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>To: My Readers; From: Tucker; Re: Plea for Return to Normalcy

May 25, 2011 2 comments

>Hello everyone,

Yes, it’s me.  She finally gave me some face time with you.  Well, actually, she doesn’t really know that I’ve hacked into the blog.  Hudson told me I could tap into the wireless signal of a nearby house, and since my field happens to be next to the farmhouse, voila, here I am, connected to the world.  Then he gave me a tip about making friends with a cat (which I’m really good at, obviously, see here and here — didn’t even need to mention “tuna”).  Once I was connected, it was just a matter of hacking, and I adore hacking!  I win hacks all the time.  Nothing to it, really.

You may be wondering why I’ve waited until now to address you directly.  This blog, after all, has been going on for almost two years now, and I haven’t felt a need to make an appearance yet, even though I absolutely could have, should the need have arisen.  Up until now I believe my mother has been representing my interests well… though at times, I feel she paints me in a rather comical light, even in more serious moments, like when our general welfare and safety is at stake…. 

I have no idea why you all find my bravery in these circumstances so funny, but humans are a strange and illogical breed.  Which is why I do, at times, “play the fool” for your general amusement.  I have learned, over time, that humans are easily amused, and prone to dispense treats with a frequency directly proportional to the amount of ridiculous tricks, endearing faces, and kind gestures that a horse displays.  Of course, treats are also dispensed based on level of performance, but truly, I perform well for my own satisfaction.  It’s a matter of pride, really, to do a job so well. 

Which brings me to my point.  My job.  I am a hunter, and while it took me a few years to catch on to the point of this sport, I have now mastered it and believe that I execute my role with tact, finesse, and style.  The tact, of course, comes into play when I overlook the occasional pilot error and recalculate the amount of strength and impulsion that will be required in order to clear the obstacle before us in a safe and efficient manner, and stifle my urge to express my displeasure with this situation upon landing.  The finesse allows me to make the above-described “recalculations” appear natural and effortless, a feat I have mastered over the course of several years of experience (believe me, she gives me lots of practice covering up these things).  And then there’s style, which really can’t be learned.  It’s something a horse is either born with or without, and I don’t mean to sound boastful, but like I said, I’m good at my job. 

In recent months, however, I have been prevented from doing my job.  First there was the awful month of March.  An entire month where I was denied my usual recreation and workout, and instead kept confined to my stall for days on end, for no reason that I could surmise at all.  The weather appeared fine and from what I could gather, the other horses with whom I am stabled continued to go about their usual routines.  I continued to receive daily food and care from the lovely individuals who appear to be responsible for me when my mother is not available, so perhaps it was simply an oversight.  For the life of me, I will never know what happened during that month nor why I was confined in such an unreasonable manner.  There was, of course, some talk of the minor abrasion to my right hock, but I can assure you, it was nothing.  I do appreciate my mother’s concern and her care for it, but honestly, I could have continued on with my job and would have been happy to do so.

Then there was a very brief interlude where I was again released to my field for recreation, though once again, for reasons unknown to me, I was returned to my stall for almost the duration of April.  April, as you may or may not know, is the month where Spring grass really begins to grow in earnest.  It is, quite possibly, one of the best months of a horse’s year (well before the “annoying season” as Hudson so aptly put it).  It is also the month when horse shows begin outdoors again, which I find to be far more enjoyable than those dreadful winter shows, where one shivers on a trailer only to be led into a bleak, dark indoor where one must collect one’s stride between fences as well as through corners in order to manage a tidy picture in the confines of such a small enclosure.  An outside course, in my opinion, is really the only way to show off one’s true talents.

This April, however, did not bring such joys to my life.  Instead, I was yet again trapped in a 12×12 space for almost the entire span of the month.  During this time, my mother visited frequently, but seemed fixated solely upon my coat.  We did not exercise at all, but instead she spent day after day, night after night, currying, brushing, polishing, combing, spraying, and fussing over me like a champion show poodle (there were even several baths, a disgusting practice of which I highly disapprove, and I hear that there have been talks of a contest my mother is trying to win, which will surely bring on even more baths).  I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.  I enjoy grooming and find it relaxes and soothes my muscles after or prior to a hard physical workout.  The extra benefit that it keeps me looking so well is an added bonus, and I do understand that there is a certain element of physical attractiveness required for my job.  My problem is simply that the workout itself was entirely lacking from our routine.

