pony stuff for mf’in adults

There are some pony stuff purchases that I feel are much more “adult” than others.  Rainbow neck strap?  Definitely not adult.  Pink plaid polos?  Not very adult.  Lunge line, side reins, and lunge whip?  Somewhat more adult.  Leather hole punch?  Very adult.

Leather hole punches abound, but most of the ones I’ve ever laid my hands on are garbage.  You know the standard, all-metal ones that are typically completely rusted out from being used one time in 1948 and left out in the barn aisle ever since?  Nobody is surprised that those don’t work.

I was spoiled early on by having access to a couple of the black, expensive Miracle Hole Punches (not their actual name or brand).  I’m honestly not even sure what the brand was, but both my trainer and another Adult Human friend who owned them were like “yeah, this was not cheap, but it’s the best leather hole punch known to man”.  And they were right.  Those fancy, heavy duty hole punches went through triple-stitched leather like butter.

And then, like almost all barn tools that multiple people lay their hands on, they disappeared.  Maybe trainer just hid them better, maybe they got lost — hell, maybe aliens will find them totally rusted out in the middle of the barn aisle in 2052.  Who knows.  The point remains that I lost my access to a valuable and quality tool.  Fortunately, I didn’t need them anyway.

Until last week.  My stirrup leathers were too long and I’d run out of holes to put them up. (Yes, I know my leathers are overall too long, I  bought them on sale and picked the wrong size by mistake. No takebacks.)  No rusted out hole punch would do the job.  I looked through my trainer’s trunk twice and couldn’t find the punch.  I wrapped my stirrups for a week, but in the end decided it was time for me to make this acutely Adult purchase, and get my own leather hole punch.  So I went on The Amazon and read a bunch of reviews for hole punches, looking to find the quality hole punch.  I was totally willing to spend $70 or $80 on something that would last forever and punch holes easily.  Lucky me, I found what I needed for a mere $15.

The WoneNice Leather Hole punch (pictured above) is easy to use, and does a fantastic job.  The dial to change the hole size is easy to turn, but clicks firmly in to place when you have it in the right position.  The punch is large and a touch ungainly (I seem to recall the Miracle Punch being a bit smaller than this, and therefore easier for someone with little hands like mine to handle), but certainly not so large that it makes them impossible to use.  On a scale of one to tacking up Murray, I’d score the challenge of using this hole punch around a 2.  Plus, not everyone has hands as tiny as mine.

For all 4 holes punched, this product is 10/10 would absolutely purchase again.  But I hope never to need another, since my passive aggressive note and initials all over my new punch should deter accidental loss.  Plus, they have a two year warranty!  (Interestingly, this exact same punch appears to be available under different names and at different price points on Amazon, with varying reviews.)

So if it’s time for you to make a mf’in adult purchase and pick yourself up a quality leather hole punch, this one comes highly recommended.

 

summer… plans?

I have lived my entire life on an academic schedule, so the beginning of Summer — not always June, since the first half of my life was spent in a Southern Hemisphere school — has always meant a break from the normal routine for me.  This plan typically starts with the firm assertion that I will have no plans, and will do whatever I want, and that what I want includes


ellie’s summer list: wallow, wallow, chase squirrels, wallow

  • sleep for 12 hours per day
  • ride my pony
  • ride all the ponies!
  • craftsy things
  • road trip
  • read all the books!
  • play with my friends
  • go swimming
  • read by the pool
  • read in the pool
  • lay in the sun
  • go to the beach
  • swim with my pony
  • garden
  • go berry picking
  • go to friends weddings (San Diego!!!)
  • visit the East Coast
  • develop an app to make me independently wealthy

Image result for duck rolling on money

Unshockingly, I do about four of the things on the list (and somehow, sleep 12 hours per day is rarely one of them) and then September arrives and it’s back to the grind.

