Posts Tagged ‘horseback riding’

A year ago, a rather new friend — Diane — invited me out to the barn to ride her horse. What happened next didn’t surprise the people who knew me back when, but it sure seemed to shock some of my more recently made friends: I fell down the rabbit hole. You know… the big one that ends in a barn. Or a paddock. Or a field.

I fell straight back into the one thing that I truly feel passionate about, the thing that I love most. Directly into pairs of skin-tight breeches and waterproof boots and ball caps. Smack-dab into hoof picks and leather conditioner and fly spray. I tumbled head-first down a barn aisle surrounded by horse girls and their ponies, encouraged by their parents and their trainers, and fueled by the knowledge that horses are a non-negotiable part of life.

Some girls grow up and fall in love with boys. Others, like me, fall in love with horses.


Back in January of this year I talked about how injecting horses back into my life changed everything, and boy was I not kidding! I stopped spending money on random trips to Target and started spending money on lessons. My weekends began to fill up with horse-related activities and events, and with every experience I learned something: I grew.

We started with off-farm trail rides…


… cross country (XC) schooling…


… and the fall Marlborough Horse Trials (MHT) Hunter Pace:


In January, I competed in a 2’6″ hunter division at BEST. It was a great re-introduction to horse shows (and horse show nerves!), and Lincoln and I actually brought home a few ribbons for our effort!


At the end of February/early March, I traveled down to Aiken, S.C., to ride in Mogie Bearden-Muller’s winter training program (Foxhill Eventing). For two weeks I took a daily lesson in either jumping or flat work, went cross country schooling and on a trail ride/jump school in Hitchcock Woods, and competed in my first Combined Test in the Beginner Novice division (placing 4th). I learned so much; it was perhaps the best way I’ve ever spent two weeks of vacation leave!


Once back home in Southern Maryland, I entered the Beginner Novice division of Loch Moy Farm’s Maryland Horse Trials (MDHT) Spring Starter Trial #1. Lincoln and I jumped clear in stadium and cross country, finishing on our dressage score of 26.0 and taking home a blue ribbon!

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We also showed up for MHT’s second Jumper Derby in April, jumping both a 2’6″ (1st place) and a 3′ round (2nd place).


Sometimes you have to leave the horses at home and go spectate at an international competition, such as the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (RK3DE), a 4-star CCI event held at the Kentucky Horse Park in April. Watching the “best of the best” horses and riders compete in your sport is exciting, and getting to see these massive jumps up close sure makes Beginner Novice and Novice fences seem easy!


Linc and I were signed up to compete in our first recognized event in May, running Novice at Kelly’s Ford, but on our way to the show we got a phone call stating that the entire event was cancelled due to extreme flooding. Disappointed (but glad to get the call before paying the $18 bridge fee!), we went home, had a nice ride out in the front field, and even watched a helicopter land next door!

This past weekend (June 7/8) we drove up to Mogie’s farm in Centreville, Md., for Saturday lessons. Spending the night, we set off in the morning for Plantation Farm in Unionville, Pa., to compete in their unrecognized Sunday starter trial (which uses Saturday’s recognized stadium and XC courses).

Lincoln warmed up for dressage like a pro, thanks to our lesson the day before. It was my first time executing a dressage test on a grass ring “with terrain questions”, but I felt that overall the test went very well… except for a little slip-up at the end. I forgot where I was supposed to do my downward transition from the canter to the trot, making our turn down centerline to finish our test a little awkward.

Our stadium round was one of the best I feel we’ve ever jumped, and running Novice cross country on Lincoln is so much fun! Plantation was a new venue for him, and he really looked at the terrain and the fences. At least three or four times, I felt him back off significantly while approaching a fence. This turned out to be a good thing, because riding forward to a question in XC is actually easier than having to ride the brakes the entire time. We took a slight flier over our last fence and I cantered up the hill and through the finish line smiling.

I heard the Foxhill Eventing crew cheering, and it was after completing the event that Mogie told me our dressage score (34.8) had put Linc and I into a tie for first place! Since cross country isn’t timed during a starter trial, there wasn’t a way to break the tie. Normally, the horse and rider combination that got closest to optimum time would win. But in this case, the other girl and I each took home a blue ribbon and split the prize.


My desire to be the best I can be at what I love doing has driven me toward great achievements in the past 12 months. I’m focusing my energy, time, money, and patience toward the pursuit of being an equestrian. This doesn’t just mean being a good rider and bringing home ribbons, but rather learning all I can about every aspect of this sport.

To grow in this manner, doing what makes me happiest, is such a privilege. And because I feel that way about it — that it is a privilege — I’m being proactive in other areas of my life in order to support and sustain my need to stay down this rabbit hole. I’m working with a financial advisor to completely overhaul my spending, savings, and investments. Diane and I began following a weight lifting program about seven months ago, supplemented by personal training sessions since last October, and we’re already starting to see some significant returns in muscle mass, strength, and fitness. I got a roommate to help balance out the costs of a half-lease, lessons, and showing. I make time for opportunities that allow me to experience something new, practice, watch, learn, assist, and yes, even fail. I push myself to step outside of my comfort zones, while at the same time keeping tabs on what I must be aware of in order to be successful when I need to be.


“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I was a different person yesterday, just as I was a different person last year and 10 years ago… But I have been, and always will be, a horse girl.




