Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tucker... My Rorschach's Ink Blot

A fellow rider once commented to me that she felt like her horse was her Rorschach's Ink Blot. I felt like that on Tuesday night. It was like all the emotional turmoil I've been going through in my non-horse life just exploded into a terrible ride. We were in the indoor ring and it was one of the first crisp, cool nights we've had. Tucker started off pretty well, I was schooling without stirrups and he was being cooperative.

Then our most recent Whitmere acquisition, an OTTB who is very sensible generally but has probably never been in an indoor ring, let alone at night and lit with flourescent lights joined us for a hand-walk to check the place out. The TB was holding it together but visibly nervous about the indoor, the mirrors, the shadows, etc. (rightfully so). Tucker immediately became tense. I walked for a while so he could relax. Then picked up my trot at the opposite end of the ring from our TB friend. Tucker was clearly holding his breath, but still vaguely listening to me.

Then the TB left. And Tucker was alone. In the indoor ring that he used to know and love but that has now become a torture chamber for unsuspecting equine victims, at least according to this TB who clearly knows something Tucker doesn't. So, Tucker does the only logical thing left for an equine to do. PANIC. SPIN. BOLT.

Yes, for the first time in his sweet little life, he took off with his mother. Thankfully, I was able to point toward the corner and stop at the wall. Unfortunately, due to my current stress level, I got much too mad at him. I raised my voice. I believe there were explitives. The phrase "What were you THINKING?!" may have come out of my mouth.

I realized immediately I had triggered Tucker's ultimate MOM IS MAD AT ME panic button and tried to calm him down. But I wasn't fooling him. I was mad, he was terrified, and now all immobile objects (jumps that he schools over all the time, open doors, mirrors, the radio) were hiding flesh-eating goblins sent to lure Tucker to a horrible demise. And with every spook, my teeth clenched harder. Not helpful. Tucker knows me too well, and teeth clenching is a sure sign that no matter what she says, mom is still mad. And I was. I was furious. Probably not at Tucker, more so at the world in general, but sadly Tucker bolted straight into the line of fire.

Then I got back into the barn aisle. Where I remembered this was supposed to be a light ten to fifteen minute hack. Because Tucker had three shoes. He had lost a hind shoe on our trail ride on Sunday, and I had borrowed Alicia's neoprene/rubber boot for him to wear. Since the footing is really soft in our indoor, I figured a light hack with a boot wouldn't hurt anyone. But then a light hack became Clash of the Titans, and the boot left a rub on his heel. Oh, the pangs of guilt! I inflicted wounds upon my beloved horse. One tasty mint later and Tucker forgot all about the whole ordeal, but I was drowning in a sea of self-loathing. What an irresponsible mother I am!

I cleaned it, medicated, vet wrapped and duct taped, and turned him out for the night. And then I laid awake worrying about it. Picturing my poor mistreated horse limping around his field all night, dragging his damaged limb behind him. Wishing he had a mother who cared about his well-being. . . .

He got the shoe back on yesterday, and the rub isn't much worse than anything he'd do to himself in the field. It doesn't seem to bother him. It's on his heel bulb, which is a difficult spot, so I just have to be careful to keep it as clean as possible so it heals okay.

I rode him last night and purposefully made sure that it was a "happy hack." No spurs, long rein. He thought about spooking at the doors for a minute when I first got on, but I ignored it and he never tried it again. Just testing the waters to see if I was still mad I think. We ended on a very good note. I was cantering a cavaletti on a left lead circle and asked him to wait to it twice, and then the third time I didn't have to do anything except lift my hand and stay back with my shoulder and he waited all on his own. The lines of communication were opened again, no hard feelings.

Reminds me of a comment on Kate's blog, reminding us to work with the horse we have in the present. It's a good lesson for me, one I am constantly having to re-learn, that whatever it is, Tucker will let it go as long as I do too. What I'd really like to overcome in the future is not letting my emotions get the best of me. In hindsight, of course I know Tucker didn't bolt to make me angry or ruin my day, and of course I know that getting "mad" at a horse solves nothing. But it's hard not to react emotionally sometimes. Even when it's a horse you love. Maybe even harder when it's a horse you love.

Sigh. We are a work in progress.


  1. Oh your poor pony. I am going to call the ASPCA on you right now! jk. I think we all let emotions play into our riding. Last night I figured out that yes, I do have plenty of time to ride after work if I need to. At the same time I also realized that I am so happy to just be on a horse and away from my stressful job that I don't ride...I just sit there and zone out. I think the ability to remeber the bad, but also forgive, is one of the reasons I love horses so much. Bad rides happen. Luckily so do good ones!

  2. Don't be too hard on yourself - it could have been (and has been) any or all of us. Horses are very forgiving, for which we should all be thankful. Glad all is better now.

  3. Man that sounds just like my ride on Weds! I have been in a horrible mood lately and the poor Bodhster and I have not been clicking because of it I think. I am glad you guys have moved on though!

  4. Poor Tucker and poor YOU! When I fell off of Pong a couple weeks ago I got caught up in a similar fit of irritation and later felt awful for scaring him, it happens to the best of us. Glad all the drama has settled down and you two are back together again :) Sounds like you, me and Golden need to get together for some cocktails to calm our nerves!


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