Simple Physics and Team Shirts

I arrived at vaulting practice #6 ten minutes early so that I could get in some stretching exercises before the barrel and horse stretched me in their own, less than gentle fashion. I really don’t do enough of this.

During the brief interlude between the end of the kids’ class and the beginning of Team YAH’s practice, Karin’s newest pair of German vaulting interns, Lisa and Debo, took turns performing some impressive moves on Habakuk. They’re really good. Really, really good.

Good enough to interrupt the stretching that I don’t do enough of.

Deirdre was concerned: “We shouldn’t be watching this.”

She was obviously worried about the impact on our team morale.

I was also concerned about our morale: “No… we shouldn’t let them watch us.”

Actually, the girls were very nice and taught us a unique barrel move. This involved a kind of headfirst dive off the front of the barrel whilst holding you’re body in a straight line. The barrel acted as fulcrum with your body as the lever. The girls’ job was to stop your forward momentum and then fling you skyward so that you could get some good leg elevation. It was just a matter of simple physics.

And trust.

Lots and lots of trust.

“We do all the work,” they assured us.

I trusted the girls, but I didn’t want any miscommunication to spoil all the fun. So just before I put my life in their hands, I put my head on a swivel, asking each of them in rapid succession – three or four times – if they were ready. I know what the ground feels like in these situations and I didn’t want to surprise anyone with any sudden moves.

I think they could have propelled me higher had they not been laughing. Plus, I think my initial headfirst swing was supposed to bring my entire body closer to a 45-degree angle (or better) than the 15 degrees I was managing. By the fourth attempt, I did feel enough elevation in my legs to know that, if you believe in simple physics and trust German girls enough, this could be big fun.

Penny and Deirdre did really well with it.

DSC06033

barrel exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After offering each of us a turn, Lisa and Debo decided to go shopping at the mall. That’s what you do in the U.S.A. when you’re all done messing with the natives.

The next highlight of the practice was the arrival of our team shirts. There was great excitement as Charity opened the box and the colors got sorted.

Team YAH t-shirts

Then we each took a couple of turns on Habakuk.

But for the most part, the rest of the practice consisted of just us wearing our new shirts.

team YAH shirts

Pain Remedies and Sponsor Opportunities

Following the mill drill of YAH vaulters Practice #5, it was time for the On-the-Horse portion of the program. Not everyone participated. Several members of Team YAH (including me) were suffering from some form of injury or discomfort. To protect the innocent (me), I won’t divulge any details regarding who or what body parts were in question.

The litany of maladies inspired this bit of brilliance from Pete: “You guys should get Advil to sponsor the team.” And that opened the floodgates:

“Or Motrin!”

“What about Bayer?”

“Or Icy-Hot!”

“Blue-Emu works better.”

“Ginger or Kelp work great for inflammation.”

“I like Vicodin.”

“We all like Vicodin.”

“Ever hear of Penetrex?”

That’s one thing about an adult vaulting team: we know our pain remedies.

I like the idea of sponsors. We’re talking about getting team t-shirts anyway, so maybe we could get them with our team logo on the front and our favorite medications on the back.

It would be great to be in one of those drug commercials where they show active AARP types doing things like climbing rocks and shooting baskets to upbeat background music while the narrator describes the twenty different ways the drug will kill you.

I can just see it: a Team YAH member on Avenir as he breaks into a smooth canter, the rider gracefully matching the horse’s rhythm and smiling confidently into the camera:

“I may suffer from chronic diarrhea and liver disease, but because I take Predcelenix I can do a helluva reverse scissor kick!”

Personally, I prefer dual-purpose remedies:

The cold reduces swelling. You may need more than one of these.

The cold reduces swelling. You may need more than one of these.

I pick Founders, a local maker of fine pain remedies, as my preferred sponsor.

After those who were still able took turns on the horse, work time gave way to chatting time. The highlight was Kim’s story of the vaulting competition where Pete almost got arrested.

