Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Road to Rio

Well, I just renamed this blog the Road to Rio.  I haven't written in this blog since last spring, as updates were being kept in so many other places, that this more personal place for reflection got neglected.

I figured it was time to start gathering all my thoughts, organizing them, and move forward.

The end of a journey is always difficult, no matter the outcome.  Rocco is and always will be a once in a lifetime horse, but because of the long travel back east, what started as a long shot chance, became a glimmer of hope...but I perhaps always choose to believe in the improbable.  Even for those who had their time to shine in London, I suspect there is a level of "what comes next"?

With the sudden and unbelievably unexpected passing of one of our teammates, many of us were shook to our core, and wondering how our team would move forward.

But as people of passion so often do, we find our strength again, find renewed commitment, and keep on swimming, keep on swimming.

I have been out of the saddle (more or less) since August.  I wrapped up my teaching gig, as I realized I was running myself ragged trying to juggle 10-12 lessons, along with my acupuncture business, which continues to quietly and organically grow.

It has been a necessary and (mostly) welcome break, mentally and physically.  I think sometimes the best way to gain perspective on a situation is to step back completely.

Through all the ups and downs, I realize that my heart is still 116% in this sport, and I realize that ability and desire are just not enough to succeed.  It truly takes an enormous amount of dedication, countless hours of training, planning to get out to the the important competitions, a network of sponsors and supporters, and a team of people making it happen.

Moving forward, I am looking at all the puzzle pieces I will need for a successful campaign.  Some of these are very intimidating pieces.  Funding.  An incredible international caliber horse.  But, I know I have the support of an amazing community, and with that, anything seems possible.

Thank you all, until next time...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A day to contemplate, then back to the whirlwind.

Hello friends -

I apologize that I have not been very diligent about keeping this blog updated. I'm afraid I fell down the rabbit's hole of work, riding, teaching, fundraising, planning, plotting, work, marketing, training, and realized yesterday I hadn't taken an actual "day off" in some time., I stayed home, and while there is certainly still some planning and plotting going on, it feels very good to rest my body a bit.

Life is good. Work is great - seeing about 15 patients a week, teaching 5-6 riding lessons. A really nice balance.

Riding is amazing.

I really believe that every horse that crosses your path teaches you a lesson, provides you a gift as it were, for a reason. Pavalina and Tammy gave me such gifts - confidence, joy and the "spark" that I was missing after WEG.

Rocco is unlike any horse I have ever met. He is kind, friendly, funny, hard-working, yet absolutely stunning. I will freely admit I get intimidated by having such a nice horse to work with. That I am not good enough, that I can't manage it, that he is too powerful. I ask for a medium trot, and my heart flutters just a bit. This week we had an amazing moment in a lesson, where I just had to let go of that fear, and let Rocco shine. It was a beautiful thing. I honestly think the trust between us blossomed in that moment, and I am so excited to see where the road ahead leads for us.

I cannot thank all of my sponsors and supporters enough, and would like to in particular thank Melissa Mulcahey, for giving me the chance in a lifetime with her amazing horse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

200 Days till London.

I guess the saying goes "time flies"...I'm not sure it really flies, but we certainly find ways to keep ourselves far too busy. I think my last update was after the Saugerties CPEDI. A lot has happened, and yet, in some strange ways, I stand exactly where I was.

In October, I flew back East to clinic with Robert Dover, and get another chance to partner with Pavalina. The trip had multiple purposes for me. I wanted to really know if Pavalina was "the one". She is talented, but she is a tricky ride, and I knew there were a lot of complicating factors (eg, I live in Washington, the horse lives in Pennsylvania, and the next competitions were in Florida). In addition, the return to Gladstone (the clinic site) was an emotional prospect - I had last been there in 2006, just 6 months after Margo's passing.

The clinic was full of realization...the biggest being that I need to continue to do my homework to define myself as a rider, and let my own light shine through...let go of the shadows and memories and expectations I have been carrying.

I had no real roadmap coming home from the clinic, unsure how I would proceed to London. I got a very unexpected call after Thanksgiving, asking if I could help support the team that would be competing in Australia....on less than a week's notice. My teammate had been having some health issues, and with only 3 riders planning on going, the leadership felt it would be prudent to bring a 4th, in case any rider (or horse) had an issue, to preserve a team score. to Melbourne. Talk about a trip that came together by the seat of our britches!!! We spent the first 3 days looking for horses (including the day we arrived, following 20ish hours of flying). Wednesday we got our new mounts moved into the showgrounds, and Thursday held the jog. Whew. The show went very well. The incomparable Paralympian Becca Hart an I shared an incredible Holsteiner mare, "Tammy", and we had a lot of fun. I am also pleased to report that we also kicked a little butt (along with Teamies Mary Jordan and Donna Ponessa). Go USA :-)

Back at home...December brought the arrival of Rocco. Oh, Rocco! He is the absolute joy in my day right now!! He has been out in pasture for about a year, due to an injury. He is coming back into work incredibly well. He is bar none the most talented horse I have ever met, and on top of that, he is truly kind and hard working. I am smitten. There is joy in every moment I spend with him.

