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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

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>Pretty Pictures

May 23, 2011 4 comments

>Had a lovely day with Tucker yesterday (we cantered for the first time in two months!), not much time to blog this morning but wanted to share some pretty pictures with you:

All this rain has made the grass shoot up… it’s like horse heaven out there
Munch munch munch
Hi?

Mom?

MOM!

The girls trotted over to say hi when I pulled in and I thought they looked adorable
(that’s Tucker’s girlfriend in the middle, and the lovely mare that tolerated my dressage lesson on the right)
Categories: BCEC, photos, Tucker, turnout

>Tucker Explains the Wizard of Oz

May 16, 2011 6 comments

>So, I get to the barn on Saturday afternoon, very much looking forward to a nice ride outside.  I hadn’t seen Tucker in a couple of days, and the rain was holding off.  Perfect recipe for a great Saturday.  Couldn’t wait for some quality time with the best horse in the world. 

Just one problem.  As we exited the barn after tacking up, Tucker morphed into full-on, high alert, neon-sign-flashing-DANGER, drama-llama mode.  Okay, no problem, I’ll lead him down to the outdoor ring and get on there.  There was some construction happening and apparently all the loud noises were blowing his mind.

Little did I know what was in store for me.

We get down to the outdoor ring and I found myself having to hand walk my now-possessed beast in circles, which, at the time, was a lot more like flying a kite than leading a horse.  In his defense, there was a little more going on than your basic construction.  They were delivering big, pre-fab sheds on the end of a flat bed truck, and they were unloading directly in Tucker’s line of vision.

Finally, sick of staring into the whites of Tucker’s eyes and listening to him snort above my head, I decide to climb aboard.  After a few minutes of dancing and prancing, he settled down into a somewhat normal walk, though he continued to arch his neck, twitch his lips around and stare wild-eyed into the distance.

I decide to try and communicate.  Get his mind off his, um, troubles.  I head to the point of the ring farthest away from the sheds that are clearly going to kill us, and we do some spiraling in and out circles, some leg yields, and he eventually starts to relax and even stretches down a little.  He takes a big deep breath and I finally feel him starting to bend around my inside leg and start tracking up.  His back was relaxing.  Phew.  He’s finally back to normal. 

So, I ease him up into a trot.  OH MY.  He responds by stomping his front feet, shaking his head from side to side, and squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeling.  Uh… not exactly what I was expecting.  Okay, okay, okay.  Walk.  Just walk.  Calm down.  Please.

He walks and almost immediately settles back down.  I figure it’s a fluke.  We do a little more working walk and when I feel him getting bored to tears again, I cautiously ease him back into a trot.  Feet stomping!  Head shaking!  Squeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee!  Oh dear lord.  Walk.  Please.  Walk.  Just… walk.

Me:  Um, Tucker?

Tucker:  Yeah?

M:  Mind explaining what the HECK is wrong with you?

T:  What’s wrong with ME?  What’s wrong with YOU?  It’s not safe out here you know.  We are in a very, very dangerous position.

M:  Didn’t realize that.  What exactly is unsafe about the outdoor ring?

T:  (He scoffs)  No, no, not the outdoor ring.

M:  Okay…. I’ll humor you.  Where is the danger, exactly?

T:  It’s the houses.  They are dropping houses.

M:  Oh, well, I really don’t think we need to worry about that.  They’re not going to drop any houses on you.

T:  You don’t know that! 

M:  Actually I kind of do.  There’s really no chance that one of those houses is going to fall on us.

T:  Not on my watch, that’s for sure!  But I can only do so many things at once. And I can’t watch for falling houses while we are trotting.  I mean what am I, a magician?

M:  I see.  So that’s why we can’t trot. 

T:  Now you’re catching on. 

M:  Since when do houses fall on horses or people?

T:  Haven’t you seen the Wizard of Oz?

M:  Tucker, there are no horses in the Wizard of Oz.

T:  MY POINT EXACTLY!  Horses are very intelligent creatures.  We don’t stick around when there are falling houses.  Dogs, lions, flying monkeys, that movie had everything except a horse.  And that’s because horses are way too smart to get distracted and wait around to have a house fall on their heads, so some filly can come along and steal our shoes.

M:  I see.  Let’s try trotting one more time okay?

T:  Squeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeee!

M:  *Sigh.*  Nevermind.

I don’t really think anyone would have believed me, except that when I got back up to the barn, I was explaining how the ride went to someone:  “Ugh, he was a NUTCASE today.  Every time I tried to trot, he’d shake his head and stomp his feet, and sq–” 

eeeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeee!”  He was then kind enough to demonstrate for us. 

Once again, my horse has valiantly saved me from the brink of danger.  Thank heavens I have him to protect me at times like these.  Quite sure I would be lying under a house somewhere otherwise.  And some strange girl would have stolen my shoes.

