Remember that I’ve had absolutely nothing but fabulous rides on Murray since getting back from Chicago, even when I ask him to do something hard, even when I have to get after him a little for being lazy, even when we miscommunicate a bit. And not just “good” rides, but “log into messenger and talk with your best friends about it IMMEDIATELY” rides.
So Tuesday, Murray was kinda blowing me off, and then about halfway into our ride became a spooky piece of shit. It was windy, so there was that, but this was really ridiculous spooking – dropping his back and bolting down the long side, running sideways halfway across the arena because we dared to pass a bucket of jump cups that we’ve seen approximately 500 times before. I handled it all wrong, of course. I didn’t recognize early enough that he was blowing me off because he was looking at jump filler, and then lost my temper and buckled down with MORE and HARDER work all around the Scary Things that ended up with Murray grinding his teeth and begging for a stretchy trot break.
I should have just practiced calmly and quietly stretching and coming back to me, instead of reinforcing Scary Things and tension. I realized this when I had cooled off a bit, and tried to go back to soft and relaxed work near-but-not-too-close-to the Scary Things, but Murray was already tense and a little on edge. We got back to a good place, and in the grand scheme of bad rides this was hardly that bad! But it made me feel bad.
On Wednesday I got on Murray with the plan to just work on stretching and relaxation if he was anywhere near as spooky as yesterday and to try to get back to the soft-and-happy place that we had formerly achieved. Murray wasn’t spooky, but he was tense and distrustful. And the tension I felt was very similar to my dressage rides on Murray about a year ago. It was that not-really-listening-to-you, twisty, choppy tension… Even writing this just a few hours after my ride I’m finding it hard to describe, but that’s the impression that has lasted on me since my ride: it was like we regressed by a year. I’ve been completely shocked by how mature and responsive Murray has been recently, and then we slipped right back into baby mode.
We worked through it and ultimately had a great ride. But my overwhelming impression was that losing my temper and then digging in yesterday put Murray back into that distrustful, tense, unhappy mindset where dressage (and sometimes jumping) wasn’t fun, and wasn’t worth it. It’s a place I’d rather not go, since the place we’ve been in lately has been so much more pleasant and fun. It makes sense that the attitude with which I ride would affect how Murray goes. I mean… duh. But I don’t think I realized quite how much my attitude and work ethic were affecting the princess pony.
Definitely requires some chewing upon.