Tag Archives: Rossella

Woodstock Celebrations: Parents’ Banquet 2008

download for iPod Part 1, including some very interesting speeches by parents about why they sent their kids to Woodstock, and what they think their kids got out of it. Part 2 : Music! The very talented senior jazz band, with Rossella singing, begins around 2:30 minutes. download for iPod Deathless comment: “We expect everyone Read More…


download for iPod

Part 1, including some very interesting speeches by parents about why they sent their kids to Woodstock, and what they think their kids got out of it.

Part 2 : Music!

The very talented senior jazz band, with Rossella singing, begins around 2:30 minutes.

download for iPod

Deathless comment: “We expect everyone to dance. Except my mom, because that would be embarrassing.” Thanks, kid.

Gallery: Woodstock School Baccalaureate Ceremony 2008

The Baccalaureate ceremony of my daughter Rossella’s graduating class. The students wear their national/regional costumes for this event. Ross, logically, wore Italian couture. Yes, one of her classmates is actually a Cossack (I think the uniform was his father’s), who has since attended the London School of Economics. Others in the class are from Afghanistan, Read More…

The Baccalaureate ceremony of my daughter Rossella’s graduating class. The students wear their national/regional costumes for this event. Ross, logically, wore Italian couture. Yes, one of her classmates is actually a Cossack (I think the uniform was his father’s), who has since attended the London School of Economics. Others in the class are from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, various parts of India (including Nagaland), Korea, Finland, US, Japan (they arrived late, it took so long to get into their traditional dress!).

A Home for a Horse

I mentioned long ago that my daughter and I both love horses, and that we’ve had one (for her) since 2001. Now, very sadly, we are having to say goodbye. Ross had already been riding for about four years when I finally decided (and had the opportunity) to buy her a pony of her own. Read More…

I mentioned long ago that my daughter and I both love horses, and that we’ve had one (for her) since 2001. Now, very sadly, we are having to say goodbye.

Ross had already been riding for about four years when I finally decided (and had the opportunity) to buy her a pony of her own. We went to England to look for one, because ponies are a lot cheaper there – even counting the cost of our trip and then transporting him to Italy, we paid about half what we would have in Milan. But the buying is only a small fraction of the cost of a horse…

In retrospect, it’s a sad irony that we found Hamish and agreed to buy him on September 8th, 2001. We returned to Milan on the 10th and, as everybody knows, the world changed on September 11th. Had I known then what I know now about the world economy and my personal finances, I probably would not have started down the path to horse ownership.

Back then, it didn’t seem so crazy. I had plenty of money in the bank from my Silicon Valley heyday, and the prospect of making more freelancing for my former employer, Roxio, writing manuals for their European software WinOnCD. (In fact I did write manuals for versions 5 and 6, and was set to do that and more for version 7, when Roxio closed its German office. WinOnCD – and many people’s jobs – vanished.)

We kept Hamish expensively at a snobby stable in Milan for two years. Ross rode a lot, but never won any show jumping competitions, in part because Hamish is… difficult. There are ponies that, if you more or less aim them at a jump, will do everything they can to get you over it and win for you, no matter how badly you ride them. Those sorts of ponies cost a lot, and Hamish isn’t one of them. He requires to be ridden very well, which Ross did, but not quite well enough.

We also had some friction with Ross’ riding instructor, I suspect partly motivated by the fact that we had not bought Hamish through her, so she didn’t get the customary cut on the purchase. Whatever the reason, this instructor had no patience with Hamish’s foibles, and kept nagging us to sell him and buy a better. Even had I had that kind of money (oh, say, $15,000), that was not the lesson I wanted my daughter to learn about horses and sportsmanship. To me the point was never “spend as much as it takes to win,” but to develop a loving, trusting relationship with an individual animal, and win whatever you can, together, in harmony and friendship.

God help me now, that loving, trusting relationship is exactly what Ross and Hamish had. She sometimes grew frustrated with his stubbornness, tired of feeling foolish in front of her peers at competitions, but she stuck by him and defended him, and was praised by some other parents tired of their kids’ endless (expensive) litany of “If I only had a better pony.”

By the time we moved to Lecco last summer, financing a horse was becoming a problem, and we all heaved a sigh of relief to be paying far less to keep him, at a place where he could even be out in a field every day. But we couldn’t find near Lecco a reasonably-priced stable which included professional instruction. And, now in high school, Ross has less and less time; as I’ve mentioned, her curriculum at liceo artistico requires a school week of 35 hours, which, along with homework, leaves little time for anything else.

