Tuesday, November 30, 2010


That little project that we started last year called "HeART of the Horse: An Art Show/Auction to Benefit Equine Rescue" has started to take on a life of it's own. While I hope that it is always attached to S.A.F.E. I have been thinking that it may need to become an anticipated yearly event, much like the SAFE Benefit Horse show.

Bonnie & I were chatting about the success of the show and the areas that need to be improved. I'd come to the conclusion that thousands of dollars were left on the table at the last show (and probably the one before that as well) because, while we did get a great crowd there, we probably didn't get enough of the "right" crowd there to bring in the kinds of price tags most of that work was worth.

A huge thanks goes out to the artists and photographers who rallied to support us in our event and to all of the SAFE supporters who came out to collect some amazing pieces. But let's all think about the works & the artists themselves for a moment...

Several of the artists who contributed regularly sell their work for thousands of dollars & when they donate a piece they do so hoping it will bring in top dollar to help SAFE help horses in need. It must be so disappointing to watch your piece sell for a mere fraction of what it's worth. The point of giving is probably the act of giving but I can't help but think that their disappointment is based more on the lack of contribution to the cause over the lack of earning a reasonable price tag. Maeve explained the "charity" aspect of art donation to me from the write off (which is the cost of the materials, but not the retail value of the painting, itself) to the actual dollar value it brings to the cause in question.

My take-a-way from this last event is that there were works there that should have sold for more...LOTS more...and I'm thinking that we need to approach the art of the Charity Art Show from a new perspective & that is to involve the artists in the potential outcome more by encouraging them to promote the event and invite their known collectors, family & friends. People are probably willing to buy pieces they have a connection to or are aware of it's actual value. (Maeve also taught me that Art is a "perceived" value...it's worth what someone believes it is worth based on their own tastes and/or understanding of the market for it).

But as an organization, I think we also have an opportunity to promote our contributors whom I have now dubbed "HeARTists" and my first effort to help the public get to know them.

I've kicked off a project that will take the name of the event..."HeART of the Horse" but will expand it to an ongoing project with a once-yearly live event. The project will promote the HeARTists themselves and help to bring in folks who want to collect these amazing works.

It is my pleasure to introduce "Shano"

Shano is not only an artist but a long time SAFE supporter (a common trait amongst the HeARTists you will meet over the next several months).

In June of 2007, a Paint horse named Rusty came to SAFE through a neglect case in Skagit County. He was with SAFE as a foster horse until October and his custody could be released. Shano & her family adopted Rusty in November of that year and Rusty found his forever home on Camano Island. Doesn't it just make sense that artists should have paints?

According to her Bio she has a background in fashion illustration and art history but clearly she has a passion for painting and her unique style is among my favorites. I've actually spent hours just checking out her work featuring cats, dogs, mermaids, fairies, angels, fantasy and, of course, horses!

Take a peek at her work and if you're tempted to have one of her originals, a print or perhaps a handbag, tshirt or flask (yes, flasks!) then please purchase from her website...and for the month of December Shano is donating 20% of her US online sales if you mention "SAFE" in your message or in your email header.

You will find Shano's art on her website and the promotion is also located on the Save A Forgotten Equine Facebook Page .

Those who have me on their holiday gift list would find many Shano images that I'm sure you'll know I'd love! (yes, that's a hint!)

I'm certain there are gifts there for the horse, cat, dog (etc...) enthusiast on your own list if it doesn't happen to include me ...or should it happen to include me, I bet it also includes others with similar interests....so take her up on her amazing offer to help you check off your holiday list, help SAFE help horses in-need!

...or forward it to someone you know who has YOU on their gift list.... ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Beautiful Voice

I had the honor & pleasure of being the Volunteer Coordinator for Save A Forgotten Equine for just over two years and have seen many dedicated volunteers over the years. Some of them stick around for years and some take the giant leap and adopt one of the horses they've grown attached to and most move on to do other amazing things.

Today I'd like to honor a young lady I knew mostly through emails as I helped her coordinate her volunteer availability but have always been impressed with her dedication to working with the horses.

Caiti Raimer is just 17 years and has been volunteering for almost 2 years. She obviously feels tremendously in tune with the horses she helps care for and wrote this article for the Monroe Monitor featuring, once again, Bucky B Lucky...He does seem to have that affect on the people who's lives he touches. Her story is soulful and beautiful. With amazing young equestrians like this I am extremely hopeful for the future of our passion.

