more camelot media!

I’ve been going to Camelot since 2011 — I’ve been so many times that I thought it would be fun to compare some media from my many shows there.

Dressage centerlines


june 2012 — check out that velvet helmet cover and horrifying braids! with the lovely Quincy

july 2015 — first rated show!


2017 – the final centerline since we cantered the first one!

2018 – I swear I was smiling just seconds before this!

Dressage tests


2012 – the definition of cherry picked! I only kept 3 pictures from this dressage test.
none of them were cantering!

2015 – the lean was fierce!!! this test scored a 39 — I was over the moon

2015 – canter leaning on point

june 2017 — aww look how cute he’s getting! still doing some weird shit with my torso though.


2017 – canter work was full of strugz


2018 – outfit on point, sideways lean almost eliminated!
no canter pics from 2018 again! oh well.

Cross Country

I pulled together a collection of schooling and showing pics for XC comparison. I thought there’d be more cross over between the various fences, but there wasn’t.

2012. holy long spot, quincy! murray could fit at least three more strides in there before taking off!

2012. camille, before she got a face lift!

 
2015. So good at jumping.


2015. this is Murray’s patented “slither” move.

2015 schooling like rather a juggalo here


2017 – we actually jumped the purple roll top this time!

2017 – I had originally thought this blue bike rack was the same as in the massive long spot above, but it isn’t!


2018. turns out i still climb my horse’s neck on occasion!

2018 – camille again! the previous section pictured is just to my left in here — by her tail.

2018 — this year, a bigger roll top!

Stadium Jumping

 2012 – this is the fence where I screamed “dickhead” because I made Quincy runout. sorry Q, I was definitely the dickhead there.


2012 – these BN fences look soooo tiny!

There were no 2015 stadium pictures, of course, as I was eliminated. But look! There are some bonus pics from Murray going intro in 2014 instead!

2014 – little baby murray!!

2014 – this is when i started to get serious about my outfit. is till own and wear this shirt!


2014. what even is happening here, murray?

2017 – enter the rainbow grab strap!


2017 – and the hanging knees. some things never change.

2017.  what a curiously familiar takeoff point that is, Murray…


2018. LOL those knees.

2018 – this seemed rather an unnecessarily big effort.

2018 – same knights as above!

 

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smashing & crashing

I’ve been watching a lot of Great British Bake Off so I mean smashing in all of its possible positive connotations, and not just the ones that look a bit like this.

I was a little worried about the XC course at Camelot. It was challenging — which is pretty much what Camelot excels at. And instead of a nice, friendly, welcoming, come-jump-me first fence, the Novice course had a big, barky, ramp-y hanging log.  I knew I’d have to ride it hard.  The second fence was the arrow, but after that pretty much everything on course was something we’d seen or jumped before.  They were still challenging and a good size, but they were at least challenges I was familiar with. Including that knee-busting down bank from last year.

yep, this arrow!

Murray warmed up really well. He didn’t feel tired, but he was listening and wasn’t sassing me too much. Kate, on the other hand, was full of sass. She kept telling me things like keep my ankle bone on my horse, and that I needed to steady my lower leg and stop jumping for my horse. And I was like “don’t you KNOW how this horse feels about having legs wrapped around him?” and she was like “stop sassing me and be a better rider”*. So I tried to do just that.

Given our problems with down banks lately, I made a plan with Kate for the down bank. She wanted me to ride the house before it on an opening stride, and then push Murray forward from that house for a stride or two with that same BIGGER feeling. Then I would keep my leg on and sit a little back to the down bank (Kate said I wanted to keep that feeling of having 3/4 of the horse in front of me). Murray could take all the time he needed to look at it, but I wasn’t to take my leg off or lose that forward motion. (I think. That’s how I remember the conversation, at least.)

The part I didn’t tell Kate was that if he refused it once and didn’t give me a good feeling about a second go at it, I was planning to retire. I wasn’t prepared to fight about it, especially not with a TD looking on.

Fortunately for us, the down bank wasn’t a problem!

Right down the bank, hooray!

We did, unfortunately, have a problem with the first fence. I tapped Murray three times coming up to it, but he was having none of it and needed a good, hard look at that fence as we got on top of it. I circled him and we got over it the second time, but at that point I knew we were absolutely just in it to finish and not to make time.