Ross continued to ride as much as she could, until she broke her arm a year ago, falling off Hamish onto frozen ground. That put her out of action for several months. She rode a bit in the spring, then the remainder of the school year was a mess – between extra tutoring and lots of studying, there was simply no time. In the summer she was happily away at theater camp for six weeks, rode a bit when she came back, and then we were in the throes of moving again.

In sum, Hamish has been left largely to his own devices this year, and is now out to pasture, not being ridden, and increasingly unrideable. With the new house, family finances are squeezed to the point that we can’t afford to just keep him (at 12 years, he’s not quite in his prime, but nowhere near retirement, either), nor do we have the time or money to put into riding him the way he should be ridden. So we have come to a parting of the ways.

It’s far easier to acquire a horse than it is to get rid of one, if you care at all about where it ends up. It would be easy enough to sell him to a horse dealer, but he’d probably end up at a slaughterhouse – this is Europe: people eat horses, and wear them.

The solution we have found is a stable on Lago Maggiore, where some friends keep their horses and ride, and we know the owners fairly well. Most importantly, we like their attitude towards and handling of horses. They may eventually sell him (and we might even get a cut), but they won’t sell him off to just anybody. They’ll do their best to find a good home for him and, at worst, they’ll just keep him. Ross can even go and visit from time to time.

Hamish leaves tomorrow morning. It’s a horribly painful loss for Ross and me both. I wish I could spare my child this. I almost wish we’d never started. But, on the other hand, horses have given her so much, and can still give her so much more, and she them. I can’t regret it. I can only hang on, and help her to. This time tomorrow, it will be over, hopefully without any last-minute getting-Hamish-into-the-van traumas. It will be over, and Ross and I will have survived it. Somehow.

Rossella and Hamish: A Love Story

^ above: “Jump? What jump? I don’t see any jump.” video shot August 14, 2004 music copright Patrick Doyle; buy it here May 25, 2004 “Okay, I see it. But I ain’t jumping it!” “Whoa, did I jump that?” “Well, might as well do this one, too.” “And this one…” “…and this one and this Read More…

^ above: “Jump? What jump? I don’t see any jump.”

video shot August 14, 2004

music copright Patrick Doyle; buy it here

May 25, 2004

“Okay, I see it. But I ain’t jumping it!”

“Whoa, did I jump that?”

“Well, might as well do this one, too.”

“And this one…”

“…and this one and this one and this one…”

girls who love horses | home for a horse

Girls Who Love Horses

Actually, my first love was dinosaurs: at age eight, I knew everything about them. I had a set of dinosaur cards which I could put in chronological order, and I knew that a tyrannosaurus could never have eaten a dimetrodon – they lived millions of years apart, in completely different eras. I don’t remember exactly Read More…

Actually, my first love was dinosaurs: at age eight, I knew everything about them. I had a set of dinosaur cards which I could put in chronological order, and I knew that a tyrannosaurus could never have eaten a dimetrodon – they lived millions of years apart, in completely different eras.

I don’t remember exactly when or why horses took over in my imagination; perhaps it started with the books. In fourth grade, we moved to the larger campus of the International School of Bangkok, with a much bigger library. I devoured every book I could find about horses, especially those by Marguerite Henry (Amazon UK | US), with beautiful, full-color illustrations by Wesley Dennis (they don’t print them like that anymore). I bought the few horse books available in Bankok’s paltry English-language bookshop; these were classic English girls-and-ponies stories, recounting a life that seemed very exotic: imagine being able to live at a school where you could also keep your very own pony!

I had very little experience of real horses. When we took family trips to Pattaya Beach, my big treat was a half-hour ride, led by the bridle by the horse hire man. I was always frustrated: I wanted him to let go, so the pony and I could gallop on the sand, just like the scenes in my favorite book, Henry’s “King of the Wind.” There was a polo club in or near Bangkok, where we went once a year for the big American Fourth of July bash. It was possible to take riding lessons there, but my parents never offered; I don’t know why.

I rode in my imagination, and I drew horses, practicing constantly, looking at Wesley Dennis’ pictures for reference. If I couldn’t be near horses, I wished I could at least draw them properly. I felt a thrill of pride the day I finally produced something that really looked like a horse.

The summer my dad and I returned to the US, we visited my aunt Rosie and cousin Casey in the Texan countryside where, to my great delight, I got to ride a few times. When we settled in Pittsburgh, I begged to take lessons, but that was more than my dad could afford as a grad student. I kept riding in my dreams, now with Walter Farley in the Black Stallion books. My mother sent from Thailand a Chinese brush-style painting of two black-and-white horses, which had pride of place in my room among my posters and pictures – mostly of horses.