Pete defends himself in YAH court.

Pete defends himself in YAH court.

Apparently, Pete’s modus operandi for competitions in which he was to serve as both a lunger and a rider (not simultaneously) was to dress in layers so that he could quickly peel off one layer Clark Kent like and go from one role to the next without leaving the arena.

Pete is a very focused competitor and tends to go into that mental zone where good athletes go just prior to performing. One the one hand, this is a good thing because it helps enhance performance. On the other hand, it also means you can loose track of your immediate environment. In this case, Pete was not adequately aware of what layer of clothes he was currently on.

Kim saw it from the other end of the busy arena: Pete had gotten way too far into the process of removing the final barrier between himself and an arrest record. You would have thought he would have felt the draft.

Kim reacted instinctively: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!…”

This saved the day. That’s because when a person yells like that, people naturally look toward the person yelling and not what they’re yelling at. It also brought Pete back to his senses and bought him the time to make the proper adjustment.

In retrospect, Kim should have let Pete go on with it. It would surely have opened the door for some unique sponsor opportunities.

Learning to Love The Mill

On Team YAH’s fifth official vaulting practice, Karin introduced a little structure.

“We are a team, so we’re going to warm up and stretch as a team. Everyone is going to get a turn to lead.”

This week, Karin asked Artist Liz to pick the warm up exercises and Nurse Penny to lead us in stretching. So our team warm up/stretching session was a nice blend of the creative and the healthy. I can’t wait until the lawyer and the smart-ass writer take their turns leading the group in the warm up/stretching session. I see a glorious and twisted version of Simon Says in our future! And perhaps a brief or two filed as a result.

Karin explained that the best way to conduct drills for the compulsory routine is to focus on one move and repeat it in a variety of different ways.

“For example, if you’re going to practice standing, do it as you would normally several times and then do it with your eyes closed or singing a song or eating a cookie.”

A cookie? A song? I didn’t know you could eat during a routine. This opens the door for a world of possibilities for my free-style barrel routine. I feel inspired.

Karin said that I could pick what move the team would work on for this practice. I picked The Mill, because I don’t like doing it and I suck at it. My legs rebel at the thought of lifting them over objects from a sitting position while on moving platform, thus leaving my rear end with too much responsibility in maintaining good balance. Or any balance.

Even with visibly excessive cheating, I end up slamming around on the surcingle with a clearly audible “Uuuuffff” – which is actually a thinly veiled swear word.

Nonetheless, I need to get these body parts working together as team.

I need to learn to love The Mill.

Karin demonstrated different drills we could do to practice The Mill, including doing the same leg over and over again (pun intended), doing The Mill on the barrel with a bucket, doing The Mill on the matt, doing The Mill on the matt with a ball…

I’m not sure what she said after that, because my mind went into the Green Eggs & Ham mode.

Green eggs and ham

In particular, the part following the epiphany of the main protagonist:

Say!

I like green eggs and ham!

I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!

And I would eat them in a boat!

And I would eat them with a goat…

And I will eat them in the rain.

And in the dark. And on a train.

And in a car. And in a tree.

They are so good so good you see!

 

And the reformed Mill Hater’s version:

Hey!

I like The Mill and Slam!

I do!! I like it, Karin-I-Am!

And I would do it on a matt!

And I would do it when I’m flat!

And I will do it with a ball!

And on the barrel. Without a fall!

I’ll have that cookie now! And no surgery!

I’ll be so good so good you’ll see!

 

So with the help of my favorite doctor of all time, I’ll get better at The Mill and learn to love it still. I will I will.

There was much more to Practice #5. So much more. Things that have to do with pain medication and an unfortunate clothing incident. But I tell you about those next time.

knelling on walking horse

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

Participatory Observation

I’m standing on a vaulting barrel, wondering how the hell I got here. Not how I got up on the barrel, that’s another story. I’m just trying to remember how I got into this whole thing in the first place. I like things like baseball and Star Trek and Napoleon and good beer. What in all of that could possibly lead to standing up on a fake horse with no head and no tail?

