University of Vermont AAHS


Completing the First Year

Jan Dawson
President, AAHS

[Reproduced from Caution:Horses, Vol. 2, No. 1 Fall/Winter 1996-97]

As I write this the last "Harmony" in 1996, I cannot help but reflect on the good experiences and good friends the year has brought to AAHS.

Although I was on the road most of the time from February till October, it has certainly been worth it. We managed to cover the many requests for clinics and individual certifications. Next year there will be more clinicians working. We also hope to be able to announce more year-round sites for individual certification and clinics.

We have put together an impressive list of board members who are all active and never shrink from giving advice and assistance, The full list of members of the board of directors and their areas of interest will be in the next "Caution: Horses" in February. We are enormously pleased to have such a varied and active board to help shape the future and share the credit. They represent nearly all disciplines of riding and most areas of the country. Each is involved full-time in his individual area of the horse industry.

We expect the Handbook to be on bookshelves by next summer and we are extremely pleased that it was most favorably reviewed in the newsletters of both the United States Pony Club and the American Medical Equestrian Association. It has been included in the Pony Club's official reading list.

I enjoyed all of the seminars that I did throughout the year but I have to admit that I had the most fun at the certification clinic an the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

One of the joke questions on the certification exam asks the candidate to define the term "yahoo". You would be surprised at the number of people who take the question seriously. Well in Arizona I finally get an answer. "It is a 90+ score in bullriding!" Yeah, it is! Thanks to James Paddock, we now have a real answer.

It -was at that same clinic that I was provided with an easel, paper, and markers. A great convenience. However, I can't draw, so I asked if anyone else could and all answered "no" so we were stuck with "Mr. Stick Horse". That worked fine, I mean if they can't draw, am I going to be embarrassed by my pitiful effort? Of course not. At least not until the last day of the clinic, when I noticed that one of the instructor candidates had fully and beautifully illustrated his notes. That’s okay; I’ll be back.

We would also like to extend our thanks to the people who call and write to offer suggestions on ways we may better serve the riding and teaching public. We really appreciate their input and hope it continues.

Then there was the accident. I fell off in October and it has changed the way I mount a horse or teach mounting. This is not a spur in the tail story. As I was getting on my nearly 17-hand Hanovarian mare, she flagged her tail over her back. As my leg crossed over her rump my toe caught her tail or maybe she grabbed my toe with her tail. Anyway, we departed suddenly, my left foot firmly in the stirrup and the my right toe clamped just as firmly under her tail. I now have a great respect for trick riders. There was a limit to how far we could go united in that fashion. Fortunately the ground was soft sand and horse and rider escaped unscathed.

Ever since, I am ever so careful to bend my leg enough so that, tail or no I don't take the chance of catching my foot. The story could have had a worse ending.

In a related conversation, I was asked recently when an emergency dismount counted as a fall. What a strange question. It turned out that the student had met an apparently experienced horsewoman who claimed she had never fallen or been bucked off a horse in her life, because she had always managed to do an emergency dismount or vault off. How lucky for her. In the real world of breaking, training, and trying strange school horses, it is more likely that even with all the safety precautions, we will all get unloaded once in a while. For this reason we want to limit the falls to those times that are unavoidable.

We always wear the approved helmet and ride in a manner reasonable for the situation or the particular equestrian sport in which we are participating. We kicked the student's comment around the barn for a while and finally decided to tell the student that whoever made such statement had either ridden only in highly controlled situations or had not ridden very much.

With John Lyon's ever-increasing and well deserved popularity, I must comment on something that comes up again and again in his seminars, tapes and books. I even quote him in most clinics. He says "First you must not get hurt; the horse must not get hurt; and the horse must end up more relaxed than when he started the schooling session.” By way of example, Lyons says that if even your little finger might get hurt by doing with your horse what you are thinking then don't do it. My question is this: What about your head? If I fall off at all, there is a fair probability that I’ll hit my head on something. Since that possibility exists at all, shouldn't I wear a protective helmet? If the horse is an inexperienced youngster maybe I should wear a protective vest so I can have a better chance of continuing? It was just a thought.

Have a happy, prosperous and safe New Year.

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