trash human: activate

I had a spectacularly bad ride a few Wednesdays ago. I really set myself up for failure by planning a lesson the day I got back from five days out of town (with an extra long and stressful drive the night before because of a snowstorm blowing through), less than 24 hours after Speedy had a dental and his annual vaccines.

I know Speedy gets punky and sore after vaccines, and I am aware that five days off isn’t a great setup for a good lesson, and I could tell in the moment that it wasn’t going well. Yet when Speedy told me “I can’t” over and over in the lesson, I bullied him rather than listen to him. Which is a direct route to feeling like peak trash.

Something alarming happened in the pasture during lunch, so Speedy brought a snack with him to observe the happenings.

I don’t have a lot of straight up Bad Rides these days. Even if we have a hard ride or aren’t on the same page or spend a long time struggling with an exercise, we almost always find some good in it and end on an improved note. This lesson ended with sobbing and lunging on a decidedly not improved note.

Among the things I adore about Speedy is that no matter how rough our ride is, he is always cuddly and sociable in his stall, and doesn’t seem to take it personally. But this go around…. he wasn’t quite as forgiving. The day after my Trash Human performance, Speedy was so sore and miserable that I cancelled my lesson and gave him 250mg of bute. The next day he was fine, but I just turned him out and played liberty games with him in the arena instead of pushing it.

The new barn also has cows, which Speedy love. Until one of them looks like it’s trying to die in the fence. He does not love that.

(Which, side quest, I’ve never personally managed a horse who had such a serious reaction to vaccines before! When I got to the barn Speedy looked dull, and was crankily pawing at his alfalfa and then rapidly snatching bites of whatever he pawed up. At first I thought he might be colicking, because this horse not eating alfalfa is a major red flag. But I quickly realized he was uncomfortable lowering his head all the way to the ground to eat, so put his hay up in a net and gave him bute at the advice of my barn manager, and a mashy-grainy water bucket to ensure good hydration. But I was pretty worried there for a second.)

Finally on Saturday, eight days since any kind of consistent or quality work with one shit ride speckled in the middle, we got back to it. My goal for the ride was just to keep it mellow but see if I could get him moving over his back and stretching into the connection a bit. I swung up on Speedy, gave him his traditional standing-at-the-mounting-block treat and he promptly went full pony on me, taking charge of the situation by trotting away from the mounting block. He was positively buzzing during the ride, bouncing off a tiny pony from the other lesson program, pushing his neck back against me, and only very halfheartedly listening to my efforts to chill or woah.

I built a boot organizer for the barn to go under this window so we could declutter our tack room! I love it, such a nice way to use a weird space and keep my boots and helmet out of my trunk.

For my next few rides, Speedy was distinctly not buying what I was selling. He’s not automatically the most “submissive” guy anyway, but more often than not he’s willing to try for me. But he fully reverted back to “I go with my head in the air, the steering is marginal, and I have exactly two speeds: fast and faster.” It got better through the week during my lessons with TrJ, but even now — two weeks later — I’ve still not clawed my way back into Speedy’s good graces entirely. It’s like we erased months of progress and are back where we were well before Christmas, which is such an insane bummer because after Christmas we had some of our most amazing flat and jump lessons ever.

It’s possibly more than just my trash human riding a few weeks ago. TrJ’s whole program moved facilities at the beginning of February and we’re right in the thick of winter training right now. And, well, he’s a horse. TrJ has been saying that an awful lot lately, to all of us. “He’s a horse, he’s gonna do horse things.”

Teefies v. teefies with Hazel’s new shark toy.

But after basically a straight year of what felt like nothing but a magnificent rocketship to the sky of progress, this setback smarts.

With a bit of distance from the event, it’s fine. It’s…. fine. It’sfineit’sfineit’sFINE. I would obviously rather not have massive setbacks with my horse or be an asshole to him. But I’m a human and I’m going to make stupid mistakes, and I’d rather make these discoveries early and at home, when I have plenty of time, space, and resources to come back from them.

So… onward and hopefully upward from here. I know a few more things now about how not to be a trash human to my horse and how much I need to baby him during vaccine week. Plus, building trust is a process and rebuilding is part of that process too.

Also I’m teaching Speedy to stationary target at this duct-tape cross on the wall and his cue is “let us pray”. I kill myself, really.

(Funny enough, it looks like the last time I was an awful human being to my horse [big caveat there since I’m an awful human being to other humans all the time] was right after he was vaccinated last Fall. A pattern. Hmm.)

crazy ex-racehorse

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:

  1. It’s windy AF in Davis right now, and everybody knows that wind makes horses the most happy and reasonable creatures ever
  2. I did just take a ten day vacation and he was locked in the entire time
  3. His timing is great. Every time he starts to be so horrendous I am about to stab him, he turns on the normal

i’m the santa ana winds, i make things weird
from crazy ex girlfriend, which is hilarious and you should watch it

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.

Crazy Ex-GIFs car i dont care crazy ex-girlfriend crazy ex girlfriend GIFstill 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.

Crazy Ex-GIFs season 1 discussion theme argument GIFmurray’s feels

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.

major malfunction; meltdown inevitable

I made a miscalculation this (Monday)¬†morning that led to a major meltdown and malfunction from Murray the likes of which I haven’t seen in at least a year. ¬†It was… something else.

I was tacking up and, per my new goal, trying very hard not to let Murray get away with wandering, wiggling, or generally being poorly behaved during the exercise. ¬†I thought we actually had a pretty good thing going: I had put the square pad on very crookedly at first and didn’t catch it until after I got the saddle on. ¬†So we were on our second try and Murray was being pretty responsive to my requests to stand and was not constantly turning back and demanding treats from me.

I often hold the dressage girth against his belly for a moment before I try doing up any buckles so Murray isn’t confronted with the cold girth + tightening buckles sensations all at the same time. ¬†He had a funny response when I did this, standing still for a few seconds and then suddenly scrunching up his abdomen and¬†then trying to scoot away from me. ¬†I didn’t really understand what was going on, but since that’s how Murray typically responds to girthing pressure in general, I thought he needed a little longer to get used to the sensation of the cold leather. ¬†He was still for¬†just long enough before tensing and scooting that I thought he might have exceeded his limit for patience and was trying another strategy to get treats (wiggles = distraction treats = reinforcement for wiggles).

