Phew, long time no blogging. Moving takes it out of me! It’s a good thing Murray is taking a well-deserved mini-vacation right now because I would be useless as a rider. Due to a lack of media (except one picture from Stadium, thanks Kim!!!), please enjoy some show-related but semi-random photos.
So. The WSS Horse Trials! I smanged some major goals. I didn’t get eliminated! There was joy. I also suffered disappointment. I learned. It was a very well-rounded weekend.
On Friday we trailered over to WSS to stable the horses. Though the facility is only 20 minutes from our barn, I really wanted to give Murray a chance to get used to the idea of temporary stabling at a place where I could easily come back and get him (and find another solution if necessary). It was only $30 more, and I reasoned that was well worth it for the experience. Also, for the likely much-more-balanced dressage ride I would get after letting Murray really settle in to the facility.
Friday evening, after it was blazingly Sahara hot all day, B came around to school the three of us stabling together in the dressage warm up. I had a couple of main goals headed in to dressage this weekend, and none of them had to do with scores (thank goodness!). I wanted to: 1) keep a steadier contact with Murray throughout the test (no more floppy reins!), 2) stay even in the saddle with my left leg long and weight in my left seat bone, and most importantly 3) give Murray the ride he needed to gain confidence and relaxation in dressage.
(Murray enjoys some attention from his teenage staff after stadium.)
During our schooling ride everything seemed to really click. I was working hard at keeping my left seatbone appropriately weighted and keeping my left leg long. Murray only had one explosive moment of “wtfffffffffff” and it wasn’t even that explosive. I felt him get bunchy in the canter, he bucked a few times, and then we got back to work. B commented that I was the most centered in the saddle that she’s ever seen me, and we looked great.
Dressage warm up the next morning was much the same, without even any explosions. Murray was a complete professional. He walked, trotted, and cantered around without kicking anyone in the face or having any major tantrums. We even managed to achieve the slower, more deliberate canter that Tina likes us to have because it’s a better, more powerful canter (as opposed to flat and rushy). The only problem we encountered was that I got ready too quickly, shocking, and so I had about seven extra minutes to kill. I thought “what can it hurt if I get on a little early and hack a little longer?” so I did. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
We got into the dressage court and Murray was about as looky and tense as I expected based on past performance. I managed to get him to give a little and soften in a circle around the judges’ booth, and the judge kindly gave us another whole lap around the ring to settle a bit and told me that she would ring me in as I passed E, which I thought was a really kind thing to alert me to. Murray stopped spooking at the booth and flowers and ground and we headed in to our test. I don’t think I ride drastically differently in tests than I do in warm up, but I must because Murray always seems to pick his head up down the centerline and I have to struggle to get him relaxed and soft throughout the first half of the test. He never really got soft like he did at Camelot, and was a little resistant through the first circle. When I asked him to canter, all of our beautiful canter transitions from warmup went out the window, and unfortunately Murray hopped and swished his tail like he was doing tempi changes throughout the entire second half of the circle. The right canter circle was worse — Murray swapped leads behind (BEHIND ONLY. WTF HORSE.), hopped, swapped, did at least one flying change, and I had to trot to correct it. Of course, once we’d trotted he was like “no, no, no more canter Miss Nicole” and so that was a bit of ugly right in front of the dressage judge. We did have a quiet down transition and a damn straight halt after the centerline.
There were both good and bad things in the test, but I was overall disappointed by the way Murray “turned off” during the test. He wasn’t violently rude or angry or upset, just generally grouchy and cranky. I had a little cry (because I’m a cry baby, yes) and whined to Assistant Trainer about why I didn’t pick an easier horse for a bit. She told me to take the good with the bad, accept the test for what it was, learn from it, and walk my horse out. So I did.
Then we got to wait around for several hours before stadium, and I watched Prelim go and some of the kids ride their Training stadium course, and learned the course while watching. Obviously there were combinations that were taken out, but it’s nice to be able to watch a bunch of people tackle the course to help learn it. When I got Murray down to stadium warm up about 15 minutes before our ride he was a rocket. He was launching himself at the warm up fences, and galloping around the arena, and I was like “UHHH I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THIS ENERGY” to my trainer.
I love that energy, and honestly wish I got to ride more of it at home, because it’s the type of energy that makes me really feel like Murray can go places. But he’s lazy at home, so I don’t ride that energy very often, and don’t have the opportunity to learn how to rate it and ride it away from home. B was just like “do not change your riding (read: don’t get ahead, don’t lean to the fences, don’t expect that just because he’s energetic he’ll do it for you), and point that energy at the fences.” So I did. And it was not the worst thing that ever happened. Murray launched himself over the warm up fences and barely touched a thing — including the vertical that someone’s trainer put up to a solid 3′ and I surprised him with.
So we went up to the stadium ring and only had to wait for a moment before being sent in. I took a moment to nod to the judge (didn’t know you had to do this until this show, so I really took a moment to do it), and circled around to the first fence. Murray trotted in fairly calm and then was like “WTF THERE ARE PLANTS HERE” as we went to the first fence and I felt him suck his entire body up and back. I just let him keep trotting to the first fence with my leg on quite firmly, and he broke into a canter as we got close. I also felt Murray hesitate at the fence but was like “nope, you are going!” and so we went.
It was not a pretty ride. I felt Murray suck back to several fences, and he kinda defaulted to “not sure” canter, which is not very rhythmic and therefore hard to gauge a distance from. However he listened to my insistent leg and we went over everything, even a “big” red and white oxer that Murray hesitated over way far away from the fence. We took really short ones to a few fences, and my equitation was not there. I have been finding it really hard to resist the urge to jump ahead when I must use my seat to drive Murray to the fences, and apparently I’ve also developed the amazing habit of putting my tongue out between my lips… so that’s a shortcut to a ruined show shirt.
But we did it! And now I have a better feeling for the kind of ride Murray will probably give me when he’s not feeling super confident, or when he’s distracted by the other stuff going on at the show. I’m hoping with some practice that he will be able to give me that awesome, explosive energy in stadium that I can feel in warm up.
Tomorrow: XC recap! Which features all the joy this tiny corgi picture can convey.