2013 Family Photo

2013 Family Photo
by Michele deCamp; edited by Mark Butto

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Equine Affaire 2014 and Courtney King Dye

    Good Evening,
    It has been weeks since I last posted on MRF's blog.  My only excuse is lack of time.  The little bit of writing that I have accomplished lately is in the preliminary draft of my next book.  It's patchy and rough with ideas spread all over; in notebooks and hanging precariously from the cloud.  Needless to say, it has been difficult to focus on an inspirational blog post....until last weekend.  
     Seven friends and I piled into an SUV early Saturday morning for a four hour drive to West Springfield, MA.  There we attended Equine Affaire, an Expo that celebrates all things horsey.  For an entire day we indulged ourselves in shopping, watching demos and meeting equine representatives from various breeds.  The company of 3 riding students enabled me to view the event through the eyes of horse-loving teenagers, eager to soak up opportunities offered.  
     My favorite building was where many breed organizations, rescue groups and various riding clubs set up luring displays.  I bought Rod, (my husband), a save-your-ass T-shirt to support a Long-ears rescue, (donkeys and mules).  I also browsed the Friesian horse display and gawked at the stallion, Othello who greeted patrons lingering by his stall.  
     While strolling passed the New England Dressage and Combined Training Association, a book on display caught my attention; Courtney's Quest by Courtney King Dye.  I told my inquiring students about King Dye's gift for training dressage horses and her participation in the 2008 Olympics.  Sadly, she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a riding accident in 2010.  I began to tell them how her notoriety as a world class athlete resulted in an immediate reaction by the entire horse industry to promote safety helmets.  As I continued speaking a woman behind the counter caught my attention with her eyes.  They were darting back and forth from me to a figure I was barely aware of sitting in the booth.  Shifting my focus I realized it was Courtney King Dye signing a copy of her book for a young enthusiast.  
    I believe the woman behind the counter worried that I was about to say something offensive about Courtney's accident.  Quite the contrary. 
     My love of dressage has been cultivated by watching some of the best riders and horses compete in the flesh at Dressage at Devon, (DAD), almost every September for the last 15 years.  At DAD one can stand in the schooling area for hours and witness, at eye level, the incredible communication that takes place between horse and rider.  After warming up the pairs enter the show ring to dazzle the judges and the educated crowd assembled to watch and support them.  
One year my childhood friend, Diane and I, lost in a 'wannabee' trance, witnessed an apparition appear among the field of world class combinations present in the schooling area.  The pair could only be described as centaur-like, graciously accommodating each other through the required movements of Grand Prix.  Diane and I looked at each other.  
     "Who is that?" we asked in unison.  Immediately, Diane thumbed through the official DAD program to identify the rider by the number attached to her horse's bridle.  
     "Oh," she said with a head nod.  "That is Courtney King riding Harmony's Mythilus."      "That is Courtney King," I echoed affirming that only Courtney King was capable of creating such a flawless image.  From my view at ground level I couldn't take my eyes off of them.  They appeared to be enjoying a cup of tea together, (Courtney would say beer), like a pair of old friends who need not fill the air with small talk.  The contrast to other riders in the ring was measurable.  Mythilus never grunted, pinned his ears or swished his tail when asked to transition from movement to movement.  Courtney's torso, legs and hands always appeared to say please and thank you when she asked or he complied.  I will never forget watching them.  The lasting image helped me coin a phrase for my own riding students when they are having difficulty communicating with their horses.
     "It is a constant yet quiet conversation between your hand and your leg.  Allow the horse's reaction to dictate how much is necessary."
    When it was my turn for Courtney to sign a book for me, I shook her hand and was greeted by warm smiling brown eyes.  I gave her one of the MRF family photo postcards that I use to promote my own book.  She commented favorably on the variety of animals in the picture.  Her right hand dutifully produced her signature as well as my name on the first page of the book.  She posed for a picture with me and then repeated the process with my friend Vicky and friend/riding student, Alex.  Later we agreed that meeting Courtney King Dye was the highlight of Equine Affaire 2014. 
    Late Sunday night when the cold air and physical activity associated with nightly barn check prevented me from feeling sleepy, I picked up Courtney's book and began to read.  By 1:00 a.m. I had to peel myself away from the engrossing pages and make myself go to bed.  For the next four days I read the book every chance that I could.  I took it to school with me and awarded myself with several pages after my work was caught up.  Grading papers and tests took several days because I could not stay away from Courtney's engaging story.  
    The book is multi-faceted.  Not only does it take you through the events of her struggle to create a career with horses, but she brings the reader along on just about every competitive dressage test that paved her world class career.  I am privileged to have sat on Idy, (Idocus), and Mythy, (Mythilus), as she schools tempis, pirouettes, and the ever challenging piaffe.  My seatbones, lower leg and outside rein responded appropriately with each word read. 
     Her relationship with and understanding of each individual horse brought me to laughter and to tears on numerous occasions.  As somebody who spends a great deal of time caring for my own horses, I could relate to her passion and acceptance of each individual horse's strengths and weaknesses.  Mythilus the do-gooder, always striving to please, therefore entrusting his total being to Courtney, stands in humorous contrast to Idocus's inflated self-image as he returns home from the World Cup convinced that he has won when in fact he hasn't.  
    Courtney's beautiful words and brilliant writing drew me right into her world, providing me with intimate glimpses of the highest levels of dressage.  Her devastating accident takes the reader along for the whole rehabilitation and recovery phases.  She teaches patience, acceptance and the lesson that we can only control certain aspects of our lives.  Courtney's appreciation and love for those closest to her is confirmed on every page; husband Jason, siblings and other family members, Lendon Gray, Steffen Peters, and so many more, you will just have to read the book to acquaint yourself with them all.  
    I am eager for others to read the book so we can commiserate over it.  Be prepared for an exciting trip filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, love and loss that all of us will face in our lifetime.  Courtney's struggles measure to the extreme.  Yet, she still proclaims her happiness and invites the reader to come along with her for this exciting ride.  
    Spoiler alert: The book ends with the birth of Courtney's daughter River.  This one event, which I was aware of since meeting River at Equine Affaire, kept me from falling into total despair at various times in the book.  River is the ray of hope that we know will bring Courtney and her husband lasting happiness.  Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving. 

