Tucker's Horse Show Journal - HITS V Saugerties - Modified Adult Hunter (2'6") - 7/24/09
Prep: I got up early and went down to the rings to hack him around in the ring we would be showing in. We have decided that at away shows, he needs to see the ring first. Not the jumps, those he could care less about. But if we walk into a ring he's never seen before, we have this "up periscope" thing happening where suddenly I think "perhaps I've gotten on someone else's Tennessee Walking Horse by mistake?" So we hack. He's dead quiet. We finish up in that ring and then I take him out into the big hunter schooling area and just let him do laps at the canter. We had a little discussion about picking up his right lead in the corner where he really wanted to stare off to the left at all the activity around the Grand Prix ring and bulge his shoulder rather than listen to me. I got after him, he consented, we picked up our right lead and quit on that. With me in charge. Wandered back to the barns, our braider finished up his braids, he had his breakfast. I did put him on the longe for a minute, just to check, and he had absolutely no desire to play. So, we went back to the wash stall for yet another bath. Plenty of time before our classes so he got to chill, hand graze, nap.
First trip: Started off with a single verticle on the quarter line coming home off the left lead. So, trotted across the diagonal, took a deep breath, told him how good he is, and then got a good canter rhythm at the top of the ring. Stayed patient to the verticle, worked out perfectly. The first fence always seems to be his best one. Then the diagonal line rode really nicely, jumped in well and just relaxed my arm and stayed the same for six strides. Got a good left to right change. Outside line was good, jumped in normal and had to wait just a hair to get five. Missed the left to right change in the corner though, and had to trot a step to fix it. Then he bulged out slightly toward the in-gate out of the corner to the next diagonal line so the distance got a little screwed up, but not terrible. I just had to close my leg a little as well as relax my arm to get him down there in five. The last line was a four stride coming straight back toward the in-gate. I had to stretch up tall and sit down in the corner, rebalance my canter, and stay conservative jumping in. He did, and the four was just a little tight jumping out, but not terrible. Except for that one missed lead change, solid first round.
Second trip: First fence was the other quarter line verticle on the other side of the ring, coming home but off the right lead. So, came in and trotted across the other diagonal, picked up my canter in the corner. Had to open my right rein to keep his focus because he wanted to watch the horse in the jumper ring all the way around the end of the ring, but then once we were straight to the first fence he locked in and found his own distance. Missed the change here and I think we aso I wasn't sure whether to rebalance as we were coming to the next diagonal line or leave him alone. I left him alone though, and it worked out fine because he lost a little momentum coming directly away from the in-gate. Then we were right there in six, didn't have to change a thing. Landed left, again wanted to cheer on the horse in the jumper ring all the way around the end of the ring. Probably should have worked a little harder to keep his attention, but I thought he'd do the same thing and refocus once he saw his next jump. There were some jump crew guys sitting on the grass outside the ring (no idea if they were there during our first trip), though, and he spooked a little at them as he was approaching the four, so we ended up pretty left of center jumping in and then I had to open my right rein and yield him back to the right in the line. This line was a huge learning experience for me. I thought I had given him no reaction whatsoever to his little spook, but I must have tensed up somewhere because he landed from this line feeling pretty worried. So, I patted his neck all the way around the end of the ring and told him he was good. This relaxes me just as much as it does him. He softened again, and then I just made an amateur mistake jumping in to the second diagonal. I should have just sat still, but for some reason I closed my leg and pushed him past the distance. It was fine, he forgave me, jumped in pretty tight and then I just let go and he made it up for the six no problem. Then he got the left to right change again and the outside line was good. Since it was the last line and he was getting rolling a little, I had to just sit up and keep him collected for five. I honestly can't remember if we got the last lead change. I think we did, but I will have to watch the video.
Third trip: The first fence was the single quarter line from the first class, but going away from home. I actually opened my right rein in the air and got him to land right here so I didn't have to think about the change (pretty tricky). Then for some reason (maybe my brain was getting tired?) I jumped in to the outside line thinking it was a six. Nope. It's a five. So, I did what any amateur would do when she realizes half way down a line that she's miscounted. With all the intellect of a crash test dummy, I booted my horse in the sides to see if he could put two strides in where in his mind, he was planning on three. And here's where Tucker was sainted. A year ago, he would have listened to me, gunned it, jumped from eight feet away, propelled me into orbit, and landed in a heap on the other side. Instead, he just said, "Nah, mom, I'm still doing six. We shouldn't leave from there." Smart, smart, horse. I should have just stayed on the six when I realized my mistake. Good horse, I thought on the other side. I patted him for saving my butt all the way around the end of the ring. Then the next two lines were beautiful. The diagonal six was right there, he landed left. I think I was so relieved and impressed that he had just done such a smart thing that I was totally relaxed. So he didn't spook coming into the four, jumped in quietly and fit in a nice four. Coming out of the in-gate, I just looked at Alicia and laughed. Oh, and thanked her for teaching my horse to think for himself!
We had at least an hour before the under saddle, so I took him back to his stall and untacked him for a bit. Then headed back down around 6 pm.
Under saddle: This is where I fell in love with my horse all over again. Alicia was walking the course for her own mare, so we were on our own. I'm watching all these super fancy hunters warming up for the hack in the schooling ring and thinking, okay, we'll just play around in there. Take a few laps and call it a day. There were thirty horses, and some of them were fantastic movers. But I said that's okay, we don't need a ribbon to have a good day. No biggie. So we go into the hack, and I don't know whether Tucker was just so happy to have that many friends around him in the ring at the same time, but he was amazing. Floaty, soft, light, in a nice relaxed loose hunter frame. I felt like I was on some million dollar wonder horse. I made a pass through the middle of the ring straight toward the judge at the trot so I could get him seen (plus he's a great mover from the front as well -- no paddling). His canter was divine: slow, big, relaxed, light as a feather. We were fourth! Out of thirty! He beat all those super fancy movers I was watching in the schooling ring! The top three were also in the top ribbons over fences consistently, so it made sense that the judge used them first. And they are all lovely movers. But with our tiny mistake in each class and her not using us over fences at all, I was super impressed that she picked us next! I must confess, my eyes welled up with tears coming out of the ring. I was so proud of my boy, I could have burst.
Overall: He was just exactly what anyone would want out of an Adult Amateur horse. Honest, reliable, consistent, safe, forgiving, and fancy enough to beat 26 horses!! Later that night when we were finishing up chores at the barn, I overhead Alicia telling someone about my rounds and she said, "I think Marissa actually had fun today." She was right. Such a great day.