Murray has been a pendulum under saddle this week — swinging between successfully executing some quality flat work and successfully pissing me the fuck off. There are a few extenuating circumstances that have prevented me from throttling him:
- It’s windy AF in Davis right now, and everybody knows that wind makes horses the most happy and reasonable creatures ever
- I did just take a ten day vacation and he was locked in the entire time
- His timing is great. Every time he starts to be so horrendous I am about to stab him, he turns on the normal
On Tuesday my saddle fitter happened to be at the barn, and she reflocked my new dressage saddle for me and tried to help me find the source of the squeaking I’ve been hearing when I post. Murray was his usual sticky self, but when the saddle went back on after the reflock he went into full on “can’t even” mode. He couldn’t he couldn’t walk forward, he couldn’t trot, he couldn’t turn to the right, and he most CERTAINLY couldn’t do any of those things without a raging ewe-neck.
Robyn was actually worried that she’d messed up the flocking, since Murray hadn’t shown any behaviors near this awful during our initial appointments. “Oh no,” I told her, “This is very normal for us.” Eventually Murray got it together and dressaged a little, after which Robyn commented that he actually looked quite good and much happier than in the other saddles I had tried. She suggested I sit the trot a little to see if the squeaking got better or worse when I did that, and it got a bit better. But more importantly, I COULD SIT THE TROT. Even more importantly, Murray didn’t immediately tense and resist the motion! MY SADDLE FITTER IS A MIRACLE WORKER.
On Wednesday I wanted to do a little conditioning and get both Murray and I used to the impending pain that I am sure XC and stadium at Twin will bring. But as per the new rules, I wasn’t willing to accept any shitty inverted walk work or walk-trot transitions. So we walked for a long time. I am trying really, really hard not to be offensive while I insist on something more approaching, but it’s hard when Murray wants to do anything other than let his head drop down into the contact and relax. Finally we were ready to trot, and then Murray just tuned out my leg.
I tried a couple of the thins that have worked for us recently — a little more leg, softer hands — and eventually got a really ugly, inverted, neck-dependent transition. We trotted forward a little, and then I asked him to come back to the walk so we could try again. But every time I added leg to get him to move forward, Murray sucked back a little more until we were practically at a stand still. I even abandoned all contact in favor of just getting a forward response to the leg and still nothing. Out came the pony club kick, and in response Murray leaped up in front, bucked behind, and screamed at me.
still crazy ex girlfriend
There was a fair bit more ridiculous screaming and kicking as I asked for a trot and then canter transition, but I did not accept no for an answer, and forward he went. We had a few canter circles of stupidity, then came back to a walk. Murray was actually reasonably forward and moving into the contact, if not totally relaxed, and this time instead of asking him for anything with my leg, I firmly told him “TROT” as I do when lunging.
And what would you know. Totally normal, very reasonable, drama-free, and correct-ish trot transition.
For the rest of the ride I tried to stay really still through my body, add just a whisper of leg, think “trot” with my seat, and then say “TROT” firmly for the transition. It worked nearly every time, with just a little bobble when we changed direction. Even better, the trot work after the transitions was forward, and when Murray got too heavy on the forehand he actually balanced himself up a little. The same went for the canter transitions, and while the trot after the canter was totally a hot, rushy mess, I got a really reasonable response to the half halt when I applied it.
Every time Murray heard another rider cantering behind us though he had a mini-meltdown, so I left the arena after I was satisfied with the trot work since we were clearly working through more than just a bad attitude.
On Thursday, I walked into Murray’s stall and he promptly departed into his paddock and stayed there looking away from me. Even when I rattled his bucket. So I took the hint and turned him out instead of trying to ride. It was the right choice, kid needed a mental health day. Murray played and played on his own and only nearly kicked my head off once, and then played and played some more when we brought his buddy Logan in.
Twin approaches, and we’re not where I’d hoped in terms of schooling and fitness. I actually feel awful about the fitness part of it, but I hope I can baby Murray through the weekend and he’ll come out on the other side somewhat unscathed. In terms of preparedness, well, I have a new strategy I’m trying in terms of that, which you will hear about later.