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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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It was a great lesson.

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Yellow Enough

Lesson #106 was uneventful – the way I like it. Gerry wasn’t there, but Karin hooked me up with Pete and Kathy before they could make their escape to the mysterious outlands of Narnia. So I got to tag along on Maree. Kathy rode her girl Windy. Pete took Caspian and was requesting a sheriff’s badge. Somehow, I understood this.

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After assembling the posse in the arena, we headed out the door. But before we got too far, Karin halted us. She said we had to wear the I’m Not Actually a Legitimate Target Vest. “Bow season,” I think someone said.

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I’m not sure if hunting is allowed in Narnia, but Karin wanted us to wear them just to be safe.

Kathy got green and I got orange. Karin declared Pete “yellow enough,” so she let him pass.

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A real posse would have had sidearms. I think Pete and I would have looked great with a pair of six-shooters. But Karin has this thing about the number of riders returning should equal the number of riders that went out. So no pistols.

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Kathy is the like a Narnia Guide Guru and it turned out to be a great and lengthy ride. Maybe one of the longest rides I’ve ever had. And I did get to shoot Pete in the back several times.  

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Supple Joints

For Lesson #105, Karin put me on The Horse Who is Not Dromie, a.k.a. Krystal.

Not Krystal

Not Krystal

Not Dromie.

Not Dromie.

I’ve learned to look at the bottom of their legs instead of their faces and this has helped immeasurably in the identification process. I don’t like bringing the wrong horse back to the barn.

The weather was like this:

Cold.

Cold.

So no pleasant Instruction in Open Terrain on a beautiful autumn morning. This was going to be a working lesson. And for this, I was partially fully prepared. I brought a pair of chaps because I haven’t got around to purchasing breeches that fit my current shape – if they actually make them like that.

Either these chaps are waaaay to small or there is a gap in my knowledge regarding how to apply them. I’m wondering if I grabbed the wrong ones.

But I did bring my boots. After a summer of riding in tennis shoes, I felt very equestrian-like in them. Having good, solid foot protection is a confidence booster in all walks of life.

Although, after a season of neglect, I needed a tool to help secure them to my feet.

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Karin did indeed make us work. From her command post on top of Charley, she instructed Gerry and me to proceed around the arena at the trot (mounted) at least five times – sitting on the short side, posting on the long. 

I lost track of the count between the first and second time around, but I think Krystal and I may have completed something in the two to three range.

We weaved in and out of the pylons several times working on our precision. We also practiced backing.

Then, it was canter time. Karin demonstrated, mainly because she is psychologically incapable of sitting still on a horse for too long. Especially when she’s on Charley…

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By the way, this Friday, November 7th, Karin and Charley will have been together for 10 years. Karin has been a serious horseperson for over 40 years, but Charley was actually the first horse she ever owned. I like to refer to their connection as the Seed That Eventually Became Legacy Stables.

Charley and Karin

Charley and Karin

Anyway…

Gerry and Habakuk cantered first. They did well, as they usually do. While Krystal and I watched the pair go around the ring, I thought, “Well, at least we have to try.”

If subsequent events are any indication, Krystal was thinking the same thing.

Because, when our turn came, I didn’t have to do much at all, except utter the word and she went right into it. It caught me by surprise, actually.

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Karin must have noticed that because she told me to hold on to something.

It was lots of fun. However, I confessed to Karin that I felt like I was going to fall off.

“Well … your balance was good…”

It was one of those sentences that have a “but” built right into it…

“But, you need to loose up your hips and move with the horse.”

Ah, that should be the First Rule of Good Equestrianism: Move with the horse.

“You need to loosen up everything. You should ride with supple joints.”

Supple joints. For some reason, I like the sound of that.

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Four Lessons

Lesson’s 101, 102 and 103 were essentially trial rides – or as we say at Legacy Stables, “instruction in open terrain.” Karin left it up to Gerry and me to fill in the blanks regarding what kind of lesson we would have and each time we ended up outside on the trails.

However, at first, I suggested we try jumping. For me, a fill-in-the-blank question is a treacherous trap. The impulse is always to answer with something facetious or impossible.

The problem is that what I call facetious or impossible, Karin calls a “fun idea.” You have to be careful what you say around her. I knew I made a mistake the moment the words left my mouth. I wanted to reach out and snatch them back, but I don’t have access to that technology.

