Jake’s place is five miles down the road from us in Citra, Florida.  I drove past Waterworks Farm, Happy Bottoms, Stormy Gray Farm, April Fools Farm, the White Ranch, and the Dupree Cemetery. The African-American cemetery is easy to miss, a few acres of low-lying tombstones and cement pads, shaded by a dozen or so Live Oaks, many of the trees bigger than the Dollar General down the road.

We ran this simulation on the RTTH timeline.  At home, and in clinics, it is easier to take the time to set up a situation perfectly, all my deadlines are self-imposed.  But in competition I often face a sharper choice: I need to do this now and I will do it, OR, I need to do this now but I will choose not to in order to give my horse a better experience.  I risk losing, or elimination, but that’s okay.

It reminds me of the Barkley Marathons, a hundred-mile (or so) foot race through the hills of Tennessee. The race is designed to be so tough and so stressful that many years only one or two people finish.  Some years no one finishes.  So who enters a race like that?  Runners that don’t care about the guaranteed medal at the end that is common in races these days.   

The Barkley is a more realistic metaphor for life than most competitions, certainly more than the five and ten kilometer races that I dabble in.  In other words, perhaps I should ask myself:  If I don’t win, if I don’t even finish, is this thing I’m doing still worth it?

Jake’s horse, Joey, a gelding, was sweet.  I’d like to say I had something to do with it, but he is a nicely bred horse, with good conformation, and a lovely disposition.  

Joey is from Jake Biernbaum’s Pear Baby Program. The horses are bred from the Gene Moench Performance Horse Program, run by Rebekah Anger in Cecil, Wisconsin.  His registered name is “Pear A Smokin Rats”.  His Sire is “Eddie the Rat” who is a son of “Docs Hickory”, a son of Doc Bar.  His mother, Jessi, is a grand-daughter of “Mr Gun Smoke.”   [NB Joey is for sale.  Just contact Jake.]  

Jake sat beside the round pen, cowboy hat pulled low, and coached me through three sessions, three days.

When to put pressure on, how much pressure, for how long, when to take it off — these are what make up timing.  And that is mostly what we worked on.

Of course, there were a few technical things that he had to remind me, a Three-Day Event rider, of.  For example: Do up the front cinch first when tacking up, and the back cinch first when untacking.  I should have known that, just like someone new to baking shouldn’t need to be told to turn the oven on when starting and reminded to turn it off when finishing.  

Jake helped me with the tempo of the sessions.  My instinct was to make them pretty even.  But Jake had me go slower at the start, then faster later on.  We gave Joey more chance to figure it out and to connect with me at the start, and then towards the end I asked for more — more responsiveness, more quality!

In other words, Jake had me go both slower and faster than I was used to.

I left Pear Tree Ranch more experienced, but still lots to figure out.

Here are a few questions I’m pondering:

Q: Do I ride with a helmet or cowboy hat?  

 – Almost for sure a helmet.

Q: Do I ride in an English saddle or a western one?  

 – Here is a text exchange with Jake: 

Jake: “One hundred percent chance easier to get bucked out of. One hundred percent less exposure and confidence training for the horse. One hundred percent less functional for dragging obstacles or tying a tarp to.  It’s a sport saddle versus a foundation training saddle.” 

I explained to Jake that I’ve spent my life in an English saddle.  I feel as comfortable in a jump saddle as in a good pair of running shoes.

Jake: “That’s the danger of going in there as a sport trainer for a colt starting competition.” 

I didn’t answer right away and he followed up with:  “…I mean Vicki Williams did it right?”

LOL.  She did.  And she did it in style, with feel and heart.  

Q: How to get on?

Bareback?  Bareback pad?  Do I use the stirrup?  Do I shimmy on?  Jake showed me a way I have never tried before which could be helpful in some situations.  Put my left hand on the mane, put my right hand on the horn, push up with both arms.  My torso is then resting directly in front of the horn, which gives me room to put my right knee on the saddle.  Then slide my right leg down the far side, and I’m astride.  It took a little practice, and while I wouldn’t say it was smooth, it was passable.  And I liked it enough to think I’m going to practice it some more.

Q: Bit or no bit?

We are leaning towards no bit.

And the final Q: What does winning really look like?  

Tik Maynard

Road to the Horse 2024 Championship Competitor