Enter Team YAH!

Team YAH!

When Karin told the team that we would be performing at A Vaulting Connection Fest at the end of May, I assumed it would just be a demo sort of thing. You know, a kind of “see what all the cute old people are doing?” ….

Uh…

Actually… make that “see what all the cute people and the one old guy are doing?”

Sorry, Pete. It’s a performer’s prerogative to pick on the coach.

But no, this was an actual competition in front of a real judge – who came all the way from Southern California – who gave real scores, that were posted in front of real people and then put somewhere on the Internet too, I think.

Well at least on one place on the Internet:

vaulting scores

I got both first and last place in the Men’s Division. Like usual.

Just from being around Karin’s Horse Connection for three years (as of June 18th, I believe) I knew that they divided these vaulting meets into “Recognized” and “Unrecognized” categories. I’m not sure which we were. Although, I think maybe they could create a third category for me: “Unrecognizable”.

My scores for the Half-Mill and Half-Flag were so low that even Scorekeeper Kevin had a hard time seeing them:

scorekeepers

I was actually happy about my Basic Seat and Kneel scores. And all of it was just huge fun.

This was after the proceeding week in which my dread grew as the time drew near and I began to hear my coach and teammates utter words like “judge”, “scores”, “disqualification,” “you’re vaulting in those? You have to wear stretchy pants!” and the most devastating words of all: “you can’t wear your Tiger’s hat.”

“My Lions’ hat, then?”

“No.”

“How about my Red Wings hat?”

“No!”

“My Secretariat hat?”

“Well…um… … … NO!

Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! We’re just supposed to have fun, right?

Oh, but we did have fun.

The biggest personal shock of the day for me happened right after Pete launched me onto Avenir: instead of being nervous, I found myself absolutely loving it. Every frickin’ second of it. When Pete said it was time to get off the horse, I hesitated, almost telling him to mind his own business. I wasn’t ready for it to end.

I finally got a grasp on the sequence of moves and I just focused on showing the judge that  I knew what I was suppose to do, which is not normal for me. And then I just tried to do each the best I could.

As if I needed cues to remember the sequence – which is usually the case – that little voice inside my head became clearly audible. In fact, I could actually see The Little Voice Inside My Head. It looked like this:

The Little Voice Inside My Head

The Little Voice Inside My Head

My teammates and coach were amazing. They took great care of me every step of the way. Literally.

For the team routine on the barrel, we marched in using our little “eins, zwei, drei, I’m stook” routine that Karin taught us. We were blessed with having a second go at it, because the first time we went before the bell and you can’t go before the bell. I wanted to plead Geriatric Hearing on our behalf. Also, I didn’t know there was a bell. But the judge was strict: you people go back and do it again. I thought California Girls were supposed to be little more laid back than that. I think she just wanted to confirm that she actually saw what she thought she saw. Anyway, it worked out great because we were much better the second time.

Our freestyle barrel routine went really nice, especially considering we only practiced it twice. During the barrel routine, I had the opportunity to exhibit my brute animal strength by launching Penny onto the barrel with just one arm (behind my back!)

Brute animal strength.

Brute animal strength.

Here, Penny and Karin demonstrate good lines. I think that’s the way you say it.

vaulters on a barrel

And here, Liz, Kim and Michelle perform our Grand Finale’ Move, which finished with a “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” pose. Their backs were to the crowd so I’m not sure how many people saw what they were doing. But it’s good advice anyway. 

three on a barrel

We’re talking about getting some team shirts. I think we should get our names on the back of them like in football.

There is a video of us doing the barrel which I posted on my Bob the Equestrian Facebook page, if you would like to check us out. We were magnificent.

There were many highlights of the day. It was fun to watch kids do their stuff. They never cease to amaze me. Especially now. We have an album of the day on Karin’s Horse Connection Facebook page, if anyone would like to check that out as well. Good stuff!

And there were some moments during the adaptive vaulting where I had to put my camera down and just watch. It’s just keeps getting better every time I watch it. It all does.

The biggest highlight of the day for me was when Jenny and Hiliary showed up with granddaughter Aubrey.

