Riding: In The Southland

It was a short turnaround. Four days to be precise. Time enough for laundry. To prepare for a new set of shows. Knowing and choosing which horses will compete the best.

dressage moves: Elizabeth and Secret Agent Man warming up (North Ranch, Mar 2018)

“It is keeping yourself and your horses in a daily routine,” is how my daughters describe the four weeks away from home. Their June calendar, at first glance, appears busy. Practice, events and times marked for every day of the four show weeks, and in between. Their notebooks are filled with notes and observations on every hoof beat taken in practice, and in the show ring, this season. And, making sure they and their horses are ready for travel. “Preparation and organization are key, attention to detail required. But, you need to be practical and resourceful.”

warm-up: Elizabeth and Brie before the $15,000 Grand Prix qualifier (San Juan Capistrano, April 2018)

The four show weeks in San Juan Capistrano are well attended with riders from every skill level. Around 350-400 riders and nearly 850-900 horses compete every week, with a few calling it home for the month. “Each day is taken as they come. keeping it simple and relaxed makes for a better experience.” The four weeks may seem long. Large shows, though, have a way of making the days pass rather quickly.

While the first show week ended Sunday afternoon (Jun 10) with the last rider finishing the final event, my daughters had a short workout with their horses in one of the practice rings. It is not too early to look ahead to the next show week, which begins on Wednesday (Jun 13).

It is the equestrian way of life.

Deborah and Comet: the late afternoon workout (San Juan Capistrano, June 2018)

 

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Riding: New Directions

“It’s important to build off on what you accomplished.”

The experience in Guadalajara was an excellent one. “There are so few riders,” Trish noted, “who are able to do what you did.” They smiled in reply. “The riding was exceptional. Everyone knows it. Simply, it was strong riding.” The extra confidence from Trish was much appreciated.

practice course: Elizabeth setting part of the practice course (RRC, Mar 25 2018)

One final instruction from Trish before beginning the practice course. Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara listened intently. It wasn’t much different from their earlier days of listening to her every word, and watching her every motion.

With everyone in place, Trish signaled Deborah to begin her ride of the practice course. Quickly approaching the difficult weave section of the course (left-left-right-sweeping right), Trish yelled at Deborah to attack the course harder. Sitting back down, “The weave is a series of blind turns. It is pure instinct,” she explained. “It is total trust between horse and rider.” Deborah completed the course cleanly, saying the weave was a rush. Tara, then Elizabeth, followed, riding the course cleanly too. Their riding – fast, crisp, precise.

A quiet conversation among the four followed.

Candace (Happy Girl): ready to win in her West Coast debut (SJC, Apr 03 2018)

Today, my daughters will open their 2018 season in SoCal. They, and their horses, are ready.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It was absolutely perfect evening. Very relaxed and comfortable. Only in Texas, of course. The evening began with a Texas BBQ dinner, a thank you from the show managers to the riders, their families and support crews. The centerpiece of the evening was the karaoke contest, a contest among the riders willing to step into a different kind of spotlight.

Instead of using the Grand Prix ring for the night’s festivities, Hunter Ring #1 was chosen. The ring had undergone a major upgrade during the off-season with the installation of new stadium lighting and becoming more intimate in setting. Throughout the day, practically every rider walking past stopped to watch its transformation. The festival lights, tables, catering stations, and stage. It seemed the setting would be as intimate as the year before, may be more.

A Night In Tuscany

The hunter ring was styled into a piazza, with tables and chairs arranged in a semi-circular pattern around a low-rise stage. Above the stage, a lighting truss. The stage background, tiered greenery. The setting had a closeness about it.

A sunset that stole your breath away began the perfect evening. With each passing second, the fiery color of the sky slipped away.

Soon, the deep blues and deep purples of dusk colored the sky, with a touch of dark red, here and there. “The Romanza colors,” noted Tara, “is all in Texas, tonight.” Softly lit with festival lighting, the piazza setting slowly revealed its intimacy.

Simplicity was its beauty. The softness of lilac was it scent. Texas wildflowers throughout. Formal place settings for an informal BBQ dinner. A bit fancy, but the evening was all about hospitality and thanks for another successful run of the four week series.

The Song

The high point of the evening was the karaoke contest. Among the 15 entrants, there was one without equal. Her performances have been dominant and flawless. Seeking her fourth consecutive title, she was seen as the prohibitive favorite. She’s been teased, good-naturedly, about being the “ringer” in the contest. While the contest is pure fun, the natural competitiveness of the riders emerges.

