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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Simple Physics and Team Shirts

I arrived at vaulting practice #6 ten minutes early so that I could get in some stretching exercises before the barrel and horse stretched me in their own, less than gentle fashion. I really don’t do enough of this.

During the brief interlude between the end of the kids’ class and the beginning of Team YAH’s practice, Karin’s newest pair of German vaulting interns, Lisa and Debo, took turns performing some impressive moves on Habakuk. They’re really good. Really, really good.

Good enough to interrupt the stretching that I don’t do enough of.

Deirdre was concerned: “We shouldn’t be watching this.”

She was obviously worried about the impact on our team morale.

I was also concerned about our morale: “No… we shouldn’t let them watch us.”

Actually, the girls were very nice and taught us a unique barrel move. This involved a kind of headfirst dive off the front of the barrel whilst holding you’re body in a straight line. The barrel acted as fulcrum with your body as the lever. The girls’ job was to stop your forward momentum and then fling you skyward so that you could get some good leg elevation. It was just a matter of simple physics.

And trust.

Lots and lots of trust.

“We do all the work,” they assured us.

I trusted the girls, but I didn’t want any miscommunication to spoil all the fun. So just before I put my life in their hands, I put my head on a swivel, asking each of them in rapid succession – three or four times – if they were ready. I know what the ground feels like in these situations and I didn’t want to surprise anyone with any sudden moves.

I think they could have propelled me higher had they not been laughing. Plus, I think my initial headfirst swing was supposed to bring my entire body closer to a 45-degree angle (or better) than the 15 degrees I was managing. By the fourth attempt, I did feel enough elevation in my legs to know that, if you believe in simple physics and trust German girls enough, this could be big fun.

Penny and Deirdre did really well with it.

DSC06033

barrel exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After offering each of us a turn, Lisa and Debo decided to go shopping at the mall. That’s what you do in the U.S.A. when you’re all done messing with the natives.

The next highlight of the practice was the arrival of our team shirts. There was great excitement as Charity opened the box and the colors got sorted.

Team YAH t-shirts

Then we each took a couple of turns on Habakuk.

But for the most part, the rest of the practice consisted of just us wearing our new shirts.

team YAH shirts

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The Respect of a Palomino

For Lesson #96, Charity filled in for Karin who was busy with horse camp kids. As usual, Gerry rode Habakuk. I’m really impressed with how much progress the Professor and the Moustache King have made together since Gerry started with Karin. And the bond is easy to see.

man on horse

I got my old friend, Goldie. The Palomino wasn’t particularly busy at the time and she stayed Not Busy for pretty much my entire lesson. Goldie is actually Leoni’s horse and according to my sources, Leoni says that the key to Goldie is to earn her respect or she just won’t respond like you think she should. I earned about half-a-trot around the arena’s worth.

With the camp kids taking up all the good barn spots for grooming and tacking up, Gerry and I had to try to brush and saddle the horses outside while they grazed.

“Those horses aren’t going anywhere with all this lush grass around,” one confident observer noted.

horse eating grass

Well, “not going anywhere” is relative. While Habakuk and Goldie showed no intention of packing up and leaving the property, they didn’t exactly stand still either. The grass is always greener four inches away.

“It’s like saddling a moving target,” Gerry observed.

I have this same problem when I try to get my granddaughter Aubrey dressed. She just knows that there has to be more interesting things for a person to do than fussing with something so obviously unnecessary as clothes.

But no problem, Charity was right there assisting Gerry as needed and assisting me just about every step of the way. Legacy’s tack room has a built-in special feature that enables it to spontaneously manufacture – out of plain thin air – rare saddle and girth types that fit together in an endless variety of ways. Each combination of saddle-girth-stirrups creates a unique Tack Puzzle that must be solved before you can ride the horse. If given enough time, I can eventually solve these brainteasers by myself, but by then everyone has gone off to bed.

stirrup puzzle

Charity is good teacher. You can tell she has learned some things by watching Karin, but I think her instincts are really good too. She knew how difficult it was for me to get Goldie going, but she never really pressured me or made me feel more uncomfortable than I already was. Her corrections were very specific in the “heels down,” “toes in,” “don’t lean forward” sort of way. She also taught us the proper way to pass in the arena. Just a few simple rules, but good to know.

riding instructor

Toward the end of the lesson, Charity brought out Karin’s Magic Wand. I couldn’t really see what she was doing with it, but the device had a multiplier effect on Goldie’s respect for me and we got her going for just a bit at the end. Karin always says to end the lesson on a positive note. Even if it takes a little magic.

