After much thought and consideration, I have finally concluded that the recent issue between Tucker and I is entirely his fault.
Was it only scant months ago, when the sun was warm and the days were long, that I laughingly mentioned my "racehorse's" lack of motivation? I made fun of the fact that a Morgan mare outwalked him? Yes, yes, that was true.
Well, welcome to the change of season.
I must add that Tucker has been great (after a little convincing to get on the trailer) when I have shipped him over to my friend Sheryl's for lessons. Everything I have asked of him, he has done willingly, with me flopping around and trying to find my balance. (For some reason-age, perhaps?-my ankles don't flex and absorb the motion, forcing me to brace over fences. Added to my tendency to snap back too quickly on the downside right onto Tucker's sensitive back.)
I really felt like I was getting somewhere.
So as a reward, I figured a few trail rides were in order. The first one started out fine. The late afternoon light was beautiful. Unseasonally warm, it was the quintessential autumn day. We meandered through the harvested cornfields, fallen leaves crunched under hooves, and those trees that had not shed their summer finery rustled in the slight breeze.
It was one of those rides that reignites my deep love for horses. Until we headed for home...
Suddenly, I was riding a plunging idiot. He bounced, he yanked, and cantered in place. I tried to bend him, turn him around, play with the reins, talk to him, remind myself to keep breathing, all of the things I have been told to do with a naughty horse. Except kick. I couldn't bring myself to boot him forward. When I lightened my contact, Tucker took the bit and ran. All of those times I could not get him to gallop, he was saving them for now. I pulled him up into another round of bouncing and yanking. I turned around and sent him away from home. It worked until I turned for home again. And time was not on my side.
As it got darker and his bounces gained altitude, I made the decision to walk the rest of the way. Once I dismounted, Tucker quieted. At least I got my exercise.
Fast forward to the next day. I was on a mission. We left earlier and I chose a route that offered a plethora of options. Same thing. Nice ride out. Turn for home and off to the rodeo!
I stayed with him longer, chose alternate routes to confuse him, but he knew which way meant home. And again, I was running out of daylight. And guts. There is something about being on a plunging beast alone in the woods to make you remember you are not immortal. There is the everpresent possiblity of bodily harm-especially on a rock-strewn, windy, undulating trail.
I gave it a good fight, battling between the leaping and galloping sideways, but in the end, I dismounted and did the long walk of shame back to the barn.
I have since overanalyzed what happened, what I could have done differently, and why my placid pony has become a fire-breathing demon. It all boils down to less turnout, more food(too much high-test), and, most of all, a severe need for some serious damage control. We're going to stay in the ring, reduce his grain intake and increase his turnout (hello, darkness my old friend).
At least now I know he has it in him- and maybe he just wanted me to eat my "non-racehorsey" words.