Now that we are “back to work,” I’m sorry to report that our routine has been severely truncated.  My mother seems to have determined that the walk is the gait upon which we should concentrate, and we spend almost all of our time practicing it.  I’ve always felt that I have a lovely, natural, ground covering walk and need very little practice to master it.  I also enjoy being able to take in my surroundings and get a bit of sight-seeing done while walking and do not appreciate the level of concentration upon which she has been insisting while we walk.  In recent weeks, we do appear to be trotting with increasing frequency and intensity, which I must say is a good sign, and we are now occasionally cantering one circle at a time.  There remains, however, not a jump in sight (cavaletti and tiny cross rails do not — I repeat do not — count, particularly at the trot).  I’ve begun spooking at inanimate objects, in the hopes that she will “punish” this behavior by making me work harder, but to no avail.  She only pats my neck and reassures me, as though she believes I am genuinely frightened.

I write, therefore, to implore you to urge my mother toward a return to normalcy.  Tell her that she can ignore my panting and labored breathing, it’s nothing really.  Tell her that I am fit as a fiddle.  I am well rested and ready for work.  Summer is around the corner, and we have horse shows to attend!  Hitch up the trailer, fill the haynets, polish the tall boots!  What on earth is she waiting for?

Very truly yours,
Tucker M. River

>USHJA Hunter Derby – Live Feed – Updated

April 1, 2011 Leave a comment

>***Update below***

As you all know, I am a huge fan of the hunter derbies… and just want to make sure that you all know that you can catch the live feed of this year’s $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in Wellington.  The broadcast starts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.  Who needs to go out on a Saturday night when you’ve got entertainment like that?  (I’ll be at a wedding though, so I’ll have to watch the video some other time.)

The link for the live feed is here.

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a video of the winning round from last year, and the victory gallop:

Louise Serio and Castle Rock:

The top 25 riders and horses from last year’s derby are below.  Many on this list are on my list of favorites (Summer Place, Brunello, Jersey Boy, World Time, Early Applause), and I’m sure we’ll see some repeat performers. 

1. Castlerock, Louise Serio, Bryan Baldwin: 205
2. Taken, Kelley Farmer, Nancy Amling: 204
3. Summer Place, Scott Stewart, Fashion Farm: 203.5
4. Namesake, Maggie Jayne, Pony Lane Farm: 193.5
5. Topsider, Caroline Weeden, Margaret Shank Benjamin: 192.25
6. Travino, Patricia Griffith, Heritage Farm: 191.5
6. Due West, Shane Sweetnam, Popish Farm LLC: 191.5
8. Brunello, Elizabeth Towell Boyd, Caroline Clark Morrison: 190.5
9. Listen, Kelly Farmer, Jane Gaston: 189
9. Allejandro, Katherine Dinan, Katie Dinana LLC: 189
11. Sander, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 188
12. Jaded Palace, Schaefer Raposa, Pine Hollow Stables: 186
13. Declaration, Scott Stewart, Fashion Farm: 185
14. Borealus, Katherine Dinan, Katie Dinan LLC: 183
15. Peridot, Tamara Provost, Stephen Martines: 182.5
16. Rex the Wonder Horse, Kris Killam, Moral Masuoka: 182
16. Jersey Boy, Jennifer Alfano, SBS Farms Inc: 182
16. World Time, Victoria Colvin, Scott Stewart: 182
19. Avalon, Lyman Whitehead, Visse Wedell: 180
20. Maui, Tiffany Cornacchio-Morrisey, Gate Goodman: 179.5.
21. Early Applause, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 178
22. Valedictorian, Lillie Keenan, Chansonette Farm LLC: 176
23. Sublime, Kelsey Thatcher, Pony Lane Farm: 174
24. Felicci, Alexandra Vespico, Alexandra Vespico: 173
25. Croquet, Caroline Weeden, Karen Lackinger: 170
25. Bella Blue, Maggie Jayne, Pony Lane Farm: 170

I just love the names of some of these horses!  So creative, so catchy, so appealing.  I wonder if “Rex the Wonder Horse” and “Tucker the Wunderkind” would be friends….