Please enjoy her story: The Killing of Kings

I'm very proud of you Caiti!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Good News

I have but 3 minutes of onboard Internet credit to get this posted so I'll make it quick!

On Wednesday the star of my Super (Horse) Saver post (The most popular of mCheck Spellingy posts, btw...it still gets daily hits!!), Bucky B Lucky was featured on the front page of the Seattle Times in a story written by Seattle Times reporter, Lynn Thompson entitled "Rescue Groups Save Racehorses From Slaughterhouses"

THANK YOU Lynn for giving our Lucky boy a voice and bringing the possibilities for Off The Track Thoroughbreds to the public eye, front page no less! For those of you who may not be aware, she has been working on the story for some time and was able to bring (almost) all the players in this story to the table in order to tell the tale. Most of them showed their true colors, and not all of them were as bright as they might think they are.

Thank you too, to Keith Swagerty who I'm proud to call a friend and to Jeff Dorsch who spoke out to warn people what can happen so we can hopefully avoid situations like this in the future. Also thank you to all the people out there among the various groups who work hard for Thoroughbreds and all horses for that matter, to try to keep them out of the auction process...and of course to SAFE & Jaime Taft who basically bailed me out of my knee-jerk reaction to finding out that Lucky was at Enumclaw.

It's a fine community we exist in....I'm very proud to be a part of it with those of you who care so deeply.

Friday, November 5, 2010


My favorite band ever is/was The Police! Even though there are those who are probably convinced that it's Jimmy Buffett... no, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers & Sting had me collecting records somewhat earlier than my semi-obsession with Buffett began. My young adult years spent hanging out in Ocean Beach with my surfer boyfriend were lived to the soundtrack provided by the reggae/punk-ish/jazz sounds of Outlandos d'Amour, Regatta de Blanc & Zenyatta Mondatta. When it was announced that the band was breaking up because Sting wanted to pursue a solo career, I was heartbroken & boycotted his music until Ten Sumner's Tales was released years later. I'm just that loyal (stubborn?) but eventually I could no longer ignore that even his solo music is great...today, he's forgiven and I LOVE his music. If you ride to music, I swear, Sting/Police music is amazing. The tempos are lively & consistent, the beats are strong & enjoyable. I can no longer listen to one without mentally riding it.

So when a horse by the name of Zenyatta hit the racing scene everything in me knew there had to be a connection. To the best of my knowledge "zenyatta" wasn't even a real word. I later discovered that Zenyatta's owner, music promoter Jerry Moss, is friends with Sting and named the filly after the album Zenyatta Mondatta. See, I knew it!!

Reportedly, there is a Mondatta who never made it to the track. We might have to look into that!

Zenyatta was purchased at the Keeneland Sale but did not race as a two year old. In an interview on 60 Minutes her trainer, John Shirreffs, was asked why they didn't run her in the Derby and his reply was that she simply was not mature enough yet....

That is a statement that could be worth Zenyatta's weight in gold!

Seriously, I'd like to post it in every racing barn and at every track in the United States. This is the biggest source of contention between racing and rescue: that young horses are put on to the track well before they are physically mature and too often this results in injuries to their immature legs. The horse is used up and tossed aside for the next best prospect before it ever had a chance to prove how truly athletic it could have been. Now I hope that my racing friends know that I am not pointing fingers at them as I could only be associated with folks who I feel do try to do the right thing by their horses. It's that delicate line I dance between my life-long love of racing and the passion I feel for horse rescue.

Many in the equine community ask why is it that in every other equine sport we hold off til after 3 years to start a horse consistently and even longer before developing a horse for a more demanding discipline, yet racing starts them at two...which are sometimes a bit less than two due to the January 1st "official" age date. I totally get that the younger horse is going to have more energy...boy do I ever get that from a human aspect these days, but I have always wondered what it would hurt to let the horses wait just a year longer... let those joints fill in, let the horse's skeleton finish getting to where it's going. THEN let's see what kind of magic can happen on the track.

Look what happened with a little more time to develop...

In both this 60 minutes piece and a fascinating article in Sports Illustrated, Shirreffs talks about how beautifully she matured in that extra year she had off.

"Her legs weren't ready to take care of that body," says Shirreffs. "...if you compromise a horse when she's young, you'll never see her full talents." according to the Sports Illustrated article.

They go on further to discribe her better than I've ever seen...