But really – I know everything I need to know about baseball, Star Trek, Napoleon and good beer. On the other hand, horses and their people still hold big mysteries for me and are worthy of study.

It occurs to me that what I’ve been doing since I began lessons with Karin three years ago is what social scientists call “participant observation,” a methodology used in cultural anthropology. Simply put, you join in and do as the natives do. I’m here (in reverse order of importance) to learn and participate, have fun, and not get killed.

In any case, my teammate Deirdre says it’s my fault that Karin started the adult vaulting team.

“This whole thing started because you wanted to stand up on a moving horse.”

Yes, the Stand Up Project. Without a doubt, that was My First Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date. My Next Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date was surviving the fall that followed My First Greatest Equestrian Achievement to Date.

“I think it’s time for you to stand up on a moving horse too, Deirdre.” I think it’s good to challenge your teammates like this.

But Deirdre tables the notion: “No, I think I’ll save that for next year.”

The good news is that us adult vaulters don’t have to stand up if we don’t want to. According to Kim, who seems to have a handle on these things, we have the option of performing at “Level D” or something like that. At this level, the compulsories are modified to make everything a little easier.

Instead up Standing Up, we do this kind of kneel:

Kim knells on Habakuk at the walk.

Kim kneels on Habakuk at the walk.

In Basic Seat, we’re allowed to keep our hands to our sides, thusly:

Penny demonstrates modified basic seat.

Penny demonstrates modified basic seat.

Instead of a Flag, we do a Half-Flag:

Deirdre executes the half-flag.

Deirdre executes the half-flag. Both hands remain on the surcingle.

I’m not sure if my favorite move, the Flop & Click, has been modified. I think how I do it appears modified anyway:

flop and click

We do a Half Mill instead of a Full Mill, thus saving ourselves a half a trip around the horse. You would be surprised at how those can add up.

half mill

Dismount is the same as usual or by just falling off before you’re done. It’s good to have options.

Karin explored with us the creative possibilities of the team free style barrel routine, which is truly free:

Michelle holds the triple together.

Michelle holds the triple together.

“You can make up anything you want!” she assured us.

double on a barrel

I wanted to remind her that “planning” and “execution” are two different things.

free style out of control

I’ve always assumed that the theoretical number of things that one could do on a barrel is finite.

two on a barrel

But I’m beginning to change my mind about that.

dog on barrel

And there are a bunch of little things Pete and Karin are teaching us that really help. For example, Pete showed us the proper way to help each other mount.

assisting a barrel mount

And things like where to position your “down” leg when doing the Flag – or Half Flag – for better stability. Or the proper way to sit back down on the horse so that you don’t slam down on his back.

The biggest thing we’re learning is a deeper appreciation for vaulting. You don’t have to know anything about vaulting to enjoy watching it. It’s nice. It’s impressive. But once you start doing it yourself, you become aware of things that you didn’t see before. You realize that the grace and apparent ease of those who can do it well is actually an amalgam of many little details being done correctly and simultaneously and you shake your head at the sheer physical exertion required by even the most basic moves. And then … my gosh … and then to perform all of this with poise and presence. At D Level, we just try to keep our smile from looking like a grimace.

Like any good participatory observer.

free style on barrel

 

 

Team YAH!

The first thing you learn about being on an adult vaulting team is that “vaulting team” is two words and they are equally important. You don’t just plop yourself on the horse and flop around up there while everyone else stands around and watches. Before you can plop and flop, there are team things you have to do.

First, the team grooms the horse together, while one person takes pictures.

grooming a horse

Then, you engage in team building using a ball, while one person takes pictures.

large ball

Then, you stand in line by order of height and receive instructions, while one person takes pictures.

instructions

Then, something bad happens. The tallest person has to put his camera away and lead the group around single file, while the group attempts to match his walking cadence, which presumably at some point graduates to a skipping sort of rhythm.

