Welcome to Lincourt Stables, Marilyn and Danilo
Marilyn started having lessons a few months ago and recently bought Danilo, a 10 year old Andalusian gelding.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a thirty-something visual artist, and I’ve lived most of my life in Peckham in London. I’m mostly making oil paintings at the moment but I’ve made sculpture, film and installation work and run a project space in London. I take great pleasure in learning, which is one of the things I love about being an artist: it is reason to get interested and research something, and to explore new worlds and materialize the things I discover. I think my next interest will be invasive plants, like Kudzu or Tumbleweed.
I was born with a rare genetic disorder that affects the way my body produces collagen, and this means I have problems with all the connective tissue in my body leading to a laundry list of subsidiary conditions. My syndrome is considered an invisible disability, and it’s frequently misdiagnosed or undiagnosed (I wasn’t diagnosed until five years ago) which is why the symbol for the condition is a zebra, as a reminder to clinicians that when you hear hoofbeats, it may not be a horse!
My parents, both American, moved to the UK before I was born but I’m the only member of my family with any connection to Britain now so in a way I feel like an accidental Brit, or a not-quite American, although in truth I’m a dual national which feels like a huge privilege in a world where free movement and visas are such a precious commodity. I sound very British when I speak and even though I’d always travelled here to the US to visit family and in more recent years for work, until last year I’d never lived here for more than a few months at a time, and having moved to California just in time for the pandemic, I still feel I’m finding my feet here.
Marilyn and Dani take in the sunset sights of the Paddock Riding Club, Los Angeles.
How long have you been riding? What was your earliest riding experience?
My first horse experience was in Houston, TX when I was three years old. I was there visiting my father’s side of the family and Hazel, my grandmother, took me to Hermann Park Pony Rides where I got to ‘ride’ Shorty, a sorrel pony (read: sit on and hold the reins) and lead-walk around a small coral. In short order, I was hooked. Shorty subsequently took on mythic status — every broomstick, and quite a few willing and less willing grown ups became my substitute Shortys, as I returned in imagination to that feeling of being on this animal that seemed at once powerful and mysterious but also potentially kind and willing to cooperate.
Being a horse-mad child in a low-income, urban household isn’t easy, however, and I begged and saved and probably managed another handful of experiences on a horse by the age of 9. Then came a lucky break — a new family friend had a daughter who rode regularly and (joy of joys) asked did I want to come with on a Saturday and join her group lesson for £10?
From then to about the age of 13 I rode at that riding school as much as I could manage, and helped out on weekends and holidays for the chance of a ride. Very much the ‘legs legs legs’ school of thinking it was all a bit patchy as far as technique went, but I didn’t much care. Between weekends I read and dreamt about horses and bored my mother with stable management trivia which she mostly endured patiently. But by the time I was about 13 I really needed to be riding more often and taking more lessons to progress which just wasn’t finically workable or possible time-wise. Driving myself and my mother crazy with this impossible dream, I reluctantly shelved my horse passion, and promised myself I’d come back to it some day.
What brought you back to riding last year?
Exiled from the gym by Covid closures, going a bit stir crazy in the house, as well as looking for a productive outlet for my mental health, I was talking to my dad’s lovely wife who has heard me wistfully horse-wishing for years and said ‘why don’t you start riding again?’
I felt as if finally the stars had aligned: I’m living somewhere where there are stables are close by, I can finally afford it, I’m on top of my health enough and as an artist I can make time to do it! From one minute to the next what seemed a distant fantasy seemed very much within reach. I researched lots of trainers in the local area and really liked the look of Lincourt and the R+ work in particular, and phoned Pat.
I had my first lesson on Buddy, my riding very ungainly, but Pat was both encouraging and from the off I felt I was learning. Between them, Pat and Buddy generously began to show me the ropes and I knew I had a chance to come back to riding again.
What do you like about riding?
For me, as I realized all those years ago on Shorty, nothing compares to the thrill of being on a horse. The old adage that riding a horse is borrowing freedom for me has a very immediate bodily implication: I’m not the most physically able or coordinated person — I’m the sort of person who if I’m holding a cup of tea and I look away I’ll probably pour it on the floor — the promise of achieving bodily communication with an animal as athletic and able as your average horse and thereby ‘borrowing’ their speed, scope, power and way of moving seems a brilliant promise indeed. On the flip-side, my lack of coordination can make achieving that clarity of communication a real challenge, but it’s one I’m working on!
What have you learned so far at Lincourt? There are many ways to answer that question, and all of them come back to the way Lincourt is set up and how Pat teaches. Pat herself is such an impressive horsewoman, and frankly and impressive human being, just being around her one can learn a lot. She is learning all the time herself, which is inspiring, and she fosters a collaborative and open environment. Lincourt isn’t a heavily structured barn, instead it’s run in a way that’s far more organic, flexible and personal. As a trainer, Pat makes space for so many ‘teachable moments’. It might be how you’re putting on the bridle and what your horse’s body language is saying, or moments in the saddle where she seems to see the nuances of your position and gives you something to work on just as you’re realised it’s and issue and you’re ready for it. And sometimes as a learner, you just need space to work things out — that’s something most teachers don’t give you, but Pat really does.
For me, this has meant that I’m really learning a lot and in a way that has me hungry for more.
Tell us about Dani
Danilo is an Andalusian, bred in California who has only one previous owner aside from the breeder. Age 10 going on 4 he explores everything with his mouth and is generally quite expressive and emotional. He’s still quite a mystery to me, and I find him impressive and at times quite intimidatingly quick on his feet. I’m really having to up my game to even begin to keep up with his antics. However, I feel if I can win his trust and attention, and communicate with him clearly on the ground and in the saddle I will have achieved something to be really proud of.
What are your goals?
When I started looking for horses to buy I thought I’d like a Warmblood, mostly because that was somehow the unquestioned ‘ideal’ in my mind, but when I tried Dani he just felt right — his gaits were comfortable and I had that feeling of flow in the saddle. Since he’s arrived those moments of lucidity have been a little elusive, but I’m learning a lot about what it means to interact with a horse day by day, not just rock up and ride a horse. Ultimately building that relationship is what interests me. I feel we’re both going to benefit from the structure that some dressage training might provide, building some focus and steadiness, balance and fitness, and developing our communication. I’d also love to be able to trail ride off into the hills of Griffith Park. I may be in an English saddle these days but I suppose that first experience in Texas may have given my horse fantasy a Western scene or two.
Thank you Marilyn for your story. For those interested in leasing or training a horse with is we are situated in the heart of Los Angeles with fantastic facilities. For more information about leasing a horse or training with us please contact us.