Karin was all for it. “Yes, we can jump today!” She was very pleased with my go-getter attitude. “What saddle would you like, Bob?”

I saw this as an opportunity to wiggle out of the mess I was about to make: “That depends, Karin. Can you jump in a Western saddle?”

“No… you don’t jump in a Western saddle.”

“Then I’ll take a Western saddle.”

Besides, as Gerry was quick to point out, a trail ride made more sense than jumping because it was a nice, sunny day and at this time of the year we just don’t know how many more of these we are going to get. So it was time to saddle up and carpe diem.

Of course, Karin won’t forget about the jumping thing.

For the next three lessons, we got to do our share of carpe dieming. In three successive trail rides, I took Maree, Maree and Windy.

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And Gerry rode Habakuk, Habakuk and Habakuk.

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We had a variety of company with us, including Kim (S version) on Dromie:

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Kathy on Windy when I wasn’t:

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Kid Motivator turned Horse Motivator Jerry Jacoby on Dromie when Kim (S version) wasn’t:

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On one ride, I attempted my first mounted selfie. I got a piece of my head and Kim (S version) in the background. I don’t think mounted selfies are that easy to do.

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Later in the ride, Kim (S version) dropped her crop on the ground and I retrieved it for her. I suspect she had been back there doing baton twirls with it. That’s what I like about riding in the back; you get to do what you want.

During one ride, either Gerry or Jerry (they sound alike to me) said he expected to hear the theme music from Bonanza at any moment. After seeing this photo op shot, I kinda understood where Gerry or Jerry got that:

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For Lesson #104, Karin put me on my old buddy, Caspian and we stayed in the arena. We worked: trotting and attempted canter. And I rather liked it. But the effort was tearing up my legs. I really need to find my riding boots and also some breeches that fit me now and not for when after I lose the 20 pounds I’ve been intending to lose. I have a pair of chaps a friend gave me a few years ago. I think I might try those for Lesson #105.

 

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A Connection is Made

Bert began the spring of 2014 the same way he spent the long winter: unemployed and restless. When he wasn’t challenging Lori’s horses, he was trying the doors and gates. Anything he could manipulate was fair game. Lori couldn’t put halters on her horses when they were in the pasture with Bert after he discovered that removing a halter from the head of another horse was in his skillset. The little Arabian needed a job, the sooner the better.

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At the time, no one could have known that the solution to his problem was just thirty miles away, in the person of one hopelessly horse-crazed girl, 12-year-old Allie Ouendag.

Allie was having her own problems. Fair Week was just two months away and she suddenly found herself without a horse. Goldie, the Palomino Pony she had been hoping to lease and take to Fair, had been sold out from under her.

Allie desperately needed a horse. Bert desperately needed a person who needed a horse. In the immortal words of Ghostbuster Dr. Peter Venkman, “We have to get these two together.” Surely, in a Just & Happy Universe, the meeting would be inevitable.

The fact that these two did indeed get together was not the work of cosmic forces or even pure chance. It took the efforts and attention of a small group of people to make it happen. And that started with Allie herself.

When kids – and it’s mostly girls – get into horses, a culling process takes place. Those who are enamored with the fantasy of horses, but have little sense of the realities and responsibilities of horse care, are prone to drop out quickly. Others will stick with it for a few years and participate at some level, but they eventually drift away as other interests push horses to the margins.

Those who have the true passion, the real IT, are in it for the duration. Being around horses triggers something in these girls. Time at the barn becomes precious and they really don’t care to be anywhere else. Kids that have trouble making the bus by 8, will happily get up at 6 a.m. in the dead of winter for the morning feeding. They are fearless, relentless and eager. Some would say obsessed. They are likely to have IT for the rest of their lives.

When experienced horsepeople see IT in a young horse enthusiast, they become more inclined to offer their time and effort as mentors and advocates. I think veteran horsepeople sometimes see something of themselves in these kids. This support and guidance is an invaluable resource for any young person who is serious about horses.

Allie has IT. She began riding at age 8. After the customary begging and pleading, her mother, Danielle, finally caved and agreed to sign her up for lessons at Byron Downs (now Villa Maria Stables), a local lesson barn. At Byron Downs, Allie joined the 4-H group, Stable Mates and began taking lessons on an ancient Quarter horse named Stick. However, she had no interest in showing. All Allie really wanted was to take care of a horse.

