Jumping on the List

During Lesson #112 research efforts got underway for my 2015 List of Equestrian Things To Do. Progress was made in the areas of neck reining, the free-style vaulting routine and attending a horse show. And there were positive signs regarding Dressage. I also wanted to go over a cavaletti to get that done and checked off the list, but I didn’t see any on the ground.

I had the pleasure of taking Lesson #112 with Grace and Pete, two knowledgeable and helpful instructors. Grace rode her horse Diamond. The pair have been together forever – but not in this picture, because I forgot my camera and this is the only picture I have of Grace.


Pete took Caspian and I was on Krystal.

The only thing I knew about neck reining is that you do it with one hand. I wanted to take better photos whilst mounted and I figured if I could master a one-handed riding technique, it might help.

After discussing the matter with Pete and Grace, I now know that neck reining is more about what the horse knows than what the rider knows. They actually get trained in it, especially for things like barrel racing.

Still, there are different approaches a rider can take, especially in regard to where you place your fingers vis-à-vis the reins. I still have to nail down my finger placement and then stick to it. And then use a horse that’s good at it, my job being basically not to confuse them. Grace said that Maree or Windy might be good candidates.

Pete promised to help me develop a free-style vaulting routine. He said I could pretty much make up what I want to do. This is good news for me, because I intend on creating some Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. He also said my routine should last about a minute, which is about all anyone will be able to stand to watch anyway. Karin is hosting a Fun Fest in April, so I’m hoping to be ready by then.

Meanwhile, my son-in-law Andy was gracious enough to create this exquisitely detailed model to help me conceptualize and develop some of my Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. That’s a Lions’ hat on his head.


Regarding the open horse show, Legacy is starting an independent 4H-like horse club this year and Grace is one of the coaches. She told me they plan on attending an open horse show or two and I could tag along.

When I included “attend an open horse show” on the list, my intention was to just sit and watch. Like the olds days. But Grace seems to think I should participate in a more active way. I can still sit, but it has to be on a horse.

And finally, I saw these the day after my lesson.


Looks like we’ll be working on our letters soon.

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Twenty Fifteen

The other night, Karin held a “Vision Casting” for Legacy Stables. This involved a gathering of her staff, volunteers, students, parents of students, board members – anybody with an interest in Karin’s Horse Connection. So I went.

The gathering served as an assessment of where the operation is, where we want it to go and what we were going to do this year to get it there. A collective New Year’s Resolutions list for the place. The evening was both fun and productive and now we’re all excited about 2015.

It got me thinking about my own equestrian goals for the coming year. I mean beyond my primary goal of Just Showing Up and Seeing What Happens.

It’s not that I haven’t set goals in the past. It’s just that I’ve been less than diligent in actually doing anything about them. Setting goals is fun. Actually doing the work to achieve the goal is another matter.

One strategy is to define your goals in such a way that you can say you’ve met them without really doing much of anything. The key here is vagueness. Relative terms such as “better” or “more” (“I will ride more this year,” “I will pay better attention to my instructor”) are very useful if you like your goals with a lot of wiggle room.

This year, I think I’ll try to be a little more specific. A list of Micro Goals that I can put an actual checkmark next to as I accomplish each one. Little bits that may or may not help support the larger Just Showing Up thing.

So here is my list:

  1. From what I understand, there might be some Dressage going on at Legacy this year. My goal is to do at least one pattern all the way through. Bonus goal: resist the impulse to move the letters around the arena just to spell a word.
  2. Attend one local open horse show and write a blog post about it.
  3. Conduct an investigation into what’s going on with my riding breeches! Specifically, why do I start to pass out right after I put them on? They didn’t do that when I first got them. There is something wrong with them.

    They didn't bother me before.

    They didn’t bother me before.

  4. Learn how to properly apply a surcingle
  5. Read one book about equestrian vaulting.
  6. Develop my own free-style vaulting routine – at the walk.
  7. Visit Chicago Vaulting in the summer and do a blog post on their new lungeing training program. Bonus goal: determine once & for all the correct spelling of lungeing.
  8. Learn how to neck rein.
  9. Walk over a cavaletti.
  10. Sponsor one horse or student at Legacy Stables.
  11. Only talk about stretching during a riding lesson if I’ve actually stretched before the riding lesson. Bonus goal: eliminate the word “should’ve” from my vocabulary.
  12. Learn to recite the names of all of Legacy’s horses to the tune of Amazing Grace.
  13. Polish my riding boots.
  14. Complete the Fundamentals of Photography course that I bought two years ago.
  15. Set up at least one riding lesson for granddaughter Aubrey. We have already discussed this.IMG_0256

I think that should keep me busy for a year.

