Thursday, February 26, 2015

Competing against yourself

Even though I am a super competitive person who loves to win, when I horse show, I try to focus on competing against myself.  That is to say, I want to perform to the best of my and my horse's current abilities and not worry about what anyone else is doing.  Today, Tucker took the "competing against yourself" idea to a different place, and decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to show Paige that he can go really fast and jump the jumps from this far away

It's like the racehorse in him finally came out.  He was annoyed he didn't get to go home after the hack, so some sort of light bulb went off in his head and he decided to get the courses over with as quickly as possible.  If there was a 2'6 hunter speed round, he would have won.  In his head, these were the accolades he was going to get.

2015 WEF 2'6 steeplechase champion

In reality, he was doing a normal, non-timed hunter division in which leaving out strides and going for the long jump is not particularly rewarded.

What actually happened
Poor Paige who has a real job riding real horses who have better things to do than play make believe was relegated to trotting into the lines and doing the adds in an effort to tame the beast.  I would equate it with taking a break from your job co-authoring papers with PhD candidates to play checkers with a kindergartener who ignores the rules and declares victory.  I plan to give him a long talking-to tomorrow and ask if he wants to be a jumper when he grows up.  He certainly has that option, but I don't know if he understands that he would still not be allowed to go as fast as he wants, when he wants.  I have a feeling he is a hunter at heart and was just trying to show Paige how cool he is.  Note to Tucker:  uncool.  Significantly uncool.  What was even less cool was GETTING ALL OF HIS LEADS TODAY.  I mean, yes, that is progress, but it would have been great if he could have done that yesterday during his beautiful non-steeplechasing trips.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Make Me

Tucker is pretty much the Jerry Maguire of horses and hates being alone.  We ride alone ALL OF THE TIME at home so this only applies to new venues, and honestly only to *some* new venues.  He decided WEF was one of these places.  Fair enough, as this is a totally overwhelming place.  Paige rode him to the showground on Monday and this is how they were in the driveway.
Not an actual photo
He had apparently used his vast mental resources to realize that once he left the driveway, he would have to go somewhere else.  This is what he thought of that.
Note the standing on the hind legs and the frown on Paige's face
Rearing is one of those things that goes in the category of "do anything but that," so they had a bit of a come to Jesus moment and proceeded to the show, safely through the TOD (tunnel of doom).  They flatted a bit in one area due to it having a horse present when it was decided they should go to the ring where they would actually be showing.  Cue Tucker standing on his back legs.  They had, ahem, another discussion and then did some flatwork before taking the long, lonely road home from Pony Island.  Pony Island refers to rings 11 and 12, because they are a bit buffered from the rest of the show and they are the pony rings on the weekend.  A frequent loudspeaker announcement when people decide to school their churlish horses there amongst the ponies is "NO HORSES ON PONY ISLAND."  Don't worry, churlish horses are accepted there during the week.  Anyways, there is a bridle path directly there that does not involve the TOD, but it is not as well attended and thus also not a favorite of Tucker's.  They made it home and I hope Paige had several margaritas.
We both wondered if these shenanigans would repeat and he would be spending the week in the $20 schooling ring instead of showing, but he was a good boy schooling yesterday which meant this number was getting some use.
Yes, there are over 7000 horses here and showing
She was able to show first thing this morning and the report back is he was a very good boy.  He has struggled with his left to right lead change and they had several nice changes that way, while he managed to flub his right to left changes.  This is not surprising; when Tucker is focusing on a new skill he tends to temporarily lose an old skill.  He marched around like a brave horse, didn't have any holy sh*t distances and got down the lines easily.  He'll show again tomorrow and then get a more relaxing weekend.

The loneliest horse ever
Perhaps the best part is Tucker got to go home, take a shower and then go outside for the rest of the day.  Living the dream, that one.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Good Life

Tucker handled his trip very well and I can only imagine he was thrilled to see grass and roll.  Did I mention that in addition to grass, the paddocks even have white sand that was specifically brought in for the horses to roll?  Obviously he prefers the gray/black sand that is naturally there.  Monty (boyfriend) went over and FaceTimed with me so I could see Tucker was doing just fine.  I arrived the next night and found this very happy face.
 I couldn't figure out why my photos were all blurry... my camera lens was filthy.  Oops.
I woke up on Saturday to gorgeous blue skies and no snow, potholes or traffic.  Heaven, in other words.  In many ways, WEF is much like any other horse show, just bigger and longer.  What is truly unique is the seemingly never-ending farms and farmettes in the surrounding areas, all connected by bridle paths and each more beautiful than the one before.  This weekend, I was primarily walking or driving a truck, both of which I find less than ideal for inconspicuously taking photos.  For the rest of the trip, I will have a golf cart, ideal for creeping.
Tucker got his first bath since October and his more obvious clipping lines miraculously disappeared with a good scrubbing.  Once dolled up, we went for a stroll to the horse show which is much less than a half a mile away.

