EDITOR'S NOTE: Muphen Whitney is off spending some quality time withher horses Super Dude and Shadow's Deadline. She left a column on the capable Chicago Jett, an 18-year-old Appaloosa gelding who is the star teacher at Beth Stambaugh's Lightning Bolt Farm near Westminster.Jett, as the handsome black- and white-spotted horse is known, spends typical Saturdays teaching young and still-young riders the secretsof being good equestrians.
His moniker is Chicago Jett -- that's with two T's, please get it right -- and he's the grand old man of Lightning Bolt Farm.
When the Jett was a youngster, though, he had no manners at all, and regularly got a good horse laugh by putting people on the ground.
Beth Stambaugh of Lightning Bolt Farm near Westminster changed all that, though -- for Jett's own good. They really clicked right fromthe very first,
competing in three-phase competitions and in horse shows. They made a very successful team.
Finally, there came a day when Beth had to start earning a living to support her horse habit, as she puts it, and Jett was pressed into service teaching riders the fine art of horsemanship.
Beth has added other horses to the school over the years, but the handsome Appaloosa gelding is still the farm's head teacher.
Such horses are the backbone of an entire industry. Where would everyone learn to ride if there weren't a whole lot of good old guys like him around to teach?
Beth always says if she had 20 more like Jett she could sell each one for a fortune and retire rich.
She wouldn't sell Jett, though. What would she do without him every Saturday morning when everyone comes for their lessons?
On a pretty typical Saturday, Jett gave a lesson at 9 a.m., but heprobably doesn't remember too much about it.
By the time of the first lesson, the elder statesman was a little tired. But he got through it just fine.
After years of experience under all sorts of riders, Jett has the drill down pretty well.
You can almost say Jett could do it in his sleep.
At least, that's what Beth always says.
With his 10:30 lesson canceled, Jett took the opportunity to catch a little shut-eye before his next rider showed up at noon for her class lesson.
There are five kids in that class riding school horses,and the barn is a beehive of activity before the lesson begins.
Beth showed a new student how to pick out Splash's feet and bandage her legs.
April D is still recovering from a bout of colic she had this week, so the student had to ride Copper, a boarder's horse who was graciously lent for lessons until April D gets better.
Patriot, also known as "The Scudbuster," and O'Neil would round out the lessonhorses.
Jett's rider, Jenny Boschert of Taneytown, forgot how to put the bridle on, so Beth came over to help.
Beth showed her how to fasten the halter around the horse's neck so the mount couldn't goanyplace as she put the bridle on.
While Jett was catching another 40 winks, Beth told Jenny:
"Now fasten this so he doesn't run out of the barn. Do you think he'll go anywhere?"
Did you see the sly grin that passed between Jett and Jenny?
Out in the ring, Jenny checked the Appaloosa's girth and her stirrups and mounted. Jett dozed through it all.
Beth held up a finger to check which way the wind was blowing.
She told Jenny, "Move this way so Jett can have a tail wind to help him."
Chicago Jett was barely amused. He just does his patriotic duty by saving as much energy as he can.
Beth ended up giving Jenny the "magic wand" (read riding crop), and that ignited the Jett. Jenny didn't even have to wield the instrument. The smart horse just had to know that she had it in her hand.
Jenny did really well. She learned how to make Jett trot on a circle and did exercises at the walk.
She says Jett is good at teaching her those things because he is very gentle and obedient.
At 1:30 in the afternoon, Jett gives a private lesson to Nancy Sell of Westminster.
Horse and rider can both be proud of this one!
For a lady in her mid-30s who has only had six lessons, Nancy is turning out to be quite theproficient rider.
She says this is something she always wanted todo, and she is working real hard at it.
Last time, the pair worked on posting on the correct diagonal, and today she has it down pat.
Today's skill was making Jett turn through the poles and cones. Nancy had him going just exactly where she wanted.
At one point, Beth told Nancy, "Eyes up, don't look down at him, he's ugly."
After the lesson, Nancy would say Jett is so easy to learn on because he isso well-mannered that she can concentrate on the things she needs tolearn, without having to worry about the horse.
The 3 o'clock lesson is a group of pretty advanced riders. Beth calls them her fun group.
Horses and riders warmed up in the sand ring and then went outto the grass field for the fun stuff -- jumping.
Jett was his usual steady, reliable, dependable self.
The young rider, Denise Reaver of Taneytown, says she learned on Jett and that the horse helped her -- especially when she was learning to canter and jump.
She's very good at that stuff now, and teacher and student have fun together. Denise loves to jump on the Jett.
Denise says Jett is so sweet and always listens to her.
Hear that, Beth?