The two plates, numerous screws, two large incisions and the first of at least six casts.  It is bleak.

The two plates, numerous screws, two large incisions and the first cast. It is bleak.

A year ago today, I sat in the waiting room as Lauren went through surgery to repair her crushed arm.  The day she finally got out of the hospital we received the news my mother’s death was immenient.

Fifteen years ago today, Ally, Lauren and I moved from Florida to Texas. I clearly remember the drive and the Kenny Chesney CD that played over and over. The three of us started a new life here with three dogs, two cats and a fancy Rugged Lark mare.

These times here have taken their toll yet developed us into the people we are today. We have struggled emotionally, financially and physically. I would have never dreamt as we slept that first night on the floor in our rented Sugar Land house in the sweltering July heat (our furniture was en route and Reliant Energy had not gotten our electric service started) where we would all be today.  Life certainly is crazy ride.

Still as I reflect on all of this, my throat catching and eyes brimming with tears I know deeply and intuitively we have survived, grown and even conquered.  The events of this past weekend, although simple family things, just make it clear to me.

Ryan, Lexi, Riley and Amber

Ryan, Lexi, Riley and Amber

My daughter, Amber, who was in college in Florida when we moved to Texas, just completed a wonderful vacation with her husband’s family.  They enjoyed sun-lit days and evenings as a big family, bonding as you can only do, when daily duties and responsibilities melt away with the southern sun. I delighted to see so many terrific pictures with this family and grandchildren who are so dear to me. They are happy. They are healthy. They are blessed.

Ally and her family are nearby.  I regularly get to see them and feel their joy in life. Ally had some hard road to walk.  It has not come easy for her at all. But she is now close to college graduation.  She supports her amazing girls and husband, finding a domestic peace that evaded me.

Kendyll and Jordyn spent the night with Lauren and I this weekend.  It is always a time filled with laughter, nonsense and animals. Sunday morning we went over to help our friend who just got out of the hospital.  She has a daughter Jordyn’s age and the girls have known each other since they were little.  Kendyll feel in love with their tiny (heightwise) pony.  I don’t think Kendyll has ever been so thrilled.

Kendyll being taken for a ride by Abby.  Oh, my goodness she was pleased with herself!

Kendyll being taken for a ride by Abby. Oh, my goodness she was pleased with herself!

Jordyn, Kendyll and Abby.

Jordyn, Kendyll and Abby.

Our cleaning team surrounding the estactic Kendyll.

Our cleaning team surrounding the ecstatic Kendyll.

Lauren and I had one of our rare weekends when we were both home.  The heat index was sky-rocketing and we were hanging out in the house with a gaggle of dogs.  But it was a rewarding time as Lauren is finally able physically (after her arm) to get back to college this semester.  We were discussing her future and it is going to be just fine. A year ago we would not have imagined that it would take this long to get her back to normal.

Reflection is an important tool for assessing where we were, where we are and where we might go.  It is also important to maintain as life catches us unaware or unprepared or unwilling to move forward.  Sometimes reflection invites perspective that we may not have done what we wanted to do but we have done so much more.


Thank you to all you who journey along with us, thanks for riding along.



Inspiration-by Jo Ann (sounds like a line of greeting cards)

Jo Ann and Mickey- a pretty good lookin' pair.

Jo Ann and Mickey- a pretty good lookin’ pair.

I met Jo Ann when about five years ago when Jordyn was two. I had gotten talked into helping out announcing at a horse show and if I did, they would find little Jordyn a horse to ride in the leadline class. So one of Jordyn’s first horse show experiences was with Jo Ann’s then  27 year old, black, OTTB named Hershey.  He was perfect for her.

Later when Jo Ann was looking for a place to board her old man, Hershey (then 31) and her superstar Quest, our vet Lynn, recommended our place to Jo Ann.  It has been a good fit.  Due to a series of adventures, good and bad, Jo Ann has been left without a regular horse to ride, Hershey was saddly too old and Quest moved on to greener pastures.  She came back to riding dressage with Nancy Lindsey and my go-to pony, Snowboy.

Not to give out state secrets, but Jo Ann is older than I am by a few years.  And we all know I am really old.  Jo Ann and I have had some serious run-ins with medical professionals but while mine have been orthopedic hers have been some fairly critical medical issues.  In fact it seems a little more than a month ago Jo Ann had some pretty important surgery.

I am a fairly competitive person.  That may be an understatement.  I used to be a competitive horsewoman and spent my childhood in lessons and shows.  By the time I started college, I was pretty done with all that.  I rode because I enjoyed riding.  I did some shows off and on through the years but usually to prove I could or to help Ally or Lauren out by riding their show horse prior to them riding.

I have been watching Jo Ann as she has continued to ride, in spite of not having a horse right now, in spite of the heat, in spite of her medical issues and had a little “A HA” moment.  Jo Ann has worked her way up to riding Lauren’s jumper, Mickey.  There is something dynamic and exciting about watching this cow-bred Paint, excel at something else he was not bred to do.  He was never bred to jump and he has soared.  He was never bred to bend and float and now Jo Ann has him doing dressage.  What a special guy he is!

I have been riding my new horse Nova pretty consistently and wanted to take a lesson with Dev once I got her going pretty well.  Of course, part of it was me-the getting going part.  Coming back from the hip replacement surgery and my nine other orthopedic surgeries in this decade have made my muscle tone and strength not what they were. So, that was a good excuse as well.  I had told Dev that I would do a lesson this last weekend, but wouldn’t you know it-Nova came up lame.  Reason enough to put that off until she was better.