He was a really good boy until we got to the Tunnel of Doom, as it is now known.  This is about a hundred yard long path that is flanked by tall hedges on both sides, and each hedge has a private ring on the other side.  In other words, there are horses that can barely be seen but clearly heard on the other side of the hedges.  On top of that, when nervous, Tucker *hates* to be by himself.  We found ourselves alone about 20 yards into the tunnel when he had a meltdown and did his best to convince me we should go home.  There were some dramatic moments on his hind legs and we were at an impasse where I refused to go his way and he refused to go my way.  Thankfully a horse came in and the rider was very gracious when I asked to follow her, even asking if she could bring me to a particular ring.  At the other end of the tunnel, Tucker's mind was completely blown when he realized we were at a horse show.  I believe this solidified his opinion that the tunnel is some sort of bizarre portal that takes you from a trail ride to a horse show. 

The shape of his tongue shows how he feels about returning to the barn

He also had a get-to-know-you ride with Paige and they got along well.  That evening I went to the grand prix Monty, combining one of my favorite activities with my favorite person.  On Sunday, Tucker and I did a hand-walk to the show again with much less drama.
Checking out the hunter rings
I rode him at home for just a little bit to conserve his energy, and then put on my big girl pants and went on a ride to the show with the distinct strategy of "follow someone" in mind.  This worked out well on the walk over and less well on the walk home, where I had to casually circle near the tunnel's entrance until someone came along.  This was made more tricky by the fact that there is an adjacent path going to other stabling areas, but soon enough someone came along to (unbeknownst to them) rescue me.
Although Tucker had been balky at a few places along the way, he did not spook at any of the tents, trucks, golf carts, flags and all of the mayhem that comes with having 12 rings going at once.  He did consistently give this mailbox the hairy eye, though.  Please keep in mind it is identical to all of the others on the street.
Tucker capped off his day with a sample of hydroponic home-grown barley sprouts because the barn owner truly provides phenomenal care for her horses.  I had to say a sad good-bye to him and Monty for a few days while I return to the tundra and my job.
Thanks to everyone for their kind words and Allison for her link (go say hi to her and Dino at .  Tucker would like to tell you all to be careful near hedges and to watch out for rogue mailboxes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Truck day!

One of the more bizarre rituals in Boston is Red Sox Truck Day.  This is a day in February where a truck leaves Fenway Park for spring training carrying all of the team equipment.  Exactly zero players or coaches attend, there are no giveaways or anything, and yet, people take the day off of work to stand in frigid temperatures and watch a TRUCK go down the road.  This is how desperate people are to know that spring will eventually arrive.

Wednesday was finally Tucker's actual truck day.  After a 5am wake-up call, I got to enjoy a lovely sunrise.  
 I still think the sun rising over palm trees will be a better sight

The tractor trailer he would eventually get on cannot get around the side roads with our current snow drifts, so smaller vans were sent to pick everyone up.  Tucker marched right on and proceeded to introduce himself to his neighbor via a game of face tag.  

It is a 28-30 hour drive even without having to reload onto the bigger truck, and this is ending up as a 36 hour+ trip since several farms didn't have their driveways shoveled (side note:  it hadn't snowed in over 48 hours, which is currently saying a lot.  Who doesn't remove snow from their driveway when they know they have a shipper coming?!).  My shipper was very kind and upgraded Tucker to a box stall to help ease the stress.  He looks so happy that I am now tempted to splurge for the box stall on the way home.  Thoughts?  He can rest for as long as he'd like when he gets back home, but it seems so much healthier for him to be able to lower his head and walk around.  That said, the cost is double.

His photo from last night (sorry for the poor quality) shows a very bright eyed and possibly punch drunk Tucker.  This morning's shot showed an equally healthy horse who was wondering if this trip was ever going to end.  He will get in this evening and have a few days to enjoy a Florida vacation.  Depending on how he does, he will start showing in some low classes with his pro next week.

