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.

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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.

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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.

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

Christmas Treats and Holiday Threats

The most notable thing about Lesson #111 was the weather. Sunny and fifty degrees in late December is a gift. Karin and Pete actually opened up the windows on one side of the arena. Spirits soared.

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Karin put me on Krystal, one of her “18 year-olds.” I like Krystal and if I recall correctly, I had some success on my last ride on her. But then again, I may not be recalling correctly.

As time passes, the memory of this or that lesson can become a little distorted, perhaps emphasizing whatever suits my current psychological needs. It’s not unusual for humans to do this. On a larger scale, history gets abused like this all of the time by groups – sometimes massive groups of people – with this or that agenda. Historians themselves frequently disagree and get angry at one another. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable, I say.

Being that it was two days before Christmas, Karin was in a generous mood and as a treat helped me with my tack.

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However, she insisted that I ride English. I picked Western for the last several lessons and I think she was concerned I may never make it back to the Other Side.

I did adjust my own stirrups. I like them long.

Karin noticed: “Do you think your stirrups are too long?”

“No, Karin, I don’t think they’re too long.”

“Well, they are.”

“But I’m comfortable like this.” My knees like to be straight.

“You can’t ride like that. Stop your horse, we have to adjust them.”

I was riding in sneakers, which is not recommended. I just thought I’d be more comfortable in them on that day, so I left my boots in the car.

With Karin adjusting the stirrups, she would be sure to notice my choice in footwear. So I preempted her and ‘fessed up: “I’m not wearing boots today, Karin.”

“I see. Maybe the next time you forget your boots we can have you ride bareback on Caspian?” Even Karin admits that Caspian can be a bit bumpy at times. Bareback, I would have a marble’s chance of staying on him at the trot. Christmas Treats had turned to Holiday Threats.

Krystal and I trotted and cantered around a bit. It was mostly in the chaotic, out-of-control mode that I’m beginning to perfect as my trademark riding style. At least that’s how I’m going to remember it.

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The Great Indoors

Karin put me on Windy for Lesson #110. I rode Windy a time or two on the trails during the more civilized weather months. She’s a good horse.

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We held this lesson in The Great Indoors.

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There’s no snow right now, but the ground is frozen hard in the break-an-ankle way. So I was grateful for the venue.

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I was joined by Gerry on Habakuk and Leo on Maree. Leo has been getting a bit of riding in, as I expected he would. Some of this has been inadvertently serious and exciting.

That is, Maree took off on Leo the other day. Full gallop.

Ah, Quarter horses. So stately in the slow trot, so Zero to 60 in the gallop. Well, maybe Zero to 25. But 25 Horse mph is like 120 in Car mph. Just ask Leo.

Bless his heart – he did not bail, but opted to hang on for the duration. I admire that.

Lesson #110 was a working lesson. Although, it was a kind of free-flow independent study situation. Karin provided some basic instructions to the three of us (actually to six of us – the horses listen to her better than we do) such as “walk around these pylons,” “do a Figure 8 at the trot,” “stop and back your horse between these two poles,” etc. – and then she allowed us to comply at our leisure.

I like this form of lesson, because I can get into an uninterrupted flow of communicating with the horse rather than listen to the instructor.

Windy was fun to ride. She was very responsive to my cues, even better than big ‘ol Habakuk had been in the preceding lessons. I was able to direct her with finger twitches and leg taps. Although our figure 8 looked more an Old English D than an 8. But that’s on me and my one-handed, photo-taking riding style.

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Toward the end of the lesson, Karin left the arena for a few minutes.

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And when she returned, she had Peanut. The Mighty Peanut.

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We untacked the horses and let them go for a Romp & Roll session.

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Maree and Peanut were especially enthusiastic.

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It was a hoot watching them. But I think I got in their way once or twice with my photo taking.

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Four Points and a Big Canter

For Lesson #109, I got to ride Habakuk for the second week in a row. Gerry had his lesson the day before thus opening up a spot for me on Habakuk’s back.

I got to ride with Leo, Karin’s son-in-law. Leo is both a new father and a new rider. Sometimes everything happens all at once.

Leo took Maree. He was concerned about being too big for her, but I think they matched up pretty well.

