Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Come Visit Me at Sidelines!

My first blog post is up on the Sidelines blog site.  Very exciting!

Pretty new banner

I didn't repeat that post here because, well, you all already know me, but I know I've gotten some new readers lately thanks to the Heartthrobs (should I mention Ryan Reynolds when I win the first Pulitzer awarded to a blog?), so some of you may want to check it out.  Funny story:  When the layout was originally listed, my name was at the top as "Marissa Tucker."  Some cruel joke by the universe, a sign that I really do act like I'm married to this horse? 

As I mentioned last week, for now I am going to keep both blogs up and running and see how that goes.  I don't know how cumbersome it's going to be to post twice, but we'll see.  So, no need for you all to update your bookmarks just yet, but could I ask you a favor?  My dear, sweet, loyal readers?  If you're going to comment on something anyway, do you think you might comment over at Sidelines?  I'm the new kid on the block, you see, and I don't want them to think I'm unpopular (high school was bad enough).  So, if you're so inclined, maybe you could drop by there once in a while and leave me a note?  Would it help if I bat my eyelashes?  Would it help if Tucker bats his eyelashes?

Okay, okay.  There are more reasons to visit me at Sidelines, if that's not enough.  They have some great blogs, which are linked on mine.

The first is Chasin', and it's about foxhunting, steeplechasing, and eventing.  The pictures alone on that blog are amazing, and the stories are great.

Higher Education is a blog written by a college student who had a very successful junior career.  I can't wait to read more about that one, her horse is gorgeous.

Next is In the Irons, a very educational blog by Alan Korotkin, who runs Castlewood Farm in Wellington.  I love getting the trainer's perspective on horse showing and riding.

Injecting Perspective is an aptly-named blog written by a vet, Dr. Emerson, who has a lot of very insightful advice about the use of certain medications for performance horses and other related topics.  Read his post called "Uh Oh" about Gamma Aminobutyric acid, aka Carolina Gold. 

Lauren Gallops (great title) is an eventing blog by Lauren that I've been following for a while.  Another great read for those of you much braver than me who like to go really fast and jump really big things that don't move.

Then there is Pony Up, a blog about intercollegiate equestrian competition (or NCEA).  I have to say I'm a bit jealous.  I didn't ride much during the school year in college (apart from breaking a few very naughty welsh ponies here and there) and in hindsight I wish I had.

What's Happening is a blog that will tell you everything you need to know about -- you guessed it -- what's happening in the horse world.  I'm hooked already... this is my kind of news. 

And last, but hopefully not least?  Is me, at Tucker the Wunderkind

Enjoy the new reads, and thank you for coming with me on the new leg of the journey!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tucker's Dream Vacation

Tucker and I are farm-sitting at a gorgeous place that belongs to a friend of ours this weekend.  I gave him a pony for the next three days.

Meet "Fuzzy."

I've never seen my horse so happy in his entire life.

The video below is too cute for words.  Note that Tucker can barely keep up with Fuzzy, and Fuzzy did most of the instigating.  I wish I had caught it on film, at one point Fuzzy bucked and squealed right under Tucker's nose but couldn't even reach him.  Cuteness.  Overload. 

I believe this is what you call "frolicking." 

I am going to feel really, really, really badly on Sunday evening when I have to break the news to Tucker that he can't keep him.

Oh Jane dear, does this pony remind you of anyone in particular?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Big News: TTW Becomes a Sidelines Blog

Life is funny.  I never would have thought that the one thing that would have put TTW on the map and garnered media attention would be posting half-naked pictures of hot men saying things like "I love when you smell like DMSO" and "I re-rolled all your wraps for you," but so it is.  Honestly, I never thought my inappropriately strong affection for Ryan Reynolds would take me places. 

(As a sidenote, I now have nightmares where Ryan Reynolds himself calls me up to yell at me, because he's sick of people only caring about his rock hard abs and not his talent as an actor.  As a further sidenote, when I address him in these dreams, it is always by his full name, as in, "Oh, Ryan Reynolds, I'm so sorry I've made you a piece of meat to the entire equestrian community.  Please don't be mad Ryan Reynolds."  I can't make this stuff up.  Anyway, back to the point of this post....)

