A View from Letter A – Pineland Farms – Carl Hester MBE

The woodlands and fields surrounding Pineland Farms Equestrian Center in New Gloucester Maine were shrouded in thick mist on Sunday morning. A young horse sculpture, Gwyneth McPherson fondly calls Rusty, watched as travelers drove through the entry gates and parked in the adjacent fields A select group of 14 horse and rider teams participated in a unique opportunity to advance their skills with one of the world’s best riders and trainers. The big red barn with two cupolas welcomed dressage riders, trainers and enthusiasts on October 14 – 15th for the New England Dressage Association’s (NEDA) Fall Symposium 2017 with Carl Hester MBE.

After checking in at the registration table, auditors entered into the large indoor arena fitted with stadium seating behind letter C, long side B and A. NEDA reported a total sale of 989 seats. The welcome packet included a glossy magazine with a biography for every team working with Hester. Everything was so carefully arranged, down to the announcer reminding the audience to be cautious about the chairs habit of flapping up when the sitter rose, “don’t let it slap the back and startle horses.” No photos, cameras or videotaping were allowed. The penalty would be the culprit finds themselves on the outside looking in.

Hester was dressed casually in a soft black sweater, jeans and barn boots. He was spare in his movement but his posture was tall and alert. He often commented on the most fundamental of movements and praised as much as cautioned riders. Whatever was presenting, Hester went with the block or tension that needed softening to bring out the best in horse and rider.

  • Your right hand, oh your right hand is open and not connected on the rein to the horse. It’s a habit of having the hand open when you ride. But it’s confusing the horse. Work on that. It’s a habit, you don’t know you’re doing it, you try to change but go back to it without thinking about it.
  • Breathing, you’ve got to breathe when you ride or it messes everything. Sit up straight, sit up when you ask for the transition, you are pitching forward and confusing the horse on what to do.
  • Don’t move about like that when changing leads, it’s bouncing around upsetting the horse. It’s too much motion. Sit quiet.
  • Your reins are too long, too long. They are long enough that you can scratch your belly already. After that, where are they going to go now.
  • The horse is not so good in the corners. Well, let’s fix that now. Ride him straight into that corner and stop. Make him stop, turn around and trot back. Do this until he gets the idea, you are in charge. This horse wants to take over and tell you where to go.
  • No we don’t want to see his trot, we saw that yesterday and his trot is fabulous. I want the canter today, that needs work.
  • To feel what you are doing, ride the transitions with eyes closed.

“Yutt, Yuutt that’s it, Yahutt” Whenever Hester made that sound, the rider could smile inside, “Yutt, that’s fine.”

There’s a Zen expression that says, every time you meet someone, they are different. So true with teams that participated on Saturday and Sunday. Hester told Emily Smith he was speechless after she rode the asked for uphill canter, and was that the same horse? Apparently, the nerves got to Dublin the previous day. Hester often informed Sunday participants on what happened Saturday. It was this attentiveness to the audience that was appreciated most. He commented to the trainers in the crowd on what was important here.

Jessica O’Donnell and her five-year old, Don Dreamer, received high praise with Hester talking about looking at a young horse and thinking someday Grand Prix. Yes, this horse, even when tired, kept giving something back. He had the cadence and calmness to get there.

Karin Persson and her beautiful Swedish horse Giuliano B surprised us all with his enthusiastic kick during a gallop around the arena. Hester had encouraged Persson to let him out a bit with a romp to settle down. Hester commented that it was a positive sign in the six-year old gelding. He hasn’t forgotten how to have fun along the way up the levels.

The outstanding training moment in the day came when Hester became the center post for Molly Maloney and Fellissimo’s canter pirouettes. He was the anchor which they moved around in a lovely series of careful wide pirouettes. The cadence and impulsion were excellent. It was inventive and delightful all at once. Hester has a charming and grounding manner of teaching. When he asks, and how he asks enables the confidence to flow between trainer, horse and rider.

What a surprise it was for this auditor to hear the same words heard in lessons, repeated and reinforced in the riders on Sunday. I had at first said no to this event, what would an amateur, returned to riding after a 25-year absence learn from this? A lot! It was all about position, clarity of the aids, being one-sided (horse and rider), straightness, inside eye, blocks in the body, tension, breathing, hands, etc… The thought was at this level, horses and riders are more advanced and complete in the training. The horse is athletic and responsive. The riders have dedicated years to cultivating their dressage skills. It’s still the attention to the ever-changing details that makes a skillful ride.

