Coming Home

Written by Tara Scott Westin

“Look into their eyes, you will see their spirit. A spirit meant for freedom. A freedom that runs with the wind.”

The Native American Indians of the Great Plains were unequaled in their horsemanship. They were able to outride the best cavalrymen in the American West, earning them much respect and admiration. Their horsemanship skills were grounded in understanding the very essence of the horse. The trust between warrior and horse was absolute, and always as equals. It is in the knowing, and understanding, the essence of the horse which forms the cornerstone of learning horsemanship at RRC.

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On a recent, quiet Saturday afternoon, we had taken possession of one, very handsome grey. Abandoned at RRC by his previous owner, he lived a horse’s life. Paddock by day, stall by night. Mark and Trish made sure he had the comforts of home like every other horse stabled at RRC. His name, ridiculous and lame, RG-2. Who calls a horse by some unknown code listed on the ownership papers? Mark gave him a more proper name of Cloud Rider. He responded well to his name. Mark, however, heard Deborah call him G-Man one day and began calling him the same. He answered much better to G-Man.

G-Man checking out the grass after arriving at JN Ranch (Jan 2017)

During breaks in practice, Mark let Deborah walk G-Man in the covered ring. No lead rope, no halter to guide him except her voice and touch. It had taken weeks for Mark to bring him to this stage. When it comes to horses, those at three years old, with little to no training, are likely all instinct. Teaching options are fewer. Why the previous owner would bring a very raw horse into an equestrian setting is beyond puzzling. Mark thought the best G-Man could become is an escort horse or manager horse, one who would have a calming effect on other horses. If not, a steady and reliable working horse.

After striking an understanding with Mark, Deborah began working more with G-Man. Much of the work was centered on voice commands – forward, stop, back three paces, left, right. Yet, G-Man was resistant in wearing an halter – including a rope one. No halter she explained, “no can ride.” Two weekends later, Deborah was able to convince G-Man an halter was worth wearing. She had shown our horses, and others, wore halters. Whether he gave into her “nagging” or was convinced, it really didn’t matter. He began wearing a rope halter.

from Trish, G-Man wearing his leather halter (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

Deborah ramped up the instruction, walking and running with a lead rope attached to his halter. Soon, the time arrived to be under saddle. “Unbroken,” Mark said, “it’ll make for an interesting ride.” He slowly mounted G-Man and had him take a few steps forward. After a short break, Mark had G-Man walk the ring for a few minutes – doing the basics he practiced with Mark and Trish, and with Deborah. G-Man passed his first test.

Though Mark and Trish knew he would be coming home with us, there was a little melancholy in seeing him leave. They had seen him progress from a very green horse to one with basic skills. Trish made sure he had his own kit – grain bag, hay net, a pair of customized halters, a saddle pad and a bag of his favorite treats.

While his time under saddle is limited, G-Man continues to do well in learning the basics. Deborah said it is a matter of time when his time under saddle will begin to increase. Since coming to the JN Ranch, being around our horses, and the ranch horses, it has been a good experience and influence for G-Man.

contemplating the future: Deborah and G-Man (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

What ever his future maybe, G-Man, formally known as Cloud Rider, will undoubtedly have a good one under the steady hand of Deborah.

About the author

Tara Scott Westin is a fifth year senior attending the University of Colorado. She will be graduating this coming May with a BS in Biology (Microbiology). She graduated with honors from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Colorado Springs in 2012.

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.

“Ride now, ride forever”

Remembering

By Lauren Westin, MD

Sitting at my desk late last night, tying off the loose ends of the day’s work, it dawned on me it has been two years. It seems like yesterday when David called early that morning saying we needed to talk, and not over the phone. Yet, it does seem to have happened long ago.

In the hectic of Friday’s “everyday busy”, not a thought of mom came to mind – not even the anniversary of her passing. I know she would say it’s time to set it aside. “No more sadness.” Instead, concentrate on your family, concentrate on your patients. She would not expect any less. However, I felt bad at that moment last night. I should have remembered earlier, but I didn’t. Both Andrea and David said I shouldn’t beat myself up over this. They’re right, but I did.

from the one

Tara called her grandpa early this morning and they chatted awhile before heading out to ride with Deborah and Elizabeth. Afterwards, I talked with dad. He said it was okay. Mom is imprinted on all of us, in our thoughts, our deeds and our words. Staying true to your values is remembering and honoring mom to the highest degree.