_________________________________________________________________

Since this post is getting so many hits, I figured I’d update this post with a link to the video of Jennifer Alfano’s winning round on Jersey Boy.  Here you go! 

What a beautiful trip.  I watched it again, and again, and again….

So far, the only results listed are Jersey Boy’s Champion and Empire’s Reserve Champion, ridden by Scott Stewart.  I’ll update again once all the results are in!

Categories: Hunter Derby, hunters, names, video

>My Favorite COTH Thread Ever

November 11, 2010 1 comment

>As most of you know, I love the COTH forums (especially the Hunter/Jumper forum).  They are a wealth of information and I frequently use the search functions when I’m looking for info about a particular bit or piece of equipment, what show jacket/bridle/helmet/breeches to buy, or to get the real scoop on a farm, horse show, trainer, clinician, etc.  I also like reading Around the Farm for the days when I can’t stop daydreaming about someday owning my own place.

But this week, I have to say that I came across my favorite COTH thread of all time, the “Working Ammys show your stuff!” Thread.  How fabulous to read about all these working women like myself, who have a hectic work schedule, stressful career, sometimes kids and families to juggle, and somehow still manage to ride their horses and go to shows on the weekends.  You can’t help but smile reading through this thread if you are someone like me.  (And not just because of Post #7).

In a sport where I sometimes look around and wonder if I should have just married a millionaire so I’d have more time to practice and wouldn’t have to check my blackberry right before I go in for the hack, it is really nice to know that there are others out there who are making things happen the same way that I am.  I work really hard, and that earns me enough to keep Tucker and Julie in the lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed, and afford entry fees, and lessons, and training, and two away shows a year.

Even with my (thankfully) lucrative career, I still have to save wherever I can, and it’s nice to see that others are doing the same too.  I ship my own horses, braid my own horses, do my own body clipping, grooming, tack cleaning, and just about everything else I can manage to do on my own, and buy everything at a discount (gotta love those consignment racks!), because otherwise I’d have to sleep in Tucker’s stall with him (which would be lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I have a feeling my co-workers would complain about the smell).  But I wouldn’t have it any other way — I do all this because I love that after all these years I finally have an awesome horse to compete, and he gives it all back to me tenfold.

When I imagine the people who are really successful in my division or in my dream division (the High Amateur/Owner Hunters), I picture women who have no other care in the world, who travel up and down the coast all year long with their string of fabulous horses, following the fairest weather.  In my mind’s eye, these women and their beloved equines have the very best of everything, and they never cringe while they write checks, never think twice about what they’re spending, never have to make a decision based on what’s in the budget this month, and do it all without ever having to sit behind a desk all day.

It turns out I’m wrong, and a lot of them are just like me.  Somehow, that makes my dreams feel a whole lot closer.

Categories: COTH, hunters, life, showing, Tucker

>All Signs Point to Yes!

November 10, 2010 10 comments

>I got a call from Alicia this morning about the horse show this weekend.  We were planning on going back to the place where Tucker hates the poofy footing, but Alicia suggested that instead, we go to the NJ Horse Park for the Woodedge show there.  We had looked at this schedule before, but the Adults go on Friday afternoon. Apparently, all those who do the Adult Hunters must be independently wealthy and not have to work on Fridays.  (Ignore me, I’m just whining. There’s actually a rule about multi-day shows that they have to run the the children’s/junior divisions on non-school days, thus bumping the Adults to Fridays.  But I still get bitter every time I see my division running while I’ll be sitting at my desk. Grr.)  Anyway. . . Alicia called to see if I wanted to go down to the Horse Park to do the Hunter Derby on Saturday. 