Karin's Magic Wand

 

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Pain Remedies and Sponsor Opportunities

Following the mill drill of YAH vaulters Practice #5, it was time for the On-the-Horse portion of the program. Not everyone participated. Several members of Team YAH (including me) were suffering from some form of injury or discomfort. To protect the innocent (me), I won’t divulge any details regarding who or what body parts were in question.

The litany of maladies inspired this bit of brilliance from Pete: “You guys should get Advil to sponsor the team.” And that opened the floodgates:

“Or Motrin!”

“What about Bayer?”

“Or Icy-Hot!”

“Blue-Emu works better.”

“Ginger or Kelp work great for inflammation.”

“I like Vicodin.”

“We all like Vicodin.”

“Ever hear of Penetrex?”

That’s one thing about an adult vaulting team: we know our pain remedies.

I like the idea of sponsors. We’re talking about getting team t-shirts anyway, so maybe we could get them with our team logo on the front and our favorite medications on the back.

It would be great to be in one of those drug commercials where they show active AARP types doing things like climbing rocks and shooting baskets to upbeat background music while the narrator describes the twenty different ways the drug will kill you.

I can just see it: a Team YAH member on Avenir as he breaks into a smooth canter, the rider gracefully matching the horse’s rhythm and smiling confidently into the camera:

“I may suffer from chronic diarrhea and liver disease, but because I take Predcelenix I can do a helluva reverse scissor kick!”

Personally, I prefer dual-purpose remedies:

The cold reduces swelling. You may need more than one of these.

The cold reduces swelling. You may need more than one of these.

I pick Founders, a local maker of fine pain remedies, as my preferred sponsor.

After those who were still able took turns on the horse, work time gave way to chatting time. The highlight was Kim’s story of the vaulting competition where Pete almost got arrested.

Pete defends himself in YAH court.

Pete defends himself in YAH court.

Apparently, Pete’s modus operandi for competitions in which he was to serve as both a lunger and a rider (not simultaneously) was to dress in layers so that he could quickly peel off one layer Clark Kent like and go from one role to the next without leaving the arena.

Pete is a very focused competitor and tends to go into that mental zone where good athletes go just prior to performing. One the one hand, this is a good thing because it helps enhance performance. On the other hand, it also means you can loose track of your immediate environment. In this case, Pete was not adequately aware of what layer of clothes he was currently on.

Kim saw it from the other end of the busy arena: Pete had gotten way too far into the process of removing the final barrier between himself and an arrest record. You would have thought he would have felt the draft.

Kim reacted instinctively: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!…”

This saved the day. That’s because when a person yells like that, people naturally look toward the person yelling and not what they’re yelling at. It also brought Pete back to his senses and bought him the time to make the proper adjustment.

In retrospect, Kim should have let Pete go on with it. It would surely have opened the door for some unique sponsor opportunities.

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Learning to Love The Mill

On Team YAH’s fifth official vaulting practice, Karin introduced a little structure.

“We are a team, so we’re going to warm up and stretch as a team. Everyone is going to get a turn to lead.”

This week, Karin asked Artist Liz to pick the warm up exercises and Nurse Penny to lead us in stretching. So our team warm up/stretching session was a nice blend of the creative and the healthy. I can’t wait until the lawyer and the smart-ass writer take their turns leading the group in the warm up/stretching session. I see a glorious and twisted version of Simon Says in our future! And perhaps a brief or two filed as a result.

Karin explained that the best way to conduct drills for the compulsory routine is to focus on one move and repeat it in a variety of different ways.

“For example, if you’re going to practice standing, do it as you would normally several times and then do it with your eyes closed or singing a song or eating a cookie.”

A cookie? A song? I didn’t know you could eat during a routine. This opens the door for a world of possibilities for my free-style barrel routine. I feel inspired.

Karin said that I could pick what move the team would work on for this practice. I picked The Mill, because I don’t like doing it and I suck at it. My legs rebel at the thought of lifting them over objects from a sitting position while on moving platform, thus leaving my rear end with too much responsibility in maintaining good balance. Or any balance.

Even with visibly excessive cheating, I end up slamming around on the surcingle with a clearly audible “Uuuuffff” – which is actually a thinly veiled swear word.

Nonetheless, I need to get these body parts working together as team.

I need to learn to love The Mill.