Through Byron Downs and Stable Mates, Allie was introduced to the larger horsepeople community. She became friends with Mara and Alyssa Hehman. Both girls were a few years older than Allie and also had IT. Mara, an ardent student of all things equine and mature beyond her years, took Allie under her wing and served as a peer mentor to the young rider.

Last year, Allie started riding Jake, Alyssa’s Appaloosa. Jake was a veteran show horse and a definite upgrade over the other horses Allie had been riding. She also started taking lessons with Lynn Kamps, an equine dentist and experienced riding instructor whom she had met through Mara. Under Lynn’s tutelage, Allie grew in both riding skill and confidence. She rode Jake in the 2013 Kent County Youth Fair, placed in a few classes and discovered that showing horses might be kind of fun after all.

When 2014 rolled around, Allie was looking forward to going to Fair again. However, since Alyssa had turned 18, it would be her last opportunity to participate at Fair. Naturally, she wanted to take Jake. When the deal with Goldie didn’t happen, Allie was without a horse for Fair – or for the summer.

While Allie didn’t have a horse, she was not without resources. IT had made her a bona fide member of the larger community of equine enthusiasts. The network that she now belonged to would provide.

The key connection was made this spring when Lynn was out at Lori’s doing some dental work on her horses. Lori told Lynn about Bert in her first visit the previous year. This time Lynn had the perfect candidate to offer and a meeting was arranged.

The chemistry was instantaneous: “I loved Bert the moment I saw him,” Allie tells us.

Bert accepted Allie right away. It only took a few minutes before he was following her around, no lead line necessary. This is what he had been waiting for.

It was also what Lori and Jamie had been waiting for. They weren’t going to let Bert go to just anyone. It had to be someone like Allie.

It was clear to Lori and everyone in Allie’s immediate support group that this was a great match. Even Mara, who would have preferred another Appaloosa or a Quarter horse for Allie, was impressed after riding the little Arab.

The Hehman family offered to board Bert at their farm. This was the ideal place for a horse with Bert’s insatiable curiosity. In addition to horses, the Hehman’s had numerous goats, chickens, dogs and ducks on the property. Bert was intent on making friends with every single one of them. He would stand quietly in between the chicken coups for several minutes at a time, just listening.

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Allie spent her summer with Bert at the Hehman’s. Danielle dropped her off every morning and Allie stayed for the entire day. For a kid like Allie, this was paradise. It gave her and Bert an opportunity to learn about each other and strengthen their bond.

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With Fair looming just weeks away, the two also had a lot of work to do. They took three lessons a week.

“Bert knew English and we had to teach him Western,” Allie explains.

By the time Fair came in early August, Lynn and Mara had the pair as ready as they were going to be.

They started out slow, failing to place in showmanship. Bert was obviously bored with it and Allie couldn’t keep him from fussing.

Then, they nabbed a blue ribbon in English Pleasure.

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This was followed by a third in Western Pleasure.

They failed to place in two Dressage tests. Allie didn’t have much experience in Dressage and Bert didn’t help thing by stepping out and getting the pair DQ’d.

Then the big surprise: despite Allie having little experience in Dressage, the pair executed “two beautifully perfect circles” and stunned everyone by earning a first in Dressage Equitation.

Allie says that by the time they started the final class, Grand Reserve, “We were both done.” It had been a long week. But they still managed to get 7th in a field of 17.

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Bert and Allie had a great week at Fair together.

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With the start of the school year, Allie’s barn time has been curtailed. She still gets out to see Bert at least once a week. As the two continue to learn and grow together, their connection becomes stronger. It is a connection made possible by the active support of a community that welcomes those who share a passion for this noble and deserving animal.

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Gray Rebel Without a Cause

On a late summer evening in 2006, following forty-five minutes of struggle and stress, my daughter Jamie, our friend Lori and I finally succeeded in getting a feisty little gray Arabian gelding loaded into a horse trailer. We were taking him to Jamie’s place. She hoped to train him and, eventually, show him. After spending his first four years in the pasture just being a horse, it was time to give Gray Rebel Piper – affectionately known as “Bert” – a job.

