Who says I’m too tall to be a jockey?!

Well, at least not for a virtual run for the roses… Here’s how a 5’8″ trail rider and a fellow “twenty-something” Thoroughbred/Arabian cross are combining forces to make a big impression for a big cause.

Kentucky Derby (PRNewsFoto/Churchill Downs Racetrack)

It’s official: I’m a jockey now. Except, just for a week… and it’s a race against my fellow jockeys who are also racing towards the virtual finish line – through fundraising! Everything is tax-deductible and your gift, no matter the size, will have an incredible impact! Here’s everything you need to know about HALTER’S “Fun for the Roses” Derby Week.

Starting at 12:01 AM on Monday, April 30, you can donate by clicking HERE and then clicking on my photo!*

HALTER: Healing and Learning Through Equine Relationships

HALTER is an incredible therapeutic riding center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where I was fortunate enough to volunteer, intern and teach while in college. It’s a special place and they serve more than 125 children weekly with their even more special herd of horses. They serve local school programs, including the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind just next door, and are home to occupational, speech, and physical therapy programs in collaboration with the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. HALTER horses have also been used for unmounted counseling sessions and learning experiences – their impact is incredible!

Here’s a glimpse of the incredible horses, riders and volunteers I’ve known through HALTER, and why this work is so important:


“Fun for the Roses” Derby Week:

It’s a horse race! Seven pairs of “jockeys” and their HALTER horse teammates are “racing” to the finish line in hopes of raising the most amount of money possible between April 30th and May 5. The best part? the JM Smith Foundation is matching donations, so your gift is doubled! Plus, you can help me earn bonus bucks for HALTER just by having a long last name, or donating closest to the start, so stay tuned for new challenges each day! While I’d love to take home the roses at the end of the week, the overall goal is for the contest to raise *at least* $24,000 for HALTER! Let’s do it!

Click here to see my competition and learn more about HALTER.

Bonus Bucks: Your gift of any amount can count for even more! Today’s challenges italicized.

  • The jockey to get a donation closest to the start of the race, 12:00am midnight EST Monday, April 30, will get a $50 bonus.
  • The first jockey to raise $1,000 in two or more donations gets a $100 bonus
  • The jockey to raise the most money between 5pm and midnight on Monday gets a $100 bonus
  • Monday: Each jockey who has a donor on Monday whose last name starts with gets a $25 bonus
  • Tuesday: Each jockey who has a donor on Tuesday whose last name starts with gets a $25 bonus
  • Wednesday: Each jockey who has a donor on Wednesday whose last name starts with gets a $25 bonus
  • Thursday: Each jockey who has a donor on Thursday whose last name starts with gets a $25 bonus
  • Friday: Each jockey who has a donor on Friday whose last name starts with gets a $50 bonus
  • Each jockey who gets all DERBY names gets a $100 bonus
  • Head to head challenge: on THURSDAY it’s businesswomen’s challenge! Winner gets $100 bonus. Sarah vs. Tracie vs. Susan
  • The jockey who gets a donor with the longest last name will get a $10 bonus for every latter of the name. If there’s a tie, the name that begins with the letter closest to Z wins. 

About Drummer:

Drummer is at least 24, but he’s one of my favorite horses I’ve used in therapeutic riding lessons because he is incredibly perceptive and quiet, and can be used for anything from independent walk-trot lessons to lead-line lessons with the smallest riders. His height makes him ideal for older riders (and taller volunteers!) who are focusing on communication and riding skills more than balance and motor skills, but I adore his ability to make any rider feel safe and successful.

Riding Drummer gives students confidence, because his height can often be intimidating at first, but he is literally a gentle giant and always tries his best for each rider. He prefers quiet energy and a slow pace, and I’ve been able to use this to teach students about their own energy, behavior, and learning styles. He’s taught students how to overcome fear, how to slow themselves down, how to ride independently, and how to self-regulate their emotions. I love him to death and am so thrilled to be paired with him in this challenge!