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Expanding the Herd

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been away from the barn for a combination of reasons that are not typically shared on a blog or anywhere on the Internet. Well, maybe on Facebook.

Karin was also a bit out of commission during this period. It was a dangerous time. Karin causes a lot more trouble when you try to keep her inside then when she’s allowed to go out. Specifically, she browses the Internet for horses. You know, “just looking”…

This time, she only bought four.

In Karin’s defense, I should mention that Legacy Stables is growing pretty fast and this wasn’t exactly a case of impulse buying. Once the good weather comes back, it’s going to get real busy around there. Some of Karin’s horses are aging and they probably wouldn’t mind sharing the workload with some new employees. One of the first things people notice when they visit Legacy is how happy the horses are. Karin intends on keeping it that way.

 Karin is very clear about what she looks for when buying a horse for Legacy Stables. In order of priority, they are:

  1. Temperament
  2. Temperament
  3. Temperament
  4. Health
  5. Gaits
  6. Training
  7. Price

Ten years ago, when Karin bought her first horse, Charley, a friend warned her, “Be careful Karin, they don’t come alone!” At the time, Karin laughed at that.

Legacy is up to 23 horses now. Eighteen of them are hers. It’s an accurate tally: “I went out yesterday and counted them myself,” Karin reports.

And, without further ado, here are the new additions to Legacy Stables’ expanding herd:


962713_1Mia is a 3 year-old Haflinger, 13 hands. She’s trained in the walk, trot and canter. She will be employed for birthday parties, therapeutic riding and adaptive vaulting.




Apache is a 14 hand, 9 year-old, stocky Pinto Pony. Karin says he’s perfect for adaptive vaulting, therapeutic riding and for her Tiny Tots vaulting program.


Sunshine dining at her new home.

Sunshine dines at her new home.

Sunshine is a 10 hand, 3 year-old Shetland. Karin intends on using her as a backup for Snoopy, a current worker who definitely wouldn’t mind a little help with all those kids.




DaVinci is a 13 year-old, 17 hand Hanoverian. Karin reports that he has “a really nice gait.” She intends on using him for Dressage and vaulting.

Maybe it’s time for me to learn a little Dressage? Maybe just a little…


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Christmas Treats and Holiday Threats

The most notable thing about Lesson #111 was the weather. Sunny and fifty degrees in late December is a gift. Karin and Pete actually opened up the windows on one side of the arena. Spirits soared.


Karin put me on Krystal, one of her “18 year-olds.” I like Krystal and if I recall correctly, I had some success on my last ride on her. But then again, I may not be recalling correctly.

As time passes, the memory of this or that lesson can become a little distorted, perhaps emphasizing whatever suits my current psychological needs. It’s not unusual for humans to do this. On a larger scale, history gets abused like this all of the time by groups – sometimes massive groups of people – with this or that agenda. Historians themselves frequently disagree and get angry at one another. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable, I say.

Being that it was two days before Christmas, Karin was in a generous mood and as a treat helped me with my tack.


However, she insisted that I ride English. I picked Western for the last several lessons and I think she was concerned I may never make it back to the Other Side.

I did adjust my own stirrups. I like them long.

Karin noticed: “Do you think your stirrups are too long?”

“No, Karin, I don’t think they’re too long.”

“Well, they are.”

“But I’m comfortable like this.” My knees like to be straight.

“You can’t ride like that. Stop your horse, we have to adjust them.”

I was riding in sneakers, which is not recommended. I just thought I’d be more comfortable in them on that day, so I left my boots in the car.

With Karin adjusting the stirrups, she would be sure to notice my choice in footwear. So I preempted her and ‘fessed up: “I’m not wearing boots today, Karin.”

“I see. Maybe the next time you forget your boots we can have you ride bareback on Caspian?” Even Karin admits that Caspian can be a bit bumpy at times. Bareback, I would have a marble’s chance of staying on him at the trot. Christmas Treats had turned to Holiday Threats.

