Friday, March 27, 2015

Paige wins (almost) and I don't fall off

After spending Tuesday primarily working, Wednesday was a horse show day.  Yay!  This was the first day after daylight savings I actually had to get up for something.  Tucker's early morning bath may have been completed with my eyes half shut.  He went back and forth to the show like a Grown Up Horse, even on the way home when we were in the TOD and a brief downpour set in.  And the four horses schooling in Heritage's ring next to the tunnel all cantered out of their ring going the opposite direction from us.  There was a moment when it looked like things were going to get hairy, but some small shred of maturity kept all four feet on the ground.

Paige showed him in the thoroughbred jumpers which are at 1m.  This was probably the first full course he's ever done at this height.  Ok, it definitely was.  It was also the first time he's ever done a jump off.  He went around and was generally pretty brave and relaxed, although he still had his doubts about the jump crew tent.  He didn't look like he was overjumping wildly going around, but then I saw the pictures.  Turns out, he still didn't want to touch a rail. 

And guess what?  He got second place.  At WEF.  It wasn't a huge class but I'm guessing the other horses may have jumped a meter course at some point in their lives prior to that day.

Me, I showed in the ultra super special child/adult jumpers that are something like .8.  As I walked the course, I was fairly confident I could jump most on foot.  Paige instructed me to jump the middle of the jumps and she would be happy.  We had a moment at the beginning of the course (more in a future post because it was so educational), but he was great.  Brave, honest and coped well with me dumping him at half-stride distances and taking off my leg and sort of hoping he would pick a distance that could work without any input from me whatsoever.  The picture below is an accurate summary of our ride, conveniently blocking my competition vomit-face.  You'll notice my lower legs have gone out from under me and that I am doing some form of advanced karate with my elbows.

To give you an idea of the level of competition I was facing, the girl who went before me cried when she left the ring because she had a rail and told the apparently assistant trainer it was because "he (head trainer) wasn't there to walk the course with me!".  Before you judge her to harshly, I believe she was about 11.  The boy who went several trips after me was super distracting on his adorable yet fancy 13 hand pony and I'm pretty sure they won.  I went clean but had time faults.  It was my first return to the jumper ring after 17 years and I didn't forget my course so I consider it a success.  Paige reluctantly had to agree since I did jump the middle of the jumps but I think she learned a valuable lesson about telling me I was allowed to do the adds.  I got a beautiful wine-colored ribbon for 11th place, perhaps a nod to the fact it looked like I was riding while intoxicated.

The walk home was uneventful until the landscaping crew decided to wave a massive tarp near a pile of palm branches Tucker already deemed unreliable.  I thought he would get over it since we were almost home, but he was like, "there's stalls at the horse show.  Let's just go back there."  So after a fabulous day of horse showing, I dismounted and made him walk backwards for several hundred feet while a lady on a golf cart (who conveniently missed the rearing and spinning action) gave me the third degree on what I was doing.

We'll end on a high note with this lovely picture that is just so Florida.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Button installation

Since Tucker had been going so well for Paige and since I was in Wellington for the week, it was time for me to get to know Tucker 2.0 a bit in a flat lesson.  Despite getting drenched and some sweet blisters, it was awesome.  Paige had us working on things I haven't worked on since literally 1999 when I had my A/O jumper - spiraling in and out on a circle at the trot and canter and making square turns.  There were some wonderful light moments where his canter was so elevated (and plenty of other moments where I pushed the button wrong).  We worked on two poles set six strides apart and practiced doing the 5, the 6 and the 7... and Tucker knew how to do it!  Perhaps more remarkably, he did do it when I asked. Previously this would have been doable but the 5 would have been flat and flying and the 7 would be a disengaged crawl.  I didn't need to establish the stride length too far in advance and he stayed on his butt (except when, you know, I dropped my reins and took my legs off.  The struggle is real).

We did a jumping lesson the next day which was equally educational though perhaps more frustrating, mostly because Tucker is really honest and a tryer and I am a non-committal sissy to the jumps.  I have to say though, it was a much better feeling riding an engaged horse to a terrible distance!

My friend Theresa was also in town for the weekend, and we joined our wonderful hostess Trish and a host of other people for a fun night at the grand prix.  Driving over in the golf cart and parking in a show ring is a quintessential WEF experience.  Monty got Tuck some fancy new boots and me a new show shirt so we were all teed up for the week ahead.  He also gave me a beta version (modeled by him) of his hand-woven palm helmet visor.

 One of the many fun things about Wellington ("Camp Wellington" as Monty calls it, or "Disneyland for Horses" as my mom calls it) is many of the roads have equine-themed names - Appaloosa Trail, Equestrian Way, Draft Horse Lane, Halter Road, etc.  Off of one of the side streets is Great Dane Lane.  We stopped by to take a picture and we got to meet the resident dane, who was of course adorable and sweet and made me miss my own Zeus terribly.
Before anyone is too jealous of my excursions, please remember that I did still spend a good amount of time in front of my computer on MS just like in real life.  The setting certainly couldn't be beat, however.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly

As previously mentioned, we decided to call Tucker on his “I’m fast” bluff and steer him to the jumpers for week 9.  It is technically his second full week here, but more than a standard calendar, horse show weeks are how time is marked in Wellington.  Paige spent Monday convincing Tucker that he could move his front and hind ends separately (Tucker:  what?!) but also together when requested (Tucker:  WHAT?!).  She also tried to get him pushing behind without leaning on the bridle (Tucker:  WHO WOULD ASK THAT?!).  He jumped well enough to earn himself a spot schooling in the jumper ring on Tuesday.

