Summer Circus

No matter how many horse show circuits I do, the exhaustion of the last week always creeps up on me. We’ve been showing since the beginning of June, and even though it’s only been three days a week, the physical exertion caught up with both Fitz and me this week. I’ve been trying to recreate that magical, wonderful feeling that we had at the spring shows when we were doing the 3’6″ Child/Adult jumper division; the one where all the technical aspects come together and it just feels like dressage with jumps in between, and all the flatwork we’ve been doing comes into play. The details have a chance to shine.

This summer we moved up to the 4′ division, and I’ve just struggled to let that piece go. When I did the Modified Junior/Amateur Owner division on Parker, I was so focused on getting us over every fence, that I couldn’t focus on the details, or the canter – it was solely on the rodeo of riding my Ferdinand the Bull. Turns out that was a strategy that worked for us, because we won. A lot. But I am a details person, and now that Fitz is a horse that is happiest when jumping anything, I just want to canter around a big A/O course and make it detail perfect. Which does. not. happen.

We won this classic. And because of this horse, I know I'm able to ride whatever you put under me.
Parker and I won this classic. And because of this horse, I know I’m able to ride whatever you put under me.

The canter is everything, and you just have to gallop. Jodi, my trainer/coach, made the best comparison last week: it can’t feel pretty and floaty and lovely; every single stride is a wrestling match. Everywhere on course it seems you can take a breath, is one more place that you’ve got to fight for your canter. After 6 weeks, I finally understood. So in addition to my Lagree fitness classes, I’ll be going for more runs, because holy crap, the past two weeks I thought I was going to die.

This morning I was (shockingly) running late for classic day, and as usual, I had NPR on in the car. Mary Louise Kelley was talking to multiple counterterrorism experts about the summer full of terrorist events we’ve seen, all over the globe. Given the amount of yelling I did on Twitter about Trump’s GOP nomination acceptance speech, this piece just stoked my fear and anger.

Given the indeterminate nature of the Islamic State, the importance of a multifaceted campaign against the terrorist organization is paramount. To listen to Donald Trump, who seems stuck in the early 20th-century as far as war- and security tactics go, all we’d have to do is take back the territory that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh has managed to gain since 2014.

However, the group that formed in 2004 as a sect of Al Qaeda (and which that group renounced in 2014), has broad reach and recruiting tactics. ISIS has a somewhat typical hierarchy at the top, but the rest of the group is similar to our own Occupy Wall Street: a free for all. This is why Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East, quoted in the NPR piece, says he almost  wishes for the days of a very structured organization: it’s easier to combat.

There is no doubt that as Iraqi, U.S., and Syrian forces take back key cities that ISIS had controlled (e.g. Palmyra, Fallujah), the violence in the rest of the world kicks up. Normally, I’m the first to qualify that correlation does not equal causation, but this is fairly tactical. They are reaching out to recruits all over the world, planning fairly simplistic attacks that result in great carnage and chaos.

To hear Trump say it, all we have to do is put more American boots on the ground, and take out the physical, geographical manifestation of ISIS, and then we’ll ban Muslims, and poof! no more ISIS.

However, this tactic is so far from making us safe, here in America and worldwide, that it’s laughable. Trump has no respect for the soft power that is necessary for success in this fight. Obviously this is a complex issue, and it’s been a while since I earned my masters degree in International Security, but underestimating soft power is a rookie mistake.

With a group who uses social media to tell disaffected Muslims, or people with Islamic heritage that their current countries do not value them, and then to recruit and inspire radicalisation, simply sending in troops won’t do it. Excluding an entire religion – much to the horror of those of us who appreciate the first amendment – will certainly exacerbate the issue.

So here’s the thing. We Americans largely feel so helpless when it comes to ME terrorism; why do they hate us/we can’t do anything/they hate our way of life. However, the biggest thing that we can do to blow a hole in the structure of ISIS is just cool it with the hate. Welcoming Syrian refugees (who are vetted beyond belief), making sure our Muslim neighbors know we value them, not protesting Mosques and other houses of worship, and not banning an entire religion make an important part of our citizenry feel valued. You know who doesn’t drive a truck through a celebratory crowd, or shoot up an Orlando nightclub? People who feel like a part of their country, a part of their cities and communities. There is an aspect of mental illness to anyone who would do these things, but the trigger behavior starts somewhere.

In a global context, I’m a big believer in soft power: development aid, global health involvement, trade, travel, etc. That mindset probably formed and solidified the summer after I sold my first horse (and I had a lot of free time suddenly…). I participated in an exchange program called Children’s International Summer Villages, and traveled to Norway. The entire premise is that peace will prevail if people have friendships around the world, and understand that people pretty much want the same things worldwide. That translates to domestic politics too. Just be nice. Being included gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t kill their husbands neighbors.


This was my rant to my radio and Gatsby as I drove down E-470 today listening to the radio. It’s one more instance when Hillary’s “building bridges, not walls” argument shows her astuteness on foreign policy. Those of us who have had the time and inclination to study global issues and policy appreciate the complexity that is allowed when you start with cooperation. There are a lot more options open when that strategy is employed. It’s kind of like when you start with enough canter… it’s easier to continue the momentum and impulsion around a course, and you have a lot more options at the fence. When you cut off 99% of your tactics at the beginning, either with too little pace, or too little foreign policy options, you will eventually crawl to nothing.

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