Tucker, aka Moon River, aka the Wunderkind

Wunderkind: [voon-der-kind, wuhn- Ger. voon-duhr-kint]
          — n, pl -kinds, -kinder
          1. a child prodigy
          2. a person who is exceptionally successful in his field while still young

Tucker is a 12 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding that I've had since he was about 5 months old (though I've known him his whole life).  I met Tucker back in 2002, when I had just graduated college and was working at Cedar Brook Farm in Connecticut.  Tucker was born on May 4, 2002, the day of the Kentucky Derby, so we started off calling him Kentucky, which became Tuck, and from there, Tucker just seemed to stick. 

His show name is Moon River, so named because the year that I met him I was too broke for cable, and watched a lot of movies, one of which was Breakfast at Tiffany's.  The lyrics seemed to fit us:

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end --
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

(It still makes me tear up if I think about it too hard.  What a sap.  Man I love this horse so much.)

As a baby, he'd wait at the front of his stall and call for me when I came out of the house in the morning (he had a clear shot of my front door), and hang his head over the fence to watch me teach little kids on ponies all afternoon.  Sometimes I'd turn him out in the indoor while I cleaned tack at lunchtime, and he'd jump the little jumps and stare at himself in the mirror, and come trotting right up to me when I came in to get him, just like his dad used to do.  He slowly became the best part of my day.  Then, when I started preparing to leave for law school, something just tugged at me and I knew I couldn't leave him.  So, there went all the money I had saved, and when I moved back to New Jersey, Tucker came with me.

I found a great baby farm for him about an hour away from school, and every Sunday I drove out to see him.  He knew my car, and he'd gallop along the fence line and meet me at the gate as soon as he saw me coming down the road.  Those Sundays got me through law school.  I started riding him the summer he turned two, at the advice of my vet, who said, "This one's going to be real big.  You better get on him now.  He's gonna be a monster at three."  We mostly went on walking trail rides, met some cows, saw some bicycles, and occasionally I'd throw in a little ring work, just enough to introduce the basic walk/trot/canter concepts.  He was immediately willing and quiet and very smart.  Looking back, that summer is still my favorite time with him.

Once I started a real job and could actually afford a trainer, we bounced around to a couple of different boarding barns.  For the first couple of early years in the little Beginner Hunter show ring, we weren't progressing very quickly, though Tucker always tried his best.  He's always been willing to jump anything I point him at and rarely spooks, and I can count on one hand the times he's bucked undersaddle (*knocks wood*).  When we first starting jumping, though, he didn't understand how to collect his huge stride, and lead changes were a source of total anxiety for him.  There were some days when I'd scratch my head and wonder if I was ever going to learn to ride this horse?  I loved him to death...  so my fingers were crossed. 

Then I boarded at a barn where Alicia Madretzke was freelancing for a bit, and when Alicia opened her own farm, I boarded with her for a couple of years.  Alicia really helped us finish off a very solid foundation.  We learned to collect, fixed some major straightness issues, improved our flat work, and figured out how to do lead changes.  My confidence also improved.  Alicia was a kind, patient teacher and rider, and Tucker and I both really learned a lot from her.  While training with Alicia, we moved up from the 2'6" Pre-Adult Hunters to the 3' Adult Amateur Hunters. 

Then the show scene got to be a little too much for me, and we started forging our own path.  We went about a year without taking regular lessons, though we did still attend clinics whenever someone I really admire was in the area.  I started thinking for myself a lot more, figuring out what's best for my horse, and really enjoying the ride again.  We did lots of trail riding (one particular trail adventure led to me falling in love with Ethan, my wonderful boyfriend who has a Paso Fino that we call Mooch).

At some point thereafter, Tucker and I stumbled upon the world of dressage, and after a solid year climbing up a difficult learning curve, we started showing at Training Level.  Tucker was a superstar.  We placed 3rd at our Championship show and 4th overall for the year in ESDCTA.  I am loving this new part of our journey.  He has always been such a clever and willing partner, and learning to make him use himself in new ways and be his strongest, healthiest, best self has been really wonderful for both of us.  We are excited for the road ahead!

So that's our story...  and here are some of my favorite pictures of Tucker:

Gangly yearling!:

3 years old, his first summer of real "work":

One of our very first jumping attempts:

4 years old, cute as a button:

6 years old, starting to look like a grown up:

Low Adult Hunters, 2008

HITS, July 2009

HITS, 2009

Adult Amateur Hunters, St. Christopher's, 2010

HITS, July 2010

Clinic, 2011

He has no concept of human vs. horse spaces:

He loves cats, dogs, ponies, and just about anything small and fluffy:

I think we make the perfect couple:

He jumps great:

And he's a pretty nice mover too:

And these days, he's starting to look like a real dressage horse:

You can't help but fall in love with him right?  (Okay, maybe I'm a bit biased.)

And here are some pics of Tucker's daddy, Keizer, one of my favorite horses of all time:

2 years old, at the Stallion Inspection in Holland:

From back in the day, when I was his groom:

A photo from his current mommy:

From my visit with him last year:

And here is Tucker's mom, and Tucker's sister Lily, who is a year younger than he is:

Thanks for following along on the journey with us!