The Test Event

Before the riding season begins in full swing, the RRC brings their riders together. Known as the “test event”, it is part individualized training, part mentoring session, and part recruiting effort for the more promising learn-to-ride students to continue with riding. In other years, the test event is used as an open tryout for seasoned equestrians to be sponsored by RRC. The test event is seen as a fun activity where everybody talks horses.

RRC Test Event 2013 – Megan riding Viceroy in an open tryout, coming back from an 18-month injury layoff

While the springtime weather can be rather unpredictable here, this club activity is usually held in late May or early June. For the 6-8 more seasoned riders, like my daughters, they have missed the opportunity to participate since they’ve already started their individual riding seasons. With the March and April weather being very mild over the past few years, Mark and Trish decided to schedule this year’s test event for this past weekend. What could go wrong?

Last Friday, another winter storm arrived. While Mark and Trish mulled postponing the event, they decided to move ahead. In the end, it worked out well.

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Day One: Mentoring & Recruiting –

Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara looked forward to the first day, especially leading the mentoring session. The first half of the session, done off saddle, was to reinforce of having fun and keeping it fun while gaining the experience. Second point, allow a horse to be a horse. Taking a day off, a week off, from practicing and competition will do wonders for both horse and rider. When it is time to go back to the routine, both will be fresher for having the time away. Third point, be practical with the goals. Riding in “B” and “C” rated shows provides the experience. In “A” and “AA” rated shows, the competition is keener. Keep the goals manageable. Fourth point, no excuse making. Rather than making an excuse on why this and that can’t be done, be patient, take it apart and figure out why.

RRC Test Event 2016 – Candace (Happy Girl) having fun in the covered arena

While it was not groundbreaking advice, it is the type that needs to be practiced – even for polished riders like my daughters. It is about dedication and drive as much as it is about having fun.

The second half of the mentoring session was my daughters working one-on-one with three riders new to the hunter/jumper sport. They mostly worked on getting into good practice routines. A lot of new hunters make the mistake of not wanting to do exercises, such as grids or circles, and working on their equitation skills. When a rider does neither, especially in their development, they often become frustrated with their lack of progress.

RRC Test Event 2016 – new hunter, Jessica, riding her first circle exercise under Deborah’s careful watch

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Day Two – Individualized Training

Snow was falling at a rather heavy rate on Sunday morning, more heavily when we arrived at RRC. The girls checked on their horses, which spent the night in the main horse barn. Though it was 6:00 am, they expected more activity. Trish came in shortly later, surprised to see we were on time. She advised Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara that they may have the entire morning to use the indoor arena. Two other riders scheduled to follow them had already called to cancel their training sessions. Okay was the word.

RRC Test Event 2016 – Elizabeth riding one of the RRC ponies through the snow while waiting for her lesson

With their season beginning in two weeks, in Texas, the girls said they could always use more practice. This week and next, their training schedule is a bit compressed with the spring term coming to an end. Both Mark and Trish remain impressed at how well the girls are riding.

RRC Test Event 2016 – Snow Princess Tara with Brie (mom Laurie’s favorite)

When they begin their season, at least there will be no snow. But, they are ready if it happens.

Birding Assignment: Up In The Sky

It is one of those things. You’re sitting at your desk, gazing out the window and watching birds fly back and forth. They are of all sizes, small and big. They range from sparrows to the large crows, who have begun to repopulate the region. (The crow population suffered horribly from the West Nile outbreak in 2003.) And, the robin population seems to be higher in numbers also.

robin: on sentinel watch (from Jun 2014)

Then, you see a large bird take flight, taking a direction which nearly goes overhead. You adjust your gaze at the large bird. Expecting to see a large crow, you are surprised by what you see. A bird with white head feathers and dark brown feathers on the body and wings. There is only one bird, or should I say raptor, fitting that description – a bald eagle. And, if there is one, there is another.

In this part of Colorado, an eagle, bald and golden, has not been seen for many, many years. The closest population is located at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, now National Wildlife Refuge, east of Denver.

The camera, that was in the other room, still in the camera bag. Ready for tomorrow’s all day practice session.

If it’s an eagle, we’re on watch now. Our neighborhood is an ideal hunting ground for raptors with plump doves and rock pigeons, squirrels and the like. Several Cooper’s Hawks have been hunting here for the past few years.

