Category Archives: Relationships

A Brief History of Essential Oils

dreamstime_m_79528864This time of year makes me want to hunker down in my office with my essential oils diffuser, a delicious pot of loose-leaf herbal tea, my cats, and my latest writing project. Some of my favorite oils to use while writing are frankincense, lavender, and a blend from Young Living Oils called Envision that really helps me to focus.

I got into essential oils about a year ago. I learned about them through some of my equestrian friends who use them with their horses, their other animals, and on themselves. I started using the oils on my own horses and was so impressed with their reactions both emotionally and physically that I decided to take this new wave of essential oil popularity seriously, and of course, started to research the history behind the oils.

First, I wanted to know exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. The oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

dreamstime_m_18598290Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and very little is needed to reap the benefits. To produce 1 lbs. of rose oil–one of my absolute favorites–5000lbs. of rose petals are needed. It is no surprise that a 5 ml. bottle of pure rose oil can cost up to $200. In my research I have found that for inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of the oils into the skin, it is extremely important to use products that are 100% pure therapeutic grade. According to Cynthia Foster, MD (drfostersessentials.com) many of the oils sold in grocery stores and health stores today are useful for aromatic purposes and perfume, but are commonly adulterated with solvents such as propylene glycol, acetate or alcohol. Only therapeutic grade oils are the purest and can help with physical, mental and emotional ailments, without harmful side effects.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. When the Egyptian Tutankhamen’s tomb (carbon dated 1500 B.C.) was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster oil jars were found. The oils had been emptied from the jars some time ago, thought to have been stolen. The fact that gold jewelry and artifacts had been left behind and only the oils stolen indicates the extremely high value of oils at that time.

dreamstime_m_70847963Oils have also been used for spiritual purposes throughout the centuries. As a practicing Catholic for all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed the aroma of incense during certain spiritual celebrations, and have participated in sacraments where oils were used, but never really understood why they were used or where the tradition came from. After researching I’ve learned there are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose. Many religions use frankincense in its resin form and burn it to release its aroma to encourage deeper spiritual contemplation and liberation. Many cultures use oils for meditation to promote emotional and mental calmness and to reach heightened states of enlightenment.

In Christianity, the Bible tells a story of preparing a sacred temple with aromatic oils to help stop a plague that was infesting a city. In the New Testament the story is told of the three kings coming to visit the Christ child with gifts of frankincense and myrrh—both oils—and gold. “Gold” in this case, according to some historians, was actually balsam oil and was referred to as “liquid gold” during that time period.

In my own experimentation I have found that many of the oils are wonderful for physical ailments such as pain, allergies, sore muscles and skin irritation. I have also incorporated essential oils into my skin care regimen and diet. A few months ago I became a certified practitioner of the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), a new energy technique that utilizes the aromatic properties of essential oils to release inner blocks and resistance we have built in our minds that prevent us from moving forward and realizing our goals and dreams. Since I have been using essential oils and practicing AFT on a regular basis, I notice that I approach life with a little more calm, a little more joy, and a lot more confidence. I’ve gained clarity in how I want to proceed in my career and with my relationships.

Essential oils and AFT will not cure all your ills or magically give you everything you want in life, but they can have an effect on how you see things, and can help you to be more proactive in your own health, career, and quality of life. If you haven’t already gotten on the band-wagon of using essential oils, you might give them a try. You never know what goodness life might offer you!

dreamstime_s_79374916

If you are interested in learning more about the Aroma Freedom Technique or essential oils, please feel free to contact me. Happy oiling!

Para-Equestrian Dressage Begins at Paralympic Games

www.usefnetwork.org
www.usefnetwork.org

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are well under way having started with their opening ceremonies on Wednesday, September 7.  Starting tomorrow, Sunday, September 11, one of my favorite sports in the Paralympic Games will begin, the Para-Equestrian Dressage. Seventy-six Para Equestrian Dressage athletes from 29 countries will compete this year, 78% whom are women. The oldest competitor is 67 years old from Great Britain, and the youngest is just 18 years old from the U.S.

As I mentioned in my last article about Canadian Paralympic athlete, Lauren Barwick, “The True Measure of A Champion Is What Is In Her Heart”,(https://karibovee.com/2016/09/07/the-true-measure-of-a-champion-is-what-is-in-her-heart/) the Para-Equestrian champion is truly someone to be admired. While these competitors must contend with their physical limitations on a daily basis, they must also be safe and responsible for a 1,200 pound, living, breathing, moving mass of emotional horseflesh.

