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The Kasper Chronicles -- Part 1

Be warned

Frans,
Your writing is somewhat interesting, although not very informative or topical. However, it IS very prolific and takes up a lot of room.
--Mary Lark
(<mlark@tfs.com>)
Concord, CA
Kasper,
Your trotting is somewhat irregular but not tropical and certainly a good investment.
However you are very poetic and take just the right amount of space.
Cousin John
(<scialli@primenet.com>)
Phoenix, AZ

A guest is coming

Date : Fri Oct 06, 09:54
Some thirty years ago, when I was 9 years old, I had some riding lessons (my main worry then was, as I remember it, what I should do if I had to pee half way the group lesson) but then my father died and the pension funds didn't allow a continuation of the riding lessons. When no one but me was at home, I continued my lessons in private on the round top of an antique chest but after some time that lost its challenge. I once got a chance to be on horseback again when I was almost 11. Staying with my aunt Beppie and uncle Hans in the city of Leiden, I heard that my uncle went horse riding along the beach every sunday. I begged and nagged until uncle decided he was fed up with my begging and should have it my way. He took me with him but I was shocked senseless by the height of these horses! Of course, after all my nagging I was ashamed to admit my fear. I was smirkingly put on top of a horse and the group set off for the beach. When the galopping began, I was scared out of my head and screamed. Someone let me off, uncle was rightfully angry and paid little attention to me henceforth.

My eldest daughter Lore (16 now) has been taking riding lessons for five years, and Veerle (12) joined two years ago and my girlfriend (mother of our children) Jacoline (40) has been taking lessons since last year. So I was slow to catch up when I took a few lessons on the vacation isle of Vlieland in the summer of 1994. A turbo start it was though, as they gave the rare male rider a powerful horse to ride. Hugo bucked easily and hurt a rib of mine so I couldn't ride nor laugh very well for a while. I was one of the last to ride Hugo for quite a while as he was `degraded' to pulling the cart for most of the following year. Only now some experienced riders working at the stables get a go on him every once in a while but they seem to have a great time with him!

Then last summer (1995) I tried again after some hesitation, and LOVED it!!! For some reason or another, the horses and I seem to like each other's company. Even though I must learn most things, they don't seem to mind much and we're both game for anything happening. After two lessons in the `bak' (geez, must learn all the English equestrian words yet) Marijke, the owner/instructor of the riding school (manege in Dutch) said sure I could join the group with my family in a 2 hour excursion along the beach and through the heather grown hills and pine forest. I had a GREAT time! Lore and I were each on huge dark horses, and a few moments stand out in memory, when she noticed I was catching up with her in running along the beach. She sped up her stallion a little and we were both riding lightly and fast, alongside each other, exchanging some fond remarks.

Although I had planned to study for my soaring theory exam, I was mostly around the stables.

So after coming home, I booked riding lessons near our home town. The first lesson, the `doorzitten' (remain seated while trotting) was impossible, but last wednesday it went fine on the same kind old horse, so it seems my muscles have learned the trick. I was sorry to see that after I took off the saddle, there was an oblong spot on her high back where the hair had come off and a bloody spot showed. She must have been extremely kind not to buck on me with that sore spot and I bumping on top of it. The owner's daughter sprayed a gel like desinfectant on it but no one seemed much worried or impressed, least of all the mare herself...

***AND*** coming tuesday, we will get a Vlieland guest staying with us (well, actually in a stable near our home, some 7 minutes by bicycle): please shake hands and feet with KASPER, 3.5 years old, 1.69 m high, who will spend the winter months under our hospitality and care.

We found this stables which caters for horse owners. Nice huge old farm, and a young but experienced well qualified riding instructor. She, Janneke, and her husband Frans (hoefsmid = hoove smith?) run the site that is owned by her father Henk who is a landscape engineer with Wageningen University.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Impending pet tragedy?

Date : Fri Oct 13, 14:57
[...]
As for the content of the story, have you seriously given the matter your full consideration? It's a huge responsibility to take in a horse (or even a dog) as a pet. It's a well known fact that young girls always get enthusiastic in the beginning and then someone else in the family will be the only one left to look after the horse, his grooming, exercise and all the attention that a horse needs. When all that initial enthusiasm fades, you will be left with a tragedy on your hands with all the subsequent trauma of having to give up a domestic pet in the end. It happens all the time. So think about it!

