Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mid-October already?

Whew... sorry Tucker fans, I've been totally slacking! Can it really be the middle of October already and I haven't done one post?

I was travelling for part of this time (slight excuse). And I did have the best of intentions for a few good posts. Such as:

1. I have learned that spending a good 10-20 minutes at a working walk at the beginning of our ride makes a world of difference. I always get on and walk for a few minutes, but really making him work at the walk for an extended period of time, instead of just wander around, makes a big difference. Years ago, a dressage instructor told me that the most important thing you can do for a horse is get on and walk for 10 minutes before you start working. I'm going to make sure that no matter what -- hacking, lesson, horse show, etc. -- that I get on and walk for at least 10 minutes from now on, preferably 15-20 minutes if I can. Helps him loosen up, get ready to work, start listening to my aids, and sets the right tone. Then by the time we're ready for the first walk-trot transition, he's already in work mode. Seems pretty basic, right? But amazing how many people just get on and pick up a trot.

2. We had a great lesson outdoors a couple weekends ago, in which I learned that I can ignore Tucker gazing sideways out the side of the ring two strides away from the jump, and Tucker will quickly realize that he needs to pay attention. Even though his stargazing makes me want to micromanage and force him to pay attention, it's also just as effective (if not more so) to let him learn for himself. I also learned that when he doesn't want to keep his left bend and is seeking the left (inside) rein, I need to counter-bend, get him accepting the right rein (with which he's not as comfortable), move his haunches left, and then he'll wrap around my left leg and bend left without us having a battle over the left rein. So he'll give on the left without me taking the left. Interesting.

3. While I was away for a week, I realized that I miss Tucker the way people miss their kids or their significant others. I was in Colorado for work and I was actually getting teary-eyed just thinking of his face. I couldn't wait to go see that sweet face, expressive eyes, and big goofy ears when I got home. I'll never get sick of that face.

4. Tucker has autumn fever. He's been wild for the past week! I got on him last Saturday and his trot was HUGE -- I'm talking heels clicking together, hind end fully engaged, locked and loaded huge. And when I reached forward to pat him on the neck, he SPOOKED at the, um, wall. Which is obviously terrifying. This behavior was followed by a just delightful canter full of squealing and scooting and tail-tucking and general sentiment of "omigod mommy I'm soooo sorry but I'm soooooo fresh I toooootally can't help it. . . ." I did my best to stay patient with him, but it wasn't easy. On what I thought was going to be our last canter circle, he lept into the air in a move popular with Lipizzaner stallions. Needless to say, that was no longer our last canter circle. Sorry Tucker, leaping through the air will buy you another 20 minutes of work. Every time.

5. Tucker lost a shoe on Sunday morning (probably pulled it off with his teeth when he heard that Alicia was going to be riding him to emphasize that the aforementioned behavior is not desirable) so I taped up his foot and took him out grazing while I pulled up a chair to watch one of our new boarders -- a very handsome 4-year-old TB -- take a jumping lesson. Hanging with him for the afternoon by the ring was probably even better than having Alicia school him. Reminded me how sweet and delightful he is (every so often between clover patches he'd come put his head in my lap, gently groom the top of my head, or otherwise shower me with love and affection like the overgrown labrador that he is), despite the antics from the day before. It's always good to get a reminder that when they are fresh or naughty, they aren't being "bad" on purpose. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that. It's good to remember that even when they're misbehaving, they're just being horses. And they still love you, even though sometimes they leap through the air.

6. Yesterday, I was having a totally rough day. I had a dentist appointment and was planning to work from home for the afternoon. After the appointment, I got in my truck and just drove to the barn, in one of those "I must see my horse right now" moments. And then I stood in the aisle and watched him get his shoe tacked back on. And everything was better. I loved watching how patient he is for the farrier. What a lovely, well-mannered horse I have. It was a gorgeous fall day, the air smelled sweet, and the sun was just starting to set and turning the trees bright orange behind him out past the barn doors. And suddenly everything felt better. Horses are amazing that way.

So, hope you've enjoyed the recap. Sorry I've been MIA! It's good to be back.


  1. Beautiful post. I know exactly what you mean about missing your horse. Sometimes I can be driving and I think of Sam and I smile and start to cry! I dread the day that I have to say good bye. I love spending time with Sam. Every afternoon I try to take Sam out for a pick and he is the same, he gives me snuffles every now and again. I love the way if something has upset him and we stop he touches me with his nose as if for reasurance.

  2. Thanks for the update! I'm a big believer in work at the walk - there's an amazing amount you can do with, and at, the walk, that establishes everything for the other gaits. A lot of people think walk is boring, but that's because they're not thinking about it.

  3. I am guilty of rushing into a trot. Bodhi gets so sluggish that I want to get him moving forward as soon as possible. It is probably also my impatience... bad mommy :)

    Tucker sounds like such a sweet boy. I would have loved to see the leap!

  4. YAY UPDATE! Walk does help TONS. And yes, it takes two to tango in the inside bend debate. Both of mine like to try to talk me into bending to the inside via inside rein pressure only which in turn leads to the loss of the outside shoulder and then inevitably, pulling. You'd clearly be able to ride either of my trusty, somewhat sneaky steeds with ease! Welcome Back! Tell Tucker to keep his sneakers on!

  5. Have to agree: Yay you're back!! Tucker doing airs above the ground totally cracked me up. Just switch saddles next time (or say "oops I forgot we were doing dressage today, obviously, Tucker didn't." You'll be a DQ Held in Awe. "WHO did you train with..?"

    Wonderful post. Love the hanging out. So get the missing them like a kid.

    I'm hooked on walk work both as warm up and to cure a great many ills: big, swinging, focused walking on the buckle (as you know) is not only a great warm up, it's endurance building. Same for walking on the bit. I use it on all my guys for different reasons.

    I have no shame, I'll count the rhythm out loud to keep them forward and working hard: one, two, three four! one, two, three, four! Drives the DQ's nuts I think. (I'm just a wanna be DQ.) It's kinda drill sergeant-ish, but the results are amazing. We get in the ring, the horse is already thinking "forward", and is reporting for duty!


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