You know, sometimes I think about and write out these things and I’m like “Why am I even writing this?! Who will read this who doesn’t know this already?!” I think this because, for the most part, my readership seems to be other bloggers. And in my experience, bloggers are much more thoughtful about their actions ad behaviors than the general public. I suspect it comes from writing things out all the time; there’s deep reflection that happens both on the page and in the brain that makes you much more aware of what you’re doing and what goes on around you.
So I’m going to write this out regardless.
I’m not exactly experienced in the horse world, but I’ve been around for enough years to see a few young horses work through several programs, and to be indoctrinated in the ways of Denney Emerson. I’ve also followed a few Rolexes, dreamed of jumping so high, and in the last 19 months, started working with a young horse almost from the ground up. Almost.
When I first started riding Murray I had dreams of doing the Young Event Horse series. Then I realised we would be expected to run Novice at 4 years old, and Training at 5, and promptly scrapped that idea. No way he or I was going to be ready for Novice at 4!! Then I thought I’d show Beginner Novice our first year out, and probably move up to Novice around June of 2015. And here I am. A month into 2015 with not a single BN show to our name (well, a derby), and no plans to move up to Novice at least until the end of the year.
And I’m pretty happy with it.
Don’t get me wrong. I had great hopes that Murray would be the second coming of Neville Bardos and impress us all with his naturally soft nature, self-carriage, mad hops, and quirky personality, all rolled into a little dark back package. So I was, naturally, a little disappointed when Murray failed to live up to the outlaw’s reputation.
Boyd is Australian, I’m Australian… can’t you just see the resemblance?
So we spent all of 2014 developing relaxation and rhythm on the flat, and relaxation and rhythm when faced with jumps. We jumped 2′, 2’3″, and 2’6″. And then we hung out there for a while. Like, for nine months. And now we jump 2’9″ and sometimes 3′ and even 3’3″ occasionally and that’s pretty badass.
Compared to professional riders, young event horse competitors, and even some of the teenagers around me, Murray and I are moving at a pretty glacial pace. Like… did we really just spend nine months jumping 2’3″-2’6″? Yeah, that happened. In that time though, Murray went from being a little concerned about and confused by jumping to eager to jump and really, really into jumping. Like, drags me towards the jumps in my dressage saddle into jumping. Murray got strong, confident, and independent. He knows how to go when I pick a spot, how to ignore the spot I pick, and how to pick a spot when I don’t see one. He can pop up high and tight from a deep spot or fly over from a little longer one. He rarely takes rails, doesn’t back off to combos, and will always save my butt (if I don’t screw it up too much).
Since I jumped 3’3″ in my lesson Thursday, do I want to run out to XC and tear it up around Novice and Training jumps? You bet your ass I do. But it is so much better for us to not do that — for both Murray and me. So I stay honest with myself and remind myself why we spent all this time doing things slowly.
You see, I honestly think that this long, slow learning period is key to our success. Murray is so strong and confident now that nothing really phases him. Because we’ve taken things so slowly, Murray doesn’t really understand failing at something he tries to do. When we go away from home, he can jump anything and everything I point him at, because I pointedly avoid looking at anything without an BN or I stamped on it. And I think that this makes Murray feel like a fucking winner. Because he wins at everything he does.
So this weekend, I will take my 2’3″ and 2’6″ and maybe 2’9″ classes and be proud of them. And Murray will get another win under his belt. And I’ll be proud of him, for winning, and of both of us, for rocking the glacier.