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Horsemanship

Vaulting As An Aide to Horsemanship

By Chris Appel-Bucierka T

The Chronicle of the Horse, Chantilly, Virginia

The use of vaulting as a rider’s training tool is evident throughout history. Cavalry riders vaulted and the practice dates back to before Roman times.

Now riding instructors in the United States employ vaulting’s benefits as a teaching tool. Helen Yetman-Bellows of Pepperell, Massachusettes, is one instructor who uses vaulting as “glorified” longeing lessions. “Hay”, as she is known, holds a Massachusetts instructor’s license and a Horse Master Certificate from the Potomac Horse Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She has also had other teaching experiences with the Boston Mounted Police, Pony Farm in Temple, New Hampshire, Fort Devens (U.S. Army), and Camp Winnekeag in Ashburnham, Massachusettes. Each vaulting session is comprised of 10 students and one horse.

Through basic vaulting moves the students gain confidence. Using a vaulting surcingle brings the rider into closer contact with the horse and the handles offer added security. Because the horse is controlled by the longuer, the rider can concentrate on himself. This is a much safer situation, especially for a beginning or nervous rider. Hay has found that with adult riders that the vaulting sessions offer a “tension reliever” after a hard day’s work. Whether working with a beginning rider or an experienced one,

Yetman-Bellows said she and the rider can isolate problem areas and work on corrections more expediently when using the surcingle. The riders learn more quickly and learning is made fun. Riders gain confidence with the horses used, especially Sunflower, her 30-year-old Palomino. Sunflower is very gentle and giving to the students. The vaulting sessions also offer her a good change of pace in her day. Hay controls Sunflower, so the beginner rider is not giving confusing or painful signals to the horse. In order for the rider to be in proper physical perspective, Yetman-Bellows insists that each rider loosen tight muscles with warm-up exercises. The rider relieves the “baggage of tension” before they attempt to either vauult or ride to warm-up the horse.

A tense rider on a horse to warm it up is like the rider telling the horse to “get loosened up and while you are at it, take care of me.” After loosening up, she has them learn the mechanics of vaulting moves and body position by using a barrel (carpeted 55-gallon drum with handles and legs).

Each student has time on the vaulting barrel to practice exercises that help position, balance, and posture. Students should know about their own and the horse’s physiology in order to better understand riding.

Over the years, Yetman-Bellows has consulted Dr. Vincent A. Greeno, D.C., to reference a student’s physiology in relation to their problems with riding. Using a skeletal model of the spine, the chiropractor explains the rider’s position while sitting on the horse. The backbones are places behind the rider in the exact position they are sitting. He graphically shows a rider whether they are leaning too far or perhaps shifting their balance off the horse. It seems that while in the seat and stand postures the foot, ankles, knees and hips flex and move in conjunction with the horse, but the spine takes up the head to tail compression.

One exercise used to correct a rider’s position is to sit backwards on the horse. When sitting backwards the pelvis flares and hip joints look in a resilient position. The rider is truly centered. Hay has students memorize this feel of the correct seat position and try to translate that sensation when they are seated forward. Yetman-Bellows has each rider practice their seated posture on the vaulting barrel, even pretending to hold the reins.

She stresses that when a rider’s feet shift from heels down to toes down or foot crooked, it affects their balance. The body shifts forward and this change in the rider’s balance adversely affects the horse. Illustrating this point, a “mill” compulsory exercise is used.

Each rider performs leg passes to rotate completely around the horse, and while doing so must attempt to keep their balance centered on the horse. During the mill, the riders can feel when they are off balance by the horse’s reaction. When the vaulter stays over the horse’s spine balanced, the horse stays true on the longeing circle. The horse will shift from the true circle in reponse to the rider’s position. Instructors can use this to impart to each student the cause and effect idea, so that riders will recognize their faults based on the horse’s behavior. Another exercise Yetman-Bellows uses is the leg pass.

The vaulter’s leg passes over the horse’s neck, then the rider lies down on the neck, and passes the right leg over the backkk to arrive sitting astride again. These moves are repeated in each direction and these make the rider more aware of the center of balance. The stand is utilized as a confidence builder and to perfect the basic seat posture. The student standing on the horse with head erect, shoulders over hips over heels, buttocks tucked under and knees slightly bent is doing very well. When the student performs the stand on a moving horse the feet do what naturally happens in a stirrup — the mid-foot section acts as a shock absorber and pivot point — it moves and flexes with each step. Understanding the pattern of the horse’s footfalls in each gait is also important.

This concept is easily learned while on the vaulting horse because the rider is not concerned with the horse, and oftern can simply close his eyes to get the feel of the movement. Yetman-Bellows has found that as in recreational or competitive vaulting, teamwork is developed by team sessions. Each student learns from other’s mistakes and they share and encourage each other’s successes.

She has said that, “Basic vaulting is good for basic horsemanship, sportsmanship, teamwork, and basic riding. Without the basis of solid seat foundation, a solid feel for the horse, and understanding of the horse and yourself, you can’t go anywhere.”

More About the Author …

Christine Appel-Bucierka has been the liaison and

coorespondent from the American Vaulting Association with The Chronicle of the Horse.

She first wrote about “Hay” in 1992.

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Observing the U.S. Golf Open Championship with Stanley and Valerie Anne

    You got to be here.

