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The Kasper Chronicles -- Part 3

To Love and to Own

Date : Fri Jan 12, 11:32
For a while at least, it looks like the winter is over now. The past weeks were very cold for Dutch standards and the Board of the ice skating Tour of Eleven Cities (a full day ride over a long circuit of Frisian ditches and canals) were preparing a new issue of the tour when warm air flowed in and the preparations were cancelled.

These weeks, Kasper kept remarkably clean and dry hooves, as the cold kept all dirt frozen hard. For a few days, the little pasture was beyond reach as the road there was covered with ice so all horses stayed inside. On Vlieland, where Kasper is from, the horses had to stay inside for almost a week since all of the island was iced over. Even the beach sand was covered with thick ice! People were ice skating on the beach, believe it or not...

When the horses were able to get out without skidding on the brick patio between the stalls (a path was made with salt and sand), they treaded carefully on the frozen pasture and were slightly crazy with having too much energy saved. They went nuts carefully though. Once, when I greeted Marije who was taking her Golden Magic back to the stable, she stopped on the patio to chat. Golden Magic impatiently walked a circle around her, slipped on a frozen spot and fell. I'd have thought that the thump would be loud and the panic great, but before we knew it Golden Magic got up carefully and calmly walked into the stables with Marije.

Most days, some riding could be done in the arena --- the ground was flattened as much as possible. With the sand frozen, the hooves sounded as if we were all riding on the street! When I tried to have Kasper trot he paced quick with short paces, like a high heeled lady in a long tight dress.

Around Xmas, we went to stay with my mother-in-law, an hour travelling from home, so we couldn't be with Kasper for three days. I dearly missed the big guy, but a substitute was a stack of Kasper photos that I showed to every visitor (I held the stack and told a little story with each snapshot so they couldn't quickly shuffle through them and hand them back!) and I gave grandma one photo of the kids with Kasper, to put on permanent display.

Also, I called Marijke and Wilfred, the owners of Kasper on Vlieland to tell about Kasper and to further allude to our daydreams about buying him. Marijke enjoyed the horse chatting and told me about their Xmas, with many tourists on the island, willing to ride, but with all rides cancelled because of the frost. She also told me about pictures she has taken from Kasper shortly after his birth, and videos of him throughout his early youth which we will get to see sometime soon. She was open minded about the option of us buying Kasper which was a great relief!

When I told this to Jacoline, she was less happy. Not that she principally objects to the idea of having Kasper stay, but she'd have liked me to first discuss this at length with herself (and our daughters) before letting the idea out into the open... As has happened before, I am a little over zealous and pushy when a new idea or a wish has settled into my mind.

Following this, we had a family meeting over this issue during dinner last weekend. I was aware that we'd cancelled our yearly summer vacation to Vlieland to be able to go to Cornwall for a few weeks, following a strong wish from Lore who is a little bored with the tiny island of Vlieland. She would like to go abroad with the family and see places. If we could buy Kasper, such a vacation would surely take us beyond our budget.

So I opened the discussion asking if any of us would mind if Kasper goes back to Vlieland at the end of April. We all admitted that we weren't looking forward to saying goodbye. The daily care that Kasper takes hasn't felt like a strain on any of us yet, even though we have had our tall dark guest for almost three months now in the season that's considered the least easy.

When I told Lore that if we could buy Kasper this would imply that we wouldn't go on vacation at all this summer, she replied that she wouldn't mind, as Kasper is more important to her than one vacation. Also, she had recently noticed that I was not at all looking forward to such a trip.

Lore told us that she doesn't expect to be able to find more time to look after Kasper during her school week, but that she would do her part of the Kasper work and riding every weekend. Veerle said that she might soon be able to do more Kasper work in and around the stall on her own, without us necessarily going with her to help. Jacoline and I have the luck that we can flexibly stretch and fold our professional obligations to facilitate the Kasper work. This way, one of us can visit him every morning, cleaning his stall and letting him out on the small pasture for almost an hour, and every afternoon or evening, one of us can go out to ride him.

Even though we didn't yet know if we actually could *afford* buying Kasper, we knew we were ready for the everyday care aspects of keeping him in the family. Strange: when you `get' a baby, much less thought is given to the care and cost, at least Jacoline and I never discussed these aspects, but with Kasper, we *can* discuss this, we can let him go back to Vlieland and we might not have enough savings to keep him. Love and ownership of Kasper are very explicit. Can anybody really *own* a horse, besides having only the responsibility and care?

One day later, Wilfred called Jacoline and proposed that we all come to a decision. I called him back and asked Kasper's price. Wilfred said 6750 guilders (at the current exchange rate, about $5.000), ex saddle.

