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Thursday, April 28, 2011

"School For Young Riders," Cont'd

I really was highly entertained looking through my old and battered book, so I hope you don't mind looking at a few more photos from within. Here's a shot that brought back memories:

The reason why this rings a bell is the jumps. We had some of the exact same kind on the "outdoor" course we used at 4-H shows when I was a teenager. These same jumps, and field, were used during the very large AA-Rated Monmouth County Horse Show, still held every year back home in New Jersey. I never rode in that show, but I still think it's neat that I was able to show at least using the same courses as the "big-leaguers."

Anyway, anyone who's younger will probably be surprised to see these natural brush jumps, with the upright boxes and strictly fixed parts. Unless you're talking about one of the hunter derbies, which are thankfully becoming more popular, you won't see them in a hunter ring anymore (and even then, I bet they are "frangible" now). Guess what - we used to have to show over real hunt field-type jumps! Imagine that! We showed in the ring, too, with striped poles on standards with a nice ground line laid out in front, but by golly, we were also expected to go out and careen around (at least in my case, sorry to say) a bunch of natural jumps on grass in a great big field. 

Here's another kind of jump we had:

Yikes, natural timber! Okay, so I didn't show over anything this high (3'6" was my limit, and that was only a couple on course, not all the fences), but I know I jumped some real fences like this in my day. No wonder I'd get so freaking scared I'd forget to breathe. It would take a lot of persuading to get me over something similar now... but I still think jumps like you'd actually find when fox hunting belong in today's rings.

This photo I also found interesting for a comparison to today's positions and tack. Again, we see a lovely automatic release, with the horse jumping freely and happily. The rider's position is examplary: head up, eyes up, seat out of the saddle just enough. Her heel is jammed securely down, a bit surprising since the stirrup is so far back on her foot. She's grinning away and actually looks like she's having fun, something I really appreciate!

This must have been a Corinthian/Appointments class, requiring all the proper hunting tack and apparel. I like the flying sandwich case. Want one of those now? You're going to pay: Antique sandwich case (that's over $300, on average). Yowza. A more modern one can be purchased here, but you're supposed to call for the price. You know what that means!

Other anomalies to today are the mile-long coat, the enormous open-bottomed stirrups (ouch, I'll stick to my Sprenger knock-offs), and the velvet hunt cap with the nearly useless elastic chin strap. This one must have been pretty new because it still looks tight. We also see more and smaller mane braids on modern hunters, but these, and the tail, look very nice.

Overall, this photo just makes me smile. A horse and rider whooping it up in the show ring, both doing well what they clearly love. Wonderful!

Finally, here's a page where we learn that kids back then, despite the sheltered lives, still found creative opportunities to try and do themselves in:

What the -- ?!?! Caption says, "Pair jumping minus tack is fun." Sure, until somebody breaks their neck! Even as a kid the thought of this curled my hair, especially since the pony had a roached mane. Nothing to grab in an emergency looked like a genuinely Bad Idea to me. Excellent riding here, nonetheless: I tried jumping bareback with a bridle one time, and wound up in the dirt.

As for the mounting over the butt and standing up, there's plenty of people now who think this is a swell way to advertise their fugly backyard steed. "Lookit here, ah kin stand on 'ole Spot the Walkerpintaloosa stud. He may not know nuthin' 'cept breedin' mares, but by golly, he's DEAD QUIET for standin'!" :-)

P.S. Thank you for your comments, I truly appreciate them!

Friday, April 22, 2011

These Boots (and Book) Were Made For Ridin'

It's hard to believe that my now size-8 1/2s ever fit into these, but here's a pair of my actual boots that I wore as a wee squirt at Tricorne Farm:

They look like they're fit for hanging on the wall at Cracker Barrel, eh?
Yes, these are terribly old-fashioned jodphur boots with leather straps, and slick leather soles that would cause you to wipe out on a smooth surface before they were broken in. Everybody had them back in the equestrian Dark Ages, aka the 60s. If you didn't ride in these you rode in tall boots (I had those in rubber, if you recall). I'm not quite sure how this pair has stayed with me so long, as my mom stayed active in the student tack exchange, but as a fan of nostalgia I'm very glad to have them. They sure don't make 'em that way anymore! All the jods now have elastic sides, and I believe only saddle seat folks wear them. Everything in hunt seat, even with the elastic sides, is billed as a paddock boot and laces or zips.