Groeten,

MINOO

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


A tall, dark, sweet guy

Date : Tue Oct 10, 21:13
Today was great. When Kasper stepped (backwards) from his trailer, everyone around expected him to be stressed after the 4 hour trip (including a long ferry boat ride...) but he wasn't. With shining coat, well groomed for his trip, he very gently looked around, curious about his new surroundings. He let me embrace him so he could inspect the smells on my back and walked over the stone courtyard with me holding him on a rope. Then I let Jacoline take him over and I took a few pictures of Jacoline and him.

The owners, Marijke and Wilfred from the `Seeruyter' riding school on Vlieland were shown the farm on a walked tour, over the wide path along the spaceous meadows with trees and ponds, bordered by a very old dike on the north side and the suburbs of the village Huissen on the south. Under today's golden sun it all looked like paradise. One field had a few very young stallions, on another a group of horses strode where Kasper will join them tomorrow. Wilfred and Marijke were very happy with the beautiful place their Kasper will spend the coming months in.

His stall is really huge! It more than fits his combination of height and youthful splendor. Compared to his size, he is not very muscular yet. He's 3.5 years old (castrated at 1.5). He strides like a young lady on too high heels, with a wobbly pride.

When Veerle (12) came out of school with a friend we took them to the farm and later when Lore (16) arrived with her best friend I took them also. Went to town to get locks for the hay/straw and accessories chest which I installed...

The main feeling is comparable to when Lore was born, the first born just by entering our life bringing a definite change to it. Great enjoyment and the realisation that a new responsibility has arrived to stay.

This evening, Veerle and I went back again, cleaned a stall for the first time ever and with the advice of some teenage horse owners I brushed Kasper's coat and cleaned his hooves. Getting him to give me his feet didn't look easy in theory but in practice it was a surprise. Indeed, as I had read, a certain decisiveness helps, and leaning my weight against his much bigger stature indeed seemed to impress him enough to present me his hooves.

The other people, mostly girls and some of their parents, are kind and helpful and a drink in the people-paddock was fun. It seems there is a very well organized little equine community around the farm which is ready to take us up. I hadn't realized this would happen!

Tomorrow morning Jacoline and I will be back there and bring him to the meadow to spend half a day with the other horses. The day after tomorrow we'll take riding lessons on Kasper for the first time.

Lore will prove the most experienced of us. I look forward top see her ride, and Jacoline, and Veerle of course. Veerle has a great opportunity to loose some fear she builds up herself around horses sometimes. I can't believe I'll ride also but I suppose I will!

*===================*
|             ,-^,  |
|       _ ___/ /\|  |
|   ,;`( )__, )  ~  |
|  //  //   '--;    |
|  '   \     |      |
|       ^    ^      |
*===================*
*      KASPER!      *
*===================*

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Date : Wed Oct 11, 17:34

Shadow kicks

Kasper met his friends on the pasture today. Walking along the path towards the field, his impressive slow stride along was splendid in the sun and low ground mist. He enjoyed introducing himself to the other horses as he danced towards them to sniff each of them out in calm succession. One smaller white mare, Flip, was predicted to give him her usual welcoming kicks with her hind legs, but it was noticeable how she hesitated a while before she finally gave some symbolic kicks in his general direction. Kasper was either deemed too kind or too large...

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Date : Fri Oct 13, 11:25

First rides on Kasper

This morning, after the kids went to school, Jacoline and I took Kasper to the pasture, greeting dog-owners who were walking their favorite pet over a parallel path. Again, Kasper was welcomed by a smaller horse who took good care to neigh and shadow-kick a little in case Kasper hadn't figured out the on-field hierarchy yet. Kasper, so tall but also still very slender and dreamy, didn't mind much and interpreted it as general equine interest (as compared to human interest) as he sniffed the new friend and began nibbling grass, letting his swanlike neck down, all the way down from his high shoulders.

After that I designed, printed and laminated name plates for the seven horses that didn't yet have a name plate on their stall, as a surprise for their owners.

And now I must see what can be saved of this working week... getting a horse has temporarily pushed all other priorities, work and household, away. Even the nights are filled with sometimes nonsensical Kasper-dreams.