Krystal and I trotted and cantered around a bit. It was mostly in the chaotic, out-of-control mode that I’m beginning to perfect as my trademark riding style. At least that’s how I’m going to remember it.


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The Great Indoors

Karin put me on Windy for Lesson #110. I rode Windy a time or two on the trails during the more civilized weather months. She’s a good horse.


We held this lesson in The Great Indoors.



There’s no snow right now, but the ground is frozen hard in the break-an-ankle way. So I was grateful for the venue.


I was joined by Gerry on Habakuk and Leo on Maree. Leo has been getting a bit of riding in, as I expected he would. Some of this has been inadvertently serious and exciting.

That is, Maree took off on Leo the other day. Full gallop.

Ah, Quarter horses. So stately in the slow trot, so Zero to 60 in the gallop. Well, maybe Zero to 25. But 25 Horse mph is like 120 in Car mph. Just ask Leo.

Bless his heart – he did not bail, but opted to hang on for the duration. I admire that.

Lesson #110 was a working lesson. Although, it was a kind of free-flow independent study situation. Karin provided some basic instructions to the three of us (actually to six of us – the horses listen to her better than we do) such as “walk around these pylons,” “do a Figure 8 at the trot,” “stop and back your horse between these two poles,” etc. – and then she allowed us to comply at our leisure.

I like this form of lesson, because I can get into an uninterrupted flow of communicating with the horse rather than listen to the instructor.

Windy was fun to ride. She was very responsive to my cues, even better than big ‘ol Habakuk had been in the preceding lessons. I was able to direct her with finger twitches and leg taps. Although our figure 8 looked more an Old English D than an 8. But that’s on me and my one-handed, photo-taking riding style.


Toward the end of the lesson, Karin left the arena for a few minutes.


And when she returned, she had Peanut. The Mighty Peanut.


We untacked the horses and let them go for a Romp & Roll session.


Maree and Peanut were especially enthusiastic.


It was a hoot watching them. But I think I got in their way once or twice with my photo taking.


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Four Points and a Big Canter

For Lesson #109, I got to ride Habakuk for the second week in a row. Gerry had his lesson the day before thus opening up a spot for me on Habakuk’s back.

I got to ride with Leo, Karin’s son-in-law. Leo is both a new father and a new rider. Sometimes everything happens all at once.

Leo took Maree. He was concerned about being too big for her, but I think they matched up pretty well.

Leo and Maree

Leo and Maree

As I trotted Habakuk around the arena, I could hear Karin give Leo instructions regarding his seat: “Keep all Four Points of your butt on the horse,” she insisted.


A flood of mother-in-law jokes came crashing into my brain, but I held my tongue. Also, I remembered that the last time this topic had been discussed, there was some controversy over whether there are actually Five Points – not Four – to a person’s buttocks. But I didn’t bring that up either, because we were doing so well and I didn’t want anyone to lose to their focus to that debate.

I got to canter a bit. Karin used her Magic Wand as a communication aid.


On the first two go-arounds, I held on to the saddle horn because it seemed like the right thing to do. But after that, Karin told me let go and employ the Supple Joints thing. I did and it was more fun than holding on.


There is something about being on Habakuk that gives everything around you a kind of miniature feel.


Even the arena got smaller. We got from one end to the other in what seemed like two, maybe three bounds. Although, I not sure if “bound” is an appropriate canter term.

“He has a big canter, Karin,” I reported.

“No, he has a very smooth canter,” she responded.

They’re not necessarily conflicting ideas, of course. But I didn’t argue because I had another, more pressing issue I needed to discuss.

“His canter kind of breaks up into a trot at the end of the arena, Karin.”

“That’s because you’re not following through, Bob.”

Karin always puts it back on the rider. But she had a point. I was so busy keeping my whole body on him, I wasn’t paying enough attention to keeping my legs on him. It’s like coasting down a hill on a bike. It’s nice, but at some point you have to be prepared to resume peddling if you want to keep your momentum going.

At the end of the lesson, something happened that almost never happens. Someone asked me for help with his tack. It was Leo.

I put Habakuk on the crossties and then proceeded to tell Leo everything I knew about horse tack. Ten seconds later, he was all set.


