Riding: The Southland

Four weeks. Four shows.

The competition is very keen, a mix of riders from the amateur and professional ranks. While many are from the West Coast, the shows have attracted others from the Intermountain West and the Midwest. A few have made the trek from traditional horse country in Kentucky and Virginia. The three week June Classic, followed by the Red, White and Blue Classic, brings over 1,100 horses and nearly 550 riders together. Riders and horses, of every skill level, make it a deep, talented gathering.

Riding the Southland has become an important piece of their schedule. In the beginning, it introduced them to a higher level of competition they had not yet experienced.

Their first appearance in 2014 proved to be humbling. Finishing in the bottom five of their events, in the first week, was not the debut they wanted. My daughters could not hide their bitter disappointment. They did not resemble the highly talented junior riders they were before. Between show weeks, a few whispers of “maybe they weren’t that good after all” could be heard whenever they walked through the stable area. While the churlish remarks hurt, they had to set aside their feelings. The second week was another week. They showed flashes of their potential. One was an unexpected win.

winning tears: Tara and Cameron, unexpected Grand Prix winner – June Classic III (Jun 2014)

Trish had no doubts about her charges. She asked if my daughters could ride the entirety of the June Classic and the Red, White and Blue Classic the following year, knowing they would benefit more from the extended stay. Four weeks away from home was a big ask with three weeks in Iowa already on the schedule. With eight shows on the road, two at home as optional, it was a major commitment in their development. “It’s about gaining experience and learning,” Trish said at the time. “You don’t become better staying on the sidelines, watching the better riders or watching tape. You have to ride.”

Opening the 2015 season in Texas, their riding was much more polished, much more consistent.  It showed in the results. When they arrived in San Juan Capistrano, the girls were riding quite sharply. They were fast, crisp, precise and disciplined. They were beginning to compete with the professionals on their level. The whispers changed, “they are better than good …”

Trish came for the final week of the June Classic (2015) to watch. She saw what she always knew. “They’re unafraid. They know when to take a risk, when to lay back.” In the best riders, it is second nature. They have plenty of it. Moreover, they showed they belonged.

on the sidelines: Elizabeth practicing with Vandal Warrior on an introductory ride – June Classic II (Jun 2019)

Coming into the Red, White and Blue Classic, this week, they have been riding very well. It’ll be more of what they know and do best.


Caturday: A Rainbow Bridge Day

She was a rescue cat. She was a sweet, very sociable and gorgeous tabby girl. She had strong purr motor. She always wore a smile. She was fun.

The commitment to a rescue is to be their forever, including the last day. Away with the girls in SoCal for four weeks of horse shows, both Laurie and Andrea said I needed to come home. Understanding the urgency, I flew home on short notice. Miss Egypt was family after all. Wearing tabby print didn’t matter. What mattered was to be there on the last day.

Miss Egypt had plenty of courage to go with her sassiness. The odds were extraordinarily long she could make it through. Dr. Ramsel said she could buy her an extra 2-3 weeks through intensive care, but it would be postponing the inevitable. The decision was to be kind.

napping with a smile

She has been missed mightily. The role of top cat remains unfilled, a position Miss Egypt made her own.

We love you and miss you very much.


First To Twenty Five

A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile. She knew I had daughters. “Your girls must be young ladies, fifteen, sixteen?”

“More like 24 and 23,” I replied.

“It can’t be,” she said.

Of course, like any good mom, I reached into my shoulderbag and pulled out my wallet to show the pictures I carry. First, I showed her their photos as young girls around four and five, then more recent ones from a couple of years ago. I also showed the couple of photos I carry of Tara. “Though not my step-daughter,” I said, “it warms my heart when she calls me mom. She’s a very sweet girl.”

Deborah: Iowa Gold (Aug 2014)

It is hard to believe our first princess, Deborah, is twenty-five.

Her dad and I are proud of the beautiful woman Deborah has become. Witty, intelligent, thoughtful and sweet. She loves being a horsewoman. And, yes she still slips her hand into ours. Those tight hugs, can’t have too many of them.

Deborah with her Comet (JN Ranch, Apr 2014)


Happy 25, Baby Girl!

mom and dad

National Donut Day

Whether it’s donut or doughnut, it is National Donut Day.

Miss Egypt enjoyed her cake donuts. Occasionally, my mom would buy her a cake donut, or two, special, just for her.

