Empowering Girls
Loving Horses
Sharing Life

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Hello, 2014!!! Glad to make your acquaintance. I have high hopes and big dreams that the two of us will get along smashingly.
Now that I've officially welcomed in the new year, and warmly embraced it, let me move on to other pressing matters...YOU! Yes, you, reading, my dear friend. I don't know exactly what 2013 held for you, but I'm hoping that 2014 will light your inner passions, stir your creativity and ignite new adventures that you didn't know interested you. Be blessed. Be well. Be happy. And for heaven's sake, be good to yourself.
I've gathered a few videos of NYE celebrations around the globe. ENJOY!

New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Malaysia

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


"Twas' the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." If I say it out loud five times, I'm hoping Santa will be satisfactorily lulled into a false sense of security. I will then confidently sit in front of my fireplace tonight and wait for him to shimmy on out, multiple presents in tow.

As I sit and ponder the magic of Christmas, I will be wondering about many things. Mainly, how to get people to be kinder to one another. How to convince people that texting on your cell phone during a movie constitutes annoying, unappreciated interruption for your seat neighbors. And finally, how to think up a whole new list of adventurous and exciting things to conquer in 2014.

Here's a few links to put a smile on your face while you patiently wait to get to tear open your loot:

Amazing Self-Sufficient Dogs
Dancing Christmas Tree
Wait for the Pig
Winter X Games Snowboard Action
Transiberian Orchestra

Merry Christmas!
May all your dreams be bright and your pathway to fulfillment well-lit.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Iconic. Beloved. Unforgettable. Missed. All words describing Jane Austen: the writer and her profound collection of work.
Flowery language, romantic notions and fancy, lavish clothes are just a few of the ingredients that make Jane Austen's fiction entertaining and compelling. Lively characters and complicated relationships which live in your mind and stay with your senses long past reading the last pages of Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey. 
I love spending the weekend reading her stories. Mulling over the musings and ideology, cultural customs and societal acceptances of her era and its people. What girl doesn’t love the idea of dressing up in pretty ruffles or silky material every once in a while? I’m not saying I’d want to be walking around in all that tight fitting stuff every day, but for a romantic meal or long walk with sweet talk? A guy who listens and wraps his arm around my shoulder when I need to be consoled or simply want to be comforted…those are all very good things, indeed.
Given that I’ve identified the things I most love about her work, now it’s time to check out the flip side of what accepting all that emotional, romantic stuff as necessary everyday reality brings you.
Believing that the best thing the world has to offer you is dating a cute or funny or sexy guy and hopefully, eventually working your way into a relationship with him, is settling for less than you deserve. It’s good and it’s fun and certainly deserves some of your attention, some of the time, when and if you feel like it. But figuring out who you are all by yourself, as a person with unique taste and ideas anchors you in your innate, much deserved fabulousness.
Engaging down a path of your own likes and dislikes, truths ingrained in the realities of who you naturally are (your instincts), helps you understand why you think the way you do. People like to say “follow your heart.” But then they fail to clarify that that doesn’t always mean letting your feelings completely dictate the way you behave or the choices you make.
Don’t get me wrong, interacting with boys is fun. I love it! But I love it, after I’ve focused on the stuff in my life that is important to me growing into the person I dream I can be. Whether that be school and college or sports or acting and dancing or any number of other cool hobbies that can easily turn into lifelong journeys that offer awesomeness and interesting experiences that allow you to keep growing until being who you are becomes something that you don’t have to think into happening. It becomes second nature. A daily subconscious habit.
Think of yourself, first. The same people who say, “follow your heart,” should follow that sentiment up with, “but don’t forget to consider your own well-being before fully immersing yourself in the decision or situation currently testing you.
I know that Jane Austen wrote about love and guys, like it and they were the best, most important thing in the world for girls to care about. Keep in mind though, that while Ms. Austen was writing about love and fancy dances and long, sumptuous meals, that what she was actually doing was WORK. Her work. Her career. Being a writer allowed her to support herself (financially and emotionally) and create a life that she personally wanted and thrived in.
I bet that if we were still lucky enough to have her around today, she’d say, going out into the world and taking care of yourself as much as you take care of other people, is a worthy life endeavor. A solid, thoughtful use of your time and energy. Love yourself first. Love boys and being in love second. As long as you live, you’ll never spend as much time with any other human being more than you do yourself.
          Guys do not define you. You define you. Who do you want to be?
Honor Jane’s birthday by showing reverence to her independence and fiery spirit.
Chart your own path. Make a plan to reach your goals and be as kind to yourself as you are to other people—guys—by “following your heart” to your own dreams.
          Destiny’s calling. Your fate wants you to be happy, successful and confident.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Panda Cam, Panda Cam, Panda Cam!!!