 Well written and from the heart.

Haley fell in love with this sweet baby Gypsy Vanner filly...

...and then the filly fell in love with Haley's Mom, Robyn.

    
 Road trip.
 
 Vicky and I pose with Laura the shire.



Someday I wish to ride off with the Canadian Cowgirls! photo by Janine Slezak

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall's Finale in Breathtaking Color

  
     Good Morning,
     The 2014 Fall foliage season blazed in breathtaking color all over the Adirondacks last weekend.  It has been several years since the reds and golds have crescendo-ed simultaneously. The spectacle was intensified by the sheer brilliance of every hue.  In anticipation of the peak, a record number of leaf-peepers made their pilgrimage along Route 28, up Bald Mountain, and to the top of McCauley Mountain to witness the explosive chromaticity; evidence that the earth is still the leader when it comes to beauty and perfection.  
     Although I appreciated the patronage that large number of tourists contributed to my hometown and region, I was grateful not to venture out among the crowds.  Instead, I remained at home in my own enchanted space.  On horseback I visited all of my favorite vantage points to absorb the symphonic beauty that will soon fade into monochromatic grayness of winter.  With each leaf that falls I whisper a grateful prayer and force myself to accept what is to come.  Until that time arrives I will bask in the radiance of this annual gift from nature.
Photos by Michele deCamp    


Time spent with Bing, Frankie and Sandi....
....is never wasted.
Sandi; 30 years young





Irene Aloisio's gelding Ben is both a serious model against Fall foliage....
....and a comedian!
Photo stills from GoPro by A.P.

My favorite view is always from behind two ears!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MRF Celebrates Summer, 2014

     Good Evening,
     Its that time of year again when I thoughtfully collect myself and prepare for a new year in the classroom.  Usually, I write about the summer days that sweep by at an accelerated speed compared to winter days.  I reflect on the genuine freedom of spirit that flows in good weather and of course I rejoice in the extended time spent with my animals.  Lately, I have been challenged by friends to post statements of gratitude as my Facebook status.  The requests got me thinking; why not simply show everybody just how grateful I am for the summer of 2014. 
Well....why not?