When I started researching these articles, I, like many people I’m sure, didn’t quite understand the definition of “Paralympic Athlete”. As Lauren and US Para-Equestrian Angela Peavy explain in the two videos I cite in this article below,  the term “para” does not mean “paralyzed athletes”, but rather it means “parallel” to the Olympics. The Paralympics are the Olympic games for people with physical disabilities to achieve the same elite status as able-bodied competitors. Para-Equestrian Dressage is the only Equestrian discipline in the Paralympics.

Para-Equestrian Dressage was first included in the Paralympic Games in 1996. The athletes are classified according the level of their impairment. From the inside.fei.org website: The competitor’s mobility, strength and coordination are assessed in order to establish their Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability profiles are grouped into competition grades. The Grades range from Grade IA for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s impairment.” (Source: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/dressage/about-para-equestrian .

Since equestrianism is a fairly dangerous sport for even able-bodied riders, the equipment has been designed to keep the para-equestrian as safe as possible. Much of the equipment uses Velcro and rubber bands for easier and faster breakaway if needed during a fall. Balance is also extremely important. Saddles are often made with extra padding to facilitate the rider’s equilibrium and communication with the horse. Class and disability profiles are used to classify the type of equipment a rider can use for competition.

This year, four very talented riders from the United States will be competing in the Para-Equestrian Dressage events at Rio:

edition.cnn.com
edition.cnn.com

Sydney Collier from Ann Arbor, MI, will be competing with Dusty Rose, a 2003 Oldenburg mare, owned by her trainer, Wesley Dunham. Sydney began riding at 7 years of age with aspirations of becoming an eventer. Diagnosed with Wyburn-Mason syndrome, a rare congenital birth defect, Collier underwent medical treatments, radiation treatments and three unplanned brain surgeries to combat the illness. As a result, Collier completely lost the vision in her right eye and suffered a stroke causing her to lose the use of the left side of her body. She had to relearn to walk and also to regain the muscle control on her left side again. Undeterred from training, Collier, as a Ib Grade competitor, has won many outstanding championships. At age 16 she made her first appearance as a part of a U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).

www.worlddressagenews.com
www.worlddressagenews.com

Rebecca Hart from Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade II rider with her own 2002 Danish Warmblood mare, Schroeters Romani. Born with a rare genetic disease called hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a progressive impairment that causes muscle wasting and paralysis from the middle of the back down, Hart also would not be steered away from her dreams. In 1998, she purchased her first horse and decided to compete internationally. Hart has represented the U.S. in several international events. In 2014, she purchased Schroeter’s Romani and won the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships in both 2014 and 2015. Hart is a seven-time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion.

2014 Para Dressage Festival of Champions, Para WEG Selection Trial. www.uspea.com
uspea.com

Margaret “Gigi” Macintosh from Reading, PA, will be competing with Rio Rio, her own 2006 Rheinland Pfalz-saar mare. Gigi broke her neck in 1999 during the cross-country phase of an eventing competition, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia. Her love of equestrian sport kept her going. After her  hard work to regain her mobility, Gigi now competes in para-equestrian dressage as a 1A competitor. She recently started riding without stirrups to counteract the effects of leg spasms that occur while riding with stirrups. She recently took team gold at the Wellington CPEDI3* and won the Grade Ia Freestyle
She was also the Individual Grade Ia Champion at the Wellington CPEDI3*with Rio Rio.

 

uspea.com
uspea.com

Angela Peavy, also known as Annie, from Avon, CT and Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade III rider with Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding owned by Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno. In utero, Annie suffered a stroke, which affected the left side of her body. She began equine therapy as a 4-year-old and got her first horse at age 10. Smitten with dressage, Annie and her mother traveled to Portugal for “dressage vacations.” She couldn’t get enough of the sport and took three lessons a day while abroad. When she returned home, a friend introduced her to para-equestrian dressage and Annie began her journey toward representing her country in dressage all over the world. Annie’s hard work and dedication landed her a spot on the U.S. Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Annie is one of the few para-equestrian athletes who also competes in able-bodied dressage.

Like Lauren Barwick of Canada, these athletes have found meaning, purpose and healing through their horse partners and healthy competition. Enjoy this video with Annie Peavy and Rebecca Hart as they explain how dressage and competition has helped them to heal and work toward achieving their dreams.

Sources: (http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/USParaEquestrianTeam/, https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/dressage/about-para-equestrian, Wikipedia, Parelli Success Stories, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feUNKXrWNPE

The True Measure of A Champion Is What Is In Her Heart

Champions are the type of people who have chosen a road less traveled. They have sacrificed their time, money, and sometimes their relationships, to achieve their championship dreams. There is a certain drive and force of will these people have that not everyone is fortunate enough, or strong enough, to foster.

