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Tricks of the Trade (4)

Back home, when the horses run in the pasture, there’s a clear pecking order, explains Meishja. “Junior is a stud and leader of the pack,” she claims, “and Poco is near the top.

But Appy is in the geek squad — pretty close to the bottom. When we take him to a rodeo, he thinks he’s hot stuff.”

A stock contractor is exercising horses and bulls in the fairgrounds’ arena, so the sisters choose a grassy spot near the campgrounds to rehearse.

Meishja practices the Back Bend, a demanding move that requires her to stand in the saddle and bend backward slowly.

Utilizing strength and concentration built through aerobics, yoga, and Pilates, she reaches her arms overhead, bends back and slightly to the left until she grabs both handles on her saddle.

Her quadriceps, abdominals, pectorals, and biceps work together to form a graceful arch on Poco. She performs the trick multiple times in slow motion — all the while smiling for the photographer.

“We actually have to practice smiling,” says Abigail. “Meishja smiles comfortably when she performs. Tricks come more readily for her because she has a compact, athletic body — like a gymnast.

On the other hand, it takes me longer to learn tricks.” Abigail’s 5'10" frame is nearly unheard of among trick riders. Gravity works against a long, lanky form.

“When I concentrate, I don’t always remember to smile,” she admits. “But smiling is what makes a trick look easy and beautiful!”

Abigail decides to practice the Stroud Layout, a trick named after Leonard Stroud, the rider who developed it in 1923. The rider secures the right foot in a strap on top of the saddle and the other foot in a stirrup attached to the left saddle cinch.

The rider lowers her body sideways until it forms a 90-degree angle to the horse’s body. Finally she stretches out both arms, twists her torso, and holds it parallel to the ground — all performed at a gallop.

(Read more Tricks of the Trade)

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