"The Rare Elements of Grace"
Darelle had honestly expected
for the breeding to be the end of it.
When Ziggy went into heat,
Darelle contacted Alicia, who
brought Judd to visit.
The two horses had flirted
and played until Ziggy was
ready to mate -- which they did
several times -- and that was that.
But later that month, Darelle and Ziggy
came across Alicia and Judd at
Audubon Park, which had
reopened for limited hours.
Alicia took her ice cream cone
out of her mouth long enough to say,
"Hi, we're in town on business.
What's up with you two?"
Darelle debated whether or not
to ask about that business, and
decided that discretion was
the better part of valor.
"We're patrolling Audubon Park,"
she said. "With the shorter hours,
more visitors get fussy, so it helps
to have someone herd them out."
Alicia giggled. "I'll bet," she said.
"You wanna come to pony club
with us tomorrow? It's fun."
"Where and when?" Darelle said.
"In Britannia, so an afternoon session there
would be morning here," said Alicia. "Lorry
can pick you up and bring you home."
"Doesn't that skip a few travel rules?"
Darelle asked, frowning.
Alicia shrugged. "Nobody pesters
teleporters about that stuff," she said.
"You never know when you might need one."
Darelle decided that encouraging diplomacy
was more important than following rules
that nobody was enforcing on teleporters.
"All right, it's a date," she said.
"Judd! Don't eat the flowers,"
Alicia scolded, but it was too late.
Judd had already nibbled off
a bouquet of roses which he
proudly presented to Ziggy.
Darelle didn't have the heart
to interrupt them, even if it was
a little rough on the landscaping.
So the next morning they went
with Lorry to the pony club.
It was full of ponies and children,
along with a few tweens and parents.
The ringmaster was an enthusiastic blond
named Liam Birtwistle, whose sister Fionnuala
was leading a palomino paint filly through
a set of poles laid out in the field.
"Fantastic!" he said, grinning at them.
"Three's enough for a separate class.
We'll finally have some real competition
for Hermione and Highcastle, they're
running the legs off everyone else."
"You can help set up the long course,"
Fionnuala said, pointing to a clear part
of the field. "Scale it to Judd's size."
Darelle realized that giving the taller horses
their own, longer course would compensate
for their size advantage over the ponies.
As she helped lay out the course,
she realized that most of the mounts
were medium-size Welsh mountain
or British riding ponies, although
Pippa's Spot was a stout Shetland and
Hermione's Hightower was a Connemara.
Then Alicia leaned down and said
to the ringmaster, "We want to try out
a new gizmotronic saddle. Is that okay?
We brought a pony-sized spare."
"What does it do?" Liam asked.
"It makes a ladder," Alicia said.
"For me it's just a neat trick, but
some people can't mount without
help, so it would mean more to them."
"You can try it on Judd, riding for fun,
but you may not use the ladder or
any other special features during
the competitions -- unless you are
riding against someone else who has
the same advantage, and I don't know
whether any of the ponies would tolerate
a gizmotronic saddle, " Liam said.
"Try it on Proudfoot," said Fionnuala.
"That pony is practically a mattress,
he's so calm, and that might allow
the littlest kids to mount on their own."
Alicia and Nanette tacked up Judd
with the gizmotronic saddle, and
the ladder deployed in perfect silence,
some kind of articulated metal device.
Alicia swarmed up the ladder. Then
she and Judd limbered up by doing
dressage exercises along the field,
from the simple to the intricate.
Ziggy hadn't really trained for
anything that fancy, and after
a few attempts at following them,
Darelle decided that they needed
something a little more familiar.
So they set up a funnel made
from two rows of barrels, and
wove patterns between them
as a warmup -- a favorite from
their crowd maneuvering skills.
Glancing over the field, Darelle saw
Nanette and Fionnuala tacking up
a handsome paint gelding.
From the airplaned position of his ears,
Proudfoot found the new saddle
"That looks like fun," said Hermione.
"Can Hightower and I try it too?"
"Sure," said Darelle. "I suggest
that you start with a simple weave
and then try the figure-eight pattern."
Hightower got the hang
of the funnel pretty quick, and
seemed to be having a great time.
Meanwhile Judd was floating
through his course using
a gorgeous extended trot.
Presently Liam tooted his whistle,
and everyone gathered around.
Darelle listened with approval
to the recitation of Pony Club rules,
and then the gymkhanas began.
The first event was a barrel-and-box race,
which meant running around a barrel
and then stopping inside a box.
