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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BB&G, Part 3 & Self-Critique, a la George

Bet you thought I was done talking about B. Barns, but nope, there are still more tales relating to this establishment! (

I distinctly recall the 4-H meeting when some of the kids' parents joined us because Trainer had a special announcement to make. I was very worried because I think I had heard she was losing her lease on the property. But no, she was much excited, bubbling over with big talk. A sort of blueprint document was spread out, and little 3-D paper buildings plunked down: we were looking at plans for the new, improved BB Luxury Equestrian Estates development! Huh?? Our Club President's dad was a developer, I knew that much (they had two horses at the barn) and apparently he was the one behind this grand idea. There would be a huge, round indoor arena, several barns, improved pastures, and a number of homes.
I didn't quite know what to make of this. I didn't think Trainer had a lot of money, so I didn't know how it was all going to work, but I sure hoped that it would because I really loved my barn life at BB&G, the 4-H Club, and "my" lovely girl American Mare. Trainer was an excellent instructor and I learned a ton about riding and horse care from her. She was generous to a fault, never even charging me a fee to ride her horses at shows or for her time at them; I showed for the cost of entry fees and trailering. She genuinely loved horses, loved teaching and was a huge advocate of 4-H. For those qualities alone I would remember her fondly.

Long story short, sadly, the Luxury Equestrian Estates never were built (although the property today, is, in fact, covered in large homes). I assume Trainer had a falling-out with President's Dad, and/or he couldn't get financing. Trainer, kids and horses were forced to relocate, and the whole establishment picked up sticks and moved to a new facility about 15 minutes away. It was a far cry from the old one, unfortunately. Not much turnout, one ring, and a barn. The whole thing was surrounded by busy roads.

I continued taking lessons, doing 4-H and showing. We didn't just go to 4-H shows, by the way; we went to another series of local unrated affairs as well. These were held at a place called Freedom Farms. I liked the fancy ribbons they gave out there, and it was an appropriate level of competition for me.

I actually have one picture from a 2'6" jumping class taken when I was around 15, the only actual real photographer's photo I've ever gotten of me at a show. But I refuse to share it on the grounds that you would instantly lose all respect for me - yes, it's really THAT bad. :-) I would like to think it was just "a moment in time," but I have a distinct feeling that any jumping photo of me ever taken is going to have my toes out at 90 degree angles... and probably a lot of other faults. (I know I have mentioned the toe thing before. Here's the deal: I can sit on the floor, put the soles of my feet together, and lean forward until my head touches my feet with my knees all the way on the floor. Now those are some funky hip joints! So I walk/stand very duck-footed and have always struggled to turn my toes in while riding. Nowadays nobody seems to care much but back then... whooo. Not good.)

Every time I look at this picture (that no, I'm still not going to show you) I crack myself up imagining what George Morris would have to say if I submitted it to Jumping Clinic. After he had wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, he'd write something like this:

"This rider needs to work on tightening her leg. Her heel is down, but I can see daylight between her knee and the saddle. I have never seen a toe turned out that far - it is well beyond the maximum 45-degree angle. Returning to small crossrails and no-stirrup work would help strengthen the leg.

The rider is not so much as jumping ahead, as simply standing in the stirrups. Her hip angle is far too open and she has not let the thrust of the horse close it. Her short release is okay, but one hand is far higher than the other. Her eyes are up and she is looking for the next jump.

This horse is merely stepping over this little jump and has a bored expression. I cannot evaluate her form accurately with this small fence, but I would like to see her knees more even. The mare needs some groceries and she should be braided and her hooves polished, even for a small schooling show. She needs a better-fitting browband as well.

Whomever thought it was a good idea to attire a teenage girl in a loud, white/blue/black/red plaid coat, jodphurs with garters and paddock boots should be taken behind the barn and shot. This outfit is not appropriate for her age and looks ridiculous. Also, the excess stirrup leather needs trimming." 

I was riding the chestnut OTTB mare who was the other main lesson horse at BB&G.  She was a stereotypical opinionated redhead and we really didn't get along all that well (Patty Flower mostly rode her, in fact). I fail to remember her name, which tells you something. At any rate, she was a hard keeper and didn't have a lot of bloom to her coat. She could jump 3'6," though, and her front end sharpened up over bigger fences.

As far as my hideous outfit, it's called "I borrowed the jacket from Trainer and therefore the price was right." Picture something like the above, except with a narrow red thread, tailored in luxurious 100% polyester double knit. You could wad it up into a ball and stuff it into your backpack, and upon extraction it would instantly spring back into coat-dom. We knew I needed tall boots, but having had no luck thus far finding any off the rack (and my long-suffering mother sensibly refusing to get customs), I was consigned to paddock boots and jodphurs even though I know now I was definitely too old for them. I remember thinking the paddock boots, which had punched toe caps, were really pretty spiffy.

Regarding the standing in the stirrups - I have no idea why this was going on. I have a few snapshots taken of me jumping in a lesson (at night, in a dusty indoor, so not exactly the best quality) and I'm not doing it in those, and certainly my instructors have never mentioned it, so I think it was a function of nerves/a flat-jumping horse/what have you. I may have weirdly-assembled hips, but they do bend! :-)

Towards the end of my career at BB, I started riding a new school horse, a fugly-but-cute bay gelding named Little Brown Jug. Mare was pretty much retired; she'd developed a large and painful sarcoma or melanoma under her tail, and Trainer was trying to get another foal from her (she'd had one in the past, a colt whom T kept and stood as a H/J stallion). Jug was a TB, but had a full-sized horse head on a pony body. The story I got was he had been starved as youngster and his growth was stunted. We got along very well, fortunately.

I have a distinct memory of my last class at my last show ever as a junior rider. It was a 4-H show and Jug and I were waiting for our turn on the outside course. The sky was fast-darkening with an approaching storm. To the sound of rumbles of thunder we made our way around the jumps; Jug was a good jumper but being so small, he made 3'6" feel like a lot taller. Up and over we flew (with me being jumped loose over a couple of fences that had to have been at least 3'9") and as we finished I remember thinking, "Well, this is it. Who knows when I'll ever show a horse again?"

It took twenty years.

(Story coming!)

1 comment:

  1. Your imitation of George's writing style is spot-on! Hilarious!


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