The first time I held the girth against his belly he actually managed to writhe away from me, which I wasn’t going to accept, so I tried again. ¬†I held the girth against his side even as he tensed and then bulged his side in to me, and after he settled I gave him a piece of carrot. ¬†I then quickly moved to buckle the girth up on the 4th hole which, when Murray’s abdomen is at its fattest, tensest, and most absurd just touches the skin, and once he lets the air out there’s a good half inch of space between the girth and his skin. ¬†I managed to get both billets buckled and was just patting Murray when he sidestepped forward-ish. ¬†I told him no — I’m trying not to be baited into rewarding him for bad behavior¬†— and he stepped sideways, more directly towards me. ¬†I warned him with a “hey!”, but he blew sideways into me with his hindquarters, actually knocking me to the side. ¬†(The first time I’ve actually been knocked aside by him, as I usually get out of the way quickly but I’m also trying not to teach him that he can move me around with bad behavior.) ¬†I marched toward the tie ring to unhook him and really give him a piece of my mind; alas, the meltdown was already engaged.

Murray skittered sideways and back at the end of his lead rope, never giving me enough slack to unhook him from the blocker tie. ¬†(I always put him on a blocker tie ring but I’ve recently taking to knotting the lead rope about 30″ down so he can’t pull himself loose and end up with¬†ten feet of rope to wander around with while I’m grooming or not paying attention.) ¬†He pulled back and got his front feet off the ground a few times, though he never really reached the point of sitting, and his halter held. ¬†At one point I could see the bottom of the halter sliding over his lower lip and up in to his nostrils and I wondered whether he’d be able to get out of it entirely. It was all legs and slipping feet and burning hoof smell and sparks in a ten foot radius around the post we were tied to, and the whole time I was trying to get just a few inches of slack so I could unhook him and get him under control myself.

He reared and couldn’t get all the way up and just… came down. ¬†At one point his knees started to buckle and his pasterns folded and he started to lay down and half of my brain¬†actually thought “why am I not filming this?” and I put my hand in my pocket to get my phone out, then decided I’d better have two hands on me. ¬†The other half of my brain was thinking “please, YES, please just lay down,” because if he gave up and lay down it would indicate that¬†he chose to yield to the pressure, and would have been a major step forward in his problem solving process. ¬†I’ve seen Murray get to a really similar point where he’s about to crumple to the ground before, with my barn manager when she was very understandably¬†disciplining him for something, and that was the moment in the discussion where he turned reasonable.

Instead, Murray leapt out of the half-crouch-thing and hit the end of the rope again and the meltdown continued. ¬†(I mean, you should see all the skid marks on the barn floor after this morning…) Since the “hoooo, hoooo, easy, settle”, deep, soothing voice wasn’t working I tried yelling and growling at him in turns to absolutely no effect. ¬†He wasn’t even registering me. ¬†We finally got to the point where he was part-ways in a downward dog stretch — front legs splayed out toward me, leaning back on the rope as far as he could, just staring at me. ¬†I kept talking to him while I tried to pull myself out a few inches of slack so I could unhook the lead rope, and then had the bright idea to offer him some of the remaining carrot bits I had in my pocket. ¬†I was¬†well beyond trying to avoid rewarding bad behavior at that point. ¬†But instead of responding to “cookie” he jerked his head to the side, snapped the lead rope, and skittered off down the barn aisle.

I managed to get my hands on him before he left the barn and he was truly beside himself. ¬†I walked him back up to the tie ring and he wanted¬†nothing to do with it. ¬†Obviously with only two and a half feet of lead rope left attached to him I wasn’t about to tie him, but I made the decision then to just continue to insist on good behavior. ¬†Ignore the meltdown (so to speak) and insist that he continue to behave like a rational horse beast. ¬†Since Murray was still in panic mode and unable to even think about what I was asking him to do I had a bit of time to catch my breath and think.

I slowed myself down and managed to avoid crying, though if anyone had tried to talk to me just then I probably would have.  Murray would stand for a minute or so and then start to skitter sideways/into me and I reminded him that the exercise we were working on was just standing still where I told him to stand the fuck still.  Nothing too aggressive, but not rewarding the bad behavior by walking off with him, and not acknowledging his distaste for the area by letting him stand somewhere else.  I thought about how much I hate this horse sometimes and why I ever think that I can improve or change these absurd, deep-seeded, irrational instincts.

Murray kept trying to yank me to the side or pull his head around to get a look at what was going on elsewhere in the barn or… wherever. ¬†I was more than a little sick of him at this point and yanked him back to look at me and¬†just stand. ¬†I thought about what, exactly, I had done wrong to induce¬†this particular meltdown, and how I could have avoided it, or snapped Murray out of it while it was happening.

While we were standing there thinking, Murray threw his head in to mine and instead of ducking (which I usually do), I threw my hand into his head and yelled “REALLY?” ¬†He chose to fly away from me backwards at that, so I took him up on the offer and marched him backward, at which he promptly slammed into and tried to sit on a trash can, scared the shit out of himself, flew backward out the barn door, and then tried to sit on my trainer’s truck’s front bumper.

Since we were already outside I decided that we would try to walk it off (the stupidity of this is just now dawning on me since I only had about 3 feet of lead rope to hold on to), and after he settled a little we stepped into the barn. ¬†A friend held him while I found a replacement rope, and then we walked back to the tie ring to start over. ¬†My barn manager came out and commiserated with me a little and Murray proved that he couldn’t even he just¬†couldn’t even while she was standing there, trying to run in to me (because he knew he isn’t allowed to run in to her).

I ultimately tacked him up two more times (not tied, but still insisting that he stand relatively still), he was relatively good, I lunged him and he was great, and we called it a day.  Because when it takes 75 minutes to get your horse groomed and tacked up you quickly run out of time to ride.

In some ways this meltdown indicated major progress for Murray. ¬†In the past he would have hit the end of his lead rope one time, felt the pressure, ripped right through it, and disappeared. ¬†So the fact that he was feeling the resistance and not¬†automatically increasing the pressure by an order of magnitude (just continuing at the current level of freak out) just to get free is progress. ¬†And he did come back to me and, though it was a struggle, did eventually figure out that he was expected to just stand still in front of me (and only somewhat invaded my personal space). ¬†He was so reasonable during his freak out that I think he might be ready for a rope halter — IMAGINE THAT! Graduating TO a rope halter. Hah.

