Sunday, August 30, 2015

Taking The Plunge in New Delhi

The flight to India is long. You have to get to Newark and then the direct flight is somewhere around 15 hours following the great circle route so you are up for somewhere around 36 hours for international travel. We arrived in Delhi late evening and were greeted by Neal and Ben (they had arrived 2 weeks earlier) who had cars waiting to take us to the Cabana Hotel. This was the first of many situations where one must trust that the person doing the driving knew what he was doing! Indians drive on the left which is not too strange to me having grown up in England. What I was not used to was the use of traffic lanes as guide lines only, continual weaving in and out of traffic by bikes, motor cycles, auto-rickshaws, pedestrians, feral dogs and the occasional cow and the constant use of horns to alert other drivers. Strangely, road rage as we know it in the west does not occur. At night given the amount of time we had been up this was a strong dose of culture shock! The Cabana is located off of the Main Bazaar in Delhi which is one of the poorer areas. However the hotel is accustomed to westerners and has most of the modern conveniences that we tend to expect.

The next morning we gathered on the open air roof top restaurant and hoped for some kind of service for chai (tea) and breakfast. As we were to learn during our three stays at the Cabana, service is hit or miss on the roof and by the end of the trip I had begun to compare it to the ancient British comedy Faulty Towers. The employees generally sleep on the roof and simply roll up their bedding when they get up. The set breakfast is masala omelet, potatoes, onions and green peppers cooked in what looked like ketchup and jam and toast. We ate that every morning at the Cabana which was a great way to start the day’s adventure.

Our first task as set by our trip leaders Neal, Ben and Stephen was to be escorted to a point in the Main Bazaar in groups of three and then find our way back to the hotel minus our escort. If we got terribly lost we were to get in an auto rickshaw and ask for the Imperial Cinema which was on the corner of the street near the hotel. Neal has named this first encounter “the plunge” and once again we had to trust that he knew what he was doing sending us off in small groups.

Nolan, Ryan and I stuck close together as we walked down the left side of the street taking in the sights, sounds and smells. We cautiously visited what were obviously stores set up for tourists as well as staring curiously at the tiny stores in the Main Bazaar itself. People bump into you all the time, beggars approach you for money or try to get you to buy into some scheme; urinals are provided which for the most part simply direct the urine back into the street and cows and feral dogs roam freely throughout.  

The city does not come alive until around 10:00 a.m. and then it seems that people are frantic to get where they are going, but at the same time often have plenty of time to stop and talk to you. Many conversations start with “How long have you been here? How long are you staying? Where are you from? I want to improve my English so I talk to you. ” I met several Indians with these opening lines and had many interesting conversations with these friendly people. Conversations often led to personal questions about age, marital status etc. The cultural differences stood out clearly as did the Indian habit of making eye contact through staring. They are very comfortable staring and we learned to take advantage of this trait staring right back to study their faces and body language.  I actually miss this openness back here in the U.S.A. 

The three of us made it back to the Cabana as did the other groups. One of the fun things about traveling with a group is the sharing of experiences during group meetings – something else I am missing back here at home!

The Main Bazaar

The carts in the foreground will be turned into produce carts later in the day. Typical housing in the Main Bazaar

A street close to the Cabana

Spices for sale in the Main Bazaar

The Post Office is located above these stores

An ox cart in the Main Bazaar

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why go to India?

That was a question several of my friends asked when I told them last spring that I was thinking of joining Professor Neal Bushoven’s 28th trip to the South Asian country. My answer was “why not?” or “because I can!” Many people were surprised that I was considering such an adventure and when told that the trip was for a whole month they become more incredulous.

Why go to India? I chose to go to India as a milestone trip with the hope that it would help me move on from the loss of my partner, best friend and husband. Lenny and I had been together 25 years and married for 19. I was 25 when I met him; I am now 50. Half my life was growing up the other half was with Lenny, it all neatly seemed to fit together - apart from the question of what to do after Lenny. Lenny died of lung cancer Dec. 31st, 2014 (New Year’s Eve) after six months of an uphill battle and honestly as we look back two years of declining health. In my grief, I immersed myself at work which is not such a bad thing to do when you work somewhere as supportive as St. Andrews. We are always busy with something and I needed the distraction.

