A First-Person, First-Horse Account of the May, 2001 – Jenny Jackson Clinic

When the mailer arrived, I knew it was too late. The idea had been percolating since last winter, when I audited my very first clinic, huddled up against the miserable, wet, windy cold with a cluster of intrepid (crazy?) Tennessee Walking Horse fans. As we watched Jenny Jackson put some folks through their soggy paces on what might have been the nastiest afternoon in a particularly nasty February, I realized there was probably nothing else on earth that would have kept me out there, snuffling and stomping to keep my feet from going numb. That bone-chilling day, I didn’t know how or when, but I knew somehow I was going to find a way to haul my rear-end and my horse’s to a Jenny Jackson clinic. I didn’t have a trailer or a clue, but the notion was firmly planted. We would be out there, my 1,000-pound adolescent and I, going around that ring. One day. Somehow.

Then, March slogged by the way it usually does in our neck of the woods – kinda damp and slow, and then April. And the flyer came. Jenny Jackson was coming back to Santa Rosa! In May! So there wasn’t even a rational process involved. I just called Michele Erskine’s number and told her machine we’d like to book a slot. Figured I could cancel if I had to. Figured I’d find a way to get there. Called my daughter Kelly, who might have discouraged me, but instead said “Great! I’ll go with you!” And that was that.

Next day I was at Fifth Avenue Rentals, looking at one of the only three horse trailers for rent within a hundred miles. How did I know that one trailer was there, tucked away on a side street off Highway 84? I’d driven by it a couple of years ago. So, although I have no idea where my key financial documents are, or my best portfolio pieces, or my car keys, I had absolutely no trouble going right back to that horse-related item in an obscure little rental yard somewhere in the bowels of Redwood City.

Was I bothered by the fact that I’d never towed anything in my life, let alone some rickety rental trailer with my horse in it? Was I concerned that I’d be doing this experimental towing in a truck so new even the bed liner was still virginal, unscratched? Did it trouble me that Santa Rosa is more than two hours from my house by car, no trailer attached? Through the heart of San Francisco? Over the Golden Gate Bridge? Let’s just say I did think about some of that, but it was too late. The minute that flyer arrived, it was too late. This was going to happen. The wheels of destiny were turning and that was that.

The operation was planned with precision. (Why is it that horse folks still insist, even after centuries of experience otherwise, that such a thing is possible?) Install hitch. Correct size? Call rental place. Check. Coordinate pickup time with Kelly. Call and change rental pickup time. Check. Instructions and advice on towing beast in trailer? Surf Net. Check. Call rental place. Check. Call experienced horse buddies for words of towing wisdom. Check. Confirm trailer rental. Call rental place. Again. Check.

Friday afternoon, May 4. I think I’m beginning to understand all those stories about the outrageous things people do when they reach, um, a certain age. Here she is, formally your basic Responsible Mother of Three, Married Person, Sensible Business Person, screaming over Highway 84, about to hitch the Unknown to the Untried. Like a kid at Christmas. I strike my best “done this a million times” pose for the fellas at the trailer place (What do I say if they ask me if I’ve ever done this? Is that one squinting at me funny?) They hitch me up, I throw the plastic card over the counter, and drive out, pulse elevated, smile wide. Bump. Clank. Onto El Camino. I have insurance! Behold, Towing Woman!

Cut to Saturday morning, May 5, Verrrrry Early. Still dark. Kelly and I are adrenalin-fueled: she’s packed the lunch, and enjoying the role reversal (“Mom, I told everybody at work I’m taking you to Horse Camp!”). Lace the Wonder Horse is also completely amped, having spent the night wondering what that trailer is parked there for. Incredibly, she sniffs, she stomps a little, she walks right in. We buckle up, and we’re down the road. Yeeeeehaw! Got the Horse Whisperer sound track in the CD player, sun rising behind us, headed up Highway One! Kelly navigates as we thread through The City on the carefully researched, recommended Horse Trailer Route, up Sunset, through the Park, over the bridge. The Bridge! Aaaaaaaaugh.