And it’s a good thing that I got that into my head early on, because our course was riddled with ridiculous moments of barely slithering over fences (maybe Murray learned something from that snake?), trantering, and stopping to STARE at fences that were absolutely not on our course.

Despite the stopping and staring, the fences I actually had a plan for rode really well. We got right over the trakehner without circling (my foolproof technique to get Murray’s attention back before fences on a downhill), and the down bank rode perfectly. I thought we’d get such an utterly shitty spot to the roll top out of the water because we’d lose all of the energy through the water, but lo and behold it rode just fine. We got in tight but not because we chipped in! It was the fences where I was just like “this is normal and easy, just go like you go at home!” that we flubbed majorly.

I told Kate that I pushed and leaned to this fence and took the flyer and it was awesome! I did push, and I did lean, and it was awesome. A flyer it was not.

Which is a pretty telling lesson.

We ended up with two 20s and a fair bit of time. C’est la vie when you stop for a peek every five fences on course and throw in an untimely circle before the last fence because someone is afraid of the finisher’s booth. It absolutely wasn’t perfect, but it’s also something that has gotten much better with practice in the past.

On Sunday morning Murray was definitely tired. He wasn’t quite as peppy in our stadium warm up as he had been for cross country. He was a good boy though, and jumped all the things, even with a HUGE break in the middle because of show scheduling probs.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong in stadium. The timing wasn’t perfect. And we were tired. And the fence we crashed into was right next to that dreaded announcer’s/finisher’s booth that Murray hates so much.

What I know happened is that Murray jumped big over fence 4 and even bigger over 5. We didn’t manage to get pictures of number 5, but I really felt him crack his back over it. We landed in a bit of a pile, and I didn’t manage to get him back as we came around the corner to 6. Kate describes Murray’s scrambly gaits as “chicken gaits” and that’s exactly where we still were. We didn’t have a good rhythm and we didn’t have a good tempo. Whether it’s because he was scared of the judge’s booth or the fence or just didn’t feel like it, Murray tried to cram another stride in before the oxer and there simply wasn’t space. And down it came.

 

 

Fence four. Just a wee bit higher than we needed to be.

It was a disappointing end to the weekend to be sure. It would be nice to finish an event on my first go at the level some time. (And maybe to stop failing so hard at Camelot!) But it was an educational one, and it was fascinating to see Murray’s and my problems through a new trainer’s eyes.

We have a lot to work on — as always. But it’s work I know we can do, and work I’m excited to start on.

Plus — as many of you have mentioned — my outfit was on point. Now I just need some navy gloves….

*Not an actual Kate quote. Just the way I interpreted her kind sentiment.

better every ride

After hauling all the way to Camelot on my own, and getting there when it was rather warm, I was pretty delighted to find myself stabled next to Eugene and Levi. They are two of my favourite ponies, and I knew they wouldn’t spend the entire weekend kicking at the panels when my horse tried to befriend them. Murray ended up being much more friendly with Levi than Eugene (shhhh don’t tell David but Eugene is a bit of a snob!!).


I spent three days trying to catch these two making out

I knew from the get go that there would be a lot of different stuff about this show. Murray is a different Murray than he was six or nine months ago, and part of the new training paradigm/protocol is not letting him get away with unnecessary shit. Not to say that I get wild or whippy on him when he throws out some Murray moves — just that we get on with our lives and it doesn’t get him out of responding correctly to what I was asking for. (And yes, if this sounds a lot like “good training” you’d be right. Isn’t it wonderful that I’m learning about it now?!!)

So we got out into warm up, and after stepping on the danger noodle, we got to work. Kate said she’d refrain from trying to change the horse too much, but would throw biomechanics fixes at me to help put us together. And boy did she ever throw biomechanics at me.

First, Kate told me to stop shoving and over-riding the walk. Um, I thought I was just following the motion the way I was supposed to? No, apparently not. So I just stopped trying to do that all together, and focused on simply not resisting the walk. When we moved on to the trot Kate kept telling me to slow down my posting — no, slow it down more. She did not want me letting Murray bounce me around into the trot he wanted. Which is also what I thought I’d been doing for the last two weeks. Or not. You know.

