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”

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.

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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)



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”

A New Addition

Practice was going poorly with Comet, so it seemed. Clearly frustrated, Deborah asked to take a break from the session. Once dismounted, she flung off her helmet. Walking over to it, she kicked it over a fence panel at the opposite end of the practice ring. It is not often Deborah expresses her frustrations. After Elizabeth finished her round, I motioned for her to check up on her sister. They sat together, quietly watching Tara work through the complicated circle exercise. Not a word was exchanged between the two. A few moments later, they hugged and walked over to Trish. My girl had regained her composure. After talking with Trish, Deborah remounted Comet and flawlessly rode the exercise twice through.

While sitting alone, Deborah had taken notice of a handsome grey in the adjoining corral area. He was studiously watching the practice session in between his munching. It was like he understood everything – all the actions of a hunter/jumper going through the paces. The grey wandered off into another part of his corral to take in more of the September sun.

On the way home, Deborah worked on making the troublesome circle exercise course more difficult on her tablet. She asked Elizabeth and Tara for their input on the adjustments. A couple phone calls to Trish, the following week’s exercise course would be more demanding and possibly with a time limit. During the last call, Deborah asked about the handsome grey.

The grey had been abandoned at RRC when its rider/owner suddenly dropped out of the advanced riding class in early summer. Since that person did not return any of Mark’s calls or responded to his letters, he decided to keep the grey. The grey was going to be a project for Mark. He had not been under saddle nor halter trained, and only allowed to have a loose lead rope around the neck. Having a three year old, with a blank slate, is an exceedingly rare opportunity.

G-Man indoors after having his mane and tail trimmed (RRC, Oct 2016)

During the following week’s practice, Deborah made an offer – she would take the grey, train him, keep him as a forever horse pending clearance of the abandonment period and a vet check. Mark thought about it for a few minutes and said he would take the offer. One condition – if the grey proves too much to handle, Deborah is to return him. A handshake deal is made.

It is not like we need another horse. He’s willful, tall, and very muscular. His new name, G-Man. It is only fitting since we have a Secret Agent Man and a Starfleet Captain (Andrew). Will G-Man become a hunter? Only time will tell. But, since that September weekend, G-Man has adjusted to wearing a loose rope halter and has been under saddle three times with Deborah, once with Mark and once with Trish.

G-Man will move down to the JN Ranch soon as he clears the abandonment period on December 19. He has already passed his vet check.

Autumn Dreams

of autumn dreams
of shimmering gold and rust
of light breezes rustling the leaves
of how I dream anew


A dream rekindled.

Sarah and her two daughters came to spend the Labor Day holiday weekend with us. Not only was it a chance to ride among friends, but a chance to learn again. What better than to learn from, and train with, the three riders who were once her protégés.

waiting on the fog: Sarah and Max

She is glad to be back on the saddle. A little more than 17 months ago, Sarah underwent a two-part surgery to repair a back injury that dogged her for over 3½ years. Her lowest point was giving us her beloved champion, Secret Agent Man. Sarah knew SAM missed the show ring, and would flourish in the trustworthy and capable hands of my girls. Most of all, he would be loved to the fullest.

A priority on the list was Sarah riding SAM again. He was patient in waiting for his turn on the circle exercise course. When Sarah rode SAM, a little bit of their old magic resurfaced. It was easy, it was smooth.

Kim, Sarah’s daughter, and SAM watching a set of grid exercises

When Deborah rode through the same course, her and SAM were “poetry in motion” according to Sarah. They were easy, they were smooth, they were fast. “I want to be that again,” Sarah said. She knows she will need to be patient, and it will take time to regain her form and skill level.

Sarah was known for her skill, attention to detail, and tenacity. She will be known for that again.

Iowa Bound

Embarking on the last segment of their riding season, my girls will soon close their summer campaign. With the many personal worries and concerns, my girls put them aside and continued to ride well, showing their strength of character. Mark and Trish, their riding coaches, have always believed “success and winning will take care of itself.” Their approach and the hours of practice and hard work have handsomely rewarded the girls with a very impressive and very solid season.

Deborah with Captain Andrew (Jul 2016)

Both the girls and their horses have proven their mettle and steadfastness in the show ring. They’ve kept their perspective on riding. Most importantly, they’ve made sure to have fun in what they love.

It’s on to Iowa.


A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

It seems like yesterday we were celebrating your twenty-one, and now we are celebrating your twenty-two. Dad and I are so very proud of you, my princess. You have become such a beautiful woman with a heart full of love. You have dad’s quiet resolve, patience and inner strength. Dad has said you have inherited everything you are from me. We knew when you were born, you, our first princess, would be very special.

Deborah carrying the Puppy (Greece, Aug 1999)

While visiting with great-nana in Greece, you carried their pups and kittens all over the courtyard. Great-nana said you were destined to do many things with animals because of your natural affinity for them. And, that you have in becoming an equestrian.

Deborah, our first princess, with Secret Agent Man (JN Ranch, September 2015)

A beautiful young lady, you will always remain our first princess. A princess who continues to quietly slip her hand into ours, and one who embraces ever so tightly.

You will always be my perfect princess, your dad’s perfect princess.


Happy 22, baby girl!

mom and dad



And, it began here …

Deborah visiting with her Auntie Bella’s Ranger Man (Jul 2000)


Their love of horses led them into the hunter sport.

Deborah (330) and Elizabeth (183) with their first ribbons won at a club level horse show (Jul 2003)


The ribbons are nice. The shows are fun. Their love of horses is enduring.

Deborah, 16, with her champion, Comet (Aug 2010)


Elizabeth, 20, with her lovely Lilith (Sep 2015)


Embarking on their 2016 season today, my daughters will begin again in Texas.


About the photos

All four photos were taken using a Canon FTb 35-mm SLR. The first two photos were made using Kodak T-MAX Professional 100 and the latter two with Kodak Gold (ASA 200).