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.



“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!

mom and dad

Blizzard Friday

After 2-3 weeks of spring weather, today was a reminder that winter is not quite over yet. Though we had wind-driven rain at the house and a dusting of snow, points northward to Denver and eastward into the plains were having a blizzard this morning. A certain project appointment, however, had to be kept regardless of the weather conditions.

heading into the plains: an icy SH 94 east of Colorado Springs, which closed 15 minutes later

While Deborah and Tara did some homework, Elizabeth made two chocolate pies. She had to make a pressing call, first, to Laurie at work, “where is the baking chocolate?” Of course, Elizabeth had first taste of her chocolate temptation.

Elizabeth’s first word: “tasty”

Not a bad afternoon treat.

“Thank you, princess.”

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before heading home, we stopped at our favorite, small BBQ restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t very crowded. For a change, we got the large picnic table rather than three small tables pulled together. Since it would be Christmas in a few days, more lights were strung in the restaurant. Not exactly Christmas colors, but it made for a more festive setting.

Many of the restaurants, and bar and grills, in Old Colorado City have house bands. Smaller, compared to the larger ones up the street, this restaurant also had its small group of 4-5 musicians. They would perform five or six short sets throughout the night, three times a week. Occasionally, they would also invite smaller bands and artists from around the region to perform. With Christmas coming over the weekend, instead of the weekend performances, the restaurant adjusted their music schedule to Monday and Tuesday evening performances.

When our waitress came around to see how we were doing, Andrea asked where was the music group. The keyboard, two guitars and drum kit were there on the small, corner stage. Sandy, the waitress, said they were out with the flu. “Not the best time to get it with Christmas so close.” Before dessert time, Chris the manager made the rounds checking on her diners. She was pleased to see all of us. Most of the time, it is only myself and the girls on our monthly date night.

late summer combination: BBQ and rock-n-roll on the restaurant patio (Sept 2016)

While Chris knows Elizabeth has won a few singing contests, she doesn’t ask. However, she decided to ask on this night. The worst Elizabeth could have said was “no.” Thinking about it for a few seconds, Elizabeth said she would if mom and dad could play the keyboard and guitar. And, songs of her choosing, no Christmas songs. No Taylor Swift, no Adele. Chris readily agreed.

The Songs

Elizabeth jotted down the titles of the songs she wanted to do. Fortunately, she made it easy for her mom and I – we know these songs quite well. Since winning the karaoke contest last May, in Texas, the Great American Songbook has been playing in her head. On her list, the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs from the 1960s: I Say A Little Prayer For You, Walk On By, and Any Day Now. The other two songs making her list was another Bacharach/David classic This Guy’s In Love With You, and the quintessential American classic, Shenandoah. The latter two songs meant mom and dad would sing too. Deborah, who plays piano beautifully, was glad she wasn’t drafted for the “von Trapp” effort.

It was very much an unplugged set. The centerpiece was Andrea’s a cappella rendition of Shenandoah, which she last did at JR’s funeral mass in 2010 – just as moving and powerful. The other diners enjoyed the set very much. The encore was Anyone Who Had A Heart, a song Elizabeth sent soaring with her voice. Mom loved it.

Our dinner check, Chris picked it up – no charge.


Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote more Top Ten Billboard hits in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s than any other person or team. Bacharach noted, “good song is good song” and will transcend time. He toured last year at age 88, and plans to keep doing so.

Burt Bacharach videos –


Gaining Knowledge

While the layoff from competition has been lengthy, the practice sessions for nationals have continued on a pace my daughters used during their riding season. The sessions have been exacting and thorough as they are crisp and precise. They’ve practiced under the watchful eyes of their instructors, Mark and Trish, taking in their advice and knowledge.

after a workout with Lilith, Elizabeth listens to the advice from Mark’s dad, Pete

When Mark’s dad, Pete, spent two weeks here, earlier this fall, he closely watched the girls practice. A cowboy and wrangler, Pete’s experience and knowledge of horses is considerable. He oversaw the remuda on a working cattle ranch in Texas, where he worked his entire life. Before lending advice, Pete asked both Mark and Trish if he could.

Though some of Pete’s advice and knowledge was what they had already learned, or gained through experience, there were some bits and pieces they were learning for the first time. My girls listened intently to every word.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It is the most anticipated event. BBQ-Karaoke night. The evening is organized as a thank you to the riders and their families. For one night, the competition is set aside for Texas hospitality and the best BBQ.


It began when a few riders gathered on BBQ night to sing their favorites of the moment. A couple years later, it became a signature feature of the evening. The hidden talent was their music backgrounds. The vendors assembled swag bags for them, someone asked if there would be interest if it became a singing contest. Those riders said they would give it try. That was five years ago.

With 165-180 riders regularly attending the show, around 15 signed up for the contest in its first three years. Two years ago, only 11 riders signed up. They gained a 12th rider at check-in time, my daughter, Elizabeth. A smaller contestant group meant a stronger performance was required. And, each gave one. Elizabeth was very surprised when she won. She thought of her performance as sub-standard, saying her voice was a little rough from her perennial battle with seasonal allergies.

The Song

Aiming for her third consecutive win of this contest, this past May, Elizabeth was good-naturedly called the “favorite to win” by her fellow contestants. They were appreciative of her talent. Yet, she saw the challenge it presented – more success brings greater expectations. Elizabeth became a little more nervous when both moms came for the weekend. Moreover, she loves how her mom, Andrea, sings – no one is any better.

This year’s music theme was the “Great American Songbook”. For music aficionados, the selections are many, and the artists who perform them are many as well. Elizabeth fretted about which song she should do, combing through the multi-page list repeatedly. She couldn’t recognize any from the title alone, and too many to search on YouTube. After winning a hunter class late in the afternoon, Elizabeth scanned the list once again. Two pages separated showing another page of possible selections. On the “new” page, she recognized four or five songs immediately. The others, not so much.

A Night In Tuscany

Walking past the Grand Prix ring, many stopped to watch the festival lighting being hung for the night. On a very warm and humid day, it was the only activity that didn’t make you sweat. Most wondered, though, how it would look when dark – intimate or bright. When they came on just before dusk, the lighting had a very intimate feel. Tara called it a night in Tuscany, or at least how it should look there.

In the blind draw, Elizabeth drew #3 out of 16. Though not the best start position, all she had to do was sing her song choice as the showstopper. The song Elizabeth selected was “This House Is Empty Now” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

And, she did sing her heart and emotion out of it. Mom loved it, wiping the tears from her eyes a couple of times.

Elizabeth, call her three-time champion.


Elizabeth used the original Bacharach arrangement of “This House Is Empty Now”. A video, as performed by Dutch singer, Trijnte Oosterhuis, can be found here.

The songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote more Top Ten Billboard hits in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s than any other person or team. Bacharach noted, “a good song is a good song,” and will transcend time. He toured as recently in 2014, at age 86. A medley, from his 2008 tour, can be found here.