Judd knew exactly what to do,
Ziggy was responsive to reins,
while Hightower and Hermione
were light on their feet.
All three mounts managed
to stay inside the square, which
brought it down to speed, and
Ziggy won by virtue of being
tall enough for a long stride
without being too heavy.
The rest of the pony club
had trouble even staying in
their box, although Siobhan
and Cloud could stop on a dime.
Next came the ribbon race,
which was supposed to involve
dividing into pairs and then racing
up and down the course while holding
a strip of crepe paper between riders.
The ponies had enough people
to pair off properly, but the horses
had to make three rounds so that
each got to pair with the other two.
They were almost equally bad, but
Alicia and Darelle were the only ones
who didn't drop or tear their ribbon.
"We're pants at this," Hermione laughed,
and Alicia agreed, "Yes, yes we are."
The following event, sit-a-bill,
began by tucking paper money
under each rider's seat, and if
you lost the bill, you were out.
Although everyone rode at
the same pace, Liam added
a clever bit of handicapping
by varying the patterns.
The least experienced riders
looped around a simple circle,
intermediates got a quadrangle,
and the experts had to weave
through the barrel funnel.
It didn't take long for most of
the kids to lose their bills.
Darelle and Hermione lasted
a little longer before dropping out.
Soon it came down to
Tom on Honey, who had
the best seat; Pippa on Spot,
whose plodding gait was
unlikely to dislodge anything;
and Alicia on Judd, with
her extensive experience.
Spot snorted at a butterfly,
Pippa laughed, and lost her grip.
Tom hung onto his until
Liam called for a canter,
and then it got away.
Alicia triumphantly waved hers
in the air, then went around
the field collecting all the rest --
her prize for lasting the longest.
That gave everyone a good look
at how the gizmotronic ladder worked.
It really was a clever bit of tech, unrolling
and rolling back up as needed.
"She has a bum like a burr,"
Hermione sighed with envy,
watching Judd and Alicia
circle the field again.
"Ice cream fund," Alicia said
as she handed the bills to Nanette.
"Anyone have ideas for new games?
Some of us could use more of a challenge."
"You know, it occurs to me that
some of our mountie training might
make good gymkhana games,"
Darelle said thoughtfully.
"Like what?" Tom asked.
"Well, probably not the fire hazards
or drill teams, but some of the other stuff
is really fun -- blowing bubbles, riding
through flappy curtains, herding balls,
walking through water," Darelle said.
"So kind of like when we do
balloon popping in gymkhanas
to teach our ponies not to spook,"
said Arran. "That's a good idea."
"Or sack races," Dickon said with a nod.
"We use burlap for the nervous ponies,
but noisy feed sacks for the calm ones."
"Yes, that sounds similar," Darelle said.
"We use stuffed animals, too, as it's
very important for police horses
to get comfortable with those."
"Why?" asked Hermione.
"Because we use teddy bears
to help scared kids calm down,"
Darelle said. "We always carry
one in our saddlebags."
"I have a trail bear," said Pippa.
"Not my special bear at home,
but one that I take to events and
it doesn't matter if I lose him.
We could play with that."
"That's a good idea," said Darelle.
"We start training with just one thing,
something simple that the horses --
or ponies -- can get to know so that
it doesn't scare them anymore."
"All right, let's introduce the ponies
to Pippa's teddy bear," said Liam.
"If they seem calm enough, then
we can try using it like a flag race."
Pippa scampered off to fetch
her bear, and soon returned with it.
Some of the ponies were curious,
others nervous, but none of them
tried to bolt, which was better than
Darelle had seen in mountie training.
The most that happened was
Brownie snorting and dancing
in a circle, and Snowflake
trying to eat the bear.
"Okay, everyone, we'll try this
with a basic birangle," Liam said.
Fionnuala set up two barrels, and
put the bear on one of them, saying,
"Circle the first barrel, grab your target,
transfer it to the second barrel, and
then race back. We'll start this
with a walk, and if that works,
move up to faster speeds."
It was a glorious disaster.
Hightower and Brownie
wouldn't even go near
the barrel with the bear.
Cloud got an itch and
decided to stop for a roll;
Siobhan bailed off with
the ease of long practice.
Pippa fell off of Spot
while trying to get the bear.
Arran dropped the bear,
and Snowflake grabbed it in
his mouth, shaking vigorously.
Darelle laughed so hard
that she almost fell off Ziggy.
Pony club made it easier to let go.
Tom and Honey won the pony class.
Judd decided at the last minute
that he didn't want to deal with
the bear after all, and Alicia
just said, "That's okay, we
can watch Ziggy instead."
