The New ‘Carolina LaTorres’ prepare for Florence. Here’s the scoop.

Our new home in the Carolinas has given us sensory pleasures to cause us to wonder if this is a glimpse of heaven. We have hawks playing on the fence line. There are fish jumping in the lake. There are blue tailed lizards playing hide and seek with us. Neighbor horses graze in sight of the kitchen. There are green frogs stuck to the windows in the morning and playing keep away with the dogs. Spider webs that appear overnight are impressive. And there are the people. The most helpful and kind I have yet to meet. I fall deep into stories with everyone I meet and wonder if I will be invited to their child’s christening the next moment because surely we have become inseparable on our life journey. Kira’s new friend at school in her class was also adopted from Uganda! Ali Perkins arrived September first with her Grand Prix horse, Sante. We have our realtor’s loaner horse to keep him company. It’s been great fun preparing for the arrival of our Texas horses. Everything was just about ready when I contacted the shipping company last Friday to confirm their travel plans for this week. He said a word I know well and one that sends alert signals to every nerve ending in my being:

 

Hurricane.

 

As a teen I lived through Alicia in Houston. When we first moved to Katy TX Ike was an unwelcome passerby. And last year our kids, Donny and Kelli were whisked away from Florida from a major storm when who came behind to Texas but, Harvey to Houston. Some friends in Houston are still recovering from this disaster.

 

Florence was unexpected when we decided to move to the Raleigh NC area. I thought we were running away from hurricanes with great joy. I expected to trade the hurricane drama for some winter weather and believe me I was eager for the exchange. Yet, the never before seen in this area storm is heading our way.

 

Here’s our current life circumstance list with this incredible storm:

  • Jack has been in Willis TX (for two weeks) training with Whit Watkins and Erika West where Benson has been since I dropped him off in early August.  He won’t be flying here today as originally planned. He will stay there until it is safe for the horses to ship here.
  • Rudy and Princess Buttercup are in San Antonio and they were supposed to ship out today so their boarding stall has been rented. They had to leave but the shipping company was overwhelmed with hurricane issues to be able to move them to where Jack and Benson are in Northern Houston. (They were supposed to come to texas today)
  • My sweet friend Pam Malley offered to take them up to Houston. I cried when she told me she would do this. Alas, at the last minute her trailer tire was slashed. This after Rudy showed her what a difficult loader really is. She gets a gold star.
  • That’s when Robert Harrison suggested he could try to borrow a rig and he would take them up for me. Thanks to Marci and Tim Taylor for loaning their truck and trailer.
  • I have just heard that Rudy, the naughty loader, is on the trailer and they are on their way to be with Benson and Jack.
  • Thanks also to Job and Julie Lopez for allowing Jack the comfort of their home during these unusual times. He eats a lot so I need to replenish their pantry for sure.
  • Thanks to Jack and Sierra for taking good care of our three horses until which time it is safe for them to travel to North Carolina. Hopefully the shipping company will find us space next week.
  • We have been working on our fences for weeks here at the farm to prepare for the big arrival. They will be done tomorrow but the storm may destroy our investment. Nevemind, John at American Fence Masters told me he will be here with us after the storm to repair everything back to perfect before moving on to the next job. And a contractor stopped by to assure me with his cell number that we can call if we have major damage.
  • And I have to mention at least five people came to our home here today with helping hands to get us ready to house horses in our barn during an unprecedented storm.
  • I’m thankful for Ali Perkins and her no nonsense work ethic. A Maine girl in her first hurricane is quite heroic. Her roommates split and ran but here she is talking about spending the night in the barn with the horses. She has helped with every detail of preparations for the worst case scenarios. She is exceptional in every way and I thank God that she wanted to work with us.

 

We have our chain saw. (still in a box) We have extra gasoline.  We have hay and we have water. We have a generator. We have food. We have our sense of humor. We have a kayak on our front porch to help transport us to our jetskis in a paddock. We have life vests. We have a high elevation for the house and the barn. We have our faith in God firmly rooted to give us the peace that comes when chaos surrounds.

 

We will use facebook to update our situation. We don’t plan to leave the house. The last boxes to be unpacked are our books so we will find plenty to keep us busy. We look forward to the other side of Florence when our horses walk off a trailer and smell the fresh Carolina air and roll in their green fields. We believe God grows us through difficult times and we believe he is a Good God whose love endures forever.

 

Thanks everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragements.