It was the reaffirmation I needed.

Love you, mom.

Laurie
xo

About the author

Lauren Westin is a practicing trauma surgeon with University of Colorado Health, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She holds certifications in trauma surgery, trauma medicine and microsurgery.

 

Again

Winter returned overnight, bringing with it freezing drizzle and fog and much colder temperatures. After depositing a veneer of ice, it has been mix of light snow and fog since then. The snow hasn’t been overwhelming, leaving only a dusting.

cold conditions: a light dusting but no birdies

It must be cold. The local groundhog, residing at the zoo, didn’t bother to check for his shadow. Perhaps he remained in his burrow where it is warm. Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog, has predicted another six weeks of winter – which interestingly coincides with the arrival of the spring in six weeks.

Today’s brush with winter is a one-day affair. By the weekend, it’ll be sunny with temperatures warming back into the 50s and 60s.

Riding Inside The Margins

Written by Deborah Anne Ramos

The heat and humidity had made for a stifling day. Other than a light morning workout, we had the day off from competing. We watched a few junior hunters ride their classes, but our main desire was staying cool and staying in the shade. The plan was to spray off the horses in the late afternoon then have a nice dinner in Des Moines later that evening.

In a semi-shady spot, we settled back to do some people and horse watching. We knew it would be a slow, lazy afternoon. While chatting about nothing in particular for an hour, the PA system came to life asking for the presence of the EMTs and the vet in the main hunter ring. Though it was a short walk from where we were sitting, we stayed put. Whatever was happening, it wasn’t good.

And, it wasn’t. A horse and rider down.

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Though it was hoped all would be well in a few minutes, every sense was saying it was a devastating moment. A moment that does not happen too often. We could see the main hunter ring was being cleared, and the audience moved away to another section of the horse park.  Tara understood it all too well.

Jasper: not far from Tara’s thoughts everyday (RRC, May 2004)

The rider, a newly-minted junior from Minnesota, walked past with tears streaming down her face along with her trainer and parents. Most ironic was that we had met and talked with the young rider the day before. She was so excited being at her first AA show, eagerly hoping to do well. Any 14 year old rider would be.

Within a half-hour, we flinched when we heard that sound. Dad didn’t flinch. The horse’s injury had to be most grievous.

  *     *     *     *

The accident had put a damper on the remainder of the day. Everything had an anti-climatic feel.

An early arrival at the horse barn the next morning, we had seen the junior and her parents already packing her gear to head home. They were also getting her other horse ready for travel. Tara walked over and chatted with them for almost 15 minutes. She encouraged the young rider to take her time in returning to the saddle. The saying of “quickly climbing back on the saddle” is easier said than done. And, probably longer to get back into the proper frame of mind to compete again.

They were appreciative of Tara coming over and talking with them. No other riders, except for us, had taken the time to see how they were doing. We wished them well, and hoped to see them once again under better circumstances.

  *     *     *     *

Though riders are noted for their mental and physical toughness, this type of accident is much different. How does one come back from this kind of experience? Not easily. Tara had her own experience, but says she is still very much a work in progress.

Mark told Tara, when she returned to riding, it was okay to be unsure. It will take time to rebuild the confidence – more riding would lead to more confidence. Of course, the most difficult part of her return was the mental part. Most unavoidable was the second guessing. Tara had to learn how to trust herself and to trust her skills again. The hardest part – Tara giving herself permission to be a rider again.

Tara & Cameron: GP Qualifier – 1.35 M (Texas, May 2014)

In the nearly thirteen years since her accident, the memories remain fresh in the back of her mind. If you watch Tara ride, now, you wouldn’t think she had an accident. Tara doesn’t hold back one bit. She rides fast and crisp, and can ride aggressive lines with ease. And, she is a very disciplined rider. Tara calls it “riding inside the margins”.

With those still lingering memories, Tara says it has made her into a better rider everyday – better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today.