Yesterday evening, Jacoline and Veerle took their first rides on Kasper during the evening lessons. The lighted paddock in the dark was new to all of us and there were clouds of fog hovering over the ground in varying density. Jacoline and Veerle were both suprised by Kasper being so slender. Veerle is small for her age, and she is used to short fat ponies. Kasper amazed us by `in de teugel lopen' very easily, bending his neck to facilitate sweet control. Trotting was, they said, like soaring. I watched them from the side and it looked like a sugary fairy tale, as Kasper and the other four horses in the paddock were alternately appearing and disappearing, hidden by darkness in a corner or lighted mist. (There's a story index on the top of this page.)

Dusk, streetlights and motorpeds

Date : Tue Oct 17, 10:26

Yesterday evening, I managed to get Kasper ready for riding without help. As he leaned over the lower door of his stall, I tried to get him into his bridle twice and the third time it worked. Although he gives some resistance, like raising his head high after first lowering, he isn't naughty at it, nor is he very inventive at making it hard for me and as soon as the bridle was well over his head he gave up. It was handy that the reins were over his neck already so I could gently fish him back to me after he raised his head and backed out. (Getting him out of the pasture goes similarly: he doesn't come to the pasture exit, strides away from us, but does so slowly, so it's not really hard to walk up to him in an arc and calmly clip the rope to his halter).

For supervision in my putting on the saddle, I asked Ellen, an experienced girl with me in his spaceous stall. Kasper stood still and made it very easy. Then, in the evening dusk, we stepped towards the paddock.

The evening darkness and mist is obviously completely new to Kasper, with the streetlights and paddock lights not penetrating beyond their upturned umbrella formed beam. Coming from the isle of Vlieland where no cars from off the island are allowed in, and where motorpeds are very rare, he is impressed and easily startled by the strange sharp mechanical-insect sound of a motorped approaching from afar, over the nearby dike, whizzing past and away. He moves cautiously, looks lazy, but his head and ears are constantly alert and sometimes worried.

In the paddock next to ours, there was a jumping lesson going on with three other horses and this fascinated Kasper no end. I think he never saw anything like it yet. I had to be careful to anticipate his reaction to the occasional sound of hooves clanking against the wooden poles in the other paddock as he would react with a sudden tiny little jump himself, and when I was trotting, and one of the other horses left the jumping paddock to trot back to the stalls, this other horse was steered over the asphalt road and that unexpected, hard sound immediately set Kasper in a high speed trot and gallop which I had some trouble calming him down from.

Generally, it was a lesson in our mutual sensitivity. Especially when the three other horses were gone, and Janneke, our instructor told me she would go to the kanteen for a few minutes, it was just Kasper, me, dusk, darkness and sounds. We're both beginners. Once, he tripped in a corner but corrected immediately. That's what struck me most: his reactions are prompt, and most of the times when he is startled, he is calm already before I have had time to be startled myself.

***

In the stall, when feeding him, there's a little discipline problem every time I step into his stall with the food filled bucket. When I push him back and open the door, he wants to dash either for the opened door or for the bucket, and I sternly push him back, pretending that I am about as strong as he is. He then moves around and quickly heads for his feed bucket which is fastened in a corner, where I empty the bucket I brought. It works with me, and I trust Lore will manage as well, but Jacoline is rather impressed with his pushy behaviour and the much smaller Veerle (see pictures on my web site) will never get this done.

I've seen stalls where you can simply dunk in the feed from the outside, and neigbouring Ellen gives her horse Kay his meals on the floor behind the door, and we could also buy and install another bucket that we can make more reachable from the door opening, but Janneke and her friend Frans (he's also a blacksmith) reason that it's essential to train the horse about the proper hierarchy, also IN the stall. He should learn to back up and stand still when the meals arrive. Further advantage of stepping into the stall is having more contact with the horse, and being able to find out early about strange behaviour and hygiene problems.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

Barging in the barn

Date : Wed Oct 18, 12:36                    From : Ellen Walther - Sun UK
Groetjes Frans! Nice to have another Dutch person on the list (mijn ouders zijn Nederlanders, uit Den Haag)

Your stories about Kasper were enjoyable to read. Best wishes for many years of pleasure with him, and yes, it is as much a responsibility as having a child, especially as he is so young.

I did want to comment about Kasper's barging problem when you feed him. You need to take this very seriously, because he is not respecting you. Horses work in a herd hierarchy, and the `lower' horses in the herd would never think of challenging `the boss'. What you need to do is establish yourself as the boss with Kasper. You cannot allow him to be the boss, it may seem as though it is cute and spirited now while he is young, but if he does not respect you, someone will get hurt, and I would not want your young girls to end up injured. Barging into your "space" is a sign that he considers you lower in the herd than him.