Grandpa and Aubrey

She got some barrel time too.

toddler on a barrel

At one point she stood up on the barrel and without being coached, put her arms out to her sides. Just like the big girls she had been watching. That was so cool to see.

And now she thinks she’s a little expert or something. “Did you see Grandpa’s Half-Mill?”

laughing toddler on barrel

She got in the line up with us.

Aubrey in the line up

Helped us look for whatever we were looking for here:

bowing

It was just a great day. And the judge turned out to be a very cool California Girl after all. When it was all over, she promised to give me another blue ribbon next time if I gave her the beer I was dangling in front her. At least that’s what I thought she said. It was warm day.

I can’t wait to do it all again.

following grandpa

Big Toys

At the end of this month, Karin is hosting a Trail Mix vaulting fest. By “Trail Mix” she means different ages. And since I’m a different age, I am expected to participate.

I’m still not in shape for this. I’m emerging from winter about 20 pounds overweight and about 35 of that is in my gut. But I’m going to vault anyway.

Because it’s fun.

So Lesson #91 was all about vaulting.

And fun.

I was fortunate to have brought along my Special Designer Vaulting Socks.

Detroit Lions socks

I never vault in shoes, even when Karin says I can. I don’t want to look conspicuous. And then there’s that thing about digging into the horses back with your heels. Since the horse is already dealing with what from his perspective is a one-rider triple, I don’t want to do anything else to piss him off.

I began by warming up on the vaulting barrel.  With Karin and Charity busy with other students, this mainly consisted of me taking pictures on top of the barrel without falling off.

shoes on vaulting barrel

Detroit Tiger hat on vaulting barrlel

Since the weather was nice – the breeze was actually warm and not the freeze breeze that penetrates your clothes and skin and tries to kill you from the inside out – we got to go out into the round pen.

Prior to that, I had noticed that Karin had put wood chips all around the property as part of her annual counter-offensive against the spring mud.

wood chips by barn

 

dog on wood chips

 

 

 

 

sensory trail

The round pen had a particularly ominous pile. There were toys around it…

wood chips in round pen

Charity (the nice one) took me through some basic instruction that resulted in a number of undignified poses:

rider with one arm out

rider with butt off horse

For me, the wood chip pile marked the center of the ring and was useful in keeping me oriented as I did my tricky moves. For Karin the wood chip pile was an opportunity for something else.

“You have to go up it,” she announced.

“No, I am not going up it,” I informed her.

lunger on top of wood chip pile

This woman is incapable of leaving anything alone. The whole place is like her personal playground and the horses – and people – are her toys.

The great thing about vaulting is that you, the rider, don’t have to control the horse. The bad thing about vaulting is that someone else does.

So despite my protesting like a baby being born, Karin coaxed Habakuk – and thus me – up that wood chip hill.

riding up a wood chip pile

“Now put your hands up in the air!”

Hell no!” I was already feeling a little iffy with Habakuk trying to find his footing on top of the pile. No way was I going to compound the problem by putting my hands up in the air…

hands in air on top of wood chip pile

It’s like she has strings attached to your limbs or something.

“You know,” she told us as we posed for the Post Ridiculous Activity photo op…

horse with Detroit Tiger cap

mustache on horse

“I always say that the little horses like Peanut are my toys. Habakuk is like one of my big toys.”

Oh, the indignity…

It was a fun lesson.

fake blue jay in a tree

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

Vaulting Seeds

Karin is starting a Tiny Tots Vaulting program for kids ages 3-7.  Since our granddaughter Aubrey is a mere 18 months away from qualifying, I think it’s time to get prepared.

Actually, preparations were well under way last year. These included an introduction to the barrel.

baby on vaulting barrel

And an introduction to a vaulting horse.

baby looking at vaulting horse

Although the horses she’ll be vaulting on will be considerably shorter than that one. And I believe Karin is making miniature barrel for the Tiny Tots as well.

