Monday, April 27, 2015

One of Those Days

Before I even got on yesterday, we had three things working against us.

1.  I let Tucker touch noses with Libbie, a beautiful mare with whom he is completely enamored.   She did not squeal, but pricked her pretty little ears and batted her doe eyes at him.  And then she left and went back to the barn.  And he was left with two emotions: (1) distraught, and (2) forlorn. Neither of those emotions translate into a horse with a good work ethic.

2.  I tried to pretend I'm a normal person, not a horse person, for three whole days.  One of my favorite people was visiting from out of town, this weekend was Shad Fest, and we had a birthday party to attend.  These events meant Tucker got three consecutive days off, and I was feeling a little tired, a little dehydrated (ahem) and a little drained. 

3.  I got on with a Plan.  Every horse person knows you should never, ever, get on with a Plan.

Sometimes that metaphor kicks you in the metaphorical butt.
So I picked up my trot and tried to stretch him out long and low.  And I got rooting the reins, and dragging his feet, and falling on the forehand.  If that trot could have made a noise, it would have gone "kerplunk."  

I tried to work him out of that, but when I realized it was a lost cause, I picked up my contact.  He started off with a trot that was kind of ho-hum, and I moved on to the next piece of my plan, transitions within the trot, on a circle (the numbers game).  We could go down to two, up to six.  More trot than than that was a negative. When I pushed him forward he cantered.  Since it wasn't a bad transition and a halfway decent canter, I didn't complain too much.  Three days off, he's a little out of it, whatever.  Right?

We did some more trot work and since I was getting nowhere and he was starting to hang on my left rein, I went to work on our haunches-in left (also part of my grand and glorious Plan).  This is when the fun really began.  We were working on the quarter line heading straight toward the in-gate/barn.  My plan was to start straight, then haunches-in, straight, haunches-in again.  Try to loosen him up a bit.  Unfortunately, that meant that Tucker could not bend himself around to the right and stare at the barn, where his lost lady love had gone.  

He planted his feet.  He snaked his neck.  He grabbed the reins out of my hands and yanked me around.  He spun.  He threatened to rear.  He bunny hopped.  He ran backwards.  He almost fell down (twice).  He pretty much did everything except for what I was asking, which was about eight steps of a haunches-in (which of course would have taken much less effort than all of his antics).

If you didn't know Tucker like I do, you'd think the answer to this would be to use that long thing in your hand that people use for motivating horses to go forward (duh), and you'd think you need to keep a firm grip on the reins so he can't yank them out of your hands.  And you'd think you needed to be stern and forceful and make him see things your way. But you'd be wrong, unless your goal was to create a completely unraveled and panicked animal who now needed to be worked until dark.  No idea why he's like that, but he can get himself worked up about something in a nano-second if you don't handle him the right way.

I think I handled it okay, although I wonder if it had happened in a lesson if we would have gotten through it sooner.  I didn't get nervous (most of it was in slow motion anyway) and I didn't get mad.  I was tactful, and kept trying different things to get through to him (small circles, change direction, little figure eights -- all of which looked hideous because he was like an eel on four legs).  I kept my hands soft, I waved my whip when I thought I could get away with it (although tapping him once sent him running sideways so as I thought, that doesn't work).  And when I realized we were just spinning our wheels, I left it alone and did a few trot circles, asking for a left bend with similar aids, and then asked for another haunches-in.  When he basically did it (not perfect, but close) and didn't pitch a fit, I moved on.  We'll work on it another day.

I googled "eel horse."  You're welcome.
The nice thing was that I came out of this and came across the diagonal and I could feel after all the more collected/concentrated work we were doing, he wanted to extend his trot.  Since going more forward wasn't something he'd ever offer voluntarily before, that's a sign of progress in an otherwise not so great ride.

We did some canter work, where I focused on my position and just left him alone for a bit.  His canter was decent and I felt like he loosened up when I did some transitions, so I thought I'd try some leg yields and see if I could get his right hind stepping over that way, since the haunches-in had been such a disaster.  

I have no idea why I thought that.  In fact I bet you all know exactly where this is headed.  We went back to having a hissy fit and almost fell down.  Again.  All I wanted was a leg yield right to left, staying straight on both reins.  Not exactly an overly demanding physical exercise, and something he's able to do well, but apparently incredibly offensive to him yesterday.  Again I kept breathing, tried not to carry any tension in my arms, did small circles and asked again.  He did it eventually. And I resisted the urge to make him do it ten more times.  

All in all, just not the ride I wanted.  I pretty much understand why it wasn't a great ride and I don't think these are permanent or unfixable issues, but it left me feeling even more tired and cranky than I was.  I mentioned to Ethan while I was cooking dinner that Tucker was terrible and he said, "oh so that's why you're acting like this," to which I barked, "LIKE WHAT."  He slowly retreated to the living room and read me the Rolex results.  He is a good man.

Tucker seems really upset about it, too.  Here's how he's spending his day today:

Good thing they're pretty.


  1. Ethan and Brent could start a support group. They're learned to ask "how was your horse?" before "how was your day?" because obviously only one of those answers matters.

    I laughed through this because I have SOOOOOO had that ride and I feel better knowing that even the irrepressible Tucker is occasionally a dweeb. Too bad we don't have video evidence to compare. That would really be something.

  2. Oh Tucker. Be good to your Mom! Sorry it was a tough ride, but it sounds like you handled it well. It's so tough sometimes to not get frustrated with them when they suddenly decide they Just. Can't Horse. Hope the next ride is a better one!

  3. LIKE WHAT. Hahahaha. That is my trademark move! I bet your next ride will be a ton better though :)

  4. Oh man. The perfect storm! I have so been there. And having a "Plan" for your ride is just the icing on the cherry! Good for you for salvaging what you could!

  5. 'an eel on four legs' - yep sounds about right!! nice job staying patient and working through it... it really drives me bananas when horses dash all my carefully laid plans but i still apparently haven't taken the hint yet either lol

  6. Tisk tisk Tucker!!

    'Dehydrated' lol

  7. Ohhhh man. Both my horses have those days. It sounds like you did a fantastic job handling it. A lot of people would have gotten off and cried/made the working student deal with it, ha!

  8. "A Plan" and "dehydrated" and "eel horse". Bwahahahahahahahaha. Bravo for redirecting and not getting upset!


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