12311283_829320070499570_2392228076751045866_n.jpg
For a long day of classes with a diverse group of students, I used HALTER’s tallest and smallest teachers! Exhausted college student in the middle.

Some personal Drummer stories:

One of my former students dealt with fear and timidity when transitioning to riding independently and her vision impairment heightened her uncertainty. “L” and Drummer were a perfect pair – his natural tendencies made him gentle enough to allow her to explore independence without feeling out of control, but his size and stride made her feel like she was really accomplishing something amazing – she was.

Later, when navigating walk-trot transitions and dealing with fear, Drummer taught her to relax and what tense energy is – sweet Drummer and brave L cantered several times unintentionally, and once she realized she could handle the extra speed, she eventually became a class leader at the walk and trot. By the time she graduated from HALTER I received a video of her trotting independently around the arena more confidently than ever.

15492088_1078615975569977_1637074666539521242_n

Drummer would prefer to avoid any kind of pressure at all times, thank you very much – he gets along well with quiet souls and with subtle, slow cues. So what happens when your rider can’t use their legs to cue? It’s no problem for Drummer! I once watched a young student use tiny, almost imperceptible taps with his hand on Drummer’s shoulder to cue him to walk on – without any assistance at all from volunteers – and my jaw dropped while the student beamed as he struck up a careful, snappy walk. This was before I knew Drummer well – before I rode him and used him in classes – and I didn’t have to know him long before I absolutely loved him.

Here’s to my favorite big guy and a successful race next week – let’s race, and let’s raise as much as we can for a cause that will always and forever have my heart, whether I’m teaching or not.

Drummer
Team Twenty-somethings

 

*PS: Check or cash only kinda person? No worries! Contact me!

Advertisements

Floating

Work deadlines barely met,
leisurely cup of coffee before and after lunch
becomes a full water bottle
because I’m thirsty again.
Self defense class turns into yoga—
strikes and strangles become
deep breaths and downward dogs because I so need the stretch.
The subtle sweat,
the tremor of tired wrists and calves
becomes a cool shower,
my week-old sunburn still showing on my shoulders.
Wet hair dries slowly on my back,
becomes blonde again,
as water turns to five glasses of red wine
on a front porch rocking chair with tacos,
and I feel the weight fall—
all that I have not done
becomes all that I still may do
Tomorrow.

A few hours forward and the rocking chair
becomes a bouncing back seat in a passenger van,
Pee Dee River bound—
the only woman on board.
Manicured lawn
morphs to 1600 acres of long leaf pines,
chord grass and wildflowers,
one corn snake, juvenile,
one “bless his heart” poet and professor-turned
kid in ecology candy shop,
and more sunburn.
Wine becomes beer on a back porch by black water,
sliding sluggishly by as we sit and rock and talk.
Sunny day driving stakes becomes a sunset bonfire with gumbo
and beer after beer;
seven seniors sleep scattered on the back porch—
ready for every kind of
Tomorrow.

In the same way that,
overnight,
paddling the Pacolet for that first lab
becomes paddling the Pacolet
one last time,
one day I become aware
that I cannot control
Tomorrow.
I cannot control Today.
I cannot control Time.

And here I am,
twenty-two years in,
finally catching the drift.
It’s too much to paddle upstream
a river you were always meant to glide.
It amazes me
how tired I didn’t know I was.
When the river carries me,
I can carry so much more.

Only after a million little momentary test floats,
in which I did not crash
and the world did not end,
do I dare stop paddling.
I dare to rest my desperate hands
and rely on the rudder within,
if only between the river bends.
And whether I end up in Ireland,
On the coast of California,
in Central Park,
Or a tiny mountain town in Western North Carolina,
I find that I always arrive on time,
and so paddling becomes reserved
for actual rivers.


First draft written May 2017, and it’s been floating around in my head since then, so I thought it deserved a place to live.