A couple of weeks ago I saw one of my Johnny Depp photos showed up on the Sidelines Magazine facebook page, and I commented on it, and thanked them for re-posting.  Well low and behold, Sidelines' News Editor contacted me, said she loves the Equestrian Heartthrobs, she'd love to do an article on Tucker and me, if I'd be willing, and would I be interested in becoming a Sidelines blogger?

You can guess my answer to all of that.  It was a big old, "HECK YES I WOULD!"

Last week I got going on my interview questions for the article, which will appear in the in-print magazine (I believe in the next issue, but I'm not sure).  I'm not giving any details away...  you'll have to get your hands on a copy and read it yourself!  It was a really fun process for me though, I will tell you that. 

To go with the article, I had Dom at A Collection of Madcap Escapades come out and do a photo shoot of Tucker and me.  Here is the one that will accompany the magazine article:

Didn't she make us look great?  She's the best!  More photos are posted on Dom's blog.  Check them out!  I'll be doing a post about the photo shoot next week, so stay tuned.  (Spoiler alert: Dom is awesome, and so is HERBIE!) 

So back to the big news.  Starting next week, Tucker the Wunderkind will officially become a Sidelines blog.  The content will remain the same:  I'll be posting about my riding, my experiences and my relationship with Tucker, as well as Hunter/Jumper news that interests me, and of course I'll still deliver a healthy dose of humor whenever possible. 

For now, I'm going to keep this blog up and running (as well as the TTW facebook page) and my posts will appear in two places.  I may at some point consolidate the blogs somehow, but I don't want to lose all the content that's already on here (obviously).  Haven't quite sorted out all the logistics of the virtual move yet, as it were.  I have to see how cumbersome it is to post in two places at once, and how the traffic is flowing to each site, and figure out how to preserve what's in the archives on here.  Maybe it will make more sense to keep both running.  We shall see.

I'll post a link to my Sidelines address once the blog is live there next week, so you can check it out.  Of course, in the meantime, you should go check out the Sidelines website and the other Sidelines blogs too.  I already follow "On the Line" pretty religiously but I've been checking out the others too, and they are awesome!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

... With One Hand Behind My Back

Last night after being "coaxed" (trust me, no arm twisting required) into a glass of red wine before my ride (have I mentioned how much fun I'm having at the new place?) I figured it might be a good night to do a "long and low" ride.... 

Tucker of course was happy to oblige and immediately took the reins from my hands and stetched his nose to the floor.  Such a good pony.  I was holding the reins in one hand, well in one finger actually, and figured I might as well work a little on my position while we poked around.  So I put my inside hand behind my back, to make myself more aware of my slouching.  You'll never believe this... but when I actually sit up where I'm supposed to, my horse stretches down even more.  Suddenly Jeff Cook's words were echoing in my head: good position isn't just important for its own sake, it's safer, it makes your aids more effective, and it makes your horse go better.  (I stand by what I've said, the man is a genius.)

After about 15 minutes of trotting around with one hand behind my back, noticing all the moments when I want to tip forward (mostly when I turn, for some reason -- circles, changes of direction, etc.) and working on stretching taller and deeper into my heels, I walked and got ready to canter.  Usually on long and low days I get up in my half seat or even a two-point to canter and let Tucker stretch beneath me, but I was sitting up so nicely at this point (for once) that I decided to try sitting down, making my legs long, and stretching up tall. 

Channeling my inner cowgirl, I kept my reins long and let Tucker keep stretching his nose down to the ground, and picked up my canter, sitting deep in the saddle and pulling my shoulders back.  Wouldn't you know, it was lovely.  He stretched down, his back got round, and he tracked up from behind.  I concentrated on stetching tall and sitting around him, and wrapping him around my inside leg without twisting my upper body. 

There were moments of absolute brilliance.  (Of course, no one was there to see it, but take my word.)  We felt balanced, and light, and together.  Who knew that actually sitting up like you're supposed to could make such a difference?

