One on, One off

For Lesson #116, I chose to ride Windy again. I had some one-handed riding in mind and Windy doesn’t seem to care how many I use. By employing this advanced form of riding, I am able to take partial selfies such as these:

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It was a cold, but sunny day so we decided to venture out and see what’s what. Gerry was on Habakuk and Karin rode Charley.

From the onset, Windy and I kept falling behind. One-handed riding can be slower if you don’t do it just right.

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As we entered the wooded area, we came across a number of questionable patches of poorly defined puddles and soft spots, treacherous enough for two hands. I tried to anticipate these and tuck my camera away before any real trouble started, but I wasn’t always successful. Most of the time I managed to get the thing into my coat’s breast pocket just as we were emerging from the trouble area.

Several times Windy walked under small branches that she fit beneath nicely, but I had to use my camera hand to push them away to defend my face. One rather large, but weak branch actually came off in my hand. I couldn’t just let it fall haphazardly least it catch Windy on the flank, so I carried it with my camera for a moment or two not really wanting it all that much. The thing was a good 3 inches in diameter and at least 6 feet long. I really wanted to take a selfie of me holding it as Windy ambled on, but if I was going to do any zero handed riding it would be to push additional branches away from my face. I could have just rotated it 90 degrees and carried it like a joust, but I didn’t want to give Karin any ideas. I managed to toss the thing far enough away that it didn’t disturb poor Windy.

Meanwhile, Habakuk and Gerry stopped periodically to engage in some kind of peculiar bouncing dance. I don’t think any of this was Gerry’s idea. Windy and I stopped and allowed the two ample space for whatever it was they were doing.

Just as we were getting back to the house-barn environs, Habakuk made a particularly effective series of moves and off goes Gerry. When the trouble had started, I put my camera away and put two hands on the reins. I didn’t know what part we would be taking in the festivities, but whatever it was, I would be using two hands to do it.

After putting Gerry on the ground, Habakuk bolted across an open field. He would have looked prettier without his saddle on. There is something inherently unsettling about seeing a saddled horse gallop across an open field.

I could feel Windy tug a little as if it at least occurred to her to join Habakuk in his mad dash. I immediately dismounted. If Windy really wanted to follow Big H, she would be doing it without me.

Gerry insisted he was all right. In fact, he said he was proud to finally experience his First Fall. Karin always says you can’t be a real equestrian until you fall once. Of course, after my First Fall, Karin upped my number ex post facto to five.

She also wanted to know if I got a video of Gerry’s fall. I wanted to ask her if she was planning on including it in the promo video they are putting together for the place, but instead I merely explained that both my hands were busy at the time.

 

The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals

We have a special treat this week! My good friend and fellow equestrian Lauren Baker and I are guest posting on each other’s blog. I’ve known Lauren since the late 90’s. She is the former editor and publisher of Flying Changes Magazine, a Northwest sporthorse publication and my favorite regional horse magazine. Lauren did that for 21 years before handing over the reins to new owner, Lorna Lowrie, in March of 2014. She now works as freelance writer and blogger. Lauren has a fun writing style that I’m sure readers of this blog will appreciate.

 The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals

By Lauren Baker

 Any dressage rider worth their salt has seen the dressage training pyramid. Some people even remember what it says. I had to look it up.

It looks like this:

USDF Training Pyramid - Copy

So, collection is the ultimate goal. Rhythm is where you begin.

But what about the real-world training pyramid?

In the real world, we generally start with Survival.

If the rider is focusing on stay-alive skills, there’s no room for rhythm … unless we’re talking about the kind of rhythm that comes from hyperventilating. Who of us has not had a ride worthy of hyperventilation?

Once we’ve ridden our horse enough (or sent him off to training camp) and feel our life is not in immediate danger, we can work on Go … quickly following it with the all-important Whoah.

Whoah is so important that I use it in non-horse-related emergencies, as well as barn-related opportunities. I’ll yell ‘Whoah’ in a potential bicycle accident or a near-miss pedestrian/motor vehicle incident.

People look at you strangely when you yell ‘Whoah!” outside of a barn but when, when used with enthusiasm, you get results.

Once Go and Whoah have been mastered, preferably in a small space where you can’t get run off with, it’s time to move on to Steering.

If you’re riding a horse that doesn’t steer, it’s important to advise other riders in proximity that they are in mortal danger, soley responsible for their own safety. Again, you’ll get strange looks—but it’s better than killing someone.

Beginning steering should take into account the horse’s general lack of knowledge. Don’t expect any sudden turns unless they are accompanied by a buck, shy, or rear. Green horses are so much fun!

