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:



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:


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.

Double Karin and a Big Horse


When I arrived at Legacy for Lesson #69, I noticed that the pasture looked a little less populated than usual. After a quick inventory, I realized that most of my favorite lesson horses were among the missing: Vinnie, Goldie, Maree, Windy.  All gone.


The tack room was similarly depleted.  What was going on here? Had Goldie led a massive breakout? And they saddled themselves before taking off? Can’t see much point in that.

The only other mammals in the barn were these guys:



Great hunters, I’m sure, but a little short on information.

Then, I remembered: this was Fair Week. Karin, the missing horses and the missing tack were at the county 4-H Fair. If you know anything at all about 4-H, you know that Fair Week is like their Super Bowl, but without the great commercials.

I thought this was fine. Krystal was still there and she didn’t look all that busy.

DSC02442 I’ve wanted to ride her again ever since I cantered on her a few weeks ago. Maybe she would remember where we left off.

And I know how to saddle a horse (sort of) and apply bit & bridle (sort of). And Kathy had just shown up, so I had someone around to hear my petitions for assistance and mercy if, heaven forbid, this would The Day.  You know, The Day I fall off a horse and become a real equestrian. Like Pinocchio becoming a Real Boy, only instead of growing a long nose, I would have a broken one. Best case scenario.

Parenthetically, if I recall correctly, Pinocchio became a donkey at one point in the story.



Anyway, all of this became a bunch of moot points when I heard a familiar voice behind me. It sound like Karin, but it couldn’t have been, because she was at Fair. This had to be Double Karin.

Karin often says she needs to be in two or three places at once. Having a double must really help a lot.


Double Karin is identical to Karin in every way, except for the hat. I really appreciate her wearing it, because I like to know who I’m talking to.

I think this was Double Karin checking with Real Karin to see how things were going at Fair.

I think this was Double Karin checking with Real Karin to see how things were going at Fair.

Double Karin suggested that I ride Habakuk. I thought this was a grand idea.  For the last several weeks, everybody has been raving about this big horse.


It was fun riding him. He has a smoother trot than my old buddy Caspian. And I like the elevation. If I’m going to go through all the trouble of getting on a horse, I want to feel like I’m up high.


However, we had a habit of drifting to the center of the arena toward Double Karin.  Actually, we got quite close to her a few times –  “A little more steering, please!” – and I almost became a different sort of equestrian. Once you knock your instructor down, even if it’s just the double, you will never be the same again.

All in all, a good lesson.  And I look forward to riding His Highness again some day.


Happy 1st Birthday Legacy Stables

Jenny and I returned from our camping trip in time to attend Legacy Stables’ 1st Anniversary Celebration. As usual, Karin didn’t settle for anything small and simple.  When you have sixteen or so horses, a big ‘ol arena, a growing and diverse group of riders – and you’re backed by an enthusiastic and expanding support community -you don’t mess around with a cake and a few balloons: you throw a party.

An equestrian party.

With the aid of her support group, Karin organized the event in under three weeks. The program included a taste of almost everything Karin’s Horse Connection offers, including vaulting, therapeutic riding, “Runt Riders”, horse training, 4-H, and Senior Riders. I was invited to participate in that last group.

Testimonials and thanksgiving from Karin, her riders and their families were interspersed throughout the program. The riding demonstrations were accompanied by inspirational Christian music. It was really nice.

I don’t remember if they played any music during the Senior Demonstration, but I know that Another Time, Another Place by Sandi Patty would have been fitting for me since I couldn’t get Vinnie to canter.  And had it not been for the able assistance of a kind-hearted and enthusiastic 4-H kid, I wouldn’t have gotten Vinnie saddled & bridled in time to join my peers in the arena.  4-H really works.

The singing of the national anthem by one of Karin’s young students kicked off the festivities. This was accompanied by Leoni waving the American flag while standing on Avenir as he ran in circles.  I don’t know how she does that.  But to keep it challenging for her, at the next Legacy Stables birthday party, I would like her to add The Eating of Cake with Plate & Fork to this routine. She could do it.

After the anthem, it was: “bring on the empty horses!”  As promised, there was a horse parade featuring all the fine horses at Legacy being led around the arena by Karin’s students. As the horses paraded, the M.C., Charity (Karin’s first official employee at Legacy) read each of the horse’s bios. Very well done!

It was another great day at Legacy Stables. Fun and inspiring. And it gave Karin a chance to publically give thanks to God and to all those who supported her during her move and first year at Legacy.

The following is a short slideshow providing just a taste of Saturday’s . It’s a little under four minutes.

And many happy returns!

Slideshow music attribution: “Look Inside”  from Smoke Factory by Jahzzar: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jahzzar/


Legacy Stables

Lesson #32 was a special one. Karin’s Horse Connection has moved and this was my first visit to the new spread.  Karin had been leasing the barn and fields at Lamoreaux Ridge, but the new place is all hers.  And it’s nothing less than awesome.

Needless to say, Karin is ecstatic (and very, very busy).

I’ll miss Lamoreaux Ridge, of course.  I have a year packed full of good memories from there.  And a bazillion photos and 90 blog posts to document that fact.

But this is not a sentimental retrospective. This is about the future and a brand new Barn Home. Even the name Karin has given her new place speaks to the future: Legacy Stables.

So Lesson #32 was like being at the birth of a dream.  I wanted to see everything at once and I was no doubt suffering from a bit of self-induced sensory overload. The morning air was already very warm and the weeping willow trees added a touch of the exotic.  The whole experience had an almost surreal quality to it.

Karin took us for a trail ride around the property. It consists of 28 acres tucked in between county property, a bike trail and power company property. Along with the willows, there are a large number of apple trees. A large cornfield dominates the back of the property.

Insert indoor arena here:

It’s a big adjustment for the horses, of course.  But they seem to be doing pretty well.

It’s also a big adjustment for Karin’s family and all of her students. But the place radiates with potential. And I feel lucky to be a part of it from the start.

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.