If you have a tendency, like me, to slouch or round your shoulders, or tilt to one side, or twist your torso [I do ALL of these things], I highly recommend starting off your ride with one hand behind your back.  It will really help!  As for whether the effects will last... well, YMMV.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tucker the Wunderkind and the Blustery Day

Winnie the Pooh: Happy "Winds-day", Piglet.
Piglet: [being blown away] Well... it isn't... very happy... f-for me.
Winnie the Pooh: Where are you going, Piglet?
Piglet: That's what I'm asking myself, where? [he is lifted into the air by a gust of wind]
Piglet: W-Whoops! P-P-P-Pooh!
Winnie the Pooh: [grabbing Piglet's scarf] And what do you think you will answer yourself?
-- A. A. Milne
Tucker and I took our first lesson in what seems like forever this past weekend and it was a rather blustery day, as Pooh would say.  As the barn rattled and whined and creaked around us while I tacked up, it was all I could do to assure Tucker, now transformed into a 7-foot-tall version of P-P-P-Piglet, that he would not, in fact, be lifted into the air by a gust of wind.  To his credit, he held it together extremely well despite 45 mph winds making everything in sight shiver and quiver, knocking poles off their jumps, making leaves dance at his feet, and generally making it difficult for a horse to maintain his gentleman-like composure.

Since he started off a bit fresh we did lots and lots of flat work.  Counterbending, collecting and extending the trot, leg yielding, and shoulder-in at the trot.  We worked on keeping the lateral movements very slow, since he wanted to rush (his tendency even without the wind), and straight.  Then we did a LOT of counter-canter, because I explained to Lindsay, the instructor, that I am still (or once again?) struggling with his lead changes.

I've always felt like counter-canter doesn't really get to the root of our problem even though lots of trainers have suggested it as a good tool to help with the changes.  Tucker is so well-balanced that it's easy for him though, and I don't feel like it gets to the real issue, which isn't about his balance or strength, it's that he over-anticipates the lead change, stiffens and braces, making it impossible for him to get the back half of the change because he's leaning on my hand and disengaged. 

The good news is, I think we've finally learned an exercise that will actually help.  Lindsay had me work on holding the counter-canter but changing to an inside bend for a stride, then a couple of strides, then five strides, then half the circle, etc.  I think this is going to be an invaluable tool for me.  Every time I changed the bend at first, Tucker started anticipating a change and doing his propping and hopping and bracing routine, and Lindsey would have me switch back to the outside bend, get him soft again, and repeat.  We didn't get him to the point where he would do it seemlessly, but we're going to keep working on it.  Eventually, this should get him waiting to hear from me about whether or not I want a lead change, instead of anticipating and getting himself turned all upside down and backwards.

Not surprisingly given the wind, when we started to jump Tucker was uncharacteristically strong.  We worked on lots of single fences, making him turn and circle afterward and keep thinking all the time (as opposed to landing and barreling toward the end of the ring like a freight train).  We also worked on landing and, if he was on the outside lead, establishing a good, soft, counter-canter before asking for a simple change, rather than letting him canter around unbalanced and dragging me on the "wrong" lead.  He was also diving right over a lot of the fences (something tells me this is a build-up of pilot error since he used to dive left) so we worked on opening my left rein in the air and making him think about his turn rather than his own agenda.  Once he was doing that softly and landing on whichever lead I asked for, we quit on that note. 

All in all, a very productive lesson.  Then I flatted Kathleen's horse Tuck afterward, who feels absolutely marvelous these days, and somehow dragged myself home.  By the time I fed my cats and myself, I could barely walk (does this mean I'm getting old???).  I swear, everything hurt, from my feet to my fingertips (though given how sore my back and my core were, I'm taking it as a good sign that I was at least doing something right).  All I can say is, thank goodness for Sore-No-More!! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Funny: Silly Horse Tricks

Horse Junkies United originally posted this video and I think it's too cute for words. 

