All posts by Hudson Valley

Ageism, I caught it.

Looks like I have reached that point, the “Hey-you-kids,-get-off-my-lawn” stage of my life.  Why?  Because I knew exactly how old this blogger was by the way she wrote Comparison Kills.

Box of stars
Box of stars

When I was a child, we walked to school up hill, both ways.  In reality though, many times I literally walked to school backwards because it was so windy it was a better way to keep warm that way.  No, I didn’t live out west, I lived in a suburb north of New York City.  School was really far, or so it felt like to a second grader.  It doesn’t matter, we walked.  My mother didn’t drive me to school every day, and she most certainly didn’t wait at the end of the driveway with neither a heated nor air conditioned car for my comfort.  If it were cold, she told me to wear my coat and if it were raining, to take my umbrella.

The line that gave the blogger away:

“Amongst our social media generation we have grown up in a soft generation. A generation of participation trophies, kissing up, and political correctness. We’ve grown up with this mindset that the world owes us something that stems from this fallacy that life should be fair.”

My mother used to tell me all the time that life wasn’t fair.  Particularly more so after my sister was born, like when I thought she got a bigger gift than I did at Christmas. (She did.)

When we were children, we literally got gold stars on our homework assignments from our teachers.  Everyone didn’t get a gold star, only those students who were worthy got a gold one.  Maybe you got a green or blue one, but not everyone who handed in homework got a star for doing their homework.  Fair right?

After reading Bryce’s blog, I thought how ironic that she is writing about “Keeping up with the Jones’s”, when she herself seems like one of the Jones.  Having access to horses her whole childhood because her mom is an A rated trainer in California.  Living in Cali also allowed her to ride all the time and not just when the weather was nice, think winter, snow and ice.  Spending a summer in Europe working at a sales barn.  It seems the list was endless for her short life.  She even has her own blog telling us all about it.

Here she is at 19 years old, giving advice and explaining how she is learning that life isn’t fair.

Then it occurred to me, it wasn’t her fault that she was finding out how life really works, that her struggles with insecurity, independence and self esteem were real, even if she grew up seemingly well off.  Growing up in the “everyone-gets-a-trophy” era didn’t seem to help her at all.  In fact, she seemed to be far worse off for it, finding out much later in life that the only thing that really counts, is you.

“We’ve become so wrapped up in focusing on what we are not and have forgotten what we are.”

That is a very sad statement from a 19 year old.

“We’ve become so wrapped up in focusing on what we are not and don’t know who we are.”  – FYP

My condemnation of her and her ilk changed to empathy as I thought how life might be harder for those who grew up thinking they couldn’t fail.  Instead of learning to try harder for your gold star as a young child, a generation of kids are awakening to the fact that their gold star might be meaningless, and that they may have been duped.  Worse, the Jones’s now have a web log, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account to compare yourself to.

“This post was inspired by my best friend who convinced me I needed to curb my social media addiction and remember I don’t totally suck at this whole riding thing.”

Good advice from your friend.  Remember, pay attention to your horse, it doesn’t care about gold stars, fancy clothes, or blue ribbons.  Do and be the best you can be, no matter what you are doing…except blogging.  Stop blogging and go ride.  And when you have children, don’t use up all the gold stars.

It’s not you. It’s me….

I can’t tell you how I hate that phrase.  In real life, it’s an overused phrase that comes with its own meme. The phrase signifies the end of a relationship and, in an effort to not crush your feelings, the individual goes on to explain that there is just something about themselves that prevents them from having a relationship with you.  That somehow they are to blame for the failed relationship. Unfortunately, what they’re actually telling you more often than not is:  “It’s you.  Totally.  No doubt about it.  I’m just being  nice  an ass.”

And you know what, it really IS all about you….

If you think about it, sports can be a lot like relationships.  In sports, just as in relationships, you can spend all your time thinking, or worrying, about what someone else is up to.  In Gymkhana, that “someone” is your competition.  Focusing on what the competition is doing is a distraction that keeps you from focusing on what YOU should be doing.

“The more you concentrate on beating another athlete, the less chance that you will. 

Dr. Alan Goldberg

When competing, the focus should be on you and your horse.  Far too often riders get caught up in someone else’s time.  Perhaps they even focus on their competitor knocking a pole or a barrel.  In reality, it is you that you need to concentrate on.  According to Dr. Goldberg, “…When athletes stop focusing on themselves and instead begin to think too much about the competition, then choking and performance problems are the end result.”