 

P.S. Florence, please make a hair pin turn right and blast into the other storms at sea so no landfall occurs this season. America needs a hurricane reprieve.

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Lessons Learned from Equestrian Season in Wellington FL

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Happy Benson.

Things I learned my first season in Wellington Florida:

  1. I learn the most from a difficult ride.
  2. Dressage trainers are welcoming and generous towards the up and coming youth.
  3. I can live with less. Much less.
  4. We are never too good to muck a stall.
  5. Love the one I am with.
  6. Only memorize quality riding, and have a kind eye towards a learning rider.
  7. There will always be barn drama. Handle lightly at a great distance.
  8. The horse will hold a mirror to my strengths and weaknesses. I can hide nothing from him. Take those lessons and be a better human.
  9. Be content. There are others with more, resist coveting.
  10. Be positive. Celebrate the progress in the journey towards improved riding and horsemanship.
  11. Be a thinking rider with a sharp brain and a relaxed body.
  12. Choose to be confident and calm at every mounting block.
  13. Take walk breaks in the arena and in life.
  14. Make rider and horse fitness a priority.
  15. Observe the horse carefully to make sure something isn’t hurting. Don’t be quick to blame the riding if performance declines.
  16. Ride to improve the quality of the gaits, the throughness, the suppleness, and the responsiveness. Don’t ride for a score.
  17. Be playful with my equine partner.
  18. Cross train with variety in the training schedule to keep him inspired and happy.
  19. Don’t work harder than my horse, let him carry me and remind him to do so with a whisper.
  20. Express relentless gratitude. To your horse, trainer,  barn mates,  vets, supporters, the  farrier and the grooms.

Wellington: Total Immersion

In Wellington we are surrounded by horse talk, activity, events and celebrity. The stimulation is total immersion in a similar way a language student would travel to France to improve the practice of French. There are nonstop discussions of arena footing, saddle fit, veterinary procedures, equine nutrition, riding technique, rider fitness, show preparations and of course equestrian fashion. This immersion literally never stops. This is why we made the long journey from Texas to Florida. I have soaked it up and loved it.

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Jack has had great fun this season helping Annie prepare her freestyle for her CDI.

We have a few final weeks before we head home and the season wraps up. I take a pause and list how this experience has changed my horsemanship. I also carefully assess what final goals I have to accomplish before wrapping up our first Wellington experience.

 

We weren’t sure what to expect exactly as we planned for this trip. We knew the training would be intense but we also assumed there would be more showing on the schedule. Jack did a national show a couple weeks ago for his first time at Global Dressage and the experience was a breeze. In Texas we have to pack up the trailer, haul three hours, and take three days at the show grounds. But here, he tacked up in the stall, dressed at the barn, and walked his show ready horse to the show in a ten minute hack prior to warming up and going down centerline. That was so easy! Now I wonder why we didn’t sign up for more tests.

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We had the great privilege to visit Catherine Haddad’s training barn and learn from her expertise.

There are twelve CDIs in this season and these shows are a bigger commitment. These shows are international qualifiers so horses are required to stable for four days and they are kept in quarantine and under surveillance at all times. Only approved people have access to the stable and horses are not free to leave once they are checked in. This is to insure all rules for competition are enforced. The judging is also more intense for the CDIs. The riders show in the main arena and it can all be either wonderfully exciting or terribly intimidating. Jack signed up to do the final CDI of the season before we go home to Texas.

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We also enjoyed a learning day with Lisa Wilcox as she shared how her saddle maker and chiropractor help her horses be better athletes.

We are looking forward to this experience and after almost four months of training here he feels ready to compete at this level. I find coming to Wellington for the training is totally fulfilling. I don’t think anyone should ever feel pressured to show just because it is Wellington.  But if showing is your thing there is one every weekend. I love it when I have an extra hour between appointments and I can drop by Global and watch a class go down centerline.

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It is still quite amazing for me to comprehend what care is required for a dressage horse to be show ready and at their peak performance. We are constantly working with Benson to help him feel his best for this work. For all the behind the scenes care it requires for a dressage horse to do the upper level work it is seriously a miracle when they deliver excellence. I wonder what the ratio is for how many grand prix horses there are in the world to how many that couldn’t make it that far. My guess is it would resemble one bucket of sand to an entire beach.

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Sometimes we escape to the beach.