"Now they have not just any horse, but a transcendent one. "She has a deep heart girth," says Shirreffs, "which indicates plenty of room for lung in her rib cage. But her chest isn't broad, which would inhibit her stride by putting her forelegs farther apart. Behind, she's very strong, when often a horse of her [height] would be narrow in back. The combination, her front and her back, it's amazing. And her heart, who knows how big her heart is. Whatever it is physically, it's huge metaphysically." Zenyatta is also uncommonly sweet at rest; Shirreffs allows fans to visit her almost without restriction."

The Zen-Mistress now has a perfect record: 19 wins in 19 races.

Today is #20 and reportedly her last...her retirement race... I assume she'll go on to be a broodmare and hopefully pass on her good genes to her offspring. Monica, Maeve & I were just talking about the X-Factor that says that the strongest genes come through the X chromosome (the female) and now I am fascinated at the possibilities of this amazing mare going on to produce more of her own kind. This is one of those rare instances where I do have to support the idea of breeding her. I think she's worth repeating...or at least trying to, right? She won't be producing 100's more, just a select few...and who will the studs be? I can't think of anyone worthy of her at this point but I'm sure her team, who seems to love her very much, will make the best choices possible. They can certainly afford to be very selective! Shoot, I think if I had a top stud, I'd almost PAY to have Zenyatta carry one of his foals!!!

Back in May I went out to the California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) and met founder, Grace Belcuore. She's also a big Zenyatta fan and shared with me her story about meeting Zenyatta. Grace asked if she could hug Zenyatta and they said "sure". As she wrapped her arms around Zenyatta's chest, She bent down and hugged Grace back with her head. I later hugged Grace to get my second generation Zenyatta hug...ok, mostly it was because I was so in awe of the work Grace does to care for Off-the-track Thoroughbreds but the arms that hugged Zenyatta have hugged me ...and that's a pretty cool bonus!

So I'm sitting here in a hotel room in Miami after a long day of traveling to get to Florida for a cruise we're about to take. There have been many discussions about trying to do a lay-over in Louisville on the way but the flights were just not working out otherwise Les & I would have been all over this Breeders Cup. I think we both know this is a very special one, in deed. But because we fly standby, we sometimes don't even get our second choice of flights and were bumped from a flight Thursday night which would have gotten us into Miami at 7am Friday Morning. Our perfect plan (based on not being able to go to Louisville) was to drive down to Key West on Friday and spend the day/evening with a large number of our friends who are down there for Meeting of the Minds, a Parrot Head convention of sorts (back to Buffett!) and then come back up Saturday to catch live racing at Calder so we could make sure to see the Breeders Cup Sprint with our local hero, Atta Boy Roy (or as we renamed him Derby Day, Atta Good Boy Roy) & the beautiful Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup Classic. When Friday Fun was scrubbed because we had to fly to Orlando and drive to Miami, I assumed he'd want to drive to Key West today instead, but I am very proud to say that he didn't even consider it. He's the one who said, "It's too bad, but no Key West this time!" HE wants to go to the track as much as I do!

On the 5 hour plane ride I tried to amuse myself by doing crosswords puzzles, but when the puzzle asks for an 8-letter word...I thought "Zenyatta" and I would drift off thinking about the race and this incredible horse...so I induldged myself a little bit and thought of words that belong with her...

My friend Kathleen is there RIGHT NOW (ok, maybe she's sleeping "right now") but if she's anything like me she's laying there imagining Zenyatta on the track in all of her glory with her garland, trophy and the clicks of a gazillion camera's going off...I'll text her in the morning in an effort to sneak into her moment just a second or two...and there will be phone calls & all of the excitement amongst my friends who want this win for her with our huge collective heart.

So Zenyatta, show 'em how to run like a girl...a great big beautiful, strong, amazing girl!!! (I think I may have borrowed that from Bonnie...if not, it sounds like something she'd say!)

I love a line I read recently that you've never gone anywhere but to the winners circle after you run the track...so I wish you one last happy trip there and that in the months to come you understand that it's a wonderful gift that you've been retired to be a horse. I hope you always feel loved. No matter the outcome, you're one of a kind and you inspire us.

...and above all else....have a safe trip around Churchill Downs....see you in the winner's circle!

Girl Power!

Go Zenyatta Go!!