The Smithsonian National Zoo's panda cam is my sweet, guilty secret. Many a day has gone by wherein my floors remained dirty, my clothes unlaundered and my bathrooms down-right icky, simply so I can savor a few extra moments watching THE PANDA CAM!
Inspiration comes in strange places. Empowerment often hides in odd corners or just off in the shadows. I'm not saying that I like ogling the empty corners of mama Mei and baby Bao Bao's den quarters; I much prefer live-feed panda interaction. But even those lifeless, hidden pockets (the areas not viewable through the camera's discerning lens) offer me small patches of solitude, peace and comfort. Three ingredients I find helpful in trying to rev-up my own engine and adjust my attitude on any given dank day.
Recharging and aligning yourself with empowering mental and emotional spaces need not be noisy or flashy. That's what I've learned. In all the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments that I've sat and waited, pondered and wondered where baby and mama have disappeared to off-camera, what they're doing? I also find my mind unfolding and roaming to far away places, a different time. China, the place...panda bear species inception, the time. What happened, besides a miracle, clearly, hello!
I realize in these moments of reflection that this is how a girl empowers herself, even when the odds are stacked against her. One moment at a time. One innocuous, seemingly unimportant piece of life passing by. Learning to hold onto the everyday moments, enables an understanding which perpetuates the strength to power through at difficult, unyielding, all-consuming times.
Animals teach people so much. Much more than any conversation propelled by human language can hear or discern. They teach us the importance of looking inward for answers. The significance of trusting your own instincts in spite of external chaos. The beauty of knowing that because you exist you deserve to be valued, loved and counted; regardless, of whether or not life's invisible, constant camera lens is pointed directly at you, revealing all your strengths and weaknesses.
Everybody deserves her own secret corner to collect herself and rejuvenate. If you need help jump-starting your daily dose of inspiration click here:

Smithsonian National Zoo Panda Cam

Tell Mei and Bao Bao, I said hello, and thank you!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson "Troublemaker" Mandela: July 1918-December 2013

Nelson Mandela's fight for equality exceeded race and sexual gender. At first glance, given his ethnic background, it would be easy to dismiss his efforts as particular to South Africans or individuals of African descent. But his passion for educating and empowering all girls transcended intimate personal experience.
Deservedly known as the father, mother and son of South Africa further underscores the significance of his importance to that particular region. But to neglect the authenticity of his far-reaching, world-wide embrace would diminish his legacy of profound humility, perpetual growth and forgiving compassion.
Mr. Mandela was a beloved, dedicated, hard-working man who allowed his own struggles to inform and dictate his public efforts, responsibilities, actions and life choices.
Upon his passing today, millions of people mourn, his family and friends grieve, and a nation reflects. On a personal note, his departure leaves me deeply saddened and wondering...how much hope has evaporated along with this beautiful man? And how does humanity sustain itself in the absence of its anchor?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Breeders' Cup Inside Scoop with Torrie Needham

The Breeders' Cup, a series of horse races that span two days' race cards is an annual horseracing event. Millions of racing fans and spectators tune in to watch and enjoy races online and on specialty network, HRTV (Horseracing Television, Inc.).

Thousands attend Santa Anita racetrack, Arcadia, CA, the first Friday and Saturday in November hoping to cash in, looking for fun, and reveling in the physical awe that accompanies one thousand pounds of weight, hammering the dirt and turf atop four dainty legs. Four fragile hooves.

