Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another good day at Monmouth County Horse Show

I do love going back to the Monmouth Horse Show, which is in the town next to where I grew up.  Brings back a lot of happy memories from the short stirrup and children's hunter pony rings on the grass.  I didn't exactly win all the time, but I definitely had fun doing it.  The first pony I showed was a little pinto pony named Puzzle.  Man I loved that little guy more than anything.  No more than I love my darling Tucker, however, who was an absolute packing machine on Saturday. 

We started off with our usual five minute lunge back by the trailer.  Tucker tried to be naughty and play on the lunge when a motorcycle went by us on the street, but then almost fell down and had to shake it off and pretend no one saw it.  My horse and I are so alike.  We are not cool.  Never have been.  We are dorks who play by the rules.  Neither one of us can pull off acting like a bad ass without tripping over ourselves.

On our way down for our warm up hack we had a drama-llama moment and I was suddenly navigating my way down to the ring looking between his ears.  Why are we wild?  But, as soon as I got into the schooling area he took a big deep breath and chilled.  I only trotted and cantered for about 15 minutes because he was absolutely dead quiet.  Such a confidence booster for me.  This was going to be a good day.  As I was wrapping up my hack I heard them announce that they had moved the division before mine to another ring, so I quickly headed back to the trailer to get my show shirt and jacket on and take off Tucker's schooling boots. 

Alicia was busy with another horse so we had a while to walk around before my division started.  When I saw that she was wrapping up I trotted around a little just to get Tucker warmed back up, then we jumped a few jumps and went to the ring.

My first course was okay, but we never quite got the pace we needed.  The first fence was a single vertical on the quarter line going straight toward the in gate, off the right lead.  We got a conservative distance to it, and then continued to the outside line going away from the in gate.  I jumped in relatively quietly and then asked Tucker to move up to get the five, which he did.  The next line was the other outside line, back toward the in gate.  We jumped in so conservatively that I made the decision to add and get five strides instead of four.  He actually balanced in five well, which is an accomplishment of sorts, even if it wasn't the game plan.  Then the next line was the diagonal six away from the gate, off the right lead.  I came out of the corner and again saw a quiet distance in, so made the decision even before jumping the first fence that I was going to add and get seven strides.  Again, he was happy to collect and put seven strides in.  He landed right, looking out the ring, and we only got the first half of the change and had to trot a half-step to catch up.  Then the last fence was a single oxer on the diagonal off the left lead.  Again, we weren't really going that forward but I took my time and waited for him to find the distance, which was a conservative one but he balanced himself to it.  Not a bad first course at all, and we actually ended up winning the class, but I knew I had to send him forward for the next round.  I was happy though, that even though I didn't have quite the pace I wanted, I was able to think and make a plan half way through the course so that it was still organized and consistent.

In the second class, I was careful to get a better forward rhythm right from the start.  This course started with the same single vertical on the quarter line toward the in gate.  Since I had a better pace, we had more options for distances and he jumped it well, right out of stride.  The next line was the diagonal six off the right lead, away from the in gate.  We got a better distance in and then I sent him forward down the line and we got there in six this time.  Unfortunately, he landed right again and we trotted for a few steps instead of just one to get the lead change, which was even less pretty.  Then to the single diagonal oxer toward home we found a perfect distance, but we landed left and again I had to trot for the change because he wasn't balanced, wasn't going forward, and was looking out the in-gate.  The next line was the five-stride outside line going away from home, and we easily made it in five and I actually had to rebalance and slow down a little landing from this line.  He balanced right back around the corner though, and then I left him alone as we got straight to the last line.  We jumped in and I had to press a little to get down in four.  Then, for reasons that remain clear only to Tucker, he jumped the oxer (which, mind you, was a plain natural oxer that was barely 3') like it was a 4'6" spread.  No joke, in my peripheral vision I saw black knees on either side of his face.  Alicia was doubled over with laughter in the in-gate because of the look on my face.

Then came the third trip... which has been affectionally dubbed "a whole new level of stupid."  The long and short of it is, Tucker needs a GPS installed.  I jumped the right first fence, but as you may have noted in the descriptions above, from there I could either go to the outside line or the diagonal line.  Guess who picked the wrong one?  Oh, and guess who chipped miserably into the wrong line, decided to turn the class into a schooling trip, circle through the middle of the ring, and then jump the wrong line again, only to get a little left behind in the air?  (Why I am admitting this to Tucker's international fan base I have no idea.  It is embarassing enough that everyone in the Monmouth County area knows I can't remember the order of eight fences.)  It was only upon landing from the second fence of the wrong line that I realized my mistake.  You should have heard Tucker on the way out of the ring!  "Do I have to do EVERYTHING?!  I find the distances, I figure out how to climb out of the impossible spots you get me into, I have to worry about looking cute and keeping my knees square and getting my lead changes!  All YOU have to do is point me at the right jump!  You had one job!  It is a good thing I love you, and there better be treats in that trailer lady!"   

After I finished laughing at myself, I had a drink of water and walked back in for my undersaddle.  He was wonderful in his hack.  Stretching down into a very loose frame, moving forward but very relaxed, and I was able to give him a loop in the rein but he stayed balanced.  We were 2nd, behind a horse who is a beautiful mover, so I was happy with that. 

Overall, we ended up reserve champion for the day.  Not a whole lot of competitors, and if there had been more we wouldn't have done as well given the mistakes I made, but I still got to take home some pretty ribbons -- can't argue with that!  I also ran into an old friend, who told me she's following the blog and was happy to see his eye is all better!  Tucker does love meeting his fans in person and it was such a treat for me to see her again. 

In other news... Tucker's fake tail arrived yesterday!  He's becoming a real honest-to-goodness fancy show hunter!  Now, to see if I can still braid well enough to hide it....


  1. I love how you can critique your course and decide what you want to do better on the next trip out then casually mention that you won the class. See, that? Would have been my lead-off ;)

    also, I know I have been out of the show hunters for about a decade (wow, I'm old enough to say that and not be exaggerating-- scary!), but when did THEY start using fake tails?? AQHA did that but sheesh, I didn't know the hunters were on the dark side... blasted hell, one more thing I'll need to purchase eventually...

  2. Rach, yes (!) -- fake tails have made their way to hunterland in a big way. You don't really see them much at the smaller local shows but at the bigger ones, almost everyone with a braided tail probably has one in. That didn't take as much getting used to for me though as the blunt cut bottoms. Used to be that you'd only see that on jumpers, but now it seems all the hunters have them. I will say though, that keeping his tail trimmed has really made it grow more.

  3. Marissa - I laughed at your description of Tucker giving you the business leaving the ring. :-) Fake tails?? I haven't heard of that....I will have to google it.

  4. You talk like my riding instructor, only she'd totally leave out the part about winning the division.

    Sheesh. You people and your humility. I'm just happy if I don't get bucked off.

  5. I love how you describe your rides. I feel like I am coming toward every fence, and I'm starting to understand the decisions the horse and rider team make in the hunt ring, which makes watching even MORE interesting to me. I've always watched and thought: WOW THAT LOOKS IMPOSSIBLE, AAAHHHHhhhhhh.

    Now I know why THAT LOOKS IMPOSSIBLE, and my Ahhhhhh has toned down quite a bit, because I'm so busy trying to understand what you are really facing. Cool!

    Congratulations!!! Oh, I think we horse people need to get with the program and think Spa World. They aren't fake tails! They're hair extensions! ;)

  6. OK I have picked myself up off the floor and wiped away my tears from laughing - Tucker you know you have to look after your dorky mum - she loves you and doesn't mean it! ;)

    Huge congrats for Reserve Champion!!!!


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