As we are in the midst of the Olympic season, first with the Games in August, and now with the Paralympics starting this week, we get to see these champions doing what they do best, at the peak of their performance, competing for the elusive Holy Grail of all awards, the Olympic Gold Medal.

LONDON, ENGLAND 01/09/2012 - Lauren Barwick, riding Off to Paris, in the Dressage Individual Championship Test - Grade II Final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in Greenwich Park. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)
LONDON, ENGLAND 01/09/2012 – Lauren Barwick, riding Off to Paris, in the Dressage Individual Championship Test – Grade II Final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in Greenwich Park. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)

Athletes of this caliber are indeed special, but one in particular stands out to me: Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. Lauren is a 4-time World Para-Equestrian athlete and 3-time Paralympic medalist, having earned gold and silver medals in the Paralympic Games in Beijing (2008). In 2008 and 2014 she was named
Canada’s Equestrian of the Year and in 2015, she was inducted into Canada’s Paralympic Hall of Fame. All amazing achievements, yes, and all from a person who has no feeling below her belly button and paralyzed legs. It seems mind boggling, but what draws me to Lauren is her devotion to and passion for natural horsemanship. In addition to all of her monumental achievements, Lauren is a Parelli 4-Star Senior Instructor and Horse Development Specialist.

Lauren was introduced to the Parelli Program before her tragic accident. As a jumper, she appreciated the methods and learned the hallmark Parelli Seven Games. But, like many of us, at first, she didn’t take it too seriously, and just had fun with it. At 22 years of age, while training to perform stunts with horses for the movie industry, Lauren climbed to the top of a pile of 100-pound stacked hay bales at feeding time. The stack was unstable so she jumped 10 feet to the ground and one of the top bales fell on her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Lauren thought she would never ride again. Three weeks later, she was allowed home for a visit, and wheeled herself down to the pasture to see her horses. Only one approached her, unafraid of the contraption she had to sit in for the rest of her life. Her horse, Peanut, had not forgotten her owner, and as horses are so apt to do once a bond is created. Peanut loved and missed Lauren unconditionally. After that, Lauren felt she might be able to ride again.

In 2002, just two years after her injury, Lauren hired a trainer and began competing internationally, representing her country. She was nominated for and began training for the Para-Equestrian 2004 Paralympics in Athens, where she came very close to achieving Top 3 in the dressage competition. In 2005, Lauren realized that she no longer wanted to train the way she had trained for Athens and wanted more of a partnership with her horses. It was then that she reached out to Pat and Linda Parelli and began her natural horsemanship journey once again. Still with no aspirations to continue on to Beijing in 2008, Lauren went to the Parelli Colorado campus for a two-week audition to become a part of Pat’s barn. Lauren says that after seven days of riding with Pat in the mountains, she was inspired again to see how far she could go with her horses. She moved to Florida to train at the Florida campus with the goal of competing in the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics. It was through Pat and Linda that she found her Paralympic horse, Maile, and realized her Olympic dreams. Lauren has another shot at the gold this year at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, September 7-18, with her horse Onyx.

Lauren inspires me in so many ways. She has overcome what seemed to be insurmountable odds to achieve her goals, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to be a better partner to her horses. She wanted to be completely involved in their training, both physically and emotionally. Although I have no aspirations to achieve what Lauren has in her equestrian career, I can relate to her desire to want more than the ribbon. She wanted those awards to really mean something, from her heart. She wanted to be able to foster a deep and meaningful relationship with more than just one “good” horse. She wanted to prove to herself that she had the heart and the desire to be the best partner she could be to a number of horses. Regardless of what she may do in Rio this summer, in that she truly has succeeded.

Sources: LaurenBarwick.com, Dressagetoday.com, Parelli Success Stories, Parelli Tube,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feUNKXrWNPE

Cowboys, Indians and Queens, Oh My!

Relationships between royals and commoners don’t happen very often. In 1936 England’s King Edward VIII’s affiliation with a commoner forced him to lose the crown when he wanted to marry the famously divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Since his time, things have loosened up a bit. Prince Charles married the late Diana Spencer and is now married to Camilla Parker Bowles. England’s beloved Prince William married Kate. All of these relationships, perhaps aside from Charles and Diana, sprung from shared passions. As I wrote in my last article about Queen Elizabeth, “The Queen’s Private Passion” (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/), we all know about QEII’s passion for all things equine, particularly the horse itself. This passion has led Her Majesty, too, to engage in an on-going, unlikely relationship with a commoner—who is also an American.

