Jumping on the List

During Lesson #112 research efforts got underway for my 2015 List of Equestrian Things To Do. Progress was made in the areas of neck reining, the free-style vaulting routine and attending a horse show. And there were positive signs regarding Dressage. I also wanted to go over a cavaletti to get that done and checked off the list, but I didn’t see any on the ground.

I had the pleasure of taking Lesson #112 with Grace and Pete, two knowledgeable and helpful instructors. Grace rode her horse Diamond. The pair have been together forever – but not in this picture, because I forgot my camera and this is the only picture I have of Grace.


Pete took Caspian and I was on Krystal.

The only thing I knew about neck reining is that you do it with one hand. I wanted to take better photos whilst mounted and I figured if I could master a one-handed riding technique, it might help.

After discussing the matter with Pete and Grace, I now know that neck reining is more about what the horse knows than what the rider knows. They actually get trained in it, especially for things like barrel racing.

Still, there are different approaches a rider can take, especially in regard to where you place your fingers vis-à-vis the reins. I still have to nail down my finger placement and then stick to it. And then use a horse that’s good at it, my job being basically not to confuse them. Grace said that Maree or Windy might be good candidates.

Pete promised to help me develop a free-style vaulting routine. He said I could pretty much make up what I want to do. This is good news for me, because I intend on creating some Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. He also said my routine should last about a minute, which is about all anyone will be able to stand to watch anyway. Karin is hosting a Fun Fest in April, so I’m hoping to be ready by then.

Meanwhile, my son-in-law Andy was gracious enough to create this exquisitely detailed model to help me conceptualize and develop some of my Never Seen Before Vaulting Moves. That’s a Lions’ hat on his head.


Regarding the open horse show, Legacy is starting an independent 4H-like horse club this year and Grace is one of the coaches. She told me they plan on attending an open horse show or two and I could tag along.

When I included “attend an open horse show” on the list, my intention was to just sit and watch. Like the olds days. But Grace seems to think I should participate in a more active way. I can still sit, but it has to be on a horse.

And finally, I saw these the day after my lesson.


Looks like we’ll be working on our letters soon.

An Old Friend and a Slow Trot

Please stay tuned for a Pablo Update at the conclusion of this post.

When I was a kid, my favorite part of any parade was the end when the horses came.  Whether it was a mounted patrol from the sheriff’s department or a 4H group or just some local people in Western wear, it was always exciting and magnificent.

I especially enjoyed it when they went by at a slow trot. There is something about a slow trot that radiates grace and dignity, giving the horse and rider an almost regal bearing.  All that power, controlled. It’s how I imagine Caesar entering Rome after defeating the Gauls.

Later, as my girls got into horses, I got to watch them do the same thing in the show ring. Hiliary and her little Arab, Bruiser, got really good at it.


Of course at the very end of every parade came the clean up crew with their wheelbarrows.  I felt sorry for them and I was quite certain I’d never have to do anything like that.


On Lesson #55, I got an opportunity to experience a little slow trotting myself. Karin put me on Goldie, Leoni’s Palomino Quarter horse. If you recall, Goldie made a significant contribution to Karin’s Horse Connection last spring.


And this was not my first time riding Goldie.  In fact, she played a major role in my quest for Equestrian Glory at Karin’s fun show in the summer of 2011.


Karin was almost apologetic when she informed me that I would be riding Goldie for Lesson #55. “She doesn’t like to move, you know.”

Yes, I remember they gave me a crop just to get her to go during the show.  Everyone said she was lazy.

But this time, as we did our warm up circles, slow trotting around the pylons, I couldn’t have asked for more.


The Latest on Pablo

Pablo is still at Legacy Stables.  He is now sharing the walk-in barn with Rami and Oakley, Goldie’s little gal.  He is still very wary of humans, but Karin said he is beginning to get a little less skittish around her.


There is no word on how long he is going to be here.


Return to Sunset

Hiliary sent a note to me on Facebook asking if I wanted to go to horse show. It was being held at the show grounds where she won season high point one year- about 20 years ago. Her old 4-H club, Sunset Riders, sponsored the show. I was only vaguely aware that Sunset Riders was still around.

A couple of years ago, I would have declined the offer and suggested that we go to Barnes & Noble instead. But now, as I prepare to celebrate my first anniversary as an equestrian, horse shows are more interesting to me. I wanted to see if everyone was keeping their heels down. They were.

I expected that after 20 years everything would be different. There would be different kinds of people, different kinds of horses, and different kinds of classes. And just a whole different feeling.

Here is what was different: nothing.

I take that back.  The tow vehicles are bigger and better. So are the trailers.

The horses and riders look pretty much the same.














The parents and other by-standers look the same.
















The dads and brothers are still doing what they’ve always done.









Even the 4-H leader was the same: Shirley Thompson.  And Shirley hasn’t changed a bit. It was as if she had been plucked out of 1992 and set right in front of us.  And she was still in her Octopus Mode, doing eight things at once.

I guessed that she had been at this for 50 years. She said it was more like 35. Well, good enough.

She remembered both Jamie and Hiliary. Considering the hundreds of kids and parents she has dealt with over the years, I thought this was pretty remarkable.

We stayed for several hours. Hiliary tried to explain to me how to tell when someone is on the wrong lead. And I tried to listen.

The day brought back a lot of memories. And Hiliary was bitten by the bug again – big time.

This will make my job as Equestrian Grandpa so much easier.

A Good Barn Home

Since the start of my equestrian career last summer, I’ve been remembering a lot of stuff from when the girls had horses. I recall being in a variety “barn home” situations. When I say variety, I mean that some of them sucked. For one reason or another.

Usually the problems revolved around some kind of Boarding Barn Drama or Equestrian Organization Discord, which seems to be common in the horse world. Horsepeople tend to have strong personalities – some are overtly psychotic – and when you cram too many of them in one place, it can get a little dicey. I know you all have your own stories.

We found good situations as well. And when we did, it was very rewarding. Horsepeople can be the most awesome of all people and if you find the right fit, you can make friends for life. My girls still have contact with more than a few people they met in their early teens.

The more I experience I have at Karin’s Horse Connection, the more I believe that it belongs to the second kind of barn home situation. The whole atmosphere is friendly, positive and family orientated.

It’s a fun place with a lot going on all of the time. They host fun shows and clinics.  Karin offers a therapeutic riding program and a program for senior riders. She also leads the “Blaze With Grace” 4-H club and coaches Grandville’s Equestrian Team.

Karin’s Horse Connection holds “Total Horse Lover’s Camp” for the kids during spring break and in the summer time. During these camps, each kid gets to “own” his or her own pony or horse for an entire week. And KHC is one of only a handful of places in West Michigan that participates in vaulting.

This was exactly the kind of “barn situation” I was looking for a year ago. On our first visit last year, Jenny and I got to watch Karin and her daughter, Leoni, give a vaulting lesson. We came away with a pretty good feeling about the place and that hasn’t changed.

It’s nice to have a good barn home.