Think about that on your first ride of the season.  Don’t worry about how your competition rode last year. Don’t obsess whether they bought a shiny new horse, or thousands of dollars in tack.  Just worry about your horse and you.  In reality, that’s all that matters.

Remember:  It’s not you.  It’s me


If you always do what you’ve always done,

you continue to get what you’ve always got.


So, as horse riders, what is your New Year’s resolution?

Will you try something new? Trail riding, obstacle courses or riding on the beach, perhaps?

Will you fix a bad habit, either for yourself or your horse?

Maybe just resolve to make new friends and spend more quality time with your horse. After all, horses have a direct correlation on your well being.  

Why not make this year, the year of your horse?  Why not invest in something new and healthy for your horse?  I’m not suggesting a new fuzzy blanket or cool shiny stirrups, but something a bit more behavior related. 

Every time you are with your horse, you are teaching her something.  It could be something positive, like standing while saddling, or it could be something bad, such as pulling you across the aisle.  Take a moment this winter and think of three things you can and will change for you and your horse this year. 

Why three?  Because if you only get to one item, you have still made a difference.  Always think positive.

Whatever your resolution is, be happy and be safe, and remember to step out of your comfort zone, if to only find where that comfort zone is.

Happy New Year!

Back to the Beginning

We ended the season at SquirrelWood Equine Sanctuary.  It was their first event.  I do not know how they came about having a gymkhana, but they did and it was good.  We couldn’t have had a better day to run as it was a sunny 60 degree day.  A 60 degree in November means it isn’t humid and there are no flies!

All the proceeds were to benefit their farm and their rescues.  If there was any place I would like to go to be rescued, it would be here.  Ninety-five beautiful acres as far as the eye could see.  Their primary focus is on “rehabilitation of slaughter-bound polo ponies, sport horses and working horses, many of whom find fulfilling, happy and successful second-chance careers under our care and in adoptive homes.”


Competing at SquirrelWood reminded me of why I started in gymkhana: To get to know my horse and have fun with her.  It has been a very long and hard journey, but one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  Much like I would imagine it is when rescuing horses and other animals who have been retired, or worse.

Since all the proceeds went to the horses themselves, there was nothing to win other than the satisfaction of helping another.  Sometimes we lose sight of that in our daily routine and the drama of winning outweighs why we are running.


The dichotomy of ending the season in a new place just getting started can’t be overlooked.  Good luck to the riders next year, and we look forward to seeing Beth and her crew again when she finds gymkhana to be addicting and fun.



It all started because I was nosy.

10989103_10204978237207996_2192295095941056768_nIt was 2011 and I started a job at the New Paltz Golf Course trying to save for a new barrel saddle: Beer cart girl in the evening, waitress at night.  On one particular Friday night it was the New Paltz High School Class of 1986 Class Reunion.

I had three goals when I started at the golf course:  Save enough money to buy a brand new barrel racing saddle, make new friends, and try and meet horse people interested in gymkhana.  And on this particular night, I did.  I met Neal and Cindy from Ridgeview Stables.  I overheard Neal talking about horses and interjected myself in the conversation, telling him and his wife, Cindy, how I was new to gymkhana and how excited I was to learn with my new horse.  It turned out that Neal knew my trainer, Ozzie, and explained he and Ozzie did pickup races “back in the day.”

I was working so I couldn’t talk long, but I’m fairly certain I got Neal’s number that day.  And I’m certain that I gave him Ozzie’s number so they could touch base.  And they did.

In 2011, there were seven Gymkhana events.  Six in Orange County at Thomas Bull Park and one in Ulster County, at the County Fair in New Paltz.  On May 19, 2012, Ridgeview Stables had their first gymkhana event in New Paltz, NY in a brand new arena.  An arena where I learned to run faster than I ever had before.  And although they have since moved from that location, Ridgeview now offers seven gymkhana events over the summer along with clinics with Ozzie.  The success of Ridgeview’s gymkhana and exposure it has given to the venue has encouraged others, like Falcon Ridge, to hold their own events.  Southern Dutchess added an additional event in Dutchess County this year bringing their total to four summer games.  At this count, there are 32 gymkhana events within one hour of the Hudson Valley (Ulster & Orange Counties).

So there you have it.  My three goals are complete: I made new friends, I got a new saddle, and connected with great horse people and great games all because I couldn’t mind my own business.