We asked around and even though non-horse people thing it's expensive (my fiscal advisor tells me I could drive a middle-class car for the money Kasper annually costs us but I don't WANT a car, I have no driver's licence and I don't want to GO anywhere), all horse owners we talk to think it's a reasonable price.

So now I am looking into my bank statements, using them as a set of TAROT cards that will tell me my future, for advice. And we have asked a vet to come and check Kasper out...

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

Jumping, old and young

Date : Tue Jan 16, 18:20

(written in reply to the following message by Jerald Serviss (<>)

I feel a certain sense of releif that I've finally fallen- and gotten it over with (I'm sure there will be more). But in addition, I think it surely motivates one to pay close attention to what you're doing- you can bet that I will slow him down the next time we approach that fence!!

Hello Jerald,

thanks for your contribution!

When you say that your horse "feels some pride that an old man can propel another old man through the air as quickly as he could in his youth", you make yourself at 45 sound *really* old, but happy...

Yesterday evening, our youngest daughter Veerle (pictures on my web site) who just turned 13, had her very first jumping lesson on Lady, an elderly (14) pony that she's allowed to ride by the owner. Petite Veerle sometimes feels that our giant Kasper is a size too large for her and she was very happy to be asked to ride Lady three times a week. I was watching from the side of the arena with Monique who takes care of Lady most days of the week (Eefje, Lady's owner, is studying in another city and comes over weekends).

Monique was happy and amazed to see how well it went, first trotting over the beams laid out and then a very low crossbeam. Veerle patted Lady after every `jump' en both looked excited. When the crossbeam was raised and replaced by a single higher beam, Monique began to worry. `Oh-oh, Lady is NOT going to do this and Veerle will fall of!' she confided me softly, taking care that Veerle couldn't hear. Veerle must have noticed some anxiety as she asked instructor Janneke if she was supposed to jump this new beam or stop. `Listen, Veerle', Janneke replied over her shoulder, `when I decide it's time for you to stop, I will be TELLING you' and I think the casual stricktness of this conveyed Jannekes trust that Veerle could do this. Veerle followed the more experienced rider Suzanne on her Iwan, and jumped. As Lady, who jumps stiffly, went up, Veerle remained still but as the beam was flown over, Veerle's upper body fell backwards and as Lady landed, Veerle like a whip caught up and flipped forward. Still, she didn't fall! The first time she screamed a little and Lady responded with a short run but after Janneke advised Veerle to keep still, the canter after landing was more coordinated, even though `the whip flip' kept happening.

When the lesson was over, Veerle was still having a high from the sensation, and while I brought her back home before my own lesson, she talked non stop about the greatness of this new event!

Then Kasper and I went to jumping class. Not such high jumps as last time, but that was, I guess, more than a month ago. I notice many details in my riding stink, like my left foot doing things of its own and I have no clue how I should really sit well during a jump. When there's a stress situation I duck instead of sitting straight up and slightly backwards. But Janneke explained that she is, in these first lessons, more aiming to let Kasper find out how jumps go and how much fun they are. `He is learning faster than you are, so he can help you out soon', Janneke disclosed her strategy...

Good luck jumping!!!

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

... And A guilder For Luck

Date : Wed Feb 21, 09:32
On january 11, a vet came to check out Kasper. Dr. Jan Nas is a veterinarian with a good reputation, specialized in horses and he also owns about 15 in the much larger stables of his father (the type of horse that trots very fast with a sulky right behind it). Dr. Nas arrived, a young looking man of about forty, stepping out of his car with a freshly lit long cigar. I introduced myself and led him into the stalls where Jacoline was with Kasper. As Dr. Nas entered Kasper's stall, he immediately said "Rex Magna?" as he had recognized Kasper's father from the son's complexion!

Then, with his cigar held firmly between his lips, he used both hands to take Kasper's head and open wide Kasper's lips, checking teeth and gum. Kasper twisted a little as he didn't know this man and he might have had his reservations about smoking, but he trusted the man's authority enough to let himself be scrutinized.

We took Kasper out on the longe and Dr. Nas told me to walk this way and that to see Kasper's stride. Dr. Nas showed us that one buttock is slightly more developed than the other, probably because Kasper has been trained more going left turns than right (and indeed, it's much easier to ride nice left circles than right ones and it's harder to go into a right handed gallop than the other way around). He advised us to work on this. The legs felt reasonably fine, nothing there that would need an X-ray. On his right foreleg, the fetlock joint is slightly bigger than the left one (which is a result, I found out later, of a wound Kasper got as a baby when his mother stood on his leg) but he saw no other defect here than a cosmetic one.

Kasper passed the tests where Dr. Nas kept each leg successively bent well for a minute and then, at release, let Kasper (and me besides him) go into an immediate trot. No problems here. This was done on the hard stone-covered patio. All the time, we had a pleasant talk with Dr. Nas about our interests in horses -- of course, with him as a man who's been around horses all his life and us as beginners, there's a good stock of conversation!

Then we moved to the riding arena and I longed Kasper according to Dr. Nas' request. The arena floor was softer then than a few days before, when it was still frozen over, but Kasper treaded carefully and avoided a certain little pool of water everytime he had to pass or cross it. Dr. Nas told us he could see that Kasper is well used to longing and responsive to our commands. He generally thought that Kasper is a nice, well mannered horse with a pleasant character which struck him especially because a significant lot of Rex Magna's offshoots that he has been checking in the past years were difficult to handle.

We took Kasper back to his stall, and there Dr. Nas told us to give his compliments to the stall manager for taking his advice to heart -- to provide more fresh air, Dr. Nas had some time ago suggested they install a second door of metal bars so that the wooden doors can stay open if it's not too cold. He also told us to try and keep this spaceous stall (actually reserved for a mare and foal) as long as possible since it fits Kasper, a young, tall horse very well.

His final conclusion was that Kasper is a horse fit for his recreational usea, and with a fine character.

The next step was a family meeting over dinner. I forgot what the occasion was, but there were candles and wine glasses on the nicely decorated table, and the table had been moved to the center of our living room. Hm, maybe the thing about three kings bringing presents. In that case, the meeting must've been held _before_ Dr. Nas came. Speak, memory! Towards the end of the meal I brought up the issue of Kasper's planned return to Vlieland by the end of april and the alternatives at hand. I tried to hold back my own wishes so as not to stimulate any opposition...

Both Lore and Veerle said they like having Kasper around, and they don't feel caring for him is a burden. I was waiting for the "BUT:" which wasn't coming around soon, it seemed. Jacoline said that she had felt earlier on that I was pushing the events a bit by openly talking to Kasper's owners on Vlieland about buying Kasper, but that she didn't look forward to letting Kasper go either.

The kids felt the same and they said they couldn't very well imagine letting Kasper go elsewhere. The idea that just anyone could ride him or that at least it would be someone else's decision what he would be doing in the future bothered them.

It may be because we know Kasper so much better than we know other horses, but he seems too sensitive and too willing-to-please to florish in a stable where he would be ridden by multitudes of mediocre riders for fun. And, besides being very sweet and all, he is also tall and dark and he has his moments when he needs to be told who is boss (NOT him) which can lead, with strangers, to misunderstandings.

Anyway, we all felt that even though Kasper was formally just a guest staying with us october through april, in fact we had grown attached to him and were feeling responsible for him in the longer run.

Could we afford to buy Kasper and would we be willing to commmit ourselves, as a family, to keep looking after him like we had been doing? Lore stated that her time after school will remain limited for some time, but that she could do more of her share during weekends and vacations. Veerle said that she is still a bit too small for Kasper to be able to control him in and around the stall but that she wants to do what she can. Jacoline cautiously explained that she was ambivalent about it. If she carefully thought it over, several possible objectons and potential problems appeared (affordability, long term commitments, what will it be like in two, seven, ten years?) but if she let her heart speak, she was certain about wanting to keep Kasper with us. If buying Kasper would mean we were not going on vacation this year, none would object. This surprised me, especially because Lore had hoped we would be going to England and travel there, instead of our usual stay on Vlieland.

After this, it was high time for us to find out what Kasper would cost and if we could actually afford the price. I talked to people at the stalls and asked their guess. I also called Marijke and Wilfred on Vlieland and Wilfred explained why he thought 6750 guilders was most reasonable.

I discovered with myself that even though this was roughly the sum others had expected, it still gave me the chills. Why, I wonder. Because it would be hard to secure such a sum and not crash my potential as the family's provider? Or because I love my money a little more than I love Kasper?

By the way, now I'm sure that Dr. Nas came after this as I remember that he told me the asking price is reasonable. The current horse market is not very good, he said and is bound to remain problematic for at least 7 years since many horses have been born recently and lots of mares are pregnant. Dr. Nas said the price of Kasper as a foal was probably 2000 guilders paid to Rex Magna's owner, not counting the extra feed and care for the mare and since Kasper's birth. He further estimated his owners have spent 9000 guilders on his feeding in the past 3,5 years. All in all they would be selling a good horse at a cut loss price.

