Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gracious and Wise

Thank You All

Your comments are wonderful. And I do appreciate all the advice. I always remember my first really good trainer, when I told her, after watching her jump Russell over a 5 foot spread jump that it was a shame he had all that talent and he was never going to use it with me as his rider.

"Do you think he cares?" she asked. "He has no ambition and whether or not he can jump five feet doesn't matter to him at all. You do with him what you want to do, and that's all he'll ever need to do."

I do not have to train my horses to any level. They don't care, and are perfectly happy just hanging. What I have to assess is whether or not I want to train them. When I last went to a lesson, I told the trainer I had already trained two horses to FEI, Intermediare I. All I had never really succesfully done was train piaffe and passage. While I would like to train a horse to Grand Prix, if I never show Grand Prix, that's just fine. So, I figure if I can teach either Tuck or Chance to piaffe and passage, I will be a happy camper. I am not sure she comprehended. After all, she is a lot younger than I am and has not been riding and competing for 45 years.

While I do understand the advice that perhaps Tucker is not the horse for me, I must disagree, for two reasons. The first is a simple fact and the second is my opinion.

Tucker is adopted. The agreement is that he is my horse forever and I have promised to give him a home for life. While I do own him under a "safe sell" agreement, I would never break the covenent that I made to give him a good home for life. That's the simple fact.

The opinion is that while he may intimidate me when we have disputes, I do...when I am motivated...truly enjoy the training challenge of figuring out how to get past the problems. If I ever felt he was too much for me to handle-- as I did about hacking him out and, pre-ulcer medication as I did about some training issues--I have many alternatives to getting him trained by someone else. He spent several weeks at "boot camp" with Kenny Harlow to get him over his dangerous behavior hacking out. While he is not the safest hack I have ever owned, we can happily go out and enjoy a nice ride through the woods without too much anxiety. The ulcer medication fixed a lot of his more threatening behavior in the arena, so aside from some training issues such as his bucking when his hocks were sore, he is not too much of a problem to ride there.

He is, however, very opinionated and not the kind of horse I can bully. What he is teaching me is all kinds of techniques to get proper work out of him by persuasion, various exercises, and "asking" rather than telling. It is not always the most direct route, but the intellectual challenge is really intersting.

I am frustrated about the flying change because I know he will buck as he learns. He's just built that way and, unlike Jazz, will change in the hind end first, kicking up to do it. Mental, or physical, I feel very insecure when he does this. I have a feeling that if I work on my seat and learn to sit back in anticipation he will not shake me out of the saddle as he does now. My question is whether or not I can get that security of seat I need. It's a much a "mind game" as a "body game" at this point. What I need to do is "just do it."

Funny thing is, that the very first time I rode Russell R. after I bought him, he bucked me off. I, being a bold 22 year old, marched back to the barn to get him, climbed back on, and went right back to where I'd gone off to school him through it. Later in his training, he into the habit of bucking instead of going forward. After a month or so of that, I, even at 22, was intimidated. I took him to my trainer who got on and had one wild ride to convince him that bucking was absolutely not an option. (She was a shortlisted Olympic event rider with a seat like glue.)

With Tucker, I have come full circle. (Actually, he is much, much better behaved than Russell was at that point!) Been there, done that. I guess I am just a little depressed about having to cope with some of that again. (And by the by, during his training, my dear Toby nearly got my even stickier seated trainer off more than once, so he was no gem either!!)

So, there you go. Tuck is mine forever. We'll work it out. I just have to figure out the best approach to get wherever it is I want to go with him.

And then there's always Chance waiting in the wings.


  1. well, any horse has the potential to buck, some a shade more than others...

    put a balance strap on the front of the saddle ... unless tuck has a totally mean twisting intending to get you off buck, it'll help, i would have thought

  2. Anonymous6:27 AM

    I like your commitment to your horses - they can absolutely rely on you. Does Tucker buck when he changes leads in the pasture? If not, it could be a question of aides - just an idea. My daughter's mare Dawn used to fuss at canter departures - lots of tail-swishing and even sometimes offers to buck - we finally figured out that over-cuing was the issue - she now does canter departures, including from the walk, by my daughter just thinking them.