Dressage horses remind me so much of ballet dancers. There are so few who are built to perform at the principal level in the top companies of the world. They are just marvels of nature to see move and the beauty in motion is stunning, truly breathtaking. That’s how it feels to see a Grand Prix horse float on air through the difficult movements in an arena. A decade of intense teamwork and attention to detail brings a horse this far.

The more I learn about this sport the more I stand in awe when I see it done well. It is nearly impossible to achieve. So many things can go wrong on the journey towards grand prix even if you have the knowledgeable trainer and educated rider. I often wonder why do we go to this extreme. But I am a rider and I know the unique experience that is intimate and sacred between horse and rider when it all comes together and oneness in motion is achieved. It’s an experience I had to feel to know, but once I did, it’s a hook that won’t ever set me free. I’m surrendered to it. I am so in awe of how I view God’s hand in creating the potential for discovery within a horse. The life lessons available to learn with horses are incredible and I believe God put them there for our human development. Daily we enjoy the millions of learning moments that lead up to the few minutes in the arena.

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The total immersion in Wellington horse culture really is a season for a reason. At first I thought I will never want to leave! But now I have soaked up as much as I can take and it is time to let it all be absorbed and practiced. We’ll keep what we have learned and make it become who we are as riders for the next eight months until we come back and do it all over again.  We are ready for the comforts of home.

 

Finding the Path to Excellent Dressage

Here we are in the final month of the Winter Intensive Training program with Lendon Gray. We have learned so much in a short time and now we look at what we need to learn before we head home. Lendon is so respected in this sport because she provides a quality foundation to young riders who hope to climb to the top. Not only is she an Olympian, she raised an Olympian and others like Mica Mabragana who went on to qualify for WEG and compete in the Pan Am games. Learning to do dressage is not an easy path to find. You need a flash light (intelligence), a pack of guard dogs (to chase away the false horse advice)  along with a few miracles to find the way.

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I took my first horseback riding lesson was when I was forty-four years old.  I felt so disrespected by the instructor. She barely looked at me. She told me a few things in her bored voice and spent most of the time talking with someone on the rail.  She made me feel insignificant and stupid, and then she took my thirty dollars for the half hour. I wonder if she would have treated me that way if she knew I had been waiting most of my life to begin to learn about horses.  By my third lesson at that barn, I found Sandee Slattery who respected my interest in learning. And she met my desire to know with her enthusiasm to share her knowledge and we had fun together for a few months until she moved away.

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Fitness team work!

When I wanted to learn to ride I didn’t even know what dressage was. When I got a whiff of it, I was intimidated. Isn’t that only for professionals? It was daunting so I didn’t pursue it outright. When I moved barns though, I landed quite by accident in the hands of a dressage instructor. (did I mention miracles?)  I fell in love with the depth of understanding a rider can have with a horse and dressage became my passion. However, she reminded me for many years, “you are not doing dressage, you are learning the basics of riding.” This sport will keep us humble. I’ll never forget the day she proclaimed during my lesson, “now that is dressage.” I was so proud.

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Chinese Jump Rope

It is easier to learn to do something correctly than it is to break a habit and relearn a new way. I know this from when I was a dancer. If I learned a routine and the choreographer changed it then learning the altered way was so much harder to remember. So when I set out to learn dressage I wanted to make sure I was developing correct habits for riding. I don’t want to find out I have to re-do my foundation.  It is nearly impossible as a beginner rider to know what is correct riding. We are vulnerable and fresh and we will trust anyone who can stay on a horse. Where do you go to learn effective riding basics that can be built upon rather than torn down and forced to rebuild? It takes outrageous amounts of time, a knowledgeable instructor, and a saint of a horse to learn to ride. All three are difficult to find.

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Hack day is so relaxed and fun.

Germany has an excellent system for qualifying riding instructors. Not just anyone with the desire to be a trainer can call themselves one over there. Unfortunately, anyone in America with some grit, confidence, and a website can find clients. USDF has a great instructor trainer program. I hope more trainers get certified with USDF and new clients search for these credentials.

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Birthday Girl with her Pony and a mouth full of powdered doughnuts.

Some people are better at training a horse, some are simply excellent riders and can feel and adapt to any horse, others are fantastic in the show ring, and others can explain clearly and teach with great effectiveness. Some horse people are not so adept at working with humans. Not everyone can be all these things. How is a new student able to navigate their way towards a quality education when the standards are so open ended?

