I once read an article about the movie Warhorse wherein the animal wrangler claimed that the ottb they used in the movie was a terrific actor, as he had a natural tone, talent, and raw emotionality that was hard to fake. Clearly Murray has missed his calling on the silver screen, as the first thirty minutes of our trip to the schooling show was a rollercoaster of emotion, adventure, opinions, and mild public humiliation.
Sunday dawned — if one can call it a dawn — extremely foggy. I missed one of my turns to the barn twice, the fog was so thick you couldn’t even see an intersection until you were through it! I got to the barn and our barn manager was frantically running around blanketing horses because the fog had rolled in so thick and unexpectedly, with a bit of a chill in the air, and her weather app hadn’t predicted it the night before, so most everybody was in their birthday suits. This, amidst the 13 riders and horses (thirteen riders and horses!!!) that were prepping to get out to the schooling show (only 11 actually entered, two just having an adventure) rather made for chaos. I went to get Murray only to discover that I couldn’t see one side of the pasture from the other, and that without his pink blanket he was nigh-on impossible to find. Though find him I eventually did, and he fortunately was not shivering.
Where oh where is jump one? Oh, and can I even see the other side of the arena?! Fortunately fog rides just fine.
Murray loaded like a champ (as is his pattern as a good horse now), and I was very glad I had packed almost everything the night before. I then sat in the truck while the other horses loaded and waited to go, because who wants to stand in the cold fog and possibly be left behind (a trick I learned from Ellie — never one to be left out of an open car). Once we got to WSS, I started preparing Murray and as I was picking out his first hoof he promptly pulled back from the trailer, snapped the baling twine tie, and ran away. I have to say, I honestly didn’t feel any tension in his body and I wasn’t yelling at him, but I was also kindof immobilizing him by holding that foot up, so perhaps he was tense and I didn’t notice. Murray ran off towards the medic, who attempted to stop him with the help of a ring steward, but Murray decided that he would actually rather return directly to me and I caught him easily.
The baling twine was well and truly through, so I used my break-away tie to attach Murray to the trailer this time. Unfortunately, not twenty minutes later, as I was pinning my number to my saddle pad, Murray designed another escape attempt and pulled away from the trailer again. This time he managed to convince all three of the other horses tied on that side of the trailer to mutiny with him, though one was stayed before he departed. Murray galloped away down the driveway with his good friend Indy in tow, though evidently when Murray looked back and saw a giant chestnut following him he panicked a little. My roommate happened to be coming up the driveway as the two made their break, and stopped and helped me corral them.
This is quickly becoming one of my favourite pictures of us!
With three horses all hot and bothered, it took all our spare hands to hold them for tacking up. Murray was having none of it, though, and since I’m pretty much the only one who can tack him up anyway, I was juggling and struggling a fair bit. Roomie made a fantastic saddle stand and was so helpful to me, I was so grateful! Alas, the deep-rooted hatred of girths reared its ugly head in full force today, and I spent a good 20 minutes trying to convince Murray to let me put his girth on. I even took him away from all the commotion and tried to tack up in the quiet area closer to the warm up, but alas, here he simply tried to kill our assistant trainer, rearing at her once and nearly leaping into her another time. Finally we had Words, and I backed Murray (probably not nearly far enough, but good enough for government work) down past the warm-up.
Oh, and did I mention that all of this happened in close proximity to the show ring and in full view of the announcer, show coordinator, and judge? Ooohhhh yes.
Gratuitously breaking up the text — Murray decided to really step out AFTER the course ended!!
I snuck the girth on, ran to get my gloves and whip, and begged the show office to let me please add the cross-rails class in addition to the 2’3″, 2’6″, and 2’9″ I’d signed up for. Murray’s horrible melting moments made me think we would need to start at something a little easier and more confidence-building than big scary 2’3″ jumps (so big, so scary). Easily done, and I jumped onto Murray with scarily uneven stirrups thanks to a fetid little two-step mounting block.
In warm up I immediately started working, as we’d had quite enough walking around to get straight to work. Shockingly, Murray trotting and cantered around rather calmly, with only a few leery moments and a rather half-hearted, token buck. I popped over the three Xs without any problem, and declared myself ready for the class as I could hear that it had already started. Murray had calmed, so I got Alana to put my left stirrup back up to where it should be, and she gave my girth another check too. Then we headed over to the ring and I, not fully sure of the course (as I’d only walked it once and hadn’t been able to see anyone else ride it), was bumped up in the order of go.
What, just Xs? SO EASY!
It was at this point that Murray busted out his professional moves. He took every single jump just like we were at home — forward attack machine mode!! No refusals and no rails, and a soft, rideable, happy horse. The announcer gave me a little hat tip for managing the wild creature of the morning, and the judge even laughed when as Murray spooked past her I responded with “yes, that’s the judge, so horrible, so horrible.”
I didn’t have a song on my mind during this show, so I just counted to eight in stride and talked Murray through being calm and confident. Next time, I will try to think of something a little bit up-pace, so we can move a little more. Our 2’3″ class was a little ugly. We had sat for a little too long and I didn’t do what I needed to get Murray ahead of my leg, so I ended up having to drive him to the jumps more than I wanted. I also didn’t totally get my upper body under control, and jumped/ducked a little tooooo much. However, I didn’t get in Murray’s way and that is a win for me.
For the 2’6″ class I actually took Murray back into the warmup and trotted and cantered around to get him ahead of my leg. I gave him a tap on the rump after entering the ring to remind him to be ahead of my leg, and the 2’6″ rode so much better than the 2’3″ — much more in stride and flowing. We rode all three classes clean and clear, and came away with a 2nd in X’s and a 4th in 2’3″. Since I wasn’t going for the time at all, I was quite happy with that!
These two shots are from the last fence on course in the 2’3″ and 2’6″ classes. Clearly, Murray thought that neither required much effort.
The 2’9″ class was a different course, and as you can probably see in one of the pictures there were some odd wet spots in the arena. Since Murray had already proven himself and done everything I wanted, I scratched the class. In my laziness, I didn’t want to learn a new course, and wanted Murray to feel like he was a total winner today, and did not want to risk the footing at all. Next time we are out we will definitely do 2’9″ though.
So a really fantastic show, with all the good, bad, and ugly of my lovely little creature displayed.
I’ll leave you with this delightful image of my equitational failures. This was jump 3, from whence you had to bend right to get to jump 4 in about 7 or 8 strides. I’m shocked at exactly how crooked I am, all from me leaning heavily into my right stirrup!! To compensate I appear to be leaning my upper body to the left? No wonder my poor horse can’t ride a straight line to save his life!!! And there’s a dust spot on Murray’s bum to boot! My only defense is that I can’t actually see that part of his rump from the ground.