One on, One off

For Lesson #116, I chose to ride Windy again. I had some one-handed riding in mind and Windy doesn’t seem to care how many I use. By employing this advanced form of riding, I am able to take partial selfies such as these:

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It was a cold, but sunny day so we decided to venture out and see what’s what. Gerry was on Habakuk and Karin rode Charley.

From the onset, Windy and I kept falling behind. One-handed riding can be slower if you don’t do it just right.

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As we entered the wooded area, we came across a number of questionable patches of poorly defined puddles and soft spots, treacherous enough for two hands. I tried to anticipate these and tuck my camera away before any real trouble started, but I wasn’t always successful. Most of the time I managed to get the thing into my coat’s breast pocket just as we were emerging from the trouble area.

Several times Windy walked under small branches that she fit beneath nicely, but I had to use my camera hand to push them away to defend my face. One rather large, but weak branch actually came off in my hand. I couldn’t just let it fall haphazardly least it catch Windy on the flank, so I carried it with my camera for a moment or two not really wanting it all that much. The thing was a good 3 inches in diameter and at least 6 feet long. I really wanted to take a selfie of me holding it as Windy ambled on, but if I was going to do any zero handed riding it would be to push additional branches away from my face. I could have just rotated it 90 degrees and carried it like a joust, but I didn’t want to give Karin any ideas. I managed to toss the thing far enough away that it didn’t disturb poor Windy.

Meanwhile, Habakuk and Gerry stopped periodically to engage in some kind of peculiar bouncing dance. I don’t think any of this was Gerry’s idea. Windy and I stopped and allowed the two ample space for whatever it was they were doing.

Just as we were getting back to the house-barn environs, Habakuk made a particularly effective series of moves and off goes Gerry. When the trouble had started, I put my camera away and put two hands on the reins. I didn’t know what part we would be taking in the festivities, but whatever it was, I would be using two hands to do it.

After putting Gerry on the ground, Habakuk bolted across an open field. He would have looked prettier without his saddle on. There is something inherently unsettling about seeing a saddled horse gallop across an open field.

I could feel Windy tug a little as if it at least occurred to her to join Habakuk in his mad dash. I immediately dismounted. If Windy really wanted to follow Big H, she would be doing it without me.

Gerry insisted he was all right. In fact, he said he was proud to finally experience his First Fall. Karin always says you can’t be a real equestrian until you fall once. Of course, after my First Fall, Karin upped my number ex post facto to five.

She also wanted to know if I got a video of Gerry’s fall. I wanted to ask her if she was planning on including it in the promo video they are putting together for the place, but instead I merely explained that both my hands were busy at the time.

 

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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What Goes Up…

Equestrian vaulting routines are typically accompanied by music. I’m not sure, but I think the vaulters usually get to pick their own music. However, for my performance at Legacy Stable’s TRAIL MIX VAULTING COMPETITION & CLINIC, Leoni, Seer of the Future, chose my music.

“I picked a song for you, Bob,” she informed me a couple of hours beforehand.

“Well, thank you, Leoni. That was very kind of you.” I had forgotten about the music and I was glad she took care of that detail for me. And, of course, I had to ask what song she picked.

She smiled, not bothering to conceal the gleam in her eyes, “Oh, you’ll find out…”

Leoni thought bubble

I was hoping for something like Levitate by Hollywood Undead, but I trusted Leoni’s vaulting music judgment.

In any case, it was a monstrously fun day. The kids had a great time and I think the parents and grandparents had even more fun then the kids. Karin had recently started a Tiny Tot Vaulters program and there was a good showing of young moms and dads at the TRAIL MIX. Most of them got an opportunity to get on the horse with their kids and do some basic vaulting stuff.

And as usual, Karin infused some creative chaos into the day’s events, this time in the form  of a rally where four teams made up of mixed ages dressed up themselves and a horse/pony/donkey and then ran around doing various stunts and things.

Karin's Creative Chaos

Karin’s Creative Chaos

Both Karin and Michelle, my human competitors, performed well in the Raisin & Salt Class. Karin even went upside down once. I’m pretty sure it was on purpose.

