Riding: The Nationals

Beginning their season on the world stage, they are ending their season on the world stage.

graphic courtesy of Blenheim EquiSports

They are the Nationals in Las Vegas. Part of the World Cup tour, the CSI4* rated show is the most important show of their season. The stage is larger. The expectations are greater. The anticipation higher. The field of riders they are competing with, in the World Cup qualifier, are among the best professionals in the world. Yet, “it is no different from any other show,” my daughters have said. “It is about riding, giving your best.”

“A rider must fully trust themselves and their horse,” Trish says of competing at this level. Having competed on the world stage herself, Trish speaks from experience. “The girls, they can compete with anyone. They have the intangibles.” With no guarantee of success, “they are unafraid,” Trish adds. “Count them among the best in the world.”

training day sunset: quiet moment between Tara and Cameron (RRC, Oct 27 2018)

They are ready. Their horses are ready.

Ride now, ride forever


Colorado In Fall: Coming Home

A warm hearth awaits, along with stories and tales to be told.

Dino and Pebbles were first, when they were baby kittens in 1989. Then, it was Egypt in 2005. On the equine front, Cara and Magician came in 2003. There’s something about October, something about the fall season, when it is time to come home.

Soon, another October addition will come.

Tara riding then two-year old Shelby (Double N Ranch, TX – May 2016)

Shelby is destined be Tara’s future show jumping horse. In the two years since Tara’s first ride with Shelby, the paint has undergone a growth spurt and now stands at 17.3 hands tall. At four years old, Nicole says he’s going to be a talented one. Shelby is jumping at the one meter level. Nicole believes his time has arrived to learn and develop with a talented rider. For Tara, Shelby reminds her so much of Jasper.

With Shelby, Tara notes, “Second chances rarely come. We’re going to make a good run at being the best.”

Twenty Three

A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

Oh, how my heart skipped when I learned you were conceived. It was pure joy, to know another babe was on the way. I asked dad, “Girl or boy?” His answer came easily. “Girl. They are sweeter and finer.” Such a sweet, kind answer.

shaded yet bright: Elizabeth flashing eyes and earrings (age 5)

Our second princess, Elizabeth, is twenty three. Dad and I are so proud of who you have become. Gorgeous, inquisitive, talented. We so love how close you are with Deborah. And, with Tara. A heart full of love.

The chapter you’ve just begun will prove to be most challenging of your life. Dad and I know you will give your best effort, learning and perfecting your skills. Whatever your life’s work may be – physician, rancher or equestrian – you will be successful.

kindred spirits: Elizabeth and Lilith on an autumn walk (JN Ranch, October 2016)

Another beautiful princess, we are so blest. A princess who still slips us love notes and listens to our hearts flutter with love.

My perfect princess, your dad’s perfect princess.

Happy 23, baby!

mom and dad

The First Week


The determination is the same. The scrutiny is the same. Proving themselves, no sweat. The gear, the tools, are different. Welcome to medical school.

My daughters began their first week of classes on Monday. While a few of their classmates wore their white coats, they did not. They would describe themselves as still being very new to the regimen, a while from white coat time. It is understandable. In their backpacks, though, are their stethoscopes and diagnostic kits. The girls have described the first week as fast paced and detailed. “Not quite thrown into the fire, but close enough.”

They’ll be home most weekends, riding and staying sharp on the saddle. And, have some downtime.

downtime ride: Tara and Brie having fun

Sonrisa de Santa Fe

If you’ve visited Andalusia, festivals and ferías are the norm during the summer months. The sonrisa weeks are many. Generally, the ferías are connected to celebrating patron saints while the festivals are more connected to celebrating the regional culture like dance and music. On most evenings, it is not uncommon to find a sevillanas parade. In Seville, the annual exhibition featuring the Andalusian PRE draws many horse aficionados. The stallions and mares, very striking. The foals, off-the-scale cuteness.

