Murray and I took a personal day on Sunday to go to a local event derby, where I planned to ride in the BN derby division and school a Novice jump round in the field for practice. I had just one goal for the weekend: to actually ride through my dressage test (and stadium round, though dressage especially). This meant getting Murray to a connected, rideable place at the show and not freezing up and backing off the second he decided to be slightly an asshole/a horse.
Fortunately, the assistant trainer/my friend who was coaching me gave me the same advice, and encouraged me to stop falling into the trap of twiddling with Murray’s face when I could solve my issues from actually activating his hind end (I knowwwww). She also reminded me to keep my right shoulder back/straight and not break over my right wrist. These two little position pointers were perfect — they effectively changed my position and connection, and were just enough for me to think about without freaking out over positional things entirely.
Murray warmed up pretty well. At one point Murray tried to run off at the walk instead of play along with an almost-on-the-bit walk, but I convinced him to stick around. He tried again when he saw a horse cantering past in the derby field and got excited, but I just tried to keep my reins consistent and the horse moving forward.
Overall, the test had some nice moments but was behind the leg, tense and somewhat choppy, with borderline terrible geometry and one massive spook at a patch of light. Murray spooked in the third quarter of a 20m circle, and then in the fourth circle experienced some after-shock spooks where he apparently thought he was reliving the light-spot experience. But it turns out that when I use my seat, leg and core, and try to keep pushing my horse forward into a consistent connection, I can get some pretty legit results*. A test that felt like it should score in the 42-43 range got a generous 35.3 from the judge, with the verbal comment that we visibly improved as the test went on.
* Compared to previous results!
Our BN jump round went well, though I struggled to ride Murray at a consistent pace due to him looking at a few things and me erring on the side of slowing him down. We ended up with one rail down and one circle between two fences (not an associated distance), and I honestly don’t know how the round was scored. I opted to go back in for another BN round and Murray was the perfect ride. He was totally forward, happy to move to the fences, rateable, and listening. We had no jump penalties or time penalties that round either.
I opted to scratch my Novice jump round in favor of some light adulting (meeting a new tutoring client). I really would like to get out and jump some Novice in a foreign location, but will have to wait for a few more weeks at least before I can finagle it into the schedule. But we had two great rides and one good ride, so I was happy to end with that. To have Murray listen to me and respond so reasonably in the dressage court was fantastic, though I’m equal parts ashamed that I have been riding so poorly in the past and elated that the changes I’m making are having an effect. And our jump rounds were fun and awesome, even if I did make some questionable choices that led to a rail and (maybe) refusal.
To top it all off, my generously-scored dressage test and jump round with one or two (let’s split the difference and call it 1.5) faults landed me a sixth place ribbon and a jar of cookies! Which Murray hates. Because of course.