sunday funday

Murray got some much-needed turnout this week, after a week of being locked in because our pastures were partially flooded from the rain a few weeks ago.  Murray took full advantage by rolling seven times, high fiving himself and the air repeatedly, and then galloping around at full speed with his friends.

wallOh and also licking the wall for like ten minutes.  Not sure what that was about. (Murray ignored his himalayan salt lick for the last six months and literally just started on it yesterday. After two other horses who borrowed his stall briefly had taste tested.)

play01Such a graceful and athletic beast

His butt looks HYUUUUGE compared to his little pin head!

play06run free!

Synchronized rolling with his bestie Cormac…

play02And later, synchronized bucking!

play05Also, some light/casual levitation

play04After indoor playtime Murray got to go out in the big grass pasture with his friends for half an hour or so. This promptly turned into “a few hours” because somebody wouldn’t let his pasture mate’s owner catch him.¬† Our barn manager had to go stand at the gate for him to acquiesce to coming in for his dinner.


Murray, I love you.


and haunches in, and haunches out

I’m probably being completely irrational because we’re coming upon the show, but I seriously feel like I have lost all ability to ride and Murray has lost all ability to horse and everything next week is going to be an¬†unmitigated disaster. ¬†This is probably not true but… the nerves man. ¬†They are getting to me.

Of course my feelings are the purple feeling.

Tonight I hopped on in my jump tack with the intention to trot a little, condition a little, jump a little, and flat a little. ¬†Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I somehow don’t think that Murray should have to do a 20 minute trot set and 7 minute canter sets on the same day. ¬†Plus, pony is¬†much more receptive to cantering around in circles lengthening and coming back and lengthening and coming back and lengthening and coming back when I throw a few small jump in here and there. ¬†So that is what we did.

I started out with some dressage in my jump tack. ¬†I didn’t even put my stirrups down from jumping length, just… made do. ¬†Oh and you should all know that a couple of dressage rides are¬†just what the doctor ordered for calf muscles screaming from three hours of drunken wedding dancing. ¬†I’m feeling top notch today. ¬†I asked Murray to shoulder in and haunches in at the walk, and actually made a point of doing it with both bends in both directions. ¬†He’s happy to keep quite a nice, deep neck bending left, but bending right I can really feel his hesitation when he has to step under with that right hind. ¬†He gets better and better the more I ask, but I’m not sure if the solution to this is more shoulder in/haunches in or more stretching. Equine Fitness said that too much repetition can just lead to soreness and guarding, but homie is¬†never going to strengthen that leg if we don’t do reps of SOME kind. ¬†Equine biomechanics gods, GIVE ME AN ANSWER.

5-21 dressage 8Huh… this is going left. Interesting. Good thing¬†I have media to reflect upon!

At the trot I did more lateral work as well as trying to get Murray really straight between my legs. ¬†These things might be counter-productive as exercises together, I’m not sure, but I’d do a bit of shoulder in, a bit of straight, a bit of haunches in, etc. ¬†The straightness and listening were also because we’ve started to drift in and cut corners a lot in the arena, and I am not actually a fan of that.

Murray was more forward and happy to canter than I’ve ever seen him be in a conditioning set, but it was probably greatly helped by the presence of another horse cantering around the arena that made Murray think he was racing. ¬†I actually got a hand-gallop out of him in the arena, which I’ve never done before. ¬†I just worked on keeping my position really solid, with a good two-point or half seat and a straight, flat back (instead of the arched one I seemed to prefer a few weeks ago), and bringing Murray back to me without leaning on my hands. ¬†I realised, when reviewing XC footage from our last outing, that I rely really heavily on my hands on XC and I am pretty much always grabbing mane. ¬†So for one, I have a grab strap to help with that. ¬†And for two… maybe less hands and more seat, Nicole? ¬†We’ll see how that works out for us.

trakLooking fantastic over the trakehner, as always. Perfect spot. Much form. Quiet seat. Sending this one in to George’s column.

At the end of my ride I had a friend get on Murray for fun, as she’s never ridden him. ¬†I was surprised by how good he looked, and how good he¬†was. ¬†In fact, I was very impressed. ¬†It also helped me reflect upon my own riding a bit. ¬†The first thing I tell people when they get on Murray is to be really soft with their hands and let him get used to their presence, and with said friend on his back Murray was suuuuper steady. ¬†If I can get that steadiness at a show I will be¬†thrilled. ¬†So there will definitely be some over-riding questions and evaluation coming in the next few days! ¬†We will see.

