Riding: The Nationals

Beginning their season on the world stage, they are ending their season on the world stage.

graphic courtesy of Blenheim EquiSports

They are the Nationals in Las Vegas. Part of the World Cup tour, the CSI4* rated show is the most important show of their season. The stage is larger. The expectations are greater. The anticipation higher. The field of riders they are competing with, in the World Cup qualifier, are among the best professionals in the world. Yet, “it is no different from any other show,” my daughters have said. “It is about riding, giving your best.”

“A rider must fully trust themselves and their horse,” Trish says of competing at this level. Having competed on the world stage herself, Trish speaks from experience. “The girls, they can compete with anyone. They have the intangibles.” With no guarantee of success, “they are unafraid,” Trish adds. “Count them among the best in the world.”

training day sunset: quiet moment between Tara and Cameron (RRC, Oct 27 2018)

They are ready. Their horses are ready.

Ride now, ride forever


Colorado In Fall: Coming Home

A warm hearth awaits, along with stories and tales to be told.

Dino and Pebbles were first, when they were baby kittens in 1989. Then, it was Egypt in 2005. On the equine front, Cara and Magician came in 2003. There’s something about October, something about the fall season, when it is time to come home.

Soon, another October addition will come.

Tara riding then two-year old Shelby (Double N Ranch, TX – May 2016)

Shelby is destined be Tara’s future show jumping horse. In the two years since Tara’s first ride with Shelby, the paint has undergone a growth spurt and now stands at 17.3 hands tall. At four years old, Nicole says he’s going to be a talented one. Shelby is jumping at the one meter level. Nicole believes his time has arrived to learn and develop with a talented rider. For Tara, Shelby reminds her so much of Jasper.

With Shelby, Tara notes, “Second chances rarely come. We’re going to make a good run at being the best.”

Colorado In Fall: The Cattle Round Up

The colors. Beautiful, sunny days. Cold nights. Frost on the pumpkin. Colorado in fall cannot be any better.

The JN Ranch, our neighbor, it is their fall cattle round-up time. It is moving their herd back from the summer grazing ranges in the mountains, on BLM land, back to the mid-range and winter range on the ranch property. Preparing for the round-up begins in earnest, in early September. The largest piece of the preparatory work is establishing an accurate count and location of their stock. Drone technology and tracking technology have made the round-up a much easier task than before. The round-up, though, is weather-driven. Private weather forecasting has greatly aided of knowing when to move the herd with minimal impact from the weather.

into the fog: the Norris family leaving for the round-up (JN Ranch, Oct 08 2018)
photo credit: Julie Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

Their gear ready, the Norris family began their round-up last Monday. The low clouds and misty conditions didn’t make for ideal weather. Yet, the cool temperatures and general dampness weren’t too uncomfortable. Neither the long hours on the saddle become uncomfortable. It is their way of life, a life they love and respect.

With 517 head to bring home, the herd was divided in half. It made the cattle easier to manage on the trail, and added flexibility to the schedule and the 10-14 days earmarked to complete the round-up.

on point: Amanda riding ahead of the herd on a BLM service trail in the mountains above JN Ranch (Oct 10 2018)
photo credit: Amanda Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

A dense fog and intermittent rain/snow mix for two days slowed the pace of the first half of the round-up. Yet, they arrived with 225 head of the herd at the mid-range, on Friday, as planned. Comprised mostly of black angus cattle, they were no worse for wear. The same could be said about the Norris family members, but Amanda said she needed a long, hot shower before heading back for the second half of the round-up.

black angus cattle: arriving home on the mid-range (JN Ranch, Oct 12 2018)
photo credit: Amanda Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

The second half of the round-up is expected to arrive on the mid-range this coming weekend. Except for cold mornings, and one day of snow flurries, the pace of the round-up has remained on schedule. Once the remaining head arrive, mostly white-faced heifers, another count will be conducted.

Next week, it’ll be a check for strays, and count again. Once the final count is completed, the fall round-up will be over.

