Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who said tomorrow never comes?

Its evening time now and I am trying to wrap my mind around what the next twenty four hours will hold for me. In plain English here’s what I am talking about. Tomorrow is my last day at the job I have had for two years and three months. It’s a job that at times I have considered myself the luckiest woman in the world to have. At other moments however, the grasp the job has had on me has been as strong and demonic as Charon’s hand. Yet somewhere between the two sensations has existed a mostly happy medium. And through my time there I have been inordinately blessed to experience the lives and progress of many of our 18 equines.

Most people who know me from out hunting know me as the girl/woman who rides the really big grey Irish horse. That would be Bode who was mentioned in a blog entry a few days ago. He has most assuredly been the highlight of the past two years. I don’t know how best to explain the bond between him and I, it’s just very strong. I will be the first to admit that about a year and a half into the job I wanted out, but I couldn’t bear to part from Bode, so I stayed. I’m not wholly sure why I am any more ready to leave him now, but my heart says it’ll be ok. That being said I have cried the last 3 times I have ridden him. I’m a sap, and I need to emphasize this. I can cry at the drop of a hat. But in the past week the tears have been coming more frequently.

It is the time to move on, hopefully to bigger and better things. The job doesn’t need me, nor do the horses, the farm, or my employers. I will undoubtedly miss almost everything about the place. Maybe I won’t miss weeding the ring in the summer, nor cleaning sheaths on 13 geldings and the days of hiking through 3 feet of snow to feed everyone, might be ok to leave behind. You all know this moment though: Can I actually be leaving the only thing I have done for the last two years?

The answer is “yes.” But the moments between conceptualizing it and actually doing it are not always the easiest to make yourself believe in the new reality. The most common metaphor for these situations is to relate it to a toddler taking its first steps, or a child going to their first day of school. We all accept with our grown up knowledge that the end results of these two hallmark moments will be success and more forward progress through life. But when you are that toddler, or the kindergartner you can’t see the forest for the trees. You’re surrounded by fear, the unknowns and just a general uneasiness at cutting that first new path through life’s meadow. You push down each clump of turf feeling the squish beneath your weight, not knowing that years ahead the grass will be no more and a worn dirt base will be your own Moses moment as you part the grass sea.

Each step we take forward on life’s path allows us to go towards what we hope for. Each gaze we steal at the past a totally normal reaction as we once again leave the ‘knowns’ of the comfort zone and go into the new territory. I won’t lie to anyone, I am scared. I know this job, these animals and nearly every inch of the farm like the back of my hand. The only thing that gives me comfort is the fact that I have done the best I could. Sure as the days are long I wish I could have changed some things that happened. But regret and failure do not pollute my mind. No, my mind carries with it the best moments of days spent with hounds, lonely walks through glorious woods, and the quiet times that I simply stood with these lovely animals and thanked them for allowing me into their world.

Tomorrow will come. My size ten boots will again trample some roots and push asunder the innocent blades beneath me so that my life journey can carry forward. And in this moment I will think of a quote from an article title from decades ago…

“Take only memories, leave only hoofprints.”


Sunday, March 28, 2010

A day of karma and simple life lessons

Gosh, don’t you just love the days when karma, the fates and timing works out!!!! I know I do and today was one of those days. But I am probably confusing all of you, so let me back track and explain the details so we’re all on the same virtual page!!

So the first thing I should clarify is what I do for a living. I work on a horse farm as the ‘do it all’ girl. I ride, tack, muck, turn out, bring in, wash, get their food and bedding ordered, help organize whatever needs organizing and feed in the afternoons off the back of an ATV. We have 18 equines on the 150 acre property. Of those, 12 have been in work, being ridden etc, at some point. Currently we are in the last few days of the foxhunting season so only six of our eight established hunters are in work. Yesterday we had some guests in from New England and of those six; I prepped five to go out hunting. I did not ride with the hunt yesterday as we simply didn’t have any ready to go for me as well, but I usually do hunt most of the season. (We had hunted some Thursday as well, and have another hunt Tuesday. So the hunt schedule must be judicious) Yesterday, given all that had to be done, was a very long day. Eleven hours at work. Why? Because besides cleaning 3 white/grey horses who live outside, with quik silver scrubs and getting everyone ready and then taken care of after, we had today to look forward to. What happened today???

