I mentioned last week that Murray and I headed out to a jumper schooling show on Sunday, and we went, we saw, we made mistakes, we saw again, and we eventually conquered. It was not quite exactly the schooling show experience that I had hoped for, but we accomplished our goals of having a successful, miles-getting outing, and that was good enough for me.
Of course, the first thing I discovered upon arriving at the show was that I forgot my half pad. SIGH. Fortunately a friend from school was volunteering at a CANTER booth and let me borrow her car to go get it! HOORAY FRIENDS! I entered only the 2’6″ and 2’9″ classes with the specific goal of getting used to the idea of starting off at 2’6″ (and not working my way up to that height), and getting Murray around the course relatively calmly. Murray had his own plan for the day.
I actually think his booty was a little sore from our challenging but awesome lesson on Friday, as cantering left he felt a little crooked/hunchy the most of the day but I wasn’t tripping about it. It was chilly and wet so I let him do what he had to do.
Plenty of Murray opinions later (many of which were expressed as we went by the horses waiting at the in-gate, which I’m sure they really appreciated) trainer had me pop over the warm up fences. We started at a lower height because Murray was being sticky and weird, and our distances were mostly chippy and gross. Trainer told me to give Murray a little tap behind my leg the second he felt sticky to the fences (usually about five strides out), so that he wouldn’t suck back the last few strides to the fence and then be tempted to squeeze one more teeeeeny one in. Trainer put things up to 2’6″ and I pushed Murray forward to the fences for some better distances. Our jumping wasn’t perfect perfect, but it was an improvement over earlier in our warm up.
So we wandered over to the rail to wait for the 2’6″ class and I realised that somehow they were only 1/3 of the way through the 2’3″ class. So I sat. And sat. And it rained. And rained harder. I walked around a bit more, watched a fair number of kids doing their rounds, and finally they started setting the course for 2’6″… and I was one of the last 2’6″ riders to go. So I sat some more.
Murray mostly chowed down on this hay bale until I decided that I should stop letting him destroy another facility’s jump filler. Sorry. I pretty much grasp at whatever straws are available to keep Murray occupied.
About two riders before me I jumped all three of the fences once more (the oxer twice). This round of warm up jumps was much smoother than my first go around. Murray was keeping a consistent pace, and felt adjustable and responsive, and I was really happy. We sat for two or three more riders, and then went in.
Murray was listening fairly well coming around to fence one, and spared only a minor look for the stuff on the outside of the arena. He was a little sticky to the first fence, but the second fence was the one that gave us real problems. Murray looked hard at the red box filler but I pushed him enough that he went, but landed with no momentum. His scrambly trot was not ideal, and I could have kicked or beaten him over fence three (only four strides from fence two), but decided at the last minute that it was not worth it. I wasn’t trying to scare his pants off, so I let him have a good look at the fence, circled around, and we took it the second time around. I actually heard the judge and announcer saying “good ride” as I cantered towards them. Murray maintained his looky-sticky game for the rest of the round, but we got through it all, and he got pats at the end for at least carrying me through.
Since Murray was so looky at 2’6″ I opted to ride a schooling round at 2’6″ instead of riding in the next class to get him through it. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t that disappointed. However, I did talk to trainer about how I was struggling with reaching the balance of getting Murray forward and over the fences without making him anxious and scrambly because I was being mean to him. If I push too much for him to jump everything without question, Murray can get anxious and unpleasant to ride — not what I was looking for at this show. If I don’t push enough, I get refusals at things Murray thinks are scary, which can derail the rest of the course. It’s a hard balance for me to find.
So for the schooling round I rode more confidently to fence one, and growled at Murray much further out about fence two. I was not letting him get that look in, and it resulted in a better ride for every fence on course.
Overall, a good outing for both of us. I have always had a problem getting my game face on after warm up (somehow a part of me seems to think “Oh, we already jumped, so I don’t need to work that hard right?”), so that’s clearly something I still need to work on. What I need now is to have this kind of outing (minus the one refusal) like ten more times! Can I go to schooling shows and just ride like four schooling rounds at 2’6″-2’9″ and jump all over and around all the filler until we’re totally good with it? Yep awesome exactly what I need!