Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and well-wishes last week. I am happy to report that the Wragg fire is contained and mandatory evacuations have ended, and all our bonus-ponies get to return home! I am even happier to report that no lives were lost in the fire, and that the emergency crews are unscathed. Unfortunately, there are yet more fires burning in California, and fire crews will have their work cut out for them for quite a while. My thoughts are with all of the emergency responders working to contain fires in California.
The Murraycoaster continues its thrilling and wild ride. I didn’t ride too much last week — enough horsey drama was had and I needed sleep! — but I did get in one ride Friday and then Saturday we went schooling at Woodland Stallion Station.
During Friday’s ride I tackled one of those delightful goals from my list: determining if I need a new saddle. One of my concerns about Murray’s fussiness and stopping jumping was that my saddle might not perfectly fit — I’d seen pics where the back of my saddle was lifting as we jumped — and I know that is not ideal. So assistant trainer and I had a look at my saddle as well as some other saddles to determine fit. Murray is not AT’s biggest fan (she usually has to twitch him/drug him/deworm him/etc., but she also gives him lots of love and pats) and he objected MIGHTILY to having a bare leather saddle put on his back by trying to run AT right over. Fortunately, this was not her first time at the Murray rodeo and she was like “get a grip dude” and he settled down.
The even worse part of this bit of news is that my saddle really doesn’t fit.
Cue epic sadness.
It’s too wide in the front and sits down on Murray’s shoulders, which could definitely cause some discomfort for him while I’m riding. We popped a few different saddles on (“NOTHING EXPENSIVE!” I insisted. Why? “I CAN’T AFFORD ONE.”) and one of the lesson saddles (a Pessoa) fit so AT suggested I go ride around in it. Which I did.
Murray did not seem to have any problem jumping around in the lesson Pessoa. Unfortunately, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I hated it so much I nearly cried. Murray jumped over everything, only balked once (and it wasn’t even at a fence), and I couldn’t ride in that thing. I just couldn’t.
So I went back in, put my saddle on, and jumped around in that for AT. Murray was fine. No discernible difference from jumping in the Pessoa. But AT could see that it really didn’t quite fit — with me in and out of the saddle, it still pressed down on Murray’s shoulder blades. Off I ran to get a wither riser pad.
A saddle that fits the way it’s supposed to! I was also really pleasantly surprised with the way I felt with the saddle raised in the front. It was much easier to sit up straight and my leg felt good. I popped around and was really happy. And then I realised how abjectly tired and emotionally drained I must have been, because I nearly cried over saddle fit. Saddle fit. That is not something I typically cry over.
I tried to sleep early that night, but did not succeed, and thus when I headed out to schooling on Saturday I was still tired. I probably should have trusted my instincts and no schooled that day, however I didn’t want to force a second trip (joke’s on me, I’m going on another trip to school there in two weeks) just on my behalf, and so I sucked it up and went schooling. I rode terribly, and I cried twice, but I did it. For the most part.
Murray ditched me within 30 minutes of getting on, of course. We were cantering towards a fence and the rest of the group happened to be walking in the opposite direction and when we passed Murray kinda lost control of his body and I ended up in the dirt. I kinda landed on my feet but as Murray fruck out I lost my footing, and then did that thing you’re not supposed to do (hang on) and got dragged through the dirt because hell if I was going to let him gallop half a mile back to the trailers. I can just see it now — Murray’s ass happily fleeing in a cloud of dust as he gleefully returned to the place from whence he came. (At least he likes the trailer?)
Once again the exhaustion hit me and I started crying, but we cantered back, jumped the fence, and all was well and good for a while. It’s hard to cry while you’re actively riding. I’m pretty sure it’s a strategy of Alana’s to get me out of my head. Oh Nicole, go do that thing over there! Yay you did it, happy now? Good girl.
We had some trouble at the next fence too, a Novice-sized house that I was totally amped to jump. But coming up to it, all I could feel was Murray getting faster and stronger toward the fence, and I felt like I had zero control, and when I half halted to get a little attention back we came to a not-even-that-dramatic stop right in front of the fence. I was like “look Alana, I’m not jumping anything bigger than BN or in any way scary after this fence, but I just have to get over this thing and then it will be fine. WTF. I have no control. He’s fast and strong and I don’t know what I’m feeling and I don’t trust him to go.” And Alana was like “Girl, just sit back and dressage that shit. What you’re feeling is your Notorious OTTB rocking back onto his hindquarters before the fence, but he’s using any bit contact as an excuse to say no because he’s a rat bastard. So just half halt that monster with your seat and core if you need to*.” And damn if it didn’t work. Of course.
* Alana doesn’t actually speak like this. Much creative license was taken.
After that I reminded myself to take the small options from now on because I clearly couldn’t life and did not want to overface myself or my horse. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t still somehow fuck it up.
That approach is way steeper than it looks and Murray slipped in the loose footing the first time and was like “NO WAY” (and slipped) the second time. Both were spectacular fails. I’m saving the other picture for my Everyday Fails wrap up post.
So yeah. I’m struggling right now with not trusting my horse, which is shitty. It’s not really a position I ever thought I’d be in. For a long time I could at least trust him and myself to get over it, even if it wasn’t pretty or perfect. I need to get my confidence in Murray back, get my lower leg under control (I’m putting those stirrups back down until he stops spazzing out over random artifacts in the arena), and both of us back to that place where we can trust one another. And also that place where I don’t suck at riding.