My glorious return to riding after Murray’s week off post event (and Nicole’s week off due to moving) was not in any way glorious. I had this obviously ridiculous expectation that we would leap right back into our dressage work like we had never had any time off, but I didn’t quite expect that we would have so many issues with, uh, everything…
Fall is fast arriving in Northern California, as evidenced by the BLASTING North wind coming through my barn Saturday. This is a hallmark of the valley fall, and makes biking to campus SUPER unpleasant. And with all the El Nino talk this year, it sounds like we’ll be getting a lot of it…
Anyway! I got on Murray and we started to stretchy trot around and he was like “steering what?” He was leaning in to my left leg and cutting corners and when I tried to turn we would wildly overshoot or undershoot. There was no good steering. None. He was also extremely dissatisfied with the contact and couldn’t come to terms with the idea of stretching down or working properly. It kinda seemed like he really just wanted to trot around with a lesson-pony head set and call it a day. I didn’t really want to fight about it, and I was riding with two other people in the arena, so I decided to visit the pastures for a bit of a gallop to work it out.
The gallop turned out to be an excellent choice. I got into the pasture and Murray immediately picked up the contact and cantered around beautifully. We did an accidental conditioning set where I would gallop him out the long side, collect along the short side, and then try to really work on collecting in a circle, and gallop out the long side again. Murray was obedient and consistent and we saw LOTS of variation in his canter stride. It was fabulous! We managed to work on so many things in the canter that I’ve not been able to achieve in the arena, and Murray was connected and bending appropriately even at the gallop.
I’m house sitting for trainer right now, so I came “home” and worked my new project horse. Yep. Mine. It turns out Murray was a total gateway horse, so when the opportunity popped up to go in on a project mare I was like “OH OKAY GREAT IDEA.” Great idea or not, I’m in it now. “Peanut” is a former polo mare, so she’s fairly well trained already, and we think she might love jumping too!
Sunday I rode Murray again with every intention of playing some hobbit trickses on him and using a pasture gallop if he was resistant or unsteerable again. Fortunately, Murray came out ready to work and was super rideable! We did a little spiral in-spiral out, shoulder-in on a circle, leg yields, and haunches in. I need to work on his connection going right to left, he tends to get a little more tense and resistant. But our left leg yield is like woah.
My next riding goal for Sunday was to start collecting the canter up. One of the things Tina suggested to me was to drive and “pause” at the apex of the canter. However, the driving motion of my seat really made Murray hollow his back, so instead I tried lightening up my seat and pausing in that motion. It worked quite well at first, but then Murray was like “obviously you just mean trot when you do that” and I had to really kick on to get him to stay in the canter. Going left we struggled a little bit with bending left and staying through and shortening up our stride, but we got a few good moments so I praised him profusely and we switched directions. Right we actually struggled a lot more to slow down the canter, I suspect because Murray was already quite tired and that shit is hard work. But I convinced him to do it a few times for me and we called it a day.
This week we’re starting a new lesson regime! I finagled my way into 2x a week lessons for a little while, so I will be schooling a lot soon. I can’t wait, seriously. There are so many things that Murray and I will improve upon with super regular dressage lessons!! And he will be sooooo saddddd and I will laugh muchly.