600 meters per minute (#iflmh)

I mentioned in my camp/weekend recap yesterday that on Saturday afternoon we did a pace exercise. ¬†Camelot is so wonderfully set up that they grade and keep maintained a 1300m (a hair over 3/4 mile) gallop track. ¬†This track isn’t perfectly flat, but it is a loop over gently undulating hills, and during events they sometimes will use it for part of the cross country course. ¬†They mark the start and end, and have measured 100 meter markers all the way around so it’s perfect for a timed gallop or a free one!


The goal of pace¬†was to get a feel of the gallop¬†you need to compete at your level in cross country, and how you can speed up and slow down as needed to make time and set yourself up for fences. ¬†So we split up into groups by the level we’re competing and headed out a few at a time. ¬†First we walked around the track to get the horses used to it (which was a super good call because some clever drivers on the road think it’s a super good choice to honk at riders as they pass them), and get a feel for the turns and shape of the track.

Then it was time to gallop. ¬†I got to go first because I love going first and Alana¬†wanted to talk to some of the other riders in my group about their plan. ¬†She sent me out with the goal of going Novice speed — 350-400 meters per minute (mpm). ¬†I turned Murray towards the start, and when I kissed at him he started cantering immediately, and he didn’t need any encouragement to kick it up into a gallop. ¬†I’m not sure how often you all gallop your horses, but there is nothing like it. ¬†Murray can really get moving in the outdoor arena during our jump lessons, but he never breaks into a real gallop. ¬†There’s this moment when you’re moving¬†that you feel the¬†rhythm go from three beats to four, and… it just makes you feel free.


I had to hold Murray back a little to make the pace, and ended up¬†coming in a little under time, so was closer to 410 mpm. ¬†In the¬†first 400 meters,¬†I’d wondered if grabbing a chunk of mane might help me steady myself¬†so I didn’t hit Murray’s mouth if I got fatigued in my two-point, but the second my hand touched his neck Murray kicked up the speed, so I kept my hands low and just half halted with my seat if I needed to.¬†We passed the lowest portion of the course — a little swail through some¬†trees — and as we moved uphill I felt Murray surge and really start eating up the ground. ¬†I asked him to come back and was rewarded with a couple of bucks and leaps, lost my stirrup, and galloped the next 400 meters with just the one. ¬†I managed to get my stirrup back when Murray and I slowed passing some riders walking on a nearby trail, and was back up in my jockey position for the last part of the track.

It was so fun. Seriously, so fun.

Murray promptly went into hungry hungry hippo mode upon finishing and munched on grass while the other three horses in our group did their gallops.  We had the option to do two more, but since we were essentially on pace for our first one we just opted for one more so I could let him go a bit.

IMG_8826Murray’s feels re: galloping! (This is a happy dog face btw)

As soon as I pointed him toward the start, Murray knew exactly what we were doing — he was galloping again right away (he LOVES his job). ¬†This time he was even less inclined to be held back, and I tried a little but wasn’t too worried about it. ¬†His gallop felt effortless, flowing, and uphill; I was totally balanced on his back. ¬†So we galloped and with a little holding passed the 400 meter marker around 50 seconds (about 480 mpm). ¬†As we went down towards the trees again Murray kicked it into fifth gear and would not be convinced otherwise. ¬†Coming out of the trees was where¬†Murray really surprised me, and hit a pace I seriously didn’t even know he had. ¬†His legs moved further and faster, he reached forward with his neck, and I worried for a fraction of a second until I realised that he was still listening to me. ¬†Then I just leaned into it and enjoyed it. ¬†We did the second part of that pace at 600 mpm and I seriously think Murray could have done more.

All of the track trainers and riders who blog have seriously been holding out on us — that shit is¬†fun and I want to do it all the time. ¬†No wonder racing is a sport, passion, and profession — it is an absolute rush. ¬†When you are totally¬†there, totally listening,¬†and it’s just you and your horse going 22¬†miles and hour, and there is nothing like it.

I fucking love my racehorse.