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:
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:
HITS, July 2009
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:
From my visit with him last year: