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.

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Día de Muertos

It is the holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the central and southern regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry in other places, especially in the United States. The multi-day holiday brings the family and friends together to pray for and remember friends and family who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. The Aztec influence in Día de Muertos is substantial, beginning as a festival dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the underworld. After Spanish colonization, the holiday became associated with All Saints’ Eve (Halloween/Oct 31), All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2).

With the spread of the holiday, it has been absorbed into other practices of honoring the dead. In northern Mexico, Día de Muertos, was unknown, with the people having separate traditions and where the Aztec influence was minimal. It wasn’t widely celebrated until the Mexican federal government declared Día de Muertos a national holiday. The opening sequence of the James Bond film, Spectre, features a Día de Muertos parade in Mexico City.

In Colorado, Día de Muertos celebrations are fairly rare, though some of the costuming is widely seen. Halloween remains firmly entrenched, and in the realm of the spooky and ghostly tales.

Whether celebrated as Día de Muertos or Halloween, enjoy your celebrations.

Background information from Wikipedia.
Photo: Deborah in full make-up for a Halloween party when she was a high school senior several years ago.

A Princess at Twenty Three

A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

At a certain time, the days begin to pass by quickly. Milestone after milestone are passed. Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-two.

Deborah: already a princess (age 2)

In becoming twenty-three, you have so much lying ahead of you with promises of unlimited possibilities. Our first princess, our most perfect princess. While smart, beautiful and accomplished easily comes to mind, words cannot describe the woman you have become. Dad and I are so proud of you.

Still a toddler, you had eyes for riding a pony. First, with your Blue scooter horse. Then, with your Cocoa bouncy horse. And, with Pinkie Carousel Horse.

horse love: Deborah and Pinkie Carousel Horse (age 2)

Your eyes brightened when you learned how to ride, first on ponies and later with mares and stallions. Your connection with horses is very special. You worried about Cara, your first pony, when you transitioned to the taller horses. Cara did okay, retiring to the pony good life. She’s still your first love.

the quiet moment: Deborah and Cara the pony (JN Ranch, Jun 03 2017)

Whatever craft you choose to make your life’s work, we know you’ll love it and you’ll work hard to perfect the skills. Like riding, you will carve out your niche and succeed.

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

My perfect princess, your dad’s perfect princess.

Happy 23, baby girl!

xoxo
mom and dad

The Season Begins

The weeks of practice have made them excited for the season to begin. They are ready. The riding has been fast, precise and crisp. It is disciplined. Trish has observed they are riding in mid-season form. “They are that good,” she has said.

saddle point-of-view: following Tara’s lead on Cameron, Deborah’s view onboard Comet (RRC, May 06 2017)
South Platte River on the left

The girls, along with Trish and Mark, are viewing this season as one of great challenge. Last season was a very good one, and resulted with an appearance at the Las Vegas National Horse Show. The expectations for them are likely greater this season if not higher.

My girls have said they are equal to the challenge for this season. There are no doubts, just riding. Everything else will follow.

pure love: Deborah and Captain Andrew (Jul 2016)

Beginning their 2017 season today, my daughters will once again start in Texas.

Photo credit – the saddle point-of-view is courtesy of Deborah.

“Ride now, ride forever”

 

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.

    *     *     *     *

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.

    *     *     *     *

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”