Murray and I headed to our last show of the year last weekend; a little fundraiser schooling show just 15 minutes away. After two horse trials at intro, Murray and I were ready to jump a bit bigger away from home, and entered a beginner novice derby and an intro jump round (for a cheater’s warm up).
The morning had a bit of a rocky start, when Murray pulled back while tied to the trailer (not an uncommon occurrence, and I’m always ready with baling twine or a break-away tie) and managed to sting himself on the outside of his right cannon bone. I’m not entirely sure how he did this, but after breaking the baling twine away from the trailer Murray pathetically held that right hind off the ground as blood dripped off it. When I tried to walk him out, he made like his leg was completely broken, and I nearly gave up on riding our dressage test at all that morning. Alana told me to tack up anyway and that he would probably walk out of it, which, fortunately, was correct.
I have to say, starting your morning thinking your horse has just eliminated himself from your dressage ride is a great way to go into a test without worrying needlessly! I was so happy just to be able to ride the test that I couldn’t worry about any of the little things that normally stresses me out about dressage. We had a far from perfect test – the particular indoor we were riding in is pretty spooky, and Murray must have been a bit magnesium deficient because he was serious about avoiding both a patch of sunlight and the judge’s table as we trotted around the arena for the first time. At A when I asked for him to trot again, Murray caught sight of the riders jumping out on the adjacent field, and had a mini tantrum about why he couldn’t be doing that too. He still wasn’t perfectly compliant, I still struggled with him actually listening during the test and not reverting to motions he has memorized, but a big part of that is his nerves. So that’s a big project for us this winter.
Jumping, a mix of stadium and XC jumps on a big grass field, was a bit of a planning disaster. I missed the window to walk my Intro course because people were riding the entire time I was free, and I rode during the designated walk time. The course map wasn’t perfect, and I watched a few riders before me, but went in with just a general idea of the course. Murray was a bit backed off during warm up and so I worked on getting him ahead of my leg and responsive, but still relaxed, which has been the focus of our recent rides at home. When we got on course, I was a little surprised that I didn’t have the jump-seeking-missile that Murray has previously turned into on stadium and cross country. He backed off to a few fences (especially ones with filler we’ve never seen before), but I had his shoulders and stayed calm and confident, so we had no real problems, except that he got stronger and ruder as the course continued. I went off course because I couldn’t see the straight line between jumps five and six (super good job driving, as always) and as we approached the last fence, a pretty inviting , long row of straw bales I could feel Murray pulling right. I closed my right leg and right rein, and Murray responded with a big “EFF OFF” and ran right past the jump. No worries – I’ve known for a little bit that I have to keep my aids to a whisper for the best response, and I certainly didn’t do that, so I take full responsibility for that one.
Our beginner novice ride was interesting. We had many of the same jumps as the intro course, simply set higher, but jump six was changed from an X to a set of barrels. Upon reflection, the last time Murray jumped barrels he was having a major melt down cross country schooling, so probably he has a little PTSD from that. Murray ran out twice at the barrels, and finally took it when I trotted him to it super defensively. Other than that, we had no other problems, except for the same hesitation at jumps that were a bit bigger with new filler. I was exceptionally proud of Murray when, as we were approaching jump three, a strong gust of wind actually blew the filler down and it fell to the ground and Murray listened to me and jumped with just a tiny detour (but no circle) anyway!
All in all, a pretty great outing for the little baby five year old, with lots to be proud of. This was Murray’s first time out at somewhere completely new, jumping things he’d never seen before in that context – and in several cases, things that he’d never seen before period. He jumped all of it, most of it with just a little additional encouragement needed from me, and jumped pretty tidily as well. It was also a great way to reveal the holes in our training and things we really need to work on for next season: bravery, of course, but also relaxation, responsiveness, and listening skills. The same fundraising show runs in May as well, so I can’t wait to go back and see how much we’ve improved by then!