Duncraven is only 15 minutes away from my barn, so even though we were the second division of the day, it wasn't as crack-of-dawn of a morning as it could have been. I got to the farm, hooked up the truck and trailer in the early morning light, and got to work bathing my horse while he ate his breakfast:
Then I parked Tucker in front of the fan and loaded up my tack, then got him loaded (after a brief discussion where Tucker insisted he no longer fit in the trailer and needed me to open the divider... apparently he's got body image issues?) and headed down the road. We got to the show with exactly enough time to go to the office, check in at the ring, give Tucker five minutes on the lunge line, and get Alicia on and warmed up. Alicia did the first class, where Tucker was fabulous - calm, quiet, relaxed, jumping well, getting his changes - and then I hopped on, trotted and cantered a few times around the schooling ring, jumped 2 verticals and headed to the ring. I love that my horse doesn't need a lot of prep. Schooling rings make me nervous. Two good jumps and ready to go? My kind of warm-up.
The first class started with a single vertical on the diagonal, off the left lead, coming toward the in-gate. Entered, trotted down the longside and picked up my canter in the corner, and got a nice relaxed and forward rhythm, and he jumped it right out of stride. He landed left, gave me a fabulous clean lead change, and then it was up the outside line in six strides. I moved up a little coming out of the turn so we jumped in a little bit big, so I knew I had to wait a little. I fit in the five, but I should have waited the first three strides upon landing, and then softened for the last three. Instead I did the opposite -- did nothing for three strides until I saw where I was in the line, and then waited the last three. Not the worst thing in the world, but he jumps better when I'm not waiting to the base of the jump. I remembered to weight my outside stirrup in the air over the second fence though, so he landed right.
Next was a seven on the diagonal off the right lead, coming back toward home. We jumped in well, and then Tucker seemed to think we were either jumping a different fence or going to go around the second fence, cause he had his eye on something else and veered a little right, and I had to steer him back to center a little. Not the prettiest line in the world, but we worked it out. He landed left, and then it was another six on the other outside, going away from home. I remembered to sit through this turn and keep him coming forward (the in-gate was singing her siren song to him in the corner right in front of the outside line). The distance was going to be a little long coming in, but I didn't lean up my horse's neck and pray, instead I closed my leg, sat deeper, stretched taller, and made a decision. Amazing how that works isn't it? Then I remembered I'd have to settle in the line, so I just eased off my pace a little and he fit the six in perfectly. He landed right and gave me a great right-to-left lead change. Last fence was a tiny little birch jump with a hay bale under it (seriously, was no bigger than 2'6") so I just had to make myself be really, really, patient on the long approach to it and let Tucker find his distance. He was totally unimpressed and cantered right over it, but at least the distance was good. And he landed right. Good boy. All in all, a couple minor errors but not a bad trip.
I was equally happy with the second trip. First fence was a single vertical on the diagonal off the right lead, but it was set at a wonky angle so you had to go up the long side, then turn right even before you reached the center line of the ring to get to it. I looked at it over my shoulder though, and it was a nice big ring, so the turn was really smooth and worked out nicely. Unfortunately, the distance somehow got a little tighter than I had originally thought, and in hindsight I probably should have sent him forward and asked for one less. I think because of the short turn, I didn't get the same forward canter that I've been getting to my first fence in other classes. Then we landed right, and missed the second half of the change and he had to catch up a few strides late. Not totally egregious, but certainly not ideal.
The rest of the trip was great though. The next line was the outside in six, past the in-gate, I sat through the turn and sent him forward and this time the distance worked out even more nicely to the in. Then it was the long approach to the little birch jump on the diagonal, and again I just stayed patient on the mile-and-a-half it took to get there and we found a good distance (though once again he was underwhelmed by the jump), and this time he landed right (smart cookie). Then it was the outside line in six in front of the judge, and this time I worked it out much better and asked him to wait sooner so that I could be softer jumping out. He landed right, cantered really softly around the end of the ring, and then I went to my last line, the seven on the diagonal off the right lead, coming toward home. This time my goal was just to make the line be straighter. I think, in doing so, I collected his canter a little too much, because I ended up adding on the way in, but it wasn't a bad jump, and I was able to very softly, without chasing, move him up in the line by softening my hand and closing my leg, so that the seven worked out beautifully, and it was much, much straighter. He landed left and we finished with a nice closing circle.
Then we had a few minutes to hang out by the ring before our undersaddle and ran into a good friend of mine who snapped this really
Don't you love how my horse can stand with all four feet
pointed in a different direction? At least he's shiny :)
pointed in a different direction? At least he's shiny :)
Tucker hacked beautifully, soft, and flowing, and quiet, reaching down through his neck and back, nice big trot, big lofty canter... and he won it! What a good boy. I was so proud.
When we were all done I tried to get him to pose with his ribbons but he said he was too embarrassed and didn't want me posting photos on the blog of him wearing his helmet:
"Tucker will you come out of there please?"
"Oh c'mon, what's the matter?"
"Everybody's going to make fun of me cause I have to wear a helmet."
"Will you please just let me get one shot of you with the ribbons?"
"Fine. But I'm not happy about it."
I gave it some thought on the drive home, and realized that my horse did exactly every single little thing I asked him to do at that horse show. I really couldn't have asked for more. What a little super star he is.