A couple of weeks (March 23rd! ugh! so long ago!) before the #toitnups I got to take Murray to Fresno to school XC, which was a good way to knock a couple of goals off my list and have some maaaaajor flashbacks to four-year-old Murray.
Murray marched out to cross country at a strange place boldly and with only a few idiot moments as we crossed tiny ravines or gravelly rivulets from the intense recent rains. The fantastic thing about Fresno is that it’s super sandy and just soaks up the water like nbd, so the course had a couple of mucky spots but was, overall, in pretty good shape.
As was Murray’s attitude.
let me tell you what i think of this perfectly nice, well-groomed track
We got out on XC and Murray was like “ahh, no, I won’t be trotting around in straight lines or circles, thanks all the same”. He kept turning in off the tracks (where the gopher holes were rife) and balking. He was a little ball of tension, so I just focused on giving him a job without putting on too much pressure: just go forward and steer-ish and all will be forgiven.
And then the train came.
A really, really long train. Right along that track that you can see just behind us in that picture above.
To his credit, Murray did not utterly lose his shit like the last time we encountered a train. He did, however, decide he was going back to the trailers. Now.
So he would turn toward the trailers and I would turn him back onto the course, and he would turn toward the trailers, and I would turn him back toward the course. In this manner we made our squiggly way 50 meters or so away from my trainer, but managed to at least stay out on cross country.
We warmed up over a little cabin, which Murray stopped at the first time and was like “err what is this again?” But after that he was pretty much on board with the jumping thing. It was just getting to and from the jumps that was unexpectedly difficult.
Our next set of antics came as we approached a log box with 3-4 strides after landing to a steep downhill. I was pretty worried about the whole steering + Murray + downhill, so when he came to a stop at the log box I decided we’d have to tackle that question another day. Instead, I tried to ask Murray to settle down and canter politely in a circle in the grass.
To which he responded thusly.
Which was, of course, greatly appreciated by everyone involved. Especially the people trying to have a dressage show just across the way from Murray’s absurd antics. Sorry, dressage peeps!
At this point it was pretty clear that I was going to have to come back to Fresno if I intended to get any serious schooling done, so I decided we’d just go back to the baby basics: walk around, jump some easy jumps, try not to be a freak show.
Murray seemed settled enough at the walk and marched around the course just fine, but he was really spooked by the bigger fences and whenever I asked him to canter he started to flail around and go sideways. Every time. Pretty much until we were right in front of a fence, at which point he’d sit back on his butt and drag us over the fence. It was… confusing.
I realized at the end of the day that this was pretty much exactly what Murray used to do when we would take him schooling as a 5 year old. It took me a while to remember that. But I used to only be able to canter him if we were 8-12 strides out from a fence, and never in a group.
yes, my favourite thing ever is re-training the horse i hope to take novice in 6 weeks over intro fences.
The new monkey wrench in the ride was that upon landing Murray would immediately throw his head in the air and pull hard to the right. Which he had kinda done since we started jumping again this year, but was accentuated to an absurd degree while we were schooling.
We did still manage to get some good fences in. And, a train came by not one, not two, but three more times while we were out there (after which it came never again that day). Each time Murray got progressively less anxious and slightly more angry. During the passing of the third train he even managed to anger-eat a few bites of grass! I imagine that he’s thinking of the grass as me, and biting into it with all the feels he wishes he could gnaw into my flesh. Or maybe he’s imagining he’s killing a train. Who knows.
Overall not the most productive schooling outing ever, but there were definitely some positive moments. We can still mostly jump, I can still mostly not fall off my horse, and our steering showed definite improvement as the day went on.
A week later during a jump lesson I discovered the likely cause of all the flailing and pulling right upon landing: the flocking on the panels behind Murray’s shoulders is pushing into his newly-formed-and-oh-so-ripped topline muscles. Which is a good thing because yay topline! But it’s a bad thing because I literally just got my saddle reflocked, and think I’m outside of the 30-day free callback that my fitter offers.
Ultimately, I decided not to enter the Fresno HT because there just wasn’t enough time… with wedding planning, job crazinesss, and my horse coming back into the world of jumping like he’s a four year old (just bigger, stronger, and cleverer than before), there was just no way could get the two of us ready in time.
and uh… whatever this is
But we’re back at it! And there will be plenty more shows for us to flail around at later this year. In the mean time, there will be plenty of flailing Murray antics to enjoy!