Edit update: 11/16/10

This all took place just before I left on a cruise through the Caribbean and I didn't have (much) Internet access but I did want to update that Les & I went to Calder Race Track and watched the Breeders Cup races from there on Saturday. Bonnie & I were texting each other and we did get an ESPN feed so we did get to *see* the coverage but didn't get to *hear* the non-track coverage.

Needless to say I was heartbroken about the way the day started: in the Juvenile Turf, Rough Sailing broke down around the first turn and was euthanized after sustaining a fracture of the humerus bone in his right forelimb & then our Home-Boy Atta Boy Roy had to be hauled off the track and off the heels of the Rough Sailing loss, we were very concerned for the Washington Home-town Hero. It, according to the Seattle PI, "... was initially diagnosed as a suspensory injury in his right foreleg. However, chief Breeders’ Cup veterinarian Wayne McIllwraith said Atta Boy Roy was in no apparent danger.

“Calvin Borel noticed a bit of sensitivity in the right forelimb and jumped off the horse," McIlwraith said. "He has a mild injury to a medial branch suspensory ligament. It is certainly not life-threatening, and probably not career-threatening.”

All of this made for an even more stressful Breeders Cup Classic race, praying that Zenyatta would make a safe trip no matter the outcome. I was a bundle of nerves, especially after it looked like she might have had a bad start and seemed to be running "off" but then she settled in....far behind the pack...and made her move toward the end. Her Jockey, Mike Smith, placed her up in the pack and had to work her way out so that she could come on the outside to run for the wire. In the end it was probably the manuvering that cost her but she lost the race to "Blame" by mere inches. She gave it an amazing GO at the end and she probably really only needed a stride or two more to have won but she did it in amazing style. Mike Smith later accepted the blame for her loss but said she ranked up there with the best horses of all-time.

One of Bonnie's last texts was "she probably doesn't even know she lost"...the replay shows she kept running hard, well past the finish line & later Bonnie posted on Facebook:

Best post-race comment: "She probably went back to her barn thinking that this track just didn't hand out flowers."

Thanks for all the blog filler Bonnie!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Day In the Life....

...of a World Equestrian Games Volunteer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010
Day 15 of the World Equestrian Games in Lexington Kentucky
Day 17 of my trip which included 2 days in Chicago
Day 13 spent at the Kentucky Horse Park
Day 9 working as a volunteer

6:30am: wake up to the alarm because getting there too late on a Saturday might cost 1 to 2 hours of waiting in line just to park. I got some help getting ready...

7am: hit McDonalds on Man O War Blvd to see if the counter guy remembered to bring me my Kentucky Horse Themed McDonalds uniform hat (I've been in EVERY DAY since we made the bargain and he's been sick/off/forgetful for about a week now) but today's SUCCESSFUL! I traded a Kingdom of Bahrain Hat in White (kept the red version) and he was THRILLED! He doesn't wear his cap to work and has two of them anyway, now it's MINE MINE MINE!!!

7:30am: One last stop into the Walmart to collect last minute WEG items before I must pack them up tonite...they're pretty low on supplies but they did have some cool large post card sized versions of the Leroy Neiman official WEG poster...those could make good 'take home' gifts.

8:30am: Circle Downtown Lexington trying to find a parking space so I can get photos of the Horsemania Ponies around town (a whole blog post for later)

8:45am: Find a parking space at a meter that's broken and HOPE that I don't get a ticket while I run around trying to take shots of ALL the horses in a two block radius. I think I got them all!

9:10am: Return to rental car to discover that the city worker who's been dispatched to fix the parking meter has just parked and is just now looking at the meter, he looks back at me just as I open the door and smiles. Whew...no ticket today!

9:45am: Arrive at Spy Coast Parking lot (which is usually a pasture for Spy Coast Farm ) & discover it's packed! Today's walk will end up being about 1.5 miles into the back gate check point.

I will have to walk through all of these cars in Spy Coast

to get to the opening that will take me to "Camp Ground" parking...

Looking back across "Camp Ground" parking and then begins the hike through the lot...

and looking ahead ...that small white tent in the distance is the security tent

where I will open my jacket and they will search my little backpack...

and then I get to move on to the Volunteer Check-In Tent

One of the Sponsors of the World Equestrian Games is...

What in the world are Big Ass Fans, you ask? Not Big "Ass Fans"!

"BIG ASS" Fans!!!!