Considering this, the only question was how to pay without overdrawing my account, a petty problem since many people have to deal with it for more serious reasons. I called Wilfred and we agreed I'd pay half the sum right away and the rest within 6 months. Wilfred and Marijke will help with finding a good and affordable saddle and we can keep the rest of the gear Kasper had with him when he came.

Then it gradually dawned on us that Kasper is ours... He is as "ours" as a horse can be, a member of the family. The first days, when people at the barn congratulated us, it felt strange though, since I still had the feeling that their horses were more theirs than ours was ours. Now, the idea has settled firmly!

It was nice to see that the kids took pictures of Kasper to school with them which they had not done yet as long as the idea of keeping Kasper was still "in the air".

Now, they felt confident it was "their" horse.

With the official ownership papers, the owners sent us a guilder. They explained that it's a tradition to give some money back to the new owner when one sells a horse... for luck!

Did you know of this tradition? Is it also done outside The Netherlands?

... And A guilder For Luck / Irish version

Date : Fri Feb 23, 17:43
From (<Sharon Gibson,>)

I've heard it was an Irish custom. It's sometimes done here in the U.S., especially if the seller is from the old school.

Here's another (also comes from our Irish steeplechase trainer). Never put anything brand new from the store on a horse--it's bad luck. Always take new halters, bridles, etc and stomp them in the ground, then clean them before using them on the horses. This is supposed to keep you and the horse from "seeking the ground".

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

Scraping and hugging

Date : Tue Mar 12, 19:56
We have been feeding 22 horses the past 8 days! The stable manager/instructor Janneke and Frans were on vacation and Jacoline and I were asked to do the feeding of the horses, cats and chickens. A twice-daily chore that took us about an hour every round, but very pleasant to do!

Especially when I was angry or stressed about something that had nothing to do with horses whatsoever, it was delightful to feel how mood-improving it is to go around with a wheelbarrow full of grain and giving out generous helpings to each and every of these big eager animals.

When they knew you're coming with and see you approaching with all that food, some horses make a peculiar excited noise, somewhat like sonorous snickering, a low voiced giggle. Know what I mean?

Kasper invariably walked back with me to the stall door as the barrow full of grain attracted him more than the two kilos that he'd just received.

After the grain (each horse his own quota, written out for us), another round with hay was made, then we fed the cat and mittens on the attic, threw down bales of straw from the attic and fed the chickens in their wired homestead, also picking the fresh eggs. If Kasper had meanwhile been let out by us on the little pasture, it was then time to get him back to the stall and brush him clean from rolling in the mud. When he was hot and sweaty from running, it meant staying an hour longer to let him sweat it out under a blanket... so with all that and the regular riding we had a vacation too!

One time, I was sitting in his big stall, sitting on the tree stump that I put there for his entertainment. Kasper has his woolen blanket on him and he nibbled at the extra hay he got from me. I was studying a book on soaring theory (having passed on meteorology and instruments recently, I had flunked on regulations, glider mechanics and navigation...) when Kasper gently turned towards me and my big blue-covered book. He looked at me long but couldn't understand why I was holding that perfectly edible piece of soft wood on my lap, just looking at it but never taking as much as a nibble. Then he tried to help me, setting an example and attempted to nibble away at a corner. With me sitting hunched up low on the log, and him so huge and stupid over me in the stall which was not too cold at all, it made for a few magic moments.

As I sat there, it struck me that Kasper was, in a relaxed manner and selectively, eating away large amounts of straw! Grazing as if he was on a pasture.

To get back to the two key words I put in the subject line, first the hugging. Kasper isn't very good at it yet. Any idea what I can do? He approaches me, then I put my arms towards and against his face and neck and he turns his head sideways. I lean over, pat his neck and he steps backwards carefully, raising his head and after a second we start over again. Very rarely do I catch him in a sleepy-dreamy mood when he lets his head be scratched and scratched...

The past week, he's begun scraping his hooves when one of us is cleaning him, brushing his coat (which is now really beginning to don lots of hair). He has an unrest and scrapes his hooves, also raises his hind feet to hesitantly shadow-kick with it.

What could we do about that? Why does he do it? Any ideas?


Date : Sat Mar 16, 00:55
From : Sally Barns (<>)

What fun to have all those animals to take care of, even though it is a lot of work. I have trouble trying to imagine what a horse-care set-up looks like in the Netherlands; I wonder if it's very much different from the USA? (Although of course there are many kinds of arrangements here, too.)