I’m pretty sure Leo is going to be riding quite a bit in the coming weeks. Within a month or two, I’ll be asking him for help. And the universe will be back in its proper order.


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2014 at Legacy Stables

I didn’t have a lesson last week, so I think this is a good opportunity for a slideshow presenting the past year at Legacy Stables. It’s around 3 minutes – just skimming the highlights 2014.

The slideshow features, in rough order: Winter “Own-a-Horse Camp”, Karin’s Horse Connection at the Kids & Family Expo in January, the Christoph Lensing Clinics in February, Legacy’s appearance at Up2U Expo, the new Tiny Tots vaulting class, the Trail Mix Vaulting Competition & Clinic, Legacy Stables Vaulting Competition & Clinic, Karin’s summer interns from Germany, Summer “Own-a-Horse Camp,” Legacy Stables Second Anniversary Celebration, The Legacy Rainbow, Team YAH,  Karin’s 4H club “Blaze With Grace” at Barry Count Fair, Charity and Ryan’s wedding, Trail Mix Fun Fest, the Grand Rapids Santa Parade, the Caledonia Christmas Parade and the most recent addition to the Legacy Family, Wendel and Karin’s new granddaughter, Emiliana Grace.

There was a lot more going on, but enough is enough. The items in bold blue are links to related blog posts. 

It’s been a busy, fun and rewarding year.

Music attribution: “Step On” by Jahzzar.






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Head Cover and a Major Blessing

For Lesson #108 I got to ride Habakuk since Gerry wasn’t there.



After decades of being conditioned by jealous horsegirl society, I felt a tinge of guilt as if I was interloping. The last thing I want to be is an interloper. Barn drama is the worst.

It wasn’t my idea, of course.

“You can ride Habakuk today,” Karin announced. “He’s in the Red Barn. Go get him – and don’t let the other horses out.”

This was a good reminder and I took due caution. If you don’t pay enough attention, the horses sometimes just do whatever the hell they want, especially when Karin isn’t right there. She’s like their mother or something.

Habakuk: a big and warm mammal.

Habakuk: a big and warm mammal.

As I led Habakuk from the Red Barn to the main barn for tacking up, I looked forward to getting on him. It was a cold, cold day and my equestrian career has seen enough winters to know that the best antidote to the cold is to share body heat with a large furry mammal other than a bear. Plus riding takes work if you actually want to accomplish anything. The combination of physical exertion and horse heat will warm you up nicely. My favorite part of an indoor winter riding lesson is the last ten minutes where the horse and I just wander around being comfortable.

Habakuk is great horse to ride. He responded well to my cues. He reminded me of Vinnie a little bit in that way. Miss that guy.

Due to the cold, I wore a cheap, but effective knit hat to the barn instead of my Lions’ cap. This created a small problem, again due to some prior conditioning. I don’t feel secure riding bareheaded. It’s just not safe. However, my brain took the physical sensation of the hat on my head as a green light to proceed, thusly: “You’re helmet is on your head, everything is okay, go ahead and mount the horse.”

I didn’t notice the oversight until about halfway through the lesson. Just kind of caught some knit material out of the corner of my eye. I had to pat my head three times to confirm.



Karin didn’t notice it either. However, she was gracious enough to go get my helmet from the main barn and make my head right.



In Karin’s defense, she was a bit preoccupied at the time. Daughter Anika was due anytime for Karin’s first grandchild. Sure enough, three days later the world welcomed Emiliana Grace.

Karin was super happy to report that the newest addition to the Schmidt family is BEAUTIFUL!!! and that Mama Anika, Papa Leo and the baby are all doing well.

Congratulations to both the Schmidt and Ojeda families. A new adventure has begun.


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Santa Parade, 2014

On Saturday, I got to go with Legacy Stables in the big Santa Parade in downtown Grand Rapids. We did this last year in freezing temperatures, to which Michigan’s neurotic version of Mother Nature added a brisk wind.

Last Year: the frozen few.

Last Year: the frozen few.

This year we were given a few extra degrees, enough to boost the air temps to that awkward-right-around-freezing range where the precipitation really can’t decide what it wants to be – snow or ice – so it settles on freezing rain as a compromise. I thought maybe they’d cancel the parade.