A few of the traditions carried over to the New World. The festivals and ferías were fewer but incorporating traditions from the native cultures – Native American Indian, Aztec, Mayan and Incan. Horses made an impression in the American Southwest, particularly in the northward migration of Spanish missions into California, New Mexico and Texas. Equine bloodlines, from PRE thoroughbreds to quarterhorse to pack, were highly valued.

The revival of equestrian sports in New Mexico has included adding some of the festive sonrisa traditions. It may not be Seville, but the influence and atmosphere is undeniable.

equestrian review: Simeon Krestrel, Sonrisa de Santa Fe (Jul 2018)

When EquiCenter de Santa Fe closed their doors in 2009, it seemed equine sports in Santa Fe, and New Mexico, was finished forever. The fallout from the 2007-08 economic downturn was devastating. Riders were leaving the sport in droves, often selling their horses at “best offer” rates. So few competed in 2008, many sponsors left for other venues. Those riders who chose to compete opted to ride in Colorado where the equestrian scene had more stability.

Guy McElvain and his business partner, Brian Gonzales, entered a bid to buy the bankrupt equestrian center. Brian’s wife, Phyllis, had the more difficult task of rebuilding the thin equestrian ranks in New Mexico, and attracting riders from elsewhere to give the Grand Prix de Santa Fe another chance. Sponsors were initially, and rightfully, reticent. To change minds, they had to bring perspective, knowledge and expertise to the table. Guy, a respected adult-amateur rider, businessman and horse rancher. Phyllis, an experienced horse show planner and organizer. Brian, respected businessman and avid horseman. Also, their deep community and familial ties in Santa Fe aided in attracting investors and sponsorships.

After six years of planning and work, August 2015 signaled their new beginning with two shows, Sonrisa Week and the Grand Prix de Santa Fe, at the renamed equicenter, HIPICO Santa Fe. The two, smaller A-rated shows did well enough to expand the two shows into a four-show summer series in July and August 2016. Though overlapping with the Summer In The Rockies series in the Denver area, there are differences. The Summer In The Rockies series feature the large AA-rated shows, with the ability to attract riders, including top amateurs and professionals, from across the nation. The Santa Fe series with smaller A-rated shows, similarly aims to attract top amateurs, and possibly a few professionals. The difference maker, the uniquely Santa Fe atmosphere against a majestic southwest backdrop.

Invited since 2015, my daughters have struggled fitting the Santa Fe shows into their show schedule. A choice had to be made: compete with some of the best talent on the AA-circuit in Iowa or compete in a series in the process of regaining their footing in the equestrian world. The choice was easy, Iowa. Phyllis understood emerging talent riders need to compete with increasingly better talent to move to the next level.

With an already tight calendar, my girls committed to riding a private charity invitational over the Labor Day Weekend. In making the commitment, they also added Sonrisa Week to their show schedule, and tightening their calendar further.

USHJA Hunter Derby: Marianne, fellow RRC member, on the course (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

warm-up session: Tara and Candace before the USHJA hunter derby (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

During the mixer on opening night, Phyllis acknowledged several top amateurs riding Sonrisa Week – including a few she had been wooing for 2-3 years. After introducing the new faces that arrived during the day, Phyllis invited them to say a few words, if they had any. Elizabeth raised her hand. “We had wanted to come here for awhile, and we finally made it,” she began. “Someone said this could be the beginning of a tremendous legacy.” Pausing for the brief applause, Elizabeth finished, “I think that’s what you said, Brian.” He nodded yes to much laughter in the tent. “May everyone ride their best and ride well.”

The girls rode extremely well, continuing their incredible run this season.

NOTE: If you haven’t experienced an A-rated hunter/jumper show, please watch the video found here.


Transition: Orientation Week 2

The second week of the orientation process was proving to be busy, and one with great anticipation.

