Not what we ordered

(“You think of something!”)

This is an old story, but some things never change. Back in the mid-80s, I was on the staff of the National Instructors Seminar. The brainchild of Vi Hopkins, for a number of years it was held at her farm in Michigan. Colonel Aage Sommer (the Danish Olympic judge) and Major Anders Lindgren were the principal instructors. I had first gone as a student in 1981 and was gradually incorporated into their teaching program. I believe it was 1987 when Colonel Sommer retired. That same year Major Lindgren was unable to attend for health reasons. This all came to pass just a few months before the seminar (which was to last more than a week). Lowell Boomer, the USDF Executive Director, looked at me and more or less said, “You think of something!”

And so it came to pass on fairly short notice we were rescued by Karin Schlueter, a member of the gold medal winning German team at the ‘76 Olympics and Gunnar Ostergaard, who offered to pitch in for several days. He had to leave before the seminar’s end to make a weekend commitment. As he went to the house to change for the airport, a lesson was in progress with a second level horse, schooling third. The “participating instructor” conducting the lesson was working on flying changes, but the demo horse was consistently being late behind. None of the suggested exercises were helping, so Karin took over. He didn’t improve, so she climbed on to fix him. After a bunch of trials, still no joy. At this point Gunnar emerged to say good bye, dressed in his traveling clothes and carrying his suitcase. Despite his attire, in frustration Karin persuaded him to get on the horse and solve the problem. Gunnar tried increasingly radical, indelicate solutions, but the horse persisted in changing dirty.

There’s no big revelation here. Sometimes progress is simply meant to happen on a schedule not to your liking. It didn’t mean he would never learn— just not then. But if you are at home schooling one day and you can’t get what you want, remember this example of two international trainers of consequence who on a given day suffered that same fate. To quote a Mexican waiter, “Some days, Senor, ze bool he wins!”