Monday, December 9, 2013

Memory Monday: In the Presence of Masters

A year and some months ago, I was a lucky person.  It came about by being friend with an even luckier person that wins a lot of things.  Seriously.  I have never won a raffle or drawing to save my soul, but J does.  But as it comes about, it has its perks.

See, J and I had attended the horse fair together and entered every drawing we could pretty come come across.  My husband came along too with the sole purpose of trying to win things (and I'm pretty sure, to make sure I wasn't whipping out the credit card).  Husband went and had labels all printed up with the information for the three of us so we could go entering contests in record style.

But as it turned out, only J won that year.  As I recall, won two drawings.  One, however, was a breeding to a stallion that she didn't use.  But the other drawing was for attending a symposium.

I am not sure I had ever been to an official "symposium".  Clinics, sure, but I had no idea what was in store for us.  It was supposed to be similar to a clinic with live horses working in various disciplines with "masters" interacting and teaching the riders, but more importantly interacting with the audience and showing us cause and effect on these horses and what we could do at home with our own horses, our own habits, our own lifestyles to improve whatever the scenario was.

I also didn't really know most of the people presenting.  OK, so I had heard of Richard Shrake and Lynn Palm.  I had vaguely heard the name Gayle Lampe referred to by the saddleseat folkst of the world.  But sadly, I had to google who Denny Emerson was. 

I was really missing out there.

The symposium was wonderful.  The hosting facility was beautiful and it was neat to see a mixture of saddleseat horses, dressage horses, eventing horses, hunters all being critiqued and educated by four people across disciplines.  Multiple forms of input and even Gayle with her masterful saddleseat knowledge could look at the hunter and offer some suggestions in fixing a little of this.  Lynn Palm was pretty insightful showing how correct saddle fit affected the movement of a pretty little gelding, and so forth.

But by far, my favorite part was talking to the "masters" during dinner.  J & I were a little shy.  It was just the riders, the hosts at the farm, the masters, and ourselves at this dinner and I pretty much wanted to be a fly on the wall.  I am not usually outgoing in a lot of situations and this was a good example of one where I didn't know how to go about and say anything. 

But the farm host was very sweet and gracious.  She tracked down Richard Shrake, sat J & I down and told us to go ahead and talk.  OK, that's cool.  Now what.

But he was a very nice guy.  I don't know a lot about his industry since I don't really participate in the stock horse side of things, but I could appreciate the candid conversations we had about the state of the horse industry, past trainers, our current horses, where the horse industry was going and so forth.

We ended up talking to Denny Emerson at some point as well and he was great.  I have to say, I think he is my absolute favorite of the crew to talk to.  Anyone that can break his neck and then be back on a horse in their 70s is my hero.  There are some days that I have to think about crawling up on a horse in my mid twenties.  Talk about an absolute idol.

But he was very candid and humorous as well.  We talked about how he did the Tevis cup.  He really likes referencing how doing endurance on an Arabian is like pole bending without the poles.  Probably true some days!

He was pretty insightful about offering his opinions on the increase in falls in cross country.  The decline of riders overall.  The lack of horsemanship seen in different situations.

I came away with a whole new respect for someone I had just briefly met!  I then discovered his book "How Good Riders Get Great" and enjoy reading that as well.  Almost as good is subscribing to his updates on Facebook.  He is certainly is a person with opinions, but a lifetime of experience to back it up.

Plus, how often can I say I met a Gold Medal Olympian?  Ok, not too many.  However, an algebra teacher in my old school was a bronze medal wrestler if that counts.

Back to the subject.

Lynn Palm was also very passionate during dinner which was interesting.  She could seem a little more distant during parts of the symposium, but during dinner she was very involved in all the conversations.  The Rita Crundwell/Dixon embezzlement case had just broken, so we were all discussing that for a while.  Some interesting insights on that.

But what was sad to me was how candidly abuse in the show ring was being discussed at the dinner table.  I mostly follow one breed circuit and there is a very bad rap for aspects of it, but just listening from multiple stock horse judge's perspectives (Shrake and Palm) about finding people just causing bloody marks on horses and so forth in warmups and stewards or new judges looking past it due to intidimation.  How much "credit" do you have to have in an industry before you can be like Lynn who stepped in (while on a judging assignment) and told a person that it wasn't appropriate, while the other newer judge with her was clearly uncomfortable and didn't want to exist.

Gayle Lampe was also adorable.  I don't know how else to describe her.  Her absolute zest for all things saddleseat and educating the majority was easy to see.  She brought some beautiful footage of Saddlebreds and was more than happy to talk to all of us about them.  Plus, she has such colorful phrases.  I wish I could remember them all, but my favorite was talking about a lower intro type show horse as being a "nickle pickle" type of horse.

A "nickle pickle" horse

Love it.

I also had some insight on J's mare's pedigree.  She is a half Arabian/half Saddlebred and while I know the Arabian side, the Saddlebred side was news to me.  Good news is that that side had a very famous, very athletic stallion.  Bad news is that he was a bit of a handful.  I say that lightly.  Apparently he required multiple people to handle at any point on the ground.  Egads.  Good thing J's mare is a very sweet, former youth show mare.  :)

So, quite the memory from a happenstance.  It was a great weekend adventure and good thing I have a lucky friend to take me along on such adventures!

Denny Emerson and Richard Shrake center


  1. Denny Emerson is soooooo cool I love his book and blog, wish he updated his blog more.

    1. L, do you follow his facebook page? His posts a lot of good comments and thoughts on there, I think. :)

      I agree, he is so incredibly cool.


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