I don't know what the future will hold for Rocco and I, but I do know there are 200 days until the London Olympics. I also know that nothing happens unless you take risks. I have taken a few big ones in the past few months, and I suspect that 2012 will mean pushing myself even more.

As always, I couldn't do this without all of your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The report from Saugerties...

I left Seattle in typical hectic fashion: worked an eight-hour closing shift, then went straight to the airport to catch my red-eye flight. Thankfully, I had plenty of time to sit and have a cup of soup before heading to my gate – a welcome moment of quiet and calm.

I arrived in Philadelphia without incident, and was welcomed by my good friend and fellow para athlete Keith. It really is nice to have a familiar face waiting for you in unfamiliar places. We drove towards Newtown and Fire Creek Farm.

The Farm is nothing short of stunning. I could literally feel the tension of the hectic week disappearing. I suddenly had no particular agenda, and no particular timeframe, at least until Wednesday when we had to report to the showgrounds. It probably seemed a bit odd to the boarders that I was happy just to hang out or wander around the property, but it is truly a luxury to spend time at a barn, and I really feel like it is almost a meditative process. Slowing down, being present.

The first rides on Pavalina went well. I was a little frustrated with myself, because I could feel the potential, but couldn’t quite get myself sorted out. I was getting a bit too “bossy” and strong with my aids, when really I just needed to ask, and she would do her job. However, the down time allowed me to reflect on my rides, strategize, and in fact, our partnership improved each day.

Our plan was to head to Saugerties on Wednesday lunchtime. Francine needed to teach some lessons in the morning, and I figured Marci and I would use that time to get organized. Riders who were hoping to try for positions on the team were scheduled to ride in front of the high performance committee. Since I was on a borrowed horse, I figured it was more important to schedule those riders on their own horses…but by Wednesday morning I was getting text messages and calls wondering where I was, and why I had missed my ride time. Oops! We scrambled, and got in just in the nick of time. It was not my best ride, but we did get the chance to walk (tour?) the entire showgrounds, including the FEI ring conveniently while they were doing a sound check.

Thursday was the jog. I decided to ride in the morning, so Pavalina would have some downtime during the day. Just about the time we had hoped to get going, the sky opened up, and it started to pour. My good friend and team physio Laura Scherr was at the show doing some work on the hunter/jumpers, and stopped by to help some of the para horses. She did an adjustment for Pavalina, and by then the rain had let up slightly. The adjustment made a huge difference for the mare, and she was clearly ready to show! I shared the warm up ring with Catherine Haddad in the again pouring rain. J

The jog was scheduled for 5, but we were going to be the last horse to go. There was a lot of discussion about how long the jog would take, but in reality, the ground jury really had no interest in standing out in the cold and rain, and were accepting horses quickly. Consequently, Pavalina did not get more than the walk from her stall to the jog strip to warm up. Oops! Again!

Friday morning was cold and clear and windy. Pavalina was Very ready to get down to business, and seemed to grow a few inches with every step towards the ring. Our warm up was quite similar to what we had been working on, with the focus on the walk rhythm, the activity in the canter, reaching forward to the contact. I have nicknamed the Gr 3 Team Test “the walking test”. This would be a challenge for us, as Pavalina can get a bit lateral in her walk, particularly if she is anticipating the next movement.

The test went well. The walk was in fact a challenge, as was the Right shoulder-in…as soon as we developed it, we ran out of arena! I felt great leaving the arena, though. It felt so good to get out there, and have a “thinking” ride in the ring, and be partnered with a mare who was so in tune with me every step of the way.

We scored a 62%, a good score given our walk, the mistakes, and that I rode fairly conservatively.

Freestyle was Saturday. I was admittedly a bit more nervous for the freestyle, since we really had only run through it once, and I was not entirely sure where I would need to make up time. I planned out where I could add in circles, and hoped it would all work out!! We started our warm-up in the CDI ring, as it was adjacent to the ring we would be showing in. After 5 minutes or so, we were asked to move to the “para only” ring across the road. Once we moved into the para ring, we were asked to move back into the CDI ring, as that ring was for “para only” – ha! That is the first time I have ever been “mistaken” for an able bodied FEI rider ;-)

The freestyle was SO fun. It flowed almost perfectly. The trot at the beginning was bit unsteady, as I was thinking a bit more of making the pattern work than actually riding. Once I hit my “groove”, it was awesome. I couldn’t believe how well the music actually fit!! I love LOVE freestyle, and I am so glad we got to ride to my favorite music in the big CDI ring. I ended up with a 69%, a very unexpected score, and won the Gr 3, a very unexpected surprise!!

Sunday I rode my Individual Championship test. I had an “ah-HA” moment about the walk rhythm, and our warm-up was wonderful. I had a few bobbles in the test, but really rode every moment, and it felt great. Big booming canter, sweeping shoulder-in, it just felt awesome start to finish. I ended on a 67%, which won the class.

After our test, Francine took us down to the warm-up adjacent to the FEI ring, where I got a crash course in riding tempi changes – our “reward” for the weekend – So. Much. Fun!!!!