I always thought that once you get the butt bar up and latched, the work is done and you can breath a sigh of relief – the humans have won again. But to Bert, we were just a little group of absurdly optimistic bipeds and this thing was far from over.

He squealed. He stomped. The trailer rocked back and forth. The racket was awful.

Then something happened that I’ve never seen before or since: Bert slipped under the butt bar and stumbled backward down the ramp to freedom.

I was certain that a big, traumatic chase was imminent. However, instead of bolting, Bert simply trotted in a little semi-circle and sauntered up to Jamie as if to say: “That was kinda fun – what else do you want to do tonight?”

One thing we weren’t going to do that night was get Bert back in the trailer. It took a new day and the presence of his owner, Ron, to finally convince the little Arab that getting – and staying – in the trailer was the right thing to do.

Bert was born June 12, 2002. As he grew, Ron played with him in the pasture and taught him how to behave around people: no biting, no kicking, humans are a good thing. But Ron never taught Bert that carrying people around was proper work for a horse.

Jamie liked Bert. She found him playful, sweet and more than a little spirited. He loved to run and would take off at a gallop by himself without warning or apparent reason. But like with the loading incident, he always reported back.

Ron supported a small herd of horses at his place. As is customary with horses everywhere, they tended to gather at the fence line whenever a human appeared. Some enjoyed staying for a little social time once the treats were gone. Bert was always among those who stayed.

It was during one of these meetings that Jamie, who had been perched on the top rail of the fence, made a spontaneous decision to mount Bert. The horse was close enough to the fence for Jamie to simply ease one leg over and slide onto his back in one smooth motion. Just like that, Bert had a rider.

Ron was duly alarmed. No way was the two-year old ready for this. No way was Ron ready for this:

“Are you crazy?” It was more of an accusation than a question.

But Bert didn’t seem to have a problem with it. He stood next to the fence as calm as before, as if he was unaware that anything significant had changed. It wouldn’t be the last time Bert surprised his doubters.

After Jamie brought Bert home, she began to discover little quirks in his personality. He hated and feared water. He did not submit gracefully to being bathed and during the rinse cycle he would sink to his knees, even while on the crossties. Applying fly spray was similarly traumatic. He favorite avoidance behavior was rolling in the dirt. You can’t put a halter on horse who is rolling in the dirt. He despised the indoor arena, resisting any attempt to coax him into to this mysterious temple of doom.

While Bert allowed Jamie to mount him without much fuss, he was still unpredictable, reserving the right to bolt whenever the mood struck him. Whether Jamie was on him or not.

“He would take off without warning and then twist himself into a “U” shape while going flat out.”

Jamie continued to work with Bert, making a special effort to introduce him to new environments. This included his first visit to a horseshow. It was just an exploratory outing to get him accustomed to the show atmosphere.

“I was worried he might freak out, so we took special precautions. Hiliary and I brought multiple lunge lines and ropes and even tranquilizers.”

They didn’t have to use any of it. When they unloaded Bert at the show grounds, he reacted the same he did when Jamie sat on him for the first time, he simply stood there, waiting for whatever the Universe offered next.

He was calm enough that they thought they could risk entering him in halter. He fell asleep in the class. Hiliary suggested they try him in walk/trot. Jamie took him in the class and they got a third. She could not believe this was the same horse that enjoyed bending himself into a “U” at full speed.

As Jamie was to discover over the next two years, Bert was full of all kind of surprises. He loved small animals; especially Jamie’s dogs Leila and Andi. It was not unusual for Jamie to find Bert and one of the dogs curled up together asleep in his stall. He was a babysitter with kids. They could brush him for hours or climb all over him. His appetite for human interaction seemed insatiable.

In 2008, Jamie moved to Florida. She had Bert trailered down several months later after spending some time back at Ron’s. The first two years in the new environment went well, but by his third summer in Florida, Jamie began to notice a change in Bert. “There was just something off about him.”

Jamie and Bert in Florida

Jamie and Bert in Florida

Bert started losing weight. Then he suffered from two severe bouts of colic. He became lethargic. Jamie had multiple test performed, but no one could figure out what was going on.

Over the next few months, Jamie tried everything she could think of to help Bert. She changed his diet, altered his routine and tried different medications. She even moved him to a different barn. But nothing seemed to help. Finally, a vet suggested that Bert might have developed an allergy to a local mold.

