Happy Gotcha Day: Susie and Pinky

They came as kittens.

baby Pinky

baby Susie

They grew into beautiful girls. One, a love bug. The other, a bit sassy.

love bug Susie

sassy Pinky

The six years have gone by much too quickly. We are glad they are part of our family. Many thanks to Colorado 9Lives for keeping them safe.



Riding: The Weekend

A few days of Indian Summer in late November and early December. A little trail riding. A brown-bag lunch in a forest clearing. They are days to be long remembered.

My daughters have begun their short break from riding. For the moment, they are casual, everyday riders. Their horses are regular horses. With such nice weather, they invited their riding friend, Stacy, and her younger sister, Dani, for the weekend.

Dani (light blue) and Stacy (dark blue) with Chessman and Magician
photo credit: Elizabeth

It was a weekend with plenty of riding, plenty of exploring, and plenty of fun. The sunny, warm weather likely played a role, but probably they would have had fun if the weather kept them inside the barn.

Side Note

While still sunny, our temperatures have decidedly become more “December-like”, with a cold wind behind it. Snow chances, not very good.



Three questions –

flash card: optically active molecules, side A

My daughters had scheduled the important exam to be taken before The Nationals, before the October shows. For more than a year, they’ve been quietly laying the groundwork for a career outside of riding. The entirety of their degree coursework was geared in this direction, and followed by working towards an advanced degree. It is not surprising their career interests are very similar. Further, it is not surprising they are following in the footsteps of their parents, especially their moms.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCATs) are a rather thorough exam. It is part of the overall credential portfolio for admission into medical school or veterinary school. The first half is similar to every standardized test in measuring comprehension, vocabulary and analytic thought. Also included in the first half, behavioral analysis. The second half is the science part – general and organic chemistry, biology and physics. The all-day, 7½-hour exam is completely computer based. It allows each test registrant to receive their exam score within 4-6 weeks.

prep manuals: studying for the MCATs

To prepare for the exam, my girls bought a selection of prep manuals and flash cards. Also, there are a variety of free and paid tutorial resources online, and in classroom tutoring sessions. The manuals are study guides; the flash cards asks specific questions in a “flash setting”. Whether their use leads to a better score is largely subjective, they are primarily designed to help organize the large body of material that needs to be studied.

My daughters found preparing for the exam to be no different than preparing for a highly-rated horse show with top-tier competition. It was important to treat the MCATs like any other exam. Prepare thoroughly as possible, then set it aside. Like a horse show, over preparation can lead to overestimating performance and ability.

While their scores became available while away for the October shows, they resisted in seeing them until very recently (this past Monday). The higher priorities for them were The Nationals in Las Vegas, then celebrating Thanksgiving. Judging by their “eeks” and smiles, they did well.

The three answers –

flash card: optically active molecules, side B

Why are optically active molecules important? Simply, it is all about the molecular geometry for proteins, and for nucleosides and nucleotides (RNA/DNA) in living systems. It is an area of continuing research.

In Thanksgiving

Written by Tara Scott Westin

“Sometimes the road that twists and turns
And winds and bends, in the end
Is the road that leads you home
You’re not out there on your own” *

In the novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again”, by Thomas Wolfe, a fledgling writer has authored a successful novel of his hometown and his family. Instead of being lauded for the success of his novel, George Webber, the fledgling writer, finds himself a subject of outrage and hatred. The townsfolk feel betrayed and portrayed in an unflattering light. Wolfe had a wide-ranging discussion with fellow writer, Ella Winter, in which she remarked, “Don’t you know you can’t go home again.” Wolfe then asked her if he could use the phrase as the title of the manuscript he was working on. The Webber character finds he cannot go home again after the passage of time and resume his place in his family and his boyhood town.

While there is some measure of truth in the Wolfe novel, it runs counter to the sense of belonging attached to Thanksgiving, and other family celebrations that ties home and hearth together. Growing up, mom said, “Don’t you ever think the door to my house, our house, is ever closed. You are my daughter, whom I will always love.” When mom married David, he said the same before their wedding. “You are my daughter, Deborah and Elizabeth your sisters, Andrea, your other loving mom.”

Simply, we are a blended family. One bound by our love and faith in one another, and in God. We believe in one another, always and forever.

And, yes, we can go home.

May you have a truly blessed Thanksgiving.


* From the song, “I Made A Promise”, by Charles Fox and Allan Rich, performed by Crystal Gayle and Eddie Rabbitt. The video may be seen here.

About the author

Tara Scott Westin graduated, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs in May 2017 with a BS in Biology (Microbiology).