I have had the same problem with my horse in the past. I solved the problem by insisting when I went into the stable that he stood at the back of the stable and waited until I had put his feed into his bucket. When you go in with the bucket and he barges you, get physical. Shout at him, growl at him, use a whip on his lower legs if you need to, but you must get him to understand that he cannot barge you! I am not talking about cruelty with the whip; you will probably only need to do it once or twice and he will understand immediately.

Best of luck --- young horses are very rewarding but they are like children, always testing the boundaries of what is allowed. You must be consistent with him now, teaching him that you are in charge, and you will have a good relationship with him as he grows older. Allowing him to control you is asking for big trouble later on. It is not nice to have to discipline a horse that you love, but they are not quite so loveable when they start walking over you (perhaps literally :-)). You should not have trouble if you establish the rules from the start.

Best of luck,

Ellen Walther
& Rocky
Sherfield on Loddon, Hampshire
England

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Megan's story: The Wild One

Date : Wed Nov 08, 02:10
(I read about a story by Megan Dietz -- (< lesley@ssvax1.ssd.loral.com>) and tried to find it, but failed. Megan was so kind to write it again for us:)

Well, gee, I'm flattered. I didn't know anyone who really read my dribble posts.

I don't save my messages, but I can pretty much recap it:

When I was 14-15 years old I was out of control. I was constantly in detention in school with threats of getting expelled. I was running away from home a lot and hanging out with a `bad' crowd. My parents couldn't control me and went as far as attending `Toughlove' seminars (that is an organization that teaches a parent to turn their back to their kids).

I was working as a trainee at a local rental stable (meaning I cleaned stalls for riding privileges) when another worker bought a horse. His name was Joey and he was the shortest, cutest little sorrel horse I'd ever seen. And he was spunky. I loved to ride the rankest horses on the string so Casey asked me to ride Joey (he was too hyper for her).

Well, to make a long story short, Joey and I `clicked'. Oh sure, we had our fights and battles, being both of stubborn mind, but I grew to really love this little horse. When Casey said she was selling him, I was devastated. My parents would not buy me a horse. So I got Casey to agree to sell him to me on payments and I went to work... janitor at an office building, cleaning stalls and houses. It took me most of a year, but I bought that little horse.

I credit Joey to saving my life. He taught me to be responsible for something in my life. I had to improve my grades to be allowed the privileges of going to the ranch. I learned to care for something else and to stay out of trouble so that I would be there for him. He needed me. And I needed him.

I've still got Joey. It's been 13+ years and he is now 27 years old. He is as spunky as even and I still ride him. My life has been turned around since I bought him. I couldn't just `run away' to escape reality since I had to take care of him. When I got involved with Joey, I also became friends with horse people and didn't get in (as much) trouble as before.

I don't know where I'd be if I never hooked up with Joey. I might be in jail, or dead, or pregnant and single, or even on the streets. I love my little sorrel horse. I'll keep him until he dies (and I hope it's not anytime soon). Some people form a true bond with horses. I've owned about 12 over the years, but I've never been as close to any of them, as I have Joey.

Hope this helps. Megan (still the Wild One)
(< lesley@ssvax1.ssd.loral.com>)
and Joey (my hero)
and Tess and Pepper

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Alone on the pasture!

Date : Tue Oct 24, 09:04
Last sunday, I was early in going to Kasper to take him to the pasture and clean his stall. A written note on the wooden chest (where we keep hay, straw, `biks' food grain, reins, brushes etc) written by our `neighbor' Ellen asked us to bring her gelding Kay to the pasture as well, as she would be late from home.

Kasper is very eager to `help'. Leaning his long neck over the lower half of his stall door, he can reach the nearest lid and as he stretches and wrings his neck, his lips nibble on the lid. When it's opened, and he estimates the full wealth of the treasures in the chest for him, he gathers strength and agility to a point that becomes hazardous, so what I do now is keep the top half of his door (iron bars) closed until I have his biks in a bucket and a helping of hay on the floor, with the chest closed again.

Then I open the top door, order Kasper to back up, open the lower door and again tell Kasper to make way. He makes way by walking a circle in his stall and arriving at his feed bucket after I poured his biks in. (Thanks to Ellen Walther for advice! It was surprising to discover how quickly Kasper learned to make way as soon as I had made up my mind not to let him barge in on me anymore.)

