We all know that Karin’s favorite word is “connection.” Almost everything she does, revolves around some kind of connection. There is the horse-human connection, of course. That’s what her business is all about. There are also professional connections, social connections and spiritual connections. For her, these distinctions are artificial and it’s really all about the same thing. Legacy Stables is simply the physical manifestation of these connections and it would not exist without them.
The following is a story about one connection that goes to the heart of what Legacy Stables means to Karin and her Legacy Stables family.
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In late 2012, as Legacy Stables’ new arena was being built, Karin received an unusual suggestion:
“You should paint the arena’s posts all different colors.”
This bit of advice came from Karin’s good friend, Louis Lake.
Louis had to be joking, of course. You don’t do that kind of thing at a serious lesson barn. A “rainbow” in the riding arena just wouldn’t look professional. In any case, Karin was so overwhelmed with other matters that there was no time for something as frivolous as decorating the posts in the arena. But she didn’t forget about the idea.
Karin’s connection to Louis began in early 2012, just weeks before her decision to move Karin’s Horse Connection from the Lamoreaux Ridge location to the property that would become Legacy Stables. They met through Louis’ wife, Allison, a new student of Karin’s. While Allison had her own horse and barn, she began taking lessons with Karin to enhance her riding skills and boost her confidence.
In the beginning, Louis dropped Allison off at her lessons and then left. Then, one day, as Karin puts it: “He made the mistake of getting out of his truck.”
With the move to the new property just weeks away, Karin was in desperate need of a tractor. She found a small John Deere for sale, but she didn’t have much experience with tractors and she wasn’t sure if it was a good deal. So when Louis got out of his truck, Karin couldn’t help but notice his John Deere hat and shirt. He was obviously a big fan. Perhaps he would be able to offer her a little advice?
Louis was indeed a genuine John Deere enthusiast. And he did more than offer his opinion. He went with Karin to see the tractor. Although the tractor needed a little work – the brakes had locked up – he assured her that she was getting good deal. And then he stayed and worked on the brakes.
Since Karin did not have a way to transport the tractor, Louis offered to haul it on his flatbed trailer. But he didn’t take it to the new property right away. Instead, he took the tractor to his place for some overdue maintenance. By the time he delivered the machine to Legacy Stables, Karin had a very nice, well functioning tractor.
But Louis wasn’t done. There was a mountain of work to do on the property before Karin could bring the horses and resume giving lessons. The day Louis delivered the tractor he started working on clearing the driveway and arena area. Then he blazed a riding trail all the way around the periphery of Legacy’s twenty-eight acres. He loved every minute of it.
Louis was a skillful tractor operator. Without a glance, he knew exactly how deep to go with the bucket and rake. Karin was amazed at how he was able to gracefully maneuver in the tightest spots.
Louis just didn’t do the work. He also shared his expertise with Karin as she sat next to him on the tractor while he operated the machine. It brought up warm memories of Karin’s childhood in Germany when she and the other neighborhood kids begged local farmers for a ride on their tractors and the farmers would show the kids how to work the controls.
With eighteen horses, all the equipment and all the work that needed be done to prepare the property, the move from Lamoreaux to Legacy was a huge undertaking. And Louis was there every step of the way.
Just before the actual move, Karin was running dangerously low on hay. Despite a local shortage, she was able to find some at a relatively reasonable price. However, she didn’t have a way to transport it and the new property didn’t have a place to store it. Louis took care of both problems by offering the use of his flatbed trailer to move the hay and his own barn to store it until Legacy was ready.
Louis assisted Karin with the construction of the new arena by helping her deal with the parade of planners, builders and inspectors. He even accompanied her to the required meetings with the local government. It was during this time that he suggested painting the posts in bright colors.
Karin’s favorite story about Louis is the time he rescued the entire vaulting team from a precarious situation on the Paul Henry Freeway. Karin and her team, including eight vaulters and two horses, were on their way to a competition in Ann Arbor. After Karin’s truck broke down, they found themselves stranded along the busy freeway.
Karin called AAA and they were able to take care of her truck. However, she still had two horses in a trailer, just inches off the freeway. She barely got off the road when the truck died. After several anxious moments, she called Louis and described her situation.
Within a half an hour, Louis showed up with his truck. He not only towed the team to safety, he took them all the way Ann Arbor and stayed for the entire competition. It was the first time he ever witnessed the sport being performed.
While Louis grew up on a farm and rode horses in his youth, as an adult he was never much into riding. Karin changed that by introducing him to Vinnie, her super-smooth gaited Thoroughbred. Louis took to Vinnie right away. He soon began to accompany Allison on trail rides. The couple cherished their time together on horseback. Karin had reintroduced Louis to the human-horse connection.
Allison and Maree, Louis and Vinnie, Karin and Caspian.
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In February of 2013, Louis was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. He was recently put on Hospice.
During these months, as Louis and Allison have adjusted to the realities of the disease, Karin has been with them every step of the way. She visits several times a week.
On Karin’s visits, she routinely brings Louis some kind of gift. At first, she brought food, but as the disease progressed this was no longer an option. Once, she brought him a small polished stone with the word “Joy” written on it. For Karin, the stone is symbolic of a verse from Matthew (28:20), a reminder from Jesus that “Surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“You can put it in your pocket as a reminder that God is always with you,” Karin told him.
Recently, Karin was in a hurry and forgot to bring Louis’ gift. She also didn’t have a chance to shower and change her clothes after working in the barn. She brought with her the rich aroma of the barn and horses. She apologized to Louis for this.
Louis told Karin that she smelled wonderful to him. He hadn’t been able to get out to the barn for months and he deeply missed that fragrance.
“I realized later,” Karin shared, “that was my gift to him that day.”
Karin has decided to take Louis suggestion and paint the posts. The work will be done by her students, mostly the kids. And soon there will be a rainbow in the Legacy Stables arena after all.
Karin is clear about the meaning: “This will be Louis’ legacy here.”