Well today was part two of what we do. Occasionally my boss trains some of her own horses to run in steeplechase or timber races. So today was our home fox hunt’s point to point races. Now unlike the Virginia folks, we have point to points with only timber races and flat races. No hurdle races here.

To help with a better understanding of the jump racing world and what I am talking about, have a look at Wikipedia’s description. Go to the United States Sections:


So our newest runner had his first timber race today. He had never done this, only schooled a bit and was by all accounts very enthusiastic, but very green and needed the race to further his education. The day ended yesterday with a lovely cocktail party in celebration for today’s races; replete with real cocktail dresses and strappy shoes!! (Thank you so much Ralph Lauren for liking my body type!!!!) One corona, a little puppy cuddling and I was off to la la land.

Today began with a quick trip to feed 5 horses at a second farm I have helped out with this winter, and then onto work. All morning we prepped the horse we were running and by 12:15 we were on the road to cover the 5 mile distance to the race location. The trip went smoothly, all things were set and very soon it was 1:30 and we had a tacked up first timer walking quietly to the paddock. Fernando, my co-worker and great friend, admired the crowds and we had the ongoing chat about all things we passed, in Spanish. Pretty soon it was time to throw Jody (Petty) onto the horse and pray for a little racing luck. Jody is lighter than those I am used to legging up, so I toss him up easily and smile. “Have fun, good luck, come home.” I say it to every horse and jock I have ever worked with. Only once did they not do the last part.

So here’s the basic deal:

3 miles up and down Pa. hills

18(?) fences

4 total entries in this particular race

Softer ground than desired and a few groundhog holes in the course!! Ugh.

First one to the finish line staying on course, wins.

Our horse was in it to be schooled. I kept Fernando from betting since the goal was an education and I knew Jody was under orders not to push the green horse hard.

So the horse leaves the humans and Fernando and I get a spot to watch the first four fences. Off they go and yippee, he jumps the first, second and third. He actually jumped them so well you’d have thought he were down running over a much bigger course in Maryland :-) Maybe one day!

The race continues and it plays out as expected, ours stays in the back the entire race. The three other more experienced horses move around a bit but a nice one wins. Or does he??? As Jody cantered across the finish line he yelled out something…..something VERY interesting.

Remember that I said the person who crosses the line first who stayed on course wins? Well in this case kids, that would be your last place finisher!!!! That’s right, the other three in the race all went to the incorrect side of a course marking beacon. (You have to keep these on your right. They passed it on their left.) With this error, the other three riders were, according to the rules, all disqualified. You heard me right…that meant that even though we brought up the rear about 45 lengths or so back, we won. Jody stayed on the correct side of the beacon! Yay Jody!!! Celebration ensued and a lengthy attempt at translating into Spanish why we were saying the horse had won when clearly Fernando, his son and friend had all seen the horse finish last. (This was a multi hour ordeal and only resolved around 5:30!!!)

Now I am a horseman, I know this sucks for the others and is a mighty let down. But I will be quick to point something out. Tonight after feeding I watched our mighty winner. He was sulking in the back of the stall and looking dejected. And it occurred to me, he doesn’t know he won. And I felt awful for him. I wished that there was a way I could explain to him what my parents, teachers, friends and family have been telling me for 38 years. Sometimes its not if you win or lose, but how you try your best. You don’t have to cross the line first to be considered a winner. And likewise sometimes the “winners” in life are in fact truly losers. I know this race is a starting point for him. How he processes the experience and what he does in his next race will be a big sign as to how good or not of a timber horse he will be. But only what it means in relation to timber racing, he’s a star of a horse already.

I went to his stall, and walked in to join him. I did the only thing I knew how to do, without having any carrots. I scrubbed my fingernails on the side of his withers and told him he was a great little racehorse. His initial reaction of the pinned ears was replaced by a soft relaxed gaze. He turned his head and rubbed my back without nipping me as I scratched him. I finished and pet him on the face and then left him alone with his thoughts.

Winner or loser isn’t the only question, and winner or loser isn’t the only answer.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some of the many things I have learned....

Another day, another blog entry!! Yippee and thanks again for the much needed break yesterday. The wave of stress receded and I am back to my happy, bubbly self. Of course this comes after a long day with a great time on a fabulous horse.