Goals: because they’re good to have, and even better to write down

This post isn’t really for you… sorry, followers.

This post is really about publicly keeping myself accountable for my goals – which are not resolutions, but instead patterns I’m ever seeking to adopt.

There are many, but here are a few:

Food:

  • I want 2018 to be “mostly” vegetarian and less wastefully caffeinated, since we all know that I will never be less caffeinated. Especially not with less than 250 days to WEG.
    • By less wastefully, I mean that I want to avoid drinking coffee in a manner that creates waste. Brewing my own coffee in a french press is way better (and cheaper) than paying for my java in a paper or plastic cup.
  • I will pack myself a lunch more often! Working at a resort makes for some great food, but my wallet doesn’t enjoy it so much, and I end up eating meat more often. I’m always trying to avoid using plastic products, so this is a triple win.

Horses:

  • Dancer and I are aiming for more arena time so we can ride more consistently and make real progress. We’ve been at quite the plateau and I’ve gotten out of riding shape as I’ve put more focus into adjusting to post-grad life.
    • I’m working on planning some van-in lessons so that Dancer can improve her trailering skills AND we can get some professional help. Win-win.
  • To help me get back in the saddle, I’ll also be devoting more time to the three “ladybugs” in my front yard – one of which is very rideable and could use a ten-minute walkabout every couple days just as much as I could. A little bareback never hurt nobody.
  • The long and short of it is that my goal is to ride as much as possible, because riding is always good, and by thinking strategically, I can actually afford to progress.

IMG_8585

Work:

  • I want to create quality, commendable work. And also survive 2018. So most of my work-related goals have nothing to do with work. This category should be called NOT-WORK.
  • Sleep is a great, great, thing.
  • Piper and I want to explore more often, and I especially want to hike and camp. At the very least, I’m aiming to get the two of us outside and off property at least once a week. Even if that’s just running to the bank and stopping by Starbucks for a treat. At best, I want to explore each of my local state and national parks.
  • I’ll be investing in a dog trainer to help Piper learn how to relax around other dogs, horses, and new people. So our exploring can be even better.
  • When I’m not writing press releases or social media content or emails, I want to still feel like writing creatively, and I want to make space for myself to do that.
    • So far in 2018: I’ve written about 2.5 pages of new material for the second half of my novel – which puts me on track for about 45 new pages this year. Honestly, I’ll take it. 2019 will be much different; for now, I just have to maintain.
  • Actual work goal: don’t panic. Enjoy the ride.

2017-10-28 13.06.19

So, now it’s about you, followers:

Do you have any similar goals for 2018? Are you awesome at anything on this list and willing to share your expertise? Comment below if we can cheer each other on!

As Promised

A few weeks ago, on a busy weekend during which Piper and I spent more time at work than anywhere else, something beautiful happened. It snowed.

 

 

 

Though I was stressed about work, feeling the pressure of managing an event last-minute and scrambling to patch problems while almost all of my coworkers (and superiors!) were out of town, Piper was thrilled to be there. There were so many nice people to meet, so many things to sniff, and it was snowing, too!

She forced me to take breaks from work and go for walks. She made it impossible for me to ignore the best part about the snow. I couldn’t complain about the cold when she was leaping and snapping at flakes or skipping around me. Though the weather only made my life more complicated, it made Piper’s more exciting.

IMG_8655
Snow photos by Madison Ibach

Our snowy weekend reminded me why I wanted to adopt a dog in the first place: I needed a friend to walk with me through the dark and cold, so that I wasn’t so alone

I shouldn’t have ended up with Piper. I found her by “accident” – if you want to call it that – and several other open doors closed before I returned to the dog with three legs and first contacted her foster mom. I had doubts, but everything fell into place anyway.

Piper survived a traumatic injury at a young age, and recovered with the help of a devoted volunteer who fostered her off and on and did her best to get her out of a shelter environment. During that time, Piper became to her foster mom what she is to me now: a blessing in a lonely period of life.

