Another week, another installment of the TOA blog hop!
Murray has done a lot of embarrassing and shocking things in our year together, but they are generally pretty excusable — his first time away from home, baby horse silliness, strange behavior out on XC in groups. It doesn’t mean, of course, that I’ve not been scared or shocked or annoyed like crazy because of it. The first, and worst, fail of Murray’s, was the very first time we went XC schooling last year, in November. Murray was reasonable about getting in the trailer, but promptly grew to his full 16.1hh upon departing. I knew tacking up would take some special care, so I threw him in the round pen for a minute to let him get the crazies out. Which he did, for about ten minutes. Then I negotiated with him about tacking up, holding his lead rope in one hand and working with my other hand. And he promptly broke away from me, though I managed t get him back pretty quickly. I changed tactics and had a friend hold his lead rope while I bribed him to get the saddle pad on, the breast plate, and the saddle. He reared, my friend dropped his lead rope, and I pulled my saddle off his back — once again, he didn’t get far. We threw the bridle on and lunged him tackless for another ten minutes, until Murray had calmed a bit more. We tried again to get tack on, with one person holding his reins and me tacking up. Breastplate, check. Saddle pad, check. Saddle, check. And just as I was about to get the first buckle done on the girth, the perfect storm of triggers exploded around us (horses leaving, horses getting in trouble, and the girth), and Murray just rear-leapt away from us, and galloped off around the facility dragging my saddle beneath him. The breast plate broke, eventually, and the saddle slipped free of it and fortunately didn’t get stepped on upon the ground. Murray then promptly stepped through his reins, snapped one side, and then found the nearest patch of grass to start grazing. (To be noted: Murray was not the first horse to break away on this particular XC schooling trip, and this particular patch of grass was very popular.)
By this point, my group had gone down to the course to start schooling. After we caught Murray, one of the teenagers I ride with (who is far more experienced than I), suggested we try tacking him up in the round pen, and walked us over there, holding Murray’s breastplate, spare reins, and saddle, while I led my horse and cried a bit. I have to say, I will never, ever forget how well Rachael handled me that day. I was simultaneously furious that I couldn’t manage my own horse, that Murray was being so, so, so unreasonable, and that I was missing out on schooling. She calmed me down, joked about how bad her own horse often was, and ultimately provided me with the solution to get Murray tacked up successfully! (The trick: do it away from all the commotion of the other horses.) That third, or fourth?, time was the ticket, and we finally got the kid all tacked up and walked him down to the cross country course together for a wonderful and successful first school. (And that is why I always managed to stick with him — no matter how bad he was on the ground, we always had a good ride.)
Photos courtsey of FB Photography.
Oh, and then when we were done schooling he refused to get back in the trailer and we were left behind. Another friend had to make a second trip with her ramped straight-load to come get us. That whole day, I would say, was Murray’s biggest fail. Since then, we’ve had some more embarrassing things happen. There was a time when Murray could not, would not, not in a train, not in a plane, not on a car, not in a bar, he will not canter without bucking. That was probably a three month period. They weren’t exactly small bucks either.
Of course, that was my fail too, since he had basically trained me to stop riding him as much when he was bucking…
The last, and most notable, was a full-blown meltdown when cross country schooling. We’re long past having problems tacking up, and Murray can now be tacked up away from home with minimal incident (bribery + a quiet environment is key). I’m not sure what triggered him this time, but in the middle of our schooling session with three other horses, Murray suddenly found himself completely incapable of walking forward. Backwards and sideways, yes. Chomping at the bit, yes. Scrunching his head under and backing away from my leg and the whip, yes. Hopping up on his hind legs a little, yes. Forward = no. We had to be hunter-pace-ponied over jumps by a friend, and the only thing that would calm Murray was literally touching his nose to her horse. My trainer pretty much knew what was up immediately: there was too much stimulation for him, and Murray was really confused. So now we XC school alone, and we’ve not had a problem since. So those are our major fails. What about you? I know you all LOVE your ponies, but do you sometimes hate them too?! (Post summary: I do.)