I actually did not look at my videos from the morning dressage lesson with JM until after my jump lesson in the afternoon, which was a funny choice. I was worried that with all the ground breaking HARD work I was asking Murray to do and the fussy slightly shitty place he had felt like at times in our lesson that our video would be less than flattering and mostly slightly disappointing. I was clearly wrong, but didn’t know it yet. So when my jump lesson with JM started I wasn’t quite at “shut up and take my money”, but I certainly was afterward.
JM asked what he needed to know about this horse for jumping, and I simply said “We like to add.” JM responded that he also likes to add, and is fine with it as long as you ride forward to the add. Sounded like something I could do.
We started with the classic trot-pole-to-crossrail and after a few successful trips over that JM raised the X to a vertical. As we were trotting into the vertical I heard JM say “steady, steady”. As I could feel Murray plowing down on the jump I slowed my post a little to encourage Murray’s pace to stay consistent. Unfortunately this had the opposite effect of slowing him TOO much, and we had an ugly fence. The next time through Murray was picking up the pace a bit again and so I tried to just half halt through my core. This resulted in an EVEN UGLIER jump. JM stopped me, told me that my horse is a lazy SOB so I have to work to keep him forward instead of holding him back — and what do you know, Murray regulated his own pace. Like he does.
We moved on to jumping additional fences, and Murray refused a green coop we have jumped a billion times. He was looking at a scary piece of filler off to the side of it and I didn’t ride properly — still hesitantly the line between over-doing it with the “YOU MUST GO” and underriding. So he got one smack, and I rode properly to the fence the next time, and it was a non-issue.
We progressed through the courses relatively quickly. After watching a few consecutive fences JM told me that I had the winning combination of a horse who was willing to sit himself up on his hind end, so my job was to keep the energy and push him to the good spot instead of letting him add until we are beneath a fence. This is not particularly revolutionary or different from what other clinicians have told me — but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great ride!
We jumped around BN height with a few slightly bigger fences thrown in there (I told JM I wanted to start out the new year at novice, but obviously would re-assess in the new year) and there was nary a stop or shitty fence to be seen. Despite being tired and having a hard butt workout that morning Murray was responsive and rateable — I could get him forward when I needed, and he came back equally well. He took the long (for him) spots when asked, and didn’t fight me too much about getting on top of fences before takeoff.
I did feel a little looser in the tack than I would like, which I chalk up to being out of jumping shape, and I was ducking a little aggressively over the fences. But I imagine I will get much stronger in the coming weeks as Murray and I get back into it.
The best part of all this is that I felt completely and absolutely prepared for the level — which is a first for me. I don’t clinic much, but I feel like whenever I do clinic I say “I’m competing at BN” and there are still nineteen things that clinician gives me to work on before I can be successful at that level. I mean, yay for getting what I need out of clinicians, but it always leaves me feeling a little bit like “will we EVER get there?!”
And you may have noticed that there was nary a mention of Murray theatrics in these recaps. Because there were none. Trainer didn’t even have to prep JM with the Notorious OTTB backstory — we just stepped into a clinic and rode successfully like
Southern motherfucking democratic republicans reasonable adult horses CAN DO.
I mean, we asked Murray to do a hard thing in dressage (use your hind end, fool!) and he neither lost his shit about it nor abandoned everything else he’d ever learned about dressage and turned into a giraffe. That’s a huge win right there. Then I took my tired horse and jumped him around at a good clip asking him to take longer spots than he wants to and not shrink his stride to the fences quite so much, and he didn’t get upset about that either!
This kid is growing up.