From the action of her ears,
Ziggy thought the new game
was a great variation on playing
with stuffed animals, and Darelle
had no trouble making the transfer.
Finally everyone cooled down
by trotting, then walking, through
a simple set of figures to end
the session on a positive note.
"The essential joy of being with
horses is that it brings us in contact
with the rare elements of grace, beauty,
spirit, and fire," Hermione quoted as
she watched Judd flowing through
one last round of dressage.
"Yes, it is," Darelle agreed.
"This was fun," Alicia said as they
walked back to the edge together.
"We should do it again some time."
"Or you could come visit us in
Easy City for mountie practice,"
said Darelle. "Judd can pick and
choose which events he wants to try."
Any day that Alicia and Judd spent
at equestrian games was one that
they weren't spending on assault,
assassination, or other mayhem.
"Aww, I was hoping that you
would come back and teach us
more games," Hermione said.
"I guess I can look them up."
Darelle turned to Liam. "Keep
an eye on whatever the kids
suggest," she said. "Some of
the exercises are easy, but
others should only be led
by a trained instructor."
"Ah, I know a bloke," Liam said
with a grin. "One of my school chums
works with the mounted police in London.
I'm sure I can get him to look over our plans,
maybe do a turn with the older kids who
want more of a challenge now."
Meanwhile, Judd had herded
Hightower between himself and
Ziggy. Other than sticking his nose
up like a snorkel, the Connemara
seemed to have no objection.
"It's good that he's making
new friends," Darelle said.
"He's still a horse,"
Alicia said quietly. "Judd
needs a new herd, even if
it's only a sometimes one."
Darelle thought about that
as the pony club went through
its closing routine -- including
the distribution of ribbons, for
which she and Ziggy earned
"Best Game Makers."
When Fionnuala asked where they
wanted the saddle she was taking
off of Proudfoot, Alicia said, "Keep it.
My gizmologist friend wants nary input too --
Nanette can give you the feedback form for it."
"That's an impressive gift," Liam said.
Alicia shrugged. "We can spare it,
and besides, you put up with us."
Liam went down on one knee,
graceful as a knight, and said
quite firmly, "We're not 'putting up'
with you. We enjoy your company."
Perhaps it wasn't just distraction
that could keep people from
doing supervillain things.
Perhaps it was the opportunity
to face old fears in a fun environment,
and heal some of the past damage.
Perhaps it was simply the human --
or equine -- connections that formed.
Just then, Alicia wrapped Darelle
in a waist-high hug. "I'm glad we met,"
Alicia said. "It's so good just to be
where we don't have to hide, and
there aren't many people who
we can do that with."
That too, Darelle realized as she
hugged the girl back, that too.
* * *
Darelle Ardoin -- She has mahogany skin, brown eyes, and straightened black hair to her shoulders. Her heritage is Creole including African, Houma, and French. She lives in Easy City. As a tween, Darelle bartered for horse riding lessons at a nearby stable. As a teen, she worked at a breeding farm to save money and put herself through the police academy. That's when she got the idea of combining her sense of civic duty and love of horses.
Darelle serves as a mountie in the New Orleans police department, most often assigned to the vicinity of Loyola University. Her partner is a dapple gray and white Gypsy Vanner mare named Zigana, or Ziggy for short. They have training in civil rights and often supervise demonstrations or other public events. While not stuffy on the job, Darelle maintains firm control, and has difficulty letting go of herself when it's time to relax.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mountie, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Psychology, Good (+2) Strong, Good (+2) Tolerant
Poor (-2) Loosening Up
Zigana or "Ziggy" for short -- She is a dapple gray pinto Gypsy Vanner mare. She is the partner of Officer Darelle Ardoin. They often supervise demonstrations and other public events. Ziggy is very clever and can do things like untie simple knots with her mouth. She loves water and hates fire. Hates it. Will not go near flambeaux or fireworks, will not stand for hot shoeing, etc. She doesn't buck, just balks and refuses to go any closer. She adores being bathed and playing in fire hydrant spray.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Police Horse, Expert (+4) Smart, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Hates Fire
Liam Birtwistle -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and short blonde hair. He is the older brother of Fionnuala. He runs a pony club.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Horseman, Expert (+4) Enthusiasm, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Not a City Boy
Fionnuala Birtwistle -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long wavy white-blonde hair. She is the younger sister of Liam. She breeds horses and ponies, also helping her brother run a pony club. Fionnuala is currently training a palomino paint filly named Butterscotch. She is so pretty that she keeps attracting blokes who want elbow candy, and can't handle her outdoorsy lifestyle -- whereas the kind of practical blokes she'd like all seem to think she's out of their league.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Horsewoman, Good (+2) Kind
Poor (-2) Attracts the Wrong Kind of Bloke
Hightower -- He is a brown Connemara gelding who stands right at 14 hands. His rider is Hermione. He is fast for a pony due to his height, near the maximum for pony competition. Hightower detests getting his feet wet, hates the rain, and is impossible to wash with a hose.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Fast, Good (+2) Agile, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Hates Water
Cloud -- She is a Welsh pony, white flecked with gray. Her rider is Siobhan. Cloud is fond of rolling, with or without a rider. She particularly enjoys rolling in mud or dust. She loves water, though, and is undeterred by river crossings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Precision, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Loves to Roll
Honey -- She is a British riding pony. Her rider is Tom.
