Thursday, May 28, 2015


Thanks to friend, neighbor and BHF rider Dr. Bonnie Kibbie for this wonderful tribute to Seema.  So many of us have a story that is remarkable…….Because of Seema.

Seema and Henry at our wedding in New Orleans, May, 2010. 

Because of Seema
Seema would be so mad at me right now.  Instead of going for a run, or riding my horse, I’m sitting here shedding tears and writing about her.  She would hate that! She would brush it off and tell me to get my ass outside. But for once, I’m not going to listen to her advice.  I want to tell you what I know…….. Because of Seema. 
I didn’t know Seema the longest, and I certainly didn’t know her the best, but she has had a profound impact on my life and I still have not begun to comprehend a world without her in it. I met Seema through my husband, Jeff, who knew her well from when they both lived and rode in Michigan.  She was a “horse world” friend who became much more than that.   My first introduction to Seema was over a good glass of wine (is there any other kind, in Seema’s world?), but I didn’t really come to know her until she offered, with the generosity that was so characteristic of Seema, to let Jeff and me live in her house in Philadelphia while I was in vet school.  As Seema and Henry’s neighbors and tenants, Jeff and I learned many things.  The terms of our extremely generous rental agreement included the use of our living room for Monday night ballroom dance lessons, which I frequently watched and, on several occasions, in which Jeff and I participated.  Because of Seema we learned to ballroom dance for our wedding. 
While we were neighbors, Seema showed me the best routes to run in Philly, the spots to avoid, and encouraged me, by word and example, to run my first half marathon. She introduced me to the fact that there are people (herself included) with the goal of running such races in every state, and she was well on her way to becoming a member of that prestigious club.  Because of Seema I have run 3 half marathons, and have 47 to go.   
The basement of our rental home included an impressive collection of Henry’s movies and Seema’s paperbacks.  There must have been thousands of books there! One weekend Jeff and I helped her sort through and re-home many of them and I was just amazed.  She was a voracious reader and she remembered the plots of every book I held up for her that weekend. I was dismayed at myself, I couldn’t remember the last book I had read that wasn’t a textbook or something for work, and I vowed to change that.  Because of Seema I read for pleasure.
When I received my white coat in vet school, my family all came to town for the ceremony and to celebrate.  I was proud to have Seema in the audience with them, and happy that they all enjoyed the restaurant Seema had recommended, a delicious Center City BYO.  For the occasion she brought “Henry wine” (not be confused with “pony wine”, which was still nicer wine than anything else I’d had in my life before meeting Seema and Henry) and we had one of the loveliest evenings I can remember.  Because of Seema I know that life is too short to drink bad wine or eat bad food!
In the years after graduation, as I navigated the changes in my career and personal life, Seema was always in the back of my mind, and she was always happy to offer advice if I was doubting my choices.  She managed to have a full career and an even fuller personal life, and the balance and success she achieved in both are what I have and will continue to strive for. Because of Seema I learned to work hard and play harder. 
From the time I have known Seema, she has been the ultimate volunteer.  Capable, cool under pressure, sharp as a tack and always with a smile on her face, she could run a warm up ring, an in-gate or a cross country control radio better than anyone around, and she did so regularly.  As a competitor, I never considered volunteering for events at which I was showing, but Seema showed me that it could be, and was, done, and that every little bit helps.  Because of Seema I will always volunteer.
Last winter around the holidays, I walked into the tack room at Blue Hill and Seema was wearing a big, fuzzy, very colorful hat. It looked warm, super soft, and, honestly, a little ridiculous, but so, just, Seema. I loved it, and I told her so. She smiled and thanked me and we went about our business- me getting ready to ride, her finishing up.  As she was leaving, she told me she left Christmas presents for me, Jeff and Rusty (Seema would never forget a four legged!) in the tack room, and buzzed out in her sassy Fiat before I could even finish saying thank you.  Seema was never one to enjoy being fussed over for her generosity.  Wouldn’t you know that in my bag was the same fuzzy hat?  Mine had more blues and greens than the orange and pink hers sported, but the character was there and it kept a smile on my face all winter long.  Because of Seema I know that kindness and generosity don’t have to cost much, but they are what mean the most to people.
There are so many things in my life that are because of Seema. 
Because of Seema, I know that chocolate is best left unadulterated. 
Because of Seema, I know that a new friend is only a smile away wherever I go.
Because of Seema, I always carry a tea bag with me when I travel.
Because of Seema, I firmly believe that you can never have too many pairs of TOMS.
Because of Seema, I put extra cardamom in my Christmas cookies.  
Because of Seema, I know that if you have a goal or a vision, the details will work themselves out.
Because of Seema, I learned that it’s best to have a dog biscuit in your pocket at all times, just in case.
Because of Seema, I know that life is just too short, so make the most of it. 
Like I said, I didn’t know her the best or the longest, but I feel so lucky to have known her at all.  I’m sure that for every Seema story of my own, there are hundreds of thousands of others like it.  Please share your own stories of how your life is different… because of Seema. 

