Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Making it happen
Photo by Jeff Phaneuf
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."  And someone once described Eventers as a group of individuals who, despite all that can go wrong and all that seems insurmountable, come together for the love of a great (if not extreme) sport and GET IT DONE!

Remember those calls for help that came over the past several years, like the havoc and destruction of GMHA and Huntingdon after Hurricane Irene?  And who can forget how we all came together after the fire to help rebuild True Prospect Farm?  When there is a call to arms, Eventers rise up and take charge much like attacking a difficult cross country course...  "I see it, I know it needs to be conquered and I sit up and kick until I cross the finish line".

Folks...  UNH still need us even more now than ever before!  "But", you say,"I thought it was all ok now!  It is, isn't it?"  (And some of you might even be saying... "Huh?  What's up with UNH?  Didn't they have a Horse Trial a couple of weeks ago?")

Let me see if I can simplify a somewhat complicated situation...
  • The Problem - NH State budget cuts reduced funding to the University by $48 million.  UNH developed a Campus Master Plan (CMP) which originally planned to lease out lands used by the Agriculture/Equine/Life Sciences programs for commercial development to bridge some of the shortfall.
    • That means RETAIL stores - think Big Box Stores.
  • The Outcry - Two public meetings were held.  Over 600 people attended and the support against this development was astounding.  As a result of this outcry, the Master Plan Steering Committee changed the language to "limit" potential development in these areas.
    • "Limit" does not mean no commercial development
  • More of the Problem - The public meetings were contentious and the Master Plan Steering Committee along with the Consultants were caught unprepared for such a reaction from the community.  Now, they meet quietly until the next public release.   There are Plans to move the Equine program in order to make way for commercial/business development eliminating the current facilities (parts of the XC course, stabling, paddocks, farm buildings, indoor and stadium jumping course). 
So, the Master Plan Steering Committee feel that by moving the facilities, all will be well and that we will be silent.  Where is an already cash-strapped university going to find the money to replace what is being "moved"?
Remember Over the Walls
Horse Trials?  Gone!

It's kind of like a shell game...  they are not canceling the plans for development they are just shuffling it around.  And, for how long will the shuffling last?  Will the Equine Program be able to survive if it continues to be squeezed slowly and consistently like an anaconda eating its prey?

Some of you are all fired up, right?  We're Eventers and we love a good challenge!  And maybe some of you are thinking...  "Well, it's kind of out of my hands and really,  I don't live in NH and haven't ever competed at UNH."  (I actually hope that's just my mom and not an Area 1 Eventer.)

Here is why its important to all of us... even those Eventers outside of New England. 
  • Every time Commercial or Retail development occurs on green space we all lose.  Think of all the Commercial and Retail lots in your area that are still "For Lease", half empty or that have signs in the window "Store Closing".  Do we need more on our open lands?
  • UNH is one of the first Land Grant Universities whose mission was to, among other things, teach Agriculture using the land granted to them.  If we continue to erode our Agriculture/Environmental Educational base, who will teach our future horsemen? 
  • And is a Green/Sustainable future really possible if these colleges continue to be pathed over to make way for the Walmarts of the world?
Photo used with permission

If you love a good gallop, or a great XC run and if you want to continue to see Horse Trials throughout New England...  WE ALL NEED YOU NOW!

Take a few moments and email the following key individuals:

    Express your concern over the proposed development and kindly demand:
    1. that the Campus Master Plan be revisited and redirected
    2. that they must discontinue the plans for any large scale retail development on UNH land,
    3. that Agriculture, Dairy, Equine, Organics and Sustainability are very important and should be invested in rather than squeezed out.
    4. that the President meet directly with the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture to hear their input
    Change happens when we make it happen! Get emailing!

    REPRINTED FROM USEA AREA 1'S NEWSLETTER - OPTIMUM MINUTES (http://www.area1usea.org/Resources/Newsletter/2012-may28.pdf)

    Monday, May 28, 2012


    Mr Floppy
    Could I really, truly, be a Player?  Maybe, just maybe, I stayed single all these years because I feared infidelity... a wandering eye or perhaps, a lustful heart.  You see, I just may be a cheater at heart!