Photo credit
Many thanks to Julie and Amanda Norris for their photos. It is very much appreciated.

Pebbles: Rainbow Bridge Day

They were unsettled days, a mix of cold, rain and snow. The past few days have not been much different. The similarities of two moments in time, separated by thirteen years, have been most striking. Yet, they have been very different in mood.

The good days with Pebbles were many. She was ever loyal and loving. The best napping companion. She did not ask for much, except for tuna, a small taste of fresh canola oil, and her own little plate for dinner.

baby quilt: taking the morning nap

the daily tuna: lunching in the kitchen

Pebbles also liked her luxuries. She nibbled on her grandma’s gold bracelet, and developed a fondness for her leopard-print, leather handbag. My mom was more than happy to give Pebbles the handbag. One night, Pebbles spotted Andrea’s diamond pendant on her dressing table. The next morning, the pendant was missing. Andrea searched high and low for the pendant. While she thought Deborah or Elizabeth may have taken the pendant, Andrea found it laying in the kitty toy basket. Pebbles had put away her new special toy. When she saw Pebbles giving her the eye, Andrea asked if it was okay if she could wear the pendant for the day. Pebbles meowed her reply; Andrea took it to be a “yes”.

kitty fashion: Pebbles with her leather handbag

spa: warming in the dryer

Every day was a good one with our Pebbles. We were very privileged to be her forever family for 16 years. We love and miss you much.

Love you always,

mom and dad

Tuxie: Two Years, Still Too Soon

It is two years. We didn’t have a chance to exchange our momentary goodbyes. Our Tuxie boy left much too soon, much too young.

His quiet, laid-back personality is missed tremendously. Tuxie enjoyed his window watching. From the early morning to the late evening. From birds and squirrels to the occasional skunk or raccoon. And, of course, he watched his persons whenever they were outside and in window view.

on watch from the master bedroom bookcase (July 2012)

produce inspecting with Miss Pinky from the 2012 peach harvest (Aug 2012)

Maxie and Midnight adjusted much better than anticipated after Tuxie’s loss. The Musketeer bond between the three littermates, very strong. They always watched for one another in true Musketeer fashion.

In many ways, Tuxie’s presence and essence continues to live on through Maxie and Midnight. There are moments when you see some of Tuxie’s personality and behavior in the two.

window watching with a smile (May 2014)

We love and miss you much.


Happy Birthday Meezers!

Birthday week continues.

Though they’ve been gone to the Rainbow Bridge for awhile, we still mark the occasion of celebrating their special day, Dino and Pebbles. Littermates, they came to live with us two weeks apart. First was Dino – a very happy, very friendly Siamese-mix boy. Then came Pebbles – a more cautious seal-point Siamese girl. Both had white mittens.

In play, they were inseparable.

Dino and Pebbles: checking what’s under the carpet runner

They were kitty blurs in motion.

the Dino blur

the Pebbles blur

After playing or doing other cat stuff, they often would relax and nap together.

sweet innocents: the towel covers the hole they made in the arm of the couch

In kitten life, they perfected the ability of taking nearly the entire bed for themselves during the overnight. Dino and Pebbles also pioneered “the early breakfast” concept – that’s the breakfast served at 1:30 am. “No!” was not an acceptable option in this regard. Regular breakfast came between 7:00 and 7:30 am, with a bacon snack at 10:30 am.

They made our home complete. Perfect companions, perfect love.

Happy Birthday Dino & Pebbles!

mom, dad, & girls

Photos: From the Two Cats Two archive. They were taken using a Canon FTb 35 mm SLR with Kodak Gold film (ASA 200).

Sonrisa de Santa Fe

If you’ve visited Andalusia, festivals and ferías are the norm during the summer months. The sonrisa weeks are many. Generally, the ferías are connected to celebrating patron saints while the festivals are more connected to celebrating the regional culture like dance and music. On most evenings, it is not uncommon to find a sevillanas parade. In Seville, the annual exhibition featuring the Andalusian PRE draws many horse aficionados. The stallions and mares, very striking. The foals, off-the-scale cuteness.

