raise your expectations

I seriously love you guys. You are awesome. I love being part of this blogging community of people that have never met but can touch one another’s lives anyway.  It’s pretty awesome.  But more on that another day.

Despite my hopes that we were on the upswing towards tacking-up normalcy with Murray, the general malaise of a few weeks ago seemed to also erase that progress and deposit us solidly in last year in terms of tacking up skills.  Possibly we are even back in 2013.

So here’s a basic rundown of how tacking up usually goes.  I plop the saddle pads on Murray’s back just fine.  Then I meander over with the saddle, and that is just fine too.  I head over to his right side and attach one side of the girth — at this point, Murray may or may not sidle away from me a bit.  When I move back over to the left is when things really go sideways — literally and figuratively.  Murray has dumped my saddle twice in the past few weeks, which he hasn’t done in quite a while, and despite my many attempts to bribe/distract him with carrots, he just can’t.  The second the distraction is down his gullet, he’s back to wigging out.

Weird thing is, as soon as we have an actual fight about it, he seems to remember that — oh yeah — he can do that whole standing for the saddle thing.

I had L, barn manager, help me out the other day because I was really struggling to read Murray.  I didn’t know if he was legitimately panicked or simply being really, really rude.  Considering the amount of doubt benefit he’s been given in the last few weeks, L thinks it’s not actually panic.  Probably rude.  Despite L being the person to basically put all the tacking up training on Murray before me, and being his absolute favorite person in the world, he still was utterly horrid for her.  Which validated me a tiny bit — it clearly isn’t just me.

L also gave me a general life lesson in pony management, criticising me for letting Murray bump me with his nose while I am grooming him (I literally don’t even notice this begging behavior any more), moving out of his way when he rudely swings his weight into me (teaching him that yes, he is, in fact, the boss), and letting him get away with poor ground manners in general.  She told me to raise my expectations — Murray is not a baby any more, and does not get to behave like one just because he thinks he should.

So while we rule out legitimate causes for his bad behavior (sucks to be him if they are ulcers, as I spent all my money on buying him and can’t treat him for a month) I am trying to work through this behaviorally.  Since the presence of treats actually seems to make Murray worse about wiggling around, we are going no-food, and just rewarding him with pats and praise.  It sucks for me that I can’t go all-positive with this, like I want to, but whatever training history is there is messing up something that needs to happen.

This is, on many levels, disheartening and embarrassing.  Like, to the point that I don’t even want to complain about it publicly as it’s all my own fault.  But… you know, journaling.  I’m disappointed and embarrassed that I seem to be the only person I know who can’t install ground manners on a horse.  Sure, his manners have improved in general in the last two years, but in large part I feel like that’s just growing up and… life, you know?  For such a long time I was just so glad that I got tacked up that I let Murray get away with whatever, and that’s really not acceptable now.  Though, I shouldn’t be too too hard on myself, I guess.  I did teach Murray to get on a trailer with absolutely no hesitation, and there are plenty of other horses at our barn who give it a hairy eyeball every once in a while.  And he doesn’t attack me with voracious gusto when I deliver his bucket, though evidently this couretsey doesn’t extend to anyone beyond me and L.  And he picks up his feet a lot better than some horses I know.  I will cling to those three things.  THOSE ARE MY THINGS. I DID THEM.

Ground manners boot camp is on all the time, now.  It’s probably going to be way harder for me than for Murray — I am just too damn nice.  Please, please, please, let us be done with boot camp by the time Camelot rolls around.