One on, One off

For Lesson #116, I chose to ride Windy again. I had some one-handed riding in mind and Windy doesn’t seem to care how many I use. By employing this advanced form of riding, I am able to take partial selfies such as these:

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It was a cold, but sunny day so we decided to venture out and see what’s what. Gerry was on Habakuk and Karin rode Charley.

From the onset, Windy and I kept falling behind. One-handed riding can be slower if you don’t do it just right.

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As we entered the wooded area, we came across a number of questionable patches of poorly defined puddles and soft spots, treacherous enough for two hands. I tried to anticipate these and tuck my camera away before any real trouble started, but I wasn’t always successful. Most of the time I managed to get the thing into my coat’s breast pocket just as we were emerging from the trouble area.

Several times Windy walked under small branches that she fit beneath nicely, but I had to use my camera hand to push them away to defend my face. One rather large, but weak branch actually came off in my hand. I couldn’t just let it fall haphazardly least it catch Windy on the flank, so I carried it with my camera for a moment or two not really wanting it all that much. The thing was a good 3 inches in diameter and at least 6 feet long. I really wanted to take a selfie of me holding it as Windy ambled on, but if I was going to do any zero handed riding it would be to push additional branches away from my face. I could have just rotated it 90 degrees and carried it like a joust, but I didn’t want to give Karin any ideas. I managed to toss the thing far enough away that it didn’t disturb poor Windy.

Meanwhile, Habakuk and Gerry stopped periodically to engage in some kind of peculiar bouncing dance. I don’t think any of this was Gerry’s idea. Windy and I stopped and allowed the two ample space for whatever it was they were doing.

Just as we were getting back to the house-barn environs, Habakuk made a particularly effective series of moves and off goes Gerry. When the trouble had started, I put my camera away and put two hands on the reins. I didn’t know what part we would be taking in the festivities, but whatever it was, I would be using two hands to do it.

After putting Gerry on the ground, Habakuk bolted across an open field. He would have looked prettier without his saddle on. There is something inherently unsettling about seeing a saddled horse gallop across an open field.

I could feel Windy tug a little as if it at least occurred to her to join Habakuk in his mad dash. I immediately dismounted. If Windy really wanted to follow Big H, she would be doing it without me.

Gerry insisted he was all right. In fact, he said he was proud to finally experience his First Fall. Karin always says you can’t be a real equestrian until you fall once. Of course, after my First Fall, Karin upped my number ex post facto to five.

She also wanted to know if I got a video of Gerry’s fall. I wanted to ask her if she was planning on including it in the promo video they are putting together for the place, but instead I merely explained that both my hands were busy at the time.

 

Yellow Enough

Lesson #106 was uneventful – the way I like it. Gerry wasn’t there, but Karin hooked me up with Pete and Kathy before they could make their escape to the mysterious outlands of Narnia. So I got to tag along on Maree. Kathy rode her girl Windy. Pete took Caspian and was requesting a sheriff’s badge. Somehow, I understood this.

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After assembling the posse in the arena, we headed out the door. But before we got too far, Karin halted us. She said we had to wear the I’m Not Actually a Legitimate Target Vest. “Bow season,” I think someone said.

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I’m not sure if hunting is allowed in Narnia, but Karin wanted us to wear them just to be safe.

Kathy got green and I got orange. Karin declared Pete “yellow enough,” so she let him pass.

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A real posse would have had sidearms. I think Pete and I would have looked great with a pair of six-shooters. But Karin has this thing about the number of riders returning should equal the number of riders that went out. So no pistols.

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Kathy is the like a Narnia Guide Guru and it turned out to be a great and lengthy ride. Maybe one of the longest rides I’ve ever had. And I did get to shoot Pete in the back several times.  

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Ten Brave Mammals

Despite reporting in my previous post that we went on the “last trail ride of the summer” on Lesson #99, Lesson #100 consisted primarily of a trail ride. And according to my calendar, it is still summer. The school kids may disagree, but too bad for them. They need to be educated.

It was a magnificent ride. Our expedition took us out into the mysterious, wild region known in Legacy Stables parlance as “Narnia.” It was a perfect day – a perfect summer’s day – for a trail ride. Low to mid 70’s, sunny.

But it was not all fun & games! Flies – big, mean flies – were an issue in Lesson #99 and we assumed they were still out there, like the VC in the bush, waiting…

… for us…

Karin applied the appropriate counter-measures for the patrol.