Scraping: My friend has a thin-skinned TB that used to paw and fuss a little when being groomed, but is now pretty good about it. I think all she did was be careful to not rub him to hard, but also slapped him on the stomach (for hind-foot pawing) or chest (for front feet) and say, "No!" Sometimes she would add "That's not acceptable!" She also used a lot of John Lyons round-pen training on him, which improved his manners overall.

Wish I had a horse to hug, even if he didn't hug back!

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

Big horse hug

Date : Wed Mar 13, 15:36
From : Nora Fischbach, (<>)

I can't blame you for wanting Kasper to hug you. There is nothing quite like a big horse hug. Hugging is something horses do naturally with each other, but if you watch them, you will see the dominant one of a pair hugging the other. Instead of approaching Kasper and asking for a hug, why not stand just in front of him with your back to him. He may choose to hug you, then you can reach up and hug back. Right now, he is backing up and raising his head because you invaded his "space" uninvited.

He is scraping his hooves to tell you he is bored or irritated with what you are doing. Since this is poor manners on his part, it should not be tolerated, especially the shadow-kicking. I would try a Lyons technique of brushing him untied, holding his lead rope. When he scrapes or kicks or even raises his legs in preparation to kick, make him move in a circle around you for a few minutes. Then stop, continue brushing, and praise him if he stays quiet. If he doesn't, repeat the circles (like lunging in a small circle) each time he is impolite. He'll get the idea quickly, and the problem should stop.

Date : Mon Apr 01, 17:08
From : Frans Goddijn                                            314:85/0
Deborah (<>)

William is 10 but I have been riding him for three years(don't own him) so I don't think it's age. He is a gelding so I'm not sure that is it. William was a race horse (TB) and did win a couple of races. My guess is that cuddling was not part of his initial training. ;-)
This might have a clue. Kasper's father was a racing horse as well. I have a clipping from a catalog mentioning his father winning as much as 650.000 guilders (about $ 450,000) in his working career. And he didn't win that money with cuddling... Recently I found that, with some luck and the right atmosphere, Kasper -does_ cuddle a little, providing I keep my hands down like he does and just neck. He likes to browse and nibble my scalp.
Date : Mon Apr 01, 22:07
From :
I use an apple scented shampoo and cream rinse. When I first convinced William that apples are certified horse food, he became fascinated with my hair. He would put his nose right in it but fortunately never tried to eat it. He has since figured out that I don't keep apples in my hair and so has stopped sniffing at it. Maybe I should find some carrot scented stuff just to confuse him.
William (If it's not certified, I don't eat it.)
E-mail: (<>)

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

Cleaning stalls for fun

Date : Wed Mar 13, 18:08

Cleaning the stalls is definitely mood improving but it's awfully hard to explain why and how to non-horse people. I had a conversation with a friend last week that went something like this:

Friend: "How are you doing?"
Me: "I'm doing ok. I'm not getting to ride much but the barn is still my sanity right now."
Friend: "If you can't ride, what do you do when you go to the barn?"
Me: "Feed treats and do stalls."
Friend: "You clean stalls?"
Me: "Well, I don't always clean them. Sometimes I do the bedding."
Friend "And you LIKE doing this?"
Me "Just trust me on this."

About the hugging:
William does not like to cuddle. He will let me give him a hug but it can't last long. He will put his head on my shoulder but once I acknowledge it, that's enough. He really doesn't like me scratching him very much but he loves to scratch himself using me. We have some rules about that which he is pretty good about following. I suppose some of it is a personality thing or perhaps it's due to William's time on the track. About the scraping:
William paws when he is being brushed if he doesn't like what I am doing or if he doesn't like the brush. He has very sensitive TB skin and can only tolerate the softest of brushes and careful grooming. William also gets tired of how long he gets groomed while shedding. No patience, what can I say!?

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

Stamping and puddles

Date : Thu Mar 14, 18:43
From: Jos Marlowe, (<>)

Hi everybody -- I am taking care of Royal again, after months of being home with a broken leg. I found him covered with mud because he was sleeping on a small Island in his paddock that was out of the mud instead of his big warm stall because there was a puddle at the door of the stall. (Royal detests puddles.) I cleaned his feet and turned him out (someone had to help me because he was to hot for a person on crutches to handle.) He ran around like a maniac until he was exhausted.

Next I bought 4 bags of gravel to try to dry out parts of his paddock. The wheelbarrow had a flat tire and I had to carry the bags, which would have been funny if it was not me who was doing it -- crutches on one side, the bag on the other, and mud, mud, mud.

Sunday I am going to do it again, but this time with a big strong friend and a working wheelbarrow.