    The third round of the national championship being held this year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco is going as I predicted… just that Jim was offering 3 to 1 odds to win yesterday and Jason Dufner was going at 30 to 1.

     Betting on Tiger Woods after the 36-hole cut, at 5 to 2, would not have been a good wager.

     My wager for Jim Furyk turns out to be a fruitful one. He has just another 24 holes to keep his lead… my fifty dollar wager was stupid… I should have bet $500 that would have paid off another $1,500.00 Sunday night… that would buy a lot of golf shoes!

     Good luck Tiger. Although I really am cheering for the older professionals, one in particular who has won The Open only once. Go Jim!

     My regret is that Val did not take my suggestion last night to place a sports bet.

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Blue Grass Festival in Bean Blossom About Ready to Conclude After a Few More Tunes Until Next Year

Such religious experiences are beyond reason and scientific explanations. It is almost like sitting around a fire with a dozen Indians ingesting peyote buttons.

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Though we are within a 22-mile radius of Bean Blossom’s Annual Bluegrass Festival, we are jus’ ‘chillin’ on the ranch. The bluegrass tunes on the stereo are on high, concert-level volume and acts like Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys come back to life.

In reality, an observer could remark that we are just a bunch of Indianans stoned in front of a bonfire. The hallucinations are novel, amusing, fun, funny, and puzzling at all the same time.

The heat of the summer has recently chilled down and there is a fresh steady breeze coming over from the southwest.

You could see two sets of clouds:

  1. The high flying white puffy cumulous,  and
  2. The secondhand reefer clouds of gray smoke.

It is wonderful taking Sundays off.

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copyright MMXII –

Max’s Scout Services & Communications –

[ for musement only]

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Dogs by Humorist James Thurber

Lessons Learned From Dogs*: James Thurber’s Rex

Drawing by James Thurber

“He killed cats, that is true, but quickly and neatly and without especial malice, the way men kill certain animals. But he (Rex the dog) had a gentle disposition. He never bit a person in the ten strenuous years that he lived, nor ever growled at anyone except prowlers.”

These are the words of the renowned author James Thurber:

     “Rex (an American Bull Terrier) I liked better than any dog I have ever known and in another place a few years ago I did him some faint, far justice. But I didn’t say then and I don’t say now that he was the finest and truest and noblest animal that ever lived. The real dog likes a dog the way he likes a person; the brightest gleam sometimes comes from the flaw. Rex was a gourmand; he twitched and yelped when he slept; he’d hate Pomeranians and would chew them to bits although he was five times their size; he killed cats; he jumped on horses when they fell down but never tackled one that was on its feet; if you ordered him to stay home he’d slip out the alley gate and meet you five blocks away; he could lick anything this side of hell and did; he could chin himself with one paw and lift 50 pounds with his jaws; he had a weakness for chocolate ice cream cones; and although Rex learned to open the refrigerator door he never learned to close it.

“Rex never lost his dignity even when trying to accomplish the extravagant tasks my brothers and I used to set for him. One of these was the bringing of a 10-foot wooden rail into the yard through the back gate. We would throw it out into the alley tell him to go get it. Rex was as powerful as a wrestler and there were not many things that he couldn’t manage somehow to get hold of with his great jaws and lift or drag to wherever we wanted them put. He would catch the rail at the balance and lift it clear of the ground and trot with great confidence toward the gate. Of course, since the gate was only 4-feet wide or so, he couldn’t bring the rail in broadside. He found that out when he got a few terrific jolts, but he wouldn’t give up. He finally figured out how to do it, by dragging the rail, holding onto one end, growling.

“Of course, he would bring back a stick to you if you did throw one in (the water). He would even have brought back a piano if you had thrown one in.”

“Rex never killed or even chased a squirrel. I don’t know why.  He had his own philosophy about such things. He never ran barking after wagons or automobiles. He didn’t seem to see the idea in pursuing something you couldn’t catch, or something you couldn’t do anything with, even if you did catch it.”

“Rex had one brindle eye that sometimes made him look like a clown and sometimes reminded you of a politician with derby hat and cigar. The rest of him was white except for a brindle saddle that always seemed to be slipping off and a brindle stocking on a hind leg. Nevertheless there was a nobility about him. He was big and muscular and beautifully made. He never lost.”

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Tongue-in-cheek, I believe, Thurber wrote, “I am not a dog lover. A dog lover to me means a dog that is in love with another dog. I am a great admirer of certain dogs, just as I am an admirer of certain men, and I dislike certain dogs as much as I dislike certain men.”

In reference to the public writing of one of his newspaper contemporaries Stanley Walker, Thurber states that, “Mr. Walker, who writes with a stub pen, frequently mislays his spectacles, and inclined to get mixed up now and then, undoubtedly meant to write (that it is not dogs but) ‘The history of man is one of greed, double-crossing, and unspeakable lechery?’”

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James Thurber was both an illustrator and humorous writer that was prominent from the 1930s until his passing in 1961. Fifty years later, his love and insight of canines rings true to this day.

The above excerpts were taken from The Dog Department – James Thurber on Hounds, Scotties, and Talking Poodles.

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*   Lessons Learned From Dogs is the book

recently written by David A. Dailey.

It can be ordered through Barnes & Noble,

the publisher Outskirts Press, or Amazon.Com.

E-Books are available, too