But¬†the meltdown itself was over¬†nothing. ¬†I mean, yes, it was about being scared and tied, but the trigger to being scared was… what, being asked to stand for one second longer than he thought he could tolerate? Not getting a treat or being ale to walk off the instant he wanted to? ¬†Sure, I could have avoided the whole thing if I’d just not asked him to stand for that one second, but was the ask really that unreasonable?

I managed to keep myself calm too, and handle it, and not beat the living snot out of him after the fact. ¬†So that’s progress for me.

We will see how Tuesday goes I guess.

I do so desperately wish I’d gotten video. ¬†Dangerous, unpleasant, and indicative of poor training and upbringing as the meltdowns are, they are also ridiculous and absurd and, in their own way, funny.

new year, new problems

It seems that Murray has also made some resolutions for this year.¬† Mostly to fight (FIGHT) for his right to… nooooot have to do anything he doesn’t want to do.

Today was my first jump lesson since the Chris Scarlett clinic, and I was looking forward to applying some of her principles in our lesson.¬† Well, all of them really.¬† I wanted to have a good, quiet, elastic contact with the reins, ride the canter steadily to each fence, and use the outside aids through the turn.¬† I decided to ease Murray into these things though, so he wouldn’t get all cranked about it like he did in the clinic.¬† I also followed MIL’s principles of getting Murray to be round before and immediately after transitions, and just persisting until they meet in the middle.

Our warm up was actually awesome.¬† Murray was forward and game and once I realised that my pushing off my left leg was actually what was making us go crooked after every fence, we were pretty straight too.¬† I could really feel myself riding the canter and keeping my lower leg on to avoid the shrinking stride before a fence that so often plagues our rides, and Murray was pretty receptive.¬† We added a vertical to our warm up line, and eventually swung around to a 2’6″ square oxer.¬† I kept my leg on and my elbows elastic, and I saw a really good spot for us.¬† I totally thought we were going, until we were in the middle of the fence.

just kidding — i’m not going

I had no idea what happened.¬† Like… we were going, and then we weren’t going.¬† B said Murray saw the second bar on the oxer right as he was taking off and hit the abort button at the very last second.¬† She lowered the front rail so there were good visual cues around the fence, we came back at it and Murray was like “ha! You can’t trick me with this again!”¬† B lowered the back rail so it was an X oxer and this I really forced it to happen.¬† We swung around to the X oxer a few times, then tried to head over to another X oxer and Murray told me to fuck off about that one too.

I made a big deal about him stopping, backed him, trotted him to the fence, and then made a big deal about him going over it. Then we jumped the two oxers a few more times together. I commented to B that Murray felt uncomfortable with the way I was asking him to take the fences in the canter stride, and should I let him go back to the (shittier) way he preferred to jump?  B said yes, and had me let Murray add where he wanted, but keep my leg on to stop the stopping.

Unfortunately, a short break and another attempt at the course, that same first oxer that gave us trouble (put up so that the back bar was 2’6″ and the front bar was like one side of an X) got us again.¬† I leaned to it when I felt the takeoff point which was bad, but I was riding super defensively, and I find it hard to stay with Murray over fences when I am being so defensive.¬† We did a quick check over Murray’s body for soreness — nothing obvious — and I decided to forego jumping anything of substantial size (i.e. above 2 feet) and just school Murray over the smaller fences until we got back into the groove.¬† This took… several rounds.

Murray was starting to feel like he had at Camelot, where¬† it was a fight to get to the base of each fence, then a¬† mad dash until the next.¬† When he refused to listen to me halting at one point and I had to get my point across he even pulled the “stop with front feet skid-d-d-d-d” move on me.

IMG_0671proof that he can canter-halt

One fence in particular was notable, because I’d let Murray get the suuuuuuuuper shitty deep spot to the prior fence that he wanted, and now we were approaching the next fence I had asked for him to step forward (all legs, no whip to avoid scariness).¬† I kept my leg on but let him settle himself back to the smaller stride he was comfortable with and right in the perfect takeoff point he just sat down and stopped.¬† B was like “Damn, that was a really good ride. There was nothing wrong with that ride.”¬† At other refused fences she had pointed out me leaning a little bit — not throwing myself at the fence, but just enough to upset poor horsey boy’s balance, maybe — and at one I just failed to ride, but that fence was a good ride.¬† And I still got a stop.

It was just so. fucking. confusing.¬† Murray wasn’t making a big deal out of the stops, just coming to a dead halt — at least, he didn’t make a big deal about anything until after I lay into him when he deserved it.¬† Something was definitely going on, but it was really hard to pinpoint: more than a couple of times he whale-eyed a fence, and he was panic-galloping between and after fences a little, but we’d come to a halt after a “course” and he wasn’t scared of any fences or anxious at all.¬† None of the anxiety came out until we were right on top of a fence, and then it was like “oh actually NO.”

So… that was weird.¬† I really don’t know how to problem-solve this, except to have another jump lesson (already scheduled!) later this week and see what comes out during it.¬† I have some hypotheses about his behavior that are worth exploring but… it’s all so very interesting.

  • Murray was actually sore, despite not seeming like it — he didn’t want to properly bend right or pick up the right canter to start with, so that may have been an indicator/clue (this is also sometimes an indicator of a RH coronet band abscess about to come out)
  • I was asking too much with the forward/big canter and he isn’t ready to work like that above 2 feet yet, should move into this work more slowly
  • We moved from warm up to jumping real jumps too fast and needed more time for his brain to adjust
  • Murray needed a more gentle intro back to jumping after his 2 week vacation — start lower
  • Murray scared the (literal and metaphysical) shit out of himself with that first crash and just couldn’t get over it
  • Too dark in the indoor and we needed lights
  • Murray secretly hates 2 week vacations
  • Murray wants to be a dressage horse
  • Murray is actually a velociraptor
  • oh and… Murray was just being a douchecanoe

IMG_2773We jumped this even though I’m not perfectly upright

2015 year in review

2015 was a year full of lots of ups and downs.¬† I made lots of progress, but came to the big and not-my-favourite realisation that I hadn’t quite been doing right by Murray.¬† We managed to make some good adjustments and finish the year on a high note though!¬† For a quick recap of my year, I made a video.¬† All the nitty gritty details are below.