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As promised, Karin put me on a horse other than Dromie. I got Windy. I wasn’t upset; Windy is a great trail horse.

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We assembled in the arena. Then, we exited the building in single file like ships of the line leaving port. Windy and I were fourth out of five. Ten brave mammals going in harm’s way.

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After snaking our way through the Kiddie Trail …

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… Karin halted the group before we entered the woods for these final instructions: “If you see a horsefly: kill him. If you see a deerfly: kill him. If you see a mosquito: kill him.”

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I was afraid to ask her what we should do if we see a person.

In the arena, the horse & rider is a team. Out here, we are a weapons system.

Behind me, on Charley, was Karin’s new helper, Grace. As we made our way through the depths of the Enchanted Forrest to the borders of Narnia, I told Grace about Karin’s internationally famous “El Towel: the Killing Machine,” a highly effective anti-fly device. Given the circumstances, I thought Karin should have armed each of us with a Killer Towel before we left. Next time, I’m bringing my own.

As it turned out, I didn’t see a single fly. And I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. I’m sure our vermin opponent was out there, but apparently they didn’t want to risk messing with the likes of us. Towels or no towels.

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The ride was uneventful (i.e., perfect) except for Windy and I having to trot every once in a while to close the gap with the faster gaited horses.

 

 

 

Cruising Speed and Freedom

DSC02213I arrived early for Lesson #68 with the best of intentions. The plan, of course, was to get my ride groomed and tacked up before Karin came out to the barn. Instead, I started taking pictures. I did that with the best of intentions as well. It’s hard to just take one or two…

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Little did I know that I was being watched the entire time.  By this one:

Goldie just hanging loose.

Goldie just hanging loose.

Please note that the individual in question was not restrained by crossties. And there were no other humans around. Goldie had found her way to freedom. Freedom means choices and Goldie chose the barn. I think we all know why.

She was probably about fifteen feet behind me.  I caught her out of the corner of my eye.  Predators have peripheral vision too, I’ll have you know. But instead of immediately confronting her with her wrongdoing, I just kept snapping photos of her friends, as if everything was the way it ought to be.

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Then, I slowly turned and faced the escapee.  She displayed no sign of guilt, fear, or remorse. As far as she was concerned, this was where the Universe wanted her and all was in order.  She stood there, content to soak in the present, indifferent to what the future may bring. Goldie was experiencing true freedom, indeed.

She certainly wasn’t hungry. Later, Charity found a tipped over grain container as evidence of this.  One of the round bales had been messed with.

I thought, “Fine, then you’ll be my lesson horse for today.” That way I wouldn’t have to fetch a horse from the pasture. Laziness can be a powerful motivator.

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We warmed up in the arena for a bit and then followed Karin on Mackie for a little trail ride. It was a gloriously warm summer morning, the kind of morning that invites one to mimic Goldie’s trick of being immersed in The Now.

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Of course, Karin had a bazillion things on her mind. She said that the 1st Anniversary Celebration helped her close the initial chapter in the Legacy Stables story and the summer activities were now compelling her to go full tilt. There was horse camp, vaulting competitions, preparing for the trip to nationals in August and the 4-H County Fair piled on top of all the lessons, birthday parties and barn routine.

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“It’s like shifting gears in car,” she explained. “When we first got here, we were pressing the gas and accelerating into higher gears. Now we’re at a speed where we turn on the cruise control.”

Karin employs a simple formula for coping when the fast pace becomes overwhelming: “I pray. Then, I go for a ride.”

There is more than one way to find true freedom.

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Finally, a Ride in the Sun

It’s the same as every year.  All across the Great Mitten, citizens are emerging from their hovels, wiping the sleep from their eyes, stretching their limbs and shaking off the effects of their semi-hibernation.

And then, they see IT:

“WHAT IS THAT THING?”

“I’M NOT SURE! IT LOOKS LIKE A BIG HOT BALL IN THE SKY!”

“IS IT COMING THIS WAY? IS IT GOING TO KILL US?”

“MAYBE WE SHOULD GO BACK IN AND HIDE!”

“DON’T LOOK AT IT AND MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY!”

“Oh wait… now I remember what that ball is.  It’s supposed to be there.  I think we like it.”

“Oh yeah… I recall it being a rather pleasant thing most of the time.”

