Friday morning dawned drizzly and awful at Camelot. I’d opted to stable Murray in the pipe panels (12×24) there instead of a stall (12×12), because a) we’ve done that a lot and he’s always fine and b) he literally tried to dig his way out of his stall at Twin. I was regretting that decision while sitting in my car and simultaneously listening to the rain hammering on my roof and looking at my weather app telling me there was a 0% chance of rain in Oroville.
The yellow cell passed us fairly quickly though, and other than being wet, Murray was fine. The rain also provided me with an excellent excuse not to put terribly much effort into cleaning him. It also made braiding easier, since his mane was pre-soaked! While braiding Murray’s forelock I discovered a huge scab at his poll, which did make forelock braiding a little challenging, but I didn’t let Murray get away with being an ass (hanging off of his forelock with one hand) and he eventually snuggled in to my chest and let me gently finish the braid.
After braiding I watched Alyssa and Bacon and a few other of the training riders. Alyssa put in a lovely test. Everyone was conservative on the lengthenings because the arena was sloppy from the rain. Watching a few more tests, I realised that people were riding Training B. And then I was like “oh shit.” I texted a friend, and she confirmed for me that yes, we were in fact riding BN-B. I scurried off to learn my test.
Murray tacked up quietly, and I had given myself enough time to change, do ground work, and lunge before heading in to warm up. This was a good call, since Murray had plenty of opinions on the lunge line, but settled down fairly quickly. From the lunging arena to the warm up the footing had a pretty drastic change, and Murray let me know his displeasure. He settled in to warm up nicely though, and even after a few walk breaks went back to work without a problem.
We were running early, so I headed in to the ring early. The footing changed again from warm up to the ring, and Murray immediately tensed up as we walked around the ring. Extra warm up time wouldn’t have helped us, but a bit more space to circle at the bottom of the arena and a few minutes to do it in would have been nice. Alas, it was not to be. We trotted down centerline, and Murray decided that he wasn’t really down with the situation, so broke into a canter. I asked him to trot again, and he was like “maybe just canter tinier? Tiny, tiny canter?” We did eventually trot, but then I added insult to injury by having him turn right at C instead of left, and his annoyance with me mounted.
Despite having never practiced this test all the way through, Murray was great! He got annoyed a few times and hopped or spazzed out when something unexpected came up, but for the most part he was incredibly rideable and listened to me. We had plenty of Murray moments sprinkled throughout, like whenever I put my leg on or changed gait. But his protests were brief and he got back to work very quickly after each one. The best protest was after the stupid short free walk — which I thought would be easier because there is less time to get distracted, but it is harder because there’s less time to develop stretch and march!!!! — when I asked Murray to pick up the trot. He squealed, leaped in the air, and then we trotted down centerline minus my left stirrup.
The judge had been generous all morning, and I (kinda for the first time!!) felt like she was equally generous to me. For movements where we pulled it together quickly, she scored us for the better work we had done. The score sheet ended up with a mix of 7s/6s and 3s/4s, so we were either solidly above average or super inadequate. I ended up with a 42, and honestly probably deserved more like a 46 — easier to acknowledge when given the more generous of the two scores, though. This was about on par with how generous the judge was being to other riders in my division. It also put me solidly in last place.
Megan and Kate had come up on their way to Horse Expo to watch me and Alyssa, and we all got a good laugh out of Murray’s display of great talent. (I think one of them may even have gotten some good pics of Murray’s objections!) He clearly knew he had a blogging audience and had to put on his best behavior for them!! But honestly, how could I be annoyed at him for this? He did everything I asked, he just did it with flair. And while I’d love to have the type of horse who trots over all different footing without batting an eye, he isn’t that horse. There’s no point wishing for something that doesn’t exist. In the end, I’m very happy that we stayed in the ring (there’s a canter transition after a diagonal where I was legitimately worried we’d bolt out over the arena PVC) and that I kept riding.
We have been on such a roll lately — every outing we take, he becomes more rideable and relaxed, and I get better at thinking and riding to ask for better performance. We still have a lot of work to do — Murray is still tense through the base of his neck and not totally through — but all of that work feels achievable and within reach. This pony has come a long way from the one who couldn’t even canter in the arena because he was so tense. And I’ve come a long way from the rider who melted down because she couldn’t get her pony to canter in the arena because she was so tense. Seriously, it made me so happy. So, so happy.