Becoming Twenty One


A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.



It does not seem long ago when you entered our lives. Dad and I were so excited, we counted each day to your birth. Though you were due to come in late June, you arrived two weeks early. Dad and I could not believe we created a so perfect baby, our first princess. A perfect princess.

I may be a nurse, but I was nervous about doing things. Your dad was equally nervous, though he tried not to show it. Somehow, we made it through the first night, the first week, the first year.

The days to your twenty-one have gone by so quickly. There are times when dad and I wish we could slow time, to have you be our little girl, a day longer. We love when you quietly slip your hand into ours. And, when you need a reassuring embrace, you hold on ever so tightly.

You have become a smart, beautiful woman. A successful equestrian. Most of all, you will always be my perfect princess, your dad’s perfect princess.


Happy 21, baby girl!

mom and dad

A Day of Remembrance


A special contributing post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN and Lauren Westin, MD.


“No one speaks of sacrifice. Coming home is all that matters.”

In 2004, there was a short news item in which a 12-year old girl decorated the long forgotten Civil War section of the local cemetery in her town, in her home state of Tennessee. The year before, she noticed the many small American flags in the other sections of the cemetery. The Civil War section had become overgrown with tall grass and was heavily shadowed by towering trees. She asked the cemetery caretaker who were buried there, noting she hadn’t seen anyone visiting that particular section. The caretaker had replied those buried there were mostly Union soldiers and a few Confederate soldiers from the Civil War. It was his guess there were no more family to come visit. Their friends, long gone as well. She asked if she could leave some flags and a few flowers for those buried there. The caretaker said sure. He would see the grass would be cut and the trees trimmed.

On the Sunday before Memorial Day, the 12-year old planted nearly 100 small American flags. For the Confederate soldiers, she also left a small Confederate flag with the American flag. She also left a single flower at each grave site. When asked why she did it, the girl replied it was sad that they were forgotten. No one is left to visit them, let alone remembered. They were someone’s son, brother, husband or uncle. They gave all so that we could become a better nation.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson take time to honor the soldiers, from the post, who have fallen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the memorial, located at the Main Gate, a ceremony honors them. They also add the names of those who may have fallen in the past year. Sadly, seven names were added to the memorial this year.

The ceremony itself is a very moving experience. Your heart skips a beat, your breath taken away, when you hear the name of a soldier called, signifying their addition to the memorial.


Walking among the memorial stones, there is a sense of sadness. It is heightened when you see the mementoes left by the family and friends. The groundskeepers for the memorial carefully archive each memento, each letter, each photo left behind before they are stored away. Yet, there is a sense of thankfulness for the young men and women who gave so much. Their greatest desire was to come home, to be with their friends and family.

The greatest fear of any soldier is to be forgotten if they were to die on the battlefield. They hope there would be someone who will remember, who will stand vigil for them. But, in time, they know they will be another name on a forgotten memorial.

To our friends who died in Afghanistan four years ago and five years ago, we miss you greatly. We know your families miss you even more.

May God bless them. May God bless the United States.



These photos were taken in June 2011. The memorial was commemorated in June 2004. Without fanfare, former President and Mrs. Bush have visited the memorial, taking time to study many of the names and offering silent prayers.

Ride The Summer

The riders and their horses are ready. The new season has arrived.


The horses have been vaccinated and certified for competition. The saddles and tack are ready. The always fashionable black is the color of choice. The additional equipment and supplies needed to support four horses away from home are ready also.

My girls are ready. The weeks of practice have made them eager for the competition to begin. Of course, there is some natural anxiety on their part. It is always the case at the beginning of a new season. Yet, they are brimming with confidence in themselves and their horses.

While this summer promises to be rather busy, it is one full of hope.

Quiet Moments

After a week of final exams, it’s a weekend of final preparations ahead of the first horse show of the season. While the practices have unfolded at a high tempo, the girls and their horses have found the time for quieter moments.

Tara and Candace (Happy Girl)


Moments between a young woman and her horse, where it’s all love.