An avid thoroughbred racehorse breeder, the Queen wants only the best for her four-legged friends. In the late 1970’s, the longest reigning monarch of all time reached out to a cowboy from California who had fostered the reputation of being “the man who listens to horses.”

Like his fellow horseman Pat Parelli—also a cowboy from California whose had an audience with the Queen, Monty Roberts decided as a young man that violent means for training performance animals was not the answer. Roberts studied horses in the wild and learned how they communicated with one another. He noted their body language, how they set boundaries, showed fear and expressed annoyance, relaxation or affection, and then developed gestures to mimic those behaviors. Robert’s method came to be known as “Join Up.” Impressed with his philosophy and training methods, the Queen hired him to help train her racehorses.

Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of "The Man Who Listens to Horses". www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)
Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)

Robert’s relationship with the Queen has remained steadfast since the 1980’s. With the Queen’s encouragement, he wrote a book entitled, “The Man Who Listens to Horses.” Published in 1996, the book became a phenomenon. Documentaries were made and more books were published. In 1998 he became one of several natural horsemen who served as inspirations for the movie “The Horse Whisperer” starring Robert Redford.

In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Roberts with an honorary Membership of the Royal Victorian Order—an order of people who have served Her Royal Majesty in a personal way—for his contributions to the racing establishment. He has served the Queen and her horses for a quarter of a century.

The relationship between the QEII and Roberts was much more widely accepted in the late twentieth century than the relationship held between her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, and one of her Indian servants. In fact, Victoria’s friendship with 24-year-old Abdul Karim, who was 42 years her junior, was viewed as more akin to a scandal.

After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert, Victoria missed the companionship of a man. Albert provided support, ideas, and indispensable advice to the Queen from the time they courted, until his death. Queen Victoria later found solace in John Brown, a servant she also had a deep and lasting platonic relationship with after Albert’s death. In Karim, Queen Victoria was once again able to find the same comfort after John died.

Queen Victoria at her desk, assisted by her servant Abdul Karim, the 'Munshi'. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)
Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, the ‘Munshi’. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Brought to England in 1887 as a personal servant to Queen Victoria for the Golden Jubilee, Karim immediately endeared himself to Her Magesty with his gentle nature and advanced intellect. She gave him the title of “ Munshi”, the Urdu word for “clerk” or “teacher”.  Within one year, he had become one of her most trusted confidants and she promoted him to a status well beyond servant.

Although the Queen benefited intellectually and spiritually from Karim’s advice and companionship, the rest of the royal household did not see his value. Many of Victoria’s other staff and servants thought him well beneath them and resented the closeness between Karim and the Queen. The fact that she showered him with gifts, honors, and a large land grant in India didn’t help matters.

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

I found this relationship so interesting that I have infused it into my second Annie Oakley mystery novel. Like the unusual relationship between QEII and Monty Roberts and Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim respectively, Annie Oakley found herself in an unlikely friendship with royalty of another kind. Chief Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux Chief and warrior, who was also a principal player in Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, became smitten with Miss Oakley, when he first saw her perform in 1884. The great Sioux Chief felt that Annie was “gifted” by a supernatural force that enabled her to shootequally accurate with both hands. Because of this, and their close rapport, the Chief symbolically “adopted” her and named her Watanya Cecilia, the Sioux name for “Little Sure Shot” – a moniker that stuck with her throughout her career.

"Little Sure Shot" (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)
“Little Sure Shot” (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)

I think that unlikely relationships are always the most interesting to read and write about. The single factor in each one that bonds each of the people in them together is a profound respect that crosses social, racial, and religious boundaries. It is truly remarkable and heartwarming for Her Royal Majesty QEII to reach out to a cowboy fromCalifornia; for Queen Victoria to take in an Indian servant as a confidant, and a for a famed Indian warrior to be so touched by a young white girl’s special talent, that he wants to make her his daughter. It reminds us that no matter what a person’s title or status in society, we are all human beings who have a desire to share our passions and interests. I think it is a good lesson for all of us.

Equestrianism At The Olympics

As a horse enthusiast I find it interesting that many people do not know that equestrianism is actually an Olympic sport. I also find it interesting that people do not realize that dressage is part of the Olympic Equestrian family. Actually, it is amazing to me that many people do not know much about dressage at all. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and poetic of disciplines, and it requires an absolutely rock solid relationship between horse and rider to be successful.