 

 

I found out after my first visit with Piper that her foster mom would soon be moving, too far away to remain caring for her. She was worried about Piper’s future and was praying for the right adopter to come along.

I had been discouraged by the process of finding an adult dog who would adapt to my chaotic life, my weird schedule, my living situation and my career. I’d been searching local shelters for months, and each dog that seemed right initially was ultimately not a good fit. I sent an email asking about Piper anyway, and laid out all the details of my life that might have been red flags… Details, that in emails past, had prevented me from adopting other dogs.

“I think you might be a match for her,” she wrote back.

Even after my first meeting with Piper, I was skeptical that we’d work together. But none of my concerns meant anything to Piper or her guardians.  Honestly, it wasn’t until after she came to live with me that I understood what I had to offer Piper was exactly what she needed: a dog-free, cat-free household; a backyard perfect for lounging and nature watching; a cozy couch to snuggle on; brief walks; a dog-friendly job and a small army of friends willing to help out when needed.

I smile every morning when she looks at me out of the corner of her eye and wags her tail furiously, waiting for me to say “breakfast.” She makes me laugh, think creatively, and go outside more often. She keeps me from getting ANY work done when she’s snuggling with (and on!) me, but when I am ready to go out, she’s ready to come with me. She doesn’t hold back; she makes her opinions known and loves with her whole heart, instantly. She makes me feel safe – she is a ferocious guardian against every twig that falls on the roof or gust of wind that sounds like a footstep on the porch. I say it often: I can’t believe I ever lived by myself.

Piper is a beautiful reminder of grace, resiliency, and love. For me, she is a promise kept, and further proof that God will always provide exactly what we need.

I went looking for a four-legged friend and didn’t quite find one. Instead, my three-legged angel found me, and I’m so thankful for how merry and bright this season of my life has become because of her.

While I’ve got family within drivable distance, Piper has made my house a home, and she’s definitely family. She’s learning never going to get along with her equine sister, as well as the three “Ladybugs” in our front pasture, but we’ll keep trying. Maybe one day we’ll behave well enough to get a real family photo.

For now, we’ll be on the couch if you need us.

Edit: we tried family photos anyway. Neither of my children behaved, and both attacked the other. Such is my life. Enjoy.

 

 

Fun fact: If there were a third picture to this sequence, it would show all three of us standing on two legs.

Yes, 2018 will involve a dog trainer. But it will also involve so many adventures, and I’m thrilled to see where we end up!

2017-12-31-14-40-32.jpg
Happy New Year from my corner of the world to yours!

Pied [Pi]per

I’m more than two months in to my new position at Tryon Resort, serving as PR & Marketing Coordinator at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Livin’ the dream and still pinching myself that I get to grow horse sport and work with the people I work with.

In the winter, however, most of my coworkers are based in Florida, so things are starting to get quiet* in the office… really quiet when Michelle is out of office and I’m the only one there! And then I go home to an empty house. Sure, there are three horses down the driveway, but they’re no good at indoor snuggling. But you know who is?

23593502_1388099787954926_870349180307741944_o

World, meet Piper, my new snuggle buddy and 3.14-legged roommate!

She’s a four year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Boxer mix who has spent most of her life in foster care or at a shelter. She was struck by a car at a young age and broke two of her legs, eventually losing one because she went so long without treatment.

She doesn’t seem to mind.

Piper loves car rides, short jogs, lounging on the pool chairs and surveying the farm. Her favorite thing in the world is meeting new people and greeting them with a kiss. Her cuddles are the best.

She has no IDEA what horses are or that she should be very, very afraid of them, but we’re working on that. For now, she loves to supervise them from afar.

22904573_1372542092844029_6687505562733199751_o

Our bucket list includes various camping and hiking destinations, visits to family and friends, and definitely checking out all the outdoor dining we can find (she found new fans at The Crepe Factory most recently). I can’t wait to adventure with her!

