One of my big challenges with Murray is disconnecting his physical problems from his emotional problems. He’s really quite a clever little guy, as long he doesn’t perceive what I’m asking as too physically demanding. And he’s also quite the sporty little thing, as long as I don’t ask him to combine feats of physicality with any kind of mental challenge. Unfortunately, this means that outside of walk-trot-cantering in straight lines and circles and jumping 2′ Xs, if I want to do absolutely anything correctly I will be addressing both of those issues. And of course, once you start addressing some of the hard physical issues, things can get pretty emotional too. The horse can jump 4′ as long as you let him do it his way.
So we get into trouble when we have to do some really basic things. I mean, yes, we can get into a fair bit of trouble when we have to do more complicated things too. In fact, I was lying above, because even a 20 meter circle to the right (HA, even a 30 meter circle tracking right!) is super extra challenging because I’m asking him to a) bend properly, b) step under with his right hind and not carry his haunches inside the circle and that is really emotionally challenging. Murray has such a deep groove carved into his brain of “this is how I go” that even such a simple request as “don’t hold your haunches to the inside going right” makes him go “wtf! no! what! how! I’M DYING I think you’re KILLING MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”
So not only do I have to break through the physical barrier, I have to break through the mental barrier, and get Murray to not just do the possibly-only-slightly-physically-challenging-exercise and relax while doing it. Let’s take this 20 meter circle as an example. Murray wants to push his haunches in, so I think about a shoulder-fore and ask him to bring his shoulders in. But then we want to spiral in, so I have to keep pushing his body out on the circle. Then Murray wants to evade the contact and left rein, so I have to remind him that actually yeah, we try to use our whole topline. Oh and at some point we have to relax doing all of this.
It requires precise
riding, and none of my old short-cuts really work here any more. I could ask Murray to relax by stretching him laterally, but then he wouldn’t really be bending properly and would just be traveling in a leg yield on a circle. Or I could just not ask him to fill the outside rein, but then I’d be letting him get away with avoiding that too. So it’s correct hand placement and a little inside leg nudge-nudge the haunches over and oh yay that was three steps that felt pretty good and there go the haunches so nudge nudge nudge those bad boys back over and hold my body correctly on the circle and wow this feels so wrong.
Which is the best part! Doing it right feels sooooooo wrong… because what I think feels right is the wrong feeling of my many years of being trained into wrongness! But I really can’t let Murray keep doing it wrong, since that is just training the wrong muscles more. So precise work we will do.
That’s basically where I’m at right now: riding with deep precision through basic movements that I wish I’d been able to ride like… a year ago. Though I’m happy to report that after more than two weeks off of jumping Murray has started looking at the fences rather perkily, so it’s back to jumping this week! And hopefully the mental health weeks, new magnesium, and just feeling-more-even in general will have done the trick.