I started January off with a few schooling adventures away from home and thinking about how Murray and I had slowly been making progress.¬† Evidently I thought highly enough of him to say that nothing bothered him, ha!¬† I participated in almost every one of Beka’s Blog Hop questions, ¬† I also wrote about how to be a good competitor, and the six stages of the OTTB connect cycle, oh and I mocked people who try to defend not wearing a helmet for stupid reasons.

IMG_9334angry, one-stirruped, weirdly nice jumping


In February I went to a show, did hills at my trainer’s and audited a Hawley Bennett clinic, which made me think really hard about riding with some BNTs in the future.¬† I pondered the bad behavior a certain pony tends to show away from home, and asked for your help training my horse to be a show horse.¬† I wrote about my scariest story from Africa, polled you on show names, and decided that riding with BNTs cane be awesome and worth it.



In March I went to Italy, lost my phone, and got turned down for a job I wanted, but also came to the realisation that I’d be sticking around in grad school for a little longer than I initially thought.¬† So not all bad things.¬† I took some pictures of the moon at sunset (I will be trying that again this year and even have a better location lined up for it), and got my knickers in a twist about integrity and showing. I put together a progression post a la SprinklerBandit and the end of the month brought with it PONY CAMP!!!!!!



April was a big month for me.¬† I took Murray to the vet clinic for a pre-purchase exam and he passed with flying colors — phew.¬† Unfortunately, I then still had to negotiate his price and write the check — NOT the order I would recommend doing those things in.¬† The whole PPE-purchase-waiting-game experience with Murray was a ten on the pain scale for me, but I also discussed how one person’s ten is not another person’s ten.¬† I wrote about why I hate loris tickling videos and other forms of wild-animal exploitation, the ever-important trust bank, and ten things I hate about dressage.


Before I started writing this I could have sworn I bought my horse in May, but I suspect that is because May is when the “you just bought me, welcome to the REAL WORLD” shit started to go down.¬† Murray and I started to have refusals all over the place, which I imagine was Murray’s way of putting his foot down and telling me I was not riding right and to get my shit together.¬† I wrote a Throwback Thursday post about May 2014 which was also terrible, and concluded that May is just cursed.¬† I identified some non-trainer approved moves I was busting out that Murray probably didn’t appreciate, got trashed and wrote about my RBF.

5-21 dressage 8


June was all about show prep, as I got ready for my first rated event at my favourite venue ever.  I also got to play with  new baby horses!  I rode gridz and we bossmareupped.



The month of the fateful Camelot Equestrian Park Horse Trials.¬† I fell off my horse twice, cried (repeatedly, for different reasons), threw an adult tantrum, and it took me a little while to get over it, but my real life and blogland friends were crazy supportive.¬† I hosted my first ever blog hop — Everyday Fail — and started to struggle back to a positive mental state for jumping.¬† A huge fire not 15 miles from our barn forced evacuations and we had a not-so-great cross country outing that made it really clear to me how important my sense of humor is when riding Murray, but I worekd on


I signed up for another rated horse trials at the end of August, at a venue much closer to home, and to prepare went XC schooling — this time all by myself.¬† Schooling on my own took a ton of pressure off me compared to schooling in a group, and really let me nail down some problems that Murray and I had been having.¬† I also got ready to move, and wrote about one of my favourite chimp friends in Africa, Jane.¬† NorCal OTTB launched our new website and blog, and realised that signing up for a horse trials over the weekend I was supposed to be moving was the worst idea ever.¬† My friends came to the rescue, and despite a minor technical bobble my weekend ended very well.



It took me until September to realise exactly what I had done to Murray at Camelot and how much work I had ahead of me to get Murray to the mental and physical strong point that I wanted for him.¬† The August show was a big part of this realisation, and I adjusted my expectations for the next year based on that experience and worked hard to re-learn how to ride my horse and give him the ride he needed.¬† I picked up a project horse, the Peanut, and thought about integrity, how horses and riders mirror one anothers’ personalities, and the inexorable maze of stairs that are progress in riding as an adult amateur.¬† Oh, and I turned twenty seven!



October quieted down, and I made the tough decision not to attend another show in 2015 based on my finances.  Instead, I schooled dressage a lot and started to work on my First Level dressage goals.  I started prepping Murray for his eventual body clip by shaving random patches of his body, and then I immediately regretted it.  We continued to progress in our jumping and I managed to encourage Murray to start taking the long spot instead of always shrinking his stride and getting suuuper deep to the fences.  I also took some cute dressage pictures for once!



I clipped Murray in the first week of November using nothing but carrots, show sheen, patience, and pure fucking determination.¬† Murray ripped open his face (clever boy!) and destroyed my First Level debut dreams, which was okay I guess.¬† I went to a jumper show and still had refusals at 2’6″, which I had hoped to be totally conquered and over with by now, and I continued to struggle a bit with my jumping and figuring out the best way to communicate with Murray.



December dawned frosty and cold, and I promptly trained my horse to buck when he didn’t feel like moving forward going left *clap clap clap*.¬† I got PUPPIEZZZZ and attended a clinic that really hammered home the principle that PRECISION IS KEY.¬† I got to take Murray to dressage camp and my MIL hammered home the same message over four rides.


Well, 2016, you have arrived.¬† Let’s bring it on and continue to kick ass!

Ariat Odette Show Shirt Review + ingenuity

I have this thing about waived coats.¬† I don’t have a problem riding without a coat.¬† I’m down with comfort and not dying of heat stroke.

The thing is this: if I ride in a show without my coat, I need to look fly as fuck.

There are a couple of things that go in to this.

Thing the first: I’ve mentioned it before, but I do not want to be showing anyone my sports bra through my show shirt.¬† That is a no can do.¬† White shirt, no sports bra shadow or lines.¬† If you’ve been in a tack store lately you’ll notice ALL KINDS of adorable, breezy show shirts around.¬† Unfortunately, they’re mostly completely see through.

summer1Okay you might not be able to see from  here but my sports bra is visible AND my shirt tends to billow out behind my shoulders. No bueno.  Cute pony though.