A highly decorated rider with the Rustler Riding Club, Tara has won multiple blue ribbons and other placement ribbons with her horses, Brie, Cameron and Candace (Happy Girl). In 2006, she was named Comeback Rider of the Year – the only non-competitive rider in Rustler Riding Club history to win this award.

Riding: The Nationals

The Nationals in Las Vegas, they signal the end of the riding season on the West Coast, and for my daughters. Their readiness is palpable. Simply, it is the most important show of their season.

Part of the World Cup tour, the CSI4* rated show draws a very competitive field of riders. The best of the USA horse show circuit and professionals on the Cup tour are featured. While the stage is larger, the expectations greater, my daughters approach to the Nationals is that it is no different from any other show. It is about riding.

“It is no longer about practice and other shows,” says Trish. “It is no longer about potential. It is about being kinetic. To achieve it, a rider needs to trust themselves and their horse, especially at this level.”

ready to compete: 028 Lilith/Elizabeth Ramos USA

The horses, they’re ready too.

Time to ride.

“Ride now, ride forever”

November 11

“You don’t need to see this; really no one needs to see this.”

My dad understood the intrinsic truth in these words when speaking of war. The scenes of war are rather stark, very incomprehensible to understand. A frontline, combat medic in Korea, a chief OR technician in Vietnam,  dad had seen many badly wounded men and worse. Fortunately, he did not suffer from the stressors that others experienced. He hoped this piece of advice would send me in a different direction. It did for a short time.

after Korea: the medics of Troop Dispensary #3 (Camp Carson, circa mid-1950s)

Military service is not always about war, or being far from home. It can be serving here at home, or in an allied nation. The experience can be a good one, traveling to places one normally would not have a chance to visit. The friendships and camaraderie can be enduring, with the ability to resume it in a fraction of a second. By the same token, military life is not for everyone. It is regimented. It can be nomadic at times. It can be difficult at times. It can take a toll on the family.

There are a variety reasons for those who enter military service. They would be the last to call themselves patriots or keepers of the peace. Instead, they would call themselves ordinary men or women doing a job. Heroes, not really. Warriors, not really. Thank you for your service, not important. It is the hardest, but the best job around.

waiting for the ride: off the coast of SoCal on a pre-deployment NSW exercise (Jan 1990)

The piece of advice I have given to my daughters regarding military service: “You don’t need to do this; we’ve seen enough for the family.”

Riding: New Territory, Higher Stakes

My daughters have rarely competed past the Labor Day (USA) holiday. Going to school, followed by obtaining their university degrees, precluded any notion of riding late into a season. When they did compete in the fall, it would be from a favorable calendar, or they had proven themselves in the classroom to gain a few days off. The time away would not cause them to fall behind. Mark and Trish both have placed a premium on studying and having good grades for their riders who are students also. It prepares them for life away from the show ring, away from horses. Moreover, a good student makes for a better rider.

The girls have found riding in September and October to be a challenging, grand experience. With the shows and events more national in setting, and higher rated, they draw riders that are among the best. The skills of their fellow riders are very polished, their experience level substantial. They are similarly detail-oriented in charting and studying their own riding, but are also watching the other riders and horses. It is about learning what other riders are doing to be better – on and off saddle, inside and outside the show ring.

the details: Elizabeth’s course notes and riding notes for season 2017

While the very best riders in show jumping win around 20-25% of their starts, making basic adjustments, including minor ones, are relatively few. They become particularly more reluctant late in the season. A rider will stay within their skill set, opting to trust in themselves and in their horses. A horse, knowing their rider trusts them wholly, gives them the certainty and confidence in any competitive setting.

My girls love the higher stakes. “In riding,” Elizabeth begins, “there are no automatics. Talent and a strong work ethic will open the door. The rest of it, the intangibles, the rider needs to bring them to table. They are what separates individual riders from one another. When it comes together, it all falls into a rhythm – the riding becomes more instinctive, much easier.” And, when the rhythm develops, its inherent consistency follows.

after the practice: Deborah and Comet (Del Mar Horse Park, Oct 2017)

“There is a crispness to the riding,” Deborah adds. “It is fast. It is precise. It is clean. It is focused. Yet, a rider cannot be afraid of making mistakes or taking risks.”

Finishing the thought, Tara adds, “When it comes together, it is as close to perfect one can imagine. Every move is fluid. What was hard is easy. And, what was easy is unreal.”

close to perfect: Tara and Cameron (Iowa, Aug 2017)

The hardest part – to keep it going.