Three hours later, we’re the third trailer to pull into Ted Draper’s stable yard. It’s a miracle. Obviously anticipating there might be lots of people with dubious credentials towing lots of trailers into the place, the parking has been designed to require no backing up. Whew.

It is so true, isn’t it, that showing up is always the hard part. Especially with horses. Just getting there is a big dang deal.

Miss Lace the Wonder Horse is unloaded, fed a little (Omigod! We forgot hay!) thanks to the kindness of our fellow clinic attendees, and we watch as Jenny starts on Rhonda Azevedo’s colt in halter. I absolutely don’t remember who came after that, because by then I was becoming apoplectic with the realization that I would have to get into the ring with my horse. Now that the buzz from having arrived alive and intact was wearing off, we were going to have to go in there! With Jenny, who would narrow her Professional Clinician eyes and pace a little and pronounce us – Aaaaaauuuugh! Who knew? Who knew what Lace the Wonder Horse would do, in front of everyone? She’s barely five years old, all attitude, and ridden sporadically by me. I bought her as a 3-yearold.  She’d been under saddle less than 30 days. I hadn’t ridden in 20+ years. What the heck was I thinking? Now, here we are, two years and lots of John Lyons books, a broken rib and uncounted bruises into it, and I’m going to square up in front of Jenny J and all those other folks? Aaaaaaugh.

Kelly patted my hand, and said as many encouraging things as she knew. In we went. Jenny smiled as I struggled to square up The Girl, as we’ve come to call our high maintenance blonde from Tennessee. Jenny then gave the gallery a kind of clinical description that brought to mind the autopsy scene in a cop show: “Five-year-old mare out of Bud’s Silver Bullet, about a thousand pounds….” She reviewed the horse’s angles (all pretty good), her legs (slightly cowhocked! Aauuuugh!) the length of her back, neck, ears ( Kinda muley! Hey! That’s my baby she’s talking about!), even her nose (Well, Farrah Fawcett has a nose just like this and they don’t call it Roman! They call it “aquiline”!) My goal for the clinic, said I in response to Jenny’s question, was to stay on the horse.

Then it was time to perform. I, with the able assistance of my groom, Kelly, started to throw the saddle on. “No, stop!” Hollers Jenny from across the arena. “I can see from over here that doesn’t fit!” Aaaaaaaugh. “That built-up pad you’re using won’t solve the problem, either!” In a few syllables, the Big Horn Western saddle I’d picked up for $175 at a swap meet was history. Jenny waved her arms a bit more, and a new Tennessean saddle appeared and was plunked onto the horse. The flash dressage bridle and Happy Mouth plastic bit we were using passed muster. Then it was into the saddle and around the ring. The rest is kind of a blur, I’m afraid. We walked. She asked for a canter and we cantered, and cantered, and reversed direction and cantered some more. Two miracles: 1) we did indeed canter, on command; 2) our butt stayed in the saddle. So, yes, folks, my goal for the clinic had been met and exceeded. Flush with success at having stayed on, the only thing more I remember Jenny telling me was that we might “try a trail pleasure class someday.” Thinking back on it, that was probably her gracious way of saying I should enjoy my roman-nosed, muley-eared, cow-hocked darling in the privacy of our own paddock.

What I do remember clearly is that as we left the ring, we got a very nice round of applause from the gallery,  undoubtedly as relieved as I was that we had survived without incident.

Later, fellow attendees Kelly and (husband’s name?) Getreu as well as clinic host Ted Draper, my daughter and I all worked for 30 minutes or so to convince Lace the Wonder Horse that she really did need to get in that trailer for another 3 hours so we could get on home. Thanks to Ted’s expertise (plus a couple of his longer whips) and the Getreus’ horse treats, we were back on the road and home about 7:30 that night. No dents. No broken limbs. Just a few shaky legs.

Miss Wonder Horse didn’t move much the next day, and neither did I.

Kelly, Lace and I want to thank everyone at Wine Country Walkers for welcoming us so warmly, and for demonstrating in all kinds of ways that horsemanship is about generosity and fun. We learned an enormous amount from Jenny and from all the other participants, who offered great tidbits in conversations all day about everything from trailers and trucks to horse cookies. Thank you, Gisela and Doug, for the hay. Thanks, y’all, for the equipment loans and the baked bribes. And thank you, Michele, for your special kindness in assuring me that my greenhorn self and my green horse would be ok. We were more than ok. We were just about as happy as a cowgirl gets. Even the coffee was good.

