previously on “nicole rides a horse”

It’s wet in Northern California right now. Like really, really wet. ¬†And it’s not so much a problem that we’re getting rain, it’s that we’re completely ill equipped to handle all the rain we are getting. ¬†And even when you have a covered arena, if the roof starts leaking and the rain is coming in the one open side, and the whole structure creaks and groans in the gale-force winds, riding is¬†not terribly appealing.

2-20-dressage-02murray doesn’t like the idea either

With nothing important in the forseeable future and having already missed all the potential prep time for the Hawley clinic (that may yet be cancelled), skipping another ride seems like it will hardly speed the slow slide of our skills into oblivion.  But I decided last week that I needed to get off my butt and ride some more, and probably to set some proper show or clinic goals for the coming months to help me get there.  So I dragged boyfriend out to the barn with me to keep me company, call 911 if needed, and act as a vital videography service for my first ride in my new saddle.  (Ah yes, the saddle is now mine. My check book pleads for mercy.)

Murray was a total spaz¬†to start out with, and kicked off his lunge rather literally with a side-kick that was got far too close to my face to be acceptable. ¬†Murray repeatedly spooked at boyfriend sitting on a chair in the corner, despite the fact the two of them spent¬†five minutes walking around together (“he has dumdum teenage brain, and he can’t poop and walk” was the report) while I looked for my side reins. ¬†When I finally got on we had some major stickiness issues to the right, though interestingly not in our usual spot — the side entrance gate — but on the opposite side of the arena. ¬†So we circled and circled until Murray remembered that he can, in fact, walk forward AND bend on a 15 meter circle, and that his only options aren’t actually sideways or bust.


The trot work got better and better as we went on. ¬†Murray was pretty uninspired by the idea of moving forward at first, but since all I wanted was for him to move forward and into the contact it was easy for me to focus. ¬†I nagged too much with my leg to start with because I was babying him about the whip (especially obvious in the video). ¬†I should have employed a few more tactics to get him really moving into the contact instead of faking it, but didn’t really think of them at the time. ¬†I was mostly thinking about forward, which isn’t the worst thing for us to practice. ¬†We did struggle a bit with straightness and drifting out through Murray’s shoulders. ¬†It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I will definitely need to get back to regularly incorporating JM’s straightness exercises into our rides.

Murray’s best trot work always comes right after we canter. ¬†I’ll get a few strides of big, uphill, trot that is frequently pretty balanced. ¬†I need to work on capturing and replicating that feeling when we’re not coming down from the canter, and probably extending the number of strides of that quality trot we can get after a down transition. ¬†How to do this is an interesting question, though.


The canter work was good. ¬†Like, a little surprisingly good. ¬†There were plenty of icky moments, but enough good ones that it wasn’t hard to cherry-pick a quality screen shot from them. ¬†Murray was balanced in both directions, relatively uphill, and fairly willing to get round. ¬†Not perfect, by any means, but I didn’t feel stuck between “head in the air” or “head down and totally on the forehand croup in the air”. ¬†To the right I just schooled canter transitions, trying to get Murray to respond crisply from a forward trot. ¬†I felt like I had it under saddle, but reviewing the video the transitions are a mess — Murray was clearly anticipating what I wanted and fell apart in the trot before popping up into the canter right as I asked a few times. ¬†Definitely¬†not what I wanted. ¬†So it’s back to the drawing board on that one. ¬†To the left I tried to work on a quality-of-gaits exercise Megan introduced me to, but video (and reflection upon the actual ride) showed absolutely no effect. ¬†I assume I left out the essential step of “add leg” before trying to lift the up-swing of the canter more.

It was good work for our first day back after a week of rain-and-shoe-induced delays.  Boyfriend absolutely fucking won the day though, because when I recapped my video it was filled with all manner of incredible little narrative comments.  Probably his best came before and after pauses in filming, where he offered me some In A World style recaps on what was to come/had just occurred.  I will be laughing about these for DAYS.