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.

horse in stall

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.

two girls on a horse

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.

fly spray

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

Bob on horse

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.

horses in arean

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:

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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.

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It’s All About Context

Lesson #98 began with Karin asking me, “Should you put your own saddle on today?”

With the proficiency of an Official Rosetta Stone graduate, I quickly translated this bit of Karinese into “You are putting your own saddle on today.”

Half of language comprehension comes from context and I provided plenty of context with my last post, which Karin had apparently read.

Well, of course, I knew I’d be my own today. I had already cased the joint and there was no one around except for Liz, who was busy with the horse camp kids.

So no Pete.

And no Kim (S version).

And no Kathy.

And no Charity.

Cruel Karin had hidden all the help.

The saddle was a piece of cake. Except that I didn’t leave enough space between the pad and Dromie’s withers. I had to re-do the whole thing. Cruel Karin.

Then Karin handed me the bridle and walked away…

It was in two pieces! And I had to figure out how the pieces went together! This was terrible! Cruel, cruel Karin.

Gerry kindly (I think) offered to take pictures of me with the “two bits.” In this particular case, the context of the situation actually added to the confusion. man with bridle “She gave me two bits?” I looked at the jumble of leather and buckles in my hands and shook my head at the treachery. Then I remembered that “bits” is British talk for “pieces.” I treated it like a puzzle. Through a process of trail & error, deductive reasoning and casual mumble-cursing , I managed to figure out how the “two bits” (editorial note: this is also slang for a quarter of an American dollar) went together.

When one of the horse camp kids saw that I was going to ride Dromie, she chirped, “You’re going to need a crop if you want her to move!”

I felt like W.C. Fields (“Go away kid, ya bother me…”). I was already on tack overload as it was and I didn’t want to mess around with yet another piece of equipment. Even an honest bit of equipment like a crop. In this context, it would be like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although, I doubt that actually ever happened.

After a little bit of work in the arena, Karin sent us out for a short trail ride. She handed me a crop as we left the arena. I just accepted it. It was easier than trying to explain everything. horse crop in the air We ventured into the Kiddie Trail area. Gerry referred to this as the “Buffet Trail,” due to Habakuk snatching bits of vegetation along the way. two men on horseback We crossed the Bridge of Terror… horse over a bridge Surmounted all obstacles along the way… horse over a log And made our way over to patrol Legacy Stables’ Enchanted Forrest… riding in the woods We came under assault by trees. I was glad I had my crop. dodging a tree on horseback And after a bit, we disappeared deep into the context of the forrest. into the forest

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A Preponderance of Evidence

On Lesson #97, Kim (S version) helped me a lot with Dromie. We went out to the paddock together to fetch the horse. And the three of us waited together until Karin got bored with her tractor shenanigans. And Kim picked out a proper bridle & bit for Dromie. It was consistent with the logical progression of events that she adjusted the bridle and maybe…maybe, maybe, maybe…. there was enough natural momentum here that she would go ahead put it on Dromie for me.

Karin put the kibosh on that quick enough.

“Stop helping him, Kim. Do you know what he does?” Karin nodded in my direction, “He steps back and pretends like he’s taking pictures while other people do his work for him.”

Kim laughed.

I was aghast.

Karin could not have been more wrong. I DO NOT pretend like I’m taking pictures while other people do my work. I actually really DO take pictures of other people doing my work.

And to support my case, I offer the following preponderance of evidence:

I rest my case.

 

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No Drama on Dromie

For Lesson #97, I had the honor of riding Andromeda for the first time. “Dromie” is Kim’s (S version) horse. She is a Shire cross and she’s about as calm and sweet as they come.

Kim says Dromie is around 25, which in Karin Years is 18. That conversion isn’t as complex as it seems.

Dromie hangs out in the geriatric pasture with her buddy Rami and away from the obnoxious younger horses. Well… I think that’s how they would put it.

The Elder Council

The Elder Council

My nickname for Dromie is Krystal. Because I’m sure I’ve called her that several times now. In fact, I didn’t realize she was here until I saw both Krystal and Dromie  standing next to each other in the same paddock. With all the science fiction I’ve read, you can imagine what that was like for me.

I know that the horsepeople who see both horses everyday will think my confusion isn’t warranted and can point to a long list of details that distinguish the two. It should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention.

Ah, there’s the rub. To me, they are both black horses, thus identical.

And in my defense:

Not Krystal

Not Krystal

Not Dromie.

Not Dromie.