And really, there isn’t much no-plans-Summer to go around, especially if I stick to the current plan of heading to Camelot for an August 19-20 debut at Novice.  That’s basically eight weeks out.  Eight weeks!!  Lucky for Nicole and Murray, there’s not terribly much to prep for Novice.  We already know how to:

  • walk, trot, and canter in a variety of straight line and circle patterns — more or less obediently
  • course 2’11” stadium
  • jump all of the Novice elements on the Camelot XC course

So in terms of technicality, we will be fine.  There are quite a few things I would like to finesse in my riding this Summer though.  You know, less drunk-monkey-ing, more active riding.  Improving myself so that Murray and I can tackle some more big horsey learning goals.

murray: canter down centerline? got it

Sitting trot – This stupid skill has been on my goal list for literal years. Time to make it happen.

Turn my toes in – My toes point out.  And I use the back of my leg instead of the inside of my leg.  These are not, I have heard, the things I am supposed to do.

Following hands – I’m still wavering back and forth between my hands too high and grabby, and loose, floppy reins.

Strengthen my two-point – the position I think is an appropriately forward two-point is not appropriately forward. I need to lower my seat to the saddle and close my hip angle a little more, which should help with the above.

All of these will only get better with deliberate practice (have I talked about deliberate practice before? I’m kinda obsessed with the concept).  I have some plans.  For example, I plan to increase the number of sitting trot circles I do by one each week.  I did two (one each direction) on Tuesday this week, and if I can squeeze in two more before the end of the week that will be good.  Turning my toes in will require constant, conscious adjustment.  As will following hands.  And the crowning jewel of all of it is that I need to keep Murray put together all at the same time.  That is the real challenge.

what, what, what is your left hand doing?!

But I have fun plans too!  For example, swim with my pony!  I think Murray will love swimming.  He will also love the beach.  He may love it so much that I never see him again… will have to be careful with that one.  Go off property more!  I hope to have/plan for lots of XC schooling on my horizon (see goals 3 and 4), and lots more truck and trailer driving practice.

So, you know.  A nice, relaxed summer “plan”.  Any exciting summer plans for you?  Anything I should add to my list — riding my horse backward on the beach, maybe?

Image result for riding a horse backward on the beach

reconsidering pentosan

Since Twin, I’ve been thinking about what I might be able to do for Murray to make him more comfortable and extend our competition career.  A part of what inspired me to start thinking about it more seriously was his super-stardom at Twin, but I also have a lot more income than I ever have in the past. This makes entertaining the idea of spending/potentially wasting money on my horse’s well-being possible — I literally* did not have the money to pour money into joint maintenance before.

* The actual literally, not the millennial “literally” that really means “figuratively” or “maybe”

I first heard about Pentosan on Amanda’s blog (like, where I hear about most things apparently), and after following the trail of evidence she left, I wasn’t terribly convinced.  Use of the drug was based mostly on anecdotal reports of improved movement and comfort after IM/IV injections among Australian horse owners, and there wasn’t a ton of peer-reviewed evidence to back up using Pentosan IM/IV for joint maintenance.


murray is a skeptical walrus

Pentosan, if you’re unfamiliar, is a semi-synthetic polysulfyated xylan (don’t know what that really means? me neither!).  It is used for several purposes, including treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis.  The most interesting thing, to me, about pentosan is that it is used during open-joint surgery to help heal the joints after they are put back together.  Literally, surgeons squirt the stuff all over the open joint to help avoid cartilage break down and improve synovial fluid viscosity.  edit: Austen pointed out to me this important clarification: joint lavage (which is done both surgically or arthroscopically) works by helping to wash away debris that accumulates in the joint and may cause pain (at least in humans).  Therefore, the pentosan may not be having as much of an effect as might be reported — the lavage process itself is extremely helpful in this case.