The theme for the contest was “1970s Hot 100“. To music aficionados, it was a golden decade of hits on all the charts. The era’s music is a favorite of Elizabeth’s, and has her favorite artist of all-time, Crystal Gayle.  Listen to all of her devices, there is no Adele, no Taylor Swift, no Katy Perry, no Britney, no Lorde, among others.

The Crystal Gayle songbook is firmly rooted in Country, but has enjoyed significant crossover appeal. Elizabeth chose “I Cried The Blue Right Out of My Eyes”, one of Crystal Gayle’s earliest hits. The song has pedigree, written by Loretta Lynn, older sister to Crystal.

With the stadium lights on, it was time to compete. Elizabeth drew the #15 slot, the most-coveted starting position. Singing last, she knew what kind of performance would be needed. Deborah and Tara were more nervous than Elizabeth. Their advice, though, “go out and win this thing.”

Elizabeth sent chills. Mom loved it, wiping more tears from her eyes.

She did, fourth time. And, won the Grand Prix event the next day, third consecutive year.

Notes

Written by Loretta Lynn, “I Cried The Blue Right Out of My Eyes”, 21-year-old Crystal Gayle (1972) singing her first hit, here. It reached No. 23 on the Billboard Country singles chart in 1970. Performed 25 years later (1997), with a more experienced voice, Crystal singing it here. She has noted, when tweaked on a studio sound mixer, the song has a MOR flavor. Crystal Gayle’s breakthrough hit was the jazz-flavored “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” in 1977. A biography can be found here.

Crystal is also known for her floor length hair. Elizabeth’s hair length, at its longest, reaches to her lower back, only trimming it back during riding season.

MCATs

Three questions –

flash card: optically active molecules, side A

My daughters had scheduled the important exam to be taken before The Nationals, before the October shows. For more than a year, they’ve been quietly laying the groundwork for a career outside of riding. The entirety of their degree coursework was geared in this direction, and followed by working towards an advanced degree. It is not surprising their career interests are very similar. Further, it is not surprising they are following in the footsteps of their parents, especially their moms.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCATs) are a rather thorough exam. It is part of the overall credential portfolio for admission into medical school or veterinary school. The first half is similar to every standardized test in measuring comprehension, vocabulary and analytic thought. Also included in the first half, behavioral analysis. The second half is the science part – general and organic chemistry, biology and physics. The all-day, 7½-hour exam is completely computer based. It allows each test registrant to receive their exam score within 4-6 weeks.

prep manuals: studying for the MCATs

To prepare for the exam, my girls bought a selection of prep manuals and flash cards. Also, there are a variety of free and paid tutorial resources online, and in classroom tutoring sessions. The manuals are study guides; the flash cards asks specific questions in a “flash setting”. Whether their use leads to a better score is largely subjective, they are primarily designed to help organize the large body of material that needs to be studied.

My daughters found preparing for the exam to be no different than preparing for a highly-rated horse show with top-tier competition. It was important to treat the MCATs like any other exam. Prepare thoroughly as possible, then set it aside. Like a horse show, over preparation can lead to overestimating performance and ability.

While their scores became available while away for the October shows, they resisted in seeing them until very recently (this past Monday). The higher priorities for them were The Nationals in Las Vegas, then celebrating Thanksgiving. Judging by their “eeks” and smiles, they did well.

The three answers –

flash card: optically active molecules, side B

Why are optically active molecules important? Simply, it is all about the molecular geometry for proteins, and for nucleosides and nucleotides (RNA/DNA) in living systems. It is an area of continuing research.

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.

Dreamin’

“Colorado, everywhere I go I’m in your shadow and you’re callin’ to me
Colorado, the sun melts the snow makes the rivers flow to the sea”
from Colorado by Chuck Pyle

Elizabeth: watching the sunset (JN Ranch, Oct 25 2017)

Nothing is finer than being home.

 

Counting: Twenty Two

A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

To be blessed with another beautiful princess was priceless. And, you are that, my baby princess.

Elizabeth: eyes for dad (age 5)

Though you liked the finer things, you were dad’s shadow. You loved to follow wherever he went. In many ways, you continue to accompany him wherever he goes.

When you napped with us, you snuggled ever so close to listen to our hearts beat, to listen to each breath taken. When we hold you close, you continue to listen for our rhythm. Our hearts melt whenever you have left handwritten notes of love for either of us. It is pure sweetness.

There is so much lying ahead of you, with unlimited possibilities. An intelligent and beautiful woman you have become. A successful equestrian, a talented musician. Our perfect baby princess.

Happy 22, baby!

xoxo
mom and dad