 

Learning to ride is an intimate affair between instructor, rider and horse. The skills have to be developed alongside confidence and courage. The instructor needs to foster all three and that costs more than they can charge. I know I drove Renee crazy for many years as I pursued learning to ride. I bet she often hoped I would quit and leave her at peace. During the times when I had been scared by one bolt, buck or another, it would take me weeks if not months to regain confidence. Determination is my word and so I would not give up. Thankfully neither did she. I feel like I owe her so much for walking that path with me. Now that I have a good foundation for riding I can go up the levels and believe in my abilities. Honestly, developing my foundation in dressage, is one of the hardest earned accomplishments I have ever done in my life. I have a happy marriage of 28 years.  I have a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan. We have five kids. I moved with them eleven times. I started a nonprofit for orphans in Uganda and an NGO in Uganda. Next to those achievements, dressage was the biggest challenge, and that’s probably why I love it so much. It is not easy to pick up dressage in your mid-forties and persevere through it.

I believe dressage is an art and it lives in the people who have practiced it to excellent standards and achievement. We need those talented individuals to share what they know with us so it can be passed on to generations behind us. I sense an urgency in preserving this art form.

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Balance on the pods and carry an egg in a spoon.

So, I applaud the work that Lendon Gray does for the future of dressage with her nonprofit, Dressage 4 Kids. She knows if she can educate the youth in this art form and sport with quality knowledge, providing a firm foundation to build upon, then the future of dressage is more secure. She is keen to spark interest from other professionals to share their knowledge and expertise with the youth. And from what we have experienced here in Wellington countless professionals in dressage are willing to help raise up the youth and promote quality dressage.

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I hope more parents will look into her program. She doesn’t just teach riding lessons she works hard to educate students about all horse related topics with guest lectures. She requires self-care for the horses during this Wellington program. Participants take fitness classes six times a week specifically aimed to improve riding skills. And there are written theory tests every week. What she doesn’t require is that you go show, or have any of those USDF dressage medals. It’s the content of your character and your work ethic that create success.

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a future WIT candidate.

Would I recommend this WIT program to dressage students considering making the big sacrifice of funds and time? Absolutely. Will it be easy? No. Is it worth it? You bet it is.

What would it be like to live in Wellington?

It’s a tight schedule at Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Program. After the fitness class the riders get busy preparing for their lessons. I often have a gap of time before Jack has to ride so I take my bicycle out of the bed of my truck and tour the neighborhoods of Wellington. There are paths all over the “village”. It’s fun to see through the enormous iron gates elegant dressage horses floating in a perfect grand prix frame in their front yard arenas. Occasionally, I see polo practice, or jumpers perched out of their saddle making tight turns aiming for a jump. I can’t count how many hackers are on the trails enjoying the fresh morning, or dressed in their whites on the way to a show. It’s amusing to see someone cantering along a path beside a road. I lament the riders, mounted, and heads tipped towards their phones, not even looking where they are going. (the emergency room if they don’t get smart.) There’s something about seeing others taking a walk in the neighborhood on their horse that creates an itch in me I search to satisfy.

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The front gate. Nice.

I try to imagine living in a community unique as Wellington. The whole village of Wellington is small enough for me to ambitiously bike anywhere. (and I do.) There are neighborhoods with “normal” houses without horse facilities. But I am captured whole by the neighborhoods with two or more acre lots efficiently designed to fit five paddocks, a barn, an arena, and a nice house connected to the 57 miles of trails. That is the order in which I would prioritize the suitability of my real estate search. Horses grazing in paddocks, barns alive with activity, and arenas freshly dragged and ready for some lofty trotting. Friends exit the driveway and meet on the paths to hack together and give their equine friend a change of scenery and some break from the arena work.

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The colored lines are horse trails.

I haven’t seen a hitching post at any of the local convenience stores. That’s because this place is posh, there are grooms to take the horses while the riders zip over in their sports cars to do errands or lunch. That’s not appealing to me. I only desire to be steps away from caring for my horses and working in the barn. I have an old standard jeep to do errands if Amazon can’t deliver. Mostly I love to take my bike wherever possible. When I realized this was possible here in Wellington, I approached my husband with “those” eyes and suggested we should retire here. Please. Pretty please. I’ll do anything for you to say yes.