Miss Egypt having a taste of her cake donut (Nov 2005)

After finishing her donut, Egypt went back to what she was doing in the first place … taking a nap.

after the donut: Miss Egypt napping with a smile (Nov 2005)

Both Krispy Kreme and Dunkin are marking the day by giving away free donuts (one per person). Many of the smaller bakeries are doing the same. If it seems you may need more than one, it’s okay to indulge a little. Along with a favorite beverage, it makes for a nice afternoon or evening snack.

Happy National Donut Day!

Note – If you miss today, there’s International Doughnut Day on November 5th.

Memorial Day 2019

“Leaving those you love behind is the hardest …”

The engagement was short, intense and deadly. Hanging by a thread, my friend, David. He asked Jeff to tell his wife he was sorry. Before Jeff could reply, “tell her yourself,” David had slipped away.

Months earlier, we had gathered to bid farewell to JR. David was recovering from being wounded in Afghanistan, in November 2009. He was looking forward to getting back into the deployment rotation. If he did, it would be with a new team. His wife, Cherie, would have preferred if he would think about calling it a career. Most surprisingly, David agreed. Declared fit to return to duty, the 2011 deployment would be his last.

He was posted with his SEAL team in far northeastern Afghanistan. Over the mountain range, to the north, was China. A few degrees to the east of north, a small sliver of India. To say it was remote would be an understatement. The sector had the reputation as “The Badlands”. They were quite isolated. Help, if needed, would be hours away at the soonest, days away at worst.

David and Cherie had raised a beautiful family, two sons and a daughter. Before he left, Cherie told him she was pregnant. He promised to come home to her. David always kept his promises.

When he came home, Cherie met his plane. Her every action was that of a strong military wife, with protocol practiced at every turn. Keeping her composure throughout, the tears frequently welled in her eyes during the funeral mass. Cherie was missing her David mightily. While Andrea sang David’s favorite song, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, her tears flowed more readily. Though five months pregnant, she walked the procession behind his casket at the cemetery.

Visiting the cemetery, the day after the funeral, Cherie broke down and cried uncontrollably at his graveside. There seemed to be no consolation. After a while, Amy whispered into Cherie’s ear, having had a similar experience. Later, Cherie apologized for her loss of composure. Of course, she didn’t need to apologize.

Slowly, Cherie settled into her new normal, with a little one on the way. In October 2011, she gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Anya. With life becoming more settled, Cherie began to suffer a series of crushing headaches in late February 2012. Migraines, she presumed. The headaches persisted and were becoming more frequent. Amy convinced Cherie to see a doctor. Imaging had revealed Cherie had an aneurysm. Already leaking blood, she was taken into surgery. After the aneurysm was repaired, Cherie was recovering nicely over the week that followed. With discharge scheduled for the next day, she laid down for a nap. She did not wake.

Michael, the oldest son, said of his family, “Not every family is asked to give much. Yet, we do not ask, ‘Why us Lord?’ Simply, it is meant to be.”

God. Duty. Country. Family.

This day, and every day.



Taken at golden hour, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, CA (Mar 27, 2019)

Riding: Beginning 2019

The anticipation was high.

After five starts, she had earned four blue ribbons and one third place ribbon. Her performance was most impressive. She was ready for more.

Consisting of veteran and younger professionals, and several top amateurs, the field of riders was exceptional. Its international breadth was comparable with a World Cup event. The show’s FEI schedule was one of the last opportunities to earn ranking points before the end of the 2018-19 FEI season. The final standings at season’s end carries weight. It could determine whether a rider would be invited back for the following FEI season. Those riding with sponsor backing, gaining additional points could be the difference in earning a seasonal bonus. For others, the multi-week Spring Classic was the beginning of their 2019 campaign. Undoubtedly, a strong performance could lead to future considerations.

The Grand Prix course layout was a 13 obstacle/16 effort design by veteran FEI course designer Leopoldo Palacios (VEN). A lifelong horseman himself, Palacios’ courses are known to showcase the artistry of horsemanship while being technically challenging.

With the start order set, Deborah was riding fifth, Tara 16th, Elizabeth 26th. Starting first was Hannah Selleck (USA) from New Mexico. Seemingly on her way to a clear round, Hannah pulled two rails in the middle section of the course. The next three riders suffered the same fate – pulled rails in the middle section of the course. Times were averaging in the 74-78 second range.

Deborah and Captain Andrew on the tunnel walk

Riding next was Deborah. She patiently worked Captain Andrew through the course. The middle section, which was proving to be most troublesome in the early going, she handled it with ease. Her bright smile at the end said it all. She and Captain Andrew had the first clear round of the evening at 73.42 sec. The next three riders to follow, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA), Uma O’Neill (NZ) and Shawn Casady (USA), also advanced to the jump off by riding clear.