Then you check in and they let you know if there are any changes (which there always are but we never know until we get to the "meeting" later)...they also dole out the volunteer gifts: for me I got a 4 day gift of a WEG Pin & an 8 day gift of luggage handle cover (which I used getting all my crap..I mean stuff home...probably another blog post at some point). I didn't quite make it to 12 so I missed out on the cooler but really by the last day I wanted NO MORE STUFF to take back with me.
The organizers really liked us and took lots of photos, every day, and posted them in the Volunteer Tent...

...and every day Beezie Madden smiles and tells me to have a great day...

one time, in PERSON!!!

11am: I'm finally inside the park and have exactly 1 and a half hours to take in some of the Driving Event and thankfully the coolest water feature on the course is the closest event point to the tent I'll meet up with the afternoon/evening shift volunteers for our "Volunteer Briefing"

So here's a few shots of the excitement...

12:15pm: It's time to head back to the Volunteer Briefing but I'd like to stay right where I am. I've just gotten so excited about watching these amazing teams wind their way around this water feature making sharp turns and lots of circles...amazing...now I see why it's a competitive sport!

12:30pm: Final (for me) Volunteer Briefing. Since my assigned station is the Main Stadium and it's the final event in Jumping which doesn't start until 8pm, it's decided I'll work the info/program booth at the rear, or Camp Ground, entrance until 6pm and then move over to the Main Stadium after a dinner break at 6pm.

I hadn't worked this position yet so it was interesting to see the teams, volunteers and organizers go by.

2:30pm-ish: I see a familiar face go by on a bike but I'm in the middle of a Program sale so I can't holler at her. All week I'd try to figure out where fellow Seattle Volunteer Jill Hallin was working and here it is my last day and she zips past me on a bike. Huh!?

but thankfully....

3:45ish, Jill comes back through on her bike and this time I'm free enough to flag her down! We share a couple of quick WEG stories but end up talking about the SAFE Benefit Horse Show longer! Too funny...but at least we did find each other at some point during WEG...

5:30pm I take a dinner break at Walnut Grove for the last time. After two weeks of their food, I'm so ready to NOT have it again for a long time. Tonight's selection...BBQ'd Pork Sandwich...again for probably the 6th time. I had other choice but I always regretted them. I'm not saying the food was bad, just that for me I was never quite satisfied. Luckily we were given meal vouchers that covered $12 for each shift. It started off with Papa John's personal pizzas and your $12 voucher would get you your choice of cheese or peperoni and a drink...and that's it. I don't eat bready/doughy things as a rule because it hurts my tummy when it gets too full so I basically ate the topping and tossed the rest. $12 for some cheese, a couple of pieces of peperoni & a drink just hardly seemed right but by day 3 they offered me an "alternative" meal ticket which allowed me to go into the Walnut grove food court and have my choice of burger, chicken sandwich, pasta (another thing I don't do for the same "doughy" reasons) Fried chicken, burritos, salad (usually wilty by the time I got there) and these pretty tasty BBQ Pork sandwiches. As it turns out I don't really like most fries unless they're actually basic cut up potatoes, fried...please don't batter them or chemically alter them to make them curl...I'm a fry purist and sadly the WEG fries were battered and usually cold by the time I found a place to sit. But I figured out that I could get kettle chips instead and my meals became much less unpleasant. And all that was probably much more than anyone cared to know about the food selection at WEG...but basically that WAS IT...not just for me but for everyone, guests, competitors, etc...oh...and that BBQ Pork sandwich w/chips and a drink...$14.50 so each day I shelled out $2.50, which is still not bad...but not everyone had a $12 voucher in their pocket like me. I was behind someone who had a $97 lunch bill for 5 people one day...wow!

I ate dinner with a fellow volunteer, Ann, who I now wish I'd thought to take a photo of. She did take one of me and offered to find me on facebook. Someday I know I'll get this random request and realize it was Ann, who was very nice! She was not on that night but came on her day off to enjoy the games on her own without the limitations of a shift over her head.

6:15pm: I wandered across the road to the Main Stadium and my new friends/Vol-employers were already getting things together. I basically volunteered & ended up working the Info/Program booths for TRMG the UK (Great Brittan, not University of Kentucky that also happens to be in Lexington) company that produces all the official printed matter for the games. Part of my job was to sell their programs...the "official WEG Program", the discipline guides and the Daily Ride sheets. Our leaders were actually TRMG employees, or as I called them "The Brits" came over specifically to work these program sales. To my delight my favorite two, Mike & Charlie were just getting things set up for the influx of spectators for the nights event, the Final Four in Jumping.

