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!

Horse Show Veteran

With my riding lessons still on hold due to technical reasons and with show season just around the corner, I thought I’d offer the following assessment of horse show parenting.

The article is actually part of a collection that I put together for my book A Horse in the House: Living With the Equine Addicted. Right now the book is available as a Kindle book from Amazon. For those who are interested, here’s the link:  A Horse in the House.

Horse Show Veteran

I am a horse show veteran. My horse-crazed daughters suffer from an addiction to riding in public, so I don’t have much choice. My efforts to break them of this expensive habit routinely fail and I’m left to spend my weekends and their inheritance on this … sport.

We’ve attended over a hundred horse shows. And we’ll probably go to a hundred more before it’s over and they cart me away on a broken down sulky, babbling a litany of judge’s instructions: “Trot your horse, trot please… reverse and walk … canter your horses … run like the wind! … every rider for herself! … line up and face judgment!” I’ll need to be sedated.

When the girls first started competing, I had no idea what was going on. All I could see was a herd of horses with miniature, but well dressed riders going in circles. How the judge picked one rider over another was beyond my comprehension. They weren’t racing, that was for sure. But to help pass the time, I pretended they were.

Now, I’m a veteran. I still don’t understand what the judge is looking for, but at least now I know that nobody else does either. Not parents anyway. Many get angry, and even feel cheated or insulted when their child does not place. Over the years, I’ve learned the louder they protest, the less they know.

New parents – the rookies – are the worst. Rookie parents are shocked and dismayed when they first discover the role politics and popularity play in horse show placings. “What do you mean the judge is a close friend of Suzy Tengrandhorse’s parents? That’s not fair!” Yeah, neither are death and taxes.

Of course one’s view of the role of politics in placings directly corresponds to the color of ribbon one receives. Those taking a blue know the judge is a direct descendant of Solomon – or a least a shirttail cousin of Judge Judy. Those who receive lesser ribbons or no ribbon at all regard the judge as fair and impartial as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There are other ways to spot rookie parents. They’re the ones whose kids have bloodstains on their back numbers. There is a trick to pinning thin stock cardboard to fabric and it takes a few finger pricks before you learn it. Safety pins are dangerous.

Rookie parents hurry. Then they wait. Then they hurry. Then they wait. They do this because they have yet to comprehend the salient fact of horse shows: Nothing ever happens on time. Most horse shows are behind before they even start. Rushing to meet a deadline that never comes on time always results in hurrying followed by waiting followed by hurrying and so on.

Veterans know better than to get ready too early. Scurrying around to get the proper tack, the right clothes, and correct equipment ready to go forty-five minutes prior to a class is never a good idea. The horse gets tired, the kid will have to pee and sweat makes mascara run. Daughters of rookie parents sometimes look like Alice Cooper groupies.

One of the worst mistakes I see rookie parents make is letting people – especially club leaders and kids – see them sit down. Veterans do not allow this. A veteran knows that the instant his or her rear makes contact with a chair, a club leader or child will descend upon the sitting person with a list of chores and instructions. Sitting areas should be chosen with care and out of public view. I prefer exploring and colonizing small patches in adjoining cornfields whenever possible.

Veteran horse parents do not have fewer questions than rookie horse parents. We’ve just stopped asking them. We have learned that knowing something is the first step to having to do something. It’s best to remain confused and oblivious. Just because the horses go around and around, doesn’t mean we need to.

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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.”

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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.

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.

The “G” Word

For Lesson #67 Karin had me ride Goldie.  Goldie is an old friend of mine.  My first taste of equestrian glory was with her:

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And last year, she made a huge contribution to the greater cause:

Goldie and Oakley.

Goldie and Oakley.

Goldie is Leoni’s horse…

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….but like all of the horses at Legacy, many claim her:

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I often hear that Goldie is “lazy” or at least harder to get moving than some of the other horses. I remember Karin giving me a crop and instructing me to annoy the horse into motion. Karin is a good teacher and knows my strengths.

 

I also often hear that Goldie is one of the fastest horses in the Legacy Herd. I’m guessing that has something to do with why she’s Leoni’s horse.

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On Lesson #67 Goldie’s higher gears became a subject of interest to me. Karin had us trot as expected:  “makehergo-makehergo-makehergo.” And this was followed by the now routine, “I want you to canter, Bob.”

And then she added, “Just don’t let her head for the Big Door.”

The Big Door

The Big Door

I glanced toward the Big Door and replied:

“Heh.”

I thought this may a good time to ask for my stunt double.

I’ve grown fond of cantering. The instant you see that horse head in front of you go into the rocking motion and you feel the acceleration, the brain must release some kind of addictive chemical that makes you want to:

1) Not stop.

2) Do it again after you stop.

We cantered around the arena three or four times. I had even less control on Goldie then I did on Krystal in Lesson #66. But I remembered what everyone said about how Perfect is overrated, so I just sort of found my balance and let Goldie and Nature take their course.

I admitted to Karin after we halted that I had no control from start to finish.