Anyway, as last sunday Kasper was munching calmly on his breakfast, I walked through the stables and noticed that most every horse and pony was in his stall. I had heard that it is mandatory to take the last horse with you out of the pasture in the evening if your horse is the second last, but I wondered if that would also hold in the early morning. As I postponed taking Kasper out, I thought this over. I could wait for the next horse owner to arrive and walk together. I could also take Kasper and Kay in one go, but decided against that as I had never walked with two horses before and nobody else had walked with these two horses in one go yet.

Then, when Kasper was nibbling at his hay and walking to and fro in his stall, looking over the lower door to see what I was up to, I decided to take him out and see if there really weren't any other horses in the pasture yet. The pasture currently in use is on the far end of the farm grounds, a five minutes walk away from the farm building. A cool, milky-sunny morning, grass wet with dew greeted Kasper as we stepped out of the barn. The first steps go over sloping old street stones that are a little slippery and it makes Kasper look clumsy if he searches for his grip there.

Walking with him, it often strikes me what different impressions he makes on me. His slow stroll, lowered neck and dreamy large dark eyes suggest he is a phlegmatic person. When you watch his ears though and take a closer look at his eyes, he is quite wary, carefully taking in everything near and far, before us and (with a very slight turn of his head) behind him. He barely raises his feet when he walks, so his hooves shuffle through the high grass and clay. That's my luck, as he would've stepped on my feet several times already had he raised his feet more --- now he just gently kicks my ankles if I slow down on him. All this time, his lazy attitude hides a power in his youthful hugeness that I assume even he himself is not aware of. When he is startled by something, like a bird soaring up from close by, he changes state for a flash of a second. I can't observe fast enough to find out how he does it, but all at once he has stressed every muscle, all four hooves give one heavy thump on the earth, his head is up and before I know it he is doing his lazy stroll act again, his elephantesque motion, as if nothing has happened at all. Walking with him like that, I sometimes feel great affection and admiration as well, while I feel like stopping to ask him: `Kasper, WHO are you?'

When we got at the entrance of the pasture, it appeared that indeed no other horse was there. Kasper expected to be let in, so I unhitched the electrical wire, stepped in with him and looked around once more. It could be that other horses were at the far end of the oblong field, behind a curve with some trees. I decided to let Kasper find out. I would wait, and maybe take him back with me, or, if he remained calm, let him hang on until I would arrive with Kay for company. After I let Kasper go, he didn't walk off in his usual trot, but dashed away at top thundering speed. In a few seconds, he made it to the far end, around the trees and back again he sped, neighing high, loud and long. He came back towards me at such speed that I stepped back, fearing he could never stop before hitting the fence but, slipping over the clay, he came to a panicky stand still in time.

Lucky for me, Ron, another horse owner came around with Greetje, his daughter's pony. As Greetje approached, Kasper and Greetje neighed to each other intensively, Kasper possibly telling about the WEIRDEST thing that just happened to HIM, and both commenting on the stupidity of me and the despisable state of human affairs in general.

I opened the gate for Greetje, Ron let Greetje loose, and there they went, in close formation, trotting fast away from us, until they found a spot where the grass was inviting.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Boarding

Date : Tue Oct 24, 11:41
said Inge Teblick to All:
No more wonderful stories about backyards and backyard horses please please please - I can't take it anymore.... Boohoo! I'm so dreadfully JEALOUS. Why do all great places have to be so expensive overhere in Belgium??!!
I can't see Kasper from our computer room at home ((where Jacoline --- who edits books and currently writes a book of novel digests for college kids --- and I have a desk, two PC's (one with full time BBS), hifi (with EuroJazz cable radio of Frank Zappa CD), TV and books)).

But Kasper is only 7 minutes by bicycle away. The place where he lives is idyllic (if the weather is right). A large brick farm building that's currently under a long-term renovation project. The owner, Henk van Kleef, is a Wageningen University landscaping scientist who has been given supervision over the surroundings as county land developing and conservation project. The suburbs of the farmer's village of Huissen are on one side, an old dike forms another natural border and the county is planning to change farm lands on another side to forest land so the beautiful grounds will merge with other recreational & nature areas. At the dike, two natural potholes filled with water were created by a swirl when the dike last broke in the eighteenth century and the high water of the river Rhine flowed in. The two potholes used to connect and will be reconnected in the development project. Often one sees men fishing there. Pastures and trees make for a nice surroundings.

