Karin was not there for Lesson #5. I understand she was goofing off in Colorado. Something about her daughter Leoni and a national vaulting championship. For some reason, Karin felt she needed to be there instead of staying home and instructing me.
No matter. My daughter Jamie was up from Florida and she served as my audience, photographer and technique critic. Jamie has been riding for something like eighty years and knows a thing or two about horses. Just what does riding “collapsed” mean anyway?
Jamie and her horse Bert
As a substitute teacher, I got Liz Parmelee, another instructor at Karin’s Horse Connection. Liz doesn’t have as much experience as Karin, but she seems to know a lot and it was interesting getting a different instructional approach.
Substitute Teacher Liz
I’m thinking Liz is going to be a really good teacher. This is why:
A good teacher knows how to point out and correct mistakes, of course. But a really good teacher has a knack for finding some positive element in any performance (no matter how dreadful the performance) and uses this kernel (no matter how tiny a kernel) as a plausible basis for encouragement and positive reinforcement. It’s all about accepting the student where they are and getting them to go in the right direction. Sometimes, literally in the right direction. In some instances, this may require the imagination of a J.K. Rowling and the patience of a Chicago Cubs fan.
With her calm, sweet demeanor Liz displayed both of these qualities. She started by putting me on Maree and having us do some figure 8s around barrels. After a few rounds of this, I looked back at our footprint pattern and what I saw looked more like one of Jamie’s early crayon doodles on our living room wall than the number 8. I’m not sure what Maree was thinking.
Does this look like an 8 yet?
Then Liz had us practice some around-the-arena trotting. This went well except at the corners, which Maree took to mean, “stop trotting”.
Liz said “When you feel her start to do that, just get your legs on her.”
I felt proud that I knew what Liz meant by that. However, when I did get my legs on Maree, I discovered that not only did this keep her going, but that she had another level of trot. From my perspective and experience level, it was a particularly violent and chaotic level of trot. And I lost control.
Maree, being the trooper she is, figured one of us should be in charge, she so she took over and – just like the last lesson – we headed toward the center of the arena where Liz was positioned. This sent Liz dodging to one side to avoid being decked.
Now, I’m new at this, but that’s something I’m just not going to take. I made Maree get right back to the edge and we tried the same thing again. And Maree did the same thing again. And I found myself rushing toward Liz again. But this time, the young instructor stood her ground like one of Wellington’s grenadiers at Waterloo and Maree bounced to a halt right in front of her.
It occurred to me that this was the closest I would ever come in my life to participating in a cavalry charge. I thought about asking Liz where Karin keeps the sabers, but I figured she had been through enough.
I was determined not to let this happen again. Apparently, Maree sensed my determination and we did a couple of cycles without incident. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but at least we weren’t threatening anyone.
And then Liz found the kernel: “I like how you’re keeping her from running me over.”
I think to show that there was no hard feelings Liz taught me how to neck rein. I liked doing that.
Liz's horse Danny
As Jamie and I drove away from Lamoreaux Ridge, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment in that I was leaving behind an instructor who was alive and uninjured. That’s the sort of thing you can definitely build on.
The next day, I got an email from Karin. It included these words: “I thought you could do a showmanship class with Caspian, one walk/trot class on Maree, and one of the fun classes like M&M and Spoon for example. If you do a vaulting class in the walk you get an extra pat on the shoulder!”
I told Karin that sounds like fun.
So it looks like I’ll be mounting a horse for this show after all. Somebody needs to warn the judge.
Jamie finds a peanut