Dressage has its history in the military, going way back to the first documented accounts of the discipline in the writings of the Greek Xenophon. The horses chosen for this military discipline had to be obedient and maneuverable, and required a rigorous system of training. “The system of training was built upon throughout the ages, with many well-known riding masters, military and civilian, writing books expounding their methods.” (Source: United States Dressage Federation – www.usdf.org)

Campionato Provinciale S.O. www.fiseprovincia.it
Early Olympic Dressage Photo Campionato Provinciale S.O. www.fiseprovincia.it

Equestrianism in general, and dressage in particular, did not make its debut in the Olympic games until the 1900 Summer Olympics, and then only as a military discipline. Commissioned military officers and “gentlemen” were the only people permitted to compete in the Olympic equestrian disciplines. The military test included obedience and maneuverability (or what would become dressage) and the ability to jump obstacles.

After the US Cavalry was disbanded in 1948, the focus for dressage shifted from military to civilian competition, and it quickly gained momentum. Women as well as men ventured into the sport and in the 1952 Summer Games, women made their first equestrian appearance in dressage. It wasn’t until 1956 and 1964 respectively, that women could compete in jumping and eventing.

Equestrianism is one of the few Olympic sports in history where women and men are allowed to complete against one another. In team competition, teams may have any blend of male and female competitors, and are not required to have minimum numbers of either gender; countries are free to choose the best riders, regardless of their gender.

Dressage has changed dramatically since its early appearance at the Summer Olympics. Jumping is no longer required, but the tests on the flat are now more difficult and include more challenging movements such as the piaffe and the passage. Today’s dressage horses are specifically bred for the discipline and their movement is much more refined and dramatic than in past years.

Lis Hartel from Denmark was the first woman to win a silver medal for Individual Dressage in 1952, and she was also the Danish champion that same year. Hartel had the heart and drive required to be so successful. Despite contracting polio in 1944 at the age of 23, which paralyzed her legs and affected her arms and hands, Hartel was determined to continue her equestrian career. Against medical advice, she went on to finish second at the Scandinavian championships, despite the fact that she needed help to get on her horse every time she rode.

In 1992, Hartel was inducted into Denmark’s Hall of Fame, and in 2005 she was named one of Denmark’s top 10 athletes of all time. An empowered woman, Hartel paved the way for other empowered and dedicated women in the sport.

That type of drive and dedication brings to mind other empowered women and Olympic athletes who will be competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics such as Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. Her story is especially moving to me because Lauren is also a practitioner of natural horsemanship and is a Parelli 4-Star Instructor and Horse Development Specialist. Lauren became paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 22 when a 100 pound bale of hay fell from 10 feet above onto her spine. When she left the hospital, Lauren said she would never ride again, but it was her relationship with her mare, Peanut, whom she now calls her “heart horse”, that gave her the inspiration and courage to ride again. To date, Lauren has earned gold and silver medals in the Beijing Paralympic Games 2008, as well as bronze and silver medals at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Most of us have no room to whine or complain that horsemanship is hard and often frustrating. To overcome such a tremendous hurdle takes an inner strength that most of us can hardly imagine.

Liselott Linsenhoff , a German equestrian and an Olympic champion, became the first woman to receive an Individual Dressage gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics. In the 1968 Summer Olympics she took home a team gold with the West German team. Lisenhoff won many world championships and her daughter, Ann-Katherine, also became an Olympic champion in equestrian arena.

It’s funny how a passion can run through families. Equestrian Olympic athlete Zara Phillips Tindall, the second eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and daughter of Princess Anne, says her love of horses came from her grandmother. (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/) Her mother, Anne, participated in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal as a member of the British team riding the Queen’s horse, Goodwill. Zara, as a member of the Great Britain Eventing Team, won a Silver Medal at the London 2012 Olympics. Sadly, Zara did not make the team this year and will not be competing at Rio de Janeiro – but there is always the next Summer Olympics four years from now.

The latest female equestrian to win the Olympic gold medal in Dressage is another Brit—Charlotte Dujardin with her power horse, Valegro, in 2012. Dujardin is said to be the most successful British dressage rider in the history of the sport and the winner of all major titles and world records. She has been described as the most dominant dressage rider of her era. With Valegro, Dujardin currently holds the complete set of the available individual elite dressage titles; the Individual Olympic Freestyle, World Freestyle and Grand Prix Special, World Cup Individual Dressage and European Freestyle and Grand Prix Special titles. Dujardin is the first and to date the only rider to hold this complete set of titles at the same time.