Now surely you all have heard all the popular quotes that follow us “horsey people” around all through life:

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man” -Winston Churchill

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in a saddle” –Winston Churchill

“The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears” –Arabian Proverb

And so on and so forth. Essentially the bond between writing and riding has clearly existed for a very long time and has retained with it the element of inspiration. So I find myself inspired after one very good ride, and one not so good ride today. The inspiration only gets my fingers as far as the keyboard; let’s see what my mind can create.

A long time ago I was a small girl growing up in rural Baltimore County. We didn’t live on a farm. We lived on a tiny road that was near a few farms. Somehow, and believe me everyone in the family has tried to figure out how, I found the horses that lived closest to us. Even now I recall the memory of watching those horses and riders pass before me as I leaned against a split rail fence around age 5. It was love at first sight.

As a teenage girl I was fortunate enough to have understanding and brave parents who had not only a sense of humor but a bit of wisdom. I’m sure their thought process went something like this:

Mom: “Ok so we caught her riding a horse at a friend’s house without a clue in the world how to do it. I think we need to get her in a lesson program”

Dad: “Well I mean really what will it do for her?”

Mom: “Keep her away from boys”

Dad: “Who do I make the check out to?”

I laugh, it probably wasn’t exactly like that but it did keep me focused on equines more than boys for a very long time. And in the process we all learned many things about being “horsey,” things that Mr. Churchill and the other great equine laureates had not mentioned.

1.) Buying the house 1.7 miles from the entrance to the nearest ER was in fact a very convenient move! They still know me there.

2.) When it becomes girl vs. horse. Horse always wins.

3.) When it becomes girl vs. riding instructor. Instructor always wins.

4.) Basically girl will almost always lose battles of will with equines and those who understand equines..or at least understand equines more than girls!

5.) When you show up 45 minutes early to try a sale horse and it's being lunged and already covered in foam, don’t believe the sellers who say “Oh she’s just out of shape we were on vacation last week.” Umm yea no. She was a dead run away all the time I owned her. (Yes we bought her, we were still learning)

6.) Moms and Dads need to be given some credit, just for allowing their children to hop on 1000lbs of herd animal, divided from its herd and kicked in the ribs by a small shrieking object. See we think it’s the child that’s in danger, mom and dad know it’s the horse!!! And they happily let us do it because we want to, and because before the internet it was really good cheap entertainment.

7.) When the people from the summer day camp call and say that they found your kid unconscious in the horse field, at least try to act surprised!

8.) When the first truck and trailer take their maiden voyage to a local show, and the car phone hasn’t been installed yet, why would it be a shock that you blow a tire on the trailer? On July 4th, and can’t find a soul at the end of any phone.

9.) When you can go into any hospital in the U.S. and tell the CT scan technicians what will happen and what noises the machine will make, while concussed, you know you’ve done this too much.

10.) You tell your grandparents, who have helped kick in to buy a horse, that their one and only job as ‘owners’ will be to name the horse. Ok, here’s the name. You like it.

Me: “Hey Gramma, how did you come up with the name?”

Gramma: “It was your Great Grandfather’s favorite Irish hunter’s name.”

Me: “Wait! I have family that rode.”

Gramma: “We all rode dear.”

(This was a newsflash at age 23!)

11.) Horses mean travel. Travel means being not close to the previously mentioned ER. Hence you end up lying on a gurney listening to your mom tell you how a wheelchair guy in the Atlanta airport with nothing to do, saw her and her expression, chucked her in the chair and RAN her to her gate, of course the furthest away from the concourse! (You can get anywhere from Atlanta…Mom made it to the Ky. ER an amazing 4.5 hours after she got the call from the hospital)

12.) Same time, while lying in hospital corridor, with intern patiently dialing your house 800 miles away, and entering the 20 (!) numbers of your long distance calling card, after the 1-800 access number, and the 10 digits for the actual number, you finally reach your father and have this conversation:

Me: “Hey Dad. Things aren’t going so well here.”

Dad: “Oh? What’s up?”

Me: “Well I am staring up at IV bags”


Dad: “Oh, the horse got hurt.”

(Shake my head close eyes)

Me: “No dad”


Dad: “Oh…..OH!”

Me: “Yea dad”

These are just some of the things I have learned from horses. And even as I go through this list I realize how involved my folks and other family members have been. I really do owe them a much bigger thank you for their assistance to my one devotion. My poor mom got bucked off my first pony and still has a scar on her nose. Meanwhile my poor dad has every right to think he’s a jinx because for a while there he ended up in some ER, with some rider, not always me, a whopping 75% of the shows or races he went to. They’re there still and I think they’ve grown to like or at least appreciate what these horses have helped their little girl to become. My mom’s still my best groom, and my dad, with proper allergy pills, can walk and graze a horse like a champ.

