Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Covered Horse Show

So Jersey got dusted with some lovely snow on Saturday. As you can see, Tucker thought the farm looked beautiful all dressed in white:

Despite the snow and freezing temperatures, we were determined to horse show on Sunday. Alicia showed Tucker in the Level One Jumpers, and Kathleen showed her horse Rodie in the Level Zero and Level One Jumpers. We were back and forth on Saturday night about whether the roads would be okay, but luckily they were all clear and we were good to go.

So we loaded Tucker and Rodie up on the trailer and off we went. Rodie and Tucker get turned out together now. Rodie's in charge of the group, Tucker is in the middle, and Indie, being the baby, is at the bottom of the pack. The middle is a good place for Tucker. He needs someone to boss him around, otherwise he gets playing way too hard. At any rate, Tucker was overjoyed to have a buddy on the road with him. He usually has his trailer all to himself, which he doesn't mind, but life is just so much sweeter with friends, as far as he's concerned.

The horse show was a great schooling experience for Tucker. Since it was so cold out, there was no outdoor schooling, so to compromise, they let people go in the ring and hack, and jump the outside lines to warm up (even though it was a jumper show, it was just a schooling show). Tucker happily hung out and made out with his mom in the corner during the Level Zeros. He was totally chilled out, amused and interested by all those horses jumping around in the ring in front of him. I don't think he realized that there would be anything more expected of him than that. . . .

Then Alicia got on him. Baby meltdown. As soon as she got on, he got stuck in reverse. Which wasn't good because we were in a tiny portion of the ring that had been roped off, surrounded by a whole bunch of other horses. So I grabbed his bridle and led Alicia around in little circles. This worked for a minute. Then he backed up again, bumped into the wall, and was content to stand in the corner feeling very unsure of himself. Then he went in the ring and started exhibiting all his nervous habits. Trotting sideways, trotting around with his chin to his chest, diving to the left over the jumps. Alicia just shook her head and laughed at him as he jumped around like he was schooling for the mini prix. Alicia and I talked about it later, and it's like his brain starts working faster than he can handle and he makes himself way more worried than he has to be.

Naturally, the first class wasn't the prettiest, but Alicia did a great job with him. The first fence was a yellow oxer on the outside toward home, which he jumped like it was going to eat him. Then he landed and wanted to drag her around the corner, but since he couldn't, he just shook his head side to side in frustration. Then there was a roll back to a red vertical away from the in-gate, set on a short diagonal landing right. Since he was too busy shaking his head and not paying attention, the jump caught him off guard and he swaped to his right lead on take off. Bending line to a black and white vertical set up on the outside (on the far end of the ring -- so fence one and fence three would have made up an outside line). That actually worked out okay and Alicia made him add in seven to try and keep him under control. He did his left to right change, with a bit of an extra leap to it (his front end came way up off the ground, but he kept cantering).

Then it was another bending line toward home, a natural oxer set as the first fence of the other outside line bending to an oxer on the diagonal coming directly toward the in-gate, landing left. He actually jumped in softly and again they added for seven, but then he overjumped the oxer so hard on the way out that I could see the top of Alicia's tall boots over the standards. He landed from that one and did his leaping thing -- not quite broncing, not quite bucking, the only way to describe it is leaping. He lands from the fence grabbing the bridle, coiled like a spring and then catapults himself up into the air in the next stride. It's rather disconcerting. What I thought was amazing about that moment was the look on Alicia's face. She looked completely calm while this horse was leaping and contorting underneath her. I asked her later whether she is controlling her anxiety, or whether she just has no anxiety in moments like that. She said it's just not an option for her. So I guess it's a little of both.

The last line caused a bit more trouble -- he lost his power steering. It was a two stride, a vertical to an oxer. Tucker seemed to think these jumps were just too close together and he wouldn't fit, so he jumped the vertical and dove to the right in the air. They landed so far off center that Alicia circled and came around to it again. The second time, he tried to do it again but Alicia was ready for him and opened her left rein and used her right spur to keep him straighter. The line was pretty tight for him, so I didn't really fault him for thinking he wouldn't fit, especially since he did listen the second time. That class was a power and speed, so they didn't keep going because of the circle.

Despite the rocky start though, his second class was really great. Again they opened the ring up for schooling in between, and while he didn't look exactly calm, he was much more relaxed than he had been the first time. For one thing, there was a lot more distance between his chin and his chest. . . He jumped both outside lines and although he was still overjumping, he didn't look like he was landing and dragging Alicia around. Still a little crooked in the air, which is just a nervous habit of his, but definitely an improvement.

The first line was a bending line toward home, the black and white vertical on the outside to the red vertical coming toward the in gate. This line was better, and he added in a nice seven strides. Then the yellow oxer on the outside, but this time going away from home. I could actually see Alicia soften her hand in the last stride because he was no longer dragging, and he jumped it much softer. Bending right to a vertical across the diagonal, landing left. He only got half his lead change in the bending line and jumped the vertical cross-cantering, but he didn't get too worried about it. [I'm blanking on the next jump. It might have been the black and white vertical on the outside again, toward home. Somehow they got from the far end of the ring tracking left to the two-stride coming toward home across the other diagonal, landing right.]

The two stride was interesting. In this direction, it was an oxer to a vertical, and of course he jumped the oxer huge and landed a good 9 feet away from it. But at this point, he was thinking a little more clearly, and compressed himself and fit two strides in (or, maybe one and a half). Since he was all the way to the base of the vertical, he jumped it straight up in the air, but he was careful about it. Then he came around the corner without pulling and running. The next fence was the natural oxer on the diagonal going away from home, landing left and then bending to a green vertical on the other diagonal, landing right. I thought that line would be hard for him, but he was great. Then the last line was an outside line off the right lead coming straight toward home, and he was jumping straight toward me so I could see that he was jumping much straighter, no diving left or right.

So all in all, it was a good day for Tucker. He started off on the verge of a meltdown, but he got over it and ended up pretty rideable. I still don't think I would have been able to handle him if I were in the saddle, but I am really glad to have Alicia around to give him these good rides and convince him that it's no big deal even when he thinks it's way more than he can handle. I left the show that day feeling like a very, very lucky girl to have such a great horse and a great trainer.


  1. I love the pictures! I still cannot believe that your poor Tucker is being turned into a jumper. At least your plan of lighting a little fire under him is working right? He will be so calm at the next hunter show because it really will be no big deal. I think you would have been able to handle him just fine, it just wouldn't have been fun for you.

  2. It must be fabulous to have someone else handle his major freakouts like that. Whew.

    I'm glad he came around in the end though. ;-) Someday he'll be a trooper.

  3. Don't you love the process of watching an uncertain horse become solid and dependable? It sounds like your boy is pretty amazing and well on his way to being a superstar!

  4. WOW. That is impressive. Way to go all three of you! I'm such a wuss. I would have assumed snow cancelled...
    I love your descriptions. Lovely.

  5. Intrepid! Snow doesn't stop any of you from progressing.


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