Songbird and Edgar Rodriguez

A brief interview in Spanish with Songbird’s rider Edgar Rodriguez (Spanish & English version)

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Edgar with Songbird Wednesday

Edgar Rodriguez, a 29-year-old native of Mexico, began working for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in southern California six years ago. Now he works as a rider and groom to the amazing Songbird, champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and winner of the July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course. Today she goes to post for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes.

I caught up with Edgar on the Wednesday afternoon before the Alabama while Songbird grazed outside her barn on the backside of Saratoga. A quiet man who doesn’t waste words, Edgar did not have much to say, but his facial expressions as he spoke and the way he interacts with Songbird speaks volumes that I can’t possibly describe through a Q & A. In a nutshell, it’s pretty clear that he adores her. Continue reading

Our World Series

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships was one for the history books

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending a 108-year drought. The “World Series” of horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, took place over the weekend.

bcwc_logo_4cIn my favorite sport, I cheer for multiple teams – as do most horse racing fans. My game hats and tee-shirts don’t sport a single set of colors or a solitary name of who I stand behind. Red and white for Songbird, orange and purple for Beholder, silver and white with the word “Chrome” for California Chrome, one fan can have alliances with one or all.

Our sport is unique in the sense that nearly every “player” has their own jersey with distinct colors and symbols to represent their team – a team that consists of a jockey, trainer, owner, hot walker, groom, veterinarian and exercise rider, or maybe multiples of each.

Our series is spread out throughout the year, with each team picking their games based on the ability and necessities of our superstars – the equine masterpieces that have been bred for centuries just to play and excel at this game. Each game is strategically selected based on the horse’s level of training, ability, stamina, speed and preferred distance. The other teams are also taken into account, with the “coaches” speculating about the right time and place to challenge a particular foe. Continue reading

Riding Side Saddle, Part 2: Lady Annise takes a spin

On a Tuesday afternoon in Saratoga Springs,  I learned how to ride side saddle

Today’s one of those days when my heart aches for New York a little more than usual. A photographer I met while working at Saratoga Race Course tweeted a picture of the Whitney Viewing Stand – a viewing area where you can watch racehorses train on Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track — covered in a blanket of snow that had fallen over the last couple of days and looking sadly forlorn. Gilded and rust colored leaves clung to the spindly branches of trees in the background, a last-ditch showcase by fall before winter takes over.

Even on an occasional day off, I enjoyed driving to the track and watching the Thoroughbreds, many of which were steeplechase horses, walk onto the infield of the Oklahoma during the late morning for grass gallops. The athleticism and beauty of a racehorse in motion should be savored with the eyes whenever you have the opportunity, and sometimes it was nice to stop and watch without the niggling feeling that I should be chasing someone down for an interview. Continue reading

Riding Sidesaddle, Part 1: Learning the Sport

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Lady Mary in a scene from Downton Abbey

Jane Smiley’s Horse Country, a piece published last year in the New York Times, describes grass and sky and mist over Virginia and the wide, flat expanse of Maryland – both regaled horse countries. The tiny taste I got while driving through the Adirondack Mountains and experiencing the rich horse culture of Saratoga Springs left me with nothing but good things to say about the eastern United States.

I’m going to hedge a guess, based on what I’ve read and heard from friends, that the horsey culture of the rest of other eastern states is equally valued or perhaps even more potent than what I experienced around Saratoga Springs.  I have a friend from Maryland who tells me I’m missing out, and know folks from Pennsylvania who say there’s nothing better. Continue reading

High and Tight

The trials and tribulations of buying new English horseback riding boots

For equestrians, skin-tight pants and tall black boots are completely normal daily attire for the barn, school library, Walmart — the venue doesn’t matter. To anyone of the non-horsey persuasion or unfamiliar with equestrian couture, seeing someone dressed like this might make you question their fashion sense and/or wonder if they’re merging attire for their night job with their day job, if ya catch my drift. But I can assure you that my night job involves nothing more than homework.

Anyhow, my latest project has been breaking in new field boots, so I’ve been wearing them in public (AKA not the barn) quite often lately.

For my non horse-people readers, field boots are tall black boots with laces in the front used for certain types of English riding. Not only are they difficult to fit, as you have to consider calf size and height, but they’re expensive as heck and real buggers to break in.

When you buy field boots, they’re generally at least an inch taller than you want because they drop in height as the leather relaxes. Plus they should be almost as tight as you can bear so they don’t become too loose around your calves as they stretch. Continue reading

Study Abroad: Not what I expected

Everyone’s experiences are different, some more challenging than others

I flipped through pages of the black spiral notebook I used while in Chile, fingers brushing over hastily scrawled notes written in anticipation of upcoming travels. I tore out randomized papers from the “Cultura Chilena” (Chilean Culture) Spanish class I took while I was there and stashed them in a blue folder to submit to my Spanish adviser at NDSU.

Last Wednesday at 11:30 I walked into her office and plopped down in a chair, ready to explain the class units and review essays and exams so she could determine if it would fulfill the requirements for my minor. After a coursework discussion that took less than five minutes, our conversation wandered to my experiences in Chile.

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Chillin’ in Santiago

When people ask me if studying abroad was the time of my life, I’ve always hesitated.

“It was quite the learning experience!” I respond honestly.