So whether it’s a day when I feel like I am a writer who rides horses, or a rider who occasionally writes, just know that behind this page, letters, sentences and lines is a woman who has hit the deck, eaten too many carrots, painted her nails with white out, hates grammar and learned to deal with those 3 am mornings, all for the euphoria of a gallop into the wind or a paragraph that comes out better than you’d hoped. And it all started leaning against a wooden fence.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Too much to do, too little time to blog effectively

So I am typing this brief note from the comfort of my bed, replete with microfleece sheets, a heating pad, pj's and of course, doggies. :-)

Today's blog has been bumped. "Why?" you may ask. Because I am beat, stressed out and must care for myself a smidgen before a busier day arrives tomorrow.

I promise to return tomorrow, most likely with a thrilling tale of either 1.) Great foxhunting in the last days of our stellar season or 2.) miscellaneous adventures of life at the barn while preparing 4 horses to go foxhunting, oh and 3 are grey!!

So you all have my very heartfelt thanks as I call an audible and go to sleep. Hug your family, pets and all. Pray for good sport for us tomorrow. Bodie and I will be out and about, you can't miss us: one girl with freckles and a big smile sitting on an 18 hand dapple grey Irish horse. I swear we could be a tourism poster for the Emerald Isle!! Night!!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not the post I expected to write today

And so begins one of those rare posts where what I intended to write about gets shelved in favor of talking about something more important.

I was, and probably still will in the future, going to speak about grammar, equitation and the importance of thank you notes. I rode three different horses today jogging on the roads around the farm and the simple cacophony of the horses hooves on the pavement helped me to think it all out and round out what I wanted to say, discuss and send as the message to the people of the blogosphere. However, when I arrived home real life and its uncertainties showed up before I had started typing.

I was laying on the couch getting my laptop booted up, when my older big dog, “Scarecrow,” suddenly kind of jumped up, ran to the front of the couch and collapsed suddenly against it. Well fur or no, he’s my baby. I knew something was wrong and like any good parent I put everything down, moved the coffee table and started trying to discern the problem. Was it the snow shovel that had just blown over in the wind on the porch? Did my younger little dog “Taz” do something to spook him? I looked him over, tried to get him to stand and walk three feet to me. That’s when I knew what it was.

He couldn’t walk using his whole body. His right side was in spasm and his head was hanging awkwardly. I stopped him inside of six inches and let him lie back down. “Crow” has had this before, it’s a seizure. The vets can’t tell me much about why he gets them, they say to stay with him and comfort him until it passes, oh and to time the duration. So there I sat on the floor holding my shaking dog telling him it’s all gonna be ok. And every time he has ever had one of these episodes it has been ok. And today was no different.

Inside of two minutes he had calmed, his heart had stopped racing and the only after effects I saw were the usual dry mouth and panting. After giving him enough water to clear the panting I settled him on his favorite chair and brought in the best medicine the vets ever advise to give: ice cream!! Yep sure enough Breyers 100% natural vanilla ice cream gives seizure dogs back the blood sugar they need. Crow looked at me with the bowl of ice cream like we’d both (happily) taken full leave of our senses.

I fed it to him slowly, you know how much those brain freezes could hurt, and he thumped his tail in appreciation. Now “Taz” as a loving ‘sister,’ sat with us ever since the seizure began. To be honest it was as much her reaction to him that brought me to action that much quicker. Even now, some four hours later, she is staying within touching range of him and occasionally will get up and go lick his nose or eyelids before lying back down.

I know tonight I am not coming off as a great blogger. This isn’t a story, it doesn’t have a catchy plot, no outline holds this together, nor do I know what the ending will be. But then that’s life a lot of the time. We can plan over and over what we’re going to do. We can KNOW what’s on the ‘to do’ list cold and yet something, someone, some event will jump in and rearrange it all. And yet like all animals in nature we have learned to adapt. Some of us better than others admittedly, but we all know that life is unpredictable and even the simplest plan to do one thing can be instantly re-prioritized when someone really needs us to help them.