Five Friday races. Nine Saturday races. Fourteen opportunities to turn a two dollar bet into a twenty-thousand dollar payout.

In celebration of the Breeders' Cup's 30th Anniversary, I'm interviewing an accomplished, interesting, and dedicated horse woman whose witnessed the rush of the starting gate whoosh every year since its 1983 inception.

Torrie Ann Needham's 30+ year career includes backside and racetrack photography. She's also a skilled exercise rider, having galloped such horses as Eclipse Award winning, Lemhi Gold, and multiple stakes' winners, Mountain Cat, Sir Pete, Adored and Love You Dear. A few of the horses she's ponied include John Henry, Theatrical, Smile, Trinninberg and Afleet, Commemorate and Spectacular Love. Torrie's also a highly sought-after assistant trainer, having worked with Troy Young, Steve Asmussen, Tom Amoss and Donnie VonHemel. Most recently she worked with Dallas Keen Stables during the Del Mar summer 2013 meet, San Diego, CA.

During the 2013 Breeders' Cup extravaganza Torrie planted herself alongside and behind the starting gate, at the final turn, along the final stretch and at the finish line. The breathtaking images and magical moments Torrie captured can be viewed online at JockeyWorld.org.

Want to feel like you were live at the races? Continue reading the following interview and experience first-hand what it was like to breathe in the air of million dollar superstar racehorses as they whipped by at speeds exceeding 35 mph.

Hi Torrie! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.
And off to the races we go...

When you arrive in the barn in the morning, do you wake up the horses or are they already alert and staring at you: About time, lady! Where's my hay? I'm hungry."
TN: Typically, the horses are already being groomed and stalls are being cleaned when I arrive at 4:30 a.m. The horses have already eaten up their first grain feeding, that was set at 3:30 a.m. by one of the grooms. All the grooms generally get started by 4 a.m.

What's been the most rewarding aspect of working in the horseracing industry for you?
TN:  I have been blessed my whole career to have worked with many of the Top trainers and horses. The most rewarding thing would be to watch the young horses coming into the barn as babies, developing into mature racehorses and WINNING.

Do you have any advice for any readers interested in creating a career with racehorses? First steps? Helpful organizations to join?
TN: Never ever give up would be the best advice I can offer up. Whatever your goal is in the racing industry, maybe riding isn't your thing, so then you can become a vet's assistant, clocker, groom, hot walker, crossing guard, etc., etc. There is no limit to the careers associated with race horses. Whatever your skill happens to be, there will be a career in racing. Working on the "Backside," or the "Frontside" of the track, has its rewards.
There are several ways to get involved in racing. Be it at a farm, college or the track itself.
I recommend joining JockeyWorld.org for a vast amount of information and interaction with those who actually work at the track. North American Racing Academy (NARA) in Lexington, KY, is a place to learn to be an exercise rider or jockey.
There are race horse farms in nearly every state, where you can go and learn to be a groom or hot walker before trying your skills at the track.

What is your memorable moment from the 2013 Breeders' Cup?
TN: That's easy. The finish of the Classic where my favorite horse from last year's BC, Mucho Macho Man, won in a dueling stretch, drove over Will Take Charge and Declaration of War by a nose and neck, respectively.

With all of your venerable experience, how do you choose which horses to favor or root for?
TN: Certain horses will just, simply put, catch my eye just looking at them. I don't complicate things by reading that horse's PPs (past performances). And that's who I will ultimately root for.

Where's your favorite physical location to watch the races?
TN: Absolutely the best seat in the house other than the race horse, I like to watch from the back of the Pony.

To take pictures? Why?
TN: Everywhere is a photo opp, but my favorite is at the starting gate. I love to shoot candid shots, and when the assistant starter is taking a horse from the pony, I like photographing the assistant starter, the horse and the jockey, as they are loading into the gate. Lots of personality shows in all their faces. And very few other photographers, if any, will be there. So I hopefully catch shots out of the ordinary.

