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!

The Horse Head Arrives

Welp, the horse head mask from Archie McPhee came yesterday.  And Bob the Equestrian has undergone a paradigm shift of momentous proportions. A new era has begun.

The horse head is everything I dreamt it would be, if you include nightmares.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it, but my instincts tell me that the horse head was a good purchase. I feel blessed, as though I now have everything.

Jenny was inspired too.  “I’m married to an idiot,” she said as I walked into the room, half man, half horse.

She did take about eighty pictures. She mumbled something about a photographic portfolio for the lawyer.

I discovered you can do a number of normal activities with the mask. I was happy about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I see no reason why I can’t use it to practice my bridling.  Except finding someone to wear it while I practice.  Jenny seems to have cooled on the idea.

The horse head is not perfect. There is a definite problem with peripheral vision and I just don’t think that’s realistic. You have turn like a tank to see anything.

I’ll need additional props to complete the look, of course. I have my riding boots and a friend gave me a nice set of chaps. I’m thinking about adding cotton flannel shirt, like this:

And then find a western looking vest at Goodwill.

I’ll need a name for this guy.  I’m thinking about maybe “Poor Vinnie” after Poor Vinnie at the barn. But I’m open to suggestions. Nice ones.

By the way: it will be a year ago tomorrow (June 16) that I began my riding lessons with Karin.  What a long, strange – and monstrously fun – trip it’s been.

Head for Home and Practice

After Karin made the proper adjustments to my saddling work, she left me alone with Vinnie and his bridle & bit.  The first thing that occurred to me was that a normal human being could not possibly be capable of performing this procedure. Not gracefully, anyway.

You need three, maybe even four or five, hands.

You have to hold the horse, take the halter off, apply the bridle and bit, and not let anything come in contact with floor. By force of necessity, you learn to use your elbows and shoulders as hooks and shelves.

I got Vinnie to take the bit, mostly because he knew what to do and he was anxious to get on with his day.  And I got the bridle beyond his ears okay.  But I wanted to make sure everything was right, so I called Karin over to check my work.

“Bob, stand in front and see if you can tell what’s wrong.”

I got in front and tilted my head around in search of an error. Vinnie studied my every move, no doubt concerned about what I was going to do to him next. It all looked fine to me.

“No, Bob, one side is different. Can you see it?”

Oh. Okay. I saw it. One side had some strap tucked under another strap and the other side didn’t. I just wasn’t sure which side had it right. I had a 50/50 shot at the correct answer.

“Karin, do you have a quarter?”

“No, over here” Karin lifted a strap on the right side of Vinnie face. “This doesn’t go like that.”

I made the adjustment and I have to admit, it did look better.

The bottom line here is that I need a LOT of practice before I become comfortable with this. And I don’t feel right putting Vinnie or any of the other horses through repeated trials every time I come to the barn.

The solution is to practice at home on a model or something.  I began looking for volunteers for the job.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

Then I found this on line.

It’s a mask from a place called Archie McPhee & Co.  I think it looks like a nice place to work and maybe I can get job there someday.

Anyway, I’m ordering the horse mask, for sure. I don’t think I’m capable of not ordering it.

Of course, I still need someone’s head to go in it.

I asked Jenny if she would wear the mask so that I could practice.

It took me a while to convince her, but now she’s all for it.

“Sure, Bob! I’ll be the horse’s head and you can be the horse’s ass…”

So we’re all set.

A Baby at the Barn

While wandering around on my day job, it’s not uncommon for me to come across a knot of women ogling and fussing over some object in the center of their tight circle. I try to avoid these little gatherings because it’s either one of two things: free apple fritters or someone’s brand new baby.

Given my struggle with the jods, I certainly don’t need the fritter. And I’m just not interested in the baby. I’m sorry, I’m just not.  They all look alike to me anyway and I’m afraid they’ll ask me if I want to hold the baby. I don’t want to break anything.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s great that young people are still willing to reproduce and replace our losses.  Yes, I’m aware of the consequences of overpopulation to our species, but we at least need some new members. So hats off to those willing to go through all the trouble.

And when my granddaughter is born, I have no doubt I will be in middle of some Baby Knot, proud and beaming. And probably munching on an apple fritter, while people take turns holding and cooing over the obviously gifted infant.

Of course, as all experienced equestrians know, the newborn in the middle of a Baby Knot does not always have to be a biped.  When I arrived at the barn last Thursday for Lesson #27, I noticed that Karin’s car wasn’t there yet. The moment I walked into the barn, Kathy hailed me:

“Come here! Over here!”

Normally, Kathy is very involved in her morning tasks and our greetings are pleasant, but brief. But this wasn’t a normal day.

“GET OVER HERE!” She was standing in front of Goldie’s stall.

So, I got over there. And this what I saw:

Kathy had no one for her Baby Knot and I was the only one around. I have to confess, it was pretty amazing. The little gal, Oakley they call her, was born the night before, not 12 hours ago.

Karin showed up a few minutes later, tired but ecstatic. Goldie is Leoni’s horse, so I guess that makes Karin a kind of grandmother. You know how they are.

Karin had a late night. She said that Oakley had a hard time figuring where to get his meals at first. Someone should have shown her last week’s Time Magazine cover.

On second thought, that might have just added to his confusion.

Jumping to Conclusions

On Lesson #22, we had some company in the arena. While Krystal and I were getting stuck in corners, I spotted one of Karin’s other students, Joselyn, setting up a jump. I didn’t even know Karin had those.

I tried to remember if there was anything I said or did that would make Karin think I wanted to do this. Or was ready for it. Maybe there was a jumping related lesson I had forgotten about? I don’t always pay attention as much as I should.

Let's just go back to our corner

I think Krystal noticed too, because she was shaking her head in the “I Don’t Think So Tim” manner.  Or maybe that was me doing the shaking and it just appeared like the horse’s head was going back and forth.

In any case, the jump was for Joselyn and Rambo, Karin’s blind-in-one-eye pony. Rambo is pretty short and has that mad little gait with the quick, enthusiastic steps typical of small, but energetic quadrupeds. And he loves to jump.

Jumping is one of those things I never get tired of watching. I think it’s because jumpers really look like they know what they’re doing. And everybody seems to have such a good time. Except for the Moms & Dads who forgot the Ativan. Every good jumping program should have someone in charge of sedating the parents.  “Sedation Manager” – that’s the kind of job I could do.

Wingless Flight

Leoni showed up about half way through the lesson/jumping performance. As we watched Joselyn and Rambo bound around the arena, I asked Leoni if she wanted to see me jump.

“Yeah! But we should raise the pole first.” This is how vaulters think.

How Leoni Thinks

“No, Leoni. You have to help me out of the corner and off the horse. Then I can jump.”

Karin said that if I thought ahead and started turning earlier I wouldn’t have the corner problem in the first place.

To save face, I challenged Joselyn to a race. It was a bluff, of course.

Joselyn shook her head, “Krystal would win.”

“Perhaps, Joselyn. But I wouldn’t be on her when she crossed the finish line.”

So here is how I figure the placings would go:

1st Krystal

2nd The Front Half of Rambo

3rd Joselyn

4th The Rear Half of Rambo

5th Bob – with one foot dragging and one hand on my head.

At least Karin got some good photos of Joselyn and Rambo catching air.