Henk van Kleef's daughter Janneke is a well qualified riding instructor who partakes in Z level competitions practically every week. With her friend, Frans Agterberg, she owns several horses and foals. Frans is a farrier. Janneke and Frans manage the stables together and will come to live in the farm house next month.

For an annual fee of 200 guilders ($125) per student, Janneke teaches every monday evening (jumping) and thursday evening (dressage). So we can take as many lessons as we can for a price that buys only about 10 lessons in a riding school! Janneke is around every morning for help and advice, and Frans is there practically every evening and also on weekends.

Frans Agterberg has had extensive experience with horse riding. He of course got formal education for his farrier profession, but he also worked for some years in a commercial trade stables, training and grooming horses. He can tell amusing stories about the dumb and wealthy coming in to buy a beautiful horse that will jump anything for anyone. After two or three months, the owner comes back, complaining that the purchase is not jumping as well as before. Rather than explain to the owner that his ambition and funds reach much further than his personal achievement as rider, they take back the horse and for a dear suppletion sum let the owner have the choice of another horse that indeed is willing to jump anything for anyone, due to the intensive training by top quality staff on the trade farm. Of course, the horse that returned from his well paid vacation is back in shape within a few days, and the other horse is likely to return in a couple of months as well... The story keeps revolving until the owner finds out the truth about himself and buys himself a motorpowered sailing ship.

After Frans left this stable, he came to work at an average riding school and there he lost the pleasure to ride --- after riding top quality, the well worn riding school horses, honed to a tolerance bordering on ignorance, were much less of a challenge. Still, he tells me that doesn't mean he lost his pleasure in horses: `You bet that it's great fun to see Janneke win on a horse that we selected, purchased and trained together!'

Boarding (with Janneke and Frans providing the stall, facilities and food, and the horse owners doing the cleaning, riding, and paying for straw and extra food) costs us 275 guilders ($170) a month.

The other horse owners are very nice people and the fact that owners must do their own daily chores in and around the stalls seems to prevent the place to become elitist. In the future this might change, as more stalls are renovated. I've seen a set of new stalls near completion and they look like royal stables, with beautiful iron hand made doors made by Frans who is also a blacksmith. A paddock building is planned for us to be able to ride in all weathers. These great facilities may raise the price and attract people of a different culture, but presently there's a healthy aversion against `kakkers' (the dutch expression evokes `kak', cold shit). Some parents of young pony owners pay for the lodging with working on saturdays to repair the gigantic roof on the stall building, installing electricity or such jobs of which there is a supply for years to come.

Do you agree that in this setup, we are getting a very sweet introduction into the equestrian world? I don't even know what a horse costs to buy, since Kasper is staying with us for six months until the busier tourist season on Vlieland commences and the owners, our friends Marijke and Wilfred, will come to fetch him back. For them, the advantage is that they save stall space and food money during the expensive winter season when there's less work to do for the horses. For us, the advantage is obvious.

Two questions are asked most frequently by friends who hear that we have Kasper as a guest staying with us. Knowing that we live in a small house with a tiny garden, they immediately ask `What, in your garden?!' and the next question is `What happens in six months, if you have come to be emotionally attached to Kasper?'

We must speak to Wilfred and Marijke about that one. It might be that in six months we will wave goodbye to Kasper, a guest we have grown fond of, looking forward to future lodgings of him, at the same time feeling relief at the end of the daily chores. It might also be that we will feel that Kasper has become part of our family. So far, the chores have felt light. The time it consumes is time spent pleasantly and it provides me a good excuse to stay away from, or cut short on, many social obligations...

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)


Should I fall?

Date : Tue Oct 24, 12:17
said "Sandra H. Carnet" to All:
Although my wonderful boy always seems to respond to my requests for calm and control, he feels at some times like a bomb on the verge of explosion. And you NEVER KNOW what's going to set it off. Maybe it's that large quartz rock lying over there beside the ring. He's seen it everyday, but somehow today it looks quite sinister...
At nearly 49, I've decided that I'm not falling off any more. So I'm staying on these days.