So here's the Britt-Mobile...

Charlie & Mike found that if they got out with the programs and caught people as they were getting in, they'd get more sales....

...and meet pretty girls...

6:30pm - 8:00pm: Sold Programs & Daily Ride Sheet at a booth inside the Main Stadium.

We got to meet all kinds of people from all over the world there. One gentleman came up to me and purchased a Daily Ride sheet and the gal next to me asked where he was from. He replied that he was from Belgium and then turned the Daily Sheet towards us and pointed out Phillippe LeJeune and said "This is my son!" and beamed a very big smile. I said "You must be very proud of your son" and he put his hand on his heart and said "I am SO very proud of my son!" so I wished him good luck and off he went to watch his son compete amongst the top four riders in the world. That has got to be amazing.

What made the night extra amazing was that this was not just a jump-off between four riders, but also between their horses. Each rider would rotate through all four horses and so each horse and each rider would complete the jump course four times each time, a different pair.

8:10pm: Mike & Charlie packed up unexpectedly and announced that they were sure there would be no more sales and that we were all released to go and watch the competition. THIS was a gift to me as I had been scheduled to work all the way until 10pm. The other gift was from Mike when we finished packing up and he learned it was my last shift, he gave me one of their beautiful programs!

Bye guys, it's been FUN!

One of the cool things about being a volunteer was that our credentials got us into any/every event and we could sit anywhere there was an open seat or we could find a place to stand and watch if we wanted. So I made my way over to the farthest corner of the stadium knowing that it would be my easiest/closest exit to get me back to the Camp Ground entrance for the long walk back to my car. My feet were already done at that point & I just knew that another hour+ was not going to make them any better, even if I sat most of the time. two weeks of this non-stop WEG schedule was taking it's toll and my body must have known it was about to have permission to take a good long break. But THIS was an event NOT to be missed and so I toughed it out and I am so glad I did! oh...and this corner of the stadium also happened to be right at the Warm-up end of the arena where I got to watch all four riders take a three minute warm up ride on each of the other competitors horses.

The lineup in this Rolex Final Four was:

Abdullah Al Sharbatly from Saudi Arabia & his mare, Seldana di Campalto who entered the event having ridden clear in every round leading into the final. If I'm not mistaken he was the only rider to have done so during the games. It was also significant that this middle eastern rider was in the finals and was in a position to possibly win a medal because that had never occurred in international competition before.

Eric Lamont from Canada & his horse, Hickstead a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion entered the final night coming in the first place position after Friday's events.

Jumping super star, Rodrigo Pessoa from Brazil with his Mexican Stallion HH Rebozo was a true sportsman & excited to ride Hickstead saying that he thought he'd be fun. He came into the games with multiple Olympic and World Equestrian Game Championship titles.

And then my new "connection" having just met his Father, Phillippe LeJeune of Belgium and his horse Vigo D'Arsouilles.

I was very interested in the Saudi, Abdullah Al Sharbatly, for a number of reasons (one is...again...another post) but mostly because he struck me as entirely grateful for this experience. Each time I watched him ride in previous rounds he would take a final lap around the arena with his hands cupped in front of him, lifted and looking to the sky. My take is it was his thanks to Allah for the opportunity and for the glorious ride, which he obviously had many of that week! in Arabic there is a response to anything you say for the future...like "see you tomorrow" would be followed by "en shah, Allah" which translates to "God Willing" it's saying that nothing happens unless it is God's will.

Some might see his riding around the arena with his hands in the air as arrogant but I saw it much less about how great he thought he was and more about how great the experience was, because it was God's will. I got the feeling from the folks around me that they thought he was asking for approval from the crowd by riding like this. I saw it as a deeply personal moment that had nothing to do with the crowd.

In this round, Abdullah took eight faults on his own horse in the first ride but rode clean on every other horse.

Eric Lamaze was undeniably an amazing rider with a spectacular horse. They were very well suited to each other but I have to say, I fell more and more in love with Hickstead after each ride. It was obvious this horse was born to jump and that he LOVES & knows his job. Eric, however took a rail down on both Seldana and Rebozo, while also accumulating a time fault for a total of nine penalties altogether.

Rodrigo Pessoa impressed me with his sportsmanship. Just prior to Abdullah taking Rebozo out for the warm up ride, I saw Rodrigo coaching him on how to ride his horse with gestures and arms as he described how to go at each jump. I found that inspirational and was so disappointed when he ended up with 12 penalties: 4 on his own horse and then 2 rails down on Vigo. I so wanted him to medal just because of his goodwill towards the other riders. But it's about riding isn't it?