Unfortunately, reality sank in quickly….I had a flight to catch, and Fran and the amazing Pavalina needed to get home. We would unfortunately miss the USEF awards ceremony, I had to get home to the west coast so I could work on Monday.

So what comes next? I am very much hoping that Pavalina will continue to be a part of my life!! I am not exactly sure what that will look like yet. Washington is just so dang far away from PA! But I hope that this is just the first chapter in what will be a very exciting story!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On my way...

In less than one week I will be in Pennsylvania, wrapping up Day 1 of training with my borrowed horse "Pavalina".

This trip has come together in a whirlwind...there are still pieces that need to be pulled together very quickly in the next few days.

In between feeling like I have absolutely lost my mind for dropping everything to go ride a horse in a CPEDI3* basically sight unseen, I am genuinely excited. I have been "itching" to get back in the show ring for most of the summer, and while there is joy in every ride, there is something so exuberant about a big horse show...the glitz of the showgrounds and all the horses so well turned-out, the camaraderie of everyone showing as well as all the officials and really feels like a celebration in so many ways.

I have become a great deal more confident in my riding in the past 6-8 months, and while I wish I had more time to practice "test riding" before I go, I actually feel Ok about things. I am trying to put together some sample choreography to the freestyle music I have, so that won't be too stressful (it is nice in these moments that I have amassed practically a library full of freestyles!).

In closing...I would like to thank everyone who has helped along the way, and who continues to support the dream!

If you are interesting in supporting my quest to London, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Living with Integrity

Hi Friends,

I titled this post "Living with Integrity". It is something I strive to do in every day, and I have always tried my best to let my ethics be my guide. Sometimes it means making very hard decisions though.

In making the decision to campaign to London 2012, I realized that the Team really needed not just a rider and a horse, but a rider and a horse who could pull down a top international score, which at my grade is in the 68-72% range. I knew I needed to sharpen my test riding, which had gotten a bit sloppy with riding Dylan, and I needed to find a horse that could consistently pull down 7's in the Gr 3 work when ridden accurately. Additionally, I decided that I needed to find a way to take the financial burden off of my own shoulders as much as possible - to find better ways to fundraise, and ensure that as much as possible, my own finances are kept separate from those of this campaign. Lastly, I am on an incredibly short timeframe to pull pull this all together.

I really believed that Neo was "the horse", and honestly, I still do believe that he IS "the horse"...he is talented, kind-hearted, and I cannot think of a horse better suited for the para work. However, Neo has had a quite a few riders in his life in the past 6 years, and it will take an investment of time in order for a relationship to flourish, and for him to be truly brilliant. And time is something I cannot fundraise for, nor do I have.

I am heartbroken, as Neo and I have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, but I have to keep reminding myself about my timeline, and that I need to be ready to ride a test for scores in short order.

I find myself wondering what end? Am I "throwing away" a beautiful partnership in pursuit of medals? Is that truly living with integrity?

I suppose in the end I am hoping for BOTH a beautiful partnership, AND the chance to shine in competition.

In the meantime, Neo and I will just enjoy our rides together as he starts to look for his new "someone", and as I start to look for my new "someone", too.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Little Things/Big Things

This week has been filled with ups and downs and ups!!

I am starting to feel flutters in my stomach looking at all the pictures from the test events going on in London this week...have you seen them??

Here is the official site with some great shots: London 2012

The idea of everything coming together for a trip to compete in such an amazing environment gives me chills. It would really be a different experience than WEG - we will have a small team (4 riders and a small contingent of support staff), and we will all be training, traveling, and working together as a true team in support of the Paralympic Dream.

Neo really stepped up to the plate this week, which is in large part why I guess I am starting to let my mind wander ahead and think about London.

A large part of what we are working on is basic training concepts - go, turn, stop. In order for Neo and I to really get an understanding of one another, we really just need to start at the beginning. As we build our foundation, things are really starting to come together in exciting ways!! Yesterday, we had a few minutes of trot work that was WOW - the amazing feeling of throughness and power...the feeling that you could do just about anything!! The feeling you *hope* for as you jam down centerline! Gah!! Still giddy. I started looking at timelines and budgeting....kind of a buzzkill, but a necessary evil.

I have two major trips planned in 2012 - one to the Dressage Affaire, in Del Mar, California in March. The second will be to Selection Trials...I do not yet know when/where that will be, but I am guessing May/June, and am budgeting for middle-of the country-ish. I will also need to fundraise for Neo's continued care and training. So...I have my work cut out for me. But...I am determined, motivated, excited, I have an amazing horse that I KNOW will represent the US well!!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank ALL of those individuals who have supported me thus far, as well as thank my corporate sponsors Kerrits Equestrian Apparel, FarmVet, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Antares, Browbands by Design,, and Olsons Tack for their tireless support. Thank you to Rebecca Chatfield for opportunity to partner with her amazing horse, and to Alyssa Pitts of AP Dressage for believing in Neo, believing in me, and making sure both of us keep our eyes on the stars, and our feet on the ground.

ANYTHING is possible, my friends. Believe it.