To summarize, before we can get to the lofty dressage goals of Rhythm and Relaxation (the baby steps of dressage), we must first achieve the following:

Survival Pyramid

 

No offense, USDF, but I think your training pyramid should be expanded to include those of us with young and green horses. It kind of sucks to find yourself completely off the chart.

Once we have the survival basics, THEN we can move on to the beginnings of finesse. Until then, focus on keeping yourself breathing and moving in Rhythm, in a Relaxed manner. Try to Connect to your horse in a level appropriate to his green-horse nature but expect that connection to be fluid and dynamic (aka: wildly erratic). Ask for Impulsion – but not too much unless you’re an adrenaline junky!!

You should definitely stay Straight (as in not drunk or stoned) and Collect your thoughts. You’ll need your wits about you, trust me.

Check out Lauren’s new blog Dressage for Mere Mortals – a blog for “ordinary people, who love & perhaps struggle with the intricacies of dressage.” Good stuff!

A Ride in the Woods

Jenny and I recently spent some time in Florida visiting daughter Jamie and son-in-law Kyle. I didn’t get a chance to ride any horses and I’m not sure they would have let me anyway. But we did get a peek at some interesting creatures that you rarely see at home.

There was this iguana guarding the middle of the street.

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In what is sure to be an award winning nature photograph, you can see the fin of a dolphin if you look closely.

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I wasn’t too upset that this big guy/girl was on the other side of the creek.

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And a big ol’ manatee hanging near the legged creatures.

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In any case, no lessons for me in the second half of last month. So I thought I’d share this article I wrote for The Trail Rider magazine that appeared in their Mar/April issue of 2013. It’s about my first ride on one of Karin’s horses.

A Ride in the Woods

“Trail ride” is such a pleasant sounding term. The way it rolls off your tongue with no menacing consonants like “k” or spooky letters like “x” or “q”. The two words sort of blend together – trailride – offering a mixture of agreeable associations: sunshine, fresh air, tall trees and the best companionship known to humankind.

Trailride. Such a nice word…

Unless, of course, it’s your first time on a horse in thirty years and you’ve spent the last fifty-two minutes at the edge of mortal danger and your riding instructor is using it in a sentence that you did not want to hear: “Why don’t we finish your lesson with a little trail ride?” In that case, it sounds more like: “Let’s go out into the woods and finish you off.” 

The horse Karin put me on was a Perchon-Thoroughbred mix about the size of Godzilla, but much nicer. He was definitely a good boy, who did not seem to mind the white-knuckled death grip I had on his mane for the last hour.

“Good boy, Caspian. Good boy.” 

The death grip was actually the result of an attempt to pat the horse’s neck. But my hand didn’t make it all the way and on its own accord, seized the nearest object offering any measure of comfort and security. Once there, I couldn’t convince it to leave.

I should have been less afraid. Caspian, an experienced vaulting horse, was exceptionally calm and well mannered, as any creature employed as a mobile jungle gym would have to be. Besides, since this was my first lesson, Karin chose a vaulting saddle for me use. These are saddles that come with actual handles, like they all should. There is nothing you can put on a horse that could make a new rider feel any more secure than a vaulting saddle. But that wasn’t enough. 

Foundation for a Phobia

Highlighting my apprehension was a well-founded Low Hanging Branch Phobia. When my kids were young, we went on a group ride with their cousins at a local riding stable. You know, the kind staffed and managed by horse-crazed teenaged girls. Everything was fine for the first thirty feet of the ride. And then everything wasn’t. I don’t know exactly how it started. Something about a disagreement between the two lead horses. Maybe it was an election year, I don’t remember.

Anyway, all hell broke lose. Two of the horses took off down the road, while another split into the woods, perhaps in an attempt to cut ‘em off on the other side of the trees. It’s hard to say what goes on in a horse’s brain during these situations. Probably nothing.

The horse that took off into the woods was carrying my nephew. I could see the little guy ducking branches as his freaked-out mount carried him deeper into the woods. Lucky for everyone, except my sister’s attorney, the kid was athletically inclined and able to hang on without further incident or injury. I remember thinking at the time that the boy was fortunate to still have a head.

Ever since the incident, I’ve associated trail riding with decapitation. Although, my daughter likes to point out that a low hanging branch is more likely to break your neck or crack your head open than to take it clean off.

Yeah, that’s better.