A dear friend of mine just got a new puppy, and as he described their first walk around the area he lives, I just had to sigh. I know that I did all sorts of cool first things with all my dogs. The sheer joy and love in those moments was staggering, but I can’t remember any of it. I said this to him and wished aloud that I had kept a journal for each dog I have had. And as this night’s gone on I realized slowly that maybe it isn’t so much about each and every thing we did, but rather maybe its about the intricate collage of the feelings I get sharing my love for these creatures that don’t care if it’s the first time we go for a walk at the farm, or the 6,543rd time. They know I love them, even if I am scolding them for eating the stuffed animals to shreds for the thousandth time. I know I need them to share my life with and tell stories to. (I actually read “Twas the night before Christmas” to them this past Christmas Eve. Taz was enthralled, Crow, not so much)

There are going to be days where the routine and the plan work. There are going to be days where everything gets run through a high speed shredder and I am clinging onto anything solid so as not to get shredded myself. But then I come home and lay in my queen size bed with two good sized dogs sharing it, my hopes, my dreams, and my ice cream with me. And that’s enough.


Monday, March 22, 2010

I went to bed and woke up today as a motivational speaker...

I have not a clue where the message behind today's blog came from, but since I like it, we'll go with it. :-) ( I write it all in word first before I copy here. So sometimes I'll put a little note in after having read the final version)

Its day two of blogging and my writer’s block has hit. Well ok, maybe its not so much “writer’s block” as it’s not knowing which of the bazillion things flying around in my head to write about next. I kind of feel like I have to write about horses to keep people interested. But conversely I am myself about more than just horses and I like to ponder a lot of various things. I’m trying to choose and having trouble which is the “right” path.

In keeping with my promise to post things from my past first I have done some scouring, found some old notebooks and laughed myself silly at some of my college writing papers. Among these my favorite has to be the paper assigned to delve into the inner 'love related' themes in any movie and to discuss which of the literary and sociological representations of love that the film encompasses. And your brave blogger chose not an easy film, like oh say, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Casablanca” or even “Gone With the Wind.” No sadly my friends, my corrupted view of the world helped me to choose a film that wouldn’t be considered a love story by many stretches of the imagination: “The Waterboy.”

It stars Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates and Henry Winkler and is the tale of a semi-challenged boy who was the football team’s waterboy until he proved he was capable of so much more. It is a good old fashioned underdog story and over and over as I read the paper I realized all the elements that run parallel to pieces of my life experiences:

Belief in himself was a late development.

His skill set wasn’t discovered at an early age

When his awakening to being his own person developed, his first instinct was to come barreling back to the safety of his previous cocoon: his home. But by then too many self discoveries had been made and the own clear choice was to hoof it out on his path.

Now I am not an idiot, I know you’re thinking, “How in the heck did you get that from a silly Adam Sandler football comedy!?” Well the answer is really simple, you see what you know and understand. You can park me in front of Titanic over and over and I’ll always cry at the end. I will never be so fascinated with the architectural design of the fated ship that I research for hours the methods and intentions of the design and construction teams for this fine vessel. That’s because I am not a scientist, architect or builder. I am a romantic, an optimistic, an inner child promoter and a friend to all. This is who I am and what I know. So those are the parts I see in most things I watch, and they’re all definitely present in nearly every thing I have written and signed my name to.

Take for example this poem I wrote nearly fifteen years ago…(It rhymes and it’s a long one but it goes fast, I promise)

The Greatest Game of Tag

Memories abound through my mind

Usually when I wish only to unwind

Thoughts of youthful bliss and glee

Non existent knowledge of responsibility

Running wild through fields of flowers

Laughing, tumbling, supernatural powers

Bikes and skates my only transports

Garbage and dishes simply chores

25 cents my weekly cash on hand

Plenty before inflation hit our land

Simple joys of jumping in leaves

Desperately hating my school uniform’s sleeves

How I recall with a grin my first pup

and the constant chord, “I want to grow up!”

Even know as I pen this verse,

My longing to be young again is a definite curse

To go back in time and be free

To run and play for eternity

I laugh to admit a tear in my eye

Longing to replay those times gone by

Taxes and bills sit beside my desk

Long ago having replaced ribbons and barretts

Emails drown my I.S.P. box

Not one as interesting as my painted rock

Funny enough these words have made me cry

Wishing for some mischief to again sparkle my eye

A grown up’s life is what I sought

Isn’t it odd that now I wish I’d fought?