Thing the second: Good fit.¬† I can be hard to fit because I’m in the sub-5’1″ category with boobs that can occasionally be hard to control.¬† I’m short waisted and I have long monkey arms.¬† My current show shirt is fine under a coat but when I’m wearing just that shirt it makes me look like Quasimodo.¬† I do have a straight back.¬† I want to show that off.

Thing the third: Breatheability.¬† This goes along with Thing the first in that it’s kinda the opposite.¬† Breatheable =/= completely opaque.

So when I was toodling around the Riding Warehouse Sale rack (I do this a lot), I saw this adorable show shirt by Ariat.

It is tapped into the current lacy equestrian trend that’s going around.¬† It didn’t look see through.¬† It had adorable shiny buttons.¬† It was one sale.

I bought it.

I had to go back to my order history to figure out how much I paid for it.¬† I thought it was like $22.¬† I was wrong.¬† I paid $56.88.¬† I’m not sure what compelled me to pay so much for a show shirt, but I’m guessing it was the above (lacy, not see through, shiny buttons, on sale).

So you can imagine my disappointment when I ripped open my Riding Warehouse package only to find that the lacy pattern was in the weave of the shirt, not overlaid on the weave.  It would be completely see through.  I was devastated.  But I tried it on and it fit really well.  So I looked into a way I could wear this adorable piece of equestrian nonsense (I mean, who even wears white around horses?!  That is like vomiting into the wind.  No matter how hard you try you are going to get splattered.)

Ingenuity Interlude: Remember when I bemoaned the fact that sports bras in a beige/skin toned color are ridiculously expensive?¬† See above that I have boobs that can, occasionally, be wildly unpredictable.¬† And by “wildly unpredictable” I mean they make like squirrels in a rice sack if not appropriately tied down.¬† Browsing Amazon I realised that there weren’t any good beige sports bras for < $35, there were lots of beige sleeping-style bras for <$10.¬† For $5, I could layer a beige bra on top of a supportive bra and still come in at less than one of those fancy beige sports bras!¬† I ordered one of those too.¬† TL;DR: IT WORKS.¬† You just layer a cheapo bra over your supportive bra and BLAM: no more sportsbra shadow.¬† You’re welcome.

odetteBack to the Odette Show Shirt.¬† I wore it today for my lesson so that I could check with B that my bra wasn’t showing and the shirt fit well enough to be a waived-coats shirt.¬† I also took a torselfie in the bright morning sun to make sure that the sports bra solution was working to my standards.

What I learned is that trying to take selfies makes me pose like Cameron from Modern Family, and that white balance for a SUPER NEW white shirt makes me look tan as fuck.¬† I am not that tan.¬† Also, you can’t see my bra!

I was pleasantly surprised when riding around in this shirt.¬† The lacy fabric means that it has inbuilt air conditioning/sun shirt cooling capabilities.¬† I’m not sure it would block ALL the UVs, so you would run the risk of getting a really sweet tan pattern if you rode in this shirt all day, but I repeat my point from above: who wears white around horses habitually anyway?!¬† The shirt also fits well to my body and didn’t come untucked or billow while I was riding.

TL;DR #2: I approve of this show shirt.¬† While I wouldn’t normally condone paying >$50 for a shirt, I’m okay with it for something this classy and wearable.¬† If I amortize its cost over 10 shows, that’s only like $5/use.¬† For something I really love, I’ll take it.

Features: magnetic collar, floral lace fabric weave, built-in air conditioning/show shirt abilities, shiny buttons.

Magical powers granted: fabulous posture.

(If you’re wondering why all the crazy colours, I’ve been working on the NorCal OTTB website for like three straight days and my brain is melting and so I went a little kookoo.)

the little things

It feels strange to write about the little problems and triumphs in my life when someone I know, respect, and care for is suffering so deeply. ¬†Another thing that I can’t help but strike me as strange is that I’ve never met this person face to face, yet her mere internet presence has clearly made an impression upon my life.

My life continues here in California, though. ¬†I taught my first two sessions of the Summer today (I have a 100% teaching appointment which will hopefully get me through the paycheck drought of September/October) and while my sections are being purposefully overenrolled to allow more students into the class, I think we’ll have a good time. ¬†Both classes were engaging and fun and that is¬†much¬†preferable to the sleep-deprived zombies I seemed to be teaching last quarter.

IMG_20150617_112358Saw this in Oregon. Made me lawl.

Importantly, I have a couple of opinion questions for you all. ¬†Temps at the¬†show next weekend promise to hit¬†105 on dressage day (guessing XC will definitely be split) and I suspect this will get our coats waived. ¬†Agree? ¬†This makes me super sad that I won’t get to wear my new Horze soft shell with¬†subtle bling but also means I won’t have to roast my boobies off. ¬†Also, it means Murray will probably behave (I am not above using the weather to my advantage). ¬†However, it means I have to go find a nude or white sports bra — nude is preferable, right? — and make some stock tie adjustments. ¬†Any suggestions from my fellow show-folks on the best way to tie your stock when it runs the risk of slapping you in the face? ¬†Also, will a dime-sized¬†purple unicorn stock pin be out of line?

IMG_20150623_073613Stone cold killer right here.

My ride tonight promised an interesting test next week. ¬†Murray has been having Resistance Face going left the last few weeks so our circles are kinda, uh, squares. ¬†And today he decided to Just Say No to canter departs. ¬†So our beautifully cultivated canter departs — that we got a 7 and 8 on last year at Intro — are now giant piles of crap that shame me. ¬†I know this is at least partially my fault. ¬†In my ride today I specifically wanted to re-crisp up those puppies but when I put my leg on Murray was like “nah” and so I asked with a slightly increasing aid two more times and then went WOMP and he was like “well fuck this shit then!” and poof! No more pretty canter departs.

But for real, what am I supposed to do in that situation? ¬†Let him decide when and where we canter depart? ¬†Alana always advises me to lighten up my aids when he gets fussy and resistant, but this wasn’t even fussy resistance. ¬†He was straight up ignoring me.


We got back to almost-acceptable during our ride, but it took a while. ¬†I had to be like “no remember this, you like these!” and made a HUUUUUGE fuss over Murray¬†when he did a semi-reasonable one which seemed to appease his tortured soul. ¬†Also, my dressage girth when missing which threw me into an absolute apoplexy of rage. ¬†Do people not know my horse is GIRTH CHALLENGED?!?! ¬†And so am I. ¬†I had to borrow a leather girth and it was on so loosely I had to get off to hike it up a bunch of holes. ¬†It was embarrassing. ¬†BUT FOR REAL BRING BACK MY GIRTH. ¬†It’s literally the smallest girth at our barn that’s still in use — no joke — so I GUARANTEE nobody wants it. GIVE IT BACKKKKKKK GREMLINS.


