Twenty Fifteen

The other night, Karin held a “Vision Casting” for Legacy Stables. This involved a gathering of her staff, volunteers, students, parents of students, board members – anybody with an interest in Karin’s Horse Connection. So I went.

The gathering served as an assessment of where the operation is, where we want it to go and what we were going to do this year to get it there. A collective New Year’s Resolutions list for the place. The evening was both fun and productive and now we’re all excited about 2015.

It got me thinking about my own equestrian goals for the coming year. I mean beyond my primary goal of Just Showing Up and Seeing What Happens.

It’s not that I haven’t set goals in the past. It’s just that I’ve been less than diligent in actually doing anything about them. Setting goals is fun. Actually doing the work to achieve the goal is another matter.

One strategy is to define your goals in such a way that you can say you’ve met them without really doing much of anything. The key here is vagueness. Relative terms such as “better” or “more” (“I will ride more this year,” “I will pay better attention to my instructor”) are very useful if you like your goals with a lot of wiggle room.

This year, I think I’ll try to be a little more specific. A list of Micro Goals that I can put an actual checkmark next to as I accomplish each one. Little bits that may or may not help support the larger Just Showing Up thing.

So here is my list:

  1. From what I understand, there might be some Dressage going on at Legacy this year. My goal is to do at least one pattern all the way through. Bonus goal: resist the impulse to move the letters around the arena just to spell a word.
  2. Attend one local open horse show and write a blog post about it.
  3. Conduct an investigation into what’s going on with my riding breeches! Specifically, why do I start to pass out right after I put them on? They didn’t do that when I first got them. There is something wrong with them.

    They didn't bother me before.

    They didn’t bother me before.

  4. Learn how to properly apply a surcingle
  5. Read one book about equestrian vaulting.
  6. Develop my own free-style vaulting routine – at the walk.
  7. Visit Chicago Vaulting in the summer and do a blog post on their new lungeing training program. Bonus goal: determine once & for all the correct spelling of lungeing.
  8. Learn how to neck rein.
  9. Walk over a cavaletti.
  10. Sponsor one horse or student at Legacy Stables.
  11. Only talk about stretching during a riding lesson if I’ve actually stretched before the riding lesson. Bonus goal: eliminate the word “should’ve” from my vocabulary.
  12. Learn to recite the names of all of Legacy’s horses to the tune of Amazing Grace.
  13. Polish my riding boots.
  14. Complete the Fundamentals of Photography course that I bought two years ago.
  15. Set up at least one riding lesson for granddaughter Aubrey. We have already discussed this.IMG_0256

I think that should keep me busy for a year.

Everything on the Line

After the line rolling up instruction, Karin used two horses to demonstrate proper lunging techniques: Avenir the Great White Horse and Oskar the Invisible Horse.

Avenir, the beloved mainstay of Karin’s team A Vaulting Connection, recently recovered from a serious medical condition and it was great to see the big guy back in action.

woman lunging big white horse

It was great to see Oskar too. I think I’m the only one that actually can.  Which may or may not have something to do with my recent fall.

Karin often uses the undemanding Oskar as a “visual” aid to help riders plan ahead.  In this case, Oskar served as a target for the lunge whip.  In other words, you deploy the whip one length behind the vaulting horse.  Pretending Oskar is there helps with this.

Following the demonstration, Karin marched out the little horses so that we could practice some actual hands-on lunging. Present were Romeo, Snoopy and Peanut: The Little Rascals of Legacy Stables.

women with ponies

I got Snoopy. Actually, Snoopy was handed off to me by Allison from Chicago Vaulting.

woman leading pony

“He’s having a little attitude problem right now,” Allison warned.

Of all of Karin’s horses, Snoopy is the one I’ve interacted with the least.  Just an occasional nod and “Hi, how ya doin’,” as I brush pass him in the pasture on my way to fetch another horse.

Snoopy has a stellar reputation working with the smaller kids. They hang all over him and such, and he seems to eat it (but not them!) up. I couldn’t imagine how this little guy’s attitude problem could be much of a problem.

man with pony

But as I let out the line and attempted to get Snoopy to go in a proper circle, he just kept going crooked all over the place and our “circle” got progressively smaller until he was actually chasing me around. I didn’t like that.

Christoph noticed I was having a difficult time, so he stepped in and offered some pointers.  Drive the horse from behind was the main thing.

lunging instruction

I tried to drive Snoopy from behind using a miniature version of Oskar. But the result was pretty much the same, so I put a stop to the exercise before the little horse caught up with me again.

Christoph took over and had more success, but in the end he simply said that Snoopy was “hard” and none of this was my fault. I’m thinking of putting that last part on a t-shirt.

man lunging pony

I handed the line to Pete and he took a turn with Snoopy and – I presume – Little Oskar. Pete did really well with Snoopy and you could actually see something akin to a real circle. Although we noticed that Snoopy mysteriously acted up at the same part of the circle on every pass.  I had a good view of this, because I was standing right by that part of the circle.

man lunging pony

Next, Karin brought out my old buddy Caspian, so that we could all get a turn lunging an experienced vaulting horse.

This was pretty awesome. And pretty humbling – at the end of that line was a tremendous amount of power.  Karin showed me how to use the line to cue the horse’s movement by gently squeezing my fingers and with subtle twists of the wrist. The main thing was to relax the arms and keep your wrist and elbow joints supple so that you’re not yanking on the horse.  It’s a lot like riding in that they feel everything you do.

And just like riding, you combine your voice and body language with what you’re doing with the line. There is a definite art to this.

Add a vaulter (or two or three) bouncing around up there and you begin to realize how important the lunger is in this sport.  It is a huge responsibility.

After everybody got a turn with Caspian, Karin turned him loose in the arena to give him an opportunity to roll around in the dirt. Instead, he did a couple of laps around the arena and then made a beeline for the door.

horse trotting

It was time to punch out

horse by door