The Flip Side of Karin

The Flip Side of Karin

While some of the kids where doing higher level vaulting stuff, the day was more or less a dress rehearsal for the upcoming vaulting season, so while there was judging for feedback purposes, the emphasis wasn’t on actual competition. In fact, at the end of the day, we got to pick what color ribbon we wanted. You should have seen those hands shoot up for the blue.

That didn’t mean there weren’t challenges. I, for one, only had a vague idea of what I was supposed to do. In my previous lesson, “I’m Not Crazy” Pete took me through the six compulsory vaulting moves, but I could only remember three and that included one I wanted to forget.

not crazy t-shirt

But my big challenge of the day came when my old arch-nemesis reappeared. That’s right: that S.O.B. Gravity was at TRAIL MIX. And he was in playful mood. And I was the toy.

The moment Pete launched me up on to Avenir, I heard the first few notes of the bass in the music Leoni picked for me and I realized that she could see into the future:

BA-DA-Dump-Dump-Dump…

BA-DA-Dump-Dump-Dump…

Another One Bites the Dust…

In response, I performed my Dead Man Walking Seat:

dead man walking seat

For a while, things went pretty good. I did my version of the flag:

tilted flag move Then Karin got Avenir into a Canter. So I did basic seat that way.

basic seat at the canter

You’re only supposed to hold for four strides, but I was enjoying this part so I just kept in that pose for a couple of full circles. Then…

Then it was time to go “up.”

standing on a horse

Or, as I remember it:

flybob

My cruel nemesis let me have my moment and then, as expected, Gravity sought to collect his due by using planet Earth to punch me in the face.

When I was coming down, my main concern was that I was going to land on top of Pete’s head. There just wasn’t enough room up there for me. I was really concerned about hurting his neck. He’s an athletic guy, for sure, but I just think it would have been uncomfortable for both us.

Anyway, Pete broke my fall and we were both okay. I got back on because I wasn’t particularly busy with anything else at the moment and it seemed like the right thing to do.

Later, Pete told me, “We taught you how to go up, but we didn’t teach you how to come down.”

I thought he meant they forgot to teach me how to fall properly. Which I’ve always considered a private matter between Gravity and me. But what he meant was that there is a proper way to go from standing on a horse to sitting on a horse and that it’s not really necessary to involve the ground at all.

I like that kind of thinking. In my next lesson, we worked on exactly that.

Lesson #90

muddy driveway

On the Saturday before Easter, Karin is hosting an Easter Egg Hunt party at Legacy Stables. The festivities include an “Easter Fire.” This is a bonfire that, according to tradition, symbolizes our “farewell” to Old Man Winter and sending him on his way.

I’ve already said adios to winter using my own set of words, none of which I will share here. But I may attend the Easter Fire anyway. I wouldn’t mind roasting a hot dog while pretending that the hot dog is Old Man Winter:

Burn (compound expletive deleted), burn…

Early Spring has its own challenges. For Lesson #90, the weather was downright crappy. Wind, rain, cold: the Trifecta of Outdoor Unpleasantness. The horses don’t like it either. Us mammals would be sharing the morning’s misery.

woman leading horse

But at Karin’s Horse Connection, we don’t complain about the weather. Not without someone complaining about our complaining.

And this how it was for Lesson #90. The horses were in their spring mode, which is a combination of nervous energy, displeasure with the weather and annoyance with whatever it is the bipeds want.

I just can’t deal with you now, Hu-mon. Come back in June.

We used the arena, of course. I rode Maree and Gerry was on Habakuk – who I think own each other now. Both horses were jumpy. And not the equitation over fences kind of jumpy. Any sound over 20 decibels served as an legitimate distraction and a perfectly valid reason to ignore the Hu-mon. Maree spooked at sounds that no one else could hear.

I feared Lesson #90 would feature the second involuntary dismount of my equestrian career.

I didn’t even get a chance to take any photos because Maree couldn’t tolerate the sound my little Sony camera made when I turned it on. And it’s a very pleasant sound, in my opinion.  Kind of like a cross between a harp and the noise R2D2 makes. But I could feel her tense up when I flicked the switch.

And this made me tense up.

And that made her tense up even more.