Fortunately, my garden has started to yield quite magnificently. ¬†I’ve been snacking on Sun Gold cherry tomatoes off one bush for the last two days, and another is showing the first blush of promise. ¬†Eggplants are starting to come out, but really seem to be getting absolutely scrooged by some kind of aphid pest that is eating the crap out of their leaves. ¬†Kale and basil are taking off and I’ll start some more basil here so I have a continuous crop. ¬†Cucumbers going nuts. ¬†Squash are — as squash will do — spreading out. ¬†There is a heinous watermelon pest eating my vines though — and not even eating the whole vines, just cutting them in the middle — so I let Ellie go all scorched earth on some fossorial mammal tunnels we found today in the hopes that would deter them.

IMG_20150623_180654 IMG_20150623_180658

Only six more rides til show time.


raise your expectations

I seriously love you guys. You are awesome. I love being part of this blogging community of people that have never met but can touch one another’s lives anyway. ¬†It’s pretty awesome. ¬†But more on that another day.

Despite my hopes that we were on the upswing towards tacking-up normalcy with Murray, the general malaise of a few weeks ago seemed to also erase that progress and deposit us solidly in last year in terms of tacking up skills.  Possibly we are even back in 2013.

So here’s a basic rundown of how tacking up usually goes. ¬†I plop the saddle pads on Murray’s back just fine. ¬†Then I meander over with the saddle, and that is just fine too. ¬†I head over to his right side and attach one side of the girth — at this point, Murray may or may not sidle away from me a bit. ¬†When I move back over to the left is when things really go¬†sideways — literally and figuratively. ¬†Murray has dumped my saddle twice in the past few weeks, which he hasn’t done in¬†quite a while, and despite my many attempts to bribe/distract him with carrots, he¬†just can’t. ¬†The second the distraction is down his gullet, he’s back to wigging out.

Weird thing is, as soon as we have an actual fight about it, he seems to remember that — oh yeah — he can do that whole standing for the saddle thing.

I had L, barn manager, help me out the other day because I was really struggling to read Murray. ¬†I didn’t know if he was legitimately panicked or simply being really, really rude. ¬†Considering the amount of doubt benefit he’s been given in the last few weeks, L thinks it’s not actually panic. ¬†Probably rude. ¬†Despite L being the person to basically put¬†all the tacking up training on Murray before me, and being his absolute favorite person in the world, he still was utterly horrid for her. ¬†Which validated me a tiny bit — it clearly isn’t just me.

L also gave me a general life lesson in pony management, criticising me for letting Murray bump me with his nose while I am grooming him (I literally don’t even notice this begging behavior any more), moving out of his way when he rudely swings his weight into me (teaching him that yes, he is, in fact, the boss), and letting him get away with poor ground manners in general. ¬†She told me to raise my expectations — Murray is not a baby any more, and does not get to behave like one just because he thinks he should.

So while we rule out legitimate causes for his bad behavior (sucks to be him if they are ulcers, as I spent all my money on buying him and can’t treat him for a month)¬†I am trying to work through this behaviorally. ¬†Since the presence of treats actually seems to make Murray¬†worse about wiggling around, we are going no-food, and just rewarding him with pats and praise. ¬†It sucks for me that I can’t go all-positive with this, like I want to, but whatever training history is there is messing up something that needs to happen.

This is, on many levels, disheartening and embarrassing. ¬†Like, to the point that I don’t even want to complain about it publicly as it’s all my own fault. ¬†But… you know, journaling. ¬†I’m disappointed and embarrassed that I seem to be the only person I know who can’t install ground manners on a horse. ¬†Sure, his manners have improved in general in the last two years, but in large part I feel like that’s just growing up and… life, you know? ¬†For such a long time I was just so glad that I got tacked up that I let Murray get away with whatever, and that’s really not acceptable now. ¬†Though, I shouldn’t be too too hard on myself, I guess. ¬†I did teach Murray to get on a trailer with absolutely no hesitation, and there are plenty of other horses at our barn who give it a hairy eyeball every once in a while. ¬†And he doesn’t attack me with voracious gusto when I deliver his bucket, though evidently this couretsey doesn’t extend to anyone beyond me and L. ¬†And he picks up his feet a lot better than some horses I know. ¬†I will cling to those three things. ¬†THOSE ARE MY THINGS. I DID THEM.

Ground manners boot camp is on all the time, now. ¬†It’s probably going to be way harder for me than for Murray — I am just too damn nice. ¬†Please, please, please, let us be done with boot camp by the time Camelot rolls around.

spring is in the air

And so is my ass and Murray’s hind feet, more often than not this last week.

Okay, okay, I kid. ¬†His hind feet are only in the air a few times per ride, but it’s alarmingly similar to the epic dressage battle he waged with BM’s kid last year.

IMG_8525Hella flexible

Letsee now… first there was the¬†Waste of Time dressage ride that I got good footage out of. ¬†That was the last semblance we had of a good ride. ¬†The day after, I was hung over so… no riding. ¬†I regret nothing. ¬†I spent the weekend out of town, and got on Monday night for some conditioning and possibly light jumping, and Murray was out of his mind. ¬†Spooky, cranky, unpleasant, he was simultaneously completely ignoring my legitimate leg aids and overreacting to any time my leg brushed against him. ¬†I stopped one of my friends during her ride to ask if my spurs were accidentally hitting his sides, and after she said that they¬†might be, on the outside leg, I took them off and continued to get brattitude so called an end to things early.

Tuesday Murray re-enacted the ass-whooping dressage ride from a year ago, bucking every two strides down the long side of the arena for multiple laps.  I was truly shocked, since I had just lunged him and he was perfectly compliant and happy, but as soon as we got outside it was rodeo time.  I thought he just had some kinks to work out so sat quietly and kept him moving forward, and the ride ended pretty well, all things considered.  Murray quieted down, no more bucking or screaming was heard from him, and we put in some reasonable dressage work.  But I was seriously wondering if he had learned, from the prior three rides, that bad behavior = Nicole getting off.  Was he really that smart?  Was three rides all it would take?