Jamie decided that it would be worth trying to move Bert back to Michigan to see if that would help. He would stay at Lori’s. At least for a while.

Within weeks of returning to Michigan, Bert started putting on weight. After six months, he started acting like the old Bert.

Jamie got the opportunity to see her buddy several times while he was at Lori’s. It became a Must Stop on her semi-annual visits back to Michigan.

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While she missed Bert, seeing for herself how well he had recovered left little doubt in her mind that bringing him back to Michigan was the right thing to do. He wouldn’t be returning to Florida with her.

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At his new home, Bert had several horses to play with and Lori to keep him company. But soon after he recovered, he started misbehaving. He broke down fences, bullied the other horses and seemed restless and anxious. It was clear to everyone that Bert needed some kind of job to keep him occupied and out of trouble.

What Bert really needed was a horse-crazy kid.

To be continued…

 

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Second Careers

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Back in Lesson #99, Pete caught me mounting Dromie from her right side. Mounting is properly done from the horse’s left side.

“So, Pete, what you’re saying is that left is right and right is wrong … right?”

Oh, the feeble foundations of pun-based irony. But it was fun to say.

Pete didn’t miss a beat, “Well, yeah. Do you know how that got started?”

He obviously saw this as an opportunity to share an equestrian related historical tidbit. So many equestrian related historical tidbits have to do with military riding. Remember, Xenophon, the gentleman who came up with classic dressage, was an army guy. I took a shot:

“Something to do with cavalry, I’m guessing?”

“Yes, you’re right. Back when the cavalry used swords, riders normally hung them on their left sides, since most mounted troops where right handed. You don’t want to try getting on a horse with your sword in the wrong place.”

This made immediate sense to me. Razor sharp objects dangling in that region present a clear and unpleasant danger. This equestrian stuff is tricky enough as it is without that kind of thing going on.

“At least that’s what they say, it could be a lot of different reasons,” added Pete, making room for the miscellaneous that makes up the majority of human experience.

In any case, mounting from the left side of the horse is a strong tradition in the equestrian world. And it’s good to be aware of this, because while horses should be trained to accept riders mounting from either side, you just never know. And not knowing could get you kicked or worse.

You can never assume what a horse knows and what he doesn’t. Because it’s not unusual for horses to go through several careers and have multiple handlers in a lifetime.

Dromie herself is a good example of that. I know her as sweet and passive, a semi-retired babysitter. But according Mike Strauss, Dromie’s trainer from age 8 – he still refers to her as “my girl” – until she was retired to Kim and Pete, she was a “true alpha” in her early years:

“Put her in a field of horses and she quickly had them all in line!”

And Dromie was an accomplished alpha. “In 2005 she carried the Topaz Vaulting team to being the National Trot Champions and has often been named best trot horse in the show,” Mike tells us.

And like Karin’s horses, Dromie has always known how to take care of people. Mike shared this story:

“Before we got her she was owned by a breeder here in Virginia and had two foals of her own. One day some of the girls at that farm went out riding and one of them threw a saddle on Dromie and they had a great ride. On returning they were met by the breeder who was standing at the fence laughing. What was so funny? Well, he said, you should have asked about Andromeda (Dromie), she’s never had a saddle or been ridden before!”

Yes, a horse can experience all kinds of career changes in the course of a lifetime. Sometimes it has to with training or with changes in the horse’s health. But often as not, it has something to with changes that we go through: school, work, marriage, family or even changes in our health. And sometimes horses that are accustomed to a lot of human interaction go through periods where they don’t get much attention at all.

Meanwhile, there is always some horse crazy kid out there – the kind that has it really, really bad – wishing, longing, obsessing for a horse of her own. In a storybook universe, the two would inevitably connect, simply because that’s the way it ought to be. In ours, the connection is made because someone – a parent, a mentor, a friend, sometimes a entire little network of people – made it happen.

In the next two posts, I’m going share a little story of how one such connection was made.

 

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Ten Brave Mammals

Despite reporting in my previous post that we went on the “last trail ride of the summer” on Lesson #99, Lesson #100 consisted primarily of a trail ride. And according to my calendar, it is still summer. The school kids may disagree, but too bad for them. They need to be educated.

