I don't think I've explained this to you guys yet but one of Tucker's just absolutely adorable and really, truly, endearing quirks [note sarcasm] is that he is terrified of groundhogs. To you and me they are fluffy, fat, bucktoothed little garden-destroyers, but to Tucker, they are deadly.
|I will destroy everything you love.|
Don't ask me why groundhogs are Enemy #1. It's not just the rustling in the bushes either. Squirrels, rabbits, foxes, birds, and deer are not a problem. Just groundhogs. I don't know if they have a particular smell? Or maybe the way they move? Or perhaps Tucker had some kind of bad experience that he doesn't like to talk about?
|You've been warned.|
So there's apparently a groundhog family in the bushes next to our outdoor ring. Which means Tucker is basically incapable of rational thought when being ridden in said ring. I had the same problem in the ring at our last farm, last summer. I may lose my patience and get him a pet groundhog that lives in his stall until he learns to deal. Or I might set up target practice, too soon to say.
Last night I started off our ride thinking I'd focus on how my pelvis is tilting at the walk and try to follow his movements so I could replicate it during the canter, based on something I read from Denny Emerson (log in to facebook to view). Tucker decided that instead I'd focus on staying on him while he RAN SIDEWAYS LIKE A TERRIFIED GIRAFFE.
|Prepare to die.|
Since we couldn't handle use of the whole ring, and the footing was kind of meh anyway because of all the rain, I limited our ride to a 20-meter circle. We did LOTS of walk work, which was actually pretty productive. Free/lengthened walk, medium walk, lateral work, walk-halt-walk. Then I asked for a rein back and I blew his little horsie brain. I assume it was groundhog-related.
I don't know why the rein back triggered full on meltdown mode, but if I had to guess, I'd say he decided I was asking for something he had filed in the "too hard" category so spooking at the bushes for the remainder of the ride was a vastly superior alternative. (I'm going to do some reading up on the correct aids for a rein back and I'll share that with you guys as well.) The rein back really did improve the quality of his walk each time, but I spent the rest of the ride periodically growling at him when he decided to throw his head in the air and suck back in either feigned or real terror at the bushes.
|It's us against them.|
I ended dripping in sweat but we actually had some really good quality work in between his moments of sheer stupidity. There were times when he was really connected and straight, even though he obviously wasn't happy about it. There were also moments where he ran sideways, or wrenched the reins out of my hands, or needed a pony-kid-esque boot in the sides to go forward.
But I guess we take what we can get. On the plus side, I was able to sit the trot for the entire ride, and I am starting to get a feel for the round forward trot that is comfortable to sit, vs. the trot that's too disconnected to sit comfortably. (Note to self: do not slow the horse down to sit the trot.) His canter work was actually pretty good, but I think by that point I had just broken his spirit.
|This Mayor probably agrees with Tucker.|
Some nights you have to just quit on a "mildly improved" note instead of a "good" note, which we did. Pretty sure Tucker went back to his pasture mates saying "I don't know WHAT that b&%ch's problem was tonight." We'll just have to try again tomorrow.
p.s. - I owe you posts about the gaited show. I'm having some media difficulties but I promise I'll get them up at some point. Next week there's not much going on anyway, so tabling that series might work out just fine.