IMG_3749Say NO to rider requests to move off your leg!

(Incidentally, I then went to my trainer’s house and sat through a rodeo on a horse who is supposed to be rehabbing!! B is allowed to do 10 minutes of trot a day, and has been super fun for my other rides on him. ¬†Instead, all he wanted was to go, go, go!! and insisted that my demand that he trot was worth slow-motion porpoising and bucking. ¬†I was completely convinced that I just¬†couldn’t horse that day and promptly got off and then nearly cried when another horse refused to even back up for me. ¬†Turns out it was me¬†and it was them, but damn, the horses were conspiring against me that day!)

I had put myself down for a semi-private jump lesson on Wednesday afternoon, but due to time constraints I moved into a group lesson with three kids. ¬†That afternoon’s tack up was a perfect shit storm of not-great for Murray: it was super crowded, and right as I was about to start tightening up his girth, another horse appeared, his rider just holding him in the middle of the barn aisle right in my way. ¬†I was like no no, child, this is not okay, don’t you know this horse is about to explode?!

For a little comedic relief that is kindof niche in humor, this youtube video.

So we get into the ring, and I pop Murray over a couple of things I think will be particularly terrifying, including a faux-brick wall and a jump all decorated¬†like a little woodland glade. ¬†AT wants to get a squirrel toy to put on it. ¬†Murray turns on the nope many strides out from the woodland glade, which is absurd because he’s jumped all the pieces of that fence before, but I eventually get him over it (because it’s tiny, like 2’3″), causing every other horse in our lesson to also refuse and give it hard looks. ¬†Then Murray jumps the silly brick wall he’s never seen like it’s nothing! Weirdo. ¬†The lesson was a master class in nope though, as Murray stopped at basically anything and everything that gave him pause.

This was in large part my fault, as I can tell from the video (which I am¬†not sharing with you). ¬†Basically, Murray was unconfident and anxious, and I wasn’t riding. ¬†I don’t think I got ahead of him for any of the stops, but I certainly wasn’t supporting him with my leg and that quiet seat I know he appreciates. ¬†Much post-hoc analysis of the video revealed to me that I’ve been so busy jamming my heels down that I’ve let my pelvis tilt forward (not sure how). ¬†But I know I have to keep my shoulders up and back, so I’m cranking my back in order to do that. ¬†Somehow that is not such an effective seat.¬† After our second round, which I don’t think had any stops but where¬†Murray repeatedly put two and three strides in a one-two combo, Alana asked me if anything had changed recently that I might be anxious or upset about.

Errr, well, I bought the damn¬†horse…

She counseled me to just ride really light and breezy and talk to Murray for the next round, and not sweat the possible stops.  Which I did.  And it was the best round yet (attitude-wise), but quite sloppy riding-wise.

I added another lesson Friday to see if I couldn’t fix some of those problems. ¬†We kept everything super low, but Murray was still extremely looky and suspicious. ¬†So much more so than he has been in the past. ¬†We didn’t have any stops, but I definitely felt his noodly hesitation heading into a couple of the fences. ¬†Instead of getting angry about it, I just kept my leg on (quietly, though) and tried to keep my back straight and seat quiet. ¬†I had one stop when I leaned for a long spot and Murray was like “haha, no, that is not possible”, but that was one hundred percent my fault. ¬†Overall an okay ride, but not our best.

By this point, I had realised that part of my problem is how Murray and I approach courses. ¬†Often, by the second or third course of the lesson, Murray is phoning it in: he knows the course, doesn’t want to listen to my leg aids, and cuts corners (literally and figuratively). ¬†Instead of getting him ahead of my leg and listening right in the beginning, I’ll let him scramble over a fence or two, then panic and¬†run him at the bigger fences. ¬†This is, obviously, a¬†super tactic for confidence building, correct fence jumping, clean stadium rounds, and generally a good time had by all.

Saturday I jumped around a little more with slightly bigger jumps than in the Friday lesson, and had boyfriend film me. ¬†This was fortunately (or unfortunately? Boyfriend is an excellent media-taker) free of any antics, so was, I guess, quite a good ride in that regard. ¬†Much more video analysis revealed that not only am I failing to get Murray ahead of my leg, I don’t have him in a bouncy, impulsion-filled canter. ¬†I let my reins get long because I don’t want to hit Murray in the mouth over fences, and he tends to overreact to anything but a light touch. ¬†So I default to “longer is better” instead of “elastic and following”, which is really the coward’s way out. ¬†With this knowledge, I added a new piece of equipment to my Fixing My Shit arsenal.

Yep. Rainbow reins.  I voluntarily bought myself rainbow reins.  I had secretly wanted the hideous blue-green-red-yellow ones pictured, but the tack store only had a slightly more classy red-white-navy version.  Fortunately, they were cheap.  This made assistant trainer very excited as the lesson pair melted in the loft storage and now she can threaten more people with them.

Now we’re up to Monday,¬†for which I had scheduled¬†another¬†jump lesson. ¬†If it sounds like I’m jumping the snot out of my horse… I kinda am. ¬†This is not how I would rather structure a riding week, but I really need to hammer out these issues with Murray before they a) snowball or b)¬†I develop my own bad habits to deal with them. ¬†This is all trainer approved and we’re not jumping big, or sometimes even that much (Saturday I probably went over 15 fences total, including the warm up fences), just enough to diagnose some things. ¬†And Murray has gotten lots of days off in between (Thursday and Sunday, as well as the weekend before last).

Monday’s lesson rolls around, and Murray is as spooktacular as before. ¬†To his defense, the hay trucks were working (weirdly unpredictably, but okay) in the field behind the arena, and both horses were looking at those a bit. ¬†But the weird thing is that Murray was spooking at¬†fences in a way he hasn’t done in almost a year! ¬†Through the first six months or so of us working together, Murray would give the hairy eyeball to any fence was passed laterally, as if I was about to suddenly turn him to it and ask him to jump it. ¬†I worked on this a lot, circling jumps bent both towards and away from them, and weaving in, out, around, and through lots of fences to show him that just because we are¬†near a fence doesn’t mean that fence is going to¬†eat you. ¬†So since last year, he’s been fairly chill working around fences, even when the filler has been a little spooky.

