The apples are everywhere at Legacy Stables. They must be experiencing a bumper crop because I don’t remember it being like this last year. I think this property is best described as an apple orchard where someone put a house. Then a barn. Then an arena. Karin calls it a Schlaraffenland: the German version of the land of milk and honey.
The more impatient apples are picking themselves and dropping to the ground on their own accord. Of course, they don’t fall far from the tree.
But who has time to pick apples right now? Legacy buzzes with summer activity and even Double Karin can’t be everywhere. Lesson #71 took place just a few days before A Vaulting Connection left for the AVA Nationals in Denver. They have 10 kids going this year, plus Avenir and Caspian. It’s a huge, time consuming project.
Karin isn’t doing this alone, of course. No one could. In fact, the trip as planned wouldn’t be possible without the support of the kids’ families.
I think it’s so cool this many kids get to go. I think they’re going to have a blast.
Karin had some kind of business to attend to, so she turned Christi, Gabe and me over to Leoni for Lesson #71. We rode Avenir, Caspian and Goldie, respectively.
Karin suggested that Leoni teach us “something brand new.”
That phrase struck fear into my heart. I’ve seen the kind of things Leoni does on a horse.
I certainly wasn’t prepared to flip about in the saddle or ride upside down. It’s hard enough just getting on.
With her morning coffee cup in hand, Leoni had obviously just gotten up. But I could see the wheels turning in her head following her mother’s suggestion.
I thought, “Oh no, the coffee is working – we’re in big trouble now.”
On the other hand, we’ve seen how Leoni handles her younger vaulters: the calm confidence, the infectious enthusiasm, pushing for improvement but always making it fun. The kids love her.
So, maybe she would go easy on us.
She took a sip of coffee and let those wheels turn for an extra beat. Then, her decision: “We’re going to learn how to back, but not straight.”
Ah, “not straight. ” I can do “not straight.”
Then she showed us what she meant by not straight. It was an “L”.
I put this through my Concept Meter and it registered as “clear”. Not bad, just a 90 degree turn.
Leoni explained the basic principle: “If you want to turn left, you use your right rein and right leg. To turn right, you use your left rein and left leg.”
I like this kind of symmetry. All it takes is a willingness to think backwards.
At this point, the “I Remember This from Somewhere Alarm” went off in my brain. It reminded me of when Hiliary and Jamie were into horses and I had to learn how to back a horse trailer. If I used backward thinking then, I certainly could use it now.
Left is right, right is left. It’s a simple formula – as long as you don’t overthink it.
We did pretty well on our first attempt. Goldie was experienced in this maneuver and my brain minded its own business and allowed the hands and feet to work with the horse.
However, while Christi and Gabe were taking their turns in the L, my brain began to pick at the details: Okay, so you work the right rein to turn left, but do you pull the reins in or out? And what exactly did I do with my leg? I wonder what I’ll have for lunch. Was there some kind of play in the ankle? Who’s pitching for the Tigers tonight?
By the time I took my second turn, my brain was creating so much noise that my hands and feet gave up any effort to take the initiative and simply waited for their instructions.
“Fine brain. Just give it to us step by step then.”
I totally blew the second try. Goldie was hopelessly confused. No matter which way I pulled the reins, we continued to swing in the wrong direction.
Leoni attempted a few verbal corrections, but the frustration hole just got deeper. Finally, she simply stepped in. Instead of feeding the frustration with more vocal commands, she physically pressed Goldie and me in the right direction backwards through the L.
It wasn’t pretty by any standard. By the time we were done, Leoni’s “L” looked like this: \ \ / \. But we had accomplished the essence of the task.
Leoni smiled and said, “Okay, good.”
It would have been easier for her just to let us off the hook and say it’s not happening today. But when you start something with a horse and rider, it’s always best to finish it, whatever it takes. I think that this kind of calm persistence is at the heart of a good riding instruction.
So yes, at Legacy Stables, the fruit doesn’t fall from the tree.