To stay forever young can’t be done outside

But maybe if that freedom we don’t hide

Just possibly it’s not too far gone

Perhaps my imagination can again let it spawn

UP and high from inside of me

Through and out for the world to see

Why shouldn’t I hide and seek?

When does it become obsolete?

Why do larger bones lead away from playful spirit?

Can anyone see a reason not to cheer it?

To leave our offices once a day

To run outside and simply play

The warm breezes and cooling rain

Dancing with our hope, quelling our inner pain

And yet I sigh with realization

Never will this happen in our troubled nation

Never will the happiness and gaiety be here

Not when clearly our work is so dear

Economy and planning rule our dimensions

Carefree disregard too dangerous to mention

Individual and different as we claim

Yet trapped into a routine always the same

If only I could shout across the land

“Drop your work the great tag game is at hand!”

To watch millions run amuck and wild

Casting away the old, embracing the child

Realizing we are still allowed to frolic in delight

Fighting desperately against the onset of night

One massive melee of grown ups alive

Feeling, breathing, reliving the age of five

And oh what a sight that would be

To mix all people, all classes civilly

Words of hate banned as people competed

No one wanting more than to just not be defeated

What would happen to our world?

What might this change in our boys and girls?

To see the lines of society broken

Watching as all adults run loose and joking

Would it spark the insight that we’re all alike?

Could it possibly cause an end to fights?

I can only guess what might happen to us

A world moving towards shucking all the fuss

And yes I’ll admit to being an idealist too

But I long for my times of tag and Winnie the Pooh

To my mind we might be all alike

Remembering our roller skates and bikes

Along those lines the possibility remains

Maybe you’re longing might be the same

So to further my dreams along

I’ll willingly respond to this simple song

“Drop your work and leave your charts

The greatest game of tag is about to start!”

And if you find that my wishes ring true

I’ll most assuredly be waiting for you

I guess what I am writing about today is that maybe the obvious choices to make in life aren’t always the right ones. We choose to do things that are comfortable with who we are and what we know well. The decisions that cause the least amount of conflict and doubt are the ones that require the least movement from our personal comfort zones. Maybe the choices we make do slowly evolve with our own self confidence and age and wisdom and those “Ah ha” moments where you’re covered in dirt, the horse is galloping off at high speed and you look down at the new shiny spurs and say to yourself, “Ok. I don’t think he liked this tack change.” :-)

So I’m gonna stick my brave little neck out here and issue a challenge. I’d like everyone who has gotten this far into my blog to do one thing in 2010 that makes them scared, uncomfortable and icky at the thought of failure. One thing that somewhere you know deep down you’re capable of, but somehow because we grew up your brain decided that anytime you looked at this type of thing it was programmed to say, “No sorry. The IT center of your cerebral cortex has a permanent failure with this task. Please resume your normal protocol.” I challenge you to look at this “failure screen” take a deep breath and as Kathy Griffin would say “SUCK IT!”

Find whatever it is that you programmed yourself not to do and do it. Believe in your limitless self again. Even if it’s for a mere 5 min break from the kids, a walk around the block, or being nice to your least favorite co-worker, neighbor, relative or school classmate. Whatever the smallest step you want to try is, go ahead and try it. I am not promising success, but I know that the first step is to get out there and try. Adrenaline kicks in even if you fail. And the adrenaline you felt by conquering something you were afraid to try is worth it. To be honest isn’t it important to remind ourselves that we are limitless, boundless free spirits, even while chained to a desk or home for 60+ hours a week doing the “have to’s” in life? Give yourself a moment to relive what that all encompassing rush from tagging some one out felt like.

The paper on “The Waterboy” netted me a grade of a B+. Not because it was such an easy film to pick apart. Rather it was because it was such an unusual choice that my professor liked that I didn’t choose door 1,2,or 3. As she said to me in person, “You, Emily, took the secret trap door behind the audience’s coat check station. And it worked!” How about you look for the overlooked path in your life and see if you too can make it lead somewhere great.

All my best,


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Glimpse from 2006: Lad's first race of the season

Ok here's the pre-cursor. In 2004 I bought myself a really nice horse. I mean really nice. But then 8 weeks into owning him my job changed and instead of living at home, galloping in the mornings and riding my horse at the farm in the afternoon, I became a full time, all day exercise rider/assistant trainer at Belmont Park. I was living and working on the track property, eating, sleeping and dreaming racehorses. So I made the decision after a few months that the only way to enjoy my horse "Lad" was to somehow involve him in the racing life. Ironic since I had just bought him coming off the track. (That is to say he was slow enough in his races, he was deemed not a good racehorse, and thus a great candidate to do some other sport that didn't involve racing.)