Should a person fall of a horse a few times to be a real horse rider? Before Kasper came to stay with us, I have booked ten riding lessons at the riding school that Jacoline and the kids also go to. I enjoy the lessons but the main teacher there, owner Margaret says `You just wait, you're enthousiastic and confident now but your first fall must come and let's hear your tone THEN!'

The third lesson, two weeks ago, she assigned a horse to me saying `this horse will probably make you take a slide, but hey, you must do it when the time comes, just don't panic and let go'. Of course, I braced my mind and didn't fall off. I think my soaring experience helps: sitting in a cockpit of a glider, all alone, just before a launch is a good method of getting your act together. Another guy took the fall, right smack on his face in good Christopher Reeve style but he got up o.k. and treated us to a round of beer afterwards.

So far, my solo landings (in gliders) have been gentle and I have never been launched from a horse. A rib contusion from a bucking horse called Hugo last year doesn't count as I remained seated, albeit not far behind his ears, in front of the saddle.

Should I take a fall to be for real?

Date : Tue Oct 24, 08:36
From: "Deborah A. Jones" 
Hi Frans: I have enjoyed reading your posts. As for falls, take it from someone who just had one last night. Don't worry about it. It's bound to happen eventually and I can't see rushing it. ;-) Deb Jones

Date : Thu Oct 26, 02:33                                               pvt rcv
From: Kim Hedrich 
Hi Frans

Well, I only fell off my own horse twice, and wasn't hurt either time. The first time was over a jump - I got left behind, and the saddle slipped. The second time was when my horse was acting up, and spun around fast enough to unbalance me. It was a pretty controlled fall, though, because I knew was underneath me :-) I just leapt back on and made him pay for it :-)

I have fallen off other people's horses, once injuring my back and spending a week in bed - luckily it was only bruised. I have also been dragged by a pony mare, which DID teach me something (don't try to do something you can't do unless you have help).

There is an old saying that you have to fall off a few times to be a real rider, but I partly disagree. I do agree that falling off can be a lesson to the rider (for example, to get their seat more secure, more balanced, or to keep up with their horse's movements better), but don't think it is an essential part of learning.

It is a good idea, though (although I didn't ever learn it) to learn how to fall safely (in other words, leave the horse and land so you don't hurt yourself). Apparently, you first learn from the walk, and progress to the canter.

Its good that you are confident rider, but I think your teacher means that you can be TOO sure of yourself, and too confident, trying new things that could get you into trouble. I think around horses you need a small pinch of fear, enough to keep you alert to your horse so you can take action before you get into trouble.

Horses usually warn us before they do anything, and we have to aware of that warning. For example, a horse might lay his/her ears back before biting, and if you punish the horse at that stage, you save yourself from being bitten. If you are riding and feel your horse speeding up at the canter, you can take steps to get back in control before it develops into a bolt.

Kim

From : Marti Steussy 
Date : Wed Oct 25, 12:01
In almost 20 years of riding I have fallen off six or eight times (and all in the same three-year period). All but two of those involved squirreling around bareback (for instance, going off the other side while trying to scramble aboard). I think the low number of falls involves some combination of good teaching/supervision, cautiousness about what I do with horses, and sheer luck. It does leave me acutely uncomfortable with riding teachers who think students ought to fall. Coming off the horse on purpose in order to learn HOW to fall would be a completely different thing (I wouldn't count it as a `fall') and strikes me as an excellent idea.
From : Neil Cutler 
Date : Wed Oct 25, 11:11
To me, I don't really think that it matters whether you've bailed or not, I remember when I was starting to ride, my absolute worst fear was me falling off. I remember not wanting to ride in the lessons after my horse bolted. But after a while, I began to build skill and then not worry about bailing, It sounds as though Frans is in the same situation as I was, but in fact it's not that bad when it happens. To finish up, I don't think that it is necessary to fall off, just that sometimes it helps because your mind is then less focussed on coming off, and more on your performance.

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Lore's first and shortest ride

Date : Wed Oct 25, 09:28                                                   loc
said "Roberta A. McDonald" to All:
But I was not about to let go of the rope; he pulled me forwards off of my feet and I found myself on the ground between the posts, being dragged through the mud and still yelling WHOA...WHOA...WHOA!
[...]
Immediately apparent were 2 deep ropeburns, one on my middle finger had removed all layers of skin.
[...]
1. Even soft fat cotton ropes can hurt you bad. Gloves are good. (mine were in my pocket, usually reserved for longing & riding)
This reminds me of the first weekend when Kasper was with us and our friend Joes (pronounced: Yoos) visited. But first an introduction of Joes.