It’s spring in Michigan and time for us to be reacquainted with The Big Hot Ball in the Sky. Time to let The Outside be our friend again.

And that means it’s time to leave our safe harbor and venture out for a little Instruction in Open Terrain.

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We exit the shadows and rediscover the light.

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The air is warm, but not hot. We catch a whiff of the apple blossoms. The whole thing feels like Vivaldi sounds.

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It’s like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the sepia gives way to Technicolor.

We pass the apple orchard. I’m grateful that the trees don’t have anything to throw at us yet. I didn’t think to bring anything to throw back.

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Karin finds her Yellow Brick Road.

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Follow, follow, follow…

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And, of course, there’s no place like home.

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Especially this time of year.

 

 

Two Paints and a Peanut

For Lesson #41, Karin gave me the choice between “Instruction in Open Terrain” and another round of double bouncing in circles.

I glanced over at the Future Indoor Arena Area and could tell that there had been some down & dirty estimate measuring going on since last week: an indication that the Future Indoor Arena was coming soon. I knew that between the colder weather and the novelty of a new structure, it wouldn’t be long before we would head inside for months of riding in circles and all the double bouncing I could handle.

An Arena Seed

“Let’s go for a trail ride, Karin.”

I rode Windy, Kathy’s Quarter horse Paint.  Karin chose Cha-Cha, a boarder’s horse. Cha-Cha “just happens to be” another Paint sort of horse.  Whenever I see two Paints together, I always think of it as a fashion statement rather than a coincidence.  Whoever first suggested that women aren’t visually oriented just wasn’t paying close enough attention – and thus most likely male.

The trail ride was fun and Instructionally Useful, as usual.  However, Karin seemed to be having a little trouble with Cha-Cha at first. They were in front of us and they looked more like one of those old electric football game figures that just sort of bounce around in place.

Karin, using Riding Magic, finally got Cha-Cha settled down and the ride became peaceful and uneventful. Just a relaxing jaunt on cool, early autumn morning…

….until we rounded the far side of the cornfield. That’s when the neighing and nickering started. It was a desperate sounding back & forth sort of communication between Cha-Cha and some unseen force in the pasture. That’s how horses do it.  They just sort of lob it up in the air and sure enough, the intended target catches it on the other end. I’ve never understood it.

“That’s her boyfriend,” Karin explained.

When we came into view of the pasture, I looked for a mighty male sort of horse – a stallion I had failed to notice previously or perhaps a gelding who doesn’t know he is. Great Optimism can give you all kinds of ideas.

Of course, I saw no such horse.

“Karin, just who is this ‘boyfriend’?”

“It’s Peanut. And they take their relationship very seriously.”

Which helps explain why Cha-Cha was acting up.

And despite the obvious logistical difficulties, it is unquestionably true love:

Bea Must Die

In the Post-Bite Portion of Lesson #34, Karin and I went on a little trail ride. I took the lead, mainly because I was in the mood to take the lead.  Karin took Kathy’s horse, Windy, because “she needed a little work”.  Apparently Vinnie wasn’t the only one still adjusting to the move.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I was in front.

About half way into the ride, Vinnie started getting fidgety.  I could tell he was swishing his tail a little too vigorously and he just wasn’t moving forward easily. Something wasn’t right.

The “Something” was an uninvited third party. Karin made note of it:

“HE HAS A HORSEFLY ON HIM!  YOU HAVE TO KILL HIM!  YOU HAVE TO KILL HIM!”

I have no qualms about killing a fly. I’ve slaughtered many of them in my day and as a boy, I got rather good at catching them and … well…

But what got my attention was how adamant Karin was regarding my assignment.

“KILL HIM! KILL HIM! YOU MUST KILL HIM!”

It was as if she was afraid the fly would hustle back to headquarters and report our position.  I wanted to get Vinnie to walk on and hoped the fly would just give it up.  But the tone in Karin’s voice made it clear that slaying the intruder was the only solution.  There was no plan B.

Later, Karin would explain why I had to “KILL HIM!” Apparently, he (the fly) was actually a female.  A female with eggs. Her mission was to find a good home for the eggs and inject them, painfully, into the horse. Can’t have that.

The fly was simply following a biological imperative.  She was probably a tad uncomfortable carrying around those eggs and having discovered this beautiful high-rise apartment was determined to complete her duty here and now.  There was no Plan B for her, either.