Karin demonstrated different drills we could do to practice The Mill, including doing the same leg over and over again (pun intended), doing The Mill on the barrel with a bucket, doing The Mill on the matt, doing The Mill on the matt with a ball…

I’m not sure what she said after that, because my mind went into the Green Eggs & Ham mode.

Green eggs and ham

In particular, the part following the epiphany of the main protagonist:

Say!

I like green eggs and ham!

I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!

And I would eat them in a boat!

And I would eat them with a goat…

And I will eat them in the rain.

And in the dark. And on a train.

And in a car. And in a tree.

They are so good so good you see!

 

And the reformed Mill Hater’s version:

Hey!

I like The Mill and Slam!

I do!! I like it, Karin-I-Am!

And I would do it on a matt!

And I would do it when I’m flat!

And I will do it with a ball!

And on the barrel. Without a fall!

I’ll have that cookie now! And no surgery!

I’ll be so good so good you’ll see!

 

So with the help of my favorite doctor of all time, I’ll get better at The Mill and learn to love it still. I will I will.

There was much more to Practice #5. So much more. Things that have to do with pain medication and an unfortunate clothing incident. But I tell you about those next time.

knelling on walking horse

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The Rainbow at Legacy Stables

Just a short post to let readers who are familiar with the story behind Louis’ Rainbow that project is complete. Here is a link for those of you who haven’t heard the story: Louis’ Rainbow.

Before:

rampNow: 

IMG_8379

Karin says the assortment of colors symbolize all the different people it took to make the dream behind Legacy Stables become a reality. The John Deere green and yellow are Louis’ colors.

In our first competition, the Young at Heart Vaulters honored Louis’ memory by wearing the rainbow colors. Note the color of the pillars that bracket the team in this photo that Charity took of us marching in for our barrel routine:

Team YAH!

The view from the road:

DSC05573

And the view from Mt. Legacy:

cross and an arena

I think they’re beautiful.

arena with colorful pilliars

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Enter Team YAH!

Team YAH!

When Karin told the team that we would be performing at A Vaulting Connection Fest at the end of May, I assumed it would just be a demo sort of thing. You know, a kind of “see what all the cute old people are doing?” ….

Uh…

Actually… make that “see what all the cute people and the one old guy are doing?”

Sorry, Pete. It’s a performer’s prerogative to pick on the coach.

But no, this was an actual competition in front of a real judge – who came all the way from Southern California – who gave real scores, that were posted in front of real people and then put somewhere on the Internet too, I think.

Well at least on one place on the Internet:

vaulting scores

I got both first and last place in the Men’s Division. Like usual.

Just from being around Karin’s Horse Connection for three years (as of June 18th, I believe) I knew that they divided these vaulting meets into “Recognized” and “Unrecognized” categories. I’m not sure which we were. Although, I think maybe they could create a third category for me: “Unrecognizable”.

My scores for the Half-Mill and Half-Flag were so low that even Scorekeeper Kevin had a hard time seeing them:

scorekeepers

I was actually happy about my Basic Seat and Kneel scores. And all of it was just huge fun.

This was after the proceeding week in which my dread grew as the time drew near and I began to hear my coach and teammates utter words like “judge”, “scores”, “disqualification,” “you’re vaulting in those? You have to wear stretchy pants!” and the most devastating words of all: “you can’t wear your Tiger’s hat.”

“My Lions’ hat, then?”

“No.”

“How about my Red Wings hat?”

“No!”

“My Secretariat hat?”

“Well…um… … … NO!

Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! We’re just supposed to have fun, right?

Oh, but we did have fun.

The biggest personal shock of the day for me happened right after Pete launched me onto Avenir: instead of being nervous, I found myself absolutely loving it. Every frickin’ second of it. When Pete said it was time to get off the horse, I hesitated, almost telling him to mind his own business. I wasn’t ready for it to end.

I finally got a grasp on the sequence of moves and I just focused on showing the judge that  I knew what I was suppose to do, which is not normal for me. And then I just tried to do each the best I could.

As if I needed cues to remember the sequence – which is usually the case – that little voice inside my head became clearly audible. In fact, I could actually see The Little Voice Inside My Head. It looked like this:

The Little Voice Inside My Head

The Little Voice Inside My Head

My teammates and coach were amazing. They took great care of me every step of the way. Literally.