What was your favorite race on Friday's card? Why?
TN: Gotta say, Goldencents. I was blessed to have taken him to the gate in the Kentucky Derby, though he didn't run well that day. Since I had a connection to him I was rooting for him to win the BC Dirt Mile and thought the distance was a better race for him than the one and a quarter mile Kentucky Derby. Goldencents actually made the lead at one point in the Kentucky Derby but was tired at one mile, so I was sure he'd run good in the BC Dirt Mile. That's his best distance in my personal opinion. Was thrilled he won.

On Saturday's card?
TN: As I mentioned earlier, the BC Classic was my favorite race of the day. I love Mucho Macho Man. Here's a horse that truly caught my eye and took my breath away during last year's BC Classic, when I viewed him through the lens of my camera on his way to the gate. I was a fan from that point on.

Which states or countries do the horses who compete in the Breeders' Cup races come from?
TN: The majority of the Breeders' Cup entries are from the U.S., Canada and Europe. But many other countries have been represented such as, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Secret Compass, a beautiful dark bay, trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and owned by Westrock Stables, broke down and needed to be euthanized during Saturday's opening race. How did this event impact the rest of the day's race card, if at all?
TN: With the unfortunate demise of Secret Compass, I personally didn't feel much of an impact by the fans for the rest of the day's race card. Secret Compass was out of the naked eye of the fans, thank God. Though the fans I think had to notice the absence of jockey Johnny Velazquez. All of John's remaining mounts had substitute jockeys as John was injured in the fall.

As an avid horse lover, how do unfortunate situations like Secret Compass affect you?
TN: There is no doubt that all of us who work at the track and love the horses like we all do, that the horses who leave us too soon, due to illness or injury, does affect our lives. Each one takes a piece of our heart with them. With that being said, it is by all means not the objective we seek when we enter a horse in a race, to see that horse injured. Unfortunately, illness or injury is the downside of the racing industry and all means are taken to detour any and all such instances. The one thing that is a constant, is the fact that a veterinarian is on the grounds basically 24/7, along with grooms or night watchmen. Nothing goes undetected. The health and safety of the horse takes preference above all else at the track. They are professional athletes and are treated as such, at all times.

What are some of the tasks of an assistant trainer?
TN: Assistant trainers are the extra eyes and ears for the trainer. Overseeing every aspect of the goings on at the barn, the track and the paddock. Assistant trainers are second in charge. Barn managers if you will. From coordinating the daily morning workouts, feeding programs, vendors such as the blacksmith, tack shops, feed companies and all Veterinary work. Working with the grooms and hot walkers and jumping in and lending a helping hand when an employee is busy or absent. An Assistant Trainer knows how to do everyone's jobs on the ground. Many, but not all, are exercise riders, as well.

What is a typical race day's regimen for a competing horse?
TN: On race day, depending on the trainer's schedule and the horse, most horses running that day will typically get bathed, walked and fed a little earlier than normal depending on post time of their race. Sometimes a horse will track that morning for very light exercise, such as jogging one time around the track or very easy gallop. Most often, they have the morning off, though.
If a horse is on any race day medication, such as Lasix, the meds will be administered 4 hours out or 4 hours from post time of that scheduled race for that particular horse. At which all feed and water will be removed 4 hours out, as well. Many trainers like to ice the front legs before running, usually 30-45 minutes before the call to the paddock. The horse will hopefully rest during that time. Then approximately one hour before post time, the groom will start brushing, bandaging (if needed) and tacking the runner with the bridle.
Races are called to the paddock approximately 1 hour before post time.

How is a race horse's morning workout regimen altered when in training for a Breeders' Cup race?
TN: Here again, the trainer has a plan laid out for each horse leading up to a race, be it a claiming race or a Breeders' Cup race. So altering a training schedule would depend upon each individual horse and the condition of the track, such as a muddy track as opposed to a fast dry track. Track conditions play a huge role in the training of any horse and no truer than a horse pointed to a Breeders' Cup race. Trainers will watch their horses train every day, and monitor the training accordingly.