I’m won’t rule out a treatment or medication as ineffective simply because it doesn’t have veterinarian or peer-reviewed evidence.  I know that it takes time to conduct studies and gather data, and that what is currently being studied may not be what is in vogue with horse owners at the time.  Joint pain and comfort is terribly hard to quantitatively evaluate, especially when you want to look at more than just the articulation of a specific joint (how far that joint can flex/bend), and supplements/drugs for joint pain in companion and production animals aren’t necessarily at the top of the research ladder.  Particularly in equines, the amount of scientific inquiry into the efficacy of drugs or supplements is quite sparse.

All that said, I’m not going to rush out and spend a lot of money on a product that is anecdotally reported by horse owners to make their horses “feel better”.  The placebo effect*, even among animal caregivers and owners, is a real thing.  (Also in 2014 my horse was five, not actually mine, and it wasn’t the time to think seriously about maintenance.)

* Have just realised this could make an incredible horse name!!

placebo effect is sooooo good at canter poles

When I started thinking about and exploring joint maintenance for Murray this year, pentosan popped up both on the interwebs and at the suggestion of a friend.  I took some time to look into the drug more seriously, and found that in the last three years, enough evidence about the efficacy of pentosan in prevention and treatment of OA has accumulated to convince me it’s worth a try.  If you’re interested in my research, just hit me up and I can share the details with you.  But here are some of my more general findings.  (Links here may be behind a paywall.)

First of all, pentosan appears to be safe to use in  horses both intra-articularly (i.e. joint injections), as well as IV and IM.  That’s great, because it means that you don’t have to pony up for expensive IA injections just to get the drug, an if you can’t do IV, you can safely go IM.

There is also good evidence that IM pentosan actually makes its way into both the plasma (blood) and intra-articular spaces (joints).  And in dogs, pentosan has been used to successfully treat chronic osteoarthritis.  If you want to dive a bit deeper into the cell-biology literature (exposing oneself to some serious jargon at the same time), there’s at least one proposed method for pentosan to treat osteoarthritis by acting as a chondroprotective agent (cartilage protective agent).

unrelated puppy throwbac pic

Pentosan was demonstrated to modify the healing of experimentally-induced OA in donkeys and horses.  In these studies, donkeys and horses with experimentally induced OA were given IV pentosan (treatment) or saline (control).  At the beginning of the treatment period, all animals were lame, and their levels of lameness, synovial fluid, cartilage damage, and the levels of certain elements (Mg, Ca) were tracked over time (among other factors associated with joint health).  All of the above mentioned factors improved significantly in treatment animals, i.e. synovial fluid was decreased compared to controls, cartilage damage was less.  Most importantly to me, lameness score in treatment animals decreased to baseline (which I believe was 0) after pentosan treatment, whereas in control animals lameness score decreased, but never achieved baseline levels.

Certainly, this is a pretty extreme way to check the utility of pentosan.  And it doesn’t necessarily speak to the maintenance side of the drug, or how pentosan interacts with joints that might have mild-moderate OA. Notably, a similar study using pentosan and hyaluronic acid was inconclusive and demonstrated no improvement with treatment.  So there is still plenty of room for skepticism.  However, if the proposed relationship between increased synovial fluid and cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis is correct (an extremely reasonable and supported assumption), and pentosan really does decrease synovial fluid and help decrease cartilage damage, then it seems reasonable that pentosan may help prevent or mitigate osteoarthritis (by mitigating cartilage damage and preventing the forces that result in increased synovial fluid).

There are still lots of “ifs” here.  But I’ll definitely be talking to my vet about pentosan in the coming weeks.

shut up and take my money

camelot: final thoughts

Years ago, when I first started care leasing Murray, an adult rider whom I really respect told me that 8 is the magic age for horses.  For Murray and I, 8 is pretty fucking magic.  This is the year that everything is coming together, that all of our hard work is being reflected in out performance away from home as well as at home.  I can feel myself riding better and thinking more, and Murray is doing the same!  It is just the coolest feeling.  I am so in love with eventing and showing now — I’m already desperately trying to figure out how I can squeeze the budget to get to more shows this year.

