Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Hi there. How are you?

I’m well. Actually, I’m better than well… I’m quite good!

It’s kind of a relief to feel that way, and to have nice things to report. I start a lot of blog posts in my head, but never seem to have the time to type them out… and it’s not because I’m too busy couch surfing or sleeping, it’s because I’m too busy DOING. That, and a large part of my need to organize and document my activity is served through posting status updates and photos to Facebook… which left me unsure as to what I really want the purpose of this blog to be — secondary documentation of my physical wanderings, or more of my thoughts, feelings, and hopes (mental wanderings)?

Work is busy. My boss now telecommutes and I’ve picked up the lion’s share of her team lead responsibilities in her physical absence. My co-worker is pregnant and we’re trying to accomplish as much as we can together on a large project before she goes out on maternity leave. I’m mentoring our summer student, keeping her busy and exercising my editing skills on a weekly basis. Most of us in the area are preparing for an 11-week furlough (a 20% reduction in pay), trying to figure out how to cut costs, to survive without dipping too deep into savings or relying on credit.

I’m more active than ever before. I trained for a 5K on May 4, which I completed faster than my only timed treadmill run of the same distance, and for a 29-mile bike ride on June 1, which left my friend Amanda and I thinking that if we kept riding consistently we could do the 47-miler next year. These two activities are new to me; I was never a runner, and even though I’ve had my bike for three years, this is the first year I’ve actively put  mileage on it. I love what running and cycling are doing to my body though — adding those two disciplines has definitely slimmed me down in a way that my regular gym workouts (cardio & weight lifting) and swimming did not. I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the past couple of months, and am feeling fit and capable!

After my rather severe allergic reaction to mold last year, and subsequent allergy testing, I discovered that I’m allergic to dairy. I was able to pinpoint the issue specifically to casein — a protein found in mammalian milk that happens to make up 80% of cow’s milk. This is good news, because through trial and error I discovered that my body can tolerate sheep and goat cheeses, and water buffalo mozzarella. I don’t have to give up pizza (I just have to make it myself)! Before the knowledge that there were some cheeses out there I could eat, I cut dairy out of my diet completely.

A side effect to not eating as much cheese and sweets, and spending a lot more time cooking for myself, is that I began to eat healthier, stopped craving unhealthy foods (including fried and fast food), and lost some weight. I have to travel over an hour to get to a grocery store with the specialty cheeses, so they’ve become a treat instead of a staple, and I find myself being grateful for my dairy allergy and the change it has made in my eating habits (rather than resenting it).

In June, Diane asked me if I’d like to ride her horse, Lincoln, once a week and I jumped at the chance! I’ve always loved horses and horseback riding, and it’s been about a year and a half since the last time I rode. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I swung up onto Linc’s back and my mind and body responded: Home. Lincoln is a talented draft-cross who can do hunters and eventing (dressage, show jumping, cross country), so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn and grow as a rider, and to have quite a bit of fun horsey time and meet new horsey people.

Lincoln 07.01.2013

The people who make up the Happies group have become an essential component of my personal happiness here in Southern Maryland. Over the past year, I’ve gone from showing up to chit-chat with the group once a week over a beer or two, to spending quality time engaging in all sorts of shenanigans outside of Thursday happy hours.

Liz, Amanda, Richell, and I try to schedule once/month hikes + a homemade lunch. Amanda and I have been cycling together at least once a week since April, and last month we took a “confident city cycling” class and then biked the Mt. Vernon trail together. Diane, Erin, and Julie have welcomed me into the sub-crowd of “horse girls”, and have introduced me to other horsey people. (I may have even found a second horse to ride this summer!) A large sub-group of Happies are kayakers, and on June 9 we participated in the Second Annual S. Wells Memorial Kayak Trip. It’s been raining — thunderstorms — almost every evening since May. If this summer weather would start cooperating, I’m sure we would take advantage of many more opportunities to get out on the water. At least this month a bunch of us are going on the Green Door canoe/kayak trip to paddle down the south fork of the Shenandoah River, a trip that I didn’t get to participate in last year due to being sick from allergies.

Over the past 16 months, I feel like I’ve invested in solid, reciprocal friendships over fun activities like dinners and happy hours, birthday celebrations, holiday parties, movies, River Concerts, pub crawls, live music, cooking dinners, baking cookies, camping, a trip to Portland (OR), races, lots of conversations and much laughter.

Happies 07.04.2013

Fireworks 07.04.2013

I enjoyed last year’s 4th of July picnic at the marina so much that I volunteered to organize it again this year. Around 20 of us gathered in the shadow cast by a pop-up tent to hang out, eat good food, play games, and be merry until the sun set and the fireworks started lighting up the sky.

Yep, life is good.


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In 2005, Mom and I drove up to Pentagon City to see a show called Cavalia. As soon as we took our seats we began to feel the thrill of anticipation. Cavalia is a “homage to the poignant history and fascinating bond between human beings and horses; a poem written in the language of sound, image and extraordinary performance.” We were in a big top tent (similar to the traveling Cirque du Soleil tents), and we were about to see a show that infused equestrian arts with dance, acrobatics, live music and visual effects.



