Tuesday, May 25, 2010

St. Christopher's Horse Show... What a Difference a Year Makes

Our last show was at St. Christopher's in PA.  Our third away show of Tucker's career, and he was super!  We got in late Thursday night and were showing first thing Friday morning.  Let's just say that when I took Tucker down to the rings for a spin on Friday morning he was a bit overwhelmed.  The minute the lunge line got five feet long there was a squeal and a leap and off he went.  Never done that before!  He is usually so gentlemanly on the lunge line.  But this time there was squealing and striking and leaping and even a big buck.  It was like a cross between flying a giant brown kite and deep sea fishing.  For very big, angry fish.

He seemed to quiet down so we headed back to the barn, but then Alicia took her mare out for a hack and he was all alone (if you don't count the hundreds of other horses stabled around him) which brought on melt down #2.  By the time Alicia came back and his head and neck had reached full drama-llama height, it was clear to both of us that maybe the professional should be on him first.  So....  about 40 minutes and a couple more mini-meltdowns later, Tucker was ready to horse show. 

All this is perfectly excusable because in the ring, he was absolutely brilliant.  I walked into the ring (talking myself off the ledge as per my usual routine:  "These are tiny for him... they only look big to you... he can do this... just relax... you have to trust him... Mommy loves you... please be good... etc.)  The first round started with a single vertical on the quarter line, coming toward home off the right lead, and I remembered to relax my arms and not do anything but count the rhythm (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4) and we found it right out of stride.  We landed and missed the left-to-right change, but he caught up and then the outside line going away from the gate was good.  I let go down the line and he marched right down there.  Again, we missed the left-to-right change, but no big deal.  We'll work that out.  Next was a triple (four strides, then a two-stride) across the diagonal.  That worked out well too.  Then there was a long approach to a single oxer on the outside, off the left lead.  His eye started to wander as we came around the corner but then once he saw the oxer in front of us, he regained his focus and the distance was right there.  That's the great thing about 3-feet, he actually helps me out a little and doesn't sight-see all the way around the ring because he has to pay attention a little.  Then the last line was a five stride diagonal which worked out perfectly.

Second trip started with the same single vertical off the left lead going away from home.  He landed right this time and I decided to get fancy... set my horse up and got a brilliant right-to-left lead change.  Beautiful.  Naturally, after displaying such good riding I proceeded to embarrass myself.  We came around to the five stride diagonal line and I needed to just close my leg and support a little, but I gunned him at it so it got super tight...  (Tucker flicks and ear back at me:  "Really?  You sure?  Well okay, if you say so... not what I would have done but if that's what you want....")  Then we did five and a half in the line because we landed going nowhere and I didn't want to chase him... uh, yeah, awesome riding.  I actually looked at Alicia and said OOPS as I was cantering past her.  Then I did it again.  Pushed him past the first distance and made it tight.  THEN (more awesome riding), I forgot the outside line was a six.  We were on our way to a forward five when I suddenly realized it was a six.  By this point Tucker was already back-peddling ("Um, I can't leave from there.  You'll fall off.  Trust me.  How about I just add another one in here, k?  Yup, that's what I thought.") 

Then we came around to the triple, last line, and I said here's my chance to redeem myself, just leave the poor man alone.  ("Yeah can you just be quiet up there?  Just... stop talking.  Don't say anything.  Leave the difficult thinking to me.  You just sit there and smile.")  And naturally it worked out beautifully.  So beautifully that we were able to create this picture, which was taken over the third jump of the triple, and which will soon be sitting in my living room in an 8x10 frame.

Huh.  Sensing a pattern?  Horse knows better than you do.  Stop trying to tell him how to do his job.  He doesn't stand over your shoulder and criticize your brief-writing all day.  ("A semi-colon?  Again?  Don't you think you overuse that punctuation a little?  And what's with all the howevers?  Also, not sure how I feel about your collateral estoppel argument. Hey you gonna eat that?")

(Photo Credit:  http://www.hoofprintimages.com/)              

The third course was the same course as the first round, and it was excellent except for one missed lead change.  We got all our distances, and the lines worked out great.  The only thing I would have changed is that I needed to sit down in the two-stride to collect him a little.  I have a tendency to stand on my toes when it gets a little tight (in other words, the opposite of what I should be doing.)

Apart from all my little pilot errors though, this horse show was a huge success.  I stayed relaxed, I kept him relaxed, and I was able to realize my mistakes as I was making them, instead of coming out of the ring wondering what the heck happened in there.  The big benefit of that was that even after flubbing two lines in a row, I was able to recover and fix it to ride the last line beautifully.  Most of all, I never let my nerves get the better of me.  He was a little stressed in the morning, and I made some errors, all things that could have -- and a year ago would have -- sent me reeling. 

This is all, of course, light years ahead of our performance at last year's St. Christopher's show, which will be the subject of my next post....


  1. Fabulous!!!
    Tucker is SO Handsome (AND smart! did he go to law school as well?).
    Also? Drama-llama?! I love that and will be stealing it. K, thanks.

  2. Fabulous photo! Glad everything went so well - sounds like it was fun!

  3. Go Tucker! Super funny post Marissa...drama llama is never good!

  4. I loved your account of the whole trip; I felt like I was riding those lines with you.

  5. Congratulations on a great show! Tucker really sounds like he is growing into a fantastic horse. Its great you can recollect all of your courses. I sometimes come out and cannot remeber a thing! Eeks!

  6. Sounds like you had a great show. Good for you and Tucker!

  7. Whoo Hooo!!! Congratulations on some terrific rides in an actual SHOW. How often does that happen? Oh. Right. Everyone else is able to do that. :) So funny, and the drama Lama quip is so apt, I saw that move earlier today during a horse melt down. Cracked me up when I read your term for it.

    I love being impressed by your jumping. The photo is great! And if that is how Tucker jumps 3', you are well on your way to higher. Holy crap can he jump. And he's gorgeous. You look darn good up there too. You can ride girl.

    We coined a new horse term today. Tiny, being part draft, is a real workout to get going. It takes a ton of leg, and he makes the thigh-master look like a kiddie toy. I'm so out of shape after 5 weeks off, that when someone asked me today how my Tiny ride went, I said "In a nutshell, I'm really thighered." Tired+thighs are killing me!

  8. Thighered! I love it! A few of the horses at the barn (including Tucker) require full leg contact - from the thighs down. Probably not something new for the dressage guru's out there but for the HP's like me it's a new concept. We call it the "hug machine" (like that machine they designed for the cows? anyone know what I mean?). I am definitely introducing thighered to our vocab!! Feel free to use drama-llama!

  9. Perfect! I went on a "trail" ride around the barn with a bunch of friends an told them all about the "drama llama" move, and everyone knew *instantly* what that looked like, we've all seen it. Of course I credited you and said YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BLOG.

    I get no respect.

    "Geeze Jane, we're IN your blog and never have time to read it!" I told them yours was better. ;) LOL.


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