I have a collection of disorganized thoughts that didn’t totally fit in the other posts — or I didn’t think about them in time to write about them — from last weekend.

horse themed beverages for horse themed weekends

We’ll start with the big one first — we are so ready to move up.  I told myself, and several friends, that if Murray and I went clear and within the time at this show, we’d move up to Novice at our next show.  Even though we didn’t go clear, we’re totally ready to move up.  Murray and I have been jumping Novice height at home for a while now, and while we haven’t done very many schooling outings or full-ish size courses at that height, I know all of the fences at Novice at the facilities I’m familiar with are well within our capabilities.  A big part of my decision to keep us down at BN for so long (just three short years, nothing really!) was my own ability to ride and make decisions under pressure.  I don’t have the ability to wing it at shows, I really need to know what I’m doing, and I don’t (yet) have the kind of horse where I could bumble around at anything above intro.  I wanted to set the two of us up for success before this move, and I finally feel like we’re ready to be successful at Novice — and set our sights on training!


horse show shit sprawl
(I cleaned this all up to the trunk and blue box by the end of the day)

We had so much fun!! In the past, horse shows have been fun but fairly stressful.  But this entire weekend we had fun, and the level of stress was low — and not just because we kept expectations low the whole time.  It was just fun in general!  I’m sure this will change as we move up, but I think I’ve finally managed to reach a place of zen about showing.  Ultimately, I can only control how I ride and respond to my own performance.  I can’t control whether or not Murray has a bug up his butt that day, how he feels about the footing, or whether or not the footing is any good.  I can’t control what the judge thinks of us, how other people ride, or where we place in the pack. I can only prepare him as best I can before hand, set him up for a good ride, and ride my heart out.  If I did all of that, what else is there to feel but happiness*?

*of course, you should remind me about that the next time I don’t perform as well as I should

Showing happy is SO MUCH BETTER than showing stressed. I have more to say about that but… basically, gonna try to hold on to this mentality for as long as I can in the future.

Showing has also become so much more routine for us.  I didn’t forget to pack anything this time (okay, I forgot my Mango Bay belt, but I got a loaner), and I gave myself plenty of time before my rounds to tack up and get shit done.  I didn’t need people holding my horse for me, or helping with my vest, I planned it all out, and got it done in advance.  Murray was great for tacking up too!  Which always makes me happy.  It’s a great feeling not to be stressed out because you’re missing stuff or running late for your ride time.

You know what else feels AMAZING at shows?  Actually being able RIDE during your rides.  For me, being able to respond to what’s happening during a dressage test and adjust for better movement is huge!  I have been a passenger for so long, but now I can add bend or inside leg, or actually ask Murray to come through his back more without having to use an entire movement to reset.  I’m pretty happy that I’ve developed that skill as a rider.

My horse is also plenty fit right now.  We ran fast(ish), and not over a short course (1900 m), and Murray came off course barely sweating or breathing hard.  And on Sunday he was fresh and ready to go over the fences, there was no fatigue there.  I know that this is hardly a feat at beginner novice, but it made me feel good that my pony was more than adequately prepared for the event.  I had tons of fun “getting fit” for the event, doing gallops at WSS, and hopefully I can keep those up this summer!

gallop position still needs work though.

My partnership with Murray and our trust bank are so strong right now.  I first felt the weight of all the deposits I’ve been making in the last few years at Twin, when he totally took care of me.  And, as I predicted, when we were both there for the ride, things went even better!  Even better, we continue to grow as a team at an amazing rate!  It’s super cool to feel the progress we are making right now.  We are both in such a good place to learn, from one another and our trainers, and grow our partnership.  And it really feels like that — a partnership.

 

camelot: stadium

Ending cross country day in last place, while not exactly my goal, definitely takes the pressure off on stadium day.  I felt surprisingly zen and stress-free on Sunday morning, and treated myself to a breakfast burrito with my coffee (which I immediately regretted, because I suck at eating breakfast).


pretty sure this was immediately before he spooked at left shark

Murray was feeling footloose and fancy free on Sunday himself, and he attacked the warm up fences.  Seriously, he felt amazing.