We met Joes two years ago on Vlieland where she stayed with Marijke and Wilfred on the riding school, helping at the stables and leading group rides through the forest and over the beach of the little island. That summer, I took pictures at a riding school festivity where a friendly contest was held, participants riding horses past posts, trying to catch a suspended ring with a little wooden stick and such horse games. Joes, a natural born horse rider, stole the show when she rode Goliath, the biggest of the small ponies. Goliath is a compact power pony that lives up to his name, even though he always behaves like a baby when he is roped, carrying a small child on his cute western saddle. The rope is often held by an embarrassed father wondering what a stubborn lazy pony this is, or by a grandmother worrying what may go wrong soon. With Joes shouting `PRRrrrr!' on him though, his feet drummed, his speed was lightning and his turns were square like a hare's. One picture that I took turned out especially nice, showing Joes and Goliath close up, Joes' beaming face sharp and all the rest a colourful, furry motion. This summer, when she celebrated her 18th birthday on Vlieland, we gave her all the horse mugs that were for sale at the little equestrian gift shop.

At home in Apeldoorn, not far from Arnhem where we live, Joes trains horses for a hobby. A well-to-do man invests in young horses, he found Joes to do all training for free in her time after school and he sells for a good profit. It provides her a dream like pastime with an endless flow of work and always new and beautiful horses that have never carried a saddle before. The investor is one of those lucky and smart fellows to utilize the phenomenal dedication that Joes is capable of. Her parents acknowledge her talents only partly, I think, as they hold back full support for the development of her equestrian talents. She has obvious and overwhelming talents that have brought her far only on the merits of her intuition, without any formal tuition so far. With horses as with people, she has the knack of promptly knowing how to separate essence from humbug and sincerety from connivance. This inner compass, which I have seen in very few people, amazes me no end. Still, to get where she can be in her work with horses, she will need training herself, preferably individual tutoring from an instructor who knows how to work with an advanced autodidact. Unless she finds this herself, it may not happen, as her brother is preparing a tennis career and this claims much of his parents' time and resources.

To come back to the bad hurt from rope that I promised the reader: when Joes arrived that friday afternoon, we directly went on to meet Kasper. Joes, having done much work on Kasper during a five month stay on Vlieland this year, was delighted to meet him again as we ( Joes, Lore and me) went to fetch him from the pasture. Lore had only seen Kasper once earlier that week but hadn't been on him yet. I stood a little away from them and was contemplating taking out my little Minox camera, when in the general delight, Joes helped Lore get on Kasper's unsaddled back.

Before I could think in my suprise what a nice picture this would make, Kasper showed surprise himself and calmly bucked. Fore legs up, then down when his hind rose, and again, just like a hobby horse. Still, to Joes who was holding the rope, the pull was ferocious and Lore had a hard time clasping herself to Kasper. After three or four bounces, she let herself slide of, landing on her hands and feet like an oversized blonde cat. With Lore safe on the ground and Kasper making some more hops quite close to Lore, Joes let go of the rope and Kasper trotted off, hiding behind a few large bushes.

Joes went to get him back, as Lore got up, feeling a little silly. Kasper received a mild kick in the belly from Joes who mainly blamed herself for the too spontaneous escapade. Her right hand showed a steady stream of blood. The sharp nylon cord had heated and lifted a portion of flesh off the first section from her middle finger. This didn't seem to worry her at all though and she told of other unjuries she has suffered and healed from quickly. I proposed we'd get some desinfectant for her pronto but she refused, explaining that she never uses those and won't need them either, being a fast and uncomplicated healer anyway. Her father, being a doctor, has often tried to provide professional help with her frequent minor injuries but had to give up eventually, so there's no use for us advising iodine, alcohol, or the homeopathic `Wund- Und Brandgel' that we use ourselves.

That weekend we learned a lot about Kasper from Joes and generally had a ball at home with this remarkable and merry person. We're a very talkative family at the dinner table, and with Joes added, we must have sounded like a classroom in a stormy fall without their teacher...

She'll be back, so you'll hear more about her soon.

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This page is linked to the home page of Frans Goddijn.
Frans Goddijn, Postbus 30196, 6803 AD Arnhem, fax +31 (0)26 3211759
(<frans@goddijn.com>)

Updated on Nov 16, 1996