Tag Archives: horses

Breathlessness and Brilliance

A few days ago we flew and flew, with great love in our hearts, only to find ourselves in Breckenridge, Colorado – breathless with altitude and not without some concern over recent local wildfires.

Alas, while we were there storms did kick up, rain did fall and temperatures too, just enough to get at least this fire under some semblance of smoldered control.

Our travels to this high country were to visit our eldest, Jack, as he is working with the National Repertory Orchestra for their popular summer symphonic festival of music.  Each day we were able to attend their rehearsals which are free and open to the public, many of whom attend with friends in tow.

In a whirlwind of just a few days we managed to take in not only these rehearsals but two fabulous concerts.  The first included Shostakovich’s Fifth along with music by Mendelssohn and López.  We enjoyed it immensely!

Warming up just before the show!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  ~Plato

When not taking in music we enjoyed a bit of what Breckenridge has to offer in the way of touristy fun.

While the Hub worked one day, I opted to go horseback riding.

I’m not entirely comfortable around horses but each day we should do a little something challenging.  And so I did.

What is it about horse-loving girls.  They tend to have a spot of admirable moxie I think.

Between rehearsals and concerts and everything else, we did get to see and feed Jack.  And to catch up on selfie shenanigans, which was great fun.

I’m not one for selfies in general but sometimes one can’t resist the temptation for silliness.

We even managed to get in some sketching here and there……

My favorite is this sketch below from our drive up Boreas Pass where I was captivated by some yellow lichen on the side of the mountain.  And so I painted it.

The views from up there weren’t half-bad either.

Saturday soon arrived and by then we were feeling a bit more acclimatized to the altitude.





I did wonder how the wind players were faring with the altitude, but apparently they have über efficient embouchures and were therefore all right. The poor reed players on the other hand were carving new reeds for themselves day to day due to the intense dryness of the climate. I marvel.

Saturday was to be a special day all around because a dear and long time friend who now lives in Denver was to drive up for that evening’s concert featuring the music of Star Wars composed by John Williams.


We watched a bit of rehearsal, of course, getting in the mood for the evening’s Star Wars excitement.

Royalty was in attendance that night and the mood was light and energetic.

(side note, the first few notes of this bit of Star Wars music once conjured a whole slew of summer camp shenanigans as we were learning this Breton tune below from our beloved and brilliant flute instructor, Nuala Kennedy.  See if you can hear what I heard….)

The evening’s concert ended with an encore presentation of the wonderful and iconic Cantina piece, with a solo by none-other than the NRO’s brilliant conductor, Carl Topilow.

More selfie shenanigans.

Even though he must’ve been exhausted, Jack graciously posed for photos with us, as well as with our long-time friend Amy from Denver and his amazing ‘host-parents’, Tom and Darlena.

Tom and Darlena graciously sponsor a musician or two or three each summer.  Taking them on wonderful hikes on their days off, and out for iced cream after concerts.  (Not to mention the backing they provide to the NRO itself!)  Even though Jack is a fully-fledged adult, it’s nice as a parent to know he has parental influences to call upon should he need them.  We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner out all together before the concert.

I’m told the NRO is the only summer festival that provides a host-family experience for the musicians. It really helps them feel at home and part of the community for the summer.
Soon it was time for ice-cream….


As it goes with whirlwind weekends, our time in the mountains was quickly past.  We bid goodbye to Amy who headed back down the mountain to her life in Denver.  We told Jack we would meet him in his birthplace of Maine in just a matter of weeks.  We too made our way back to Denver, not unaware of the toll the altitude was taking.

I for one was ready to get back to some oxygenated air, although a bit muggy as things tend to be back here.

There is more to come in this summer of wonders.  I find myself marveling at it all lately.  Dear friendships, these amazing adult offspring of ours (do click the link and see what Madeleine has been writing about in recent months) and the places we get to see along the way.  Some days the world feels as if it is going to hell in a handbasket.  But it’s good to step aside from that, if we are fortunate enough to be able to do so, and to bask in the brilliance of a host of talented and driven young musicians.  In their small way they are making the world a much better place.  We are thrilled Jack has has a part in it this summer!