But not today.  Murray was whale-eyeing and refusing to go between fences that we had jumped just last week (course was unchanged).  My goals for today were to keep my position (straight backed, not distorted like on Wednesday), learn how to really build that impulsion every ride, and keep my reins short!  Assistant trainer therefore set us up a grid exercise, with two canter poles, then a one stride to a two stride.  Murray was totally on board until I asked him to trot through the grid, which was set to poles at that point.

All went well until we got to the last “fence”, which¬†was a huge bucket of nope. ¬†AT asked me to pat him, praise him for being a good boy (even though he wasn’t), and just keep pressing him forward over the last set of poles. ¬†We trotted back and forth over the demon poles a few times, then started the grid exercise, which went much better. ¬†The rainbow reins were amazingly¬†helpful for keeping my reins the right length, and I managed to keep my back straight during the lesson. ¬†When I felt a lack of impulsion coming into the grid one time, and Murray didn’t respond to my leg, I went right to the crop. ¬†That is where the dinosaur sounds began again, as Murray responded with a big dolphin leap-buck combination. ¬†Coming around the next time, he bucked three times in a row in the exact same spot, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to being bucked off! ¬†I hadn’t been expecting it, and without a stride in between to recover my seat a little, even leaning back I was popped¬†sideways out of the tack. ¬†Fortunately, three was all he had in him, and I recovered.

The funny thing is, the jumping part of the lesson was great! ¬†After the initial pole refusal, I didn’t have a single problem with Murray stopping or even questioning the fences. ¬†And with our new found powers of having¬†impulsion¬†in the canter, I could comfortably still my upper body over fences and stop doing the Miley Cyrus! ¬†It was just between the jumps that was a problem.

So basically, it’s been an interesting last eight rides. ¬†Or, an interesting first eight rides as a horse owner. ¬†You decide. ¬†I’ve been asked by everyone if I’ve changed Murray’s feed in any way, and I haven’t!! ¬†He’s been on the same three supplements (magnesium, electrolytes, Omega Horse Shine) and grain mix (Stable Mix and rolled barley) for months now, and unless our feeder is sneaking Murray alfalfa, there is nothing we can think of to explain this. ¬†I am choosing to blame it on the month of¬†May, because last May I had a week where I fell off/was injured by Murray five times in four rides.

Which is a story for another day.

farrier tales & that time I accidentally Parellied my horse

I adore my farrier. ¬†She is so great for me and Murray, and we blab and blab during our appointments. ¬†We very much share the same philosophy for shoeing — do as little as you need to — and she explains everything to me in great detail so that I really feel like if she told me I needed to do something for Murray, I would completely believe her (perhaps this is the long con?! kidding). ¬† Most importantly: Murray likes her, and she is GREAT with him. ¬†Oh, and my farrier is a LADY, which is not the most common thing in the world and I do believe in women being badasses so you know.

2014-02-12 08.49.18We are not in posession of the world’s greatest feet

However, Murray and I did not always have such a positive relationship with farriers. ¬†Doubtless the kid had all four feet shod at the track, but when he got to our barn he started out barefoot, just getting trims (from another lady farrier in the area, actually!). ¬†Eventually, he graduated to front shoes, and that’s where I picked up. ¬†After a couple of months of work, I noticed that Murray was wearing his hind toes down quite a bit, and asked my farrier if we could put hind shoes on to protect his feet while we worked on fixing the root of the problem. ¬†It got put off for two appointments, until I finally put my foot down and asked for them then and there, as I knew I would be starting to ask the kid to do some harder stuff in the coming weeks — running XC on harder ground, for example.

Farrier man was in a bit of a rush, and with some bribery and minimal hijinks we got on the left hind shoe.  By the time we got around to the right hind though, Murray was done.  D-O-N-E done.  He kneed the farrier in the chest three times, and ripped his foot away while the shoe had a grand total of one nail in.  He pulled back, I popped him with the stud chain, and he happily backed away from me, twisting the shoe in his foot as he did.  He backed towards another horse in the barn aisle, shoe all askew and weaponized on his foot, and the farrier yelled at me to just get Murray away from that other horse.  Fortunately, Lisa showed up at just this moment and managed to placate Murray into some kind of submission.  At which point the farrier man uttered this very final statement:

“I’m not putting hind shoes on that horse. If you want hind shoes, call another farrier.”

I did find another farrier, of course.  And I love her!

Anyway, along the lines of this farrier I adore, I’ve worked really hard to make sure that Murray and she get along well. ¬†This involved a lot of stuffing cookies in his face while lady farrier worked on his less-acclimated feet (hinds) and distracting him or reminding him to be a good boy during shoeing.

So with all this treating, I figured I would just clicker train Murray a bit to get him to be better while I was grooming him. ¬†So every day, I pre-masticated a few carrots (read: bit up into tiny, treat-sized pieces), stuffed them in my pockets, and would click and treat him as I curried, picked, and brushed, targeting good behavior. ¬†Murray, unfortunately, would be super mouthy whenever I was near his face, and would practically try to crawl into my pocket to get to the carrots he could smell and sometimes even see. ¬†So I trained a “head down” command, and clicked and treated specifically for him keeping his head down.

Yes you really must wear this baling twine

But instead of getting steadier and more reasonable, Murray got fussier.  He started to wander all around the tie when I was grooming, and repeatedly picking up and slamming down his front right foot, a behavior I had been specifically trying to train out of him!  He would put his head down, up, turn around to look at me, and then shuffle all around.  I tried to click and treat only for the good behaviors but there were so many bad behaviors in there that I felt like I was really missing the point.

And then I realised what was happening.  Murray, thinking that this was training time, was offering me every single behavior I had ever rewarded him for in an attempt to get treats.  He knew the treats were there, and he was willing to work for them.  Constantly.  Forever.  Always.  Just to get more treats.

I mentioned this to lady farrier at our latest appointment, and told her how I’d had to back off the clicker training because of it (upside: Murray is much more well-behaved during grooming now). ¬†She laughed at me and said “Well, you know, that’s one of the goals of Parelli! To have your horse to the point where they understand the game and are offering you all these behaviors to participate in the game!”

I was like UMMM WUT?

So there. I accidentally Parellied my horse.  No carrot stick or waving lead rope needed.