Regarding the book in the photo: does anyone recognize that? "School For Young Riders," by Jane Marshall Dillon, was practically considered the Bible of horsemanship at Tricorne. I can't remember if I needed to bring it with me to regular lessons, or just to summer camp, but I know for sure we were expected to read it and absorb as much as possible. I think we were quizzed from the end-of-chapter tests in there as well. And speaking of old boots, check this page out:

There they are, billed as "jodphur shoes." That's pretty goofy. I personally never heard them called anything but boots. Now, the tall boots look pretty familiar: yep, just like my trusty real leather pair, finally purchased ca. 1978 (a good story)! No Spanish tops on those babies, although mine also didn't come with garters (I have never understood what on earth those were for, anyway). The POW spurs and the canary vests haven't changed a bit, though. Here's another photo to illustrate equestrian fashion from "back in the day:"

This gal was named Frances, and appeared in a number of photos. I always thought she looked rather sullen and not sufficiently appreciative of the miraculous life she lived, owning her own (very cute) horse.
Here we have an older girl modeling baggy, pre-Lycra jodphurs with garters (those come with Velcro closures these days, I see - is there nothing sacred?), the aforementioned jodphur boots, a curtain-length jacket probably made out of hopsack, and a purely decorative velvet helmet. The horse is sporting a flat saddle with a minimal pad and a flat leather bridle, which nowadays is viewed as very utilitarian and strictly for serious hunting.

Here's a photo that illustrates one more thing that's hardly EVER seen any more, but I think... maybe... possibly... is making a bit of a comeback these days. A certain Mr. George Morris has certainly tried his darndest for a zillion years to bring it back. What am I talking about?

Why, the automatic release, of course. Now THAT is riding with an independent seat and hands, folks! Beautiful. I myself would experience a swift meeting with the ground if I tried it (I hope our unhelmeted friend there never did), but if you look at old-timey riding photos, everybody's doing it. Nowadays we see everyone up to and including Olympic jumpers using a crest release.

I apologize for the crummy photo, but you can just make out that there's an end-of-chapter quiz to the right. "An adult male horse of the type used for general riding is called a...?" Have to giggle here - I guess The Operation said male horses experienced is not to be referenced. Children led much more sheltered lives in the pre-MTV/Internet era, let me tell ya! However, I think I knew the answer, and the proper spelling of such, when I was five, but a large majority of today's Craig's List advertisers certainly don't...

{See next post for more photos & discussion from "School For Young Riders!"}

Is This Not the CUTEST?!?!?

Obviously, this has nothing whatsoever to do with my life as a rider,* but I just had to share this darling photo of my favorite retired race mare (Copyright Mathea Kelley, courtesy of Queen Zenyatta has had her photo taken literally millions of times, I'm sure, and I've seen a whole lot of them, but I think this one of her in mid-chew is really priceless! It was taken at her recent birthday party at Lane's End, where she was served lots of her favorite carrots with the fronds still attached. I think some of her human family and friends were walking away and she has the expression of, "Wait, where are you going, I wasn't done eating yet!"  Whatta gal.

I wish we would be told if they're going to try and re-breed her to Bernardini this year, or if she'll spend the next nine months just hanging out and being a horse. Earlier in this series of photos there is one of her covered in mud just coming out of the paddock (she had a bath before her party). I thought that was pretty great, too. I wish all TBs could retire to verdant pastures where they could run, play, roll and graze to their heart's content.

Of course, another fun option for Zenny would be to "test breed" her to a handsome WB stallion for what would absolutely be a killer sporthorse baby. We can dream, right? :-)

* I have been thinking lately that in addition to posting entries about childhood/past riding experiences, I will start doing some posts on more current equine-related thoughts, activities and situations. I keep having things I want to discuss with fellow horse lovers, and since my "riding friend" facetime is limited to just a couple hours a week, I have a lot bottled up. Poor friend, I yap her ears off every week as it is! I don't think too many people are actually reading this blog, but at least I'll have the chance to write stuff down and have my say.