As my longtime readers know, I have been watching Hunter Derbies from the sidelines with adoration and awe since the class was first introduced. I just love these classes. At their heart, they stand for everything I love about the hunters: timeless elegance, tradition, beauty. They reward athleticism in the horse and brilliance of pace, which is what I think of when I picture a truly perfect hunter round. In theory (though every judge is different), these classes should be rewarding the bolder rides and the more keen, careful horses.  The Derby horses are exactly the kind of hunters I love to watch.

Despite my love for these classes, in my usual neurotic form, I tried every excuse in the book to convince myself that we shouldn’t do it.  And every excuse was roundly rejected by the forces of the universe. 

First, I told Alicia that I was worried because Tucker wasn’t good the last time we were at the Horse Park.  She reminded me that (1) we didn’t have time to lunge him that day because the division before us only had 3 horses in it; and (2) I was going through some awful life stuff that had me on my last nerve, and had a nervous breakdown on horseback.  Neither of these things are going to happen this time around.  Excuse #1:  Rejected.

Then, I went to my failsafe: I said I was concerned about the height of the fences.  But then I looked at the prize list and it’s a 3′ class that will have 3’3″ options.  We’ve been schooling 3′-3’3″ at home, but even if the 3’3″ jumps looked big, I don’t have to jump them.  I also texted a friend who I know shows there frequently and she said it should be pretty straight forward.  And wasn’t I the girl who was ready to do the jumpers last weekend?  Excuse #2:  Rejected. 

Later, I was sitting at my desk working away when it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t have formal attire!  The last time I was in a class that required formal attire was when?  The mid-nineties?  I text Alicia:  “I don’t have formal attire!”  She responds, “You can wear a white shirt and your hunter green jacket.”  Oh.  Fine, then.  I do have formal attire.  Excuse #3:  Rejected.

I know!  I’ll check the weather.  It’s November now, so I bet it will be awful.  Tucker will be miserable in the cold, I’ll be doing him a favor staying home.  Hmm. . .  60 degrees and sunny.  Nevermind.  Excuse #4:  Rejected.

My last valiant attempt to justify skipping this class was financial.  I shouldn’t spend the money, I don’t have this extra show in the budget, that settles it, I’m going to be “responsible” and not go.  Then I got home this evening and found a $50 check on my coffee table under a pile of magazines (payment for feeding the horses at home a while back) which I had completely forgotten about.  Well that does settle it.  The Universe wants me to go!  Excuse #5:  Rejected.

So now it’s time to get excited!  Here are the specs for the class:

CLASS #170 $2500 CHARLES OWEN HELMETS HUNTER DERBY
TOP 12 RECEIVE CHARLES OWEN HELMET

A two-round competition:

First round to be shown over a classic type hunter course of ten to twelve jumps at 3’ with several 3’3” options; Second round will consist of the top fifteen from the first course, in reverse order of their first round scores, to show over a handy course of at least eight jumps to include elements such as trot fences, walk obstacles, tight turns, halt and back, lead over an obstacle, and open a gate while mounted.

Open numerical system with two judges. Formal attire required.  Open to all Juniors, Amateurs, Children, Adults, and Professionals.  Riders are not limited to the number of horses they may ride.

Ribbons and awards to 12th place.
1st $750 2nd $550 3rd $375 4th $225 5th $150 6th $125 7th $100 8th $80 9th $75 10th $70

So…. Although this is our first hunter derby so my expectations are just to get around and have a good time, if things go really really well, there are some pretty awesome prizes to be had!  Man would I love another Charles Owen helmet for shows… though I’m not going to get ahead of myself.  The goal is only to have a good time.  And I have a feeling that if I stay relaxed and confident, the Wunderkind will deliver!

>Friday Funny

August 13, 2010 7 comments

>First — THANK YOU for all the “Wows” on my last post!  You guys made us all feel very special.  It was a great week, full of some great memories:  some we’ll be smiling about, some we’ll be cringing about, and a lot we’ll be laughing about for a long time. 