So I thought maybe he might do well in the sport of Steeplechasing. Many failures on the flat track do come over well and can succeed with rolling grass hills under their toes and jumps in their view. So late in the winter/spring of 2005 Lad joined me at Belmont. He trained for the steeplechase season at Belmont Park on a dirt oval. Yea that's a ton like the fields of the Mid Atlantic!! Um no. To say this is unusual would be an eggregious understatement. So knowing nothing but what I hoped to happen and a basic idea of how to train to get there, I started my "hobby career" as a trainer....for my one and only horse. It worked. He shipped down to Virginia and won his first race. AMAZING, but Lad's 2005 season was cut short when a horse in my Boss' string of horses jumped into prominence and ended up on the Triple Crown Trail. So the choice became apparent....Focus on Lad and miss out on the once in a lifetime experience of having any connection to a horse on the Triple crown trail or let Lad enjoy some nice pasture and bring him back in 2006 for another go round. Since his age won't matter in the steeplechase world.

And so it went. Lad went to pasture, and Scrappy T went on to gain all sorts of notoriety in the Preakness of 2005. You know the one where Afleet Alex was coming into the stretch to just glide to an easy win, that is until he collided with a big black horse.....named Scrappy T. *Sigh* Still wasn't the results we had hoped for, but que sera sera. I'll talk about it more in future posts.

So anyway, this post is from Lad's Blog I kept during his 2006 Campaign. You can access the whole thing here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LadsLog/

This was right before Lad was ready to be shipped down to run in his first point to point of the 2006 season: The Casanova Races, held in Virginia in late February.

It's one of my personal favorites. Not sure why, but even though I wrote it, I can still find myself reaching for the Kleenex after reading it. I wonder if anyone else cries at their own memories? OK enough already, here ya go.

Dated February 26, 2006

Have I mentioned that I ride other horses besides Lad? I think so. Well sometimes "ride" is an objective term. "Riding" sometimes really means to stay clinging onto a wild happy and very fit thoroughbred for a span of however long it takes to complete the prescribed circuits of the track. During said "rides" many things can and are being thought through my mind. Such as, "Why am I doing this?" or "When is this (bleeping) (bleeping) (Bleep!) going to settle the (bleep) down!?"

But as part of the routine the horses all get me on their back, we go to the track and return in one piece..well ideally anyway!! Now where am I going with all this? Well now that you know the `ideal' let me present the `less than ideal.'

Any story that starts with me laying on the shed row trying to get sand out of my inner ear is not a good one. When you factor in that my body is in the immediate recovery phase of doing self-diagnostics
after the 1000 lb crush of flipped over equine flesh has just left, is also not good. When you add to this noticeable blind spots on the left eye's vision…well basically that's strike 3. Additionally you
get a free ticket not to the dugout, but rather to the ambulance and from there onto the closest hospital. Yippee. (BIG sarcasm) One CT scan, many digital x rays and a whomping headache later, all is well
enough to return to the track. And so life has succeeded in reminding me that to enjoy the exhilarating gallops on Lad, Scrappy and the rest, there are bad rides mingling in as well. Call it a luxury tax.

And so here I am now. And we're 3 days past the fall and my head is healing. But simultaneously Lad is entered in his race and a mere 15 hours away from loading onto the trailer to ship to Virginia.
Saturday is his day in the 10th race at around 5pm or so. Friends have walked the course and deem it to be in better than good condition and the weather shouldn't kill us too much. The jock is excited and the owner/trainer is trying to think and plan with a huge lump on her head. The horse however is ready. Now again let me interject with what `ready' can mean on a racetrack.

When asked if Scrappy was ready for the Preakness, my answer was a very loud resounding, "Hell yea!" When asked if I was ready to breeze my first 2 yr old going 3 furlongs my answer was (HUGE gulp, 2 puffs on inhaler, fake smile) "Yeah. Ready." (Said nearly inaudibly) My point being that `ready' has a wide range of interpretations. Lad in this case falls into the Scrappy at the Preakness category. If he had to wait another week I would honestly worry that he might get bored and hurt himself.

