Oh, Atlanta….

“Oh, Atlanta, I hear you callin’
I’m comin’ back to you one fine day…..”    Ralph Micks

 

 

atlhorseconnections
Click to check out local magazine Atlanta Horse Connections

 

 

In 1995 I traveled to Atlanta to audit a Charles DeKunffy clinic hosted in Alpharetta, Georgia.  As I wound my way around the charming towns of Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta I knew that I had found the place I wanted to live.  Within a year my horse Sy and I moved from South Carolina and found ourselves living in the place I consider “home”.

Home has always been an elusive concept for me as I was raised in the Air Force and lived in three different countries and four different states before I graduated high school.  I loved every one of these places and the horses, barns and friends that I met along the way.  From riding gymkhana and jumping ponies with Andrea in England to beginning dressage and show jumping with the German kids at the stately riding center in Zweibrucken, Germany, Europe began my love for all things horsey.

Lucky enough to land at Sand and Spur Riding Club on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida I met an amazing family of people that shaped my life.  The friends I met there are second to none.  I consider the times at workday, riding in the bay, and club horse shows some of the best times I will ever have.  Unfortunately due to the nature of the military the people that aligned in that magical period of time have since scattered across the globe.

South Carolina and Longcreek Equestrian Center introduced me to Scott Peterson who unknowingly converted me to a dressage only rider.  It is here that I found my path to my career in horses.  I met Sabrena (of Better So Dressage Blog) a friend that encourages me when I’m down and shares my passion for dressage. I wouldn’t trade any of these places or experiences for anything in the world.  They are what made me the trainer I am today.  But it is in Georgia that I will always feel most at home.

For fear of excluding any one of the hundreds of friends, trainers and students I have known in Atlanta I won’t name any names but Atlanta is the place I will return to when my duties in South Carolina are complete.  In addition to the huge community of riders, Atlanta has hundreds of amazing barns to meet the needs of all. Most of all it is the supportive nature of the people I have met there that keeps drawing me back.  Atlanta has seen the best of me and the worst of me, I have made lifelong friends and I have made some big mistakes but somehow that all becomes part of the fold and the focus on horses keeps bringing us back together.

I wish I had the words to better express how I feel but I guess I can’t top the great Ray Charles….

Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
(The whole day through)
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said a Georgia, Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

I said, Georgia, oh Georgia
No peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

Oh Georgia, Georgia
No peace, no peace I find
Just an old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
(Georgia on my mind)

I said, just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind – Ray Charles

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Sometimes it’s easier to sit than post….

It looks likes it’s going to be another blogging year.  My first attempt at blogging brought many unexpected results and events.  Some of the changes brought about feelings of pride and a sense of self-worth.  Other changes, while still enlightening,  forced reflection on aspects of dressage, or organized horse-sport in general,  that I had never before contemplated.  While I feel overloaded with ideas to blog about, my less naive side now worries that every story will read as either self-aggrandizing, cynical or sales pitchy.  When these feelings start making me avoid the vulnerability of writing this blog my new inspiration is to go back to the relationship between the rider and the horse, a relationship without angles or agendas.  Following is a letter from a student that I received about a year ago.  When the distractions of competition, politics and profits get me down, letters like this one, and others from students past bring me back to that concept of what “success” in the “horse industry” means to me.

This is published with permission from the author.  Thanks Jess, your unabashed sincerity humbles me.

Horses are Welcome too!!

Me and Sam in England ’75
Me and Sammy in Germany ’79. Ponies make great teachers!

Saturday promises to be exciting as I am spending the day with some of my best friends, Ponies!   The Atlanta Pony Club is meeting me at Foxberry Farms in Dallas, Georgia for a full day of dressage lessons.

This is not my first time teaching the ponyclubbers and I hope I will be invited again.  Having started riding in England I had a short brush with the

British Pony Club and have a great deal of respect for the organization.  Any rider that has earned the rating of “A” ponyclubber is not only qualified to be a professional rider but has proven to be an expert in horse and barn management as well.  To check how you measure up click here for the United State’s Pony Club’s  Standards of Proficiency for H-B, HH-A Levels (the horse management section of the “A” level).  The Dressage Specialty Riding Test is no walk in the park either!

As riders “rate” through the system, starting with the fundamentals of horsecare and riding, they prove their skills through testings.  These are no easy tests!  Safety and the integrity of the ratings are a priority and much preparation, instruction and hard work goes into preparing the riders for their ratings.  Rallies are held for concentrated coaching before rating sessions and the ponyclubbers must work together with a team in all areas of barn management.  To make sure the kids are focused and learning the information themselves, parents are not allowed in the barn area at rallies.

Don’t get the idea that Ponyclub is all work and testing!  Ponyclubbers learn while having  fun!  Jumping, gymkhana, eventing, foxhunting, all types of English riding opportunities abound, both at the local and national level. Scholarships are even available for hard-working applicants.  If you are a young rider or if you have a young rider in the family I strongly recommend Ponyclub for a well-rounded horseman’s education.  It’s a well-known fact, no one can teach you more than a pony!

United States Pony Club

Atlanta Pony Club