Nope. It went forward, although I’m guessing not all the entrants showed up. Even the Live 8 parade narrators on WoodTV indicated they were going to have to wing it. I think it makes it more fun when you really don’t know what’s coming next.

Karin outfitted me with another Karin’s Horse Connection sweatshirt, which she simply put right over my already bulging ski-jacket. I think the majority of my wardrobe now has some kind of Karin’s Horse Connection logo.

Ready to march.

Ready to march.

Last year the highlight of the parade was when Elmo went down and got dragged through the streets of downtown.



This year Cookie Monster stepped in and I didn’t bother taking many photos of him. That guy is a real pro and I knew he would complete the parade in good form.


The temps improved enough so that by the start of the parade at 9, we were in pretty good shape. There were still some slick spots, but the road crews were on top of it and the main street was mostly just wet.


Karin brought Charley, Snoopy, Peanut and Caspian (shown below, left to right).


All are rock solid parade veterans, who almost seemed a little bored.

And of course, Karin had to show off my newest buddy, Pumpkin Sherbert.


The kids appeared to be having a great time. While the footing had improved, it still wasn’t exactly comfortable out there. However, I didn’t hear much whining by anyone under 5 feet tall.


The kids’ poise and show presence, especially under less than ideal conditions, never ceases to amaze me. Kudos to them – and their instructors and parents.




I had two main jobs: 1) Take Photos and 2) Watch Where I Was Going & Not Fall Down. I managed both, despite a plethora of visual and audio distractions. And I got to be on TV! That’s me, circled on the right.


Circled on the left was my primary distraction for the morning: Founders Bank & Trust – which I mistook as Founder’s Brewery, a local maker of fine pain remedies. Good thing I didn’t stop in. I was thinking about it.

Karin had around 35-40 mammals total in the parade. It was a great turnout and a fun morning.


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Fear Not the Pumpkin

For Lesson #107, I got to ride Pumpkin Sherbet, Karin’s new mechanical horse.


Some say “Pumpkin Sherbert.” And I’ve given up trying to correct those who insist on the extra “r”. There’s just too many of them.

Karin says his – and I’m not clear on how we determined gender here – nickname is “One More Time.” Because as soon as the kids get off of him, they all beg to ride him “one more time.” So that makes sense.

After my first experience on “One More Time” at the Fall Fun Fest, my nickname for him was “Once is Enough.” I didn’t do well on that occasion.

Because I ride intuitively, reacting to the forces of nature as I go along, I figured I needed no instruction to ride Pumpkin Sherbert. So I got on when Karin wasn’t looking. I thought this would be easy pie.

My friend Ryan, Pumpkin’s security guard, let me on for free.


After clambering aboard, I held on tight and told Ryan to let ‘er rip.

Pumpkin Sherbert went crazy. I swear the front of the thing actually lifted off its base. And we were making way too much noise. I pleaded with Ryan to “Turn … It… Down…”

Ryan said sorry, but Pumpkin only has one speed. I thought it was a terrible thing that the only setting the manufacturers thought to put on this monster was “Way Too Damn Fast.”

The commotion caught Karin’s attention.

“Hey! Don’t hold on like that! Do you want to get thrown all the way to Texas?”

The destination I wouldn’t mind so much. I love San Antonio and the Alamo. And I’ve always wanted to visit Austin and ride bikes in the street with the Critical Mass people. But I got her point and asked Ryan to please turn off Pumpkin Sherbert before something happened.

So before I got on Pumpkin for Lesson #107, Karin and I talked about it.

“Do you know what you did wrong last time?”

“Yes. I got on.”

“No, you held on.”

“Of course I held on. I’m an intuitive rider.”

“You don’t need to hold on. You were actually yanking the front of Pumpkin up with you. Just get your balance and move with the horse.”

Hmmm…. I have to admit, there was something vaguely familiar about that concept.

Before proceeding, I stretched, mirroring Karin’s example.


Then Karin got on and demonstrated a different way to ride Pumpkin.


When it came my turn, I actually enjoyed it. I followed Karin’s instructions and used my supple joints to move with the horse instead of holding on. It’s hard to tell from the still photos, but the thing is actually moving in all of these pictures.



With my hands free, I actually got to take a few pictures. 





It was a great lesson.



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