What is a typical recovery routine for a horse running a race? Are there carrots and cookies all around back at the barn or is it an athlete diet as usual, back to business?
TN: After a horse has run, the cool out time is usually 45 minutes to 1 hour. Horses will walk and water off slowly during that time, as well as get bathed. Horses who have won a race or that have been randomly drawn to drug test, will be taken to the test barn until the horse has been given a urine test. After that the horse is free to return to its barn. If a horse refused a urine test, as some horses do, they will return to their own stall with a certified technician that will follow the horse back to their stall and retrieve the urine sample there. All winners are tested. 1 to 2 horses will randomly test in some races, not all. It's random.

Along with the fourteen races, do you ever get a chance to enjoy any of the non-racetrack events or activities that take place during Breeders' Cup week? Parties, dinners, or fundraisers?
TN: Since this year was my first year to be officially credentialed as a press photographer, I was associated with JockeyWorld.org, and was able to photograph all aspects of the Breeders' Cup. I attended the Breeders' Cup draw and Evening with the Stars, while also having access to the press box. I thoroughly enjoyed the night of "Evening with the Stars," held in the paddock area where several well known jockeys and trainers recounted some of their Breeders' Cup wins. Jockeys like Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Angel Cordero, and Jerry Bailey. Trainers such as Jack Van Berg, Wayne Lucas, Richard Mandella and Bill Mott were on hand.

Del Mar racetrack is currently undergoing track surface renovations and changes. Any inside word on whether or not a future Breeders' Cup might run in San Diego?
TN: I know Del Mar has been widening the turf course and I recently photographed the progression of the renovation. As for the running of the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar in the future, I really don't know since the main track is Synthetic surface, I have not heard of or know that the Breeders' Cup will hold their event on a synthetic track. Time will tell on this issue and maybe Del Mar will switch back to a dirt surface.

What is your favorite memory from any Breeder's Cup race or moment in the past thirty years?
TN: That's easy, the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic where Zenyatta just missed winning her 20th start and retiring unbeaten. I will never forget watching from the living room of my mom's home. My husband and my mom sitting there wondering who was in front, where is Zenyatta but dead last by many lengths, how will she make that much ground up? And me riding her every step of the way when she reached the stretch as she passed by every horse on her way to victory only to get beat a head by Blame.

If you could be Breeders' Cup President for a day, what one policy, rule, race or activity would you change or introduce?
TN: Oh boy, that's a tough question. I don't know how to answer that, except to say, that the BC does not [currently] allow the 2 year-olds to run on Lasix medication. I would hope [in the future] that rule will eventually apply to all races. Race day medication is a very controversial matter in the racing industry and needs to be remedied.

Do you have any favorite non-profit or charitable organizations that cater to jockeys or specialize in the care of Thoroughbreds following the end of their racing careers?
TN: Jockey World.org
       Disabled Jockeys Fund
       Remember Me Rescue

Thanks Tiffany, it was my pleasure, anytime!
And thank you, Torrie, for sharing your knowledge, time and insight!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Me--Aaron Eckhart’s Contractor!

Dumbledore told me my dreams could be anything I wanted them to be. Naturally, in my sleep state I became Aaron Eckhart’s carpenter. No, I know nothing about building a house, cutting its framework or securing those frames to the concrete floor with what tools and materials? Still the idea of answering to Aaron Eckhart should I mess up his home and the walls fall down, definitely appealed to me. My sister was the boss of me in this dream, as well. Not something that I’m comfortable with in real life or my dream state. Need to ask Dumbledore to clarify what that was all about before allowing myself to fall asleep tonight. Should he refuse to give me a good answer, I’ve already decided to ask Harry Potter to suit me up with some sort of spell to send her off. Me and Aaron Eckhart alone? Sounds awesome. Me, my pretty sister and Aaron? No thanks. She’ll just muddle up my chances to woo him. To construct properly, or do whatever it is that contract carpenters do to impress the person she’s constructing for. Building Aaron Eckhart a safe, comfortable home wherein he’s forever indebted to me for his quiet sanctuary and cozy environment will be number one on my dream list request when I fall asleep tonight. Now if only there was a way to make what occurs in my dream state, happen in real life.