While I was gone Royal learned to stamp while his feet are being cleaned. Not a good idea, but he was already much better on the second day. I am going to start lunging him next week, since he is terribly out of shape -- too much grain and too little exercise while I was gone. (But he was so excited to see me again.)

So, what to other people do about horse who won't go through puddles? He can do it if he has to, but given any choice he will refuse. And the stamping while his feet are being cleaned -- does the lyons technique work for that too?

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

Menure fun

Date : Mon Mar 18, 09:52
The barn is almost the greatest place. Conversations go better there than in the canteen (by the way, is that the right word for the little room we have with a primitive bar, coffee, coke, sweets and an open fire?). Even when I'm cleaning Kasper's stall, and Theo or Monique is cleaning out the stall next door, and on both sides of the separating wall we talk to our horses and to each other, the atmosphere is wonderful. It almost beats email in the space it leaves for each individual ;=}

Besides that, even when the stalls are empty and there's noone else around, cleaning a stall is fun work. Forking a heavy helping of wet and shitty straw off the floor and dunking it in the wheelbarrow, more than filling it in one or two forkings, then rolling out the heavy wheelbarrow. When I bump over the threshold of the stall, the straw mesh heaves elastically and spills some to clean up later. Rolling the barrow towards the menure depository, I try to sprint and arrive with top speed at the foot of the more or less steep shithill so I can rush up and unload on top of the hill rather than at the foot of it.

Part of it is a game, part is utility: when everyone dunks his (mostly her) dirty straw before the foot of the hill, we don't get a neat hill but a wide terrace of menure. There's few things that look as good as a good, high, almost vertically steep hill of the straw/menure mix. Last saturday, Suzanne, Ramon, Debbie, Veerle and I worked for almost an hour to give the hill a facelift and we thouroughly enjoyed the sight of it afterwards. Too bad that soon afterwards two girls (smartly dressed and reaonably smudged in tight white trousers after going to shows that day, becoming first and second in the competition!) came with well filled wheelbarrows from their stalls, so we went there again and fixed the place up again.

Ah! With such a pretty sight, who needs to go to a museum in the weekend?

And after the cleaning out, it's even more fun to open the straw-and-hay chest and throw out almost a bale of straw, lushing it up with the fork, bedding the stall with a rustling near-knee-high cover of crisp, dry straw, the palest of pale yellow.

It amazes me no end how easily scared horses are and how able they are to create habits of scaryness, like being afraid of puddles. Never has a puddle done them any harm, but somehow the poetry of a puddle, the riddle of reflection and the horse's lack of knowledge about drainage systems make for an alarm in their head whenever thety see a puddle. Kasper is growing used to puddles, but he prefers to avoid them. It also depends if there's something else that triggers fear too, like a car he hasn't seen on a spot before, or logs that are new (and might jump up any moment to tease him, regardless of gravity and the well known inaneness of logs).

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

First ride out

Date : Mon Mar 18, 10:17
A few weeks ago, Kasper and I went for a little ride outside the paddock for the first time! We were accompanied by Sultan and Theo, whom I had asked to join and lead me on this first trip. Theo is very calm and experienced and his Sultan is, at 16 years of age, a tall, fine and sturdy horse that has seen the world. It was a sunny day with hardly any wind and we worked out in the paddock for 45 minutes before directing our horses out of the paddock. There's a path around the pastures that belong to the barn's territory so we can go out there and still have some protected area.

We did a first round at a slow, relaxed pace, making sure that Kasper and I kept our act together. The path leads through a varied landscape, first between the pastures and a second path where people from the houses nearby walk their dogs and toddlers. Some trees and high brush along the way. The path gets wide and sometimes narrower so we go in file for a stretch and then alonside. Then we turn, have a very wide path (with a molehill here and there) and approach an old dike, turn again and follow a narrowish path with pasture on one side and a long row of small trees and high brush to the other side and small pastures behind those. Along this part of the track, the "exciting" things are. Sounds behind the high brush, a hare or rabbit scurrying away, a pheasant self-launching out of his hiding place on the very moment that we would have passed it without ever noticing his existence...

It all went quite well. On the second round we trotted on the first part, away from the stalls and Kasper was pleasant, not too excited. It's more a matter if _me_ staying calm than nervousness on his part. All the while, Theo and I chatted and enjoyed the sunny landscape.

Very late winter, very pre-spring.

A few days later we went out together again, and this time Kasper was a little jumpier but still manageable and after the second round we even trotted back towards the stalls, in a calm trot, taking care to keep the reins relaxed but alert to tighten if the two horses would, on the last wider stretch of the path, decide to start a race.