For the team routine on the barrel, we marched in using our little “eins, zwei, drei, I’m stook” routine that Karin taught us. We were blessed with having a second go at it, because the first time we went before the bell and you can’t go before the bell. I wanted to plead Geriatric Hearing on our behalf. Also, I didn’t know there was a bell. But the judge was strict: you people go back and do it again. I thought California Girls were supposed to be little more laid back than that. I think she just wanted to confirm that she actually saw what she thought she saw. Anyway, it worked out great because we were much better the second time.

Our freestyle barrel routine went really nice, especially considering we only practiced it twice. During the barrel routine, I had the opportunity to exhibit my brute animal strength by launching Penny onto the barrel with just one arm (behind my back!)

Brute animal strength.

Brute animal strength.

Here, Penny and Karin demonstrate good lines. I think that’s the way you say it.

vaulters on a barrel

And here, Liz, Kim and Michelle perform our Grand Finale’ Move, which finished with a “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” pose. Their backs were to the crowd so I’m not sure how many people saw what they were doing. But it’s good advice anyway. 

three on a barrel

We’re talking about getting some team shirts. I think we should get our names on the back of them like in football.

There is a video of us doing the barrel which I posted on my Bob the Equestrian Facebook page, if you would like to check us out. We were magnificent.

There were many highlights of the day. It was fun to watch kids do their stuff. They never cease to amaze me. Especially now. We have an album of the day on Karin’s Horse Connection Facebook page, if anyone would like to check that out as well. Good stuff!

And there were some moments during the adaptive vaulting where I had to put my camera down and just watch. It’s just keeps getting better every time I watch it. It all does.

The biggest highlight of the day for me was when Jenny and Hiliary showed up with granddaughter Aubrey.

Grandpa and Aubrey

She got some barrel time too.

toddler on a barrel

At one point she stood up on the barrel and without being coached, put her arms out to her sides. Just like the big girls she had been watching. That was so cool to see.

And now she thinks she’s a little expert or something. “Did you see Grandpa’s Half-Mill?”

laughing toddler on barrel

She got in the line up with us.

Aubrey in the line up

Helped us look for whatever we were looking for here:

bowing

It was just a great day. And the judge turned out to be a very cool California Girl after all. When it was all over, she promised to give me another blue ribbon next time if I gave her the beer I was dangling in front her. At least that’s what I thought she said. It was warm day.

I can’t wait to do it all again.

following grandpa

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Participatory Observation

I’m standing on a vaulting barrel, wondering how the hell I got here. Not how I got up on the barrel, that’s another story. I’m just trying to remember how I got into this whole thing in the first place. I like things like baseball and Star Trek and Napoleon and good beer. What in all of that could possibly lead to standing up on a fake horse with no head and no tail?

But really – I know everything I need to know about baseball, Star Trek, Napoleon and good beer. On the other hand, horses and their people still hold big mysteries for me and are worthy of study.

It occurs to me that what I’ve been doing since I began lessons with Karin three years ago is what social scientists call “participant observation,” a methodology used in cultural anthropology. Simply put, you join in and do as the natives do. I’m here (in reverse order of importance) to learn and participate, have fun, and not get killed.

In any case, my teammate Deirdre says it’s my fault that Karin started the adult vaulting team.

“This whole thing started because you wanted to stand up on a moving horse.”

Yes, the Stand Up Project. Without a doubt, that was My First Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date. My Next Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date was surviving the fall that followed My First Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date.

“I think it’s time for you to stand up on a moving horse too, Deirdre.” I think it’s good to challenge your teammates like this.

But Deirdre tables the notion: “No, I think I’ll save that for next year.”

The good news is that us adult vaulters don’t have to stand up if we don’t want to. According to Kim, who seems to have a handle on these things, we have the option of performing at “Level D” or something like that. At this level, the compulsories are modified to make everything a little easier.

Instead up Standing Up, we do this kind of kneel:

Kim knells on Habakuk at the walk.

Kim kneels on Habakuk at the walk.

In Basic Seat, we’re allowed to keep our hands to our sides, thusly:

Penny demonstrates modified basic seat.

Penny demonstrates modified basic seat.

Instead of a Flag, we do a Half-Flag:

Deirdre executes the half-flag.

Deirdre executes the half-flag. Both hands remain on the surcingle.

I’m not sure if my favorite move, the Flop & Click, has been modified. I think how I do it appears modified anyway:

flop and click

We do a Half Mill instead of a Full Mill, thus saving ourselves a half a trip around the horse. You would be surprised at how those can add up.

half mill

Dismount is the same as usual or by just falling off before you’re done. It’s good to have options.

