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Candace Wade


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Best of HN: Barnhomeless, Once Again

Welcome to my pity party. I’m homeless, once again. The fantasy farm where I have been relishing my lessons for two months is closing. This is the second time in six months. Just when I nest and get to know everyone’s name, the saddle pad is jerked out from under me. I feel sick. The sight of white four-board fencing makes my insides crumble.

Attendance to my party requires that you don’t house a horse on your own property or board at a facility that will never, ever shut down. You will get priority seating if you don’t own/lease a horse and that you, like I, ride and have loved a series of lesson horses.

The book I wrote is called Horse Sluts because I don’t own or lease — I rent/school. I will do almost anything to grab a ride. I had a quick succession of mismatched schooling barns when I found a home at the Equine Training Center near where I live south of Nashville, TN. It was heaven with a barn. We had well-cared-for horses with levels to challenge my skills as I improved. I had access to the large, pristine outdoor arena; a covered arena with fans and lights; fields on which to trail ride and a swimming pool. There was no 59 minute time clock. I could ride and fuss with the horses as long as I liked – all for $20! I always left more in the riding fee cookie jar.

Candace and Jag at ETC. Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

My horse needs were sated at the ETC for six years. Then Jan, the owner, told me the property was for sale. The family was moving – away. The property sold, the horses went to a kids’ camp and everything else was auctioned off. What was to become of me?

Samantha, my darling horse friend and polo instructor, introduced me to her friend who used to ride with Cavalia Odysseo. She might take me as a student. Wow! A door slammed and a really cool door opened. The Cavalia-girl agreed to take me.

I punched the code on one of the most desirable equestrian properties in Middle Tennessee. Owned by retired CEO of Dollar General, Green Pastures is one of the most slathery-beautiful 550 acres for equestrian activities. Wow (again)! I landed in the cream. Enter charming, patient and knowledgeable Emmy and her divinely beautiful and patient horse, Quiebro. I would be allowed to ride this snowy Spanish Purebred who was also retired from Cavalia Odysseo.

Yeah, this horse:

The fee was (ouch!) much higher and I was subject to a clock, but beginning dressage lessons with these two? I was thrilled.

In spite of the chi chi address, the boarders and staff at the bustling barn welcomed this gypsy schooling rider. “Hi, I’m Roberta,” “Pretty morning. I’m Nicole, are you riding with Emmy?” I had to keep notes on names so I could respond in kind.

Emmy brought me along quickly to a much more secure seat, more reflexive legs and responsive hands that did not jump in before the other two. Quiebro danced with me as I tried working him “at liberty.” We even tried the “Spanish Walk.” I was home, home, home.

Candace and Quiebro. Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

Two weeks ago, Emmy’s face was grave when she met me for my lesson. The facility was closing. My new “friends” were scrambling to find places for their horses. A few had to give their older horses to retirement farms. My stomach plummeted as Emmy told me she and Quiebro were going to move out of state to be near her fiancé. Except for during Cavalia, they had never lived in the same city. I swallowed my sadness in order to be happy and supportive of her new adventure, but my equestrian fantasy bubble lay flat at my feet.

A quiet, empty stable is a sad place. Many of the kind, welcoming women had already moved when I came back for my last lesson. Two were in the process of loading the horses whose noses I had caressed. Emmy, Quiebro and I immersed in my “canter and stops” so I wouldn’t succumb to sadness.

Part of my sorrow was the loss of this lovely, young woman. I get emotionally attached to my riding instructors. They bring joy into my life. They make me who I am. In this case, with Emmy, she’s a poised, strong young woman who touched some ancient memory of my youth.

I hugged Emmy good-bye. I stroked Quiebro’s muzzle and thanked him for lowering himself to work with me. Then… I drove out the gate… for the last time.

I am barn-homeless, once more. Yet, when it comes to horses one must be patient and keep trying. I have found two promising places that offer English schooling. I plan to check one out in a couple of days. Plus, Samantha has a few ideas. In the meantime, I will take beginning polo lessons – at age 62 — and undo the dressage demeanor that Emmy taught me. I will be on a horse again.