I sent Lad out for his final work last Thursday. I rode him myself and we worked a total of a mile and a quarter and tried for the bulk of the speed work to last for 7 furlongs in the middle. Ideally I wanted to 2 minute lick into the work and then speed up for the 7, and then decelerate into a 2-minute lick after the 7 as well. It went according to plan and the times were well above what I had hoped for, but right about where I thought he could be. His times were actually good enough to have been published too!!! He went the 7 furlongs in a nice quick 1 minute 33 seconds. And his final 3 furlongs went in 37 and 4/5. This is quite good. And when we consider that last year his best 3-furlong time was 39 seconds and 4/5 I am very pleased.

Since his work I have cut him way back. Instead of galloping and going the normal 3 miles or so a day, he had 2 days off with turnout in the round pen and has gone with the pony twice and hacked around
the backside with me. It would be fair to say that in the hack and the ponying he has started developing his Lipizzaner antics. He is feeling so good, and had his teeth done, got wormed and is dying to be allowed to gallop on again.

So here I sit, Lad is packed and ready to ship tomorrow. I have the overnight (Entry list) for the races in my lap and the silver bowl from our win last year in my view. It’s obvious that I would be thrilled to win right out of the blocks like we did last year, but I have to rethink. This year we have more races, more time, and bigger goals. The ego sees the bowl and wants more, the brain, though dented and ouchy, knows it's about the season, not about this weekend. The owner, as always, fears the what ifs of horse competition and life. The trainer knows she has done all she can and prays it's the right mix. And because all of these people are inside me I feel pretty much like a person with multiple personality disorder. But oddly these feelings mesh together and propel me to keep moving forward. Lad for his part helps out by dragging me whenever I lead him outside of his stall.

Its also during moments like this, the first show, race or outing of the season gives all of us a chance to look back at past highlights and recall the stressed out moments that lead up to the euphoria. For
me I recall my qualifying and riding to a 3rd place finish at the Washington International at the MCI center, finishing on my dressage score in 7th place at my first three day at Radnor, finishing 3rd in my first point to point flat race as a rider, and coaching my first student to complete her first recognized event. Sleepless nights, crash and burns and setbacks and injuries precluded all of those great moments.

I don't know what Saturday will bring, but I do know this. I am a firm believer that life is a journey and that whatever happens is meant to and how you deal with it determines what happens next and what type of person you will grow into. Good or bad, triumphant or disappointing, life goes on and the next turn in the road is still lurking just ahead. I hope we see a nice sunshine on smooth pavement, but honestly if
it's a field of speed bumps spread out like an Olympic mogul field, well I'll gulp, set my jaw and be ready for that too.


And so begins my life as an official Blogger

Well first off I want to say "Hello" and "Thank You" to anyone who is choosing to read this blog. So often in life we get told, "Oh you have to see" or "Oh you gotta read this that or the other." And really who has the time??? I mean I am a single person, with two dogs and a full time job. You'd think that would give me plenty in the way of free time. Oh but you'd be wrong. Once you go through the basics: sleep, get up, put the dogs out, eat, feed the dogs, get dressed, work, come home, put the dogs out, feed all of us, return calls, watch favorite shows, check facebook...well where did all that time go? I am a whopping 6 books behind. An all time high for me. And don't even get me started on movies!! Ah but Hulu.com has been an amazing development. Now I can catch up with episodes of "The Office" and for this I am much happier.

So here's my deal. I am writing this for myself for fun. If an audience was required, I'd say so. It's not. I have fun writing. I'm hoping you all will have fun reading. So if you're not having fun, don't read along. Simple as that. But if you are having fun, say so!! Comment, share with your friends and the like.

I have been a professional journalist in my past, so in theory I should be able to string a few sentences together. However, we all have bad days, rough moments and just out of whack spells. So please bear with me if finding my "blog legs" might take a bit of time.

I thought it best to start with the past and move forward to the present and future. So as such I am going to (try) to harvest a few older "blog-like" works and re-post them here with a bit of explanation paragraph so you're not totally in the dark.

So there it is. Writing for fun. Reading for fun and hopefully a lot of amusing/poignant/odd and of course optimistic tales await. I may write a lot. I may write a little. Read at your own pace and desire. But always do it because you want to. There aren't any grades here, but watch out for those random pop quizzes! :-)

All my best,