    I also agree that each horse is an individual and that there is no "program" that will work with every or even most horses. It's up to us to figure things out by listening to what the horse offers us.

    But it really doesn't matter what you do or don't do with Tucker - he has a great home and that's what he cares about. It only matters to you and you have to figure out what does and does not matter. The only horse I've ever met who ever cared about doing something was Lily - she really loved to jump big jumps fast - and this has resulted in issues with her since her retirement, such as her refusal to be turned into a trail horse.

    Take some time to think - there's no rush.

  3. Kate, it's only a matter of teaching the flying change. I taught Russell, I taught PJ, and I taught Toby. Of the three, only Toby bucked/kicked out at the change. It's a very common reaction as the horse learns how to respond to the cue to essentially, "do a canter depart from the canter."

    I rode through Toby's bucks some 10 or 12 years ago, just fine. Mind you, at the change of lead, it's just one buck, no repetition. For some reason, Tucker gets me more out of the saddle when he does it. It's just unnerving. He has given me a change without the kick out, so I know he's just fine. On the lunge, sometimes he switches leads in the back, and does cross cantering, so I know the changes will be relatively easy for him. But it's a "head game" with both of us. He doesn't quite understand what I want and that rattles him a little, so then he gets annoyed.

  4. I'm sure you will figure it out to your satisfaction and everything will be fine. You sound like I do, once I get a horse I never give up on it and they have a home for life. I just can't be like other people who trade their horses in for an easier model, even though that's the only safe option sometimes. At times I do wish I could have just one horse who is easy, if you know what I mean. Maybe this is the year one of them will just decide to listen to every cue, not spook, look forward to working etc. I think I am hoping for the perfect horse which I know doesn't exist so I will work with what I have and do the best I can.
    Reading about what your trainer said makes me feel better about my horse Erik (who's gone now), he was so talented and I wasn't. He wasn't working up to his potential and I got a lot of flack for it, but I didn't care(well I did a little). I just told everyone, well, he can't read his papers so he doesn't know what good bloodlines he has and he's perfectly happy being my horse and doing what I can do.We eventually became a good team. So my philosophy is all things come in good time and we work with the horse we have and do what we feel comfortable doing. Hope some of this makes some sense.

  5. Anonymous10:53 AM

    I understand what you say about the flying change and Tucker. As Grey Horse Matters says, we have the horses we have - I have always had an unreasonable fondness for very "hot" horses - I guess I still think I'm a teenager! It presents some serious challenges as I get (much) older, but we're working on it. Ask me how I feel starting next fall when I'm riding my daughter's little hot-head Dawn while my daughter's at college!

    Also, you have an award on my blog (no obligation to do anything about it, of course)! :)

  6. I have what my riding teacher called "ducks disease" or short legs. Bucking doesn't take long to unseat me. I am very vocal. I talk to my rides all the time, but if any nonsense starts I yell loudly. probably not ideal for getting a dressage judge to award a good score, but I am sure it has broken many horses train of thought and kept me on board. Their head comes back up and I have their attention, in a "what the hell?" kind of a way.
    Canter changes with a pole on the ground are a way of not overthinking it too.

  7. We are all right that Tucker doesn't care what level he works to, just as long as he is a happy camper. And I understand your commitment to your horses. My first horse was a rescue and I kept him for the rest of his life (16 years, until he was 26). He was no prize but I knew that I would do my best to keep him happy and you can only guarantee what you yourself will do.

    My worry was only for you. I don't want you to feel discouraged or unhappy! But it seems that you have it all in perspective. Having more time to work around the weather and simply having more energy will make a huge difference.