Unsettled Training

It is fair to say their training schedule over the past few weeks has been unsettled. From the passing of their grandma to late-season winter storms, the schedule has been all over the board. Remarkably, though, my daughters have said it has been a good spring – one of their best. They’ve been able to practice well. Their coaches, Mark and Trish, have said they appear to be in mid-season form. The horses are riding well, the girls are riding well. Mark and Trish have added they are quite proud of my girls in how they have handled the unsettled nature of their spring. They have kept everything in perspective.

Comet: “When are we going riding?”

Though my daughters and their horses are quite eager for their season to begin, it is not an “every second on the saddle” training approach. They’ve let their horses be horses while they review the video of the training sessions and compare notes. And, of course, there’s always time for a little loving and play before returning to a practice session.

Deborah sharing a Jonathan apple with a freshly groomed Comet

Elizabeth and Mr. Ed playing “How tall are you?”

Once it is time to get back to training, everyone is ready.

Happy Birthday Susie and Pinky!

A few days late, but their day was not forgotten. They are five years old.

Miss Pinky


Miss Susie


Rather than sit for a nice portrait, they went about their regular activity of bird watching. It makes for a much better time when the weather is agreeable versus a springtime blizzard. And, better than sitting for the camera.


Happy Birthday Susie and Pinky!




One Month

We have taken every day as a blessing to have our parents for another day. Quietly, Andrea, Laurie and I have continued to prepare ourselves for the unexpected. But no matter how well we are prepared, we are not truly ready when it happens.

The unexpected came again one month ago. Though we were bracing for this very real possibility for several weeks, we had hoped it wouldn’t come this soon. My mom, Ethel, passed away during an early afternoon nap on Saturday, March 5th.

In the days preceding her passing, mom’s frailty was quickly advancing. In her final days, her final hours, she still maintained a clarity of mind. While mom had an appetite, it was not nearly enough to offset her weight loss. Along with it, a loss of energy. Not a good combination by any measure. Laurie quietly spoke to dad several times that our time was likely very short. Dad relied upon his knowledge, experience, and skill as a former medic to become mom’s primary caretaker and to make her comfortable as possible. He strongly believed mom would do better at home rather than a care facility. Dad also prepared himself mentally that we could lose her soon, and with little warning.

Both Laurie and Andrea tended to mom’s immediate medical needs, which were very few. Also, Laurie consulted with her former geriatrics professor from medical school to determine which options were available. Her former professor said the options would be very few at this stage. The best course of action would be to make her comfortable as possible, be encouraging as possible, and encourage her to eat and drink water. A dose of tough love could be helpful to urge mom to fight ahead. “Most of all, be hopeful. The odds may be poor, but keep a positive outlook. Knowing that you cared and loved to the very end will make it easier to cope when the time comes.” This became our supreme effort over the last half of February.

I spoke of mom, on behalf of our family, at her memorial. She had a love for reading. It was her favorite class while going to school. Mom’s teacher tried to impress upon the class that each of us has a story, and to a degree we all are storytellers.

What is the story my mom would tell of herself? She’d probably say her story would be a short one. Though she would talk some of growing up in Hawaii, her storytelling would bring us back to where we are here today. It would be one sharing of good memories and her many experiences. In reconnecting, it would be one of smiles and laughter. Funny moments, a few serious ones. Moreover, she would speak of the endless bounties of life.

In the late night quiet, on the back deck, Andrea, Laurie and I softly talked about the days ahead and becoming all grown-up. We would soon be relying upon ourselves entirely to know what we needed to know.


Stories That Go Bump In The Night

In Hawaii, the oral tradition passing along stories, legends and traditions is very strong. So much so, they have an expression called “talking story”. It can range from chatting with the next door neighbor to actual story telling.

Mom, she liked a good story. If it was scary, so much the better. She had a fondness for Stephen King novels. However, she was far different from the “Number One Fan” character found in his novel, “Misery”. Of his many works, she liked the Dark Tower series the most. Composed of eight novels, mom loved the interconnectedness of the story and plot lines. The main characters on a journey akin to the quest for the Holy Grail, the Dark Tower. Also, bits of the Dark Tower series could be found in his other stories. They were the kind of stories, however, you did not want to read just before bedtime.

Similarly, she liked the “Friday the 13th” and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie series. Yes, they were campy movies but they appealed to her. Another favorite of hers was the classic gothic horror soap, Dark Shadows, which she dutifully watched with my sister, Ginny, every afternoon during its original run. When the SciFi Channel resurrected the original series as part of their initial programming, mom found the time to watch the episodes.