Last saturday, Lore and Theo took the ride and both enjoyed it tremendously. Theo, who works as a teacher of cooks, is a fine "teacher" on the track also, and he in his turn said "it's a rare occasion to go out riding with a young lady, and then one who provides good conversation!"

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Pamela Anderson effect in equine politics?

Date : Mon Mar 18, 19:12
From: Sally Barns (<>)
Tennessee Walking Horses were developed in the Southern United States during, I believe, the late 18th-early 19th centuries; I don't remember off-hand what breeds were used in this effort. The goal was to create a "gentleman's riding horse," one that would be appropriately elegant but also supremely comfortable for long days spent in the saddle overseeing the vast plantations (and, of course, the slaves; not a nice chapter in American history, but still history). This effort led to the creation of both Walkers and the American Saddlebred, also called the American Saddle Horse. Both, and/or other examples of this type of animal, were also called "turn-row" horses, as part of the overseeing routine was to ride up and down the rows of crops.

The Walker is so called because of its "running walk"--a very fast, flowing walk, as you might guess! As I recall they can go approximately 16 miles an hour at this gait (what's that in kilometers?), and the rider can supposedly carry a glass of water without spilling it, so smooth are the footfalls.

As to their appearance: I grew up poring over picture books of various (mainly American) breeds, and 'way back then, in the 50s & 60s, TWH were medium-sized, say 15-15.2, fairly compact, but flashy-looking horses. I have noticed that other breeds have changed in appearance in the ensuing 40 years since I memorized their pictures, and I'll soon find out if TWHs have too! Long, flowing manes and tails, a variety of colors, although I believe bays are not the most common. Unfortunately they are one of the breeds, and sadly there are many, that are, or were, subject to what I would call abuse for the show ring: extremely heavy front shoes to achieve a high-stepping gait, chains, cut tendons, etc. But happily this is going somewhat out of fashion, and many are now shown as "light-shod" Walkers (I hope that's the correct term) in a much more natural state. The ones we are going to ride are of course this second type; I wouldn't patronize a place that treated their horses the other way.

As I've said, everyone feel free to jump in and correct or add to what I think I know about these gorgeous animals. I really can't wait to ride one!

Regards, Sally

Date : Mon Apr 01, 16:34 From : Frans Goddijn Thanks Sally for your information on the Tenessee Walking horse!

What you explain about the "running walk" may relate this horse in parentage and / or talent to the Icelandics, who have a gait called t"olt with an " on the o, pronounced tult. Lore likes to ride them when she's on Vlieland -- one of the two stables of that island only has Icelandics. I never got around to riding one but it looks amusing and comfortable at the same time to see them flow past...

And, have they changed from the illustrations of your childhood books? I have read that the "ideal" looks of the KWPN Dutch warmbloods are also subject to change. recently, there's been a small riot in the small circle of KWPN officials and -vips when a few advisors, one of them Ankie van Grunsven our Olympic champion, proposed to not officially endorse a couple KWPN horses that had great looks but no talent at all and they didn't get their way. The people in charge felt they had to endorse these beauties, even though they were not likely to win any prizes in actual dressage or jumping happenings.

Sort of like the Pamela Anderson effect in equine politics?

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Date : Tue Mar 19, 22:11
From: Jos Marlowe (<>)

My husband rode extensively in Vienna and there they had changing rooms with showers and old women to hang the clothes up and keep the room clean ("klosetfrauen" in german). You could buy espresso or drinks, and the riding school was indoors with mirrors spanning the side walls.

What a difference from my mud-encrusted stable with a coke machine and portable construction-site toilets and no electricity for the paddocks! I feel fortunate that my riding arena has a roof -- the previous stable only had open rings, and one rode in the rain sometimes.

On the other hand, he never had a horse when he was growing up -- they moved too often, so he got lessons in the very best schools, but no horse of his own to his dismay. I grew up in southern california, riding my own horse bareback through the orange groves and into the sea ...


Date : Mon Apr 01, 16:47
From : Frans Goddijn
Wow, that sounds like something to have pictures from, or to have a film play in... The word "Klosetfrauen" evokes, at least for me, sturdy women of extreme practicality, who refuse to talk english and who maintain a strong tie amongst one another in their joint contempt for all the people who can afford their services. O, the work they must have had with the mirrored walls! The pride they took in keeping the Kloset clean and their audible mutterings when a just-cleaned Kloset had been used by one of the verdammte "Kunden"!

But I may be all wrong and the Klosetfrauen may have been pleasant characters of all ages whom you couldn't easily discern from the Kunden were it not for their uniforms with a funny mixture of military lapels, brass buttons and lace.