Of course, the vaulting will have to compete with other interests the child is developing.

baby looking at planet

 

toddler with shovel

 

 

 

 

 

baby Suh with ball

 

 

 

And she has a particular fascination with anything that has buttons.

baby with camera

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baby with phone and purse

Although there have been some positive signs.

horse on child's computer

But the biggest hurdle will be Aubrey’s phone addiction. These days, we rarely see her without one plastered to the side of her face. It’s gotten to the point where she’s learning to do everything one-handed. We have no idea who she is talking to. Maybe the kindly folks at 911?

toddler on phone

Competing with all this great technology that kids have available to them is an uphill battle, but I’m encouraged by help from unexpected quarters.

The Daddle makes a horse out of Dad

They call it a “Daddle.”

The Mom takes a more traditional approach:

baby, mom on supermarket horse

Although, if Karin develops a freestyle vaulting program that includes chatting on the phone in basic seat, we’ll be all set.

Dad with stick horse

Louis’ Rainbow

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.

* * *

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 Lake

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.

man driving 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.

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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.

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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.

Louis and Allison

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.

Allison and Maree, Louis and Vinnie, Karin and Caspian.

* * *

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.”

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“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.”

Bring it On

Last week’s Lesson #79 was put on hold until later this week.  I missed last week due to the developing bowel habits of a 16-week-old girl. This girl:

Australian Shepard puppy

Jenny and I got Zoey from a shelter run by the Humane Society. She’s an Australian Shepard mix. Mixed with what, we’re not really sure.  She’s a dog.

Outside? I think?

Outside? I think? Do what?

Anyway, I was ready to leave for my riding lesson, but I couldn’t go until she did. We’re still in the process of learning what the Inside and Outside are good for. Individuals belonging to this species instinctively do not wish to soil the den (which I now define as the entire inside of my house), but that doesn’t always stop the young ones from getting Inside and Outside confused at times.

Of course, with the change of seasons upon us, Outside and Inside has been a major topic of discussion among us humans. Many curse the impending change.

Summer

Winter

Oh yes, we do curse it. We don’t even want to utter the word. Instead, we say “The ‘S’ Word,” thus granting the substance the same Dare Not Speak It impact as the customary “S” word and Lord Voldemort.

To hell with that. I’m going to say it:

Snow.

Snow, snow, snow.

Snow, snow, snow.

Snow, snow, snow.

Not only will I say it, I will welcome it. I’m taking my cue from Karin, who dismisses the notion that we have to experience winter as some kind of spirit crushing demon that chases us indoors and holds us hostage until baseball season.

Instead, Karin turns Snow into our friend. Like this:

KHC winter program photo

And this:

girl with pony

And does this look like we’re cowering in our hovels?

riding upside down on a horse

To be sure, riding can be problematic during the cold months. It’s about footing more than anything else. Horses do not do well on the ice.

But, experienced horse people are very sensitive to the quality of the footing and have a pretty good handle on when it’s not safe enough to ride outside. On those days, we will go into The Great Indoors.  That’s not so bad, either.

arena heater

Besides, as long as we don’t get confused about what the Outside is good for, the retreat will always be temporary.

dog in the winter sun

The Home Front

While Karin and Leoni were way out west with A Vaulting Connection at the AVA Nationals, the fate of Legacy Stables was in the hands of Karin’s helper, Charity and her sidekick, Kim.

Charity has been working for Karin for several weeks now and has shown herself to be quite capable around the horses. She’s also good with the books and good with the kids. And she can sing.

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Charity took over for Kathy, who retired earlier this year. Of course, Kathy’s idea of retirement is to show up at the barn and work anyway.

Kim is one of Karin’s newer students, but she already appears comfortable in the saddle and confident around the horses. She won a blue ribbon in Showmanship at the Barry County 4-H Fair earlier this year.  I think with Maree.  Kim is entering a vet tech program in the fall.

Kim on Caspian

Kim on Caspian

With both Karin and Leoni gone, I thought Lesson #72 would involve no work. The thought pleased me. I can be lazy as hell, if allowed. In fact, I think it’s my natural state.

Easy day for us, Goldie!

Easy day for us, Goldie!

However, as Goldie and I were warming up in the arena, Charity told me “get those heels down.”

 Oh, so that’s how it is.

And then… then she told me to canter!  On Goldie!

I said I would try. And I did. And we didn’t.