I posthumously named her “Bea”.

Bea was ugly, that’s for sure. She was about the size of the golf ball and should have made an easy target.  However, the battle went on for some time.  While Vinnie bucked and stumbled around, Karin reported Bea’s current position, which was usually behind me. It was difficult to get a visual on the target. As I would turn to slap the life out of the fly, Bea would buzz off for a moment only to defiantly return to a different spot on Vinnie.

“HE’S ON HIS BUTT!”  Whack. Miss.

“NO, HE’S ON THE SADDLE PAD!” Whack. Miss.

“NOW HE’S ON THE OTHER SIDE!” Whack. Miss.

The Force was strong with this one. And Karin was still getting the gender wrong. No doubt she was suffering from a little confusion herself, as she witnessed her student getting outwitted by a horsefly. I really didn’t think I was going to get her.

But I did. Bea landed on Vinnie’s left flank, I got a good acquisition and whap, the fly fell to the ground, legs up.

I really don’t believe that Bea was all that concerned with her own existence. In fact, I think she was relieved when the end came.  I mean, who really wants to be a horsefly? I could almost hear her little fly voice as she fluttered to the ground – I’m thinking something with a gritty Bonnie Raitt quality –  “Finally… the end… thank you, thank you.”

Karin was right. That did the trick. Everything settled down and we were able to finish the ride.

Karin declared me “A Hero”.  True, I had saved Vinnie from becoming an unwilling host to a batch of Horsefly Babies, but like Bea, I was simply following my own biological imperative.

She had been a worthy opponent.

Progress Notes

 

With Legacy Stables still in its infancy, Karin is in Full Octopus Mode, attending to everything all at once, wheeling and dealing, planning and promoting, organizing and improvising. Lots of improvising.

All this activity is superimposed over a regular barn day routine.  Of course, the work will never stop. We all know that.  It’s a horse barn. But these are pretty big pieces that are being put in place right now and with every big piece comes a dozen details, each of these spawning a litter of baby details.  The process is stressful, maddening and glorious. Through it all, Karin seems borderline euphoric.

It’s like talking to someone who is standing on a cloud.

There has been considerable progress since last week.:

The round pens are up.

A culvert is in place over the driveway.

 

Fences are being completed.

The indoor arena is on its way.

And who knows what else.

What impresses me the most is that in the midst of all this activity, Karin is still giving lessons.  For Lesson #33, she took Paul and me on another trail ride. I’ll tell you about that next time.

It was nice.

Wanting To

When I woke up on Thursday morning, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about going to Lesson #7. I hadn’t slept well and it seemed cold outside. I thought about how much easier my morning would go if I just skipped the lesson and got on with my normal workday routine. But I went anyway.

I did remember to bring a couple of apples for the horse. Giving a horse an apple is my single favorite equine related activity. I like the way they eat the whole thing without any of the “I Don’t Like the Core” fussiness you see in humans. I like how the horse brings out the juiciness in the apple you didn’t know was there. I like how they relish every second of the experience and for a moment it’s just you, the horse and the apple. I like being the one who gives the apple to the horse.

Karin was unable to be there for this session, so Liz filled in again. She began by instructing me how to tie a knot in the “latigo” – the strap that connects the cinch to the saddle (more on this in the next post). Then she put me on Goldie and we warmed up in the outdoor arena.  Liz promised to take us out on the trail after the warm up.

Goldie has a pace of her own and it is very, very, very slow.  Quarter horse slow. I hear tale that she is the fastest horse in the barn, but not everyone knows how to get her into her higher gear. I wasn’t interested in doing anything like that and if I had got her there, it would have been by sheer accident and surely followed by additional accidents.

So I was content to mosey around the ring, totally in sync with Goldie’s low energy mode. But Liz wanted to see a little more and told me to get the horse moving a bit better. With a simultaneous sigh, Goldie and I got moving.  I got her into a faster walk and we even trotted some, but neither one of us could maintain it.  We just didn’t want to.

I was relieved when Liz said it was time to walk on the trail. With Liz strolling along beside us, we headed out the gate and moved forward. There was no resistance now, just a relaxed, positive forward motion. We all wanted to go into the woods. It turned out to be a very pleasant autumn-like morning – not cold at all, really. The walk was fun.

Goldie has become my favorite horse at the barn. At the end of the session, I gave her two apples. And I was glad I didn’t skip Lesson #7.