Though much of the field had yet to ride, four riders advancing to the jump-off out of the first eight underscored the depth of the field. When it seemed more riders may advance, the next six riders began to pull rails. No particular section was more difficult than another with rails down across the course. Rich Fellers (USA) broke the streak, becoming the fifth rider to advance into the jump-off.

Tara, with Cameron, was next. It was a steady, focused ride. Tara’s approach advanced her into the jump-off with a clear round, and with the second fastest time of the evening at 73.44 sec.

After Tara, half of the field was remaining to ride. Considering it included some very good riders, easily two or three, maybe four could advance to the jump-off. Again, rails began to be pulled. Like before, no particular section had become more difficult. The four, five, six or more, who could advance, did not. It is part of the unpredictability found in the sport.

The moment she worked hard to achieve had arrived. Riding under the lights, the evening start, made it extra special. A quick tap on the side of her helmet, she was set. It was time to ride.

A hushed quiet fell as they quietly cantered the course, lining up the start. Crossing the start timers, they began. It was smooth. It was fast. It was precise. It was effortless. When they completed the course, the crowd erupted with applause and a few cheers. It was a clear round, finished in 69.83 sec.

Her fast time in the Grand Prix round undoubtedly placed pressure on her fellow jump-off riders. They would have to take some chances with tighter turns and sliced jumps. Yet, she would have to take a few chances of her own. Positions on the leaderboard afforded no special advantage. Any one of them could win.

First to ride, in the jump-off, Deborah. She kept her turns tight, sliced three jumps to reduce her time over the seven obstacle course. Though the top rail bounced on her last jump, it stayed in place. Deborah finished clear with a time of 36.52 sec. She became the rider to catch. Knowing she needed to ride aggressively, Nicole was next. She, too, kept her turns tight. There were moments in which it seemed she didn’t have enough speed to clear a jump, but clear she did. Nicole finished with a clear round at 38.12 sec.

Both of their times had placed pressure on the remaining jump-off field, particularly Deborah’s. Next was Uma. She was going well, until she brushed the fourth fence. Rail down, her finish time at 38.89 sec. Shawn brushed the same rail, same fence during his run. He finished at 39.04 sec. Rich, he was on-track to ride clear also until he pulled a rail on the final jump. He finished at 38.77 sec.

Tara and Elizabeth remained. How they would finish would determine the outcome of the event. Tara cantered Cameron through the course before circling back to start. It was decidedly a fast pace. Cameron rubbed the top rails of the combination fence at #5 rather heavily, but they stayed in place. The slice on the final jump carried Tara tight against the post. She finished clear at 36.49 sec.

Tara and Cameron cantering the jump-off course

She flashed a smile when her time was displayed on the scoreboard. In first place, Tara waited on the remaining rider.

They slowly cantered the course in silence. She kept Lilith on a tight rein as they weaved their way. Crossing the start timers, they were very sharp. Suddenly, an uncharacteristic, out-of-the-blue moment occurred. A wrong footed landing after clearing #3. Her strategy for the jump-off was out the window. She had to adjust. With little forward momentum, they cleared #4. She tightened the turn heading into the combination at #5, which they cleared. A pair of slices on successive jumps, deliberately placed against the post. Every bit of the horsewoman she is was on display, and every bit of a thoroughbred Lilith is was on display too. Finishing clear, she knew she might not make the winner’s podium. Her time flashed on the scoreboard after a short wait. Elizabeth finished with a time of 36.27 sec, clinching her first 3* level major win.

The moment was made sweeter with Tara and Deborah joining Elizabeth on the winner’s podium and their 1-2-3 finish. Deborah and Tara also rode extremely well. Deborah won 1 blue, 2 reds (2nd place), 2 yellows (3rd place) and one fourth place while Tara won 3 reds, 2 yellows, and one fifth place.

After savoring this moment, it was studying the ride, then plan for the next show.


Happy Mom’s Day

There is much to consider. What to choose. Mix and match, or all the same.

When you have daughters that have a sense of romance, the task is easier. And, when one daughter loves her flowers and floral arrangements, her sense of romance has breadth and depth, well, … you know.

Much of Saturday afternoon was visiting a pair of flower markets. Then, it was letting our resident expert apply her tastes and style.

among the blooms and greenery, Tara begins building an arrangement

Add some scented candles and bath crystals from their personal stocks, the girls were ready for Mom’s Day.

Tara asked, “David, what are you giving?”

“I’ll be working the grill.”

Happy Mom’s Day!