Here’s the second installment of Beka’s great 18 Before 18 blog hop! This week, we’re talking about the Making of the Horse.
Last week, we talked about our babies. This week, let’s talk about our greenies. Who trained your horse? Is your ponykins still in the process of figuring out this whole monkey-on-my-back thing, did you send off for thirty or sixty or ninety days, or did you buy a horse with all the bells and whistles? Who has helped your horse become what he or she is today?
As I discussed last week, Murray spent about a year of his life on the track, actively in race training. That was in 2011, when he was a rising three year old. And as I mentioned last week, he sucked at it, hated it, and worked hard to make everybody around him miserable. From what I understand, his breeders put just about zero handling/training on him, and his trainer was expected to teach him all of that and get him raceworthy in a year. Murray was trained at the Pleasanton track with a female trainer, a female jockey, and this is all probably for the best: likely before his time at the track (considering how speshul he is), Murray developed a deep distrust of men (let me tell you sometime about how my farrier FIRED ME as a client). Unfortunately, he’s also a HUGE RACIST and has an even deeper distrust of Hispanic men, which means that my barn’s incredible sweet, kind, and amazing feeder is perpetually on Murray’s shit list.
After leaving the track, Murray was trained at Sunfire Equestrian Training for 90 days in 2012 and 90 days in 2013 before I started leasing him. He was ridden both by our head trainer and our one working student in 2012, and in 2013 by our barn manager’s daughter (not technically a working student, but works a lot of training horses). Murray was always pretty compliant under saddle at that time, it was just getting there that challenged people — he was so afraid of girthing, to the point of breaking halters and running away through the barn.
Since September 2013, I’ve put every ride and moment of training on Murray, except when I’ve been out of town (and one notable bucking incident in April). I take lessons weekly, except when I’m really struggling with my finances, and my amazing, wonderful trainer has helped me learn about the retraining of a baby ottb. In the beginning, every lesson Murray and I took was a combination of a bit of flatwork and then some jumping, since they go so hand in hand. I started jumping Murray every single day, just 5-10 little Xs at the beginning of our ride, so he remembered our jumping better between lessons. I still take weekly jump lessons, and throw in a dressage lesson either with Alana or Tina Steward once a month or so. It’s not that I don’t need the dressage training — I desperately do — but Murray’s learning rate for dressage is so much slower, and at this point so much of it is simply strength building and exercise repetition. I go into every single ride with the mentality that it’s a training ride — every interaction you have with an animal is a training session, after all — and even our hacks have some purpose, whether it be stretching over our back, picking up our feet over obstacles, or practicing being calm and happy on the gallop track.
Training Murray has in no way been a solo venture, however. Even outside of lessons, I rely heavily on my barn family! Without my barn manager, Lisa, Murray would definitely be a bit of an uncontrollable wild child. Lisa is the one who had most of the long conversations with Murray about walking politely next to a human, putting one’s head down when required, not breaking the cross ties just because you feel like it (hmmm, also remind me to tell you sometime about the day he pulled back from the trailer four times in 45 minutes FOR FUN), and generally being a well-mannered individual. Alana is the one who really saw Murray’s potential as a sport horse when he was just a scrawny, skinny, failed racehorse. Alana saw the good beneath the silly, lazy, behind-the-leg, squirrelly, boy and has always encouraged me and put me back on the right track when we’ve drifted away from it.
Murray doesn’t have any bells or whistles right now, unless you count that he’s basically a point-and-shoot jumper up to 2’9″, and that he’ll willingly jump out of his stall’s 4′ back window at any moment on new shavings day. But I hope to get some installed soon! I hear that you can get a group discount when you do 5 or more ponies at the same time.