Twenty Fifteen

The other night, Karin held a “Vision Casting” for Legacy Stables. This involved a gathering of her staff, volunteers, students, parents of students, board members – anybody with an interest in Karin’s Horse Connection. So I went.

The gathering served as an assessment of where the operation is, where we want it to go and what we were going to do this year to get it there. A collective New Year’s Resolutions list for the place. The evening was both fun and productive and now we’re all excited about 2015.

It got me thinking about my own equestrian goals for the coming year. I mean beyond my primary goal of Just Showing Up and Seeing What Happens.

It’s not that I haven’t set goals in the past. It’s just that I’ve been less than diligent in actually doing anything about them. Setting goals is fun. Actually doing the work to achieve the goal is another matter.

One strategy is to define your goals in such a way that you can say you’ve met them without really doing much of anything. The key here is vagueness. Relative terms such as “better” or “more” (“I will ride more this year,” “I will pay better attention to my instructor”) are very useful if you like your goals with a lot of wiggle room.

This year, I think I’ll try to be a little more specific. A list of Micro Goals that I can put an actual checkmark next to as I accomplish each one. Little bits that may or may not help support the larger Just Showing Up thing.

So here is my list:

  1. From what I understand, there might be some Dressage going on at Legacy this year. My goal is to do at least one pattern all the way through. Bonus goal: resist the impulse to move the letters around the arena just to spell a word.
  2. Attend one local open horse show and write a blog post about it.
  3. Conduct an investigation into what’s going on with my riding breeches! Specifically, why do I start to pass out right after I put them on? They didn’t do that when I first got them. There is something wrong with them.

    They didn't bother me before.

    They didn’t bother me before.

  4. Learn how to properly apply a surcingle
  5. Read one book about equestrian vaulting.
  6. Develop my own free-style vaulting routine – at the walk.
  7. Visit Chicago Vaulting in the summer and do a blog post on their new lungeing training program. Bonus goal: determine once & for all the correct spelling of lungeing.
  8. Learn how to neck rein.
  9. Walk over a cavaletti.
  10. Sponsor one horse or student at Legacy Stables.
  11. Only talk about stretching during a riding lesson if I’ve actually stretched before the riding lesson. Bonus goal: eliminate the word “should’ve” from my vocabulary.
  12. Learn to recite the names of all of Legacy’s horses to the tune of Amazing Grace.
  13. Polish my riding boots.
  14. Complete the Fundamentals of Photography course that I bought two years ago.
  15. Set up at least one riding lesson for granddaughter Aubrey. We have already discussed this.IMG_0256

I think that should keep me busy for a year.

Back in the Surcingle Again

Lesson #75 took me back to the Glory Days of my equestrian vaulting career. Back to the day I displayed my skills to a live audience.

Vaulting Scissor

And back to that one day I practiced.

Mounting the Vaulting Barrel

It was Karin’s idea. I was all set for a normal riding lesson (if there is such a thing for me). I had already pried Goldie away from her breakfast in the paddock. As I brought her into the barn, IT hit: Karin’s Inspiration Muse.

“Would you like to vault today?”

Karin operates by these flashes of inspiration. I don’t know what her Inspiration Muse looks like exactly, but I’ve seen the warning signs enough to know when IT is in the room. It’s like the eerie quiet just before a tornado hits. Everything just stops and then… like Radar O’Reilly and the incoming helicopters on M.A.S.H … wait for it… wait for it… and then …


I’ve learned that the best way to respond to Karin’s Inspiration Muse is like this:


This buys time for both of us. Time for her to give form to the Crazy Notion by providing some concrete details that connect it to reality in some way. And time for me to line up my excuses. It’s a race.

Karin won this time:

“You can vault today, Bob. We can use Habakuk…”

A big vaulting horse


“Take Goldie back to the pasture. I’ll get the saddle.”

“You mean the surcingle.” That’s the proper term for a vaulting saddle. She keeps forgetting this for some reason.

“Yes… the surcingle. Did you stretch this morning?”

I had not.

“Yes, I did. All ready to go.” The inspiration had taken root and it was too late for excuses now.

This is why Karin asked me about stretching:

Horse's Rear

We warmed up by doing some equestrian vaulting exercises. I’m not sure about the correct terminology for these:

Equestrian vaulting exercise 1

Equestrian Vaulting Exercise 2

And by practicing proper body alignment: getting that committee of ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles all on the same page.  Just like regular riding.

Proper riding alignment

And by going backward.

Cantering backward

Then, out of nowhere Karin told me to stand up.


“Get up on your knees first. Bring yourself forward on the saddle. And keep your feet flat.”

In truth, it’s been a goal of mine to stand up on a moving horse for sometime now. But I figured it was something I would work my way up to: the Stand Up Project. Starting with proper diet and exercise. And daily meditation. A little Yoga for balance, perhaps. And some reading.

But Karin wanted me to do it here and now. She handed me a rope.

“Attach it to the ring on the saddle.”

“You mean the surcingle.” Man, when is she going to get this?

“Attach the rope and stand up, Bob.

I couldn’t see how this limp rope was going to hold me up. Habakuk was in the walk, but the earth seemed to tremble beneath us.

“Get with his rhythm and stand up.”

Aw, to hell with it: I stood up.

Standing on top of a moving horse with rope

First a crouch, then full extension – knees slightly bent. The rope became taught. And the physics of the matter began to make sense to me. The rope became my security blanket, my lifeline. I loved that rope.

On top of a horse

We walked a full circle. Then…

“Now drop the rope, Bob.”


“Just drop it.” She was almost whispering.

Aw, the Hell With It, Part 2: I dropped the damn rope.

Standing on a moving horse

I stood for half of an instant. Point Something Seconds. Then, I returned to the security of the crouch. But it wasn’t physics that brought me down. There was a moment of decision on top of that big horse. There was nothing but Do or Don’t.

I was almost there. So close to breaking that now oh-so-thin psychological barrier. It was like approaching the crest of a hill, but stopping just before you can see all the beautiful scenery on the other side.

The lesson was over. I got a high-five from my teacher.

High five from teacher

And I was left with an irresistible desire to try again.

Vaulting horses