The course was a typical Camelot stadium course — twisty, turny, and full of fucking terrifying jump standards.  The standards and fill were what I worried about on course, since Murray is not exactly known for his bravery in the face of new filler.

The course didn’t feel amazing like cross country had, but we went forward to every fence and had no stops.  After fences 1 and 2 Murray spooked fairly hard left away from the shark standards, so I jammed my feet a little deeper into my stirrups and gave Murray a little smack coming in to fence 3, the knights.  I felt a tiny bit of that hesitation again after the rollback to fence 5 — red white and blue — and got it together for a proper booty smack.  We put six in the five stride line, and when we finally came around to the sharks Murray slowed to a trot… but he trotted forward and over the fence no problem!


blurry victory

I was pretty stoked coming out of the round, even though it didn’t feel all that smooth.  Trainer was like “that was great!!!” and I was like “err really?!” But watching the video, I realised, it really wasn’t that bad!  It was far from Rolex, but I wasn’t fighting for every fence the way I sometimes feel like I am.  For the most part, Murray needed just a little bit of reassurance to move up to the fences, and I was right there for him.

supposed to be a triple bar, loooool

I moved up one spot after stadium due to someone else’s misfortune, but it didn’t matter to me.  Murray went in the ring and did the thing — there was nothing more I could ask from either of us.  I jumped off and we stood around watching the other rides and chatting with Alyssa (Murray didn’t speak too much, mostly just nibbled dead grass).

I have some more thoughts to sum up Camelot, but I think it’s pretty clear that I’m deliriously happy with how everything turned out.

camelot: cross country rebate

The last time I ran rated cross country at Camelot did not end well.  I had better luck last year with an unrated course, but that course was a bit on the soft side and not terribly long.  This year, I was excited to see many of the old fences on the BN course, lots of nice long gallop tracks, and noticed that I felt like everything looked tiny!  It was awesome.

I didn’t ride until noon on Saturday, so I had plenty of time to jump judge for prelim and training.  The divisions went pretty smoothly, minus a rider fall at the coffin in training that created a little hold on course.  The EMTs were not totally sure how to get out to her, and once they were there how to get back, which was both hilarious and exasperating.  But the EMTs were very kind, and the rider was fine, so all was well.  Unfortunately, there was another hold on course due to a rider fall in warm up that did not end so well — the rider was rushed off with sirens and needed surgery.  Sobering.

Despite knowing about both of these holds, I somehow tacked up way, way, way too early.  Like a full hour before I needed to be trotting around in the warm up too early.  The upside of this is that Murray was extremely well behaved to tack up.  I did it loose in his stall, and he just stood quietly and nibbled on hay while I slowly put on my vest, sipped on some water, and made sure that my pinny was on nice and tight.  Eventually I could stand it no longer, and headed over to the warm up ten minutes before I would have been in there for my original ride time.

Murray and I stood in the shade grazing for a while, and after I couldn’t stand it any longer I climbed aboard.  Murray was not really impressed with this idea, and wanted to run (forward or backward, either would be fine) home to stabling.  I walked him in small circles and figure eights until his back relaxed, and finally, finally, we headed in to warm up.  This did not help the feeling of nervousness, of course, but c’est la vie.  The one thing I wish the show venue/warm up steward had done was announced an approximate delay time for the division so that we could have avoided constantly checking in.  But c’est la vie — I get that they wanted to try to hurry things along as much as they could.

Murray warmed up perfectly, moving up toward the fences without hesitation.  Camelot has a fabulous, huge cross country warm up, and there were lots of fences for us to jump.  I did everything once, repeated my approach to a table so I could have Murray jump it a bit more out of stride, and then headed out on course.  I got to watch my teammate Suzanne ride the first few fences with her 5 year old (or maybe only 4?).  Then it was our turn out of the start box!