It was really interesting that each rider only had three minutes with each new horse to ride it in the warm-up area (closer to me!) and could ride over each of two jumps, but only once each. I think that added to the entertainment for us in the crowd.

In the end, Phillippe LeJeune rode all four horses clear with no time faults and won the Gold Medal. His last mount was the incredible Hickstead. When he finished the round, he was all smiles and gave Hickstead lots of pats and love. When he dismounted he ran over and gave Vigo hugs and pats. I was very moved by the acknowlegement of the horses for their efforts in the feat. He truly understands that this is not HIS accomplishment alone, he is but a partner in the team and he showed that on his team team especially it's a relationship even deeper than the partnership.

I read an interview the next day that quoted Phillippe saying that he credited his Father (the man I met buying the Daily Ride Sheet!) for instilling his love of animals and that his greatest wish in the world was that his horses could speak because he'd like to know if they love living with him as much as he loves living with them. I get choked up just thinking about this Gentle Man, a true Gentleman, who believes that horses are not mere commodities. It's not just business to him, it's a true relationship. I'm beyond thrilled to have gotten see him perform and have a small glimpse into his equestrian life. THIS is what I came to the games for....to see for myself what the deep hearted equestrians are like in real life. It turns out that, much like myself, horses ARE their real life! I know I would have been disappointed to come away with anything less in the way of realizations.

The riders returned to their mounts and headed for their victory lap...

There was one more honor bestowed and that was upon Hickstead who was crowned the Champion Horse for having cleared all four rounds with all four riders. While I live in awe of the riders, for me it's always about the horses. I was so pleased that they took the time to recognize the Equine Athlete as well.

But this was post was supposed to be about my day...and what an amazing close to the day...or so you think.

10:00pm(ish) I watched the medal ceremony and felt like extremely honored to be there. It turned out to be the perfect end to my World Equestrian Games experience but I still had quite a journey ahead of me.

10:45pm: The walk back was a tad emotional. It started to sink in that I was leaving for the last time and the following day would be the closing ceremonies and it would all be over. I was sad to leave, even though my feet hurt, I was tired and hungry for something good to eat. At that moment I didn't want to go home. I wanted to stay in Lexington and for there to be a World Equestrian Games event every day for the rest of my life. I made it back to the car and the parking lot was backed up as everyone was trying to exit at the same time. I had some more time to reflect on the experience and I have to say it was like nothing I'd ever done before.

To be among horse lovers every day, to see the many faces, to hear the many voices and accents, to know that no matter where in the world they came from, they felt the same as I did, that this was something very special. I think anyone who went came home just a little changed. Hopefully inspired! But this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I am so glad I did anything I could to get there.

11:30pm: I rolled into Kitty's house and resumed packing my suitcase and sorting out what I had acumulated while I was there, Clearly I would not have been able to get it all home. Kitty sent me about 25 lbs of magazines and books that I drug home with me day by day so that saved me some space but in the end I was not able to bring back the Kentucky Ale I had acquired for Les. But I managed to make the rest of it all fit.

12:45am: I checked my flight and figured out that the 11:30 flight was oversold and my only option was to drive to Louisville and try to make either the 7am or 9:30am flight to Chicago. With a 1.5 - 2 hour drive ahead of me, I would have to make a decision to leave pretty much RIGHT THEN or try to sleep for 2+ hours and then hope I made it. I decided I would sleep on the plane and I finished packing and drug my very heavy bags to the car and said some quick good-byes to Kitty & Abbey.

2:30am: I hit the road and made a couple of stops for coffee.

5:00am: I made my way to the Cell Phone lot at the airport in Louisville, set the alarm on my cell phone and took a power nap.

5:45am: I tried to return my rental car but it was just a tad too early for them so I had to leave my contract

6:30am: After waiting in a fairly long line it was determined that I was not going to make the 7am flight but that I should be fine for a seat on the 9:30am flight. I had to pay a $50 fee for one of my bags being over weight (officially I think I brought home and extra 100lbs in newly aquired stuff ...probably another post as well!) but when I got up to the gate and finally relaxed my brain started thinking about getting home...and my mindset started to change. Now I was glad to be going home...but I knew this experience changed some things about how I saw my role in the equestrian world. I believe it's made me better.