While I like “Ghost Adventures” and “The Dead Files” on TV’s The Travel Channel, it took mom some time to warm up to these programs. The scare factor on some episodes was considerable. One of the scariest on “Ghost Adventures” was the Poveglia Island episode. The first and second time was, “can we watch something else?” When it was repeated a third and fourth time, she was okay with the episode and the scare factor of the overall program as well. With “The Dead Files”, it took her longer to like the program. What finally made the show a favorite of hers, roughly 18-20 months ago, was Steve DiSchiavi. A retired NYPD homicide detective, mom liked his straightforwardness and his reassuring demeanor. He took the edge off the more scary parts.

Remaining on her reading table, five Stephen King novels and two autobiographies. The autobiographies, are not about things that “go bump in the night“.


Among Horses, Among Cats

When Deborah and Elizabeth were getting into riding, mom asked, “isn’t that pricey?” We said it was, but the girls are having fun. They’re also learning about horses. At the time, our girls weren’t thinking about competitive equine sports. If they were, perhaps along the lines of barrel racing. When they came home from a lesson, both would talk a mile a minute about what they learned.

After we purchased Edward the Great (Mr. Ed) and Comet Rider for the girls, mom asked about how serious were the girls in horse riding. Horses, after all, are a major investment in both time and money. Her questions, though, seemed to be more along the lines, “I’d better read up on horses.” The moment she met Mr. Ed and Comet, she loved them. Both horses were friendly and had good temperaments. She worried more about Deborah and Elizabeth falling off if either horse refused a jump or landed awkwardly. They were petite girls on tall horses (Ed at 17.1 hands, Comet at 17.0 hands). The falling off concern faded away as she saw both girls deftly handling their mounts.

Mom was quite proud of her granddaughters. The oldest, my niece, became an attorney, while my two were becoming accomplished horsewomen. Our addition of Lilith and Captain Andrew spoke volumes on how Deborah and Elizabeth were becoming very talented riders. Horses, and riding them, are the dreams of many young girls, including mom. It had to be special – the bonding, the trust, and the understanding.

As much mom liked the horses, she liked cats more. First, you didn’t have to travel to a boarding stable to visit with cats. And, the cats she loved the most were my Dino and Pebbles. Dino, he was a natural lover boy. Pebbles, you had to earn her affection. The one thing that earned Pebbles’ affection was fine gold jewelry. We’re not talking gold overlay, and we’re not talking 10K.

One day, Pebbles saw her grandma sitting in a chair and the sparkle of her gold bracelet. Pebbles took a taste, and decided the 14K white gold bracelet mom was wearing met her standard. Of course, mom’s reaction was, “hey Pebbles, it’s my bracelet!” We laughed about how Pebbles had good taste. Dino, though, was the cat mom loved the most. He had a loving disposition, and it didn’t matter whose lap he chose for a nap. Mom would rave of how handsome Dino was.

Of my current crew, she liked Susie though kitty had eyes for someone else. Miss Egypt, a very sociable cat that likes everyone. Tuxie would sit with mom. But, when he wanted to nibble on her fingers, she told Tuxie to find someone else to sit with.


Daughter of Hawaii, Daughter of Colorado

Mom left Honolulu, bound for the mainland in 1953. Her first stop would be California to meet her young man, my dad. In the days before leaving, many friends and several family members had beseeched mom not to leave. They knew mom and dad were going to get married, but did they have to leave Hawaii? Short answer, yes. My dad was in the Army, and part of military life is moving around. Those friends and family begging her to stay heard stories of girls growing up on the islands and then experience their military husbands desert them on the mainland (or elsewhere).

When mom arrived in the farming town of Rocky Ford, she loved the place. It was exactly how she imagined. Dad’s maternal grandma, my great-grandma, taught mom how to cook on a wood-burning stove. She also taught mom how to make some of dad’s favorites like enchiladas, green chile pork and stove-top cornbread. Homemade, flour tortillas, mom didn’t quite master making those.