I was very curious to see what Paige had to say when she called to report on the show schooling ride.  I did NOT expect her to say that he jumped really well and while most of the course was 2’9, there were some 1.1m oxers that they jumped because they were there and well, Paige is much braver than I am.  Oh, and one of them had a Liverpool** that they marched right over.  I have to confess, prior to this if someone had told me they jumped my horse over a large-ish Liverpool, I would have laughed in their face.  Tucker is generally pretty brave to the jumps so it’s not even the Liverpool, it’s just… well, frankly, I wasn’t sure he could even jump that big.  Monty awarded apples and carrots because he is awesome like that.

Wednesday the showed in the .85m jumpers and yes, surprisingly there IS a smaller class.  Other than having a small panic attack at a three-sided tent containing a jump crew, Tucker was a brave guy and went around clear.  Paige’s husband (also awesome) took some pictures and as you can see, it is not surprising he left all of the jumps up.  There are several more pictures of him jumping in his more usual form but all in all we were both very happy.

We entered him in the .95m class the next day but Tucker read the entry wrong and thought we signed him up for the 1.2m, so he went ahead and jumped the bigger jumps that were visible to only him.  Paige had told me he was brave and jumped very well, but I wasn’t quite expecting *this.* 

I have said many times I don’t care if Tucker is a hunter or jumper, I just** want a well-behaved horse that can do the adult division.  The adult jumpers go to 1.15m so I didn’t really want him to be steered to jumpers if he didn’t have the scope for that.  It was a very real question for all of us until this week.  Clearly he is not doing the 1.15m’s during this Florida, but it is fabulous surprise to discover what may be in there. 
*I know, we all “just” want a horse that behaves perfectly at home, at shows and on trails alone or with others with no prep.  A large part of why Tucker is doing this trip is an attempt to become one of these civilized unicorns.  Did I mention I extended his stay two weeks? I continue to laugh (cry) in the face of financial caution.  Really, he is making such great progress that I want the experiences to continue.  Also, it was 3 degrees the other morning, and who wants to go to the barn in that?  Are poor decisions due to bad weather tax deductible?  Because they should be.
**spellcheck insists Liverpool be capitalized.  It is not my doing.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

A very Welly weekend

After last week’s hunter speed rounds, Tucker needed to go to work.  Friday morning was gorgeous and I took him on a trail ride with Trish (barn owner) and one of her horses.  Her horse was lovely and well-behaved (are you sending a theme with the horses here?).  Tucker went approximately 50 feet before attempting to exit stage left and go home.  He did learn the “no rearing” lesson from Paige so we didn’t levitate very high, and it only took one good pony kick to convince him to go.  He was a good brave boy for the rest of the ride, although he did make sure to give every drain pipe the once over.  At this stage, Tucker is a wannabe tough guy at best.  He talks a big game but when it comes down to it, he does not have the energy/desire/willpower to put up an enduring fight (knock on wood).  He remind me of a guy that belongs to a motorcycle gang, but instead of going out and doing whatever professional bad guys do, sits in the bar and tries to look cool.


That afternoon, Paige schooled him through a grid with a decent sized oxer on the way out in an attempt to get him to sit up.  He was not impressed and cantered over it in the most blah way possible.  If snails could jump, it would be how I envision a snail jumping.  So, she turned him to it on a short approach and wow!  I have never seen him jump like that. 
Saturday I spent most of the day at the show and explored some of my retail options.  A canned saddle from Hermes, perhaps?  Or maybe an entirely new riding ensemble including Parlantis “because I might ride my daughter’s horse next month”?  I witnessed the latter scene go down at Beval.  She liked her gear so much she decided to spend the day wearing it and commented even if she never rides, at least it will be a good Halloween costume.  Myself, I stuck to a new bit and some thrush treatment.  Unfortunately right as I tacked up to lesson with Paige, the skies opened and instead we sat in the barn aisle and talked horses for a bit.  Thankfully the rain did not ruin a delicious dinner with old friends courtesy of my amazing Monty.
Sunday I did a brief ride in the ring and decided to hit the trails.  Tucker was awesome until we came to a crossing that had, you guessed it, PALM FRONDS.  I’m sorry, KILLER PALM FRONDS.  We were at a real impasse since I wouldn’t go his direction and he wouldn’t go my direction.  Conveniently some horses came along going my direction, so off we went, snorting at the fronds.  I ditched the other horses as soon as possible to work on our herd bound issues and found myself slightly lost but navigating home safely.  The grand prix in the afternoon was a riding lesson in and of itself, as always, and a perfect way to cap off my weekend.  A less perfect way to cap off the weekend was a sinus infection and getting back to my house in Boston at 2:30am, but such is life.
The beautiful ring "at home." 
As promised, the TOD.