It began with advanced first aid instruction, focusing primarily on CPR/AEHD training, the Heimlich maneuver, and trauma. Upon completion of the two-day course, the new students would receive certification. They would be able to provide limited aid pending the arrival of emergency responders or medical personnel.

The students were broken into groups to facilitate the hands-on teaching. Each student had their own “patient” and automatic emergency heart defibrillator (AEHD). “A little stiff, a little silent,” Tara said very seriously. “Plenty creepy with the plastic wrap over his mouth.” Deborah and Elizabeth tried not to laugh; so did a few others in their group. Mike the nurse, their course instructor, teased even further. “We need a chaperone here. Anyone?”

demo: Mike showing how to perform CPR on “Stiff Steve” attached to an AEHD
photo credit: Deborah    camera: Blackberry Classic

While AEHD devices have a “PlaySkool” toy appearance, it is to convey its simplicity of design and ease of use. It has made their availability in public spaces more practical and widespread. However, the device is not a substitute for CPR, nor a substitute for CPR training. The device is used in combination with CPR for those in cardiac arrest. Should the device fail to detect a heart rhythm after discharging a shock, CPR is continued. “It’ll be awhile before you get to use one of those,” Mike said pointing at the crash cart.

at the ready: fully prepared crash cart
photo credit: Deborah    camera: Blackberry Classic

After lunch, attention was turned to “Casual Cal” to learn the Heimlich. Cal is a full-sized, male medical mannequin used in a variety of instructional settings. “Fortunately, Cal is much lighter in weight and can be handled much more easily than your typical adult male,” Mike said by way of introduction. “Cal’s redeeming quality, he won’t be spitting up any food or liquids while he’s with us for the afternoon. He had a very light lunch.”

The second day of class was learning about various trauma situations, especially shock and seizure type situations. In many instances, it is more about keeping the patient stable and still much as possible, and be more observant in detail. While observation is a key aspect of first aid, having more specific information on the patient for emergency responders and medical personnel is likely to lead to a better outcome.

The orientation week concluded with the White Coat Ceremony. At the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the ceremony is a formal recognition and acceptance of the new students as medical students. The new medical students received a waist-length white coat, with the embroidered University of Colorado Health logo. They also received a pair of pins, one from UC Health and the other from the University of Colorado.

What made the ceremony extra special, Andrea, was asked to offer her remarks to the new class. A senior-ranking nurse in the UC Health system, Andrea told them it is important to remember why they have chosen the medical profession. “It is to heal. First, last, always. Don’t have the solution, find it. Have the solution, share it. It defines who we are in the profession.” Not a sound could be heard in the quiet auditorium. “My last piece of advice, make sure you don’t spill anything on your white coats at the reception. May God bless you all.”

refreshment station: one of the cookie-and-brownie stations

With two and a half weeks to the first day of class, it is a few days of fun. For Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara, it is back on the saddle, and a new horse show.

Transition: Orientation Week 1

They have traveled this road before – full-time students, full-time riders.

These were the first steps into the next part of their journeys. An excitement could be sensed. Making a good, first impression too. “No pressure here,” Elizabeth said with a smile. The girls, though, have found their transition between show ring and classroom to be very straightforward. They have noted, “the demands are roughly the same. It’s doing your best in both settings.”

For the girls, and the other new students, it was a week of pre-enrollment tasks at med school. The first two days consisted of completing administrative tasks. The first day included submitting the final collection of requested background materials and filling out more forms. The second day was each new student verifying the accuracy and completeness of their personal file. It may be a wired world, but much remains the same. Paper is the backbone of administrative files. The student files, primarily containing restricted, confidential information, a paper reference copy must be archived with its limited-use release. The high-point of the two days was having their photos taken for their IDs.

classroom notes: learning first aid

The third and fourth days was devoted to basic first aid training. While the new students all have a measure of first aid training, it is likely of varying degrees. The aim was to have them all on the same level. First, proficient at the basic level, then certified at the advanced level.

Next week, advanced first aid certification and a walking tour of the medical school complex.