Friday, December 4, 2009

Isolating the variables

So the past couple of weeks have been made up of highs and lows in the world of Tucker. As you know, I had an amazing ride on November 18th. That horse then disappeared temporarily, and was replaced by a fire-breathing dragon. Obviously, this is troubling. It’s the kind of thing that sends riders like me (prone to self-doubt and over-thinking) into a downward spiral of anxiety and eventually depression, that goes something like this:

1. That one great ride was a fluke.
2. Tucker was just having a good day; I won’t be able to repeat it.
3. I really don’t have the talent or the skill to ride my horse properly.
4. I am doing this amazing animal a huge disservice by continuing to ride him in my bumbling, misguided, inarticulate manner.
5. I am doing a disservice to the world by keeping Tucker from maximizing his full potential.
6. I should give him to Alicia to be her next Grand Prix horse. I am sure, without me holding him back, that he can take the world by storm.
7. Perhaps I’ll take up golf.

Ah, yes, I believe professionals refer to that as the seven steps of equine-induced psychosis.

I did eventually have a good ride, on November 29th, which I’ll write about in another post. This allowed me to talk myself down off the proverbial ledge, and start thinking a little more clearly about what might have actually been going on.

So, I thought I’d try to look at all possible variables. The first is turnout locale. At the last farm he was at, they had a very firm policy about horses staying inside when the footing was wet. This program is great for hot house flowers, really bad for Tucker. Whitmere uses the four stone dust paddocks when it’s raining. Which are better than nothing, but it’s definitely not a full day out in the field.

The second variable is turnout group. Tucker had been banned from turnout with the group because he, um, played a little too hard when they added two more geldings to turnout with him and Montel (another way to put it would be chasing horses who get too close to “his” Montel with his teeth bared and ears pinned, but no need to get too technical). So Tucker was temporarily put into turnout by himself. I know he doesn’t like this. It’s what caused the slice on his ankle, and I witnessed a few major panic attacks around the time we started bringing horses in from turnout. In fairness, he did graze quietly for the majority of the time he was out there. But it’s possible that being alone was just enough to increase his anxiety level to the point that he wasn’t his usual cooperative self under saddle. He’s now going out with Indie & Rodie who, coincidentally, belong to the sister of another blogger, Elizabeth at She Rides, I Pay.

The third variable could be time of day of the ride. He’s used to being ridden at night, when it’s quiet and there are no distractions and usually no other horses in the ring. Maybe he was really only being fresh because of the excitement of other horses, people, noises, etc.?

The fourth variable, pretty obvious, is how much he worked in the days before. Did I give him two days off in a row? Did I have a lesson? Did I just give him a light hack?

And, of course, the fifth variable is me. Am I getting on him when I’m particularly stressed out? Did I have a bad day at work? Was I stressed about dealing with my family on Thanksgiving? (Of course, I have to question whether it’s even possible to accurately rate my own stress level, but this ain’t exactly a scientific study, given that there are 5 variables and no controls). Is he better when I’m taking a lesson?

So, I thought I’d make a little chart (just in case you thought I wasn’t doing anything Tucker-related while I wasn’t blogging). With the help of archived weather reports, which are available online through the National Weather Service, I figured out the turnout history. To give you a truly accurate sense of just exactly how Type-A I really am, here, for your viewing pleasure, is my chart:

Date

Ride

Weather

Turnout

Rider

Stress level

Time

M 11/16

Adjusted

No rain

Field alone

N/A

N/A

N/A

T 11/17

Very good

No rain

Field alone

AM

Ok

pm

W 11/18

Excellent

No rain

Field alone

MQ

High

pm

Th 11/19

Didn’t ride

Rain

Stone dust

N/A

N/A

N/A

F 11/20

Didn’t ride

Rain

Stone dust

N/A

N/A

N/A

Sa 11/21

WILD

No rain

Field alone

MQ - lesson

Ok

pm

Su 11/22

Good

No rain

Field alone

AM

Ok

pm

M 11/23

Didn’t ride

Heavy rain

Maybe none

N/A

N/A

N/A

T 11/24

Wild

Rain

Stone dust

AM

Ok

pm

W 11/25

Wild

Rain

Stone dust

MQ

Ok

pm

Th 11/26

Crazed lunatic

No rain

Field alone

MQ

High

am

F 11/27

Better

No rain

Field alone

MQ - lesson

Ok

pm

Sa 11/28

Didn’t ride

No rain

Field w/ I&R

N/A

N/A

N/A

Su 11/29

Very good

No rain

Field w/ I&R

MQ - lesson

Ok

pm




















I don’t think we can say for sure that any one thing is the determinative factor here, since I’m only looking at two weeks and there are so many things that change. I do see a pattern, however: on the days when he was good, he had at least two sessions of turnout in the field before he was ridden. On the days when I rode after he hadn’t been ridden and he was turned out in the stone dust only, he was especially bad. Time of day doesn’t seem to be a factor, except that on Thanksgiving, which you see I’ve classified as “crazed lunatic,” I rode him first thing in the morning, when other horses were on their way to turnout. But that’s a story for another day.

He’s been very good for me this week so far, but we’ve had much nicer weather and I’m sure he’s been out all day in the field with Indy and Roady. The conclusion I’m drawing is that he’s at his best when he gets a full day of turnout with friends. Since I can’t control the weather, I’m thinking about possible solutions, like possibly just letting him run around the indoor at night if I know it’s been raining all day before I hop on.

If Tucker only knew how much time and energy I spend analyzing him. And people think this is just a hobby. Ha!

4 comments:

  1. Turnout with other horses = generally sane horse. Lack of same = crazy horse. That's been my experience, in the most part. Horses need to move and to part of a herd, however small, that's how they're supposed to live. I really doubt that much, if any of it is you - so don't worry too much.

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  2. I LOVE your chart, LOL...soooo type A!!! Just like meeee! I concur with your pattern and analysis :) I have the same thoughts about Miss P on occasion too, "maybe I should just give to Alexis so he can do amazing things on her...she likes him better than me anyways"...but then I realize it's about darn time I had a ridiculously nice horse and she's just going to have to deal with my inadequecies cuz I'm not giving up that easily!

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  3. Group turnout has done a world of good for Boom, I credit it at least partially with helping turn in from the crazed lunatic who tried to kill me on no less then a biweekly basis to the horse he is today. I should move him to Whitmere and then him and Tucker could be turnout buddies I bet! I love how you analyze him, it's adorable! I used to do the same thing with Boom when I was trying to fix his bucking problem. Now not so much :)

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  4. I think turnout makes a huge difference. For my horse, temperatures are also a key factor. Did you consider that at all?

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.