Into the Hole We Go

It’s not just the trees and branches that scare me. It’s the things hiding behind the trees. The things that both Caspian and I know are there. It’s about how the horse will react when those things jump out at us. Horses are unpredictable! People aren’t much better! 

Despite my fears, we head toward the trees. As Caspian and I follow Karin on her little pony into the woods, he behaves as if nothing is wrong. His gait is steady and calm, nonchalantly swaying with a steady rhythm. I can almost see the thought bubble above his big Baby Huey head: 

Doh-de-doh, doh-de-doh, into the woods we go-de-doh, go-de-doh… 

I should take heart in his courage, but I am unable. If the branches and things behind the trees aren’t enough, we are approaching the Dreaded Mudhole, the lowest part of the trail. Karin warns: “You’ll feel him pick up a little speed. He knows he needs to do that to make it through the mud.” 

Speed? I do not want speed. Not at all. It’s unpredictable! No, no, NO! 

The horse’s cadence quickens and his gait becomes irregular. Into the Mudhole we go! The mighty horse powers his way through it without stumbling and we surge up the hill. And the top, we emerge from the woods and back into the open! The orchestra in my head strikes up Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathurstra (2001 Space Odyssey music) and we are in the clear. 

Caspian’s steady gait returns. 

Do-de-doh, do-de-doh, out of the woods we go-de-doh. 

That was actually… fun. 

As we return to the barn, Karin says, “Next time, lets try a little trot.” 

Trot, such a fun word.

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Planning for Perfection

On Lesson #114 we attempted to recreate Lesson #113: a perfectly pleasant winter’s day ride. However…

The temps were actually single digit – this time without the benefit of literary license. These days, we’re happy enough if we don’t see the minus sign in front of our numbers. As Gerry (on Habakuk) and I (on Windy) discovered as we followed Karin (on Charley) lemming-like through the Kiddie Trail, the footing was less than ideal. Discretion being the better part of valor, we headed inside. The Chicken Part of my brain – science calls it the cerebrum – insisted.

Within the confines of the Great Indoors, Windy and I performed some dressage moves. These included “Snappy Salute at X” and “Precisely Perfect 20 Meter Circle.”

Anyone who knows anything about dressage knows that after you enter at “A,” you proceed to “X” and make a Snappy Salute. Anyone who knows anything about the English alphabet knows that “X” should be “B.”    

I’m wondering if the letter-sequencing discrepancy has something to do with the roots of dressage itself. While the Germans and miscellaneous Europeans developed dressage into the sport/art form we know today, it was the Greeks that first came up with idea. Way, way, way back. Its origins are in fact attributed to the writings of a gentleman named Xenophon who was actually an army guy. Xenophon and the Greeks had their own take on the alphabet with letters that were simultaneously very pretty and very confusing to look at. Kind of like the script you might see on the back of the One Ring to Rule Them All. The one that Karin wants.

After Snappy Salute, I performed a Precisely Perfect 20 Meter Circle and announced that I had done so.

Karin expressed partial disagreement: “That wasn’t 20 meters.”

“Really, Karin? It’s the 20 meter part of that you object to?”

“Bob… a meter is three feet…”

Well so much for precision.

“… and the arena is 72 feet across. That leaves you six feet on each side…”

Her calculations were exquisite. In all honestly, my Precisely Perfect 20 Meter Circle had been probably closer to an 8-meter version of the Greek small case letter “phi.”

40px-Greek_phi_Didot_svg

Karin then demonstrated to Gerry (who didn’t ask) and me how to make a “change through a circle” and a “change out of a circle.” They are two different things that can put you in different directions, so it’s something you have to know if you want to do dressage without an awkward early exit.

That’s the biggest thing I learned about dressage circles: there’s context to them. They don’t just come out of nowhere and end up nowhere. Striving for perfection means you have to plan ahead.

The Antidote to Winter

On Lesson #113 I got to ride with new parents Leo and Anika, Karin’s son-in-law and daughter (respectively). Despite air temps well below freezing – I mean like 8 or something – we decided that a trail ride sounded nice. I took Windy because she looks warm to me. Leo rode Maree. Anika chose Apache, one of the four new employees brought on staff to help with Legacy’s current growth spurt.

Leo is still a relatively new rider and I’m – well, me – so Anika had her hands full with getting the two adult males and three horses ready to go.

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With five full mammals in her charge, she scurried around making sure everyone had what they needed, fought with all the reluctant cold weather leather and checked to make sure everything was on the horses – and us – properly.

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She tended to each detail with the same care and patience her mother displays with her students. I can she why Karin wants Anika to give lessons. I think she would make a great kindergarten teacher.