Bonnie Kibbie

Our Friend Seema

As word is spreading on social media regarding the passing of our dear friend and supporter, Seema Sonnad, we want to ask everyone to remember her amazing spirit, determination and generosity to all the people who were graced by her presence.  Seema embodied philanthropic spirit and her infectious "can do" personality will forever be part of our family at Blue Hill Farm.

Our love goes out to Henry and all of Seema's extended family, which was enormous.   The entire eventing community grieves today.

Seema and Keegan at Blue Hill Farm

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fair Hill May Horse Trials

This past weekend was the Fair Hill May HT and the Blue Hill team was there in full force!  Saturday both Brigitte and Bonnie has stellar results, with Bonnie and Loki racking up another win and finishing on their dressage score of a 31.5!  Brigitte and Harper were in the Open Training D which was packed with top Pros, also finishing on their score of a 27.5 to come in 5th, wedged between Ryan, Jennie B., Phillip and Boyd!! 

I'm sorry girls that I wasn't there to get pictures on Saturday.

On Sunday, Maggie and Dante were back at it for the first time since last year's Fair Hill International.  They were having a great stadium ride but forgot that darn skinny at the end of the ring!  Woops!!  She was allowed to continue onto XC and trucked around having a really positive ride after time off.  So happy to see them back at it!!  Note the grin on Maggie's face in this photo sequence.  I dare say this is when she realized she missed the skinny before this combination :)

On Sunday Missy rode Keegan in the Prelim and this blogger was able to get down for the morning to get plenty of pictures during stadium and XC.  They had a few rails in stadium and cruised around XC in 3rd gear, accumulating a few time faults......but it was a great ride on a hot humid day.  It's just so fabulous to see Missy out there.  Thanks so much to Seema for putting Missy in the irons!!

Enjoy the photos courtesy of Lisa Thomas, Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services and property of Blue Hill Farm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jessica & Missy Featured in May Edition of The Chronicle's Untacked!

This month's edition of Untacked, The Chronicle's lifestyle magazine, features a wonderful article on our favorite Mother/Daughter team at Blue Hill Farm!!

Featured Photo - Lisa Thomas

Here is the login to the online version, which you can access with your subscription to The Chronicle. I want to make mention of the special Editors Note written by Kat Netzler, who many of us know personally from her lifelong support of equestrian sport.  Her forward shares insightful remarks on the special Mother and daughter relationships that Untacked has featured in this Mother's Day edition.

Many thanks go out to Mollie Bailey who authored the article on Jess and Missy.  She was wonderful in tracking down our favorite, but busy, Mother/Daughter team this winter in order to complete the interview process.  I've been a lifelong supporter of The Chronicle, and although we are all inclined to do everything online these days, there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a copy of The Chronicle, so please renew your subscription and login to view the full article including Kat's forward!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Adventures In Europe - Spring 2015!