On a very real note, I’ve found that despite the chaos of transitioning her into my life, as well as her recent virus that required two vet visits and WAY too much cleaning of my house, Piper has drastically improved my quality of life. I can’t believe I lived without her before!

If you live or work alone, you should definitely have a friend – dog or otherwise. Trust me, it doesn’t even need to have four legs!! 10/10 would recommend.

 

I’m so thankful to have a new member of the family… and I apologize (a little) for all the photos still to come.

If you actually want to see more of Piper, follow me on Instagram for regular snuggle snaps. We’ll see you there!

 

Et al:
There are now less than 300 days til the World Equestrian Games (find us @tryon2018 on the social medias), and it’s highly probable that I’ll be working almost all of them. You’ll probably catch me there more than here.

October 2018 is going to be soooOo sweet. I’ll sleep for most of it.

*Team: if you’re reading this, I miss you! See ya soon.

 

Meet the newest residents of Ladybug Farm!

They’re here! They’re here!

Meet Rose and Reba, the two newest inhabitants of Ladybug Farm. I’m thrilled to have “roommates” and I can’t wait to get to know them!

Both are slaughter rescues; I couldn’t be more supportive of anyone wanting to rescue slaughter-bound horses, and the Makers were able to save these two mares in the nick of time. Rose was literally pulled off a truck so that she wouldn’t be live-shipped to China. Aside from the fact that they’ve already made me enjoy mornings much more, here’s what we know so far about these painted ladies:

Reba:  20 years old / Pony of the Americas (POA) mare / literally been there done that / all the ‘tude in the world / will eat anything

2017-09-03 12.52.06

Reba will teach some awesome kids how to ride, and is the perfect first pony! She’s already given some perfect pony rides and I can’t wait to see how we progress.

 

Rose: 15 years old / palomino paint mare / APHA registered / fabulous horse to work with / loves scratches, carrots and sunbathing

2017-09-03 08.24.00

I’m still getting to know Rose, but she’s a superstar thus far and I can’t wait to ride her once I know her better and once she’s in better health. She’s a joy to have in the barn, and tries very hard to please!

(While I know her registered name, I know very little of her history and would love to connect with someone who has an APHA account and could do some digging for us…)

 

 

In some of these pictures, you can see the girls exploring the new dry lot, a land management tool that I’m super excited to put into practice after studying it in the past.

Soon, Ranger will be joining us for a well-deserved retirement, complete with plenty of snuggles and carrots. It’s been about a year since I’ve last seen this sweet boy, and I can’t wait to have him here!

Welcome to Ladybug Farm, Rose and Reba!

So I wrote a book… and a few other updates

I wrote a book?!

Actually it’s a novella, but it’s got my name on it, and I’m thrilled! It’s been so humbling to receive positive feedback from my friends, their parents, their parents’ friends… and each one is just as flattering and embarrassing as the next. Thank you to all who have supported me on this journey–you know who you are!

_DSC8745-L
Photo by Mark Olencki

This novella was published because it won the Ben Wofford Prize for Fiction–a contest held every two years at Wofford. It is not being sold in stores, but you can find it on campus at Wofford or if you contact me directly. I’m currently working on turning it into a full-fledged novel and THEN you can buy it in stores. Stay tuned!

The Office of Marketing and Communications (more specifically, my friend Kelsey) wrote a beautiful release about the novella that you can read here.

 

I also graduated, and I’m not sure how that happened, to be honest. I was just moving in for my freshman year like two weeks ago. Dear old Wofford, hail. Photos by Laura McDermott.

Postgrad and “Single Mom” Life:

IMG_8585
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually work here…

I took an internship as prep for a full-time job with Tryon Resort and I absolutely LOVE working in advertising and marketing for the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Every day is different, and I never want to leave! I am loving every minute I get to spend in the Carolina foothills region. Plus, when I need to escape to another city for a yoga class held at a brewery, or swing home for dinner with my family or former roommate who’s now kicking butt at med school, I totally can.