My hiaitus has been due to the fact that I’m working through some things with Tucker and not quite sure what I want to say about them yet.  Might be training issues, might be physical issues, could be some combination thereof, but until I figure out what’s what, I might have to keep it to myself for a little bit.  If so, I’ll try to be entertaining nonetheless.  On the other hand, in my quest to figure out what’s going on, I may have to blog about it.  I don’t like keeping things from my readers (the devoted handful of you that there are), and sometimes writing really helps me sort things out, particularly when I know someone’s going to read it.  We shall see.  Please try to bear with me as I muddle through like always.

So… on that note…  Please see below, and be prepared to snort.  Of course, I take no credit for this, it was pulled from Tack of the Day at some point (a site you should bookmark, if you don’t know about it already)… but some of it could have been pulled right out of my stream-of-consciousness as I go around a course.  It does poke some serious fun at Hunter Princesses like myself, but you have to laugh at yourself right? 

I wish I could credit the original author of this but unfortunately I can’t find it online.  I think it might have appeared originally in Practical Horseman?  Anyway, suffice it to say that I found it online, am not claiming it as my own, and would greatly like to credit the creator if only they hadn’t shared it publicly without expressing their ownership of it.  (Do you think that disclaimer would protect me from the angry copyright gods?)
Categories: humor, hunters, Tucker

>St. Christopher’s Horse Show… What a Difference a Year Makes

May 25, 2010 9 comments

>Our last show was at St. Christopher’s in PA.  Our third away show of Tucker’s career, and he was super!  We got in late Thursday night and were showing first thing Friday morning.  Let’s just say that when I took Tucker down to the rings for a spin on Friday morning he was a bit overwhelmed.  The minute the lunge line got five feet long there was a squeal and a leap and off he went.  Never done that before!  He is usually so gentlemanly on the lunge line.  But this time there was squealing and striking and leaping and even a big buck.  It was like a cross between flying a giant brown kite and deep sea fishing.  For very big, angry fish.

He seemed to quiet down so we headed back to the barn, but then Alicia took her mare out for a hack and he was all alone (if you don’t count the hundreds of other horses stabled around him) which brought on melt down #2.  By the time Alicia came back and his head and neck had reached full drama-llama height, it was clear to both of us that maybe the professional should be on him first.  So….  about 40 minutes and a couple more mini-meltdowns later, Tucker was ready to horse show. 

All this is perfectly excusable because in the ring, he was absolutely brilliant.  I walked into the ring (talking myself off the ledge as per my usual routine:  “These are tiny for him… they only look big to you… he can do this… just relax… you have to trust him… Mommy loves you… please be good… etc.)  The first round started with a single vertical on the quarter line, coming toward home off the right lead, and I remembered to relax my arms and not do anything but count the rhythm (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4) and we found it right out of stride.  We landed and missed the left-to-right change, but he caught up and then the outside line going away from the gate was good.  I let go down the line and he marched right down there.  Again, we missed the left-to-right change, but no big deal.  We’ll work that out.  Next was a triple (four strides, then a two-stride) across the diagonal.  That worked out well too.  Then there was a long approach to a single oxer on the outside, off the left lead.  His eye started to wander as we came around the corner but then once he saw the oxer in front of us, he regained his focus and the distance was right there.  That’s the great thing about 3-feet, he actually helps me out a little and doesn’t sight-see all the way around the ring because he has to pay attention a little.  Then the last line was a five stride diagonal which worked out perfectly.

Second trip started with the same single vertical off the left lead going away from home.  He landed right this time and I decided to get fancy… set my horse up and got a brilliant right-to-left lead change.  Beautiful.  Naturally, after displaying such good riding I proceeded to embarrass myself.  We came around to the five stride diagonal line and I needed to just close my leg and support a little, but I gunned him at it so it got super tight…  (Tucker flicks and ear back at me:  “Really?  You sure?  Well okay, if you say so… not what I would have done but if that’s what you want….“)  Then we did five and a half in the line because we landed going nowhere and I didn’t want to chase him… uh, yeah, awesome riding.  I actually looked at Alicia and said OOPS as I was cantering past her.  Then I did it again.  Pushed him past the first distance and made it tight.  THEN (more awesome riding), I forgot the outside line was a six.  We were on our way to a forward five when I suddenly realized it was a six.  By this point Tucker was already back-peddling (“Um, I can’t leave from there.  You’ll fall off.  Trust me.  How about I just add another one in here, k?  Yup, that’s what I thought.”) 