Qualities: Good (+2) Pony, Good (+2) Responsive
Poor (-2) Thinking for Herself
Brownie -- She is a British riding pony. Her rider is Dickon.
Qualities: Good (+2) Pony, Good (+2) Quick
Poor (-2) Spooks Easily
Snowflake -- He is a gelding, a British spotted pony. His rider is Arran.
Qualities: Good (+2) Clever, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Nose for Trouble
Spot -- She is a Shetland pony. Her rider is Pippa.
Qualities: Good (+2) Patient, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Slow as Mud
Proudfoot -- He is a Fell pony gelding. Like most draft ponies, he has a phlegmatic temper. So he is shared among the youngest and least experienced students. His standard gait is a smooth amble. If prodded vigorously, he will trot briefly and then drop back to a walk.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Unflappable, Good (+2) Pony
Poor (-2) Lazy as a Sloth
* * *
"The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire."
-- Sharon Ralls Lemon
The behavior of horses in season varies. A key reason for the risk factor is human interference. If you let the mare wait until she actually wants to mate, and let the stallion court her appropriately, then she is unlikely to try kicking his ribs in. Or yours.
London (United Kingdom - England) Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 3:00:00 PM BST
New Orleans (USA - Louisiana) Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 9:00:00 AM CDT
Corresponding UTC (GMT) Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 14:00:00
-- World Clock
Ponies teach valuable skills to children. Gymkhanas are mounted games popular at pony clubs. You can buy the equipment for them.
Saddle ladders are rare but have been illustrated. The one described in this poem is better.
Dressage is an elegant way of riding. Here are some of the motions. Dressage patterns are ridden in an arena by referencing markers along the sides. See some for novice and higher levels.
Training for gymkhanas makes the process easier and more fun. There are many different games and patterns that you can try. The funnel involves two rows of barrels angled with a narrow end and a wide end between them. Watch an example of gymkhanas in action.
SPEED AND ACTION (SINGLE BARREL AND BOX)
A sixteen foot square box is marked in the arena. Rider starts in the box and then runs around the barrel at end of the arena. The rider returns to stop in the box and then stay within the box for five seconds. The horse must not step on or over the box line during the five second hold or the rider is disqualified.
-- Gymkhana Games and Patterns, see a video of barrel and box
Riders are put in pairs, who ride next to each other holding a ribbon between them. They must ride from one end of the arena, around a barrel, and back without losing the ribbon or breaking it.
-- Gymkhana Games and Patterns, see a photo and a video of ribbon race
SIT-A-BUCK or BAREBACK DOLLAR
A dollar bill is placed by the judge under the rider’s knee, seat, thigh or calf. This class is run as a typical pleasure class – walk, trot and lope – although other maneuvers may be added. If you lose your dollar, you’re out. To rider who keeps their dollar the longest wins all the dollars. Can be played bareback.
-- Gymkhana Games and Patterns, see a video of sit-a-bill
Mountie training involves teaching horses that things which seem scary are not necessarily harmful. Obstacles include such things as fire, curtains, suds, blowing bubbles, and stuffed animals. A herding ball helps teach crowd control. You can use many of the same techniques to bombproof your own horse, which is an excellent idea if you like to remain in the saddle. Watch a video of mountie training.
A horse obstacle course consists of various trail obstacles. Here are some fun examples of obstacles you can try. Watch a video of a horse navigating obstacles. Some gymkhanas are similar, such as popping balloons or sack races.
A flag race involves grabbing a flag and carrying it or moving it to a new location. This is often run in a birangle, although many other patterns may be used. Watch a video of a rider running the birangle.