While it was cold, there was little wind and no precipitation. And the footing was actually very good. We ended up having a pleasant winter’s day ride. Like they do in songs.

 Come late next fall when we start dreading the oncoming winter, we’re going to have to remember days like this. The large indoor arena and heated viewing rooms are nice, but sometimes the real antidote to winter is to go out and enjoy it.

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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.

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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

The Respect of a Palomino

For Lesson #96, Charity filled in for Karin who was busy with horse camp kids. As usual, Gerry rode Habakuk. I’m really impressed with how much progress the Professor and the Moustache King have made together since Gerry started with Karin. And the bond is easy to see.

man on horse

I got my old friend, Goldie. The Palomino wasn’t particularly busy at the time and she stayed Not Busy for pretty much my entire lesson. Goldie is actually Leoni’s horse and according to my sources, Leoni says that the key to Goldie is to earn her respect or she just won’t respond like you think she should. I earned about half-a-trot around the arena’s worth.

With the camp kids taking up all the good barn spots for grooming and tacking up, Gerry and I had to try to brush and saddle the horses outside while they grazed.

“Those horses aren’t going anywhere with all this lush grass around,” one confident observer noted.

horse eating grass

Well, “not going anywhere” is relative. While Habakuk and Goldie showed no intention of packing up and leaving the property, they didn’t exactly stand still either. The grass is always greener four inches away.

“It’s like saddling a moving target,” Gerry observed.

I have this same problem when I try to get my granddaughter Aubrey dressed. She just knows that there has to be more interesting things for a person to do than fussing with something so obviously unnecessary as clothes.

But no problem, Charity was right there assisting Gerry as needed and assisting me just about every step of the way. Legacy’s tack room has a built-in special feature that enables it to spontaneously manufacture – out of plain thin air – rare saddle and girth types that fit together in an endless variety of ways. Each combination of saddle-girth-stirrups creates a unique Tack Puzzle that must be solved before you can ride the horse. If given enough time, I can eventually solve these brainteasers by myself, but by then everyone has gone off to bed.

stirrup puzzle

Charity is good teacher. You can tell she has learned some things by watching Karin, but I think her instincts are really good too. She knew how difficult it was for me to get Goldie going, but she never really pressured me or made me feel more uncomfortable than I already was. Her corrections were very specific in the “heels down,” “toes in,” “don’t lean forward” sort of way. She also taught us the proper way to pass in the arena. Just a few simple rules, but good to know.

riding instructor

Toward the end of the lesson, Charity brought out Karin’s Magic Wand. I couldn’t really see what she was doing with it, but the device had a multiplier effect on Goldie’s respect for me and we got her going for just a bit at the end. Karin always says to end the lesson on a positive note. Even if it takes a little magic.

Karin's Magic Wand

 

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.

Philosophical Differences

For Lesson #84, Karin had us ride bareback. She put me on Maree and put my new lesson partner, Gerry, on Habakuk.

Maree is an absolute sweetheart, great with kids and as easygoing as a horse can get, but I think I’m too tall for her. Karin insists that I’m not.

I did a quick calculation, comparing Karin’s Equestrian Knowledge Data Base to mine and concluded that she had the edge there, so I agreed to ride Maree despite our philosophical differences and my misgivings.

I liked the idea of bareback. I have an awful time keeping my feet in the stirrups at anything faster than a slow walk.  I looked forward to not having that distraction. And Karin said I could ride with in my snow boots – a huge plus.

Bareback also helps the horse and rider share body heat. This was important because it was yet another cold, cold day. The better part of North America was still in the grip of the cruel Polar Vortex, which I now suspect is actually a conscious entity bent on our destruction. In any case, it was warmer that day in Moscow than it was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Some say we’re having a Russian Winter. Although, I don’t think the Russians would say that.

The bareback pad. Don't forget to attend to the girth.

The bareback pad. Don’t forget to attend to the girth.

For me, it was an easy tack day. Karin applied the bareback pad and Maree is the easiest horse in the barn to bridle. She practically does it herself. I just kind of dangle the headset in front of her face and the next thing I know it’s on her. I like that.

Her Sweetness, our Saint Maree

Her Sweetness, our Saint Maree

We rode in the arena, of course.  As I led Maree to the mounting block, Karin asked if I retightened the girth. I wanted to explain to Karin that you don’t need to do that with a bareback pad, but then I’m remembered the Equestrian Knowledge Data Base thing and settled for “No, I forgot,” as she tightened the girth again for me.