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After a long day enjoying horse activity in the WIT barn with Jack and Mica’s barn with our other two horses I’m too tired to concentrate or move another muscle. But I’m not too tired to do an internet search of the equestrian properties for sale. We have moved eleven times all over this country and to the UK in our 28 years of marriage, so understanding local real estate is something I do when I’m a visitor.  Can you imagine there are over thirty properties in Wellington that cost between ten million and thirty-four million dollars? It’s unreal. Way down the list I compare value for what we can buy at home and my head shakes in disbelief. Nevertheless, I find some interesting homes and I jot them down so the next morning I can ride my bike past them. It’s just how I get to know a community.

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It’s possible to show every week and walk over to the show grounds in your whites.

The weather, the horse amenities, excellent trainers, farriers and equine vets, tack shops, feed stores, horse trails, the accessibility by bicycle to local errands, and friends who enjoy the same activities all sums up to the way I would love to spend my days. Sigh. I’m not saying I experience discontent with my home set up, I have just entered a world that couldn’t be better designed for the way I wish to use these precious days God gives us on this earth. I’m thinking life is too short to live a half hour drive away from my horses.

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At Pierson Rd. and Southshore you stop for horse crossing.

If anything were possible I’d pick a modest property in a great area here in Wellington, keep Kira in the Ideal School of Leadership where she attends and not look back. But I’m patient and I’m flexible. And I trust God has the exact right place for us just waiting. When we retire, Wellington here we come. Until then, the door is open to winter here for the season. But first we still have six more weeks of 2018 to enjoy in Sunny Welly World before we head home to San Antonio, TX.

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The Horse took my Pedicure.

Equestrian Mondays here are meant to be our day off, but I am quickly learning that’s not a free day to visit the beach. I’ve tried for eight weeks to get a pedicure on a Monday and failed every time. We organize and prepare for the next busy week! We meet the farrier, the vets, and make sure our supplies are topped up. There’s no fitness class, lecture or riding lessons, but plenty of barn work and horse care. No one complains. Truth is, the barn is where we want to be.

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These two. That’s love.

 

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Benson and our farrier having his new shoes made.

 

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Thanks for my new shoes mom, sorry you missed your pedicure because of mine.

On Tuesdays we often have the privilege of visiting a prestigious farm. This week we were invited to Mikala Munter (Gundersen)’s farm. She rode three horses for us and demonstrated her approach to bringing out the best in each horse. She admitted that the showing is necessary but her true joy and passion is what she called, “dressage nerding” as she delves into the mysteries of her horses to bring out their very best qualities. After watching her work the word, “patient” came to mind over and over. One of the best benefits of being here in Wellington is we get to see excellent riding and exceptional horses everywhere we go. I remember Whit Watkins teaching us to be very careful about what we let ourselves watch and to only study good riding. This is so easy to do here.

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Mikala Munter’s up and coming star “Salsa Hit”

This horse is the precious project of Mikala’s. He has history with a sore back so he has his own Physiotherapist who works with him for two hours a day to help him be able to use his back better and to build the necessary strength. His therapist, Klaus from Denmark, was most interesting as he demonstrated the routine of preparing Salsa for his rides with Mikala. I learned about the use of equibands, Franklin balls, stick massage, hand jogging together for a 5k now and then for fun, and creative lunging techniques with therapy bands. He was fascinating. And the horse was clearly devoted to his every move.

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Thankful for the visit with Mikala Munter at her beautiful barn as she demonstrated her riding program with three of her horses.

After spending the mornings at Hampton Green with the WIT program I go to Mica’s barn to spend the afternoon with Rudy and Princess Buttercup. My brain is sweating the most as I try to retrain it to respond correctly with the use of my riding aids. The riding coordination complexity I’m working to master is similar to writing the alphabet with my toes as I use sign language with my hands at the same time. As difficult as it can be to learn to ride better each and every day I can say I feel the progress. There are ups and downs but over all I’m not disappointed. (I have ridiculously high standards for myself. Classic over achiever.) I make sure to take a ride each week to practice and test myself to be sure I can put it together without Mica in my ear. I might not get it perfect, but I really enjoy the freedom of riding my Rudy and feeling him with me more and more. I will never lose my awe for the intimate nature of communicating with my horse as we ride together. If I tweak my outside hand and nudge my inside heel he understands I want him to stand up taller. That’s just amazing and only one word in the language of riding. I hope I can be fluent some day.

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Kira and Princess Buttercup are back to work. Butter cup had a bone bruise on her hind left ankle which took a couple weeks to heal but she’s great now!