Brie: the one who brought Tara back (RRC, Oct 2014)

 

Postscript

We’ve chatted with the young rider from Minnesota, three times, since that day. She has resumed riding, the slow and easy kind, but is very uncertain about riding in competition again. She added, “I would not compete ever again. It’s an easy decision in that regard.”

 

About the author

Deborah Anne Ramos is a fifth-year senior attending the University of Colorado. She will be graduating this coming May with a BS in Biology (Animal Science). She graduated with highest honors from Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver in 2012.

A highly decorated equestrian with the Rustler Riding Club, Deborah has earned Horse of the Year and Rider of the Year awards with the club. Additionally, she has won multiple blue ribbons, and other placement ribbons, with Comet, Captain Andrew Evan Stedman, and SAM: Secret Agent Man.

“Ride now, ride forever”

Inauguration Day

Many, including myself, hadn’t given him a chance to win. Not in the primaries, and certainly not in the general election. He would certainly self-destruct. And, he came close on more than a few occasions. He used his bluster, denials and penchant for insults to distract. His serious character flaws did not matter. His lack of knowledge did not matter. Furthering the polarization in our politics did not matter.

Today, he is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. While many bemoaned his election, he now occupies the singularly most powerful office. His proposals, vision and direction should be subject to the utmost scrutiny. He should be held more accountable by virtue of the power of his office. He should not be given a free pass just because he is the president. I have serious misgivings of his abilities to execute the duties of the office he now assumes. I have serious misgivings of his ability to be president for all Americans, particularly those who did not vote for him.

Though I personally disliked the politics and policies of President Obama, I still find him to be an interesting person. Similarly for President Clinton. Both President Bushes (41 & 43), I like very much. While you may disagree with the policies of these presidents, the one certainty that can be taken away is they tried their best, gave their best, for this nation. I do not know if the new president will do his best for this nation. I do know he is not an individual I would want to visit or socialize with. He is crass, crude, impolite and more – the very characteristics we urge our children not to learn and possess.

Some have suggested his election would reorder the status quo. The elite and the media will come to heel. The original intent of the Constitution will be restored. While he espouses these notions, he does not quite understand the federalist concepts of our representative republic. He believes he can do whatever he chooses.

He will soon find out America did not lose her greatness, and is found residing in her people. It is reflected in our values, our decency and our promise. We are far from the perfect nation but we strive to be a better nation each day through hard work, taking care of our families, and doing what is right.

America will be fine, because she is in our hands and not his.

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Caturday: Happy Birthday Egypt!

Today, our beloved Miss Egypt would have been 12 years old. She has been greatly missed since her passing nearly seven months ago.

Always sociable. Always friendly. Always good. She was singularly and fiercely devoted to her one. Sweet as she was, Egypt had the heart of a mighty lioness or tigress. She ran the house her way.

We were glad to have been her forever home.

Happy Birthday Egypt!
xoxo

A Night of Candles

“I left Florida to avoid tropical hurricanes. I didn’t know Colorado had ground hurricanes.”

A friend of my sister, Ginny, told her that during Monday’s brutal windstorm. The winds were not the 15-25-35 mph variety, but more of a Category One hurricane kind with gusts into the 85-95-105 mph range. The usual effects of the wind storm could be found everywhere: downed trees and fences, downed power lines, damaged cars and closed highways.

Undoubtedly, most schedules also fell victim to the wind. Our schedule was caught by the wind. The plan was to complete the veterinary certification for Lilith, Captain Andrew, SAM and Happy Girl so they may compete at the National Western over this coming weekend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it because of a closed highway. Dr. Burrell, our horse veterinarian, couldn’t make it either – a fallen tree in her driveway.

A power failure all across the region, it simply complicated matters. We lost power shortly after 7:30 am. While we had plenty to do, the lack of power dampened much of the day. By evening, the fierce winds were more than a nuisance. The utilities department could not estimate when the power would be restored after saying mid-afternoon for most of the morning.

With it becoming dark in the late afternoon, a little light was needed. It is good the daughters have a strong sense of romance. They brought out their stash of candles they use while soaking in the tub or the Jacuzzi in the master bath.

candles: from romance to basic light

A pizza and soda dinner by candlelight. It works.

Our power was restored at midnight. The veterinary certification was completed this morning. Today’s afternoon practice session, compressed but intense.