Dujardin and Valegro are competing in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but this year will be Valegro’s last. Dujardin is retiring her partner after an amazing career. “Dujardin says she will not let the pressure of being an Olympic champion affect her. ‘I just take it all on board. I try not to let that all bother me. Riding Valegro always makes you smile, so I enjoy it.’” (Source: BBC.com article”Charlotte Dujardin: Valegro to retire after 2016 Rio Olympics,” published November 16, 2015 – http://www.bbc.com/sport/equestrian/34832755)

(Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_YCharlotte Dujardin’s World Record Breaking Freestyle test at London Olympia, FEI, Published December 18, 2014)

This year, the United States has four stellar Equestrians on its Dressage team: Allison Brock from Loxahatchee, FL with her partner Rosevelt, a 2002 Hanoverian stallion; Laura Graves from Geneva, FL and her own KWPN gelding, Verdades; Kasey Perry-Glass from Orangevale, CA with her partner Dublet, a 2003 Danish Warmblood Gelding; and the well-know Steffen Peters from San Diego, CA with his partner Legolas 92, a 2002 Westphalian gelding.

While all of the equestrian athletes, both horse and human, are to be greatly admired and respected, I always like to root for the home team. Best of luck to the four riders and their partners on the US Dressage team, and best of luck to Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. I’m on the edge of my seat!

I hope this article helps to shed some light on the uniqueness of all equestrian endeavors and especially the role it plays in the Olympic games. The bond between horse and rider is absolutely vital to achieving greatness in equestrian sports. Most athletes must be in tune with their bodies, take care of themselves, and learn to push their limits. The equestrian athlete not only has to take care of him or herself, each one also has a 1200 lbs. partner, who needs love, attention, and understanding, to take care of as well. I sometimes think this is taken for granted. I hope that I have helped people to appreciate the enormity of an equestrian athlete’s passion for and dedication to their sport. Go USA!

Note: Some of the material in this article has been cited from Wikipedia.org., and Dressage Today article “Get to Know Canadian Dressage Paralympian Lauren Barwick” Dressagetoday.com

 

The Queen’s Private Passion

Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk
Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk

In light of the recent events surrounding Brexit, we’ve seen a lot of coverage of the royal family, particularly Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In April, she celebrated her 90th birthday and the photographers went wild. In July she was photographed during the annual Order of the Thistle service at St Giles’ Cathedral (The Order of the Thistle is the second-most senior order of chivalry pertaining to Scotland. The oldest order is its English equivalent, The Most Nobel Order of the Garter.)

In short, we see a lot of photographs of England’s beloved Queen, but the ones I love most are of QEII with horses. She is either sizing up their conformation with a very concentrated, stern, or discerning look on her face, or she is simply beaming. In many photos, she is reaching out to touch the nose or neck – all the while with a girlish grin on her face. I recently watched The Queen: A Passion For Horses, a documentary made by Clare Balding. In it, England’s stoic Queen actually giggled with glee while inspecting one of her newborn thoroughbred foals.

One cannot hide one’s passion, not even the Queen of England.

Horses have the ability to bring out the best in people. That is one of the aspects of horse and human relationships I like to bring out in my books. In Dead Eye Dame, the novel that my agent is currently selling, Annie Oakley has a tremendous relationship with her horse, Buck. Through Buck, Annie is better able to handle the volatile emotions that come with the stresses of performance and competition, not to mention the horrible things I do to her throughout the course of the story! Buck is her rock, her constant companion. He, like all horses that are treated well, loves her unconditionally. They have established a bond. To Buck, Annie is just a horse with two legs instead of four.

Queen Elizabeth, a woman whom many people have criticized for her lack of emotion, understands this relationship and bond extremely well. According to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, when Elizabeth became Queen at the tender age of 25, she “had to sacrifice within herself many emotions. With horses, she is in another world.” It is a world in which she can be herself—just another human being. As natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli likes to say, “With horses, once you take off the halter, all you have is the truth.” I love that statement. For me, it means that horses have the ability to make you look inside yourself and see what is truly there. If they run away from you, it might be wise to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of vibe you are transmitting to them, and probably the world. On the other hand, if your horse is “in your pocket” as they say, there is a bond of trust there. And trust, for prey animals like horses, does not come easy.

Queen Riding at Ascot 1964It is said by many people closely associated with the Queen that she is unconditionally loved by her horses. She takes extreme care and caution to hire only trainers who treat her horses well, from Monty Roberts, the inspiration for the movie and book, The Horse Whisperer to Rochelle Murray, one of her stud grooms at Sandringham whose job it is to make sure that her young thoroughbreds learn to be comfortable around people from birth. Not many racehorse owners go to this effort to ensure that their horses are sound in MIND and body. Their horses are a means to an end, and that end usually involves money. While the Queen is competitive with her horses and wants them to win, what is more important is that they know they are valued. That kind of care and devotion only comes from someone who is emotionally connected to her horses.