Saturday, August 23, 2014

Exploring Kentucky

     Good Evening,
     Conferring for the last time with our group of caregivers, Rod and I secured our seat belts and headed on our way out of the Adirondacks.  For the next four days we were free from the hectic schedule that dictates our daily lives.  While we explored Kentucky horse country, somebody else was going to care for our four legged family.  
    Along the way we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  This museum presents the larger than life performers of my youth in a real and tangible manner.  What I realize is that most of the 70's male idols were actually petite men with large talent and an ability to pump up a crowd of 30,000 in a drum beat. 
    From Ohio we headed south toward Louisville and Lexington.  While immersing ourselves in the Thoroughbred industry we gazed upon Kentucky with an eye on retiring there someday.  Perhaps our future lies within the miles of railed fences and acres of lush, calcium rich pasture land that stretches across the bluegrass.  Dedicated to M. deCamp, C. Diver, R. Craig, H. Craig and R. Craig for their exemplary care of MRF in our absence.  Thank you all!


 An ominous funnel cloud guided our way to Ohio.
Standing next to Mick Jagger's stage costumes emphasizes how petite he is.

Pink Floyd fans might recognize this enormous balloon character from The Wall.

The hosts on Great Day Live seemed genuinely interested in my book and life with animals.  The interview is available at the following link.

Iconic twin spires identify Churchill Downs. 
 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro's cremated remains are buried below the pedestal of this majestic statue.  
Hanging out with 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year, Curlin.
 Very handsome indeed.
Michael Matz's 2013 Kentucky Derby contender, Union Rags stands at stud at Lane's End Farm.
 Who is that masked man?

2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide lives at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Since he was gelded before his two big wins, a career in the breeding shed was out of the question.

 Visiting with 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb is part of the free tour at Claiborne Farm.
   War Front is Zenyatta's 2014 filly's sire.  His stud fee is a mere $150,000.
....And speaking of Zenyatta, Blame is the stallion who ended her racing career with 19 wins and 1 second place finish out of 20 starts!
Thoroughbred immortality... 
 Three days after I returned from Kentucky, I signed books at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs.
And who should I meet in the gift shop?
 Why that's Ron Turcotte, Secretariat's jockey.  I shared a picture of our family including Easau, my grandson of Secretariat.  
Turcotte's license plate is a tribute to Secretariat.
Of course we had to purchase some Secretariat souvenirs!
photos by R. Phinney and M. deCamp

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Girls and Horses....MRF Riding Recital, 2014

     Good Evening,
     The MRF Riding Recital, An Evening at Moose River Farm, was held under a patchy blue sky on the balmy evening of July 21st.  Once again, my students displayed their progress in the saddle for family and friends.  The horses performed beautifully and a great time was had by all.     Photos by Michele deCamp 
 The generous crowd mingles prior to the show.
 Haley adjusts Lowtchee's girth in preparation.
 Everybody likes to visit with the horses in the barn.
 Final preparations are made in the tack room.
 Saige and her mom share a love for horses.
 Lydia gives Trinity's mount, Spirit, a comforting touch.
 The crowd settles at the arena.
Before the first ride a few words are expressed on behalf of Sandi's years as a school horse.  Now at 30 years old, Sandi is officially retired!
 Jean leads Lydia and Tango to the ring for the first ride.
 Lydia and Tango demonstrate the skills of a new rider.



 Next, Alex riding Spirit and....
 Alexis riding Joshua....


 ...demonstrate the skills of riders with many years of experience.


 In the third group, Brooke and Spirit,...

 ...Natalie and Tango...
 ...and Laura and Zambi show off their acquired skills.




 Natalie is a veteran rider, now cantering on Tango.

 The fourth group includes Trinity and Spirit....
 ...Haley and Lowtchee...
 ...and Jenna on Tango.






 These three ladies have been riding for several summers.


 The final group of the evening includes Jordan and Zambi...


 ...and Saige on Tango.




Congratulations to all of these fine riders and their horses!  Well done ladies!