I have two dogs, a Great Dane named Zeus and a Boston Terrier named Bolt.  Bolt is not a morning dog.  While Zeus gleefully accompanied me to the barn and had a fabulous doggy play date in the heated indoor, complete with a jolly ball, Bolt stayed in bed.  I got home a little after noon and this is what I found.

Me too, Bolt.  Me too.

I am off to Wellington tomorrow night for the weekend and am very excited to be reunited with my pony and my boyfriend.  Let the games begin. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Snowed in and stir crazy

Tucker was supposed to leave for Florida early this morning, but we got another 16 inches of snow yesterday so everyone needed a day to dig out.  As you can see from my patio, there is the small problem of where to put the snow once shoveled.  
What 85" of snow in less than 3 weeks looks like
I got word from the shippers late this morning that we may not get out tomorrow since some of the other barns are not dug out.  The only problem with this is that it is supposed to snow tomorrow and possibly Wednesday, so if these barns can't dig out a storm within 24 hours, how are we possibly going to leave before Friday?!  Part of the issue is that I have been packed since Saturday and have tapered his work schedule so he would have plenty of energy for the trip.  I feel bad that Tucker is all cooped up with nothing to do, although he wouldn't be going outside anyways based on this:
 I used to think of hell as a hot place

So for now, we are playing the waiting game and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he can ship out tomorrow morning.  I want him to have plenty of time to recuperate from the trip and at least a day or two to get to know his new rider.  Also, everyone is incredibly stir crazy and grumpy, and I have a feeling Tucker would prefer grazing in 70 degree weather than huddling in his stall in this miserable weather.

The ideal combination of bored/grumpy/cold

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How did we get here?

Or since we haven't left, how did it come to pass that we are going to WEF?  As a teenager, my family lived outside of Tampa and it so happened we bought a horse from Gene Mische's barn.  This led to my first trip to Wellington and a few weeks showing in Tampa, back when Stadium Jumping owned the show.  Fact:  I am old enough to remember when both venues had grass grand prix fields.  Over the years I've been back several times for some amazing experiences but I always assumed showing there again was outside of my realm unless "lottery winner" became my new job title.

My saintly junior horse, Ollie

A year ago, I didn't have my own horse.  I had ridden off and on after college, most recently having leased a friend's wonderful young hunter followed by a jumper that was a little too eager for distinctly-amateur me.  It was financially possible, barely, but I felt like I should have a massive savings account and some sort of stock portfolio before I should own a horse.  Then I decided I'm 34 now and I want to enjoy my life instead of waiting and waiting for an opportunity that may not come.  I horse shopped and decided on Tucker, a coming 5 year old thoroughbred that was most distinctly not cut out to be a race horse.  He didn't know his changes and was relatively green, although he had some great starter miles from the eventing barn he came from.  But... he was (and is) incredibly sweet, sane, forgiving, quiet and takes a joke with the best of them. 
Tucker's baby face, a week or so after he arrived
He's spent the last 10 months learning how to work his body, showing a bit in the 2'6 divisions and generally figuring out what he is doing with his life.  The last two winters in Boston have been really tough and this native Floridian has had enough.  I was joking around on Facebook about going to WEF with another horsey friend, and before you know it, another friend with a farm near the show offered me a stall at a very fair price.  There was also a place for me to sleep (crucial).  Critical point, it was 0 degrees when she offered, so I took the bull by the horns and said yes! 

That's me taking the bull by the horns.  It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor.  But that actually happened.
Other than the flights, the cost is similar to any other AA show... I just don't normally show for 3+ weeks in a row.  We've gotten almost 4 feet of snow in the last week so I am feeling a bit more justified in our winter vacation.  My goals are fairly modest - I'd mostly like my horse to be his usual civilized self in a much bigger atmosphere, I'd like to get a minor tan through my SPF 30, I'd like his changes to get more consistent and I am hoping he moves up to the 3' Thoroughbred hunter division during his last week of showing.  Even in the 2'6 divisions, the horses are incredibly fancy so I'm not going with ribbons in mind.  

My amazing (non-horsey) boyfriend is also not a winter aficionado and was able to get a job videoing at the horse show, so I am very much looking up to seeing him after over a month apart.  I had told him before he got there that this would be unlike any horse show he had ever seen and I am 99% sure he didn't believe me.  He sent me this picture upon arrival and told me he didn't know a lot about horses, but he was pretty certain every single one he had seen cost more than our condo.  Quick learner, that one. 

Boyfriend is here; I am in the tundra. #jealous