Preparation for the trip is fairly extensive including renewing your childhood shots if you have never done so. Additional shots are required and for me having a reportable reaction to the large battery of shots was part of the preparation. A visa is required for entry into the country which entails working through many web pages with confusing questions and then (assuming you filled out everything correctly) sending your passport to the Indian Embassy for processing. The trip includes a 12 day trek through the Himalayas so equipment must be purchased and packing is a huge consideration! Shopping at REI became one of my favorite pastimes!

As the day to depart drew near, I began to worry about packing the right clothes, forgetting something important, and just exactly was I going to be doing for the next 30 days considering I did not know any of the people traveling other than Neal. I was also worried about leaving Abby, Ziva and Max (my dog, cat and aged horse). Little did I know what an amazing experience I had signed up for!

Chikha campsite second night on the trek at 10,625 feet

The Taj is truly amazing! Seen here from the opposite bank of the Yamuna River

The ponies that carry everything for camp climbing up to the Kunzum Pass 15,000 ft. overlooking the Spiti Valley

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Look for the Blog!

I have just returned from the most amazing travel experience - a month in India with 11 other St. Androids - hence the blog neglect! The blog will still report happenings in the Equestrian Program but I will also be taking the opportunity to document some of my travel experiences this summer. Hope you enjoy.


Pictured below my fellow travelers at a Buddhist Temple at about 15, 500 feet.

Picture 1 - Dorje our guide on the 12 day trek in the Himalayas, Ryan, Nolan, Stuart, Butters (Conner 1), Yakmir (Connor 2), Ben, Hannah and Vinnie

Picture 2 - Ben and Dorje again, Dr. Neal Bushoven (trip leader) Stephen Moody.

Missing from photos Doug Calhoun

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Thank you Jojo!

Jojo broke his leg in a pasture accident this weekend. The out pouring of love on facebook for Jojo speaks to the impact a horse can have on the lives of people. Thank you Jojo for what you meant to so many people. 

Jojo (left) with girlfriend Midge
 Lindsey Crowther

I am so heartbroken today, but I am beyond grateful to have been a part of Jojo's life, he was and always will be a huge part of mine. He was my one in a million. I can't say thank you enough to all of those that loved and watched over him after I left, so many of you sent me updates and pictures all the time-each one always lifted my heart. It is so nice to hear all of your happy memories of him too. Thank you.

Cami Glaff
It is with the heaviest heart that I learn of Jojo's passing. You were, by far, one of the kindest, hardest working horses i have ever had the privilege of riding and being around. You were 100% heart and gave everything to every person who worked with you. May the pastures be forever green up there sweet boy; you deserve everything and more.

Photo by Kim Graves
 Kim Graves
 I was lucky enough to have JoJo as my fill in horse my freshman year when my horse got hurt and could not come to school with me. He was the absolute best! So many good memories with him winning blue ribbons and helping a lot of us to qualify for regionals, zones and Nationals! He was the best partner to have for any flat class with his smooth sitting trot. He was also the number one go to for ANRC with Janelle Harcus Jennifer Callahan and Caroline Taylor Jackson . I'll never forget that cute little face.

I'm sure he is up there now with many of the other special horses that we have lost frolicking in rich green pastures.

Jennifer Callahan
Rest in peace sweet JoJo. I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of your life. Most of my St. Andrews memories and biggest riding accomplishments include you. You were IHSA extroadinair, I qualified for IHSA Zones and Nationals on you. Wore my first shadbelly on you at ANRC and confirmed my love of hunters. I basically compare every horse I sit on to you, and those are big shoes to fill! Hope you're eating peppermints by the handful up there and if anyone tells you to walk faster remind them that "you can't rush perfection"!

Caitlyn Woychik
It was hard to hear that you're no longer here with us. Jojo you were a great horse. I will miss you and I know everyone at St. Andrews Equestrian will too.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Day in the Life of Jackie Dwelle - St. Andrews Faculty & Dressage Coach

For the summer I thought it would be fun to do a "Day in the Life of..." series. I am kicking it off with my "average" day with the hopes that I can inspire the Equestrian staff to share what an average day  (if there is such a thing) is like for them.
My days during the academic year start with a large cup of English style tea and exercises for my back. Since having back surgery 2 years ago for a ruptured disk, I have been dedicated to stretching and strengthening every morning. My 60 pound yellow, German Shepherd/mutt (Abby) and I take a walk, the length of which varies with what time I need to be on campus to teach. Having fed Abby, my sweet little black cat Ziva and myself I make the 20 minute drive to campus.

Mornings are usually spent teaching academic classes. Every semester I teach Stable Management, Basic Riding Instructor class and Lab and spring and fall I alternate between Equine Business, The History & Theory of Modern Riding, Introduction to the Management of Equine Operations and Natural Horsemanship. Lunch is a quick sandwich at my desk and the afternoons are spent at the barn teaching dressage lessons.

Tuesdays are my really busy day with classes starting at 8:00 a.m. while other days I have time for class preparation, planning for events, special projects and working on the social media campaign. Friday afternoon is dedicated to dressage practice. Weekends are flexible depending on whether or not we are hosting a horse show, event or clinic, traveling to a horse show or once in a while a free weekend from work related responsibilities. On those occasions Abby and I head out for some long forest hikes.

At the end of the day a stop at the grocery store is a common occurrence to pick up things from my ongoing shopping list. Abby is always pleased to see me when I get home, I like to think Ziva is too she just won’t admit it. Abby and I take a quick walk to the community mailbox to pick up the mail followed by doggy dinner time, a glass of wine for me, dinner and emailing. I record Cramer’s Mad Money on weeknights and try to catch some of the show to see what the stock market did that day and pick up a hint or two on how to become a better investor. Bedtime comes early although I usually fall asleep in front of the TV.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Power of Support

Guest Post by Jessica Story for Equine Business Management Class

      When entering the arena on a horses back, there is always a chance that something unexpected can happen. You can prepare for months and months but you never know what is going to happen the day you walk into the arena. Horses have a mind of their own which is what makes this sport so exciting because riders have to find a unity with their horse in order to perform. Amy Wrozek, a returning competitor for the St. Andrews American National Riding Commission (ANRC) team, had a rough start to the show this year but showed perseverance and pushed through the remainder of the show.

      The first phase of the show that was on horseback was the program ride. This is an equitation test that includes a series of movements on the flat and includes two jumps within the test. Amy entered the ring confident about the test that she had practiced over and over but when she went to extend the trot across the diagonal, one of the first few movements required in the test, the horse she was riding threw a very large and unexpected buck. Not only did she fall off and not get a score for that phase, but she broke one her fingers.

      With the support of her ANRC team, IHSA teammates, coaches, as well as people from other schools she managed to keep her head up and compete the next day in the medal and derby phases. She had beautiful rounds in both phases and took home multiple ribbons. With all of the support she received it gave her to confidence to compete the next day as if nothing had happened the day before. The power of support is a wonderful thing and all of the St. Andrews equestrian teams show each other a tremendous amount of support.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An Unsuspected Danger in Your Barn!

by Logan Teeter for Equine Business Management class

Ever look up at the ceiling of your barn?  What do you see?  Mostly likely you are going to see one of the most dangerous threats to your barn.  Every night while your horses are resting, spiders are busy at work spinning webs.  These webs over time start to collect dust and start to hang downward.   There are some people who believe that these cobwebs are a good thing because they trap insects such as flies.  This could not be further from the truth.  The truth is that cobwebs are very dangerous.  If a cobweb is touching a burning lightbulb without a safety shield, the heat from the lightbulb can cause the cobweb to ignite.  Once the cobweb is ignited a chain reaction starts.  Cobwebs act as a burning passageway from one end of your barn to the other.  It only takes seconds for the fire to travel through the webbing.  As the cobweb burns it will fall to the floor of your barn starting new fires.  If a burning piece of cobwebbing fell into a stall with dry bedding, you would have approximately 90 seconds before the stall would burn completely.  This only gives you about 30 seconds to get your horse out without injury.   This is a horrific reality.  Take the time to knock down cobwebs in your barn.  It is not a glamourous task but one that could possibly save your horse’s life. 

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