The “fortnight” of insanity is over, and I came out the other side whole. The short version:
- my friend’s wedding was beautiful and wonderful and I got a profession of love from one of the Kenyans there — still got it
- my defense went well with expected revisions
- the job interview was fun, interesting, and validating — I got the job and ultimately turned it down to pursue my research goals
- the conference was fantastic and I got to spend a lot of time with my wonderful friends and make some excellent new connections to boot
- prepping for the show was hectic but overall went well — as of Thursday night the XC course was all set and we just had little touches to add on Friday
- the show ran well and people had fun – yay!
But most importantly: I’ve managed to ride my beloved best beast not once but THRICE since returning from Chicago. WUT.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Murray’s level of fitness was basically non existent. He has been very energetic and happy to work, and he would (probably) honestly work for a full 45 minutes or an hour if I asked. But it’s hard. He wants to break from the canter when I insist that he get through, and tries to pull out his new cheating-pony tactics of rooting the reins away from me. He’s also on high alert for potential terrorists in jump standards, poles, mounting blocks, chairs, filler, and funny dirt.
But even unfit and looking for things to be scared of, Murray is ready to work. There’s a fair bit of polish needed, but I get on and Murray is ready to put his head down, listen to what I’m asking, and give it the old college try. It helps that I’m not asking him to do anything to terribly challenging at the moment — lots of work to get us circling correctly, bending properly, listening to my leg, and connected to the outside rein. But instead of fighting me almost every ride, Murray is quiet and obedient. Even when I’ve had to get after him for not listening his protests have been mild and short-lived.
I think it’s the dad bod. He’s got too much extra flub to put up a real fight.
But overall? Murray can take pressure now in a way that he has never been able to take pressure before. It’s like at some point this year — or more realistically, slowly over the last five months that I have barely been riding — he came to understand and accept the submission and obedience needed for dressage. I’m fairly certain that he was never before comfortable with that level of submission and that dressage was a balance between him feeling trapped and needing to escape from that trap. But now he’s sitting chilly. We still get into little altercations because he’s paying more attention to “scary” things he thinks exist in or out of the arena than he is to me, or because he thinks we are working too hard. But overall we have had nothing but wonderful rides lately.
We have also been doing an amazing job of exposing one anothers’ weaknesses during our rides. I know that our original weaknesses will always be the ones that plague us the most — Murray wants to lean in through his shoulders, especially that right shoulder, and doesn’t want to push off from behind. I want to shrink one side up, let my body get twisted around, and ignore consistent rein contact. It’s actually incredibly useful, as it shows me exactly what I thought we had fixed in the past that I was (probably) just masking with sneaky riding (like too much inside rein).
We will be back in regular lessons this month, funemployment pending, so we’ll see what this extended vacay has gotten us. So far, it feels like it was a very productive rest. But many trainers’ opinions are yet to be heard.