going to california

Thank you everyone for your kind words and thoughts regarding Murray last week. It’s really so wonderful to know that such a big group of people are in his corner, fingers crossed for the best.

I am not feeling quite as broken or morose as my rather melodramatic post from last week suggests. I always think that Murray is the high-drama element in this relationship, and lo, here I am, proving once more that the two of us are more alike than I would admit. In many ways, the decision to retire Murray was an easy one. It was an awful one, but it was also clearly the best one.

I realised a long time ago that Murray would never be my 2*, 1*, or even Prelim horse. I knew a while back that Training would be a challenge for us, mentally more than physically. I didn’t think until this year that we would have significant problems at Novice. But there they were. I was prepared to put in the work to get past them; they didn’t seem insurmountable.

Riding Murray has always required a certain amount of optimism. Optimism that he wants to come out and play; that he’s as sound and comfortable as can be, given his conformational flaws; that the bad days will come good tomorrow, the next day, or eventually. Over time, those rose colored glasses can give you some pretty big blind spots.

Trainer J’s view of Murray was like a cold wind blowing through my soul. Where my barn family at home saw a horse who has made immeasurable strides in ground manners in the last five years, she saw a horse who was missing massive chunks of his basic education. Where we saw a horse who was goofy and quirky, she saw a horse who bordered on dangerous. Where we saw a horse who moved a little oddly, but it mostly seemed mechanical, she saw a horse who was uncomfortable and unhappy in work, with some physical flaws that were significant limitations.

With that optimism stripped away, I could look at things analytically. The words of the vet who did Murray’s hocks in 2017, along the lines of “there’s a lot going on here, but we could start with his hocks”. What I’ve always known about a club foot: they’re a risk, if not a timer counting down.  What I’ve learned about this horse’s personality in the last five years: victories are hard won, and easily lost. Some part of me always knew this decision would come. The question was, when?

I determined a long time ago that Murray would not be getting extreme measures. I’ve always known that he’s not the type of horse that would recover well from surgery. I’m also not the type of person who is willing to chase more and more invasive and extensive treatments in search of soundness. Maybe I’ve seen too many journeys like that end in sadness anyway. Maybe I’ve seen how crazy some of these shoe-ing set ups get, with no significant or lasting effect. Bluntly, I don’t have the money.

It could easily be different. If Murray was my solid, staid, Training packer. If we could rest him up and get right back to chasing that bronze medal. If it was a suspensory or a fractured splint or a bow, and not a cursed foot thing. Feet are just so damn complicated.

In the end, though, the question was just about Murray’s happiness. Would he be happy if I really went for it with remedial farriery and tried to keep pushing him through? Would he be happy rehabbing in a stall for yet more weeks? Would he be happy retired in a big pasture with an even bigger mare to groom and be bossed around by?

The answer was pretty easy.

I love this kiddo, and I love riding him. But I’m not going to ride him into the ground.

The wonderful thing about having horsey in-laws is that they understand the risks, and they’ve already got plans in place for just this situation. I’ll get to see him every visit and every holiday. I wish he could stay at home with me, but we don’t have horse facilities, and aren’t in the position to put any in.

Maybe one day he’ll come home. For now, he’s going to California with an aching in my heart.

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27 thoughts on “going to california

  1. I’ve loved following you and Murray’s journey, and I’m sad to see the riding part of it come to a close. It sounds like you are making the best choice possible for him, and putting his needs in front of any selfish human ones. I’m so sorry that you ended up having to retire him though, even knowing it’s what is best for him doesn’t make it hurt less.

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  2. Hugs ❤ it’s obvi not what any of us who have been rooting you two on wanted to see happen, but this clearly seems like the best and kindest choice for both you and Murray. I hope he loves his new life in California ! 😥

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  3. Sending you all the support. I’ve been following you both for a long time, and while this is clearly a difficult decision, I also think you are making the right one. Murray will be quite happy in retirement, and you can get a bit of relief from worrying about him.

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  4. I’m sorry about all this Nicole, but “knowing” Murray it does sound like you’re doing the best possible thing for him. And at the end of the day, that’s the best we can do. He’s lucky to have someone that is so invested in him and places his happiness at the forefront. So many horses don’t get that.

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  5. Big hugs. Murray is lucky to have you. Lucky to have someone who understands what he needs and what is worth putting him through. Someone who looks big picture. Someone who has the ability to retire him to the life of luxury.

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  6. When I mean the decision to stop trying with my horse at the time, it was hard, yes but after I made the decision it was easier. I was told stuff like that is like falling off a cliff, the intial part is scary but once it’s done it’s done. Maybe a shitty analogy, but it made sense. With my guy, he just never had it in his heart or body to be a partner, even if I could magically fix his pain. He was pretty indifferent to people. This was never going to be a horse I poured blood sweat and tears into and come away something we were both proud of.

    Kinda like you and Murray, kinda not. I guess I just wanted to say you’re not alone. But you’ve done right by him, and life has a funny way of working out. It really does. I didn’t believe that at the time, but then z came along.

    Glad to know you, follow your story, and see how much you love your horse.

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    • Actually this really is exactly how it felt. I was clinging to ideas of how I could cheaply make him sound. And then when I finally accepted that being done might be better, it really did feel easy and so much like the right thing. I didn’t even have to question it.

      And I’m not going to lie, even if I had been able to get him sound with a relatively minimal amount of money, the path we faced to achieve my goals….. It was a really steep one.

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  7. I hope Murray knows how infinitely blessed he’s been to be owned by you. I think a lot of people would have given up on him a long time ago, and instead you’ve worked your lady balls off to try to make everything come together for him. It sucks such an early retirement ended up being the right answer (but it definitely sounds like it is!), but hopefully this will bring you to an even better pony adventure down the road! ❤

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  8. This line slayed me: “I love this kiddo, and I love riding him. But I’m not going to ride him into the ground.”
    Murray is lucky to have you in his corner, ready to do what’s best for his happiness. It’s wonderful he has a great retirement situation. This is such a bittersweet post to read. I have really enjoyed reading about you and Murray, and I hope that another partnership is in the cards for you soon.

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  9. An easy hard decision. Retirement sounds like the very best choice for everyone. Fingers crossed for better luck coming your way, and a long and happy retirement for Murray <3!

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  10. On one hand, it’s a tough decision… on the other, once confronted and it becomes about what’s best for Murray, it’s easy. Doesn’t make it any less heart achingly sad though. Sending you lots of positive vibes ❤

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  11. Oh Nicole, so many weird feelings are attached to decisions like this! But it really does sound like the very best for Murray, and I’m happy you have a safe, wonderful place for him to spend his retirement!. Big hugs.

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  12. It’s taken me a couple weeks to get over here to read this. I have all the feels for you right now. I’m currently at a crossroads with Annie as well. We have another appointment this week and then I’ll have some decisions to make and I know they will be hard.

    Murray is so lucky you are in a position to send him “home” so to speak and I hope he enjoys his retirement.

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  13. Unfortunately, I’ve been here as well so thoughts go out to you, my friend. I’m glad he’ll be well taken care of in California and hopefully living the good retired life

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