One of the best compliments you can receive as someone training a young horse is that you’re doing a good job with them. Last week I was lucky enough to hear this from both Yves and Megan (though Megan may have said it in a more roundabout way). This had me pretty chuffed, since really, taking on such a green project as a fairly green rider was not necessarily the best choice ever. But it was one that I could afford, and I am nothing if not practical.
My lesson with Yves was not one of deep problem solving. (Which is good, because I really didn’t think that we were in the position where I needed to pay a LOT of money to have someone tell me to jump more cross rails at a slower pace. I’m perfectly willing to do that, of course, but it just isn’t where I think my efforts should be focused at the moment.). But the lesson was a very fair assessment of where Murray and I are right now – semi-competently jumping around 2’6”, but with a few little confidence bobbles here and there. For Murray, that means he backs off to fences. For me, it means that I have to recognize when he is backing off and when he is rebalancing, and give him enough supporting leg to arrive at the fence with the speed and power needed.
Murray also threw in enough sass that Yves could see quite well what I was dealing with. He got a read on Murray’s personality quite quickly, and really encouraged me to be very consistent in my training. Little sassybritches will never learn that we have to sit up and focus on the next fence even if he’s feeling silly if I let him be silly sometimes and then come down harshly upon him at other times. Which is true. I know that I need to encourage Murray to be more serious in our rides, but it’s hard for me to squash his joy when he is feeling so good. For a horse that loses confidence quickly, I want him feeling confident and a little sassy to the fences – like those fences are a teenaged working student he doesn’t want to play with. But even with that sass, Murray sat up and listened to me when I asked him to, moved forward to all the fences, even when he was a teensy bit concerned, and jumped beautifully.
A few weeks ago I was jumping someone else’s mare in a lesson with B (by request of the owner). The mare in question was putting quite a bit of effort into sassing me, and I struggled so much to put her together. When I first asked her to steady with my seat, she dropped her back and scooted out from under me. When I added a little rein pressure and attempted to push her into the bridle, she braced into my hand and bolted. She was very responsive to my cues to change gait or speed up, but getting into a steady rhythm at any speed was challenging. All of these things were doubly irritating to me because they are what Murray does seemingly without thinking. The entirety of the mare’s attitude was “LET ME DO IT MY WAY” even if her way was unbalanced, unsteady, and in no way what I would want to approach anything 2’6” or above with. Murray might want to do things his way, but at least he’s willing to take some input.
I’m not trying to disparage this other rider’s training – she has a more challenging mare than I do, and I know that her schedule is more limited. But this was the first time I’ve ridden another horse and known, really known, that my horse was in a better place in his training than a somewhat comparable horse. I always think of Murray as less than his peers – less well behaved, less well trained, less capable, less reasonable… I know this is not his fault, our progress is due to a combination of his personality and my at-times inaccurate training. But recently he has been proving to me that we aren’t quite as behind the times as I had thought. We are, evidently, on the way to becoming a very rideable horse.