It is true that royalty and horses go hand in hand. Just flip through the pages of history and you’ll find many paintings and photographs of royals on horseback either enjoying a leisurely ride or storming into battle on their fiery steeds. Elizabeth’s passion goes back to her childhood when her father, King George VI, gifted Elizabeth, age 4, and her younger sister, Margaret, with a Shetland pony named “Peggy.” Since then, Elizabeth’s relationship with horses has remained constant, and like many royals, she has owned countless equines throughout her life.

During Princess Diana’s funeral, the Queen got her fair share of negative press for not showing enough emotion. As her cousin Margaret Rhodes revealed, once Elizabeth became Queen, she has had to keep her emotions to herself, by putting on a mask of stoicism for the public. Even in the presence of her great grandchildren, there is often but a hint of a smile on her face. But, I believe that underneath the quirky hats and the regal mask of a Queen, there is a deeply benevolent person lurking beneath—one whose secret passion cannot be hidden. Just look at a photo of her, looking at a horse.

Photo from The Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo from The Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk

Building a Better Relationship – Annie Oakley Style

 

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Annie Oakley doing what she did best!

Building a better relationship. It’s something we all should strive for. In our marriages, with our kids, friends, family, co-workers, employees, the list goes on. But, often in our busy lives, we are so focused on getting
things done, or achieving things, that we don’t focus on our relationships. Through time and neglect, those relationships begin to sour or drift away.

A couple of years ago, I saw this happening in my relationships with my horses and I knew I had to fix it.

I grew up in New Mexico with horses in my backyard. I spent much of my youth with my favorite horse, Flying Mok (I don’t know where the name came from). We covered miles of trail along the Rio Grande and spent hours in the arena. When not riding, I would sit on a large branch of the cottonwood tree that shaded his corral and just watch him eat. I participated in some horse shows and took home my share of ribbons, but the main objective was to have fun, and we did, and our relationship proved it.

As an adult, after college and more financial stability, I got back into horses via my teenage daughter who needed a hobby and a sport. I took her to one of the local barns and her love affair with horses began and mine was resurrected. She wanted to focus on showing, so we did. It was something we enjoyed together – a mother/daughter bonding experience that softened the angst of her teenage years. When she went to college, I was left with some very lovely, very expensive horses, so I decided to go into showing full boat. My love for horses and my competitive nature fit together like a custom made glove and I was all in. My horses and I did very well for several years, but after a while, it seemed like my whole life became all about the next show. Sometimes I’d go to shows twice a month, often traveling far from home in search of the rainbow of ribbons. After a while, I noticed that my horses didn’t seem to be making much improvement, their neurosis and fears increased, and I became more and more frustrated. It wasn’t fun anymore.

I’d been introduced to Natural Horsemanship via a Parelli Horse and Soul Tour some years earlier. I enjoyed the demonstrations and respected the training methods and philosophy the Parelli’s espoused, but I didn’t have time to embrace the philosophy. I had to prepare for the next show!

After more years of showing, anxiety, and frustration with minimal improvement, I finally realized that my love affair with horses was dying. I decided to look at this Natural Horsemanship closer. I had to nurture my relationship with my horses, because those relationships and spending time with my horses had always been my “soul food” and I was starving.

I ventured to the “mecca” of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, the Colorado Ranch Campus, for the first time in 2014, for a four-week course. I took my horse Chaco, who had been my greatest challenge to date. Chaco was energetic, athletic, spooky, unpredictable, uncomfortable with contact, and quite frankly, a bit scary to me. Other people may have not felt the same about him, but that didn’t matter. He was scary to me, and our relationship had miles to go.

What I learned in that four-week course assured me with absolute certainty that Natural Horsemanship was the path I needed to pursue, to better myself as a horsewoman and as a person. I learned that like people, horses needed to be treated as individuals. They have fears, quirks, moods, aches, pains, and NEEDS that I had been ignoring. I’d been so focused on achieving better scores, more ribbons, more awards with my horses that all I’d done was damage the relationship.

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Chaco and me watching a demo at the Parelli campus. June 2016

Three courses and two years later, I am a different horsewoman. I have a long way to go, but I am becoming more confident, more patient, and more understanding of my horses’ NEEDS and they in turn are starting to enjoy being with me. I can tell when I get out of the car and they come to greet me. I can tell when they are so willing to be a partner that they ask questions and trust me with the answers. I can tell when they are calm, connected, and responsive when I am working with them on the ground or under saddle. The love affair is reborn.