When the kids do it, it looks really nice

vaulters skipping

We didn’t advance to Skipping Level because I’m the tallest person on the team and my walking gait is a peculiar blend of stiffness and chaos, which others find difficult to follow.

Since I was in front, I couldn’t see what was going on behind me, but from what I was hearing, it was clear that we were on the brink of a seven-adult pile up.

Just in time, Karin called a halt to our dysfunctional conga line:

“Wait, wait, wait…WAIT,” she said.

Then she turned us all around so we were all standing side by side in the same direction. I liked this, because in this orientation, no single person (me) could be held at fault.

Karin proceeded to demonstrate a hopscotch sort of thing which in the past she used on her own children to trick them into thinking they weren’t tired toward the end of a long hike in the woods. Essentially, you pause intermittently in order to place your right foot in various positions: back, front, side. That sort of thing. I’m guessing you repeat with the left if you haven’t already gotten to end of the arena. At each step, you announce what you’re doing in German and there’s a fun little kick at the end.

The routine was kind of like a combination of the Hokey-Pokey and the opening of Lavern & Shirley. Remember?

Laverne and Shirley

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…Schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated…”

I’m assuming that we have to do this in some sort of synchronized fashion as we enter the ring and present our team to the judges.

We need to practice.

Karin said we could do it in English, if that would be easier.

The offer was met with a chorus of “Nein!” The consensus was that the routine would lose its charm in English.

We spent the rest of the time on the barrel and taking turns on Kim and Pete’s sweetly natured horse, Andromeda.

On Andromeda

After watching each other, someone rightly suggested that we might need longer practices.

There was some discussion regarding the team name. “Older Than Dirt Vaulters” was an early favorite. But the next day, more interesting alternatives were being presented, including “Geriatric Acrobatics” (thank you, Michelle), “The Mummies Return” (thank you, Wendelin Schmidt) and my personal favorite, “Arthritic Flyers” (thank you again, Michelle).

In the end (at this writing) we chose Charity’s “Young at Heart Vaulters.” People seemed to like this one because of the acronym “YAH!”

So minus Michelle and Karin, who at the time of the group selfie were respectively being held hostage by a two-year old and a vet, here is Team YAH:

Clockwise from 6 o'clock: Charity, Andromeda's nose, Deirdre, Liz, the rest of Andromeda's head, Kim, Penny and Bob.

Clockwise from 6 o’clock: Charity, Andromeda’s nose, Deirdre, Liz, the rest of Andromeda’s head, Kim, Penny and Bob.

Master Vaulters

Yesterday, Karin informed me that we were going to start the Adult Vaulting Class. This week. Thursday night. Be there.

It seemed so sudden. Even rash.

Karin defended her decision: “We’ve been pregnant with the idea for some time…”

A flood of double entendres came to mind. All logically applicable, but none socially appropriate, so I held my tongue.

“And now it’s being born,” she completed the analogy.

Just what is the gestation period for crazy ideas?

At first, she called it “Master Vaulting Class.” I asked her not to do that. I don’t care for the expectations that accompany that label. So as a default, she settled for the mundane, but accurate “Adult Vaulting Class.” For now. Karin will not leave that alone.

I’m actually looking forward to this. Because I think it’s something I can do. If we’re willing to accept an exceedingly liberal definition of the phrase “can do.”

I’m guessing that when the average horseperson thinks of equestrian vaulting, they naturally picture the high level stuff: gymnastic sort of riders in unitards doing triples and flipping around up there like circus performers. The visually stunning, WOW stuff. And for those dedicated enough to follow the program, Karin does offer that.

But she also offers vaulting to anyone who wants to make an honest effort. In addition to her competitive vaulting team, she has vaulting programs for riders with special needs and for children as young as 2 and now, for the “seasoned” rider.

Karin explains her philosophy: “We talk about ‘adaptive’ vaulting, but really, it’s all adaptive. We adapt our approach to match the skill level and needs of the rider.”