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MAY 26, 2011 — Mom, Dad and I left Maryland, headed for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We were in the Tundra, pulling the 9×12 motorcycle trailer with Dad’s Harley and my Kawasaki. We stopped briefly in Asheville, NC, to drop off Jaci’s fishtank and fish at her apartment, and then completed the last 2-hour leg of our journey.

Our cabin, called Black Bear’s Den, was right off of Wears Valley Road, between Pigeon Forge and Townsend. We had everything we needed — 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, hot tub, weird little garage for the bikes — just not enough room to turn around the truck and trailer! Our proprietor was awesome, though, and gave us the access code to park our trailer in a gated community next door.

We started off our Tennessee vacation with a bang by taking the motorcycles down the Tail of the Dragon — 318 curves in 11 miles on Highway 129, ending at Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort in North Carolina. Mom and Dad were cruising on his Harley Road Glide, I was slowly navigating the turns on my Kawasaki Ninja EX500, and Jamie was happily be-bopping to music in her Honda CR-V.

I was able to have some special bonding time with my fur-niece, Lexi, and Jamie discovered her middle name on a road sign.

Jamie and I each were tossed down a big hill inside a ZYDRO (12′ inflatable ball with inner chamber filled with some water) at ZORB Smoky Mountains. What awesome fun!

Jaci, Jamie and I went horseback riding at Cades Cove Stables, where we rode to the base of a 110′ waterfall.

Jamie and I spent a day in Nashville, where we got matching travel tattoos at the Black 13 Tattoo Parlor (we’ve been planning these tats for seven years!) and explored a full-size replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park.

Eventually both Jaci and Jamie had to head back home and to work, but Mom, Dad and I stayed a few more days. We took the truck on Cades Cove Loop Road, where we saw two black bears! We exited from the Loop onto Parson’s Branch Road (an improved dirt access road that connects to Highway 129) where we were surprised at the the number of butterflies in the road and got to see a variety of little roadside waterfalls.

We drove the Tail of the Dragon again, this time in the truck, checking out the Tree of Shame and picking up a dragon bell (for good luck) at Deal’s Gap for Dad’s Harley. I snapped a photo of Mom and Dad at an overlook with Calderwood Lake in the background.

On the way home we checked out some chainsaw art, all carved from logs. There were also some amazing custom mantels available.

And we visited The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, which is still an active mill (but it’s also turned into quite the “touristy” spot).

JUNE 2, 2011 — On our last day in Tennessee, Dad and I took a ride on his Harley to the Foothills Parkway. We wanted to see if we could get a not-so-smoky picture of the Smoky Mountains (a shot that we *just* missed on our first day of riding out to do the Tail of the Dragon). The weather didn’t cooperate again, but we did a short hike to Look Rock for a hazy view of the Smokies.

To escape the record-breaking heat, we decided to spend our last afternoon exploring the Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, which maintain a cool 58-degrees year round and boast to having the largest cavern room open to the public in Eastern America, as well as a 200′ underground waterfall, Silver Falls.

The next morning (June 3), we packed up the truck and headed home to Maryland and our cats with another amazing Amber Family vacation under our belts!

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Jenn picked me up at Anne’s on Friday, and we headed up to Estes Park to Sombrero Ranch Stables, where we were about to embark on a three-hour trail ride! We were hoping that since Jenn and I both have riding experience and were going for a longer ride, that we would avoid getting stuck on a ride with a batch of Girl Scouts on a walkabout. As it turned out, we got our wish! The baker’s dozen of smallish people were loaded up and onto their four-legged, automated trail-ponies as Jenn and I watched the wranglers get frustrated.

A cowboy finally called us over, cinched up our saddles and allowed us to mount. Soon after, our wrangler Amy gathered us — just us — up to head out into Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Amy took the lead on Chong (whose counterpart, Cheech was either back at the stable or out on trail). Jenn was the sweet center of our trail sandwich, Hootie, a very steady Paint mare. I brought up the rear on the cutest little chestnut gelding, Calvin. (I believe Amy said there was a horse named Blowfish back at the stable, but we couldn’t figure out who Calvin’s counterpart was… A Hobbes, perhaps?)

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The trail wound around through a 1,000-acre cattle ranch and within the National Park, but after we proved that we were good riders and going to be much, much better company than her previous charges, Amy actually decided to have some fun with us! We went a little off-trail, and got to see some of her favorite sights (which aren’t part of the three-hour ride), like the granite quarry.

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The trails in Estes Park were extremely rocky — all of the horses were fully shod (e.g., each horse had four horseshoes, one for each hoof) for their protection. There were a couple of parts along the trail where I was incredibly grateful for Calvin — he took great care in placing his feet, and even did some nifty pivots to set himself up to get around a large rock or twelve. It wasn’t hard at all to simply adore him.

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Towards the peak of the trail, Amy indicated for us to urge our mounts out into a rocky outcropping for a Jen/Jenn photo, which soon saw me playing Vanna White to the scenery, and that provoked Jenn and I to throw our hands to the Colorado air and sunshine while our horses tried to grab a quick (forbidden) snack.

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Exactly three hours after setting out, us three girls returned from our horsey adventure and Amy snapped this quick shot of Calvin giving me a hug… What a sweetheart, huh?!

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And so, dirty and covered in bug spray and horse hair Jenn and I tumbled into her car, happy and ready to go home, clean up and start the rest of our awesome Colorado weekend together!

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