I was going to skip writing this post all together since I feel like we didn’t really get a ton done this year. I barely rode from March through July and have had to skip plenty of days since then, showed only once (okay, maybe twice), and barely went to any clinics. I couldn’t even seem to pull together good ride recaps. But then I started reviewing my posts from throughout the year and it turns out we have done some things!
January dawned with jumping and dressage problems, which was not terribly inspiring after an amazing dressage camp at my MIL’s place in late 2014. I took it easy on the riding front and decided to skip jumping for a few weeks, and instead calculated exactly how much it would cost me to event essentially all over California (TL;DR too much). Murray was a little NQR for a few more days, Tina suggested it might be his hocks fusing, and so we took it even easier. I decided I was getting a new dressage saddle, and Murray’s sleazy somehow magically made his girthiness basically disappear. And I pondered the fact that, while we still had problems, at least they were better quality ones!
Murray started to feel better in February, and I worked on some of our deep-rooted positional issues that influence our ability to work correctly. I also thought a fair bit about my responsibilities as a rider — to both myself and my horse. I got lucky and took a dressage lesson away from home with a local trainer and Murray was great! Magical, super high quality footing did not magically turn him into a GP horse, for which I am grateful. And I realised that the problem with Murray’s jumping wasn’t Murray, but me (obvi): I was asking him to jump in a way that was far too uncomfortable for him, either mentally or physically (or both). [Later in the year we would conquer this particular problem.] I also discovered that if I did it right, I could start asking Murray for the moar!! that we want and need.
I also wrote about
running walking away from lions.
I took an unannounced hiatus in March. I needed to work on my thesis and riding and writing were too distracting. I got a lot of good work done (but probably could have posted and ridden all month long and still gotten done this month! hah.)
April was full of so many awesome things. I rode with Hawley Bennett which proved to be both everything I hoped and dreamed and very challenging. We went to camp and jumped all the jumps and finally showed some progress in dressage. I also competed in the Camelot Horse Trials at BN, and while it wasn’t a perfect run it was a great learning experience. Murray listened to me instead of just doing his own thing, and I made decisions, stuck to them, and enacted them. It is probably the first time I have really pro-actively ridden a full test, course, and round. It felt great.
May started out with the crazy stressful but also fairly successful Woodland Stallion Station One Day event. It also turned into a clinic-ful month! I tried out another saddle that I thought was magic (spoiler alert: this happened a lot), and I rode with Megan and with Yves! Despite being the worst on the ground that he has been in a long time, breaking a lead rope, his halter, a trailer tie, and just generally being a raging douchebag, Murray was in great form for the actual riding portion of the clinic and took Megan’s instruction well. Looking back on the pictures of Murray at the Yves clinic, I can see that he was finally back to feeling really good about jumping, and was forward and confident the whole time.
Then I went to Australia for two weeks and consequently missed more riding.
The second half of June I juggled my new life schedule (no teaching, more zoo-ing) and trying to ride with moving and couch surfing and everything else that was going on. It was… delightful. Karen inspired me with her list of Eli’s behavioral changes and I discovered that, for every bad thing I could think of that Murray could do, we were mostly in the green in terms of behavior change. I struggled to incorporate the lessons I had learned with Megan and Yves into my inconsistent riding schedule. Murray took a lot of naps, and neither of us minded the relaxed schedule.
I still wasn’t doing a ton of riding in July, and I finally figured out why: after you’ve not ridden for a while, it suddenly becomes easier to just not ride. I thought about back seat riding and training bravery. Murray and I got back to some jump lessons and I had a great learning experience on the different uses of my seat. We also schooled cross country at Hiskens where Murray was fantastic, especially for the small amount of jumping we had done to that point, and then my phone killed itself on the drive home. I wrote a personal story about the death of a good friend.
August was a month of hectic activity on the personal front, and the consequence was even more limited riding for Murray! Are we sensing a theme for this year? Nicole gets busy; Murray gets a vacay. I traveled for a wedding and a conference, defended my thesis, and moved — again! I started using yet another different dressage saddle to see if I could fix my leaning/pitching issues.
September finally settled down and Murray and I got back to real work. I rode for the first time with John Michael Durr, and he gave us a fantastic new tool to develop strength and straightness. He also called Murray on his laziness and encouraged me to really insist on a proper step when jumping. After all our time off and mini-vacations and legitimate vacations and inconsistency, I saw that Murray really was making some great progress. That was a bright point in my year, because I had definitely been feeling a little down in the dumps about my progress until I looked back like this.
Being funemployed in October meant that I finally got to ride as much as I wanted and had been doing in the past! I clipped him early and got it done – again! I then promptly pretended that clipping so early was a strategic training decision so that I would have to clip him twice this year, therefore reinforcing the “stand for clipping” lessons that I started installing. I tried to stick to the lessons I had learned from JM and Megan and really get Murray to move into the contact and engage his whole body. More consistent riding helped immensely with Murray’s understanding of the concepts that I had been working on, but also brought back the lazy reluctance that often characterizes him. Fortunately for me, I also started to figure out how to push him for more without pushing his buttons. We also managed to get to a schooling show and snag a pretty sixth place ribbon!
November was another quiet month on the riding and writing front. We had a tack room re-org that has made our tack room so much more functional even with a couple of new boarders in the room. It’s magnificent. I wrote about being a good student and the principle of punctuated equilibrium and learning. I incorporated a bit of work in the field into my repertoire, and then fell off the back of my horse.
I boarded two trains in December: the blog hop train and the what if train. The horses started to lose turnout privileges since the pastures were swamped, and so Murray expressed his feelings on that the only way he knows how: bucking. As the year wound down (and the wind and cold picked up, brrrrr) I started to opt for playtime instead of riding. Murray continued to be a super star for our rides, and I realised how desperately I needed a lesson. Tina was my lesson savior and nailed me for nagging, and helped me unlock Murray’s body so that we could get more out of our straightness exercises.
And last but not least – I became a doctor!!!! It still feels damn good, by the way.