Like, I'm pretty excited about the Derby this year, since for a while now I've been following the Trail very closely. I started reading Bloodhorse mag and the Thoroughbred Times websites almost on a daily basis, and really have kept up with the current pack of top 3-year-olds. I certainly can't compete with my Facebook "Friend" Steve Haskin, the acclaimed turfwriter, but be looking for the Official RiderWriter Derby Predictions, once we know exactly who (hopefully) will be standing in the starting gate two weeks from tomorrow!

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Parents Do For Their Kids

(Note: I apologize for my extended absence. I was gone last week on a hellish trip, and have spent this week trying to recuperate. It's also been hard to post given the fact that many photographic subjects I want to use are at home and I keep forgetting to take necessary pictures. I'll try to do better!)

You might recall me saying that my dad decided early on that all equines were "out to get him." The Shetland stepping on his foot in FL sealed the deal (good thing it wasn't a Clydesdale!). So how to explain this?

Ca. 1971/age 8 (Dad would have been 38, a mere chicken).
Yup, that's Dad on board good old Stormy, looking right at home. Well, not exactly... :-) At every Tricorne schooling show, they held a very popular class called "Adult Leadline." We students had to convince a long-suffering family member to mount up on a suitable horse and be led around the ring a couple times at a walk, while being judged. On what, I'm not quite sure. I bet if someone had put their blonde 36 DD mother up she would have won going away, but that's besides the point.

At any rate, I roped my father into doing this. How/why HE was nominated I cannot fathom: after all, it was my mother who had been the first equestrian in the family, and I must have thought she'd be a ringer. "Lookee here, MY mommy used to have her own horse, SHE knows how to ride!" Maybe it was because my father, for reasons I never determined, actually owned a pair of genuine leather jodphur boots. Maybe they were a fashion statement at some time? It certainly wasn't because he secretly played polo when I wasn't looking! For whatever reason I was only too happy to get him and his boots in the class.

The poor man must have really enjoyed my constant litany of correction. I can just hear my little know-it-all 8-year-old self:

"Now, be sure to keep your heels down. No, no, more. More than that! They need to be WAY down!"

"Sit up straight."

"Here's how you hold the reins. Keep your thumbs up. Hold your hands just over the withers here. Not that high!"

"Look ahead."

"Shorten your reins. Keep going... keep going... no, that's too short. You can't pull on his mouth!"

And so on. He must have wanted to scream.

But he/we must have done something right, because here was the result:

Go, Daddy! A nice shiny white 4th place ribbon. It took its place on my wall with all the rest of my ribbons, but I'm sure he was very proud of this highlight of his equestrian career.

I also convinced my grandfather to go in the Leadline class on another occasion:

This photo appeared in the "Red Bank Register" newspaper, a moment of fame for yours truly!
This is the whole version of the photo I showed you earlier of me and Grey. My dad's dad "Grandfather Pa" is riding here, and the proud onlooker is the owner of Tricorne Farm, Ginger Bush/Busch (not sure of spelling). I don't know if Ginger was her real first name of if it was a nickname bestowed on her due to the flaming red hair color (impressive bouffant here, no?). She was a nice lady if not a bit intimidating. I don't recall what color ribbon Pa earned, but judging from the light color it must have been 4th or 5th. Not bad for someone, who to my knowledge, had never been on a horse before.

Little aside: my grandmother thought this photo was absolutely hysterical. "He looks like "Big Chief Onatonwa up there!" I have to admit she's right - Pa did have a very aristocratic appearance and seemed to be taking it all in stride (pardon the pun). All he needed was a top hat and he could have trotted right on to the hunt field, looking like he belonged.

I'm trying to think of a time when I was persuaded to do some activity with/for my kids that could have resulted in accident or humiliation. Maybe the snorkeling in Florida? Anyway, I am still grateful to Dad and Pa for consenting to ride in these classes. Thank you for being so nice to horse-crazy me!