So as I sat in my adviser’s office, staring at a shelf of colorful Spanish textbooks and other resources, I wondered if she would fault me for admitting that studying abroad wasn’t what I expected – it hadn’t been the walk in the park I anticipated. Continue reading

The Final First Ride

Senior year of college marks my final year competing on the NDSU Equestrian Team

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Team captain Becky Prasch and I pose with our Champion and Reserve Champion ribbons at a show last fall

Today I attended my final NDSU homecoming parade as an actual student. If and when I go next year, I’ll be an alum, and I’m A-OK with that. Just over a month into my senior year, I’m beginning to relate with the well-known Captain Jack Sparrow on a sinking ship meme that circulates Facebook every now and then, symbolizing the various stages of your college career. At this point, I’m quite ready to hop off the ship and onto the dock, and set sail to another sea far away from homework and classrooms.

Despite my excitement for graduation, endings don’t happen without a bit of nostalgia. Tomorrow morning I depart for my final first show of the season of my IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) career. For those of you who are new to my blog or the world of collegiate horse showing, IHSA is an association that allows equestrians to compete affordably during college. Universities that host shows provide horses, and we draw horse names at random to determine who to ride. Riders are only allowed to watch the horse warm up before entering the arena to compete. The idea is that all competitors are on a level playing field, and it’s amazing in so many ways. From the adrenaline rush of getting on a new horse for the first time, to the opportunity of being able to ride competitively while attending school.

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Competing at University of Wisconsin River Falls

Tomorrow is the last first time I’ll smush into a van next to my teammates and drive five hours to a horse show. The last first time I’ll step onto a mounting block and get on a horse I’ve never ridden before, taking advice from my coach as she adjusts my stirrups. And the last first time I’ll collect my reins, nudge that horse forward and make an impression on a judge that will hopefully score points for NDSU. Continue reading

Saturday Suggestion: Get up, get going

Seven tips for getting mOTIVATED

My mind wanders as I sit at the kitchen table, alternating between reading ancient Latin American history and scrolling Twitter to ogle all the pictures of the big horse races going on around the country.

One moment I’m glancing through the feats of Hernando Cortes, and the next I’m posting selfies with Songbird to Instagram, hopefully sending good juju her way before her run in today’s Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. For my readers who don’t know what a graded stake is, I highly encourage you to follow me on Instagram @annises_anecdotes, where I’ll explain it in one of my upcoming posts this week!

Back to today’s blog. While it might sound like scanning Twitter and reading history is a highly unproductive combination, I actually beg to differ. Not only did it help break up the monotony of a topic I only find moderately interesting, but changing the subject actually improved my focus.

Prior to my sitting, reading and scrolling, I woke up, baked pumpkin maple oatmeal for breakfast, washed three loads of dishes, worked out, created a checklist to guide my studying for the weekend, washed up and dove into homework. While a couple of those tasks were actually used as procrastination methods to prolong the time before I charged headlong into battle with my homework, they woke me up and kept me motivated.

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Larry and I taking a study break

As a self-proclaimed morning person who never feels like I have an accomplished day unless I check at least 10 tasks off my list, I’d like to share a few of my tips for waking up earlier and making the most of your day:  Continue reading

Slowing Down

My chance click on a podcast gave me a different outlook on being a “planner”

I listened to the BEST PODCAST the other day. I went to work out after a morning that left me feeling remotely discouraged about what to do with myself after college. I have a strong vision of where I want to be a year or two down the road, but it’s a matter of how to get there that leaves my brain in a jumble of worry and confusion.

It doesn’t help that I’m a planner. I like schedules, and checklists, and organization (except for my bedroom – that will never be organized as long as I live). However life isn’t always that simple. I can’t force anyone to hire me or fit into my agenda, and that often conflicts with my anxiety-driven desire to plan every step in my life.

I generally listen to the Horse Racing Radio Network while I work out. “Jock Talk,” “Trainer Talk,” and the “Equine Forum” are my favorites. The interviews with jockeys, trainers and other professionals in the racing industry are as delicious as listening to a good bedtime story. And I can almost forget that I’m sweating profusely as I tune into audios of champion racehorses battling down the stretch in memorable races. But on this particular day I was feeling something a bit more subdued as I scrolled through my app, and landed on a TED Radio Hour podcast called “Slowing Down.”

Hmm, sounds promising enough. I gave it a tap. Continue reading

Beautiful to the Core

An event I co-founded in 2013 continues to make a difference years later

When I was a senior in high school I had long, wavy brown hair. Then I cut it short the week before starting my freshman year of college. Now a senior at North Dakota State University, my hair is back to the same length it was in high school.

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With the 2016 BTTC speakers, from left to right: Emily Paulson, Dawn Gunderson, Jacky Arness, Bethany Peterson

The other night I introduced an event called “Beautiful to the Core,” which was inaugurated in the spring of 2013 by two of my dear friends, Ama Frederickson, Olivia Bergh and I. The name is a reflection of our mission to empower young women to embrace their inner beauty and channel their drive and determination into goals.

At the time of the first Beautiful to the Core, I had long hair and my future was uncertain. I knew that I would soon be off to college, carrying my hopes of making the NDSU equestrian team and aspirations of pursuing a career in the horse racing industry. I was determined to study abroad, probably in Costa Rica. Continue reading