Leo and Maree

Leo and Maree

As I trotted Habakuk around the arena, I could hear Karin give Leo instructions regarding his seat: “Keep all Four Points of your butt on the horse,” she insisted.

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A flood of mother-in-law jokes came crashing into my brain, but I held my tongue. Also, I remembered that the last time this topic had been discussed, there was some controversy over whether there are actually Five Points – not Four – to a person’s buttocks. But I didn’t bring that up either, because we were doing so well and I didn’t want anyone to lose to their focus to that debate.

I got to canter a bit. Karin used her Magic Wand as a communication aid.

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On the first two go-arounds, I held on to the saddle horn because it seemed like the right thing to do. But after that, Karin told me let go and employ the Supple Joints thing. I did and it was more fun than holding on.

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There is something about being on Habakuk that gives everything around you a kind of miniature feel.

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Even the arena got smaller. We got from one end to the other in what seemed like two, maybe three bounds. Although, I not sure if “bound” is an appropriate canter term.

“He has a big canter, Karin,” I reported.

“No, he has a very smooth canter,” she responded.

They’re not necessarily conflicting ideas, of course. But I didn’t argue because I had another, more pressing issue I needed to discuss.

“His canter kind of breaks up into a trot at the end of the arena, Karin.”

“That’s because you’re not following through, Bob.”

Karin always puts it back on the rider. But she had a point. I was so busy keeping my whole body on him, I wasn’t paying enough attention to keeping my legs on him. It’s like coasting down a hill on a bike. It’s nice, but at some point you have to be prepared to resume peddling if you want to keep your momentum going.

At the end of the lesson, something happened that almost never happens. Someone asked me for help with his tack. It was Leo.

I put Habakuk on the crossties and then proceeded to tell Leo everything I knew about horse tack. Ten seconds later, he was all set.

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I’m pretty sure Leo is going to be riding quite a bit in the coming weeks. Within a month or two, I’ll be asking him for help. And the universe will be back in its proper order.

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Head Cover and a Major Blessing

For Lesson #108 I got to ride Habakuk since Gerry wasn’t there.

Interlopeing

Interlopeing

After decades of being conditioned by jealous horsegirl society, I felt a tinge of guilt as if I was interloping. The last thing I want to be is an interloper. Barn drama is the worst.

It wasn’t my idea, of course.

“You can ride Habakuk today,” Karin announced. “He’s in the Red Barn. Go get him – and don’t let the other horses out.”

This was a good reminder and I took due caution. If you don’t pay enough attention, the horses sometimes just do whatever the hell they want, especially when Karin isn’t right there. She’s like their mother or something.

Habakuk: a big and warm mammal.

Habakuk: a big and warm mammal.

As I led Habakuk from the Red Barn to the main barn for tacking up, I looked forward to getting on him. It was a cold, cold day and my equestrian career has seen enough winters to know that the best antidote to the cold is to share body heat with a large furry mammal other than a bear. Plus riding takes work if you actually want to accomplish anything. The combination of physical exertion and horse heat will warm you up nicely. My favorite part of an indoor winter riding lesson is the last ten minutes where the horse and I just wander around being comfortable.

Habakuk is great horse to ride. He responded well to my cues. He reminded me of Vinnie a little bit in that way. Miss that guy.

Due to the cold, I wore a cheap, but effective knit hat to the barn instead of my Lions’ cap. This created a small problem, again due to some prior conditioning. I don’t feel secure riding bareheaded. It’s just not safe. However, my brain took the physical sensation of the hat on my head as a green light to proceed, thusly: “You’re helmet is on your head, everything is okay, go ahead and mount the horse.”

I didn’t notice the oversight until about halfway through the lesson. Just kind of caught some knit material out of the corner of my eye. I had to pat my head three times to confirm.

Before.

Before.

Karin didn’t notice it either. However, she was gracious enough to go get my helmet from the main barn and make my head right.

After.

After.

In Karin’s defense, she was a bit preoccupied at the time. Daughter Anika was due anytime for Karin’s first grandchild. Sure enough, three days later the world welcomed Emiliana Grace.

Karin was super happy to report that the newest addition to the Schmidt family is BEAUTIFUL!!! and that Mama Anika, Papa Leo and the baby are all doing well.