As it turned out, I was glad that Karin did that.  For some reason, Maree suddenly shied – rather severely – as we passed the radio sitting on the wall ledge. I have no idea why she did this. Maybe somebody had it on earlier while they were replaying Erin Andrews interview of Richard Sherman after the NFC Championship Game. We’re all still recovering from that. Including Richard Sherman.

The Voice of the Polar Vortex

The Voice of the Polar Vortex

I think if they ever make an action adventure movie about the Polar Vortex, they should hire Richard Sherman to do the voice.

Anyway, I almost fell off. Of all the horses I would expect to bless me with my First Fall, I would have Maree at the bottom of the list. But a horse is a horse and we’re just people and when it comes right down to it, they’re all capable of tossing anyone they please.

To be fair, Maree wasn’t really trying to get rid of me. She startled for just an instant. But it was enough of a bump to put me on her sideways. My right foot, still in its snow boot, courageously clung to the horse’s right side. A literal toehold.

I managed to hang on and not fall, but neither was I able to get back on and right the ship. Like Team Wallace at the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials, I struggled in Rider’s Purgatory for a moment or two, while Saint Maree patiently waited for me to accept the inevitable. Stickablity is overrated, I say.  I chose to get off rather than fall.

You can’t fire me, I quit.

Karin wasn’t there for the festivities. She had gone off to get Mackie while we warmed up. But Gerry was there to witness it – in silent amusement – no doubt, grateful it wasn’t him.

I related the incident to Karin when she came in with Mackie. She said it was too bad I didn’t fall. Oh, the concern was touching.

“You can’t be a real equestrian until you’ve fallen off.”

I think Karin and I have some philosophical differences on this subject as well. Although in this case, the fall would have been measured in inches and I probably passed up a good opportunity.

We worked for a bit and then let the horses loose to roll around in the dirt. Maree demonstrated a proper landing.  For my benefit, I believe.

This is how you do it, Bob.

This is how you do it, Bob.

And Karin and Mackie did a reenactment of Muhammad Ali’s TKO of Sonny Liston in 1963.

Karin wins in the second round.

Karin wins in the second round.

It was a good lesson for all of us.

Staying Off and Staying In

I haven’t had a horse get mad at me in over three weeks. I achieved this by employing a simple technique: not getting on. The last time I rode Goldie, I actually succeeded in getting the reins crossed under her neck as I mounted. I can’t explain how I did this.

I just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t go the way I wanted her to go. Until I got off and checked.

I was unable to document this proud moment with a photo, because I was too busy apologizing – profusely – to Goldie.  She was not happy with me at all.

I wish to be left alone.

I wish to be left alone.

It’s never the horse’s fault. Okay?

But the real reason I haven’t been back in the saddle is due to the visitor from the North Pole.  And I don’t mean Santa Claus. I’m talking about the Abominable Polar Vortex Freeze Monster that has held a large portion of the North America hostage over the last couple weeks. We’ve all suffered.

Hell no.

Hell no.

I know that Karin’s arena has held up well.

snow outside arena wall

And the kids adapted. Like they always do.

vaulting in warm clothes

As for me, I thought it was good opportunity to give Karin’s horses a break from what I do.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching granddaughter Aubrey quite a bit. She has provided me with a good example of the best way to spend your time during what Karin calls “Deep Winter.”

baby reading a book

And between dancing along with the You Tube video of babies’ roller skating to the Black Eyed Peas Pump It and playing “Hat On, Hat Off”…

baby taking hat off grandfather

… and watching spellbinding episodes of Thomas the Train and Bubble Guppies (it makes me very uncomfortable the way they look right at you through the TV monitor), we’ve managed to squeeze in some equestrian related activities, including Equestrian Vaulting Preparatory Exercises:

baby standing on big wheel

And we read this equestrian shaped book, which Aubrey stepped on way before we got all the way through it:

equestrian baby book

I also became a little bit familiar with a TV show called Heartland. It’s a program about horses and people. It has all the equestrian sort of things in it like riding boots and helmets and horse trailers. It’s a drama – about stressed people taking care of distressed horses. I’m not sure who’s supposed to take care of distressed viewers.

Yes, there was something about this show that I found annoying. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I realized what it was: they were talking.  I discovered that turning the audio down to zero profoundly enhanced my enjoyment of Heartland. And then I inserted my own dialogue in a variety of character voices. This kept Aubrey entertained for about 25 seconds and me for about 15 minutes.

In any case, I expect to be back in the saddle next Thursday. My regular post next Tuesday will be about fish.