History at a Slow Trot

With Karin still in Germany, her daughter Anika served as my instructor for Lesson #115. It was a very nice, low-keyed lesson. It was perfect for my mood. If “just plain lazy” can be considered a mood.

I rode Windy. She’s been a good horse for me lately and her “Trot-in-Place” gait was also perfect for my mood. Anika and I brushed Windy quite a bit before tacking her up, using this curious device:

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It just went on and on. I think we could have brushed all day long and never see the end of it.

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My jacket was covered in the stuff. I wore it like that when I into the store after my lesson. With equestrian pride.

We stayed in the arena because the spring mud is still pretty bad. However, they had already opened the sides of the arena. Big morale booster, that.

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I mostly walked and slow trotted Windy, practicing some neck reining and trying to get comfortable riding with just one hand. I like the idea of having one hand free for emergencies.

While I rode, Anika walked along and we chatted. Lots of good history stuff which I thoroughly enjoyed. Anika is working on a project that involves some research into her family history over nine generations. She’s particularly interested in the maternal side of things and how the women in her family have influenced her life. The story she wants to tell features how these women lived and survived through the toughest parts of European 20th Century history. It was a very busy century.

And I had a good lesson.

Big Toys

At the end of this month, Karin is hosting a Trail Mix vaulting fest. By “Trail Mix” she means different ages. And since I’m a different age, I am expected to participate.

I’m still not in shape for this. I’m emerging from winter about 20 pounds overweight and about 35 of that is in my gut. But I’m going to vault anyway.

Because it’s fun.

So Lesson #91 was all about vaulting.

And fun.

I was fortunate to have brought along my Special Designer Vaulting Socks.

Detroit Lions socks

I never vault in shoes, even when Karin says I can. I don’t want to look conspicuous. And then there’s that thing about digging into the horses back with your heels. Since the horse is already dealing with what from his perspective is a one-rider triple, I don’t want to do anything else to piss him off.

I began by warming up on the vaulting barrel.  With Karin and Charity busy with other students, this mainly consisted of me taking pictures on top of the barrel without falling off.

shoes on vaulting barrel

Detroit Tiger hat on vaulting barrlel

Since the weather was nice – the breeze was actually warm and not the freeze breeze that penetrates your clothes and skin and tries to kill you from the inside out – we got to go out into the round pen.

Prior to that, I had noticed that Karin had put wood chips all around the property as part of her annual counter-offensive against the spring mud.

wood chips by barn

 

dog on wood chips

 

 

 

 

sensory trail

The round pen had a particularly ominous pile. There were toys around it…

wood chips in round pen

Charity (the nice one) took me through some basic instruction that resulted in a number of undignified poses:

rider with one arm out

rider with butt off horse

For me, the wood chip pile marked the center of the ring and was useful in keeping me oriented as I did my tricky moves. For Karin the wood chip pile was an opportunity for something else.

“You have to go up it,” she announced.

“No, I am not going up it,” I informed her.

lunger on top of wood chip pile

This woman is incapable of leaving anything alone. The whole place is like her personal playground and the horses – and people – are her toys.

The great thing about vaulting is that you, the rider, don’t have to control the horse. The bad thing about vaulting is that someone else does.

So despite my protesting like a baby being born, Karin coaxed Habakuk – and thus me – up that wood chip hill.

riding up a wood chip pile

“Now put your hands up in the air!”

Hell no!” I was already feeling a little iffy with Habakuk trying to find his footing on top of the pile. No way was I going to compound the problem by putting my hands up in the air…

hands in air on top of wood chip pile

It’s like she has strings attached to your limbs or something.

“You know,” she told us as we posed for the Post Ridiculous Activity photo op…

horse with Detroit Tiger cap

mustache on horse

“I always say that the little horses like Peanut are my toys. Habakuk is like one of my big toys.”

Oh, the indignity…

It was a fun lesson.

fake blue jay in a tree

A Romp & Roll Day

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For Lesson #60, we did not ride. The horses had been in their stalls for a day or two due to the heavy rains and even heavier mud. It was just plain nasty outside and no one wanted to be out there.

Heavy mud.

Heavy mud.

While we didn’t ride, I had my helmet on the entire time. I’ve gotten in the habit of putting it on as soon I get out of the car. Just one less detail to interfere with the delicate fetch-halter-groom-saddle-bridle sequence.  There’s enough trouble already.

While we were all standing around, complaining about the weather, Karin suddenly realized something: “You never get pictures of Peanut.”  It sounded more like an accusation than an observation.

Now to most people, this would have seemed like a complete non-sequiter. However, I don’t want to expend the effort to figure out how Karin’s brain works and so I mostly just go with the flow. This may seem like laziness on my part, but I like to think of this approach as a kind of Pretend Zen. There is no need to go out and gather up reality, it will come to you.

So, I responded thusly: “Well, then let’s go get some pictures of Peanut!”

I thought we could photograph the little guy right where he was – which was in the small red barn. But Karin thought it would better to do it inside the arena. And while we were at it, we could bring Luna and Snoopy along as well.

So here’s Paul and me and the little ones, as we go with the flow down the River of Karin:

Replace "Om…" with "Um…"

Replace “Om…” with “Um…”

Now, if you know anything at all about horses, you know the first thing these guys did when we got into the arena.

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Then they romped and kicked a bit.

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Then they wanted leave.

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Meanwhile, Karin left Paul and me in charge of all of this while she helped Kathy clean stalls.

Of course, we didn’t stop with the little horses. The big ones needed some Romp & Roll time too.  We gave them turns in small groups of three or four. While, Kathy and Karin worked in the barn, Us Men kept a close eye on the equines.

Paul in heavy negotiations   with our charges.

Paul in heavy negotiations with our charges.

With each new batch of horses, Karin gave us a new rule. First, we were to keep them from getting too close to the exits. I think it was because of all the stuff near the doors and Karin was concerned about somebody getting hurt. By “somebody”, she meant the horses.

The plotting begins.

The plotting begins.

And we couldn’t let them run. To enforce the No Running Rule, I used reverse psychology by employing my Special Equestrian Power, which I call Equus Reversus: the ability to make a horse do the exact opposite of what you ask him to do:

Due to our diligence – actually due to Paul’s diligence, I was mostly taking pictures of Paul being diligent – no one important got hurt and all of Karin’s horses got an opportunity for a little R&R (Roll & Romp).

It was a dismal day turned fun.

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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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