I didn’t feel any hesitation from Murray at all as we came up to the first fence, he was all go, go, go!  Between fences 1 and 2 we got up a pretty good canter, and Murray only went off the track for a little while as he gave the prelim/training start box a wide berth.  Fence two was a bright blue bicycle rack off of a tight turn that I rode firmly too, since we’d had a stop there last year.  Fence three was Excalibur, and Murray had some second thoughts about the line of fences and jump judges to the left of the sword.  He ran pretty far to the right, but I pointed him back at the fence, trotted him to it, and over we went.

Fence three to four was where Murray really started to gallop, and since fence four was a little table I let him at it.  There was a huge stretch between four and five as well, and Murray really got moving there.  We were going pretty fast — around 500 mpm — and as we came up the small rise to fence 5 I over-checked Murray a little.  He didn’t care, leaped over the post and rail fence, and continued on to six.  Six A-B were close to five, and my main spot of worry for the course: they were on a downhill, not quite a straight approach from 5, and had a bending line between the two fences.  But I pointed Murray at them and he just went!  It was the exact same thing with fence 7 — he was galloping over to it so fast, I remember thinking that the wind was really, really loud in my ears — and about six strides out I asked him to come back to me a bit and look at the fence.  He looked at it, decided it wasn’t a problem despite being pretty slanted and bright pink, and galloped on.

rainbow neck strap ftw

Fence eight was where I got us in trouble.  We were barreling down to the trakhener, and I knew we were going to have trouble with it at that speed.  Murray wasn’t listening to the brakes though, so I tried to keep my leg on while I aggressively half halted.  This got his attention back, but it was too much hand a little too late, and he came to a jerky stop about a stride from the fence.  I had heard the TD describe earlier that she did not want any horses jumping fences from a stand still, so I knew I wasn’t going to squeak by without the stop anyway, so I walked Murray up to the fence, circled at the canter, and he leaped over no problem.

I should have known this could be a problem spot for us, but I guess I was too worried about the 6AB combo to think about the downhill approach to the trak.  I also didn’t think we’d be going 450+ mpm, I thought we’d be cruising along at a much more rateable 350 mpm.  Had I thought about it in advance, I would have asked my trainer (duh), or thought to circle well back from the fence to get Murray’s attention back on me.  Alas, I didn’t think about it, and I certainly wasn’t able to think about it out on course.  But at least it was a new mistake, and not one that I will make again!

camelot is quite pretty!

I briefly pondered how I should handle the rest of the course now that I had a stop.  Should I slow down?  Should I school the water?  I decided to push on — we’d had such a good run so far, there was no reason to slow Murray down and disrupt the flow of the course.  There was also not very much course left — we were 3/4 of the way home anyway.

Despite the  many training and prelim fences surrounding our water entrance, Murray cantered in no problem.  Our second to last two fences were a half coffin, and I slowed Murray up a fair bit so he would see the ditch and not step in it.  I needn’t have worried, since he went right over it, and happily redirected over the sharkstooth second element.

jumping ahead was quite prevalent on course – ah well

I’m so, so happy with how cross country turned out.  I had wanted to run clear and within the time, but I’m okay that it didn’t happen.  The mistake was mine, not Murray’s, and it was an honest one.  Everything about the course minus that one moment felt fantastic — we were going fast, but were totally in control (well, we had steering, if bad brakes), and the speed wasn’t an evasion.  Instead of using speed to mask his insecurities, Murray was excited to be out there, and whatever I pointed him at he was game to jump.  THAT is a huge accomplishment.  Even if it’s not all that different from Twin, this time I was right there with him, instead of holding on for dear life!

teammates!

camelot: dressage day

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.

a 0% chance of rain, huh?

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.

feat Alyssa!

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.

that neck, tho!

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.

murray: flying change between A and K!
nicole: that is not a movement!!!!

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.

new favourite test comment: “not today!”

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.


proof!

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.


i loaf my pony!!!!!