Congratulations to both the Schmidt and Ojeda families. A new adventure has begun.

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Supple Joints

For Lesson #105, Karin put me on The Horse Who is Not Dromie, a.k.a. Krystal.

Not Krystal

Not Krystal

Not Dromie.

Not Dromie.

I’ve learned to look at the bottom of their legs instead of their faces and this has helped immeasurably in the identification process. I don’t like bringing the wrong horse back to the barn.

The weather was like this:

Cold.

Cold.

So no pleasant Instruction in Open Terrain on a beautiful autumn morning. This was going to be a working lesson. And for this, I was partially fully prepared. I brought a pair of chaps because I haven’t got around to purchasing breeches that fit my current shape – if they actually make them like that.

Either these chaps are waaaay to small or there is a gap in my knowledge regarding how to apply them. I’m wondering if I grabbed the wrong ones.

But I did bring my boots. After a summer of riding in tennis shoes, I felt very equestrian-like in them. Having good, solid foot protection is a confidence booster in all walks of life.

Although, after a season of neglect, I needed a tool to help secure them to my feet.

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Karin did indeed make us work. From her command post on top of Charley, she instructed Gerry and me to proceed around the arena at the trot (mounted) at least five times – sitting on the short side, posting on the long. 

I lost track of the count between the first and second time around, but I think Krystal and I may have completed something in the two to three range.

We weaved in and out of the pylons several times working on our precision. We also practiced backing.

Then, it was canter time. Karin demonstrated, mainly because she is psychologically incapable of sitting still on a horse for too long. Especially when she’s on Charley…

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By the way, this Friday, November 7th, Karin and Charley will have been together for 10 years. Karin has been a serious horseperson for over 40 years, but Charley was actually the first horse she ever owned. I like to refer to their connection as the Seed That Eventually Became Legacy Stables.

Charley and Karin

Charley and Karin

Anyway…

Gerry and Habakuk cantered first. They did well, as they usually do. While Krystal and I watched the pair go around the ring, I thought, “Well, at least we have to try.”

If subsequent events are any indication, Krystal was thinking the same thing.

Because, when our turn came, I didn’t have to do much at all, except utter the word and she went right into it. It caught me by surprise, actually.

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Karin must have noticed that because she told me to hold on to something.

It was lots of fun. However, I confessed to Karin that I felt like I was going to fall off.

“Well … your balance was good…”

It was one of those sentences that have a “but” built right into it…

“But, you need to loose up your hips and move with the horse.”

Ah, that should be the First Rule of Good Equestrianism: Move with the horse.

“You need to loosen up everything. You should ride with supple joints.”

Supple joints. For some reason, I like the sound of that.

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Four Lessons

Lesson’s 101, 102 and 103 were essentially trial rides – or as we say at Legacy Stables, “instruction in open terrain.” Karin left it up to Gerry and me to fill in the blanks regarding what kind of lesson we would have and each time we ended up outside on the trails.

However, at first, I suggested we try jumping. For me, a fill-in-the-blank question is a treacherous trap. The impulse is always to answer with something facetious or impossible.

The problem is that what I call facetious or impossible, Karin calls a “fun idea.” You have to be careful what you say around her. I knew I made a mistake the moment the words left my mouth. I wanted to reach out and snatch them back, but I don’t have access to that technology.

Karin was all for it. “Yes, we can jump today!” She was very pleased with my go-getter attitude. “What saddle would you like, Bob?”

I saw this as an opportunity to wiggle out of the mess I was about to make: “That depends, Karin. Can you jump in a Western saddle?”

“No… you don’t jump in a Western saddle.”

“Then I’ll take a Western saddle.”

Besides, as Gerry was quick to point out, a trail ride made more sense than jumping because it was a nice, sunny day and at this time of the year we just don’t know how many more of these we are going to get. So it was time to saddle up and carpe diem.

Of course, Karin won’t forget about the jumping thing.

For the next three lessons, we got to do our share of carpe dieming. In three successive trail rides, I took Maree, Maree and Windy.

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And Gerry rode Habakuk, Habakuk and Habakuk.

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We had a variety of company with us, including Kim (S version) on Dromie:

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Kathy on Windy when I wasn’t:

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Kid Motivator turned Horse Motivator Jerry Jacoby on Dromie when Kim (S version) wasn’t:

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On one ride, I attempted my first mounted selfie. I got a piece of my head and Kim (S version) in the background. I don’t think mounted selfies are that easy to do.

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Later in the ride, Kim (S version) dropped her crop on the ground and I retrieved it for her. I suspect she had been back there doing baton twirls with it. That’s what I like about riding in the back; you get to do what you want.

During one ride, either Gerry or Jerry (they sound alike to me) said he expected to hear the theme music from Bonanza at any moment. After seeing this photo op shot, I kinda understood where Gerry or Jerry got that:

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For Lesson #104, Karin put me on my old buddy, Caspian and we stayed in the arena. We worked: trotting and attempted canter. And I rather liked it. But the effort was tearing up my legs. I really need to find my riding boots and also some breeches that fit me now and not for when after I lose the 20 pounds I’ve been intending to lose. I have a pair of chaps a friend gave me a few years ago. I think I might try those for Lesson #105.

 

The Beautiful Queen of Horses

Our daughter, Hiliary, and son-in-law, Andy, gave Jenny and me t-shirts. Jenny got a “soft kitty” (a’ la The Big Bang Theory) and I got a cowboy on a brontosaurus:

man in t-shirt

Kim (S version) asked if I wore the shirt for Lesson #99 in anticipation of riding Dromie. Actually, I wore the shirt in anticipation of someone saying: “Hey, I like your shirt.” But Kim was half right, I did plan on riding Dromie. Shirt or no shirt.

Then again, perhaps there was some kind of collective subconscious process going on here that put Dromie and a brontosaurus on the same page. Later in the day, Karin emailed me this self portrait of one her young riders on Dromie:

drawing of rider and horse

Could this be a coincidence? Or a Jungian archetype, perhaps?

In any case, as anyone who has ever seen Dromie in person will tell you, she is one beautiful horse. No qualifiers regarding her age are necessary. Just a straight up pretty horse. So, if she is indeed a dinosaur she is a Gorgeousequus Rex (Bob Latin for “Beautiful Queen of Horses”).

Meanwhile, it must have been organization day at the barn. Half the contents of the tack room was spilled out into the general barn area, being inventoried and sorted. And new equipment arrived. It was like Christmas morning for a few minutes.

unpacking equipment

Pete unpacked this multiple-use item:

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I think this can also be used as a feeder of some kind.

Karin got a traffic sign written in equestrian language:

whoa sign

As for Lesson #99, all went well…

Well, not at first. As I approached Dromie in the pasture with halter in hand, she disappeared into the lean-to.

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I thought perhaps she remembered our difficulty with the bridle in Lesson #98. I spoke to her for a minute or two, apologizing for the bridle thing, petting her and doing my best to explain the shirt. But I soon realized what the real problem was:

tractor

Dromie doesn’t like tractors.

Kim offered to coax Dromie from the lean-to and I thought that was an excellent idea. They have a good history together.

kim and dromie

After mounting Dromie from the wrong side (as noted by Pete), we moseyed around the arena as Gerry and Habakuk ran circles around us. Karin said that I was getting “too comfortable” on Dromie and that next week I’d be riding a different horse. Dromie is more or less a baby sitter and Karin is under the impression that my equestrian career would be better served with a tutor rather than a nanny. Even if the nanny is the Beautiful Queen of Horses.

We were joined by Liz on Rambo (or on Romeo? – I don’t know, it was one of the “R” horses) and proceeded to the trail for a bittersweet end of summer ride while being mindful of the horseflies that were rumored to be in the area.

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No Drama on Dromie

For Lesson #97, I had the honor of riding Andromeda for the first time. “Dromie” is Kim’s (S version) horse. She is a Shire cross and she’s about as calm and sweet as they come.

Kim says Dromie is around 25, which in Karin Years is 18. That conversion isn’t as complex as it seems.

Dromie hangs out in the geriatric pasture with her buddy Rami and away from the obnoxious younger horses. Well… I think that’s how they would put it.

The Elder Council

The Elder Council

My nickname for Dromie is Krystal. Because I’m sure I’ve called her that several times now. In fact, I didn’t realize she was here until I saw both Krystal and Dromie  standing next to each other in the same paddock. With all the science fiction I’ve read, you can imagine what that was like for me.

I know that the horsepeople who see both horses everyday will think my confusion isn’t warranted and can point to a long list of details that distinguish the two. It should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention.

Ah, there’s the rub. To me, they are both black horses, thus identical.

And in my defense:

Not Krystal

Not Krystal

Not Dromie.

Not Dromie.

Of course, all of this is neither nor there. The most important thing is that Dromie was a pleasure to ride. She moved when I wanted her to move and she stopped when I wanted her to stop. End of story.

Kim gave me a crop just in case, but I didn’t need it. I did enjoy carrying it around under my arm like a Prussian Hussar.

Kim said that the only thing Dromie is afraid of is a tractor. That’s good, because I need a horse that isn’t easily rattled.

I don’t mean to be paranoid, but I couldn’t help but notice that Karin just happened to be using the tractor when Kim told me I would be riding Dromie. I know Karin likes to give me a challenge sometimes.

Karin struggles to maintain control over the Green Monster.

But we out waited Karin and she eventually gave up and put the Green Monster away.

woman looking at tractor

Dromie had been hit by a tractor one time and Kim showed me the mark. There is a reason for everything.

old horse injury

She also said that the horse is missing some teeth in front, but gets along pretty well without them.

I was able to apply her bit & bridle after only two tries. She’s kinda tall. After, the second try, Kim informed me that Dromie was “missing an ear.” And I shook my head thinking, man this horse has been through too much!

But this time it was my fault. And temporary.

man bridling horse

Nothing for the poor thing to do but stand there and wait for me to figure out that a correction was both needed and easily done.

I really like this horse. I hope I can ride her again next time.

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The Respect of a Palomino

For Lesson #96, Charity filled in for Karin who was busy with horse camp kids. As usual, Gerry rode Habakuk. I’m really impressed with how much progress the Professor and the Moustache King have made together since Gerry started with Karin. And the bond is easy to see.

man on horse

I got my old friend, Goldie. The Palomino wasn’t particularly busy at the time and she stayed Not Busy for pretty much my entire lesson. Goldie is actually Leoni’s horse and according to my sources, Leoni says that the key to Goldie is to earn her respect or she just won’t respond like you think she should. I earned about half-a-trot around the arena’s worth.

With the camp kids taking up all the good barn spots for grooming and tacking up, Gerry and I had to try to brush and saddle the horses outside while they grazed.

“Those horses aren’t going anywhere with all this lush grass around,” one confident observer noted.

horse eating grass

Well, “not going anywhere” is relative. While Habakuk and Goldie showed no intention of packing up and leaving the property, they didn’t exactly stand still either. The grass is always greener four inches away.

“It’s like saddling a moving target,” Gerry observed.

I have this same problem when I try to get my granddaughter Aubrey dressed. She just knows that there has to be more interesting things for a person to do than fussing with something so obviously unnecessary as clothes.

But no problem, Charity was right there assisting Gerry as needed and assisting me just about every step of the way. Legacy’s tack room has a built-in special feature that enables it to spontaneously manufacture – out of plain thin air – rare saddle and girth types that fit together in an endless variety of ways. Each combination of saddle-girth-stirrups creates a unique Tack Puzzle that must be solved before you can ride the horse. If given enough time, I can eventually solve these brainteasers by myself, but by then everyone has gone off to bed.

stirrup puzzle

Charity is good teacher. You can tell she has learned some things by watching Karin, but I think her instincts are really good too. She knew how difficult it was for me to get Goldie going, but she never really pressured me or made me feel more uncomfortable than I already was. Her corrections were very specific in the “heels down,” “toes in,” “don’t lean forward” sort of way. She also taught us the proper way to pass in the arena. Just a few simple rules, but good to know.

riding instructor

Toward the end of the lesson, Charity brought out Karin’s Magic Wand. I couldn’t really see what she was doing with it, but the device had a multiplier effect on Goldie’s respect for me and we got her going for just a bit at the end. Karin always says to end the lesson on a positive note. Even if it takes a little magic.

Karin's Magic Wand