And then me tense up even more.

Then her, then me, then her. The was no end in sight!

I put the camera away.

Charity told me I needed to get rid of the tension.

“Roll your head around a little,” she advised.

“You mean while it’s still attached, right?”

“And shake your arms out a bit. Take a deep breath.”

I did these things and it seemed to help. Probably only because I thought they should.

Karin told us that when the horses get like this we have to do everything we can to get their attention on us and not on all the stuff going on around them.

“And you do that by giving them commands. A lot of commands.”

No wonder she’s such a great horseperson.

So I spent the balance of the lesson by continuously giving Maree these commands: “walk on… whoa … back, back, back…. walk on … whoa… back, back, back… walk on….” No doubt she was getting sick of me, but she mostly listened. Mostly.

Lesson #90 wasn’t one of great accomplishments and milestones. But we did survive to ride another day. A warmer, happier day.

warm ride in the sun

And Off We Go

Lesson #86 was another special lesson. They’re all getting to be special lessons.

Examine the sequence of photos below. See how many it takes you before you figure out what made Lesson#86 so special. Remember: if I’m not in the photo, I’m taking it…

woman and horse

mounting a horse in an arena

leaving an arena on horseback

riding in snow

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horses in the snow

rider off a horse in the snow

With four feet of snow on the ground, it wasn’t a very long fall. There was no hurdling through space or any sort of acrobatic drama. It was more in that gray area, somewhere between vindictive bucking and a deliberate bail.  Sort of an “emergency dismount by consensus.”

It was bound to happen. In order to negotiate the deep snow, Goldie was doing this bizarre combination of gaits, a curious concoction that mixed the Four Major Gait Groups: walk, trot, canter, gallop.  She was cantrowallagaloping.

When the cantrowallagaloping got to be too much, Goldie’s center of gravity and mine went their separate ways. My primary concern at that point was not the impact, but suffocation. While I was grateful for the soft landing, I was wondering how deep I would go.

I was also concerned about Gerry, who was directly ahead of me on Habakuk.  I was afraid that Goldie cantrowallagaloping past them without a rider might upset them and start a two-horse chain reaction. She seemed intent on reaching Karin – or any competent adult.

The last thing I saw before everything went white was Habakuk’s big butt.  Most people who go through this sort of thing get to see their entire life flashing in front of them. I got this:

habakuksbigbutt

I was unhurt and could see no reason to spend any more time on this portion of the lesson. So I sprung from beneath the snow like a bat out of Hell (that locale having finally froze over this year) and the first thing out of my mouth – after spitting out all the snow – wasn’t “Don’t worry, I’m okay!” or “Is everyone all right?” It was this: “That counts, Karin! That counts!”

This was in reference to Karin’s recent dictum “you can’t be a real equestrian until you’ve fallen off.”

I wasn’t sure if I shouted loud enough to be heard over Karin, who was alternating between laughing and apologizing for laughing, so I repeated it several times.

instructor holding horse

“KARIN! THAT COUNTS! IT DOES! IT COUNTS!”

I was relieved to have this part of my equestrian career behind me.

Karin handed Goldie’s reins to me and declared, “You have to get back on, Bob.

man with horse in snow

What the hell was she talking about? I thought.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I said.

“If you don’t get back on, it doesn’t count.”

You know, I’ve long suspected that Karin makes most of this stuff up as she goes along and this confirmed it. This was the first she had said anything about “getting back on.”

But I got back on anyway and we retraced our steps back to the arena. It was pretty easy going, actually.  All of Goldie’s cantrowallagaloping had cleared a nice swath through the snow.

When we got back to the arena, Karin gave me a high-five because now I was a real equestrian. I told her I deserved a gold sticker too. But I ended up something much better than that. I got war wounds:

bruises from riding horses

While the snow provided a soft landing, Goldie’s western saddle isn’t made of snow and the inside of my left leg got tore up during the ejection process.

It was difficult to get a good photo of my war wounds.  Such an awkward angle and my body just doesn’t want to stretch certain ways. I think it would be a good idea to start up my Yoga program again so I that I can get better pictures of this sort of thing.

horse in colorful blanket