Second Nature: Of Synchronicity and Perfection

[This is the third part of a special series, “Making of A Champion”, contributed by my equestrian daughters. This post is by my daughter, Deborah.]

Comet stood ready. His attention, undivided. Determination in his eyes.

Comet, waiting in the start area (Texas, May 2014)


Victory was in reach for my champion. The leader’s time was not insurmountable. Only a strong, steady ride was needed to take the lead. Comet’s power was smooth and easy. His focus was my focus. I trusted Comet to run the course his way. I relaxed his reins more. His synchronicity was absolute perfection, clearing every fence in stride. With time seemingly standing still, our ride is over. My champion has proven his heart again. Our time is flashed on the scoreboard. We vault into the lead with our respectable 57.84/0 fault ride. The time limit on the course was 59.65.

*     *     *

With our season beginning next week, our remaining practice sessions are tightly focused. Our tempo, fast. Our skills, razor sharp. Our goal for the first show is rather modest, to have a good overall start to our season. A win, or two, though nice, is not a priority. Having strong, consistent rides are more important. It is the hallmark of our training from Mark and Trish, our coaches. By riding to our strengths, it places our horses and ourselves in the best position to be competitive and successful.

In riding to our strengths, it is understanding the abilities of our horses. We know, absolutely, everything about them. What they can and cannot do. How they think. How they react. What is their first instinct in a stressful, or pressure-filled, situation. Though a rider learns much about their horse in the first 6-12 months of being together, the learning process between horse and rider is always ongoing. In discovering new strengths, and, yes, new weaknesses, in each other, our riding becomes instinctive. We are able to anticipate each other’s actions and reactions. We are able to depend upon one another in every situation. It is to make every movement made, inside and outside the show ring, like second nature. The last thing any rider wants, especially in equine sports, is to think through the process of riding.

Though we approach our practice sessions in a workmanlike manner, we try to keep it relaxed as much as possible. Occasionally, we can become competitive if one of us posts a fast time on a practice course. The relaxed atmosphere allows us to minimize the pressure we place on ourselves. It also allows us to help each other in our individual preparations.

The off-saddle work is equally important. Much of it involves watching plenty of video of our own practice and competition sessions. We may watch the video of a single practice session over and over again, replaying segments multiple times. Throughout this process, we fill our legal pads with notes. This is in addition to the notes we have made during practice. We also pour over the dozens of digital images our dad takes. When we compare our notes and observations, it gives us a solid, invaluable base of information to draw upon.

At a horse show, however, our video review process is more streamlined. Obviously, we don’t have as much time to devote in breaking down our rides. It does give us a sense of how well we are riding. If things seem not to be going well, sending the video, along with our thoughts, to Mark and Trish for an analysis has always helped. Much of the time, they can easily see what we are missing. At the same time, they offer words of reassurance, that we are doing well and to trust our instincts.

Our thoroughness, and attention to detail, in our practice sessions and other preparations does not guarantee a top finish. The best it does is to help us be prepared. It helps us to be consistent in our riding.

*     *     *

Elizabeth, with Lilith, in the start area, flashes a smile. We touch fingers as we ride past. They know we’ve turned in a solid ride. Perhaps one with an insurmountable lead. Time to wait, but not for long.

with Lilith in the show ring, Comet watches and waits (Texas, May 2014)


Our lead holds. Elizabeth and Lilith finishes with a 57.86/0 fault ride. Our narrow lead over Elizabeth and Lilith continues as the draw winds down to the last rider. It’s Megan, our friend and former mentor, with her handsome Viceroy. Tara has nervously watched and waited with us. Megan and Viceroy are poetry in motion. They, too, have turned in a beautiful, solid ride. A winning ride.


About the author

Deborah Anne Ramos is a junior attending the University of Colorado. Her degree studies is in the field of biology, specifically animal science. She graduated with highest honors from Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver in 2012.

She is a highly decorated equestrian with the Rustler Riding Club, earning Horse of the Year and Rider of the Year awards. Additionally, she has won multiple blue ribbons, and other placement ribbons, with Comet and Captain Andrew Evan Stedman.


Making of A Champion

Other installments in this series: