Let’s wrap up this entire weeks’ worth of Camelot Schooling Horse Trials inspired posts with some thoughts about the whole thing.
I didn’t write much about the show before we went there, as I didn’t want to delve into the various nitty gritty details of my many plans and contingencies. One of my big goals this year was to get Murray more show broke, and to do that I need to go to plenty of shows. Not only do I need to go to said shows, I need Murray to understand both that shows are not scary places (no, no, Murray, no need to save my life this time!) and that certain rules do stay in place at shows (yes, yes Murray, we jump what I say we jump, we don’t bail right before the last jump because we are afraid of a little wooden hut). So I knew that it could go a lot of ways, and we would need to figure it out as we went along.
My overall feeling about Camelot this year is that everything went right. I don’t even care that I got a forty in dressage and Murray was distracted, or that we got time on cross country AND stadium, and took rails and had a stop in the latter. There was a tiny part of me that was like “what are you DOING paying this much money to not be competitive?!” but the rest of me (and that was a lot of me) really believed in and stood behind every single decision I made during the weekend.
There isn’t anything about our ride that wasn’t improved over last year – except the dressage score. But when I look at my video from last year and compare it to this year, I can see so much improvement in my riding. I am so much more centered, I use both reins evenly, and I don’t half hang off my horse in the circles. Better yet, Murray is so much more secure in our relationship, he is more confident in himself, and we communicate better. Fuck yeah.
Cross country was also a monstrous improvement. I think Murray and I both went into the start box feeling 100% more confident out on XC than we did last year, and man does it feel good to ride a calm, confident horse over to the start box instead of one who is anxious and unsure of himself and can only find comfort in the running-as-fast-as-he-can part. It feels way better than having to be walked to the start box, only to rocket around the intro course at top speed and somehow stumble over all the logs and water entrances in our way as we go.
On top of that, I made decisions about our ride out on cross country and Murray listened to me. Actually, the fact that he listened isn’t even the coolest part – did you see that I actually made decisions out there?! I went into the start box knowing that if there was something scaring Murray on course I had the tools to handle it, and that if there was a fence he felt unsure about I would be able to figure that out quickly and make the adjustments I needed to, and that if we had a refusal I could confidently get him over the obstacle at the second presentation. I have never been that capable of a rider before, and knowing that I have reached a new place in my riding feels FUCKING AMAZING. The cherry on top is that Murray listened to me when his brain was in its most compromised state – running fast into the great wide open!
Another improvement: after we had a stop in stadium neither Murray nor I lost our cool. And when I tapped him to keep him forward he didn’t lose his shit over that either – and I didn’t lose my shit and over-arm wallop him.
I walked away from the show at Camelot knowing that I could completely stand behind every single decision I had made. I made the right decisions, and I made them for the right reasons. I gave Murray the ride that he needed to get through all three phases successfully, and he responded by doing what I asked. All of the stupid little problems we’ve had lately didn’t rear their ugly heads, and when they threatened to we smashed them down together. It definitely makes the troubles we have had over the last year (or two) worth it. We are both braver and stronger after ten more months together; we are a better team.