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  A Star is born . . . - kindly written for World of Horses by Karry Gardner
Help - I've been spotted!  ....and A New Star Is Born!
Well, my secret life is finally out - I have been spotted by Small Boss (Charlotte - Hello Charlotte !!) and so I now have to make sure that what I write is not absolute rubbish (slightly dodgy is maybe OK but real rubbish would not be allowed !!)
I've been a bit introspective of late, which happens to us all at times and I have not really felt like writing much. However, I started feeling guilty about my lack of input to World of Horses and so I thought that I should drag out my keyboard and get cracking.
The real trouble is (and you will laugh at this one) I don't have any real problems with riding at the minute. MGB is absolutely fine - she has wintered really well - no coughing thanks to switching her onto haylage when the weather was cold and we could not soak her hay in case it froze. In fact, like me MGB has put on weight rather than taken it off.
I have just returned from Kaua'i which is the most windward of the Hawaiian islands where my lovely husband took us for our winter break. Sadly it rained for 16 days and my husband kept saying "Humph, this was your idea, we could have been in Mexico being warm all the time " . In fact he said this every day for sixteen days and managed to make me feel very guilty - I spend my life on an endless guilt trip !!
I checked out the riding there but at $79 for an hour and a half of hacking, it didn't really inspire me a great deal. One yard was offering dressage lessons  but I went to have a look and their aide of what constitutes "dressage" and mine , were worlds apart . 

I am not an expert but they could not have taught me anything useful. It's always interesting to look at horses in other countries and the Americans are definitely on the ball when it comes to certain equine past times. Barrel racing is certainly one of the most exciting things to watch and the rodeo we attended was an education in itself. 

I spoke to one lady who had just imported two Arabs that she was finding hard to cope with as they were a bit naughty and she offered them to me to ride which was kind. I declined because it was towards the end of my stay (i.e. only three weeks left !) and because I was scared to death of the idea of being flung around by mad Arabs ! (I didn't use that second excuse to her cause I would have appeared chicken !) Charlotte would have jumped on them and sorted them within minutes. Maybe I should take her on holiday with me in future as she would be great for my overall street cred .
We did come home with great tans (which my husband tells everyone is actually rust - guilt trip again !) and lots of pearls which were the only bargain on the island. Next year we will go back to Mexico and my friends quarter horses and guaranteed 80 degrees daily dose of sunshine.
I have always been nervous in the past getting back onto a horse after such a long rest period (six weeks in this case) but the weird thing this time is that I didn't feel nervous at all - which for a scaredy cat like me is odd. I can only put it down to the bumpy landing we had at Heathrow in 90 mile an hour winds which could be the reason that being four feet up in the air on a horse hasn't bothered me a bit (as long as it's MGB and not some mad Arab) .
I had my first "session" with the Boss (Hello Charlotte again - give my regards to Father ) and he only threatened me once with the lunge whip when I did a turn that I had clearly not prepared  properly and then made some lame excuse for doing so - after that, I just did as I was told. I think that he was rather amazed. 

We had our weekly dressage clinic on the Thursday after and did lots of shoulder in and some preparation for walk pirouettes and I think that I behaved myself - MGB co-operated as much as any horse does - dropped off the contact when my mind wandered and chucked her head around when she thought that she had had enough. 

I amazed myself by sitting down hard in he saddle and kicking her on into the contact and she was equally amazed that I had enough guts to do it. In fact, I have been gently assertive since getting back on her and I think she now realises that I am not the easy pushover that I once was.  