“You are an experienced rider now, Bob. I could tell you weren’t scared.”

This was true. It was more fun than frightening. Although, I did have the Big Door on my mind for most of the ride.

Then Karin added, “She doesn’t really have a good canter.  But when she goes faster, she beautiful.”

Goes “faster”…

It was as if Karin was trying to avoid saying the word. So I said it for her:

“You mean — her gallop?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful.”

This is the first time we’ve used the word gallop.  Usually, if Karin says a word, it won’t be long before I’m doing it.

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* * *

Jenny and I are going bike riding next week, so I won’t be posting here until the beginning of July. When I get back, I want spend two or three postings talking about Karin’s horses as an intro to the Legacy Stables Horse of the Month competition.

Also, if you would like to support this blog, the best way to do that is to go to the Bob the Equestrian Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BobtheEquestrian and click the “share” button under the post that references my latest blog entry. Your support is much appreciated!

 

New Stuff

After a couple of weeks off, I returned to my lessons last Thursday.  Legacy was a busy place while I was gone.

There’s new barn art.

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New stalls.

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This mysterious item that somebody invented while I was gone.

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And lots of new mud.

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I really like the new barn art. “Vitality” was a gift to Legacy Stables from artist Brenda Dezeeuw. Someone on Facebook commented that the photo doesn’t really do the piece justice. So true. When you walk into the barn, it just sort of draws you to it.

Brenda Dezeeuw and "Vitality".

Brenda Dezeeuw and “Vitality”.

I actually didn’t notice the new stalls until Paul pointed them out.  Whoa!  They just all of a sudden appeared. They call me Mr. Observant. In my defense, I was too busy admiring the new art and trying to pet the dog.

I found the mysterious item on the dressage saddle while I was tacking up Vinnie.

I did not know what to do with it. Or why it was there. Or what it was. I suspected alien technology. But it came off pretty easy and I handed it to Kathy. She told me it’s called “a girth extension.”

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“What manner of beast requires such an extension?” Discovering unfamiliar items like this is unsettling for me and always leads to more questions.

In this case, the question had an easy answer: the new girth extension was for Habakuk, Karin’s new horse.

Oh, yes. She did.

I think she’s up to 14 or 15 now. I don’t think she even knows for sure.

Habakuk is huge. He’s 17 hands, making him a little shorter than my old buddy Caspian.  But he’s as wide as a tank. Like Brenda’s art, you really have to see him up close and personal to truly appreciate him.

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Karin made me hold him for a minute or two while she was getting some of the other horses from the pasture. Habakuk and I looked at each other, you know sizing each other up. With larger horses, I usually worry about getting stepped on. But this time, I worried about getting eaten.

I know, I know. Horses don’t eat people. But while we were eye to eye, I couldn’t help but recall Fat Bastard’s line from Austin Powers: “Get into by belly!”

From what Karin tells us, Habakuk is actually a very nice horse. He has a good disposition and she can tell that he’s had a good deal of training.  At one time he had been employed as a 4-H horse for a twelve-year-old girl.  If you’re a horse looking for a job working with kids, that’s a pretty good thing to have on your resume’.

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Karin intends on using Habakuk for vaulting. This is going to require some work, but she has a pretty good feeling about the project.

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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.

Bea Must Die

In the Post-Bite Portion of Lesson #34, Karin and I went on a little trail ride. I took the lead, mainly because I was in the mood to take the lead.  Karin took Kathy’s horse, Windy, because “she needed a little work”.  Apparently Vinnie wasn’t the only one still adjusting to the move.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I was in front.

About half way into the ride, Vinnie started getting fidgety.  I could tell he was swishing his tail a little too vigorously and he just wasn’t moving forward easily. Something wasn’t right.

The “Something” was an uninvited third party. Karin made note of it:

“HE HAS A HORSEFLY ON HIM!  YOU HAVE TO KILL HIM!  YOU HAVE TO KILL HIM!”

I have no qualms about killing a fly. I’ve slaughtered many of them in my day and as a boy, I got rather good at catching them and … well…

But what got my attention was how adamant Karin was regarding my assignment.

“KILL HIM! KILL HIM! YOU MUST KILL HIM!”

It was as if she was afraid the fly would hustle back to headquarters and report our position.  I wanted to get Vinnie to walk on and hoped the fly would just give it up.  But the tone in Karin’s voice made it clear that slaying the intruder was the only solution.  There was no plan B.

Later, Karin would explain why I had to “KILL HIM!” Apparently, he (the fly) was actually a female.  A female with eggs. Her mission was to find a good home for the eggs and inject them, painfully, into the horse. Can’t have that.

The fly was simply following a biological imperative.  She was probably a tad uncomfortable carrying around those eggs and having discovered this beautiful high-rise apartment was determined to complete her duty here and now.  There was no Plan B for her, either.

I posthumously named her “Bea”.