Of course, all of this is neither nor there. The most important thing is that Dromie was a pleasure to ride. She moved when I wanted her to move and she stopped when I wanted her to stop. End of story.

Kim gave me a crop just in case, but I didn’t need it. I did enjoy carrying it around under my arm like a Prussian Hussar.

Kim said that the only thing Dromie is afraid of is a tractor. That’s good, because I need a horse that isn’t easily rattled.

I don’t mean to be paranoid, but I couldn’t help but notice that Karin just happened to be using the tractor when Kim told me I would be riding Dromie. I know Karin likes to give me a challenge sometimes.

Karin struggles to maintain control over the Green Monster.

But we out waited Karin and she eventually gave up and put the Green Monster away.

woman looking at tractor

Dromie had been hit by a tractor one time and Kim showed me the mark. There is a reason for everything.

old horse injury

She also said that the horse is missing some teeth in front, but gets along pretty well without them.

I was able to apply her bit & bridle after only two tries. She’s kinda tall. After, the second try, Kim informed me that Dromie was “missing an ear.” And I shook my head thinking, man this horse has been through too much!

But this time it was my fault. And temporary.

man bridling horse

Nothing for the poor thing to do but stand there and wait for me to figure out that a correction was both needed and easily done.

I really like this horse. I hope I can ride her again next time.

horseback riding

 

 

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Duncan and Me at the Barry County 4-H Fair

decorated horse stall

Karin’s 4-H club, Blaze With Grace, was at the Barry County Youth Fair last week. Fair is kind of like the Super Bowl event for local 4-H horse clubs and the kids look forward to it all year. Karin’s club has a pretty involved group of parents and some even stay on site during Fair.

I went out for the morning on Tuesday. For some reason, I thought showmanship was on Monday. Which is why I went on Tuesday. 

I wanted to see some Speed or at least watch some Ride in Circles classes. But just like the old days, when Jamie and Hiliary showed horses, showmanship found me. That’s all they did Tuesday morning.

I have to admit, it was kind of fun watching Karin’s kids with horses I knew and I got some good pics. But after they were done, I lost my rooting interest. And finally, all of my interest.

Don’t get me wrong. I would never say showmanship isn’t important. I don’t know why it’s important, but I would never say that it’s not. Because it actually upsets some people when you say that. So curious.

But, you can say that showmanship is dull. Everyone says it at one time or another. Usually that time is when it’s someone else’s kid’s turn. Sometimes even when it’s your kid’s turn. Sometimes even when it’s you.

One time it took so long, that Hiliary actually sat down on ground right in the ring. She just got tired of waiting for that glacier jockey of a judge to get done checking the rest of the class. No one else in our group dared shout for her to stand up for fear of alerting the judge. I didn’t shout either because I was too busy beaming with fatherly pride. Yep, that’s my girl! I kick myself now for missing that photo op.

I’m not suggesting there is no action in showmanship whatsoever. You just have to open to it. For example, on Tuesday I took this pic…

showmanship

…then, I used my Veteran Horse Show Dad experience to kill some time. It’s an art.

I took a walk to the restroom, then wandered around reading signs…

No base uncovered.

No base uncovered.

…checked the work schedule to make sure no one snuck my name on it like they used to…

fair work schedule

…caught Karin red-handed with a bulging bag right by where all the parents and kids keep their stuff (if anyone is missing anything, let me know) …

coach with a bag

 

… met a show dad who was also a Lions’ fan brother and was gracious enough to  show me his tattoo…

More dads and Lions fans at the shows these days. Both good to see.

More dads and Lions fans at the shows these days. Both good to see.

…checked the inside this can and confirmed that the sign was accurate…

No horses are in this can.

No horses are in this can.

….then returned to see how it was going in the ring:

showmanship class

Note that in the second photo, the young lady in front of the line turned her head 90 degrees. To appreciate showmanship, you just have to be open to the action it offers.

The hammer is about to fall.

The hammer is about to fall.

While we were all waiting, it started to rain.

Yes: it rained on showmanship at the Barry County 4-H Youth Fair. Most people headed for the first structure with a roof. They halted the class for brief period when the rain became a downpoor, then hustled everyone back when it slowed again.

horse show in rain

While some folks ventured back out into the light rain, others – including myself – clung to the narrow dry area between the out facing stalls and the wet ground. A mother standing next to me told her party of people: “We’ll just watch her from her…” Our view:

far away view of showmanship class

Following that class the same mother told her daughter, “You did a great job!” As if she actually knew.