In fact, I am so relaxed that I might manage to compete in the yards affiliated competitions this year once I get out of my agoraphobia regarding the outdoor arena. I have always copped out and got someone else to ride her for me when it's been down to the final crunch  and she went really well last year with my friend Stuart who got a fourth on her in an unaffiliated comp. The Boss judged it and he is probably harder on us than a "normal;" judge cause he already knows our dodgy bits .
Tanzer is back in work (the Boss's big black beast) and it is hoped that after his injury last year that he stays sound - it's certainly a pleasure to watch them cantering  slowly around the indoor school again - I would give anything to ride a horse so balanced that I did not have to  work like mad just to keep the canter moving, never mind the down and round bit .
I watched a very interesting lesson yesterday. You may remember Apollo to whom MGB spent many a happy hour teaching him to pull faces when he was her stable mate.
Well, last year Apollo got a new Mummy who has done really well with him in dressage (and he is a nervous little boy -not surprising when you consider that MGB probably terrorised him facially for weeks on end ) and Julie would like him to have an all round education and so she had a jumping lesson with him.
Shock number one was "the saddle" which was a jump saddle where you have to have your knees up under your chin (or so it seems). Charlotte explained that jump horses must be really, really relaxed and so Julie spent much time just trotting Apollo and letting him have a long rein whilst doing so. Changing the rein and letting him work down and stretch was the most important part of the preparation.
Charlotte built a grid in the middle of the school and Julie trotted him over the poles which were on the ground at first. Julie was asked to practice her "half seat" which she said afterwards was difficult because you have to make lots of adjustments before you find the place that's comfortable for you. 

Also after years of riding dressage, the half seat must come as a shock to anyone who is used to sitting down all the time . But Julie made a decent fist of the job she was asked to do. However, there came that gleam in Charlotte's eye and I could have laid money on the next step she took; Julie was off Apollo and Small Boss was on him in a flash. 

When Charlotte rides dressage most of the time it's easy to forget that her first love was eventing. Apollo was not quite sure at first and Charlotte cantered him around the school, slapping his neck, reaching forward and touching his mane and neck in places that he found quite irritating at first but it is all part of the relaxation process for a young horse.
The last jump in the grid was raised  to form a small cross pole with a placing pole in front. Charlotte trotted Apollo over the poles and finally , Apollo lifted him self over the cross pole and bounded off to the right , cantering away like the little pro that we always knew he was.
"Lovely jump" announced Charlotte (which is a bit like getting a first place) and both Julie and I realised without even speaking that it would now be very hard to remove Charlotte from her new toy !
"Could be my new event horse !" she added (and by this time , there was no chance at all that she would give Apollo back to Julie)
Julie said later that it was fine; that as she was a novice jumper and so was Apollo , it would be better if one of them knew what they were doing and if Charlotte wanted to teach Apollo to jump it was OK by her.
Charlotte explained that it was the jockey's job to get the horse to the fence but the horse's job to jump it. There is no point in hanging onto the front end of the horse when you ask it to jump and the horse must be very relaxed to jump at all. Once the horse is at the jump, the rider can begin to think about the next fence . A horse that is correctly positioned before the jump, a horse that is relaxed and forward without the rider hanging on, can jump.
And Apollo really loved it ! If he could have, he would have smiled with delight because he was so excited and happy . And even after an hour of really hard work, Julie took him out for a hack with Charlotte and he still had enough gas in the engine to canter across stubble fields whilst Charlotte and Felix (also a big black beast - but not as big as Tanzer) cantered and bucked to their hearts delight.
I am just gearing up to this afternoon's lesson. The biggest challenge will be getting my boots on at 1.30 pm because if I don't put them on first thing, my legs swell and I can't get them on at all. I have been known to cry with frustration because my boots won't go on for an evening dressage clinic.
The problem is, I am working this lunchtime and I can't serve behind a bar in boots and breeches - Or can I ? (I could make sure the breeches were clean and maybe I could get away with it .)
I hope that when I write my next blurb for you, that I will have something  to report - it's far too quiet on the Western Front for comfort at the moment and I think I prefer having something to challenge my brain. (But not mad Arabs - even I am not up for that !)

Mahalo (it's Hawaiian for stay loose, good bye, please can I marry your sisters cat  etc. )
Karry Gardner & MGB
To send your email question to Karry please click here
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