I’m close to my horse, amazing outdoor attractions (some of which I haven’t even had time to check out yet!), incredible food (that I can’t yet afford), and I also get to work towards growing equestrian sports every day! For instance, have you heard about Gladiator Polo yet?!?!

Gladiator Polo is a new form of arena polo that combines the fast-paced, arena style of hockey with the finesse, agility, and horse-human teamwork that we equestrians love to watch in the show jumping arena or on the polo field. It’s fast, exciting, and it demands a rowdy crowd! Gladiator Polo debuted at TIEC on June 24th to a crowd of more than 10,000 spectators, and it will be coming back in September (1st, 9th, and 30th)! Check out some of the pictures/videos here.

FullSizeRender (3)
One of the more memorable rides of my life: riding Tortilla, a talented polo pony, in the George Morris Arena! Y’all check out the polo school at Tryon Resort–I highly recommend it!

My days include interviewing riders, writing press releases and drafting copy for other projects, making deliveries, coordinating ad inquiries and sales for our print publications, canvassing the property to promote special events, tracking media impressions, helping run events, driving golf carts… and whatever else needs doing! I’m thankful to be working, learning and growing with great coworkers and at a crazy fast pace that I love. The next year will be a marathon–at a sprint. The first few miles have been great!

WEG 2018

Even more exciting than Gladiator Polo is the chance to help plan and host the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 in September of next year–we call it WEG, and it’s coming up fast! Around half a million people from all over the world will converge at TIEC to celebrate and compete in eight different disciplines, and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold. The event, which occurs every four years and travels to different host countries much like the Olympics, will bring an estimated $400 million dollars in economic impact to the area, and I’m thrilled to be impacting my community of the past four years in this way. Personally, I’m super excited to watch the driving, para dressage and vaulting competitions! Tickets will go on sale in September… stay tuned! (Horsey friends–get housing now!!)

img_5588

My “kid”

Two eye surgeries later, Dancer’s right eye looks drastically different than what you might’ve seen in the past seven years! Her bilateral orbital fat prolapse was [re]confirmed as benign by the vets at Tryon Equine Hospital, and they have been so great helping us ensure Dancer’s eyes continue to stay healthy. We decided to operate on the most prolific eye first to investigate the tissue and determine whether further action needed to be taken. A second procedure was necessary because Dancer developed some proud flesh in her third eyelid, but based on pathology results I’ll hold off on any procedures for the left eyeball until I’ve got a stable financial situation… pun intended.

IMG_8462

In the meantime, since I’m only working one job and not four these days, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my girl, and it’s one of my favorite parts of postgrad life! After-work trail rides or walks are my favorite way to spend time with her while building her confidence, and it seems to be paying off recently. Two hour trail ride and obstacle course with our barn family? No problem! Dancer is really starting to relax, pay attention to her feet, think her way through obstacles, and carry herself more correctly since we’ve been trail riding, and I’m so glad to see it paying off.

Like all the best horses, Dancer is complex and challenging and not alway easy, but I know persistence will pay off, and I wouldn’t trade one good day for all of our bad ones. I can’t wait to get more miles together in the future… we’ve got some goals in mind, but I won’t share them here just yet. Stay tuned 😉

If you don’t like pictures of eyeballs, don’t click on the pictures below. Nothing gory, but everybody’s different, so be advised. Here’s Dancer’s eye before the first surgery, before the second re-touch, and a few weeks ago. Huge difference!

 

 

22.

I have lots and lots of friends to thank for making me feel loved this summer, whether in person or in spirit. It feels good to be surrounded by such support. Below are some pictures from the weekend before my birthday…. which, coincidentally, also included a bear in a tree in downtown Landrum, just a few miles from my house. But I missed that shot. You’ll have to read about it here. Outtakes from that weekend that didn’t end up on the news:

 

That’s pretty much all that I’ve got to write home about… for now. Stay tuned, friends.