I spent the summer of 1972 with Rosie and Casey again. Casey had her own horse then, a big palomino called Flash, and there was a small horse for me, a docile old pinto mare called Dolly. We rode, though not as much as I would have liked (Casey was a teenager by then, and had other concerns). We often rode bareback, since it seemed cruel to put heavy western saddles on the horses in the Texas heat. We’d canter across the fields, poor old Dolly laboring gallantly to keep up with Flash. At the end of each ride, we’d steer them into the “tank,” an artificial pond full of muddy water, so they could cool off and drink. On the last day of my visit, we were mounting up for a farewell ride when Flash reared, startled by a puppy that suddenly shot out from under the barn. Casey fell and, landing awkwardly, broke her arm.

The following summer I attended a girl scout camp in Pennsylvania whose activities included riding. I was delighted to do everything with “my” own horse: cleaning, tacking up, feeding, and of course riding. It was a glorious two weeks, except for the time a camp counselor tried to make me drink tomato juice.

I don’t remember getting anywhere near horses while we lived in Connecticut. Then we moved to Bangladesh, and eventually I went to Woodstock School in India. It’s possible to hire horses in Mussoorie, but our allowance as students didn’t stretch that far, and these ponies were such sad, skinny little things that I felt more pity than desire to ride them.

I spent my freshman college year at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Alongside formal classes, the university offered short, informal courses, including riding (off campus). So I began to learn English riding, and again took care of my own horse. He was huge, with hooves the size of dinner plates; I affectionately called him “Moose.”

From my sophomore year of college, I transferred to the University of Texas in Austin. Here, again, I looked for opportunities to ride, finally finding a cheap place out of town where you could hire a horse and ride around in barren fields among the mesquite bushes (not a place you’d want to fall off). I was on my way there one day when I ran a red light and wrecked my grandmother’s old car, which put an end to both driving and riding for some time (I wasn’t hurt in the accident, but had no other way to get out there).

Horses vanished from my life after that, except in artwork and in dreams. The last two embroidery projects I did, during pregnancy and early motherhood, were a pair of carousel horses, for my friends Stephanie and Robin. But the Chinese painting still hangs in my home, and, whenever I doodle on paper, horses flow out of my pen. I rarely got to see horses in Milan, but sometimes we’d run across them elsewhere, and I’d stop to gaze.

It’s all Ilaria’s fault that Rossella got the bug. Ilaria had been Ross’ classmate since preschool. When they were eight years old, she began riding at a stable in Milan, and one day took Ross along to try it out. I was travelling, so didn’t get to see Ross’ historic first lesson, but I heard all about it by phone – it took only the one lesson for Ross to fall in love.

I could afford lessons for her, and had a flexible enough schedule that I could accompany her to them two or three times a week. I made good use of the time: while Ross was riding ponies, I took lessons on horses. She progressed faster than I did, partly because I was travelling a lot for work and had to rebuild muscle after each absence. But I finally became comfortable cantering and jumping, and even got a bit cocky. They say you’re not really riding until you start falling off; I was really riding! Ross and I used to keep score; we were neck-and-neck (in number of falls) for about the first year.

I finally got scared the time I fell on my head. It wasn’t the horse’s fault; I lost my balance after a jump, and just tipped off over his shoulder. I remember the trip down, looking at the horse’s hooves and wondering if I was going to fall under them. I don’t remember the impact, nor anything else for 15-20 minutes after that. I was never unconscious, but there’s a blank in my memory: the next thing I knew, I found myself in the clubhouse, talking to someone, having no idea how I got there, though apparently I had done so under my own steam.

I went to the hospital for x-rays, but there was no damage (I had been wearing a proper riding cap, of course), just a fierce headache. But the joy went out of it for me; I was scared of jumping, but bored of trotting around in the manege, and in Milan there’s no place to ride outdoors. So eventually I gave it up, and these days I’m just an observer.

Rossella continued to ride, and to fall, and to love horses madly. She would volunteer to clean the school ponies, which students were not required to do (their groom loved her). We’d spend hours in the stables, just being with horses, which made us both happy.

The riding school in Milan is very competition-oriented, so the usual progression is from the basics and “pony games” competitions on school ponies, to sharing a pony or buying your own, and moving on to higher competitions. Ross began show jumping on a shared pony in 1999, and in 2000 we began looking for one to buy.

The buying project was delayed by our abortive move to California, but when I returned to Milan definitively in 2001, it was time to look again. Ross had attended riding camp at Wellington Riding in England three summers in a row, so we enlisted their aid in finding a pony for her in England (even with travel costs etc., this is cheaper than buying a pony in Italy, where few ponies are bred). We made a special trip up there in September, 2001, and found Hamish. He finally arrived in Milan in November.

…and this is getting long, so I will gush about Hamish some other time!