I love seeing the "behind the scenes" side of WEF.  Nice to know these superstar horses have adorable personalities and little quirks, just like our guys.  Reminds me of the ridiculous column in US Weekly "Stars, They're Just Like Us!" where they show you that Reese Witherspoon knows how to cross the street and Channing Tatum eats lunch.  (Okay I was kind of surprised to learn that Prince Harry shops at Walmart. I'll give them that.)  Note:  I only read US Weekly in an ironic sense, I don't have a secret celebrity gossip addiction, at all.  I'm far to intellectual for such things.  Obviously. 

I digress.  HJU is having a contest and asked their facebook fans to submit their own funny horse videos.  Check out their facebook page for more laughs, and submit your own.  I may have to try to get a video of Tucker doing his tricks.  It won't win any contests but it sure is cute!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Equestrian Jon Bon Jovi

Yup, I'm a Jersey girl, and I needed cheering up this week, and... well... this is just... you see... I mean, I can't even....  well I guess the pic below just speaks for itself.  Wowsa.

I feel like we should send a letter of thanks to the good people at Versace....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tucker and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Week

It's me.  (Tucker.)

Last week was a lonely week for me.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad.  Every day I got turned out with my new buddy Atticus, and the grass is really getting tasty.  Everyone at my new farm is really nice to me, especially Auntie Kathleen.  I even have a little girl who rides me sometimes, and she and her mom tell me how sweet I am.  I like them. 

But every night I waited to hear the sound of mom's heels in the aisle, coming to give me a kiss before she goes and changes into the clothes I like better (the ones that are good for riding and smell like me)... but no Mom.  I heard the people saying she was sick (I hoped it wasn't colic).  I heard the people say something was wrong with my truck (the one that pulls my trailer).  Then I heard the people say that one of my mother's humans died, and my heart just broke because I knew Mom really needed me, and without my truck, how would she get here?  It was a very bad week for me.  I was sick with worry.

When Mom finally did arrive, she found me in my stall and flung her arms around my neck, and started making the saddest sounds, just like little puppies do, and then I realized her face was doing that leaking thing that she only does when she is really sad. She told me it had been the absolute worst week of her life.  Maybe she was exaggerating, but I'm sure it must have been awful, having so many bad things happen and no Tucker to make her feel better.  So I started nuzzling and grooming and rubbing my face on her and then started searching her pockets and pulling her zippers until she was smiling again.  It didn't take long.

The first time she rode me I could tell she was distracted.  She was barely even looking where we were going, just staring down at me and giving me half-hearted instructions.  I tried to get her to concentrate.  I went too slow, I went too fast, and pretty soon she starting to talk to me.  Whenever I felt like her mind was wandering back to all those sad things, I'd move my shoulders to the right or move my haunches to the left and before long she was really riding again.  By the time we were done all her muscles were still tense but I could see in her face that she felt a little bit better.  She'd be good as new in a couple of days.

But the next time she got to the barn, she was even worse.  She came to get me in turnout and although she tried to put on a happy face (the sight of me grazing in an emerald green field with the sun shining down on me will make anyone smile), I could tell she was really upset.  I kept looking her in the eye all the way to the barn, trying to figure out what was wrong.  Finally, she told me we were supposed to go to a clinic with Jeff (Mom and I love Jeff, he is really nice and Mom always rides great after we see him), but we couldn't go because my truck still wasn't working and the time for the clinic had changed and we couldn't get a ride. 

I knew what I had to do.  I practically dragged her out to the outdoor ring.  And from the very first step to the very last one, I was brilliant (if I do say so myself).  Whatever she asked me for, I gave her a little more.  I pulled out all the stops.  I anticipated her every move.  I was straight, I was forward, I was relaxed, I was focused.  I even gave her the good canter (and that's a lot of work).  I've known mom a long time now, and I knew it was the only way I was going to cheer her up.

It worked.  After she rode she was in such a good mood that she washed my legs, she organized her trunk, she cleaned my tack, and she pulled my mane (the last part I didn't really enjoy, but I didn't complain because Mom was smiling again).  Before she put me away, she kissed my face and asked me, "How did I get so lucky to have a horse like you?" 

I think both of us are pretty lucky.