Karin explored with us the creative possibilities of the team free style barrel routine, which is truly free:

Michelle holds the triple together.

Michelle holds the triple together.

“You can make up anything you want!” she assured us.

double on a barrel

I wanted to remind her that “planning” and “execution” are two different things.

free style out of control

I’ve always assumed that the theoretical number of things that one could do on a barrel is finite.

two on a barrel

But I’m beginning to change my mind about that.

dog on barrel

And there are a bunch of little things Pete and Karin are teaching us that really help. For example, Pete showed us the proper way to help each other mount.

assisting a barrel mount

And things like where to position your “down” leg when doing the Flag – or Half Flag – for better stability. Or the proper way to sit back down on the horse so that you don’t slam down on his back.

The biggest thing we’re learning is a deeper appreciation for vaulting. You don’t have to know anything about vaulting to enjoy watching it. It’s nice. It’s impressive. But once you start doing it yourself, you become aware of things that you didn’t see before. You realize that the grace and apparent ease of those who can do it well is actually an amalgam of many little details being done correctly and simultaneously and you shake your head at the sheer physical exertion required by even the most basic moves. And then … my gosh … and then to perform all of this with poise and presence. At D Level, we just try to keep our smile from looking like a grimace.

Like any good participatory observer.

free style on barrel

 

 

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Team YAH!

The first thing you learn about being on an adult vaulting team is that “vaulting team” is two words and they are equally important. You don’t just plop yourself on the horse and flop around up there while everyone else stands around and watches. Before you can plop and flop, there are team things you have to do.

First, the team grooms the horse together, while one person takes pictures.

grooming a horse

Then, you engage in team building using a ball, while one person takes pictures.

large ball

Then, you stand in line by order of height and receive instructions, while one person takes pictures.

instructions

Then, something bad happens. The tallest person has to put his camera away and lead the group around single file, while the group attempts to match his walking cadence, which presumably at some point graduates to a skipping sort of rhythm.

When the kids do it, it looks really nice

vaulters skipping

We didn’t advance to Skipping Level because I’m the tallest person on the team and my walking gait is a peculiar blend of stiffness and chaos, which others find difficult to follow.

Since I was in front, I couldn’t see what was going on behind me, but from what I was hearing, it was clear that we were on the brink of a seven-adult pile up.

Just in time, Karin called a halt to our dysfunctional conga line:

“Wait, wait, wait…WAIT,” she said.

Then she turned us all around so we were all standing side by side in the same direction. I liked this, because in this orientation, no single person (me) could be held at fault.

Karin proceeded to demonstrate a hopscotch sort of thing which in the past she used on her own children to trick them into thinking they weren’t tired toward the end of a long hike in the woods. Essentially, you pause intermittently in order to place your right foot in various positions: back, front, side. That sort of thing. I’m guessing you repeat with the left if you haven’t already gotten to end of the arena. At each step, you announce what you’re doing in German and there’s a fun little kick at the end.

The routine was kind of like a combination of the Hokey-Pokey and the opening of Lavern & Shirley. Remember?

Laverne and Shirley

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…Schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated…”

I’m assuming that we have to do this in some sort of synchronized fashion as we enter the ring and present our team to the judges.

We need to practice.

Karin said we could do it in English, if that would be easier.

The offer was met with a chorus of “Nein!” The consensus was that the routine would lose its charm in English.

We spent the rest of the time on the barrel and taking turns on Kim and Pete’s sweetly natured horse, Andromeda.

On Andromeda

After watching each other, someone rightly suggested that we might need longer practices.

There was some discussion regarding the team name. “Older Than Dirt Vaulters” was an early favorite. But the next day, more interesting alternatives were being presented, including “Geriatric Acrobatics” (thank you, Michelle), “The Mummies Return” (thank you, Wendelin Schmidt) and my personal favorite, “Arthritic Flyers” (thank you again, Michelle).

In the end (at this writing) we chose Charity’s “Young at Heart Vaulters.” People seemed to like this one because of the acronym “YAH!”

So minus Michelle and Karin, who at the time of the group selfie were respectively being held hostage by a two-year old and a vet, here is Team YAH:

Clockwise from 6 o'clock: Charity, Andromeda's nose, Deirdre, Liz, the rest of Andromeda's head, Kim, Penny and Bob.

Clockwise from 6 o’clock: Charity, Andromeda’s nose, Deirdre, Liz, the rest of Andromeda’s head, Kim, Penny and Bob.

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