Then we came around to the triple, last line, and I said here’s my chance to redeem myself, just leave the poor man alone.  (“Yeah can you just be quiet up there?  Just… stop talking.  Don’t say anything.  Leave the difficult thinking to me.  You just sit there and smile.”)  And naturally it worked out beautifully.  So beautifully that we were able to create this picture, which was taken over the third jump of the triple, and which will soon be sitting in my living room in an 8×10 frame.

Huh.  Sensing a pattern?  Horse knows better than you do.  Stop trying to tell him how to do his job.  He doesn’t stand over your shoulder and criticize your brief-writing all day.  (“A semi-colon?  Again?  Don’t you think you overuse that punctuation a little?  And what’s with all the howevers?  Also, not sure how I feel about your collateral estoppel argument. Hey you gonna eat that?“)

(Photo Credit:  http://www.hoofprintimages.com/)              
The third course was the same course as the first round, and it was excellent except for one missed lead change.  We got all our distances, and the lines worked out great.  The only thing I would have changed is that I needed to sit down in the two-stride to collect him a little.  I have a tendency to stand on my toes when it gets a little tight (in other words, the opposite of what I should be doing.)

Apart from all my little pilot errors though, this horse show was a huge success.  I stayed relaxed, I kept him relaxed, and I was able to realize my mistakes as I was making them, instead of coming out of the ring wondering what the heck happened in there.  The big benefit of that was that even after flubbing two lines in a row, I was able to recover and fix it to ride the last line beautifully.  Most of all, I never let my nerves get the better of me.  He was a little stressed in the morning, and I made some errors, all things that could have — and a year ago would have — sent me reeling. 

This is all, of course, light years ahead of our performance at last year’s St. Christopher’s show, which will be the subject of my next post….

>Somethin’ to Blog About…

May 11, 2010 7 comments

>Anybody else got Bonnie Raitt stuck in their heads now?)

Ahem.  Sorry about the dust and the cobwebs…  nobody’s been here for a while.  Life got in the way of my blogging and I’ve been terrible about keeping it up, but I still like writing about this fabulous horse of mine so I’m going to try to keep going, if you’re all still interested in reading.  (Pretty please?)   To catch you up to speed, in the past month we’ve had some amazing lessons (including another 3’6″ gymnastic), had a wonderful last time showing in the pre-adults, and went for a gallop with my dear friend Kathleen and her mare Chloe (otherwise known as the day we found out that Tucker is both fast and competitive).

To make up for the tumbleweeds blowing around on this url for the past month, I come bearing gifts!  Rather than the usual verbose account of my last horse show where I take you all along with me for the ride in several paragraphs, how about I just show you?  Tucker and I made our 3 foot debut yesterday (!), and as you are about to see, he was absolutely brilliant.  Sure, he missed the back half of his lead change in the first class, and in the second class he got a little spooked and swapped his lead when some completely absent-minded grounds keeper decided to fling a garbage bag at him (um, hello?  horse cantering past you in the middle of a round? maybe not the best time to throw noisy shiny plastic things onto the back of your gator parked next to the fence?), but I really can’t complain one bit. 

I had a moment in the middle of my third class where I said to myself, “This is the horse I have wanted my entire life.”  I have been on a complete high ever since.  Isn’t it amazing how a good ride makes it seem like your entire life is moving in exactly the direction it should, and all is right with the universe?  (Conversely, a bad ride has quite the opposite effect, but that’s for another day.) 

So…. without further ado….

So, what do we think?  Am I blinded by love for this horse, or is he really as fantastic as I think he is?