As I leaned against one of the stalls, I started dozing off. Sleeping while leaning up against something  is an old Horse Dad trick. Then, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I wasn’t alone. Right behind me, a gelding named Duncan was taking in all the action right along with me and feeding off my energy:

horse in stall

Duncan is one of the most kindly looking horses I’ve ever met. I felt an instant bond.

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A Family Reunion

cake

On Saturday, Legacy Stables held its Second Anniversary Celebration. Last Monday, Charity, the main organizer, asked if I would emcee the event. I said “yes” even though it’s not the kind of torture I’m normally accustomed to. Let’s just say talking in front of people is not my forte and leave it at that.

man at a mircophone

But nothing could stop this from being an enormously fun day. I knew it would be. Since I was unable to perform my usual function of Photographer/Generic Guy Standing Around & Available for Small But Immediate Tasks, I handed over the picture taking duty to an enthusiastic Kim (M version), Leoni’s good friend.

I taught her all she knows.

I taught her all she knows.

I taught Kim everything I knew about taking photos. This took 15 seconds:

1. It’s on auto.

2. Hit this button.

3. Put your hat on backwards.

4. Have fun.

Apparently, that was all Kim needed. She got some great pictures. Later this week, we’ll put an album of the day on Karin’s Horse Connection Facebook page.

girls with small horse

Leoni

Like any other Karin-Inspired event, we had an outline of organization, but there was a lot of improvising and, of course, the inevitable glorious chaos that comes when you’re working with twenty some horses and a small mob of kids. Charity, along with Pete and Kim (S version) did an amazing job, keeping everything going and everyone safe.

The main organizer learns that she who holds the clipboard must also have all the answers.

The main organizer learns that she who holds the clipboard must also have all the answers.

We started by introducing all the horses of Legacy Stables one by one. Karin wanted to provide a little taste of everything Legacy Stables offers, so the program also included vaulting and riding demonstrations from the different age groups.

horseback ridersvaultersOne of the highlights of day was an appearance by special guest “Kid Motivator,” Jerry Jacoby and his wife Michaela. The couple are absolute pros with a humorous, warm touch that kids connect with so easily.

man talking to child

They joked, sang, told stories, played music and got the audience – especially the kids – to interact.

performer with kids

Jerry and Michaela are good friends with Karin. While the couple have performed in the United States for decades, in the last several years, they’ve taken their act to Germany as well. Since they do not speak German, Karin translates their act from English to German for them, and then Jerry memorizes it for the performance overseas. It was a special treat having them here for the celebration.

Jerry and Micheala Jacoby

At one point in the program, Karin had an inspiration. It was actually right after the horse parade, when all the horses were still together in one place. Karin saw this as an unique photo opportunity. So we stopped the program, everyone went outside and lined up. Sort of…

And someone got this shot:

horses and people

It looks like a family reunion photo to me. In a very real way, that’s what it is.

Of course, this is only a small part of the Legacy Stables family. We could easily fill up the pasture behind us and beyond. So cool.

Team YAH also made an appearance. This is how we entered the arena:

people in pink pants

I believe it Karin’s German vaulting interns, Lisa and Debo that came up the schtick. I forgot that we were all supposed to wear black pants to enhance the illusion. So when Karin asked me what is quickly becoming the ritual pre-performance question: “That’s what you’re vaulting in?”, I guess she had a point. I was thinking shorts and tennis shoes and my Lions hat was just about the right combination for emceeing and a barrel routine, but for some reason I must have developed a mental block about the Pink Leg routine. But it was blast anyway.

The barrel routine went really well for us. We’re getting really good.

barrel routine

Karin got an opportunity to perform at the end of the barrel routine with her son-in-law, Leo.

pair on barrel with spotter

Karin’s daughter Anika and Leo are visiting from Australia for a few weeks this summer.

A proud Wendel Schmidt with daughter Anika.

A proud Wendel Schmidt with daughter Anika.

To conclude the routine, Karin did a fancy flip off the barrel with an assist from Pete.

nice landing

But we need to do a little work on synchronizing the bow:

bowing not in sync

At the end of the formal program, there was cake.

The cake was put to good use.

The cake was put to good use.

And open vaulting broke out. Belle and Marissa led a gaggle of kids through some warm up exercises:

warm up exercises

While Lisa and Debo did this flip thing with the kids because it’s fun to do:

kid flipping

And, as expected, Karin was in the clouds.

Karin waves from "up there."

Karin waves from “up there.”

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