    I was cheating on Jonah very soon after Mr Floppy opened his eyes and removed his mouth from his mom's teat.  And, poor Sugar...  shhhh, I've been sneaking around and riding another...  They call her... The Pink Pony!

    The Pink Pony
    Used with permission
    {shhh, she is for sale}
    First it starts with a wandering eye...  "look at her move", "wow, she's cute", "you know, she would be perfect for me", "she is my kind of horse"...  and on and on.  Then your Dressage Trainer asks you if you want to ride her a bit while her owner is away... "while you're on vacation" (hmm a brief fling).

    OMG, I luf her!  Her suspension and elasticity is intoxicating and her canter divine.  That pink body moves upward and through yours claiming ground without the pound.  Could there be more?   Speed flattens that lift ever so slightly and carries you forward floating over the deep green fields.

    When those pink ears came forward, I prepared myself for the spook.  Nothing happened, the ears softened and we continued on.  Wait, no spook?  No scary things to be seen?  What about the tractor, the rocks, that one yellow blade of grass in all that green...  still no spook?  Preposterous!

    This morning, I woke up and wondered, what if I don't like Sugar anymore?  What if the Pink Pony with her simple needs, dynamite gaits and easy demeanor is really what I prefer.  Sugar is not easy... but I've always found her delightful (not counting the warm-up ring, UNH, Ethel Walker or at lattice/white gates/green rolltop jumps).  What if the purpose of riding the Pink Pony was to help me understand what easy is?

    Never fear!  If I could add this cutie to the Berlin Herd, it would be a done deal!  But, until the missing "Trust Fund" is located, Sugar is mine.  And, she makes me smile!
    Sug making me smile
    That's what makes
    it worth it
    Photo by

    Today was the last Hunt of the Spring Season.  I was tired from my "restful" vacation and feeling kind of dull.  As the fourth pair in First Flight, my head kept saying... maybe I'll pick and choose today...  I'm not really up to this... blah, blah blah!

    The weather was perfect for a good run.  That one last thought of being tired hit me just one second before the cast...  When the hounds hit the elusive anise scent, thinking disappeared and Sugar and I became a team.  Her gallop powerfully skimmed the ground and for every jump, her ears came up, she surveyed the approach and jumped in stride.

    Power, beauty, grace and speed...  She may not be easy but Sugar makes me feel like a rock star!  And that is ok!

    Thursday, May 24, 2012


    Sug sees dead people
    Yeah, it is officially the start of my long weekend and I have plans...  Oh yeah, I have plans!  There are things that need to be worked on, gardens to be reclaimed from several years of neglect, laundry to be washed, stuff to be thrown away, the last two foxhunts, a couple of jumping lessons and a clinic to audit for the Area 1 Newsletter.  And, of course let's not forget running out and about with Da Boys, keeping them well exercised and happy.  Ahhhhhhh...  Vacation!

    So, a Friend posted a little note on my Facebook page that made me say....  hmmmmm!  Those wise words? 

    "Please look up "vacation" in the dictionary!"  

    Sometimes a girl needs to quiet the BA Honeybadger, give her Inner Cowgirl a romantic novel and channel a Chandler...  Mr Floppy to those that know him...

    Contemplating World
    Nothing like a hound to help you find a true vacation energy...  Friendly, Funny and absolutely cuddly.  In a prior life, he was probably a surfer dude...  Plays hard, sees life as one big party and when the surf's up...  he's gone workin'...  Until then, he's chill...  and really values the benefits of a good nap.
    Always at the ready!

    Why not the Convict?  Isn't he so friendly and outgoing that he's often mistaken for a Walmart Greeter?

     Ahhh, Jonah...  he's always working - busy getting things for me to use, pulling logs out of the woods as proof of his self worth...  He moves with me as the doggy version of a workaholic.  Sometimes I want to reach out and say, "Hey buddy...  I'm good!  You go ahead and take a nap!  I'm ok!"

    I luf me a Chandler Bing! Hey, wait just one darn minute!  I get it!  I so need to try a Chandler this long, long weekend!

    May I learn that life is a party and maybe, just maybe, the world is telling me that "I'm good! You go ahead and take a nap!  I'm ok!

    Friday, May 18, 2012


    Used with permission
    Magic happens when you least expect it...  Oh there are those of us that set up our life like a bossy stage manager in a Broadway play when timing is important and deadlines loom.  But really, when you let go, the world just gets bigger and brighter.

    Last weekend was one of those weekends where I just found myself in a pit of gooo...  muddy, sticky, black tar.  The farther I walked the deeper I sunk and the harder it was to get going.  Monday, I woke up tired and at a lost on where to go from here...  The path seemed to be overgrown and thorny... and, my wonder horse was no longer clean and white...

    At the show, people accepted, and some even embraced, my decision not to continue after dressage.  Yet, that support did garner a few well thought out and constructive opinions... some stronger than others.  "You should sell her and get an easier horse!"  "Sug doesn't cut you a break.  Why do you keep her?"  "I know you won't sell her but I wish you would."  "Just because Eventing Trainer can get her around and make it look easy doesn't mean she's easy."

    I needed to hear all of that (and some were coupled with nice compliments).  But, alas, Sugar is not for sale!  And, although I look longingly at other horses and sometimes wonder what it must be like to have an easy ride, I love her...  all the bits of her and even when she's slept in her own poop on the morning of a show.

    The contemplative Convict
    And yes, I am sure I can find an easier ride and well, she should've jumped that second to the last jump even if I was lying unconscious on her neck.  Remember Karen O' Connor's Rolex 2012 ride on Veronica?  That mare continued to perform the duties of her job even though her rider was scrambling to get back in the saddle.  Sug, you have a job and that's to get me home safely... ya hear?!

    Magic is that moment when you are working on suppleness and lightness and in one moment it comes together.  The world gets quiet and there are just two bodies acting as one...  her ears are soft, listening and her body gives...  your hand and body carrying 1500 pounds of dancing horseflesh...  Sugar makes me feel like a rock star!

    And then there is that magic of a trail ride at dawn... Sugar slightly dazed with the early morning wake up call.  Da Boys are going to join you and the Redheads for a jaunt around the farm.

    It is almost impossible to describe the beauty and calm as our little group rode around the hay fields.  Turkeys gobbling, 4 young deer grazing in the lower fields...  Da Boys popping up in the deep grass like dolphins skimming the ocean surface faces white with pollen.

    Mr Floppy
    Our two mares began edgy and spooky and ended the ride strutting about like big time event horses...  Mr Floppy adopted the Lil Redheaded Mare and stayed tightly by their side.  The Convict, bless his heart cleared our path of anything chipmunk-like.  We were safe and protected... life can not get better than that!

    So Sugar is all mine.  We are like an old married couple trying to figure it all out.  It will get better, all in good time!  

    Monday, May 14, 2012


    A wise woman once said that life is a journey...  that people, places and things come your way and things change...  that decisions made are for that moment and that moment only... every path is just a way to the future and not to a final destination.

    Wise words for a completer like me.  You see, I live in a goal oriented world, go to a job where you are only as good as your last result which fades quickly as you seek the next.  A Human Doing rather than a Human Being. Coming back has been hard and the path hasn't been the direct route.  And, it's even a bit unsettled... so much, that this goal setter/completer is just a bit lost.  

    Why so deep and somber for a Monday morning, you ask?

    Our outing at King Oak Farm's Spring Horse Trials did not go as planned.  I withdrew after dressage because I did not believe I would win the effort it would take to get Sugar to jump fence two on XC.  And, my ability to absorb another humiliation, another fall, another bad go... whatever, is on the very short side.

    Used with permission
    KOF is a wonderful well run event.  It has everything you need to enjoy yourself - quick scoring, access to rest rooms, great XC footing and a safe course "for horses with experience at this level".  It is also a busy, electric environment and one of the first events in Area 1.  So this is not about them but about me.

    That second fence, a big hay feeder filled with hay bales, would be a challenging fence for my spooky mare even if it were deep into the course.  There I would have had momentum and a horse who understood what her job was.  We would have gotten over it easily - maybe with her questioning my desire but if I said do it, she would.  As the second fence,  shortly after the first, it would have been a major spook-fest.  I did not think I had the cojones (balls) to get the job done.

    It was a similar question that I lost the night before on a lovely, relaxing hack with my Bestest Eventing Buddy.  This time the scary beast was an imovable tractor - the very same one we walked by just a week earlier.  Without spurs, I kicked my backwards/trying-to-spin-spooking-mare forward...  Ultimately unsuccessfully as she propped, leaped and spun me off and went galloping down the road.

    Fellow Eventers are awesome and I believe it is one of the reasons this difficult sport is so much fun.  Not one of them thought I was ridiculous, a chicken or wimpy.  They supported my decision and quite a few, after they finished, agreed that it was a difficult second jump.

    So my path is uncertain but I am walking on it... and proceeding forward.  It may mean staying at Beginner Novice until I have the confidence to tell my spooky mare, every time she has doubts, that her only job is to carry me safely across jumps... 

    Who really knows?  What I do know is that this is just another path heading into my future...

    Sunday, May 6, 2012


    It was a dark, stormy night as I left church, alone, filled with the energy of the rousing service.  I knew that I shouldn't be walking through the park so I quickened my pace, eager to be home safe and warm...   Suddenly, a man jumped out of the bushes and pushed me and I fell to the ground glancing off the park bench...

    Wait... hold on... I wasn't at church and I believe it was just after 3:30 pm on a brilliant sunny day and I even think I was riding XC at the University of New Hampshire's Spring Horse Trials.  And, if I recall, I was just two jumps from the finish line and in First Place, when Sugar spooked and spun me off onto said bench...

    Looking Competent
    Photo by www.yokinasphotos.com
    I was robbed!  Not of a blue ribbon but of the story of a PERFECT cross country ride! You see, it was the most awesome go and my first since hitting the tree.  We left the start box eager to run and happy to be doing it again!  My nerves and tears were shed on the long road to the start box.  My one goal?

    Eventing Rule #1 - Leave Together Come Home Together!

    Ok... the long walk of shame home LEADING the "How-do-you-get-her-so-white-horse?" was not quite the same thing as crossing the finish line together but if you recall, the last time I ended up admitted to the hospital with four broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung and a hematoma on my hip that did not make me feel pretty.  Coming home with just a bruised ego, right now, is fine by me!

    The short story:

    Day 1 - Sugar left her evil twin, Saccharine, home.  Oh, occasionally in our test she protested the flowers decorating the dressage letters and was undone by the dry spot near X.  During the first spook, we came to an agreement that if she continued to go straight and not spook, I would not take my big spurs and place them in her sides.  Who knew that successful marriage counseling came at the end of a spur?  We finished our test in 2nd place with a 34.5.

    Day 2 - The Jumping Phases.  Let me begin by saying I've been a Novice Rider for 2 full seasons...  and, the BN warmup terrified me more than anything else that day.  No offense to most of the riders but, some had directional issues and would be best not to circle in front of a warm up fence.

    Stadium Jumping was quiet, balanced and forward.  Sug jumped big and confidently...  apparently, size does not matter to that girl!
    Photo by www.edfarm.com

    And XC?  Shhhhh...  it was that good!  It felt amazing to be out there again and I think Sugar felt the same way.  She was hungry to go and eager to jump!  As a good student, I listened and took my trainer's advice "Ride her to every jump" and I did...

    So, what happened?   Fence 13 was set on a hard right hand turn and was a glaring jump with hay stuffed in everywhere.  The line was blocked by orange tape bouncing and blowing in the wind.  I knew this was the jump that required all my skill for it screamed "AHHHHH  SPOOOOOK!"  And ride it I did....  she jumped it big and it took a bit to get her back... and, I needed her back so we could do the next two hard left hand turns on slippery grass...

    Phew...  did it!  Now we're home free!  I made it!    We're back!  Yippppeee!  Um, oh no!   Damn!  {{{{Then a string of the kind of words that, well, if I was a mom, I'd have a mouth full of soap}}}}  She spooked, I tried to recover and leaned, she spun and there I go...  on the bench with my ego lying bruised for all to see.

    You know...  I did get robbed of a great comeback.  The one I had was a good one...  not great but good!  And, I will never, ever, have to deal with the emotional nerves of PTSD.   And, as a former Weenie Rider, I will always have the pleasure of the nerves of a middle aged re-rider... managed by the overabundance of words (pre-performance verbal diarrhea) but the tears and breakdowns have been left behind.

    As my niece says.... IT'S ALL GOOD!  And, lest I forget, RIDE EVERY FENCE!