By Sunday I had gained absolutely no ground, after adding 8.4 time penalties to my luscious dressage score of 40. The wonderful thing about being in 8th place in a class of 11 is that you get to ride really close to the beginning of the class. Which I like. I hate waiting.
When I took Murray’s wraps off in the morning his legs looked clean and tight, and I was relieved that the bump that had appeared on his leg after last year’s Camelot run was not there. The extensor tendon on the front of his cannon was definitely there, but was cool and flat. Unfortunately, when I took Murray out of his stall two hours later to tack up the extensor tendon had filled in and the ugly lump re-appeared. It wasn’t warm and not tender or squidgy, so I texted my trainer that I would put XC boots on (to avoid exacerbating the lump with open-fronts), and if Murray was lame in stadium I would scratch.
I gave myself plenty of time to warm up, since I had run out of time for both dressage and cross country warm up on Saturday, so got to walk, trot, and canter around a bit with the first placed rider in my class on an adorable OTTB named X Factor. Adorbs. Murray was extremely quiet and obedient (and SOUND), which let me know he was pretty pooped after our cross country run. He wasn’t even stiff, and actually moved pretty well while we warmed up – and did I mention SOUND? We will be playing doctor-on-the-internet with that cannon lump in the future.
Trainer showed up for warmup and Murray was predictably a little backed off — but I legged him up to the first X and he clambered over. After that we had a much smoother ride as I remembered to sit back and drive him to the fences. There was a little extra pep in Murray’s step after we started jumping, and even though he was taking the deeper spots he was absolutely launching himself over the fences, which felt nice.
I let Murray relax and eat grass before we headed into the ring, since we did not seamlessly transition from warm up to jumping as I’d hoped (and per Hawley’s advice to go straight from warm up to a stadium round). But I had lots of time to walked him past some of the scary fences and then pick up a canter for the first fence – the pandas! Murray was fairly backed off coming in but I went thump thump with my legs and we popped over – rocket launchers engaged. Coming in to fence two, a three (so four for us) stride “combo” of a castle-to-magic-8-ball and I could feel Murray backing off from five or six strides out. I thumped with my legs but was getting no response, and my whip was STUPIDLY in my left hand instead of my right, so I couldn’t give him the little encouragement tap that is what we need to get past a fence. So Murray cantered smaller and smaller and I really thought he would go, but we stopped. He bumped the front rail of the oxer with his legs. I didn’t let it rattle me – I just patted him, said “that’s okay”, and circled and came back to the fence, which we jumped the second time, and then noodled our way over the 8 ball.
Then it was an easy vertical to oxer bending line, and around to the unicorns of death. As I turned in to the unicorns Murray was like WOAH WOAH WOOOOOAAAAAH now and ran to the right. He pulled us so far off the track to the fence, and it was a two (so three for us) stride combo that I knew there was no reasonable way we could get through both fences without at least one refusal. I decelerated to the trot, circled, and cantered back towards the unicorns which Murray reluctantly jumped, and three strides (I’m so good at predicting our striding in combos) out of the vertical. What is it with the oxer-vertical combos, Camelot?
The last fence was the worst set up for us, and I knew that we would probably have trouble with it: it was right by the announcer’s booth (same as the terrifying finisher’s booth), right by not one but TWO sets of un-used standards, and the announcer’s speakers were right there. I had tried to avoid the issue by walking Murray back and forth past all that scary shit earlier, but he did not appreciate my efforts — he didn’t give a crap until we were in the ring for stadium. Murray saw the piles of scary crap and was pretty sure that he would noooooooooooooooot be doing that. He trotted. I was like, well, we’re going to go my friend! I kept him trotting. I pointed him at the last fence – it was a single oxer after all, and I was pretty sure we could get over it. Get over it we did, but ooooh it was a little ugly. We took a rail. I was okay with it.
So really, not the stadium round of my dreams. But honestly? The stadium round of my dreams lately! Our one stop wasn’t because Murray was flat out ignoring me and behaving in his own self interest – it was because I was too stupid to remember to put my whip in the right hand. Would the stop just have come later in the round? Maybe. Maybe it would have changed our entire ride! But honestly, Murray listened to me when I said go, listened to me when I said come back, and went even if he wasn’t totally convinced that’s what he wanted to be doing. I call that a success.