My 2017 of goal of ride more write more rapidly turned into ride-hardly-ever-write-less. I definitely got bitten by the saddle fit fear bug for a minute there, worried that putting any saddle that didn’t fit perfectly on Murray’s back would result in severe and permanent physical and psychological damage. It took me about a week of shopping around for saddles and waiting for the fitter to squeeze me into her very busy schedule for me to decide that fuck it, I could borrow something that fit well enough and/or Murray would be just fine for a few more rides.
So I rode.
I had a jump lesson on Tuesday with a friend, and it was definitely the right choice. One of the barn staff was moving the tractor around trying to clear and dispose of trees that had fallen down during the storms a few weeks ago, and the running tractor and cracking tree limbs and absolute MONSTER that was created when the backhoe picked up tree limbs was just FAR TOO MUCH for both pony brains. Murray couldn’t go into any corner without violently flinging himself in the other direction (walk, trot, and canter!), and our lessonmate wasn’t faring much better. Fortunately for us, the backhoe hit a snag about five minutes in to our ride so we all got to settle down.
Murray, of course, was still offended by all the corners. This made life difficult as we were working on a grid up one of the long sides. I couldn’t even trot with correct bend around the corner, all I could do was counter-bend Murray and hope that he wouldn’t fling himself too far to the inside. Every time we would turn to face the grid, Murray would throw all of his pent-up rage regarding the Scary Corner into galloping toward the fences, so we ended up with some… creative use of the poles.
I was walking the tightrope of “too much brakes” when I so much as touched Murray’s face with my hands and “no control” if I did nothing. I guess I could have added leg and really pushed him into my hands, but of course that option didn’t occur to me. It never does. (Add leg? Who adds leg. Absurd. That’s totally not always the answer.) So I just tried to keep the half halts coming with my seat and core, and let the whatever happen.
We built up the bounce and Murray made it happen with some fancy footwork and only a few super awkward moments. The corners continued to be a bit of a problem — going to or from them — but Murray settled into a pretty consistent and even canter. Weirdly we struggled to make the strides in odd ways. Coming down the line straight we would get five, but had no problem getting four on the bending line. B changed the bounce to a square oxer and vertical one stride apart and Murray never once tried to add in the one stride, but couldn’t help but chip in to the square. I probably could have put my leg on for a better ride, but I was a little hesitant to ask for more since Murray had already settled into rationality. I didn’t want to break him, after all.
I also put in a dressage ride in a borrowed saddle on Thursday, which actually turned out to be very productive. Nothing groundbreaking, just setting clear expectations and working on the exercises that my many coaches have given me. But after setting some very clear guidelines (no, you cannot get sticky by the gate and refuse to turn for no reason) and not backing down when Murray offered his standard protest (buck + leap), we put in some good work.
Of course, now I’m so sore I can barely walk, but that’s what I get for not riding for close to two weeks.