Everything about the day was wonderful. The horses were spit spot in almost ready for the show ring turnout with brilliantly white NEDA saddle pads. Several of the riders presented a uniform appearance in white breeches and gloves with a fitted dark blue long-sleeved shirt. Even the boxed lunches were fresh and filling. The mist was just starting to lift when we sat down to eat on the hillside in back of the big red barn. The horses were out in their paddocks munching on hay. The warm gray Maine skies were quiet above us. This was a day to remember. Thank you NEDA staff for the two years of hard work organizing this event. Thank you Carl Hester for encouraging all with kindness and sincerity.



Dark Moon Time

The lunar phases channel a lot of energy into our lives. Weather forecasters warn about coastal tides during a new or full moon. Sacred holidays for a wide variety of beliefs occur with new or full moons too. Moonshine in fields and forests guides predator and prey on their nightly pathways. The lunar cycles have four distinct phases of first quarter, full, third quarter and new. There is one more cycle that can have a profound effect on earth spirits. The dark of the moon, a three-day period just before the new, is underestimated and the most yin phase. The moon cannot be seen in the night sky. Sensitive souls will already be aware of the insight this phase has to offer. The darkness gifts us with a time for reflection and wonder.

The dark moon phase for October begins 17 – 18 – 19 at 3:12 p.m. EST. The new moon rolls in October 19th.  The full moon of the 5th celebrated the harvest and completeness of Earth in Libra Sun. The last of the crops are being gathered in the northeast. The fruit and nut trees are ripe. Herbs and perennials flowered and formed seed pods ready to burst, be consumed or fall to earth. Trees that struggled from adverse weather conditions will send out seeds too. They may be predicting a harsh winter ahead if a lot of them fall to the ground. Perhaps the elements will take trees to the roots, but the next generation has been set free.

If you’ve never noticed this lunar phase, pay attention now to the subtle changes of energy and pressure. When the moon rolls into this three-day phase, notice how you feel. Are you down, agitated or bored? Sit quietly and listen to your thoughts. Notice what you say. Are the thoughts and words destructive? Are they bitter? If there is a physical sensation of a dark cloud around you, that’s your energy melding with lunar influences. Sometimes the awareness is tiredness and stiffness in the body. Perhaps you feel like lying low or taking a mental health day to disappear from routines and people. The sun provides an abundance of yang energy. Daily life activities are largely in the yang. The moon reminds us of yin energy and the importance of balance in all things. So too, your energy needs to re-balance and know the yin. The dark moon is a time to restore energy. It’s not always a good day. The dark of the moon is the best time to harvest angst.

Honor the drain on your energy and lie low for a while. It’s okay to put aside the busy chores for a few days. It’s okay to stay in and skip stimulating activities. This is a time to be out in nature and feel the goodness all around you. If it’s safe, take a walk in the dark of the moon, perhaps around the backyard at twilight time.  Know that it’s okay to feel the darker emotions we all have. If you have a sacred space, create an altar honoring those dark aspects of the soul. Perhaps put to pencil or canvas writing or drawings of how you feel. If old scars surface around emotional or physical hurts, let them rise up and be heard. Words and actions committed against you can diminish with time but the shadow always remains. It’s okay to feel tears, tensions and turmoil about what happened. It’s okay to look at secrets. Everyone has a skeleton or two in the closet. Now is the time to stop denying the uncomfortable side of our memories. In meditation, or in action, let those energies rise. Face them and don’t try to hide from them.

Be advised to avoid activities that may amplify the dark tones that have surfaced. Stay away from all music at this time, don’t try to mask the negative feelings or tensions with upbeat tunes. Avoid intense television and films as well. Perhaps alter that diet to include foods that are grounding by nature. Include root vegetables well cooked and seasoned for meals. Stay away from candles or burning incense. In other words, don’t enhance the negativity and don’t try to cover it up. Just go neutral and be. Be in the presence of your own shadow time. Look at who you are. Look without looking away at all sides of your nature. The dark moon will reveal those parts of you that are to be acknowledged and accepted.


Celebrate Each Day with a Song ~”Rain”

Today would have been John Lennon’s 77th birthday. Growing up in the 1960s, the most common names spoken in the household were John, Paul, George and Ringo. The Beatles are still innovative and spectacular as artists. How many bar bands go on to become brilliant trendsetters of a generation, influencing musicians for generations to come. John Lennon was greatly admired for his charm and sharp intelligence. He could be direct and often shook a few trees with his candid, insightful words in song or in interviews.

The majority of Lennon’s musical career reveals a man of keen sensitivity to his and our souls. He often showed us self-confidence, pride and self-doubt. Amazing that he could thrive as an artist with the pressure to perform and be always a little better than before.  I don’t think modern audiences understand how popular The Beatles were. Their strong work ethic and determination to be the best are some of the reasons for their success.

