It seems that Murray has also made some resolutions for this year. Mostly to fight (FIGHT) for his right to… nooooot have to do anything he doesn’t want to do.
Today was my first jump lesson since the Chris Scarlett clinic, and I was looking forward to applying some of her principles in our lesson. Well, all of them really. I wanted to have a good, quiet, elastic contact with the reins, ride the canter steadily to each fence, and use the outside aids through the turn. I decided to ease Murray into these things though, so he wouldn’t get all cranked about it like he did in the clinic. I also followed MIL’s principles of getting Murray to be round before and immediately after transitions, and just persisting until they meet in the middle.
Our warm up was actually awesome. Murray was forward and game and once I realised that my pushing off my left leg was actually what was making us go crooked after every fence, we were pretty straight too. I could really feel myself riding the canter and keeping my lower leg on to avoid the shrinking stride before a fence that so often plagues our rides, and Murray was pretty receptive. We added a vertical to our warm up line, and eventually swung around to a 2’6″ square oxer. I kept my leg on and my elbows elastic, and I saw a really good spot for us. I totally thought we were going, until we were in the middle of the fence.
I had no idea what happened. Like… we were going, and then we weren’t going. B said Murray saw the second bar on the oxer right as he was taking off and hit the abort button at the very last second. She lowered the front rail so there were good visual cues around the fence, we came back at it and Murray was like “ha! You can’t trick me with this again!” B lowered the back rail so it was an X oxer and this I really forced it to happen. We swung around to the X oxer a few times, then tried to head over to another X oxer and Murray told me to fuck off about that one too.
I made a big deal about him stopping, backed him, trotted him to the fence, and then made a big deal about him going over it. Then we jumped the two oxers a few more times together. I commented to B that Murray felt uncomfortable with the way I was asking him to take the fences in the canter stride, and should I let him go back to the (shittier) way he preferred to jump? B said yes, and had me let Murray add where he wanted, but keep my leg on to stop the stopping.
Unfortunately, a short break and another attempt at the course, that same first oxer that gave us trouble (put up so that the back bar was 2’6″ and the front bar was like one side of an X) got us again. I leaned to it when I felt the takeoff point which was bad, but I was riding super defensively, and I find it hard to stay with Murray over fences when I am being so defensive. We did a quick check over Murray’s body for soreness — nothing obvious — and I decided to forego jumping anything of substantial size (i.e. above 2 feet) and just school Murray over the smaller fences until we got back into the groove. This took… several rounds.
Murray was starting to feel like he had at Camelot, where it was a fight to get to the base of each fence, then a mad dash until the next. When he refused to listen to me halting at one point and I had to get my point across he even pulled the “stop with front feet skid-d-d-d-d” move on me.
One fence in particular was notable, because I’d let Murray get the suuuuuuuuper shitty deep spot to the prior fence that he wanted, and now we were approaching the next fence I had asked for him to step forward (all legs, no whip to avoid scariness). I kept my leg on but let him settle himself back to the smaller stride he was comfortable with and right in the perfect takeoff point he just sat down and stopped. B was like “Damn, that was a really good ride. There was nothing wrong with that ride.” At other refused fences she had pointed out me leaning a little bit — not throwing myself at the fence, but just enough to upset poor horsey boy’s balance, maybe — and at one I just failed to ride, but that fence was a good ride. And I still got a stop.
It was just so. fucking. confusing. Murray wasn’t making a big deal out of the stops, just coming to a dead halt — at least, he didn’t make a big deal about anything until after I lay into him when he deserved it. Something was definitely going on, but it was really hard to pinpoint: more than a couple of times he whale-eyed a fence, and he was panic-galloping between and after fences a little, but we’d come to a halt after a “course” and he wasn’t scared of any fences or anxious at all. None of the anxiety came out until we were right on top of a fence, and then it was like “oh actually NO.”
So… that was weird. I really don’t know how to problem-solve this, except to have another jump lesson (already scheduled!) later this week and see what comes out during it. I have some hypotheses about his behavior that are worth exploring but… it’s all so very interesting.
- Murray was actually sore, despite not seeming like it — he didn’t want to properly bend right or pick up the right canter to start with, so that may have been an indicator/clue (this is also sometimes an indicator of a RH coronet band abscess about to come out)
- I was asking too much with the forward/big canter and he isn’t ready to work like that above 2 feet yet, should move into this work more slowly
- We moved from warm up to jumping real jumps too fast and needed more time for his brain to adjust
- Murray needed a more gentle intro back to jumping after his 2 week vacation — start lower
- Murray scared the (literal and metaphysical) shit out of himself with that first crash and just couldn’t get over it
- Too dark in the indoor and we needed lights
- Murray secretly hates 2 week vacations
- Murray wants to be a dressage horse
- Murray is actually a velociraptor
- oh and… Murray was just being a douchecanoe