It’s a simple idea, but to make it real takes decades of experience, accumulated knowledge and, of course, a profound dedication to the spirit of inclusion – what Karin would call “making connections.”

So, here at Legacy Stables, it’s never about what you can’t do. It’s always about what you can do. The idea is to explore the latter. And have fun doing it.

So, this is the fantasy:

vaulter dismount

This is the reality:

riding on knees

This is photoshop:

Bob upside down

This is success:

old man mounting a vaulting barrel

Because, it’s an improvement over this:

mounting vaulting barrel with help

While I won’t be doing the tree pose at the canter…

tree pose

…I’m hoping with proper diet and conditioning, that I, along with my fellow “Master Vaulters” will be able to make the most of Karin’s offer and have fun exploring what we actually can do.

almost standing on a horse

 

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.

Over a Barrel

For Lesson #92, I was treated to some vaulting instruction by Pete.

Yes, he vaults. But he's not crazy.

Yes, he vaults. But he’s not crazy.

This was a good thing because Karin’s big TRAIL MIX VAULTING COMPETITION AND CLINIC was in two days and I was participating. By order of the high command.

I was going to be up against some fierce competition. Karin divided the event into age groups and because of an obvious computer malfunction, I ended up being grouped with the old people – or in TRAIL MIX terminology “Raisins & Salts”.

Now that doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize that this group included Karin Herself and Michelle, one of Legacy Stables biggest supporters and a Mom of a vaulter.

Michelle:  Mom of Vaulter

Michelle: Mom of Vaulter

What chance did I have against a Coach and a Mom?…  Neither of which are all that old! Quite young, actually!… And nice!

Actually, Karin didn’t even know she was competing until I told her that I saw her name on the class list. Charity entered her name on the spreadsheet when Karin was distracted by other matters. As Legacy Stables grows and Karin’s attention is spread in more directions, we should be able to put her name on all kinds of things.

I started warming up on the barrel before Pete got into the arena. I got up by taking a running start and just sort of hurling myself across the top of the barrel. And then adjusted accordingly.

When I repeated the technique for Pete, he told me that wasn’t quite how you’re supposed to do it. You have to stand next to the barrel and sort of power your way up there using the spring in your legs and lots of arm/shoulder muscling. After a couple of inevitable failed attempts, he allowed me to launch from a small trampoline.

We then proceeded through the six compulsory movements. I don’t quite remember what each was called, other than basic seat:

 basic seat

And the flag:

 the flag

I should have been jotting some of this down, but I didn’t seem to have a free hand most of time I was up there. However, we did break for a strategy session, immediately after I successfully transitioned my right leg over the handles and to the other side of the barrel in three easy steps.

Strategy session.

Strategy session.

In this one, Pete and I demonstrate how the artistic interpretation of a movement can vary from vaulter to vaulter:

two men on vaulting barrels

After working on the barrel, we went through the sequence again on Avenir.

This one…

man on vaulting barrel

…looked different on the horse….

man on vaulting horse

And you can’t just get up there and do the stuff. They expect you do things like breath, smile and not swear very much. Kim said she was glad the pictures didn’t have audio to accompany them, but I believe that was in reference to the inadvertent noises one makes in response to well-meaning torture and not to any discernable words or phrases I may have uttered.

Sure, I can manage an occasional smile, if you count the grimaces. My default vaulting expression is best described as “clear confusion.” I’m never quite sure what to do next. I require everything step-by-step like you do in the game Twister.

Karin got some instruction from Pete as well.

woman on vaulting barrel

I wasn’t sure why the vaulting coach needed vaulting instruction, especially two days before a big competition against me.

woman on vaulting horse

As it turned out, there was someone else who I should have feared more than Karin. On Saturday, an old nemesis of mine, a familiar but fearsome foe, made a dramatic appearance during the Raisin & Salt class.

But I’ll tell you about that next time.

two men standing on vaulting barrel

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