Categories: flat work, freshness, humor, Tucker

>Afternoon Delight

May 13, 2011 4 comments

>I was just commenting recently on someone’s blog (and I can’t for the life of me remember whose it was — so if you remember, please help out a brain that is clearly aging before its time) that some of my favorite pictures of Tucker have been sent to me while I am at work.  There is something so wonderful about seeing your horse enjoying his day while you are stuck behind a desk earning the big bucks to keep him in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.

Here is one such photo, which I just received, of my horse enjoying a little afternoon snooze under the trees with his new turnout buddy:

It’s just too cute for words.  He is so adorable.  I heart him. 

I can’t wait to dote on him this weekend… it’s been a long week and I need a little Tucker time!

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p.s. – Hey blogger, if you don’t want to find my last couple of posts, we can just keep them between us and forget I was ever being so childish and whiney.  Now that I think of it, maybe I am responsible for the Great Blogger Meltdown of 2011?  Was I really being so bratty that I crashed blogger?  It’s totally possible.  I can be really obnoxious when I want to be.  Just ask any of my ex-boyfriends.  They’ll be happy to tell you all about it.

Categories: photos, Tucker, turnout

>My Horse’s Conditioning Program for Returning to Work

May 5, 2011 2 comments

>Tucker got his chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture on Tuesday morning and his pelvis and lumbar area needed several adjustments, particularly on the right side, so that explains why he was relunctant to stretch his back and why I was having such a hard time keeping him straight (he was traveling with his haunches to the right).  Man am I glad that Dr. L came to see him!  She is a miracle worker.  He felt so great last night, forward, but not tense, so much straigher, and he wanted to stretch down at the trot, which was a great feeling.  He is still weak behind and has trouble staying engaged for any length of time.  He really pushes for a few strides, then he overdoes it and wants to get this big huge trot, and then a few strides later falls behind my leg because it’s too hard, so we still have a lot to work on. 

Apparently, after Dr. L treated him on Tuesday, he took himself for a little gallop in the field (feeling a little too good, birthday boy?), so evidently he doesn’t realize that there is an actual rehab plan in place.  I thought maybe it would be a good idea, then, to set one down.  Tucker is an avid blog reader (he even comments sometimes).  Hopefully he’ll read this and understand that I’d rather him not gallop around like his tail’s on fire for at least a few more weeks.

Grey Horse Matters offered me a link to a very helpful post that she did, where she outlines her program for bringing her horses back into work in the Spring after being in inconsistent work all winter — go read it!  She uses the British Horse Society as her guide, but modifies it to suit her needs, and I think I’m going to do the same.  Below is my modified plan.  The BHS standard is in in black, and my modified plan is in in green

1st WEEK
Walking exercise on the level. Half an hour on the first day, increasing to one hour by the end of the first week.

My plan:
30- 45 minutes total walking undersaddle in the ring, alternating between working walk and loose rein, increasing to 45 minutes by the end of the week.

2nd WEEK
Increase walking up to 1 hour by the end of the week.

My plan:
30-40 minutes total walking, alternating between working walk and loose rein, with 2-3 brief intervals of trotting, begin walking over poles, start doing easy lateral work at the walk, and by the end of the week add in walking over cavaletti and small cross rails and cooling out outside walking up and down hills.

3rd WEEK
Slow trotting, starting on the level, together with walking up and down hills.

My plan:
30 minutes – 1 hour of riding total, increase the number and duration of trot sets (as Tucker allows), with as much long-and-low trotting as possible, continue easy lateral work, cavaletti, and small cross rails at the walk, and by the end of the week start trotting over poles on the ground.  Cool out outside up and down hills, as weather permits.  If horse’s brain allows, begin riding outside on weekend. 🙂

4th WEEK
As third week.

My plan:
Same as above, maintaining whatever number and duration of trot sets achieved by the end of the week, and start asking for brief periods of working trot in between long-and-low trot during a couple of rides.

5th WEEK
1 ½ hours exercise a day, to include some trotting up hills and short, slow cantering on good, level ground.

My plan:
40 minutes – 1 hour of work, begin trotting raised cavaletti and cross rails, start asking for a little longer periods of working trot between long-and-low trot, start asking for easy lateral work at the trot, add in some brief intervals of cantering in each direction.

6th-8th WEEKS
1 ½ hours exercise a day, to include trotting up hills and longer cantering periods. School work may include jumping and canter circles.

My plan:
6th week:  40 minutes – 1 hour of work, increasing duration of canter intervals.  Add in a couple of days with slightly more demanding working trot sessions, including a little more lateral work and some collection and baby extended trot.  On the other days, long-and-low trot and canter only. Continue cavaletti and cross rail work at the walk and trot.

7th week:  Same as above.  By the end of the week, canter cavaletti and cross rails.

8th week:  Same as above, continue cantering cavaletti and cross rails during the week, and take a jumping lesson at the end of the week.