Almost one month ago, Rachel Gross and Rio Rio set off for JFK with my dear friend and fellow Stoneleigh Burnham School graduate, Susan McLean (who generously donated her time and trailer)!

Missy Ransehousen and I caught up to them at Jeanette and Chris Haazen's stable in Neeroenteren, Belgium, home base for our dear friends, James Dwyer and Philippa Johnson-Dwyer. Always a good traveler, Rio settled right in to her shed-row box next to James' horses, Orlando (Ben) and his lovely mare, Fleur. 

We set off for the first competition, a CPEDI3* at Waregem, in caravan with James and Philippa in their car and trailer, followed by Missy driving our little red rented horse box. (The speed limit for trucks in Belgium is 90 k/hour, much slower than Missy has ever driven any vehicle!)

The venue at Waregem is an extensive riding school, next to a beautiful green racecourse, accommodating steeplechases and trotting races! I had never seen such an eclectic collection of horses - from schools of kids on ponies to jumpers to driving horses! The outdoor competition area was expansive and the indoor schooling area, currently more than adequate, is under construction to add even more space!

I was a little disappointed to find only three riders in my 1a classification but one of them was the Belgian National Champion and the other, a lovely little girl from Hong Kong, was coached by the very successful British coach, Clive Milliken. After a brilliant ride on the first day, Rio was consistently in a very close second place despite needing more activity in subsequent tests. We left Waregem excited about the judges' feedback regarding Rio's world class potential and determined to improve her energy and her scores!

Back in Neeroenteren, with almost a week before we had to leave for Germany, we practiced diligently but also managed day trips to Antwerp, Düsseldorf and Waterloo! We were very lucky to spend time with James and Philippa at their tiny "chalet", enjoying delicious chicken dinners and equine philosophy. Both Paralympic medal winners and competitors in able-bodied dressage and totally invested in their horse's well-being, they share a unique and professional perspective. Many thanks to Philippa, James, Jeanette and Chris for our lovely time with them!

Sadly, on Friday morning, we left our friends in Belgium for the Mai-Market Horse Show at Mannheim, Germany. Usually, CPEDI3* are fairly well-regulated because there are many competitors with a limited ability to control their horses. This is not the case at Mannheim! All levels of Para Dressage competitors warm up next to galloping jumpers and prancing dressage horses with flags snapping and loud-speakers blaring.  I have never been more grateful for Rio's phlegmatic temperament! (Thank you very much to Marion Dressel-O'Connor and Jessica Wisdom for her extensive showing background!)

The day of the Team test was cold and rainy and Rio and I earned 69.2% in a sluggish test to place fifth (behind two WEG medalists and two riders on 69.7). The German team coach kindly reassured us that we had a lovely horse and the that scores were very close. Probably the lowest point of the trip, we consoled ourselves with watching the jumper show and eating bratwurst…

Monday was a beautiful, bright and breezy day....and I didn't ride until almost 4 o'clock...way too much suspense but perfect for a brief early ride for Rio and a little shorter final warm-up. 

Thanks to Missy and Rachel's equine intuition, Rio was wonderful! Along with the advice of the coach from the Netherlands, "Ride for the fastest time!", we had a very snappy test! Still in fifth place but with a 70.1%, the improvement was spectacular! 

We were able to maintain Rio's momentum through the musical freestyle the next day to score 74% for third place behind Sara Morganti with 80% and Elke Philips with 75% (both medal winners in the Freestyle at the World Equestrian Games)!

There were two objectives for this trip to Europe. The first was to qualify for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro next year and the second was to show the European judges what a good horse Rio Rio is. We have had resounding success on both counts!                      

Many thanks to Missy and Rachel for pushing me all over Belgium! And to Jessica Ransehousen for all her input last winter! And to the Blue Hill Gang and my family!

Especially this year, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends and supporters in the community. Thank you so much for all your help in making my dream come true!

Please stay tuned in for the National Championship in Houston at the end of October and the final qualifying CPEDI3*s in Wellington next January and, of course, the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, in September of 2016!