Murray and I are getting really good at taking advantage of time-limited rides. The work-life-riding balance has been bananas lately. I’m not going to pretend that I’m the most productive or efficient person around. Sure, I value efficiency, but I get sucked into the Netflix vortex as much as the next person. And this has been ESPECIALLY true in grad school/the general past. But for the last two months, and in particular the last four weeks, I have been doing nothing but my paid work (aka job), commuting to said job, working on one of my un-salaried projects, and riding every other day-ish, blogging infrequently, and I STILL don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. To say I have been a productivity machine lately is underestimating it! I was clearly a monstrous slacker in the past.
Of course, this means that I come to the barn and have less than my ideal amount of time to get the horse tacked up and ridden. My average barn trip calculation is 3 hours from sitting on the couch at home to walking back through my front door. When someone takes +/- 20 minutes just to get the girth on and you are a big fat blabber mouth… this is not surprising. I’ve been doing it in under two hours lately which is SUPER IMPRESSIVE to me.
On Sunday I got both Murray and Logan ridden and fed in under 3.5 hours which is, frankly, even more impressive of a feat since Logan is living in pasture right now. Thanks to some horses being super incredibly reasonable equines, I was able to let Logan hang out and start to dry while I prepped his and Murray’s grain. I realise that this was a potentially sketchy choice, but I was about 98% sure it would be fine, and it was. So yay.
In our shortened rides I work with Murray on either quality of gaits or straightness, and the two seem to be pretty intertwined. But if all I want to work on is quality, I can do it on a circle. I can’t personally seem to wrap my head around straightness + circling yet. Need more trainer hours. The crux of this is pushing him into the contact from behind while encouraging him to lift his shoulders and front end with half halts through my thighs and seat. It’s a workout for everyone involved.
On Sunday I kept us going down the long side instead of circling so I could use the wall to help me get Murray’s hind quarters lined up with his forequarters. He is such an inside haunches drifter! It took us a while to warm up, and then there was some EVIL SPOOKY GARBAGE in the indoor arena, but we made it work. Murray got pretty straight in the trot work, but at times I could see and feel his neck flexing a little to the inside, and I’m worried that I’m over-using the inside rein and shoulder positioning to get the straightness, instead of actually moving his haunches around. But we can very reliably get a quality working trot immediately after (and often during) warm up these days, which is a huge improvement over eight weeks ago.
At the canter Murray was tiiiiiiiiired. For work this demanding (and I was being demanding), at our current fitness, I can really only focus on getting really good, straight work on one lead per ride. I chose the right lead, since I’ve had problems with moving Murray’s haunches around on the right lead in the past. Murray wiggled a lot and did not want to line his hindquarters up for more than a stride or two at a time. I tried to focus on quieting my aids for his haunches to move over, asking and releasing with my leg (instead of nagging or just hanging out with my right leg basically touching his hips). We did get straight, but it wasn’t on the bit or through. But at least it was straight and powerful?
Going left Murray was tired and fell into the “can I just go faster?” trap. Megan told me a while back to never forget to ask for balance with forward, so I tried to encourage lift in the canter through my seat and half halt back into balance. This resulted in a couple of changes of behind but not in front (wtf?). I went back to a 20 meter circle to make it easier on him and Murray was a little more compliant and willing to lift and sit instead of just thundering down the long side on the forehand.
Logan was excellent as always, and kept his head on his neck and his neck on his shoulders and none of that shit in my face in a crowded indoor with a tractor driving just outside of it. We worked on relaxing his neck (which is hard for him), and keeping a steady contact and pace as we changed bends (hard for both of us!). He’s a quick study once things make sense, and we were quickly doing happy, relaxed, five-loop serpentines around the arena, avoiding other riders where necessary. It’s so much fun to work with a baby horse who is so eager to please and easy to teach!
Murray gets a 7 day vacation for Thanksgiving, and then it’s at least three weeks of grinding for him before Christmas. I’m hoping to get some progress pictures taken as soon as he’s clipped again, as the development in his back muscles has been awesome! Finally, baby’s got back! (But actual back, like lumbar muscles and sacro-iliac flexibility, not like booty.)