It feels good to have a plan, doesn’t it?  Now Tucker, let’s get with the program please.  Galloping is more like Week 6 or 7.
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Please note:  In case you’ve found this post through a search engine, Tucker is not coming back from a soft tissue injury, but rather a wound that was stitched and required 2 months of stall rest.  I think it is best to consult with your vet if you’re bringing your horse back from any kind of soft tissue injury, to prevent any further damage.  (Just trying to be a responsible blogger!)

>Happy Birthday Tucker!

May 4, 2011 10 comments

>Happy birthday big brown horse!

You are my best friend, the love of my life, and better than even the most wonderful horse I’ve ever dreamed about.  I love you more and more as each year goes by, and I am looking forward to many more years with you.  I am so, so thankful to have you in my life.

I remember very well the first day I met you, nine years ago.  You were 2 months old, and you ran up and bit me in the stomach while I was petting your mom, the beautiful Savoire Faire.  I spent more and more time with you that year, and eventually when I was starting law school, I just couldn’t leave without you.  Everyone thought I was crazy, because you looked like a giraffe crossed with a goat, but something in my gut just wouldn’t let go.  I will never regret the decision, no matter how many times I am running short on time, money, and energy to make it work with you.  You and I are meant for each other. 

Happy 9th Birthday Boo-Boo!  I love you so much!

Categories: birthdays, Gratitude, Tucker

>On Our Way Back

May 3, 2011 3 comments

>Tucker and I are slowly but surely working on getting him back to show ring fitness, with the hopes that we will be showing again by mid-June, if all goes well.  He got a bath on Saturday because the weather was so nice, and I pulled his mane and clipped his legs and his jawline/muzzle, so he is looking a little more like a show horse instead of a backyard pet. Now we just need to work on helping him regain a topline, get some strength and stamina back, and put on some weight.  Here’s how he looks right now:  nice and clean, but otherwise definitely not at his best! 

We’ve upped his grain slightly to assist with his weight gain and muscle building. He is now getting 4 quarts per day of Omeline 500 (split over two meals — he was previously getting 3 quarts), plus plenty of forage: 5 quarts of beet pulp (with his grain), 4 quarts of alfalfa, soaked (at night check), and I’d guess about 8-10 flakes of hay throughout the course of the day. He’s also out on grass, weather permitting, for about 5 hours per day. As for supplements, you can read all about what’s in his SmartPak here.  He’s also getting SmartCalm right now, just until he’s back to full work.

As for exercise, based on what I’ve read and conversations with fellow horsewomen, the general rule of thumb is that if your horse has had extended time off, then it should take the same amount of time he’s been resting to re-condition him.  So, since Tucker has had two months off, I’m estimating it will take two months to get him fit.  I haven’t found any particular exercise program that I thought sounded really good (though if you have suggestions, please post them in the comments).  I’ve just been trying to let Tucker tell me how much he can handle — maybe that’s best anyway.
 
The first week, we just walked undersaddle for 30-40 minutes.  This past week, I started trotting again.  At first, I could only do 2 sets of about 2 minutes of trotting before he’d be winded and breaking a sweat.  By this weekend, I was able to do 3 sets of about 4-5 minutes of trotting.  In between, we walk over lots of cavaletti and little cross rails, do some bending exercises, and work on straightness with lateral work.  At the trot, I just want him to loosen up and stretch his back out, which he has been a little relunctant to do.  He is also flipping his nose up and walking with his head in the air after several minutes of work at the walk, which is either a sign that he thinks the working walk is stupid (possible) or that his back is sore, or even just allergies/post-nasal stuff.

To see how his back is feeling and help him loosen up, Dr. L is coming out to adjust him and do some acupuncture this morning, and then he’ll get turned out for the afternoon.  We texted back and forth when the stall rest was ending, and she said she’d rather work on him after I had done some trotting work so that he had a chance to stretch a little on his own before she worked on him.  Makes perfect sense.  I have to say, I feel so lucky to have such wonderful professionals helping me with Tucker’s recovery.  Everyone — from my barn managers, to my vet, to my chiropractor, to my trainer — has been completely accessible, communicative, and helpful.  Tucker and I have a great support team!

It’s hard to tell if it’s freshness or tightness that is making him feel a little tense, my guess is a combination. If he still feels like he doesn’t want to stretch on Wednesday night, even after his acupuncture, I may try giving him a tiny bit of Ace on Thursday, in case the stiffness is just because he’s fresh. Even though he’s been an angel and hasn’t done anything more than a head shake, I want to give him the opportunity to work in a relaxed way without making himself sore. I have a feeling that containing his energy and excitement because he’s trying to behave could be making his job harder than it needs to be at the moment.

Again, if anyone has suggestions for good ways to recondition your horse, we are all ears (literally, Tucker is pretty much all ears):