The one thing mom did not like was winter. Her first winter experience, her first sight of snow, was a heavy snowfall in November 1953. Mom asked if these type of snows were commonplace during wintertime. (Not always, of course.) Driving from Camp Carson to Rocky Ford after the storm, already a long drive on a two-lane highway, nearly became an all-day experience. Two weeks later, with most of the snow melted away, was Thanksgiving. On the way to his grandparents farm, dad stopped at a turkey farm and bought a live turkey. Mom wondered how they were going to get the turkey there. Dad said easy, he rides in the trunk. When they arrived at his grandparents farm, the turkey hopped out the trunk (probably complaining about his travel accommodations). The turkey did not make it to the dinner table, but ended up as a longtime fixture in the barnyard.

Though mom got back to Hawaii to visit with family and friends a few times, it was much like the Thomas Wolfe saying, “you can never go home again.” While mom, my sister and I lived with our grandparents (mom’s parents) for several months in 1961-62, mom anxiously awaited for our travel orders to join my dad in Germany at his new duty station. Apart for making her own journeys home when her parents passed, the other trips were mostly to get away and relax. Those trips lasted for no more than a week. On the last trip in 1993, mom said she would have come home the next day after arriving. The heat and humidity simply smacked her in the face.

Colorado had become home, and was the best place to live. And, if you wanted to go somewhere, you could jump into the car and drive far into the day. (In Hawaii, 15-30 minutes later, you were on the opposite side of the island.)


Daughter of God

Mom grew up Methodist in Hawaii, partly because her closest friend was a Methodist. The other part was my grandpa saying they needed to be more American after the attack at Pearl Harbor. My grandparents and several of mom’s siblings, however, remained Buddhist.

When mom married dad, she thought about converting to Catholicism. She didn’t take the step until my sister and I began our catechism lessons. Seeing it was time, she decided to convert while we lived in Hawaii for those few months. Since mom wasn’t sure when our travel orders would arrive, the priest, at the parish we were attending, said he would give individual instruction. He assured mom she would be Catholic before we left for Germany. And, she did with plenty of time to spare.

Maggie, Laurie’s mom, found mom’s conversion to be an inspiration. “To become Catholic,” Maggie said, “is you have found something more than those of us born into the faith.” Mom loved attending Sunday Mass. It was the time you are one with God, alone in thought and prayer. It cannot get any better than that.

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We will miss you mom, ever so much. Kind and loving, yet so very strong.
Be well in the company of angels and saints. Love you always.


Resemblance – Part II

If you haven’t read the first part here, I would recommend that you do before reading ahead.

While it is said we all have a double somewhere, whether it is true or not is another question. Certainly, there are people who bear striking resemblances but do not have any kind of familial connection or common ancestor. Such resemblances are a result of the randomness of genetic variation.

With that said, it hasn’t stopped a few to attempt the “what if” calculation. The supposed result of the calculation yielded there are at least nine individuals, of diverse genetic backgrounds, will bear a striking resemblance to one another. Taking the supposed calculation a step further, what is the likelihood of meeting that someone of lookalike resemblance. It was “determined” to be 3%. Consider the world population is estimated to be 7.3 billion, 9 out of 7.3 billion and the 3% chance of meeting that someone else are very extraordinarily long odds. Simply, it is highly unlikely on both counts.

Regarding the photos from yesterday’s post, are they same person or different? They are different.

The first photo is of Nicole, the friend of my daughters.

It wasn’t until I downloaded this image to my computer did I notice the strong resemblance between Nicole and my niece, M, who you see in the second photo.

When both are tired, they share the same facial expression. However, when they are fresh, Nicole and M are far from being lookalikes.

Nicole in hunter action (Texas, May 2014)

Though M wanted to have a pony when she was little, in the end, she was more interested in just visiting with horses.


It is said that we all have a double, someone who bears a strong resemblance to ourselves  somewhere else. An exact lookalike, from a statistical point-of-view, is highly unlikely. In terms of facial features, there are an estimated 4,000-5,000 distinctive traits. How they come together to create and shape a face is the randomness of familial genetics.

Consider these two photos –


Are they the same person, or perhaps related?

At first blush, you might be tempted to say a qualified yes. If you arrange the hair, take away the lip gloss and sunglasses, and change the wardrobe of the graduate, perhaps she would resemble the young girl in the top photo. In the top photo, arrange the hair, add lip gloss and sunglasses, and change the wardrobe, perhaps she would resemble the graduate.

Perhaps they are not the same person, let alone related.

It is about the power of observation, ever so important in photography. The answer will be revealed tomorrow, March 4 2016 at 2 pm, MT.