In the first book of my historical mystery series, Dead Eye Dame, one of the sub-plots centers on the relationship between a woman and her horse. The protagonist, the not-yet-famous Annie Oakley, has a special bond with Buck, a golden horse with a midnight-black mane and tail. While Buck doesn’t exactly help her solve the murder, his relationship with Annie carries her through some tumultuous times and proves to be one that she cannot live without.

In my book series, I’ve created the ultimate horse/human relationship with Annie and Buck. It’s something I will strive for and work toward as long as I have my equine friends with me. I’m taking a break from showing for the time being, but when I return, it won’t be about achievements and ribbons. It will be about building a better relationship and that is a guaranteed win.

Writing Your Passion

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

– Barbara Kingsolver
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I love this quote. As writers, we all want to sell our work. We all want our words to be cast into the world to make a difference. But, do we write to sell? Do we write to what sells? Sometimes we do, but what is more important is the passion within ourselves that, for some reason, we need to get out and share with anyone who will listen–er, read.

I’ve attended many writer’s conferences and seen and heard many successful, well-sold authors, and most of the time their main message is this: Write what you want to read. I think this is so powerful. Fiction has its trends. By the time you finish your masterpiece, it may not be sellable. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit. Times change. Trends change. Write what you want to write. Your passion will lead you to success–whatever your definition of success entails.

This dovetails perfectly with a conversation we had this week in the  Level 4+ Riding Course I am attending at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO. As some of you know, Parelli Natural Horsemanship is a method, philosophy, and practice of partnering in harmony with horses by communicating in their language. Monday we talked about 7 Cardinal Rules for Life:

  1. Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your present.
  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  3. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
  4. No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.
  5. Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  6. Stop thinking too much. It’s alright to not know all the answers, they will come to you when you least expect it.
  7. Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.

I would add only two things: Be who you are. Love who you are.

See you next week!

Crazies On The Porch

imageLast night I arrived in New York City for a writer’s conference. Coming from New Mexico, it is always a shock to get off the plane and be instantly thrown into the hustle bustle of true “big city” life. It always takes me a few days to adjust and get into the rhythm of the controlled chaos. I feel like I’m going crazy at first, like I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all the noise, the crowds, the lack of space. In New Mexico there is no “lack” of space to be sure.

My great solace as I sit in my bed, listening to the chaos that never seems to end below my window, is that I get to see the three women who’ve become so important in my writing life–the Crazies–as we call ourselves, Dana, Liz and Pam. We’re about as different as the contents in a bowl of fruit, a Northern apple, a Midwestern pear, a Southern peach and a Southwestern chili (yes, chili is classified as a fruit.) Different in our make up, our creativity, and our style–but still fruit.

We met a few years ago at a writer’s workshop in Scituate, Massachusetts–at a bar, the preferred hangout for most workshop attendees and conference goers, and immediately hit it off. Our differences and sameness seemed to mesh into our own perfect union of crazy. After a few days of divulging our life experience and the real and made up characters in our worlds, the word “crazy” came up. “Crazy” in the sense of addled, eccentric, mad, deranged, or just not quite right. We discussed that in most regions of the U.S., “crazy” was not a good thing, something to be pitied, or ashamed of, something not discussed, when Liz piped up, “my family is from the south and we just put our crazies on the front porch.”

After a hearty round of laughter and a toast to all the”crazies” in the world, hidden away behind closed doors, or out loud on the porch, we decided that the term fit us pretty well and we christened ourselves, “The Crazies on The Porch” with great confidence and pride.

Since that moment we united as sisters and talk every couple of weeks through video chat. We also send each other our work for editing, brainstorming, new beginnings, and polished endings. Sometimes we just talk about our lives. We are all crazy, in every sense of the word, and we are not alone. We have each other.

Anna’s Dilemma

*Spoiler Alert* If you are not caught up to Season 4 of Downton Abbey, you might not want to read this post.

I’m still reeling from Season 4. One of the things I love about Downton is that it takes social issues from that time period and brings them to our attention in the present. We take so much for granted. We are allowed so many freedoms – like the freedom to stand up for ourselves, the freedom to speak out, and the freedom to do something about a crime that was committed against us. During the 1920’s women were definitely starting to find their way to speak out in society, they had just obtained the right to vote, but still, there were things that were simply not discussed for a variety of reasons.

The episode where Anna was raped proved to be very controversial in the UK and the US. More so than the makers of the show expected. I found this interview with actress Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna Bates where she talks about why Anna was so terrified to speak up.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! Leave a comment (on either one of my Downton posts) and receive a chance to win a hardback copy of The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellows. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book.

Jessica Fellowes  is an English author, freelance journalist, and the niece of Lord Julian Fellowes, writer and Creator of Downton Abbey.