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Have I told you about how I grew up on a farm?

(Some of you just read that and probably thought: O boy. Here we go.)

Most of my times were enjoyable on the farm.

A lot of heavy lifting. Baling hay. Etc.

But, the item that stands out most solidly was something that started as a love of mine and became (ever-so-gradually) a fear, then full-blown hatred about farm life.

It was…my horse.

That’s right.

Backstory: I had had the best pony you could imagine. He was part-human, I swear. Like a big, loyal puppy dog. He followed me everywhere. Going on trail rides with my family was a treat. (I even asked if he could come in the house once or twice.)

Then, 2 things happened:

1.) I grew about 1-foot one summer, gained 50 pounds

2.) My mom said I needed a ‘horse’

So, the hunt started and stopped at an auction in central Kentucky.  We found a palomino! (I’d always wanted one of those.)

I wish I could say the story got better.

Ryker’s Brand Gold dust (her official name) became Gold dust and then Babydoll, because me and my brother thought it sounded better.

She was deathly thin when we bought her. Her next stop probably would’ve been the glue factory had we not stepped in.

She gained weight. We fed her non-stop. Then, I started training her. She gained a little life from the food and training. You could see it in her eyes. I was excited to try this new ride, even though I missed my always faithful pony, Arrow.

Babydoll was beautiful. (Just like the color of gold dust when she was let out into our fields to graze, to take in sunshine, and to mingle with the herd.)

Then, I asked the question, “Since she’s trained, could we take her on the next trail ride?”

We did.

She jumped into the horse trailer, no problem. She unloaded no problem. She rode the trail (at first) no problem.

Then, some proverbial dam bust somewhere in her head.

The happy, content, fat, gold-coated Babydoll went haywire. She refused to cross small watering holes. Started biting other horses. And at one point, she turned and ran through dense trees and brush piles. But, it was obvious she wasn’t just going crazy…she was MEAN. Babydoll tried her hardest to knock me off with branches, tree trunks, and debris. (It was the largest beating I’ve ever sustained on a horse to this day.)

Fast forward to the evening, and I was devastated. We let her graze with the rest, and we left it at that. The next day, my brother and I were going out to fill the water troughs, and Babydoll perked up her ears. Neither Jared nor I thought much of it, because most of the herd loved to check out the water tanks.

But, she did a bit more. She lowered her head and lunged at us. Jared was faster and scaled a fence and looked back. He saw me getting rammed by the rock-like head of the horse. Luckily it knocked me sideways in my run, and I didn’t take the brunt of her force. I recovered and sprinted to another gate and hopped over just as she smacked that gate with her head.

She had become a demon (almost overnight).

Then, we talked about it as a family. We thought she’d come out of it. But, deep down I felt otherwise.

Over the next 2 years, we watched her give birth to foals. Then, we watched her kick at them non-stop and refuse to let them nurse. Luckily, we had other mares to let Babydoll’s offspring choose from.

The trail rides became worse and worse. She kept trying to do the “fling off” method. Rather than enjoy the trips, I just spent most of my weekends whipping her and trying not to die.

2 things happened:

1.) I became great at dodging disasters/death every Sunday

2.) Babydoll took on a constant Hulk-like persona among the other horses.

My family agreed that my sole job was to keep Babydoll from killing the others in the herd. Talk about great riding motivation. But, I did.

Babydoll was hateful, and I missed Arrow, the pony. It was night and day between the two animals’ personalities. Maybe it’s what caused me to steer away from farm life. Either way, I know that Babydoll is somewhere today wreaking havoc upon some other poor soul.

Arrow at 20-something years of age is still offering rides and helping to train the future riders of America! (You should visit him at a stable in Monticello, KY.)

To you Arrow, I say, “Thank you for the many miles, compadre!”

To Babydoll, “No one liked you when you were angry.” (Hulk reference)


Throwback Thursday!


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What it Means to You.


The Kentucky Derby has always been enshrouded in mystery for me. Words like Churchill Downs and Garland of Roses and Mint Juleps all have sounded mystical and awe-inspiring since I was a boy.

Reading stories like Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” and seeing images of horse & rider standing in winner’s circle talking to the media was exciting to say the least.

There’s always been a warm sentiment in the air in Kentucky (and around the nation) on that first Saturday in May. Whether it be the ever-warming Springtime temperatures or the sunshine that escapes just a little earlier in the morning and lasts a tad bit later into dusk, the human spirit comes alive and escapes a cocoon of sorts, I believe.

I have lots of memories tied to the timing of this event each year. And all of it has to do with life and very little to do with the race itself. Case-in-point: I’ve never been to a Kentucky Derby.

There I said it.

I lived in Kentucky most of my life (even just an hour away from Louisville at one point), and I’ve never been to the Derby. Sad, but true.

But, it’s the events that have surrounded the horse race that have made my attachment to this time of year so strong!

Friends getting married and having Kentucky Derby-themed weddings–thank you Rebecca DeSensi Sivori!–to hearing My Old Kentucky Home played at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, while THE RACE itself was happening just an hour away have had their lasting effects on me.

Seeing tall hats, seersucker suits, and smelling cigars permeating the air at Keeneland made me long to be at the race each Spring!

But the event that helped tie it all together was the 133rd Kentucky Derby – 2007. It stands alone in comparison to the others, says the guy who’s never been!



It was the day Queen Elizabeth II visited Churchill Downs.

…And May 5th was also the day my wife-to-be and I were on a trail at Dale Hollow State Park.

(I remember the rain, mud, and asking her to marry me.)

She was patient that day (and, thankfully, she still is even in 2015). The Derby was in the background, at the northern part of the state. We were traversing the backwoods of southern Kentucky, as the rain continually fell.

But, this memory, like so many other Derby-time memories stands out vividly. They seem to all possess a life-altering aspect somehow.

Warmer weather. Re-birth. Life. Engagement.

Maybe one day I’ll own up to the tragedy that is –> never pit-stopping in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. I’ve been told it’s unthinkable to have lived almost 3 decades in dear Bluegrass country and never seen the race in-person…Witnessed Calvin Borel’s magic…Met Michael Jordan. Etc.

But to all this I say, it’s    still    been    magical  — just from afar.

God has blessed us. Besides, I might wear that top hat yet.