Jumping on the List

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

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

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Pete took Caspian and I was on Krystal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maree: Legacy Stables First Horse of the Month

Little Maree had big support in Legacy Stables first Horse of the Month contest.  I’ve always really liked her. Maree tolerates my bumbling and fumbling better than any of Karin’s other horses. So patient. So sweet.

However, there is so much more to this 15 hand, Chestnut Quarter horse than her sweet disposition. And after Karin told me more about her, I can understand why she garnered so many votes.

Karin bought Maree from a boarder in the spring of 2011. She was 9 years old at the time. Prior to that, Karin used Maree for lessons in exchange for board.

“I knew what she could do before I bought her,” Karin explains. “Maree is the perfect lesson horse. Her trot is so smooth it’s like riding on the couch.”

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I can personally attest to this.  When you ride Maree at a slow jog the feeling is almost regal.  All grace and no haste.

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Maree is the most versatile horse at Legacy Stables. She does English, Western and she jumps. She’s rock solid on the trails.

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And she’s fast. Originally trained as a barrel racer, these days she finds herself a favorite among the 4H’ers for speed classes.

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Because of Maree’s smooth gait and gentle nature, she makes a great horse for less experienced or timid riders.  Karin also uses her for people who have difficulty mounting.  And she’s perfect for first-time bareback riders.

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Karin especially likes using Maree for her therapeutic riding programs. Maree and Lillian have partnered up every week for over five years.

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In her dealings with the other horses at Legacy, Sweet Little Maree is no pushover. In fact, Karin says she is the alpha mare in her group. And she isn’t afraid to tangle with the big horses when the opportunity arises. One time when Karin was leading another group through Maree’s pasture, the spunky Quarter horse found herself in a kicking match with Habakuk.  Habakuk is a big, strong guy, but Maree showed no sign of backing down. Karin says they exchanged about ten kicks apiece before mutual exhaustion set in and ended the fight.

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While Maree has proved herself to be one tough cookie, Karin has never seen her display any kind of aggression toward humans.

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A Close Call

In July, Maree suffered a severe bout of colic. When the banamine didn’t work, the vet was called. He administered IV fluids and punctured the horse’s stomach to relieve the built up gas.  But Maree still didn’t show any signs of improvement.

After several hours of struggling to treat Maree, the vet informed Karin that he done all he could and that by the next morning she would have one of two options.  One, she could transport Maree to the Equine Hospital at Michigan State University in Lansing for surgery. This was a very expensive surgery and there was no guarantee of a successful recovery. He didn’t have to tell Karin what her second option would be.

Karin spent a long, sleepless night with Maree, dreading what she might have to do in the morning.  At this point she figured that the little horse had about a ten percent chance of survival.

Morning came and Maree’s bowels started to move. Not much at first, but then, enough. She steadily improved during the day and by the next evening she was back to normal. One tough little cookie indeed.

I think Maree is the perfect choice for Legacy Stables Horse of the Month for September.

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27.something to 28.something

On Lesson # 51, Karin introduced Paul and me to barrel racing without barrels. Instead of barrels, we used a set of these:

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Karin referred to these objects as “cavalettis”, the plural of cavaletti (that is, it rhymes with “the Getty’s” and not “lettuce”). The cavalettis were Christmas gifts from Karin to the barn. Only a horseperson would be brave enough to buy a Christmas present for an inanimate object.

As you all know, a cavaletti is used for jumping. However, with her magical and unlimited powers of Owner & Operator, Karin verbally transformed the cavalettis into what we needed for the day. For Lesson #51 the cavalettis would act as barrels. Paul and I would act as riders.

Karin set the cavaletti/barrels in a diamond shaped pattern. Ah, I’ve seen this before: home plate, first, second, third.

Then she described the pattern. You start at home, round first from the inside, then over to third, then round second on the backside before heading on the straightaway stretch back to home. Pretty much how we ran the bases in kindergarten.

Karin timed us. She made it clear that we were not competing and that we were just supposed to beat our own time.  I made it clear that such a notion is completely hopeless. I’m not the most competitive person in the world, but you just can’t help wanting to be beat the other’s person time when you hear it.

And I know something of Paul’s cycling history, which includes a 24 hour marathon competition in which he rode his bike over 300 miles. You don’t do something like without having at least a little natural competitive spirit.

The way I look at it is that we were just borrowing each other’s time. I figure once the time is announced out loud, it becomes part of the public domain and anyone can use it.

Vinnie and I went first. We did a 36.something.  Which probably matches the number of things we (actually, just me) did wrong.

Paul and Charley scored an impressive 32.something.

At this point Karin provided us with some instruction. Which was mostly good riding technique sorts of things: using mainly leg pressure for the turns, cueing the horse ahead of time, using body and voice together, not relying solely on the reins, getting a running head start and putting it all together for a big surge of energy on the home stretch. And it was okay to shout.

I listened and followed these instructions as best as I could and with Paul’s 32.something in mind, Vinnie and I did a 29.something.

Wow.

We went a few more times. My best score was 28.something.  Man, we must have hit 6 or 7 mph on that home stretch. And yes, that included Vinnie (letsgo-letsgo-letsgo) breaking into a canter. It was a blast.

Paul and Charley managed a jaw dropping 27.something on their last run.  With this performance victory was theirs!

I apologize for the lack of photos on this one. When you’re hanging for dear life at these mind boggling speeds, the camera has to stay in your pocket.