Monday, December 28, 2009

Hello out there Tucker fans!

This post coming to you live from my new Dell laptop. . . . it is spiffy and shiny and blue, and I'm sure will inspire nothing but brilliant prose for your reading pleasure.

As some of you know, I left my job at my former place of employment on Friday the 18th, and have been without laptop/blackberry (read: footloose and fancy-free) for a whole week. It's been wonderful. I got to spend some time with my new week-old niece, Ella Grace, spent a wonderful afternoon with Nicku from Eye on the Horse, and best of all took three lessons last week. When I showed up in the middle of the day on a Tuesday to ride, Tucker was feverishly thumbing through his daily planner and couldn't figure out what day it was. But I think after his initial confusion subsided, he was really happy to have me around all week.

My first lesson you can pretty much read about on Nicku's post, but I'll go ahead and give a little more detail. We worked on getting Tucker to engage his inside hind end and then worked on my position over fences. A little lightbulb moment for me: when I can keep him balanced from behind on our approach to the fence, he typically lands with the same balanced canter and almost always will get his full lead change. This requires the perfect combination of a few things. He has to be collected back-to-front in the corner and on the approach, and then I either need to keep that collected canter with my seat, leg, and hand or just allow him to extend his stride if the distance is longer without chasing him or letting him get strung out or on his forehand. Regardless of whether the distance is tight or long, he needs to jump free of my hand, without pulling as he leaves the ground, which requires me to stay back with my upper body and hips, carry my hand, and soften and follow as he leaves the ground. When he approaches balanced, he jumps well, lands balanced, and has an auto-lead change. Makes perfect sense, right?

My second lesson was a flat lesson. We used the chambon, and worked on hind-end engagement again, and getting him to stretch down without getting off balance and without losing the connection. He flatted extremely well, and we really like him in the chambon, so I'll definitely keep incorporating that into my routine now and then. It helps him reach down into a lower frame without locking through his jaw or poll and without trying to balance off my hand as he reaches down. Since he stays soft and light up front, I can just concentrate on moving him off my inside leg and keeping an inside bend through his whole body. Overall, great lesson.

My third lesson was a semi-private yesterday with Kathleen and her horse Rodie. It was a lot of fun and very productive. We worked on haunches-in on the flat. I need to work on maintaining my inside bend and not letting him get too much angle and swing his hips to the inside. When I keep less of an angle, I can feel that he's working harder and staying engaged from behind.

He was a little fresh that day, so the first few jumps we landed and halted on a straight line, which helped. We started jumping courses, and since Kathleen does the jumpers we did some roll back turns and broken lines, which were really fun and different than our usual routine. Tucker is so rideable for stuff like that, he makes it all seem kind of simple.

During this lesson I really worked on waiting for him to make a decision about the distance, and taking my cues from him. If I really concentrate on how he feels, I can tell whether he wants to wait or move up, and then I can guide him accordingly, by either using my voice, staying close to him with my seat and balancing for a quieter distance, or lightening my seat a little and softening my hand if he sees a longer distance. It's amazing how well that works. Tucker has a great eye! Alicia had me count out loud (1-2-3-4) on the way to the fence and landing, and that helped immensely. As Alicia put it, counting out loud just helps us keep up with them, because they naturally will regulate their own rhythm.

All in all, it was a really good lesson and lots of fun. I walked away feeling very connected with him, which can be a blessing and a curse. He is so incredibly perceptive of my every little move that, as long as I work on staying on the same page as him, it can be almost effortless. On the flipside, if I get the slightest bit tense, he'll get tense, which is when he starts trying way too hard and making too big of an effort. It's all about staying relaxed and focused and trusting my horse.

It's great to be back! I promise I'll catch up on all your blogs this week!


  1. It must be nice to have all that time off... I'm enjoying mine.

  2. LOL...I love the dayplanner comment...I think he was definitely a little like "What?" when you showed up and took him out of his pasture play time :)

  3. I'm sure Tucker will enjoy both the fantastic amount of time you can spend with him before the new job starts and your shiny new laptop--I hear he's looking to upgrade his scheduling calendar to go electronic so you can send him meeting requests in the future. ;-)


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