Memoir of a Rolex Newbie: Rolex is For Everyone

Candace’s new Rolex friends. Photo by Candace Wade.

Eventing Nation has the skinny on every nuance of why Michael Jung won the 2017 Rolex — for the third time. I will irritate the devotees with my neophyte views like, “I thought FischerRocana FST looked a tad sleepy and uninterested at dressage on Friday.” Pair that with my absolute, jiggy marvel during my first exposure to the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event and you’ll see that Rolex is for everyone.

Going to Rolex wasn’t on my radar. Bill, my horse-husband, was excited about the event and wanted to come with me. He espoused his ideology: “You should always go to experience the best.”

Dressage – She Lost? Really, The Horse Looked Good to Me

I could lick up dressage all day. No, I can’t catch all the required matching angles and number of steps between positions, but I appreciate the quiet artistry, balance and mature partnership between the horse and rider. I struggle to nick the surface of some of these qualities in my own recreational riding. Even though Bill was good for only about 30 minutes of dressage, he was amazed to watch the likes of these world-class riders in person.

Bill and I tried to eavesdrop on the two tony dressed couples in front of us. They looked elegantly horsey. Our hope was to glean a little intelligence on what to look for — but don’t be fooled by a chignon or a navy blazer. Turned out they didn’t know much more than we did.

The Human Experience

I felt raw electricity seeing James Alliston on Parker as they thundered toward my first cross-country jump (the big table at the Rolex Head of the Lake). They took a nauseating spill, catching the top of the tall, wide jump. Spontaneous tears came to my eyes. Bill came back to me with his eyes watering.

Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

Our tears caught the attention of two eventing students from Ohio, Lisa Collette and Danielle Struna, and Noell Sivertsen, their trainer. Noell asked if we were okay. Conversation blossomed from there. Noell competes in one-star events. She had stars tattooed on her wrist waiting to be filled in as she progresses. The three tossed tidbits of their knowledge of the horses, riders and strategy as they escort us across the course.

Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

I have been writing about performance Tennessee Walking Horses. The differences between the Rolex horses and riders and what I’ve seen at the Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee was jarring to me. I shared my views with the trio on the balanced riding, the maturity and stamina of the horses and the riding in concert that I watched during the weekend. Lisa asked, “Do you know about Theo? Are you…?” “Yes,” I replied, “I’m Theo’s aunt.” She educated the others. She finished with, “I love following Theo’s progress.” I spouted tears once again.

Practical Stuff

Info for next year: our hotel was 20 minutes away in Frankfort, Kentucky. This was the closest I could get reserving in February 2017. Rooms were cheaper and available. We had no traffic issues except getting into the Horse Park, but you are going to have traffic on Saturday no matter where you stay.

Believe the experts — plan for heat, cold, rain, soggy grass and a lot of walking – all in one day.

Stick to a shopping budget. Stephaney at the Dubarry booth smiled me into a “lie down and die” tweed jacket that I didn’t need, but am thrilled to have, in spite of the “ouch” price tag.

Plan ahead. The event is April 26-29 in 2018. Hotels in Georgetown (a few miles north of the park) are already selling out. Arena tickets are on sale. Bill and I ended up in the stratosphere, behind a pole, for the dressage. This eagle’s eye view was wind chilled. But, scaling up to the “X” row was a good thigh strengthener for the two-point and tush-toner for schooling tights.

Get Into It

Relishing the grandeur of this four star event is not just for experts. I respected the work and partnership that went into riding at the Rolex level. I was awed by the grace, power and concentration. I was moved by the recognition of their mounts when riders directed the applause to their horses and when a pair turned away at a cross-country jump because “it wasn’t their day,” possibly sparing the horse injury.

The event was enhanced by the people – reaching out, sharing and feeding off each other’s thrill. For me, equine events are about the people as much as they are about horses. I encourage any “horse-ista” to attend the Rolex next year. Bill is correct, “Always go to experience the best.”