Bea was ugly, that’s for sure. She was about the size of the golf ball and should have made an easy target.  However, the battle went on for some time.  While Vinnie bucked and stumbled around, Karin reported Bea’s current position, which was usually behind me. It was difficult to get a visual on the target. As I would turn to slap the life out of the fly, Bea would buzz off for a moment only to defiantly return to a different spot on Vinnie.

“HE’S ON HIS BUTT!”  Whack. Miss.

“NO, HE’S ON THE SADDLE PAD!” Whack. Miss.

“NOW HE’S ON THE OTHER SIDE!” Whack. Miss.

The Force was strong with this one. And Karin was still getting the gender wrong. No doubt she was suffering from a little confusion herself, as she witnessed her student getting outwitted by a horsefly. I really didn’t think I was going to get her.

But I did. Bea landed on Vinnie’s left flank, I got a good acquisition and whap, the fly fell to the ground, legs up.

I really don’t believe that Bea was all that concerned with her own existence. In fact, I think she was relieved when the end came.  I mean, who really wants to be a horsefly? I could almost hear her little fly voice as she fluttered to the ground – I’m thinking something with a gritty Bonnie Raitt quality –  “Finally… the end… thank you, thank you.”

Karin was right. That did the trick. Everything settled down and we were able to finish the ride.

Karin declared me “A Hero”.  True, I had saved Vinnie from becoming an unwilling host to a batch of Horsefly Babies, but like Bea, I was simply following my own biological imperative.

She had been a worthy opponent.

If Dr. Seuss Went to a Horse Show

 

It’s that time of year again. Here is something from my pre-equestrian days when I was still trying to figure this all out. I never did figure it all out, but it was fun trying. The following is what I thought might have happened if Dr. Seuss ever stumbled into a horse show.

One Horse.

Two Horse.

Smart Horse.

Fool Horse.

My, what a lot of horses there are!

Some are white

And some are black

And some are never, ever coming back.

Where do they come from?

I cannot say.

But, I bet they’ve come a long, long way!

After all, it’s horse show day!

 

Horsegirl:  

HOORAY!  It is horse show day!

Dad: 

It is horse show day you say?

Then I must pay.  And pay.  And pay.

Announcer: 

Yes you will pay.

Or you cannot, must not, will not stay.

Judge:

I’m willing to bet

You will soon be in debt.

Dad:

How true!  How true!

But what can I do?

My daughter is horse-crazy

And my wife is too!

Mom:

It is not much

Just write the check

What the heck!

Dad:

This is bad and sad.

I am mad and NOT glad.

I am a sad, mad, not glad dad.

Horsegirl:

Oh my dear!

I really do fear

My first class is near!

Mom:

Be calm

Be steady

Your father will help your horse get ready.

Dad:

I just sat down.

I will not get up.

I will not help the horse.

To move me would take force.

Mom:

If you do not help my dear

I will dump out all your beer.

Dad:

Of course I will help the horse.

Announcer:

Riders enter the ring!

Horsegirl:

I don’t remember a thing!

Mom:

Sit straight

Sit tall

Sit true in the saddle

And do not fall!

Dad:

There is no hope for our daughter.

Mom:

She will do as I taught her.

Dad:

Forty-four horses!

It will be a slaughter!

Announcer:

Trot your horses and trot them well.

Mom:

Our daughter is doing just swell.

Horsegirl:

I want to throw up.

I feel like … heck.

Announcer:

Reverse and walk I say!

Do it now!

Do not delay!

Mom:

The judge just stands there!

He will not look!

He will not write things in his book!

Get him out.  Get the hook!

Judge:

I have seen enough.

Line ‘em up.  And don’t be rough!

Announcer: 

Here are the placings

Listen up!

First place goes to a man named Gup

He rides a horse he calls “Wup”.

Second is for Cindi Loo Who

Riding on  “Who Knows You”.

Third place goes to Sally and I

Riding double on “Fruit Salad Pie”.

Fourth place goes to my friend Mike

He has no horse, only a bike.

Fifth spot is Sam I Am

Riding on (what else) “Green Eggs and Ham”.

Sixth place goes to the girl

Who rides a horse she calls “Earl”.

Horsegirl:

Cindi Loo Who is ahead of me?

This is not right

How can this be?

Mom:

This is not fair

This is not good

Nail that judge to a piece of wood!

Dad:

Why whine and cry and complain and such?

It should not matter all that much.

Horsegirl:

I sat straight

I sat tall.

I sat true in the saddle

I did not fall.

Judge:

You came in sixth

But should have been first?

It could have been much, much worse!

I will tell you why this is so

And after that, you must go.

All you did was sit, sit, sit.

And I did not like it.

Not one little bit.

You have dirt on your hat.

Your horse is too fat.

And you spit on the ground like a batter at bat.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Dad:

Emotions run high.

And I don’t know why

I think it’s time to say good-bye

Mom:

We cannot go

We must not leave

We must stay here

Until eight in the eve

Horsegirl:

Yes, we must stay

Stay all day, I say!

ONE class alone

Does not make a horse show day!