A few of the traditions carried over to the New World. The festivals and ferías were fewer but incorporating traditions from the native cultures – Native American Indian, Aztec, Mayan and Incan. Horses made an impression in the American Southwest, particularly in the northward migration of Spanish missions into California, New Mexico and Texas. Equine bloodlines, from PRE thoroughbreds to quarterhorse to pack, were highly valued.

The revival of equestrian sports in New Mexico has included adding some of the festive sonrisa traditions. It may not be Seville, but the influence and atmosphere is undeniable.

equestrian review: Simeon Krestrel, Sonrisa de Santa Fe (Jul 2018)

When EquiCenter de Santa Fe closed their doors in 2009, it seemed equine sports in Santa Fe, and New Mexico, was finished forever. The fallout from the 2007-08 economic downturn was devastating. Riders were leaving the sport in droves, often selling their horses at “best offer” rates. So few competed in 2008, many sponsors left for other venues. Those riders who chose to compete opted to ride in Colorado where the equestrian scene had more stability.

Guy McElvain and his business partner, Brian Gonzales, entered a bid to buy the bankrupt equestrian center. Brian’s wife, Phyllis, had the more difficult task of rebuilding the thin equestrian ranks in New Mexico, and attracting riders from elsewhere to give the Grand Prix de Santa Fe another chance. Sponsors were initially, and rightfully, reticent. To change minds, they had to bring perspective, knowledge and expertise to the table. Guy, a respected adult-amateur rider, businessman and horse rancher. Phyllis, an experienced horse show planner and organizer. Brian, respected businessman and avid horseman. Also, their deep community and familial ties in Santa Fe aided in attracting investors and sponsorships.

After six years of planning and work, August 2015 signaled their new beginning with two shows, Sonrisa Week and the Grand Prix de Santa Fe, at the renamed equicenter, HIPICO Santa Fe. The two, smaller A-rated shows did well enough to expand the two shows into a four-show summer series in July and August 2016. Though overlapping with the Summer In The Rockies series in the Denver area, there are differences. The Summer In The Rockies series feature the large AA-rated shows, with the ability to attract riders, including top amateurs and professionals, from across the nation. The Santa Fe series with smaller A-rated shows, similarly aims to attract top amateurs, and possibly a few professionals. The difference maker, the uniquely Santa Fe atmosphere against a majestic southwest backdrop.

Invited since 2015, my daughters have struggled fitting the Santa Fe shows into their show schedule. A choice had to be made: compete with some of the best talent on the AA-circuit in Iowa or compete in a series in the process of regaining their footing in the equestrian world. The choice was easy, Iowa. Phyllis understood emerging talent riders need to compete with increasingly better talent to move to the next level.

With an already tight calendar, my girls committed to riding a private charity invitational over the Labor Day Weekend. In making the commitment, they also added Sonrisa Week to their show schedule, and tightening their calendar further.

USHJA Hunter Derby: Marianne, fellow RRC member, on the course (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

warm-up session: Tara and Candace before the USHJA hunter derby (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

During the mixer on opening night, Phyllis acknowledged several top amateurs riding Sonrisa Week – including a few she had been wooing for 2-3 years. After introducing the new faces that arrived during the day, Phyllis invited them to say a few words, if they had any. Elizabeth raised her hand. “We had wanted to come here for awhile, and we finally made it,” she began. “Someone said this could be the beginning of a tremendous legacy.” Pausing for the brief applause, Elizabeth finished, “I think that’s what you said, Brian.” He nodded yes to much laughter in the tent. “May everyone ride their best and ride well.”

The girls rode extremely well, continuing their incredible run this season.

NOTE: If you haven’t experienced an A-rated hunter/jumper show, please watch the video found here.