Goldie is a fine horse and the more I ride her, the more I like her. However, she doesn’t respond to my cues as quickly as Vinnie does.  Actually, she doesn’t respond to my cues at all. Not for the canter, anyway.

The word around the barn is that once you get Goldie going, she’s the fastest horse in Legacy’s herd. I have a feeling that my first galloping experience will be on Goldie.  I hope it’s a planned event.

After working me to death in the arena, Charity (on Habakuk) took me and Kim (Vinnie) and Christi (Maree) out for some Instruction in Open Terrain. We headed out to Narnia.  It was a glorious morning weather-wise and we had an ultra-pleasant ride.

On the way back, Charity joked that she half-expected to see Double Karin come bounding across the field on Charley, as if to the rescue. A ride out to Narnia kind of makes your mind work like this.

No Double Karin this time.

No Double Karin this time.

But a rescue wasn’t necessary. The Home Front was well guarded. In fact, in Karin’s absence, Charity and Kim worked overtime on a number of barn organization projects.

They organized the tack room:

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They labeled the halter holder:

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They straightened and systematized this area, whatever it’s called:

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And they found time to make this:

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I think they had a lot of fun. And I think Karin knows that the Home Front was well guarded while she was away.

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A New Colleague at Legacy Stables

A few months ago, Leoni shared with us her list of things she wanted: a donkey, a shotgun, a cowboy and … actually, I can’t remember all of it and I’m not sure where to look it up. I do recall noting at the time that there was no discernable pattern to this list.

In any case, Leoni got one of the things.

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Luna is five years old and is fully-grown.

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She really seems to like people.  She walked right up to Paul and me.

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However, when Kaiah got a little too close, Luna went at her like blitzing linebacker after a quarterback.  I thought they were just playing, but Karin said no. Luna was actually very serious about the whole thing. Apparently, donkeys don’t appreciate dogs the way we do.

Kaiah keeps her distance.

Kaiah keeps her distance.

Our introduction to Luna set off a rather unproductive conversation regarding donkeys, mules, burros, jackasses and horses and how it all works out. I walked away as confused as ever.

Karin says all the kids love her. Well, of course. I think a lot of the adults do to.

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I couldn’t get over her pretty eyes.

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Someone asked if they’re going use Luna for vaulting. I suppose you could train monkeys as her riders. But who has the time?

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Come to think of it, a monkey may have been on Leoni’s list.  Maybe there’s a pattern there after all.

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For those of you interested in mules-donkeys-burros and how they think, I recommend you take a peek at the delightful blog Brays of Our Lives.

It is written by Fenway Bartholomule, the most handsomest mule you’ll ever see.

And after seeing Luna, City Limits Ranch sent us this photo of Lucy, reported to be the Best Donkey Donks ever:

Lucy, best donkey donks ever.

A View of Legacy Stables

A few weeks ago, Karin’s daughter, Anika asked me to make some kind of sketch of Legacy Stables. Anika resides in Australia. She wanted to get a better perspective of the different areas of the spread that we refer to on Bob the Equestrian.  I thought a sketch was a great idea.

As an artist, I belong to the Stick Figure Genre –  an ancient and respected form of artistic expression with roots in the Neanderthal Age. Below is my effort.

Photos follow with captions describing the orientation of the shot. Hopefully this will give Anika and interested readers in general a better idea of what’s where at Legacy Stables.

Legacy Stables

View from the road, facing west toward the pole barn/future arena site

 

Path along Patterson Road, heading north

From the future arena site toward the access driveway (connects to the main driveway)

“Mount Legacy”. A mound to the south of the future arena site. Only the bravest of the brave dare scale its heights.

In the pasture area, facing north toward the house and tack room.

From the yard area on north side of the house facing west toward the corn field.

Driveway/parking area facing east toward round pen

 

Driveway/parking area facing east toward round pen

 

Far west edge of the property between corn field and woods, facing south

View from round pen, facing west toward the pastures.

Right side of the driveway, facing west. Some apple trees.

 

“Karin’s Raceway” A cleared strip of ground in the middle of the cornfield. Facing north in this shot.

 

In the next post, I’ll deal with such issues as the importance of grooming the underside of the horse, a new & confusing type of bridle/bit and a thing called “double bouncing”.