Ah! The luxury you have of a roofed riding arena. We have electricity in the stables (in fact, Janneke called me the other day to complain that I am always leaving the lights on when I leave...) but no covered arena yet. There is one projected on the other side of the street, though, and there will also be a fresh new forest planted in the near future, with a riding path through it!

This weekend though, we were riding in splendid outdoors weather, cool for the spring, but with sharp, strong sunlight. Twice or three times a day the sun fled for a flurry of wet snow and even a spraying of tiny hailstones, but all the rest of the day was pure spring with young families walking past, their babies open-mouthed pointing at the horses and trying to remember or pronounce the word "Paard!"

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First Out Alone

Date : Tue Apr 02, 23:08
Late this afternoon it was such golden weather, I expected at least a couple of kids would be at the stalls, riding their horses but when I arrived, I was almost alone. Only Sanne was there, a young girl who doesn't own a pony (yet) but who is allowed to ride Cinderella, a pony that Janneke bought recently. Since Cinderella arrived, Sanne has spent practically all her free time grooming Cinderella, or just standing in her stall chatting.

I tagged the recent notes from the activities' committee (which I had printed out at home) on the wall of the central stable and took Kasper out of his stall to brush him up. In town I bought a hard new brush this morning (worked great) and also a soft glove which promised to help take the snowy fat away from the coat, where it just seems to keep on coming (the glove looks like a failure here, it merely creates static electricity and sparks from that). I also bought a sealed pack of cloths that are supposed to give a shine wipe to the horses coat, but I left those unopened.

Then I took Kasper back to his stall (a new one with a high threshold that he steps over with a mix of great care and clumsiness) to saddle him up and we went to the arena. The sky looked so sunny, with (for soaring people) highly tempting, exciting cumulus clouds! Kasper walked his rounds and diagonals like a sleepwalker, super calm and not quite straight.

Then, after about five minutes, when I walked past the arena exit, I just guided him out and we carefully crossed the small stonepaved square between the stalls where it always seems as if Kasper is higher than he usually is (by the way, he was measured by a pro yesterday evening, with what looked like a hand made metal sliding rod with a levelling device on it, and Kasper was declared 169,5 cm high!).

On we went, the track that we have walked a few times now, always with company and for the first time with just the two of us. Kasper was as alert as I was --- he'd left his slumberwalk behind us in the arena. Now, his head was often raised high and when he lowered his head somewhat, in response to my little pulls on the left or right rein, he intensely chewed on his bit, like the pupil knawing a pencil during a test.

When we passed the old tree with its hollows, I saw a member of the owl family who reside there, sitting on the rim of a hollow, squinting at me and past me at the late afternoon sun. I'd seen an owl-like bird flying away from that tree once before but so far I'd never seen one of them sit still. The owl had seen me before all right, I suppose, as it didn't fly away this time. Kasper had no idea, he merely looked to his left and right for any unknown and therefore highly alarming objects.

On the next straight and wide part of the track, we trotted a little. Kasper was highly responsive. The least pressure of my legs already sped him up and I felt I had to pull the reins, not hard but often, to restrain the speed. When passing bushes (with the leaves still off, you can see right through the bushes and trees), we slowed down and walked. Kasper's stride and trot had a bounce, as if he wanted to keep his motor running in case he'd have to drive off suddenly.

I only trotted the first half, with our backs towards the stables and I took care to walk more or less calmly on the part halfway and on the way back. Kasper, I think, enjoyed the ride but he also wanted it to be over and would have hastened towards the stables, had I let him slip away from under me. I felt similarly, but I enjoyed it more and tried to stretch the way home. Although I wasn't fully relaxed, with the reins not slackened, I thoroughly inhaled the view, the sun, the wide sky above the flat land, the smoke trail of a high brick chimney of a mill in the distance. The chimney and the trail remind me of an illustration in the chapter on meteorology of my soaring theory manual. The smoke wants to rise, but the airflow sometimes bends it down again, like a rider who plays with the reins to teach the horse to give in and bend his neck.

It was happiness and already while riding, I tried to tell you about it in my mind. When we returned to the patio, Sanne's father was there, helping with the grooming of Cinderella. In his youth, he's done horseriding on the farm and he hopes to ride again sometime, even though he is afraid now that he'll take a fall and hurt himself too badly.

In the arena, Kasper fell asleep again. The bars around the area, the square tarrain of neat flat sand, the familiarity of it all more than calmed him down. Then, from several directions, the young horse owners arrived on bicycle and moped, some with the horse's saddle over the steering handles.

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Frans Goddijn, Postbus 30196, 6803 AD Arnhem, fax +31 (0)26 3211759
Updated Nov 16, 1998