Well, That Was Interesting
Tucker is an endless puzzle...to Gabriel too. We still have not quite figured him out.
For a start, he was good, at first, in Stacie's arena, except for the black trailer parked on the outside. But with some shoulder-in as I went past, that was fine.
But the initial few moments of the lesson harked back to the bad days at the show grounds when Tucker used to threaten to and even buck. Today he let fly twice at the beginning of the lesson. Number one was apparently not too bad, but the second one, a few circles later was a bit of a corker, at least so the spectators tell me. It honestly did not feel that bad, although I lost both stirrups and was hoping he wouldn't let fly again. However, after the lesson, I was told he'd really given it some "air time," and it was a big one. If so, while that's bad, the fact that it really didn't shake my seat or confidence too much, that's good.
Then, he settled into some really nice work, and Gabriel was quite pleased to see how well he was using his hind end. While some of his on the bit in a really schooled frame was a little erratic as he kept wanting to brace, so I had to conintually supple him, he had some really good moments and Gabriel said he was lifting his shoulder and really using himself well.
After perhaps 15-20 minutes of lots of good stuff, I had to walk to catch both our breaths and when I picke up the rein again, Tuck was behind my leg. It wasn't "awulf, awful" but with him you need to get a good firm contact with him pushing well into the bit from behind, and that just wasn't there. He was going, but lacking the really through feeling he needs to offer.
I chose to fix it by asking for canter, and then just driving him forward until he gave in. I am not at all sure why the disconnect happened. It could be that because he is not as fit as he should be he simply got tired and slacked off, or if his back tightened up.
At home, I might have actually dismounted, put him on the lunge to get him going, then remounted and ridden for another 10-15 minutes, just demanding forward. Towards the end of the canter, then trot work, I did get most of it back, but it never did feel quite as good as at the beginning of the ride--after the bucks, of course.
Gabriel is a bit puzzled by Tucker and neither he nor I has yet quite figured out the best solution for what to do when he does stop connecting like that. He will kick out at the whip and suck back even more when he does, so that doesn't necessarily work. I am thinking I will need to grit my teeth and put the spurs on, put up with the kick outs and simply use them as a threat if he doesn't go forward off my leg.
I will excuse it today and chalk it up to fatigue. Stacie's footing is a little deep and we were asking him to work quite hard at the outset. He may just not have had enough to offer and was protecting himself.
I will sort it out. Last year, before the winter kicked in, he was going quite well. He did have the sore hocks, though, so that posed some problems. However, today there was no sign of that as he took both canter leads just fine (a little kick on the right) and didn't act at all grouchy.
Even the bucks were more "I just can't contain all this excitement" rather than protests to anything I was doing. When I got on he felt like he was all "bottled up" emotionally and the bucks were more an expression of that than willfull disobedience.
I did cut the lesson a little short just so we didn't push him beyond his limit. While I do need to get him to stay forward for the whole time, I also will grant him some respect for letting me know when he's had enough. The trailer ride down was close to an hour as well, so that was an added physical stress.
I will work on getting him more fit, demanding an honest connection at all times, and insist he stay in front of my leg. Then, perhaps, we will see a better overall result from the lesson instead of a 50/50 split.
Considering that Gabriel was very complimentary of how he looked when he was working, I am pretty pleased. Maybe we are getting somewhere.
Slowly, but surely.
Addendum: I went for a swim after I fed the Boys. I really needed to cool off as the temps were up close to 90F at the lesson and I'd been in the sun most of the day.
As I was drifting around the Lazy River, I thought about something else that happened during the lesson. Stacie's place is not far from Fort Dix and Maguire Air Force Base. There were dozens of air force planes flying in today. As they came over the arena, they were quite low, landing gears down as they approached the runways. They were huge, impressive BUT....not half as impressive as the hawks circling the woods beyond the farm. Those birds soared and turned, floating like the very wind they rode on. As amazing as man's accomplishments can be, they pale in the face of nature.
Just a thought, caught by the water's reflections in the sun.