like a sparkplug in a car not firing. We attributed this to his lack of conditioning and thought strengthening him would help. As we put him in full dressage work, we noticed he was losing weight,” she reports. They were scheduled to perform a “Pas de Trois”

demonstration at Gypsy Woods (this is when three dressage horses perform a choreographed demonstration together), and while performing in front of 100 people, Roberta was having trouble with Bergie. “We were going across the diagonal in left lead canter, and we had to do a flying lead change to the right in the corner, and Bergie wouldn’t change to the right. George kept whispering for me to ‘change,’ but I kept whispering back ‘I can’t—he won’t do it!’ After that night, I began thinking something serious was going on.” Fortunately, they had previously baseline tested their horses for EPM and Lyme diseases, so when retested, he was very positive for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). They put him on the drug sulfadiazine/ pyrimethamine, which took its toll on his body. “It was a very difficult time for Bergie,” Roberta says. “He lost a ton of weight, plus lost all his tail hair, and he stood around with his head drooping down so depressed. This was before Marquis and other treatments were available. I was under strict instructions to keep riding him so that his muscle memory stayed in tact. But I was so sad that he was so miserable. Deep down I felt he should be retired. I was trying to do the best for Bergie, and I decided he should retire in the mountains of California with a friend of mine where he could live out his days as a trail horse.”


As fate would have it, Bergie never made it to California’s lush mountainous pastures. George and Roberta were leaving to train in Germany for a few months that summer.

(Background images courtesy of Tom Claytor –

Warmbloods Today 41

When she scheduled the van to transport Bergie from Ohio to California, a mysterious swelling on one front leg appeared. He wasn’t lame, but she didn’t want him standing on a trailer for days with a swollen leg, so they delayed his transport until they returned from Europe. One of the local college students who evented asked if

she could exercise Bergie while they were away. Since they knew how picky he was about his riders, they tested her out and he seemed content with her style of riding. The Williams’ daughter Noel went to ride at her aunt’s summer camp in New Hampshire for the summer. So at the end of the summer when they all reconvened in Ohio, they made a surprising discovery. “Noel requested that she jump on Bergie for fun since

I was making plans to ship him to California,” Roberta muses. “I was in the stables when George asked me to come and watch Noel and Bergie. To my surprise, George instructed Noel to do 4 tempi changes. She asked for them and he did them. Then he requested 3 tempis. She asked for them and he did them. Bergie performed them all perfectly!” George said with a smile, “I guess he isn’t ready to go to California.”


Their daughter Noel had her sights set on the USEF FEI Junior National Championships in 2003. So Roberta handed Bergie, now 18, over to Noel that year to ride. “She

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