– L


32 Comments

  1. Melsy says:

    Very beautiful story Lynne! Thank you for sharing with us!!! <3

  2. ClaudiaM says:

    What an awesome story!! Loved reading this so much and the pictures especially the one at the top of you smiling, so cute and too beautiful. How exciting was that…just going out and doing something like that!! You are an inspiration Lynne Bowman xox

  3. Toni says:

    You definitely are an inspiration Lynne. You told your story so beautifully. What a go-getter!

  4. ellie says:

    I just love your writing Lynne! You should write a book! Well, another one. Deidre’s Hall’s horse and saddle… never mind. I really know nothing about horses, but I loved reading this. As Claudia’s saying, it’s so admirable that you just decided to do this, overcame your fears and the obstacles and jumped right in! I especially liked the part about driving the trailer over the bridge, since I hate driving over bridges. Can’t wait to hear more of your stories!

  5. Noelle C says:

    Loved the story. You and Lace have come a long way since this, haven’t you? I’m amazed you got Miss Lace into that trailer at all. Our friends had a horse that we would have to ride to the breeder’s because they could not get her into the trailer ever. I love this line…”I should enjoy my roman-nosed, muley-eared, cow-hocked darling in the privacy of our own paddock.” LOL. Good for you for not doing that. I’ve never rode competitively, but I enjoy trail riding immensely. I miss it since I don’t live in OH anymore where our horse is. Thanks for sharing this fun story.

    • Lynne says:

      Yes, we have come a long way! We did get into the show ring, we both loved it and we got to the point where we were winning blue ribbons. All thanks, in a weird twist of fate, to Jenny Jackson’s daughter, Nicole Schoppe, who became my teacher, trainer and friend, and who is staying at Casa Chiquita this very night.

      • Noelle C says:

        Enjoy your visit with Nicole. I forgot to say how much I love the photos that go along with this blog, especially the Johnny Cash look you are rockin’ in the second photo!

  6. Ms. Jenny says:

    Wow loved reading this, such a great story Lynne! Like Claudia said, how exciting was that just going for it. Can’t wait to read more of your stories. Thanks so much for sharing this one! xx

    • Ms. Jenny says:

      Got so caught up in the story, forgot to say….How fabulous you and Mizz Lace look!! Loving the pink!

  7. Haley says:

    Loved this! I have rode a horse a whole one time. I have always wanted to be an avid horse rider though!
    I just love reading your stories… I can’t get through a single blog with laughing a time or two!!! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Haley says:

      well that should obviously say “without* laughing a time or two”

      i’m a total spelling and grammar nazi but yet i’m never proof reading my on stuff!

  8. amandahawking says:

    Lovely story. You have a way with words my love x

  9. Kara says:

    All the more reason to call you a badass. Love it. Love how gutsy you were. Glad Kelly was there to ‘pat your hand and say re-assuring things to you.’ 🙂

  10. kimberleo says:

    Kudos for getting out there and committing and making this dream happen. Such behavior coming from you does not surprise me, though. I’m just learning (finally) the simple fact that nothing gets done if you don’t do it. You can’t catch a dream if you don’t chase it and all those other lovely cliches are popping to mind. A couple of my dreams have come to fruition the last few years. I will be a horse rider one day…I just have to do it. 🙂

  11. Rose says:

    When I opened this email, first thing I saw was your big beautiful smile. I’ve never seen you smile so hard. Yes, you definitely looked like a kid on Christmas morning. You truly love Miss Lace! It’s written all over your face. I don’t think anything could’ve prevented you and Miss Lace from going to Jenny Jackson Clinic. Love love your story and the pictures! You rock, Mizz Lynne Bowman! I wonder what’s in store for tomorrow?

