A Rider’s Impressions

Written by Elizabeth Ksenia Ramos

The week of everyday practice went well, but we probably could have ridden it better. Though we got off to a non-start with some sketchy winter weather on the first day, we kicked it into gear on the second.

Practice, Day Three: Trish waiting on us (RRC, Mar 26 2017)

Preparing for a season is more than shaking off the rust and losing the bad habits picked up during the off-season. It is about riding with more precision and speed, but also with discipline. While we push ourselves to be better riders, we are careful not to push our horses too hard and ask them to do things they may not be ready to do. Horses, while they aim to please, they, too, need to ease back into the stepped-up pace and difficulty.

The note-taking has been thorough as have our back-and-forth discussions among ourselves and with Trish. She is quite pleased at how well we are riding, and how well our horses have responded to the increased tempo and practice. “You’re showing mid-season form. Can’t ask for anything more.” While her words are very complimentary, Trish knows we have areas that need some work and polishing.

It would be fair to say we accomplished most of the priorities we had set for ourselves. But, it wasn’t all practice. We had a chance to do a few trail rides despite the snow, fog, rain, and wind.

Tara leading the trail ride on a snowy Saturday morning (RRC, Apr 01 2017)

The last practice session of the week was riding the GP qualifier course from the 2016 Las Vegas Nationals. The aim was to ride a faster time than the best time cleanly. Trish had a new class of young, learn-to-ride students (age 5-7) watch our session. Afterwards, we did a Q&A period with the kids. They were great.

Deborah & Comet: in the start area of the GP practice course 1.50 m (RRC, Apr 01 2017)

About the author

Elizabeth Ksenia Ramos will be graduating from the University of Colorado in May (Class of 2017). She will graduate with an ACS certified Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Elizabeth graduated with honors from Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver in 2013.

She is the most decorated equestrian in Rustler Riding Club history, winning Rider of the Year, Horse of the Year and Regulator of the Year awards on multiple occasions. Additionally, she has won multiple blue ribbons, and other placement ribbons, with Mr. Ed, Lilith and SAM: Secret Agent Man.

Ten Days Of Perfection

During the last week of March, the attention of the horse world will be focused on the FEI World Cup in Omaha. It is the pinnacle of equestrian sports.

Instead, my daughters will be focused on their preparations for their 2017 riding season. Who wins, or does not win, in Omaha does not matter. Who rides well, or who didn’t, does not matter. With their season beginning a scant, six weeks later, in mid-May, it is ten days of everyday riding. It is ten days of requiring their best, and more.

Trish and Cameron visiting: “How are you today?”  (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

They prepare like elite professionals. The practice day is very structured, from beginning to end. Attention to detail is an imperative. Critical analysis is essential. While Trish can leave my girls to practice without much supervision, she watches from the sidelines. Like them, Trish, too, has her notepad in which she jots down her observations. After a segment is completed, the four will compare notes. This kind of off-saddle instruction allows them to have additional insight and analysis of their riding technique. The continual learning, including for a rider competing at the highest level, is a must.

warming up: Tara having a hot drink during a break at practice (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

While the practice sessions seem to be intense, they are fairly relaxed. If any mistakes are made, it is better to have them during practice. The repetitive nature of practice is also a good exercise in building patience and composure, and learning more about their equine partners. It is in championship moments when the hard work and staying disciplined make a difference.

If practice is any indicator, my girls are continuing to ride very well. They are riding fast, crisply and with precision, and have said, “better than last season.” They will know how well when they open their season.

Borrowing a line from their favorite rider, Kent Farrington, “Enjoy the process, not just the end result.” And, that is how they ride.

Elizabeth and SAM: kisses before practice (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

One

While much has changed in a year, much has remained the same. The everydayness of life has continued on – working hard, relaxing, a little playing, laughing. She, herself, would admit 2016 was a difficult year. “Yet, you cannot let these instances govern your life,” she would undoubtedly say.

It is exactly one year since my mom passed away. The last few days of her life were long and hard. Simply, you knew her time was very, very short. Only she knew when was when. Both Laurie and Andrea, after long hours at work, would stop by for nearly 30-45 minutes to visit with her and dad.  A little worry had crept into their voices. It was expected since we were talking family.

With her concerns increasing, Laurie consulted with her geriatrics professor from medical school. His advice was sound, “you’re doing well by keeping her comfortable much as possible.” Laurie wished she could do more. When her and Andrea asked if she was okay, mom would always reply, “Yes, I’m okay. I feel fine.” We were pretty sure she was trying to allay our worries and concerns.

In the year since, it has taken some time to adjust. We’ve had our moments when we said, “make a mental note and tell mom later.” Or, the girls saying, “we need to call grandma and tell her what happened.” Then, in a flash, we remember. Moreover, we are glad mom’s passing seems not to have affected dad a great deal. If it has, he’s not telling but we know he misses her much.

While our counting of days phase is largely behind us, mom would be very glad that we have remembered her. Hopefully, she won’t ask if we learned anything from the counting.

Love you, miss you.
xo

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.

Notes

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 –

 

Remembering

By Lauren Westin, MD

Sitting at my desk late last night, tying off the loose ends of the day’s work, it dawned on me it has been two years. It seems like yesterday when David called early that morning saying we needed to talk, and not over the phone. Yet, it does seem to have happened long ago.

In the hectic of Friday’s “everyday busy”, not a thought of mom came to mind – not even the anniversary of her passing. I know she would say it’s time to set it aside. “No more sadness.” Instead, concentrate on your family, concentrate on your patients. She would not expect any less. However, I felt bad at that moment last night. I should have remembered earlier, but I didn’t. Both Andrea and David said I shouldn’t beat myself up over this. They’re right, but I did.

from the one

Tara called her grandpa early this morning and they chatted awhile before heading out to ride with Deborah and Elizabeth. Afterwards, I talked with dad. He said it was okay. Mom is imprinted on all of us, in our thoughts, our deeds and our words. Staying true to your values is remembering and honoring mom to the highest degree.

It was the reaffirmation I needed.

Love you, mom.

Laurie
xo

About the author

Lauren Westin is a practicing trauma surgeon with University of Colorado Health, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She holds certifications in trauma surgery, trauma medicine and microsurgery.

 

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”