It was a magnificent ride. Our expedition took us out into the mysterious, wild region known in Legacy Stables parlance as “Narnia.” It was a perfect day – a perfect summer’s day – for a trail ride. Low to mid 70’s, sunny.

But it was not all fun & games! Flies – big, mean flies – were an issue in Lesson #99 and we assumed they were still out there, like the VC in the bush, waiting…

… for us…

Karin applied the appropriate counter-measures for the patrol.

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As promised, Karin put me on a horse other than Dromie. I got Windy. I wasn’t upset; Windy is a great trail horse.

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We assembled in the arena. Then, we exited the building in single file like ships of the line leaving port. Windy and I were fourth out of five. Ten brave mammals going in harm’s way.

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After snaking our way through the Kiddie Trail …

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… Karin halted the group before we entered the woods for these final instructions: “If you see a horsefly: kill him. If you see a deerfly: kill him. If you see a mosquito: kill him.”

riders halted

I was afraid to ask her what we should do if we see a person.

In the arena, the horse & rider is a team. Out here, we are a weapons system.

Behind me, on Charley, was Karin’s new helper, Grace. As we made our way through the depths of the Enchanted Forrest to the borders of Narnia, I told Grace about Karin’s internationally famous “El Towel: the Killing Machine,” a highly effective anti-fly device. Given the circumstances, I thought Karin should have armed each of us with a Killer Towel before we left. Next time, I’m bringing my own.

As it turned out, I didn’t see a single fly. And I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. I’m sure our vermin opponent was out there, but apparently they didn’t want to risk messing with the likes of us. Towels or no towels.

trail ride

The ride was uneventful (i.e., perfect) except for Windy and I having to trot every once in a while to close the gap with the faster gaited horses.

 

 

 

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The Beautiful Queen of Horses

Our daughter, Hiliary, and son-in-law, Andy, gave Jenny and me t-shirts. Jenny got a “soft kitty” (a’ la The Big Bang Theory) and I got a cowboy on a brontosaurus:

man in t-shirt

Kim (S version) asked if I wore the shirt for Lesson #99 in anticipation of riding Dromie. Actually, I wore the shirt in anticipation of someone saying: “Hey, I like your shirt.” But Kim was half right, I did plan on riding Dromie. Shirt or no shirt.

Then again, perhaps there was some kind of collective subconscious process going on here that put Dromie and a brontosaurus on the same page. Later in the day, Karin emailed me this self portrait of one her young riders on Dromie:

drawing of rider and horse

Could this be a coincidence? Or a Jungian archetype, perhaps?

In any case, as anyone who has ever seen Dromie in person will tell you, she is one beautiful horse. No qualifiers regarding her age are necessary. Just a straight up pretty horse. So, if she is indeed a dinosaur she is a Gorgeousequus Rex (Bob Latin for “Beautiful Queen of Horses”).

Meanwhile, it must have been organization day at the barn. Half the contents of the tack room was spilled out into the general barn area, being inventoried and sorted. And new equipment arrived. It was like Christmas morning for a few minutes.

unpacking equipment

Pete unpacked this multiple-use item:

man with hat

I think this can also be used as a feeder of some kind.

Karin got a traffic sign written in equestrian language:

whoa sign

As for Lesson #99, all went well…

Well, not at first. As I approached Dromie in the pasture with halter in hand, she disappeared into the lean-to.

horse in lean-to

I thought perhaps she remembered our difficulty with the bridle in Lesson #98. I spoke to her for a minute or two, apologizing for the bridle thing, petting her and doing my best to explain the shirt. But I soon realized what the real problem was:

tractor

Dromie doesn’t like tractors.

Kim offered to coax Dromie from the lean-to and I thought that was an excellent idea. They have a good history together.

kim and dromie

After mounting Dromie from the wrong side (as noted by Pete), we moseyed around the arena as Gerry and Habakuk ran circles around us. Karin said that I was getting “too comfortable” on Dromie and that next week I’d be riding a different horse. Dromie is more or less a baby sitter and Karin is under the impression that my equestrian career would be better served with a tutor rather than a nanny. Even if the nanny is the Beautiful Queen of Horses.

We were joined by Liz on Rambo (or on Romeo? – I don’t know, it was one of the “R” horses) and proceeded to the trail for a bittersweet end of summer ride while being mindful of the horseflies that were rumored to be in the area.

DSC06447

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