Listening to the works of Lennon and McCartney today, it is clear which artist was the majority writer on each song. “Rain” is a Lennon composition and perfect for this damp day in New England. Thank you John for putting your heart into everything you did. An artist, writer, actor, musician, poet, singer, peace activist and songwriter. Happy Birthday to an outstanding artist. Miss you still John.

From the B side of “Paperback Writer”, released on a 45 rpm in May 1966


If the rain comes they run and hide their heads
They might as well be dead
If the rain comes, if the rain comes

When the sun shines they slip into the shade
(when the sun shines down)
And sip their lemonade
(when the sun shines down)
When the sun shines, when the sun shines

Rain, I don’t mind
Shine, the weather’s fine

I can show you that when it starts to rain
(when the rain comes down)
Everything’s the same
(when the rain comes down)
I can show you, I can show you

Rain, I don’t mind
Shine, the weather’s fine

Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines
(when it rains and shines)
It’s just a state of mind?
(when it rains and shines)
Can you hear me, can you hear me?
















Celebrate Each Day with a Song ~ “Sailing Down This Golden River”

The digital age allows for bits and pieces of things remembered to take form. A fond memory from days gone by was brought together with a search on You Tube.

Arlo Guthrie+Muppets Show+I was not far from home.

Another fan of this televised performance video recorded the 1979 broadcast and posted it on You Tube to enjoy. “This Golden River” by Pete Seeger and performed by Arlo Guthrie is a treasured moment in song. Guthrie’s home base is in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. He is the son of American folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie. Arlo continues his support of live acoustic folk music presenting the Guthrie Center Troubadour Series, at the Old Trinity Chruch in Great Barrington, MA. He is an accomplished singer, songwriter, storyteller and performer with both commercial and critical success.

When I watch this video, it feels as if I have connected with an old friend. There’s something in his presence that brings comfort and joy. The lyrics have classic Seeger clarity and attention to that which is all around us. He often gave ordinary activities and things a voice. The melody, vocals and instrumentation make this song beautiful.

“This Golden River”

Words and music by Pete Seeger

Sailng down my golden river
Sun and water all my own
Yet I was never alone

Sun and water, old life givers
I’ll have them where ere I roam
And I was not far from home

Sunlight glancing on the water
Life and death are all my own
Yet I was never alone

Life for all my sons and daughters
Golden sparkles in the foam
And I was not far from home

Sailing down this winding highway
Travelers from near and far
And I was never alone

Exploring all the little byways
Sighting all the distant stars
And I was not far from home

Sailing down my golden river
Sun and water all my own
Yet I was never alone

Sun and water, old life givers
I’ll have them where ere I roam
And I was not far from home
Yet I was never alone
And I was not far from home

Celebrate Each Day with a Song ~ Southern Cross

Celebrate the magnificence of the seas. How long ago, how many lifetimes passed before our ancestors evolved out of the waters and learned to navigate on land. Mariners have taken to the sea in rafts, barques and sloops moved by the winds and tides to destinations far beyond the horizon. How small we are out there and outrageously brave to ride the waves and steer by the stars. It must be the call of the old self that draws us to sail. We may have evolved into a land species, but never lost the mesmerizing love of being at sea.This song, recorded by Steven Stills and Graham Nash in 1982 captures the glory of the sea in it’s melody. The lyrics tell the adventures of Music and crew as she sails through the southern seas. Life is turbulent for the sailor, love has come, love is lost. Solace is found in star light.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash are so fine and rare a musical group. It’s easy to feel Stills enchantment in his voice. What flows through them is the kiss and hiss of surf. Southern Cross rolls with the lightest acoustic instrumentation. The chiming guitars are the wave crests. The harmonies are mellow, comforting and marvelous. Why is it when I hear their songs, I feel at home?

A song that celebrates the human effort to realize we are a part of it all, “Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small, But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day”

Hail the great seas, the great Crux, and the greatness of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young).

The Southern Cross

Got out of town on a boat goin’ to Southern Islands
Sailing a reach before a followin’ sea
She was makin’ for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away

Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
Around the world (I have been around the world)
Lookin’ (lookin’ for that woman girl)
Who knows she knows (who knows love can endure)
And you know it will

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day

So I’m sailing for tomorrow my dreams are a-dyin’
And my love is an anchor tied to you (tied with a silver chain)
I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’
She is all that I have left and music is her name

Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world (I have been around the world)
Lookin’ (lookin’ for that woman girl)
(Who knows love can endure)
And you know it will
And you know it will

So we cheated and we lied and we tested
And we never failed to fail it was the easiest thing to do
You will survive being bested
Somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you
And the southern cross

Songwriters: Michael Curtis / Richard Curtis / Stephen Stills
Southern Cross lyrics © Music Sales Corporation