I think we should look out for this young equestrian lady, Kira LaTorre. She has a beautiful seat and a can do attitude. She will be eight next week and likes to remind us that Jack wasn’t even riding when he was eight. I think she’ll be a jumper. I have a rule though, she has to pass the training level test three before she can be a jumper. (And one dressage lesson a week no matter what.) God help us all if she chooses eventing.

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That is Lisa Wilcox. Gasp. I spend every afternoon observing her ride and teach Mica. I still pinch myself to make sure this is real.

Mica has gone into full training with Lisa Wilcox, Olympic silver medalist in dressage. I try my best not to miss one of her lessons. I am learning about the process of training she learned while living and working in Europe. She follows the classic disciplines and I confess I’m a complete nerd about reading the classic dressage theories. Lisa is just stunning. When I was a young girl I studied ballerinas so I could dance like them. Now, I study Lisa because I want to ride like her. She has this presence of absolute confidence. Her position is flawless (on purpose) and what she can get a horse to do is inspiring. Every. Single. Day. I’ll be satisfied to get 3% of what she can do into my own abilities.

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Morning Mist and Horses. This must be heaven.

Flexible Goals

It’s not easy to plan with horses. We can set some goals but it’s best to have them loosely attached to any sort of time line. It’s wise if we can develop flexibility to stop and drop what we thought we were going to do and shift to a new direction on the spot. If we can do that without emotion, even better.

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Jack and Benson standing for their portrait.

There have been a few fevers spreading around the barn for a couple weeks. There have been sore backs, bone bruises and colon ulcers. Expensive show entries had to be cancelled and funds forfeited. This pony is off, that horse is agitated and some are tired. Others are completely unaffected and ready for more work. Summer sores have declared war. The fungus is among us. There’s an occasional colic symptom and everyone goes on high alert. A rider is on crutches. A shoe has been thrown and work cancelled until the farrier can arrive. It is always something.

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Kira and I enjoy some traill rides together

So we make loose goals and try to keep our focus on our purpose. What is the purpose? It’s good to know the answer to that question when the work comes to a halt. Our relationship with our horse is not just the riding. We are responsible for their overall wellbeing at all times and it can change in a breath. He didn’t beg us to bring him to Wellington where there is a greater concentration of horses than anywhere. He doesn’t care what we spent or sacrificed to get him here either. He only knows right now. He either feels great or he hurts. He’s simple, and we should be too.

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We couldn’t resist a visit with the minis.

What we hope for the most is that our horse feels good in his body and enjoys the riding relationship. Our job as rider is to be sure he feels his best, and offer him enough variety in the work that he doesn’t resent the saddle the moment he sees it. We must take on the help of a variety of professionals to help us interpret how he is feeling by how he moves, responds to touch, and has improved or declined in his work. It often takes an objective eye because the change can happen so gradually it is hard to perceive and register accurately. Hopefully the riding can culminate into an opportunity to go show and compete. But that’s not such a predictable opportunity.

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Mica riding Rudy in the field. He is looking and feeling fantastic. I am still trying to figure out how to ride him as well as she does.

When the riding takes a pause, we realize what we take for granted. We reacquaint ourselves with the deep love and care we have for our equine friend. We commit to helping him in any possible way to feel his best. Some of the WIT riders have spent the night in the stable taking temperatures on the hour. Some spend their entire day off with the vet, or hand walking frequently for stocked up legs.

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Jack and Benson

I was attracted to dressage as a discipline for horses because if it is done correctly it strengthens the horse to carry the rider in a way that is balanced without breaking him down. Their bodies usually last longer than jumpers or barrel racers. Sometimes though I can’t help but worry that we ask more than we should and for what? A score? Bragging rights? Proof we can ride? A place on the podium? Attention? Ego.

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I am so thankful to be able to share this experience with Jack and Kira.

I evaluate my ambition and motives daily in regards to our horses. It is too easy to get carried away with goals and ambitions then find the horse has suffered because of it. It makes me sick to see someone riding and pushing a horse that is clearly hurting. I can hardly watch when a horse is drilled, worked, and pushed long past a time that is fair, and then back at it day after day. For what? Our sense of perfection?

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And that happens.

There is a balance of good strength building work that develops skill against the overwork that breaks a horse. It takes a knowledgeable team of professionals to help keep us on the path that is best for our horse, but not necessarily best for our goals. I was with a new friend, Erika-West Danque, Friday night at the Freestyles and she said it best, “I love my horses more than I love showing them.” I will bring my equine friends to her barn any day, because I do too.