OnStageThat was all my brain could process from the minute the first horse — a young colt — thundered out from a side entrance and twirled around, loose in the soft footing behind a low retaining wall. All Cavalia shows start off this way, with the youngest horse allowed to run free around the stage — to get used to the lights, noises and smells of the big top — while all of the actors slowly joined him, providing a quiet yet riveting introduction to the show.

Photographs aren’t allowed during Cavalia shows, people aren’t smart enough to turn their flashes off and with all of the movement on-stage, you’d need a tripod and a fast shutter speed to get a clear image. I loved that show, and hoped (dreamed?) that I’d get to see it again, if only to improve my memory of the show so I could watch it again, any time I wanted to.

A few weeks ago, Jill called me. Her husband had bought her tickets to see Cavalia, but was unable to accompany her. Did I want to fill his spot and go with her?

DID I WANT TO GO WITH HER?! I offered to drive.


The novelty of seeing over thirty horses on stage — with tumblers bouncing off of trampolines built into the stage floor and dancers hanging from the ceiling, with musicians providing live accompaniment and riders showcasing not only their skills on horseback but on the ground as well — doesn’t wear off. And did I mention that, thanks to Greg, this time around we had FRONT ROW SEATS?! I was close enough to get pieces of dirt and manure thrown at my feet as the horses wheeled and galloped not more than ten feet away from me.

Jill Jen

And this time (thanks to Greg, again), we also had “Horse Lover” passes which got us into the stable-tent after the show to meet the horses. But before we got to go back into the tent, one of the women from the show — Sylvia Zerbini — came out with a 5-year-old dappled gray gelding. As we understood it, this was one of the horses in training, and she brought him out to play and answer questions for a few minutes. Cavalia’s horses are trained under the premise of play, and Sylvia has a tremendous amount of patience. Earlier in the show, she worked from the ground with eight (EIGHT!) horses, untacked, with nothing more than a short whip (for reminders, but she never did more than slightly flick it or use it as an extension of her arm) and a combination of vocal and hand commands.

AMAZING. She had them galloping in a large circle around the stage, and then she simply twirled her body around in a gentle pirouette — AND EVERY HORSE SPUN IN A CIRCLE. As I said before — AMAZING.

After the show and after a little bit of play and allowing him to smell the stage, she asked this guy to lay down, and then to lay on his side, and then to sit up. Once he did those things for her, he put his front feet up on the edge of the stage  to say hello, and then took a bow before exiting to stage right. He was very attentive to her, and she never raised her voice. It was simply wonderful to watch.

Sit Training

After Sylvia and her gelding left the stage, we were invited as a group to explore the stable-tent and to photograph the horses (without flash), but not to touch any of the horses. Most of the horses were already hosed off, re-braided (to keep their long manes from getting tangled), and fed. It was interesting to see the layout of the stables, which were also housed within a big top tent, and I became attracted to all of the different textures and colors: braids, dapples and the seemingly sun-bleached mane of a buckskin named Hawk.

Braids Dapples Hawk

You can tell a lot about a horse from his eyes, and I find that the deep gaze of an equine eye holds a vast pool of gentleness, wisdom, trust, acceptance and love. So while in the big top, I also tried to reprise my earlier photographic work from college by taking photographs of Famoso’s and Palof’s eyes:

Famoso Gentleness

Cavalia the second time around was just as amazing as the first, and I feel truly blessed that Greg and Jill both thought of me. It was such a treat to be able to experience HORSES! ON STAGE! again… and this time they were selling a DVD, which of course I purchased. Now, I can watch Cavalia anytime I want to and share the experience with my other friends who haven’t gotten to visit the big top in the city!

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It’s not often that I wish I lived in a European country, and my daydreams are often products of something I’ve seen or read about, or memories of the tastiest plain pizza and flavor-bursting gelato ever, and the remembrance of thousands of steps that I know would end up shaving inches off of my hips and thighs if I walked them everyday. Needless to say, I often fantasize about living in Italy, or Australia, or Scotland — places I’ve been that have made a mark on my heart forever. Today, however, I wish I lived near Paris.

The reason? Certainly not based in the rumors you always hear about how the French loooove us Americans… but simply because if I lived in Paris I could’ve attended the first-ever world performance called 4 Ecoles d’Art Equestre at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy arena. Holding only three performances, 4 Ecoles brought together riders and horses from Europe’s four grand schools of equestrian art: the Cadre Noir in Saumur, France, featuring the Selle Francais horse; the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Lisbon on their Lusitano stallions; the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, Spain, who are dedicated to the Pure Spanish Horse, or PRE; and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, whose white Lipizzan stallions are international ambassadors of Austraian culture and classical equestrian arts.

I don’t expect that everyone will understand my awe at an event that seemingly features “circus horses doing jumping tricks,” but let me just say that the amount of knowledge, patience and discipline that goes into training these special horses is phenomenal. And to have the opportunity to see all four schools in one arena is a once-in-a-lifetime event… well, perhaps it might become a four-in-a-lifetime event, as the coordinators of the show are hoping to produce it later, once in each country of the other schools (Austria, Lisbon and Jerez).

Perhaps I won’t need that time machine after all…

Read more about 4 Ecoles in the June 2008 issue of Dressage Today – I’d insert a link here, but it appears that the Dressage Today web site is still highlighting the May featured articles.

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