But watching Jo Ann on Friday night, Competitive Cindy (that is like Malibu Barbie), said to herself, “You know I could do this!  This lesson thing-I could be open to criticism, praise and getting to be a better rider.  I could do it!”

Mickey and I doing just fine.

Mickey and I doing just fine.

Sunday, for the first time in 40 years, seriously, 40 years, I took a horseback riding lesson.  And I did just fine.  And I did it on Mickey.  Who did his best for me (at least mostly).  So, what is the big deal?  For 40 years, I have been content to listen to other riders, to read books and articles about riding, to watch clinicians and videos but I have not be willing to put myself out there where the focus as direct and on me-specifically.

Canter, please.

Canter, please.

I had watched my friend Jo Ann take lessons.  Honestly, at first I really thought she probably couldn’t ride that well, I mean she was old like me.  But then I watched her turn in better and better rides on a variety horses and I had learned that if I wanted to get better and get serious, I had to learn more.

We never quit learning or getting better.  Sometimes we have to be brave enough to face the criticism that may occur when we step out into something new.  I did not even get criticized during my lesson (George Morris was not available for a crtique).  Instead I got nice words about my position and quiet hands along with suggestions for doing things even better.

And to you- Jo Ann-Thank you for the inspiration.  You will see in these videos what a lovely rider you are.  Bravo to you, for hanging on and moving forward.  I believe you showed these kids around here a few things as well.

As John Wayne reportedly said, “Courage is being scared to death and climbing up into the saddle anyway”.  I am glad I climbed up in the saddle again to learn.

As always thanks for riding along!

Lauren and I taking a lesson together-first time ever.  She is on Owen.

Lauren and I taking a lesson together-first time ever. She is on Owen.

Summer Working Students

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Many barns with top trainers and riders have summer working students that come and essentially work for free in return for proximity to such amazing learning opportunities.  Okay, so our little backyard barn does not house a resident trainer or a hot-shot rider to motivate the working student to spend grueling hours under the hot Texas sun, but apparently we have some draw as two students joined us this summer for a four-week program.  The program (I am being generous here) was designed (thought up one night in response to the impending arrival of the students) to aid the students in learnIng multiple facets of the  equestrian business, from running a barn smoothly to greater insight on the horses they ride.

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia, formerly of Houston, returned from her current home in Malaysia (I bet my working student came further than yours did) to spend the time under Lauren’s tutelage and took up residence in our home.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel, a boarder, from Katy, Texas, came daily to work, learn and sweat with the group.

Both girls have trained with Dev Branham and continued riding multiple mounts for him during the summer program.  Timing was such that everyone got a shot at showing as well.  The Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Show conveniently was scheduled mid-program.  Dr. Lynn Criner helped out with offering up her pony-Just George for Mia to show.

It wasn't all work!  From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

It wasn’t all work! From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

Next year, if we do this again, I have advanced plans of much better ways to incorporate time and teaching to the working student.  But for this year, I put together some opportunities interspersed with amble time for riding, barn management and hopefully some fun.  Several days a week the girls had responsibilities for horse turn-out, cleaning stalls, barn management and arena perfection.

Discussion was had over variety of feeds, hays and type of work that the horses were doing (or not).  Pasture management including important things how/where manure is dumped and pasture rotation was an ongoing subject.  Certainly there was never a shortage of opinion or feedback about pasture assignments (horses, just like people {or dogs}) like and respect others in varying degrees.

We set up some other educational sessions as well.  Dr. Kendrick Govan did a tremendous job helping the ladies build a perfect barn first-aid kit.  Additionally, she walked them through what a lameness exam in a horse is meant to show and basic first aid tips.  The group was very complimentary of Dr. Govan and what they all learned.

Likewise, the girls spent a day auditing the Emerging Athlete’s Program sponsored by USEF at Katy Equestrian Center.  After listening to American Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis work with the riders in the program the students and Lauren raced home to recreate his course in our arena.  When trainer Dev arrived and questioned the unique course, I told him to ask Mia or Isabel to explain the point to of this particular course.  Without hesitation, Isabel clearly articulated to Dev what the horse and rider would gain from riding it.  I call that a big win.  (I would note that course pretty quickly got changed-it was pretty tough to handle.)

Tony's Timber Ridge Farm

Tony’s Timber Ridge Farm

A trip north to the beautifully built and appointed barn of Tony Font was a fun educational outing provided by trainer Trapp O’Neal with the help of Caitlyn Epperson.  Trapp,  a rider and trainer of Grand Prix horses, aided the girls in understanding basic horse anatomy and how it plays out in the jumping ring.  The girls were asked to evaluate several horses based upon the criteria they had just learned.  Caitlyn also did some jumping demonstrations which were case in point.  It is doubtful that any of these students will be jumping around a Grand Prix course any time soon (or ever) but it is always fun to see inside the world where you have been a spectator in the past.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor.  A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor. A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Four weeks of summer fun which included a lot of laughter, fast food and shopping when the group was not hauling dirt to fill the rain-soaked pastures, working another horse in the hot, humid environment of summer in Houston or dragging the arena yet again in the endless circles of perfection. A heartfelt thanks for all that you accomplished this summer.   I would call our first working students, Mia and Isabel, amazing, intelligent, and hard-working. I saw them get tougher, stronger and become better horse-woman.   I am grateful they came to learn, to work and to grow with Six Meadow Farm.

And to all of you, thanks for riding along!