As for me, I am attending to household to-do’s and re-packing for next week’s adventures down to an older set of mountains for some older sets of tunes.  Til next time….




a day at the races


We didn’t exactly choose a day most suited for it, but yesterday our little family opted for a little journey south to horse country.  Southwestern Ohio is a liminal place, butting up against Indiana and Kentucky both, with deep seeded relationships to both. I have a soft spot for Kentucky as it is where most of the known history of my kin comes from and I spent a lot of time there as a kid, romping amidst the hills and hollers.

And so, on a very wet day we set forth to Keeneland to enjoy a day at the races.  As we traveled, the landscape became greener and greener, as Lexington is just that much ahead of us in the race toward spring time blooming. The wild redbud and dogwood trees rushed past us.  The mists hung low over the hills too.  As the rain pelted our windshield, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into!

keeneland 2

Fairly soon we had arrived at this amazing horse racing facility and the weather softened to drizzle.  I was still glad I had worn my wellies.

keeneland 3

We settled in and had a look around.  The place was all abuzz with horses, along with their owners, trainers and handlers readying for the next race.

readying 1


So much at stake for those involved.  But the horses didn’t seem to care about stakes.  They just wanted to run.  I asked our friends there, who know horses and the racing of them, whether the horses seem to understand the idea of racing.  And the answer was, if you watch these animals in the fields, outside of all the pageantry of the racing world, they spend their days in the fields together running and chasing each other.  They are highly intelligent and competitive.  Adding people to the mix is just our human layer of understanding on their very real sense of day to day animal play.

Before each race, the horses are walked around so betters can get a look at them and the horses can warm up a bit.  Then they head into another area where they are paired with their jockeys.

readying 2

readying 5readying 3

There are many escorts to keep everything in order and happening on time.  On this day, there were 8 races total! One flowed quickly into the next.

readying 4readying 6


jimmy g.

Of course there is much speculation as to which horse, piloted by which jockey, will be able to win each race.  And each race is different.  Some are run on grass for over a mile.  Other races are on the dirt track and may be a bit shorter.  Each horse and each jockey may shine in different situations.  One farrier we met who hails from Ireland, said on this green, wet day, his bets would have to be on the Irish jockeys who felt right at home in these conditions.


But  everyone has their system.  We had a lot to learn about it all.

betting 5betting 7

betting 1betting 3

Eventually though, you just have to pony up and set your money down on something.  And so we did.

betting 4

a day at the races


The races all seemed to flow together in my mind.  I wasn’t betting or looking at the numbers.  It was simply all so much just to take in! But as the day went on, and the races continued, everyone in our group had a winning bet or two to show for their efforts.

dirt trackdirt track 2


One does not go to the races and simply sit down in a seat to watch.  It is a very active thing.  There is a lot of back and forth between the viewing of the horses coming up and those currently racing and of course the betting.  There is occasionally a cocktail too.  Although the races are quickly over, there is still some time amongst the rush of things to explore a bit.  I was curious about the tunnel which the jockeys take their horses through to enter the official race track and asked if I could take a picture of it between races.

special access


The answer was not only yes to the tunnel picture (photo credit to my Hub, Tony), but a kind invitation to walk down through the tunnel to have a peek at the track as the horses and jockeys see it on race day.  This sweet Kentucky gentleman escorted me down to meet his ‘hard-working cohorts’ hanging out in the winner’s circle.

winner's circle 2

These guys clearly have a great time at their job at Keeneland and I was thrilled to meet them and get a sense of the scope of the place.

winner's circledown the track


Just like that, this day of racing was over.  We are fortunate that our horse loving friends, Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancyare also musicians so we joined them at their place for a cookout and some tunes.

tunes with Bev

What a day! We were eventually chased inside by thunderstorms rolling in sideways for a few more tunes before we had to make the journey home.  Our cup filled with the imagery, passion and pageantry of high-end horse racing.  It all felt a world away, which I think is the case when we allow ourselves to go deep enough into something with a rich history.  This was only my second time to Keeneland, but I want to go back again and learn more, perhaps on a dry weekday when I can sketch it all in my sketchbook.  Many thanks to Dan and Bev who not only helped us navigate the statistics catalog at the races, but who opened their home for tunes and hot dogs of all kinds afterward.

(This is Dash, who fetches like it’s his job.)