Meet Karen McGoldrick!
My husband retired and we sold our farm in Milton. I am now a boarder for the first time in 26 years! There are things I miss about having my own farm, but doing bed check is not one of them.
How I got started in dressage: I think the path for me was set when I answered an ad in my hometown newspaper for a working student job. I was twelve! I rode hunters and eventers and fox hunting horses and even had a short-lived business with my racehorse friend starting colts before turning back to dressage. That first instructor was a member of California Dressage Society (CDS) and we attended monthly Charles DeKunffy lectures and clinics at Cal Poly. I think those early days were formative.
I wanted to become certified because: I have always been in love with learning. And so the certification program was a natural fit for me. I grew up on a college campus; my dad always had students coming in and out of our home along with his colleagues. Some became extensions of our family. My dad had a mentor that changed his life, a professor in the “University in Exile” during World War II. So, while my dad never was a horseman, he was a huge influence, as was my mother who grew up on a farm and put me up on a pony when I was little. Dad always said that he became a professor so he could remain a student all of his life. I never consciously looked for that, but all these years later, I think that had an impact. I also never had the experience of parents who went off to work each day. What they did each day was pursue their interests and share those interests with a lot of young people. I thought that was the way it was for everyone for years and years.
What I learned from the program: I participated in the certification program for years. I’m thinking it was over a fifteen year period. I’m not sure I really wanted to graduate. (But of course I did not want to fail either!) The program was a fixture on the calendar thanks to Ann Genovese of The Good Horseman Foundation, and people like Cindy Thaxton of High Point Farm in Athens, Georgia. The list of incredible teachers they brought to our area through the program is long. Each one of them helped develop me as a rider, trainer, and instructor. I’ve also always believed in the mission of the program.
My horse: My current horse is a 13-year-old mare named Gia. I purchased her as a coming five-year-old after a year off of horse ownership after the sudden death of my mare, Wasabi. Wasabi was cuddly and sweet, as well as beautiful. Gia is beautiful. (I’m chuckling as I write this.) While I’ll never get over the loss of Wasabi, they are each unto themselves beloved. Gia is a good horse for this stage in my life (I am 63) even if she only likes to be brushed on her face and withers, other contact being an affront to her dignity. She is brave and sensible and easy on my back and hands. I can gallop her around an open field, work over cavaletti, and she is fun to ride in her dressage work too.
Training Tip: My biggest training tip is hard to follow but always good to remember, and that is to stay emotionally uninvolved with whatever the current problem happens to be. Success is often like a shy cat, the more you go after it, the less chance you will ever catch it. Go serenely about your business, and that shy cat will, in time, be purring at your feet.
When did you start writing?: I had dabbled a bit in non-fiction writing for USDF Connection magazine, but I wanted to try something bigger. I love historical fiction if it is done well because I learn so much through storytelling. I like to think it is the oldest teaching method out there. I think fiction allows you to tell a bigger story, bigger truths, than any non-fiction material because you can tell the reader about emotional truths. Riding and training horses is about two very different creatures with very different motivations, having to work together. There is much there than will never be in any manual of horsemanship. Add into that mix all the personalities, the financial strains, competitive tensions, etc. and the picture gets even more complicated. It didn’t take me long to settle on a story line. What I didn’t realize is that it would take four volumes to get to a place where I could leave my protagonist and her team and feel satisfied. Even then I felt compelled to write a non-fiction addendum to the story.
Tell us a little about your passion for writing about horses: While I was ready to jump right into full time horses after high school, my dad made me a deal. If I could find a college where I could ride, and I could get accepted, they would find a way to pay for it. I chose Sweet Briar College in Virginia. It was an exceptional choice. And it was there that I decided that I enjoyed writing. I had wonderful professors there who encouraged my efforts, and I even won the senior prize for short story writing. I rode every day, studying the Littauer system of forward seat riding. Sweet Briar has 3,200 acres of land. When I attended the student body was 660 women. I can’t brag enough about the experience. My first job out of college was at a small advertising agency in Houston as a Junior Copywriter. It sounded good on paper, but it was “death to my spirit.” I quit after ten months and have never regretted that decision.
Contact: I can be contacted at my email address Piaffe@bellsouth.net
See more about Karen’s book series here.