  12. michelle says:

    It took me about two hour to read this blog! Between kids and hubby, lots of things i want to do take time. But I took my time reading it, giving it the proper attention it deserves! I just love your stories, Lynne! I could read or listen to your awesome adventures all day. I don’t know much about horses, but I used to have a book I always looked at and in it there were pictures of Tennessee Walking Horses and I fell in love with them! You look so happy in your pictures! So glad you, Kelly and Miss Lace had a great experience!

  13. Larissa says:

    What a fun story!! Loved the photos, thanks so much for sharing. I love how you just decided to give this a try and went for it ! Such an inspiration . Please keep these stories coming… Oh- and sadly enough I have never even ridden a horse 🙁 .

  14. Lynne says:

    Thanks for reading, girls! I hope maybe I’ve inspired you to one day just decide you really really want to do something, no matter how wacky, and go for it, because you want to.

  15. Talk about too cute! 😉 um, that first picture is adorable and well, all your fancy cowgirl clothes…How fun! Totally relate to the clueless about where the keys are, ect. but have no trouble with that thing that is necessary to the fulfillment of what started as a spark and now has me doing crazy things that require logistics, timing and serious safety considerations, but are mostly born and carried along by a strong will and some faith that it was all meant to be and will completely work out one way or another. Rock on! Love it.

  16. stephl says:

    You are a great writer, I so appreciate you sharing your stories with us. The pictures are wonderful.

  17. Sarah F says:

    Love the story Lynne makes me want to go horse back riding. We have a camping park that has horse back riding it’s so much fun. I haven’t gone for a couple of years. Thanks for the great story.

  18. amandahawking says:

    You certainly inspire us Lynne x

  19. Destiny says:

    Oh man, I love that first pic SO much!! Perfect representation for how you must have felt after accomplishing said fabulous cowgirl feat! You make me want to go hop on a horse, I’d forgotten how totally thrilling and satisfying it can be.:) Have fun with, Nicole, tonight, thank you for another delightful and inspiring post.

  20. cda says:

    Thank you for the wonderful story to read when I got home. I totally love ALL the pictures. The sentence about showing up is the hard part is ohhh, so true!, isn’t it? Thanks again for sharing and keep them coming.

  21. Chanda says:

    I’m clueless about all things horses so I Googled Mrs. Jackson and ended up reading an article about her and her husband (interesting couple), and came back with a point of reference for your story. I have to say that when I first saw this post I thought, oh a horse tale (tail? haha) and I intended to read it in deference to you, not expecting to relate to it at all. Instead, I think everyone can relate to this in some way because I’m sure we’ve all experienced the fear and apprehension that accompanies the things that we desire the most. A little fear in the belly can be a great motivator, I think, and you accepted the challenge and conquered! Very inspiring, great storytelling and these pics are adorable.

  22. stephanieb says:

    Lynne, you absolutely MUST be published again! I love everything about your writing. I realize I must have a goofy smile on my face when I read your blogs, because they just make me happy, and you’re wonderfully funny as you pen these quotable life lessons for us. You had me at “I didn’t have a trailer or a clue.” 🙂 Does everyone want to be your BFF like I do?? 🙂

  23. Jaz says:

    Wow what a wonderful story Lynne, you’re such an inspiration. It gives me the courage to try new things no matter how different they might be. Can’t wait for your next story I love reading them 🙂

  24. Chrissie says:

    You should write a book sometime 😉 xoxo

  25. TinaFunez says:

    You write beautifully, Lynne. Love this and thank you for sharing. It is inspiring. I think about things all the time that I would love to do…I need to “just go for it.” love the pictures too. Can’t wait for the next blog post. Xo

  26. Kelley Marie says:

    Wow what a lovely story! You really do have a way with words Lynne. Hearing this makes me want to get back on a horse. Haven’t been on a horse since grad school. I will have to add it to the list. Your determination is inspiring and motivational. Thank you so much for sharing. Oh love the pictures too!

  27. Kerry McCaw says:

    Oh wow i love this story, you definitely have such a way with words Lynne. 🙂
    Oh and am loving the pics too.

  28. DevorahZ says:

    Love this One! Reminds me of horse camp growing up! I’ve always loved horses! Loved reading it! Thanks Lynne!

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