I might even be smiling a bit here?
this must have been in the serpentine — which got a 7!

Kate wanted me to pull my seat bones further toward the front of the saddle — sitting them in the deep part of the saddle, instead of sliding them toward the back and perching forward slightly. It turns out I have this tendency of stacking my ribcage slightly ahead of my pelvis, so even though my spine is relatively neutral, I’m not actually sitting up straight. To remedy that, I needed to keep thinking about kneeling and sliding those seat bones forward in the saddle.

By far the biggest change in our schooling came in the canter work. Kate kept reminding me to lift the saddle on the upswing, and then allow the canter with my hands. I’d do one, and promptly stop doing the other. When I could do both at once and keep Murray moving forward, the canter totally transformed! I must practice this canter more to solidify the feeling and the mechanic, because that is the canter we’re actually going to be able to do stuff with.

On test morning I got up early and fed and braided, and only ended up about three minutes off my projected mounting time, with a clean ponito. I paid a kid to braid his tail and she did an incredible job — her best, she said! along with the comment that Murray has a really, really long dock — and we were looking spiffy and ready to go.

“free walk” (lol) — judge’s comments “needs more stretch, breaks to trot”, scored a 5
(we broke to the trot in the next movement also, garnering a 4)

I was not prepared for this dressage test. I’ve been riding “circles” and “diagonals” for months but haven’t actually paid attention to any movements or geometry. And the walk work? HA! I knew the walk would be what it was, so spent the weeks before focusing on the connection and the trot work. So I went in hoping to nail the geometry of the circles and serpentine (oh yeah, made Kate school me on those before — and was she ever a fucking task master about their size) and with fingers crossed for the walk work.

Before I went in to the test I asked Kate for a mantra to get me through the test and keep reminding me of what I needed to be doing to ride well. She gave me one for the trot and one for the canter — sit to the front of the saddle, and allow with the hands respectively.

And all in all? The test was great. I kept my reins shorter than I’ve ever (test) ridden with them. I had my leg on and Murray was prompt and pretty much on the aids. Our two big blunders were breaking to the trot in the free walk, and breaking to the trot again in the next movement (medium walk). Given that we’d schooled walk-trot transitions a fair bit in the last few days, you can hardly blame the guy. Plus, new mistakes! I love new mistakes. Hate old mistakes.

bad habits still exist, though!

Even with the two mistakes, we earned a respectable 35 even. (If we’d not blundered, I would have been in the 33.5 range, putting me ahead of at least one pro but WHO IS COUNTING NOT ME.) I thought the judge (Jane McEnespy) was very fair. I watched the test of a horse a few rides after me, and the horse was super obedient and steady and very quiet. That horse also had his head down but had zero connection through the reins and was totally behind the leg. They scored a 37.9. I feel like that’s pretty fair for a quiet, obedient, respectable test that isn’t totally correct. At least for Novice.

I am so proud of how Murray showed up for this dressage test. He came out of there like it was the most normal thing in the world. Oh — and I forgot to mention that because the ring stewards were being a little conservative about sending people to the rings, we had to legitimately trot over to our ring to get there in time. I’m also pretty proud of myself. I went into a dressage test and rode the hell out of it.  I didn’t just try to coast through and avoid, I put my leg on and actually did the thing. That’s pretty cool.

final halt and salute got us a 7.5, even though it wasn’t totally square. perhaps a little generous.

I’m still working on my salute. I definitely don’t practice in front of a mirror to see how it looks. I like the alignment of my arm with my body here, but think I would look a bit better if my hand were a little closer to my leg — less winged out to the side. What do you think?

many firsts (just not the satiny kind)

This weekend at Camelot was… a lot. A lot of fun, a lot of firsts, a lot of hard riding, a lot of hard work. I didn’t go in expecting it to be easy, and it wasn’t. But it was harder than I thought it would be.

This was my first solo hauling trip, and my first time traveling to a show without my main trainer. Which is not to say I was without training — Kate stepped in and did an incredible job. If I’m clever I’ll dedicate a whole post to it. The short version: you gotta get yourself a Kate.

I borrowed my MIL’s rig to get Murray to Camelot and despite a minor anxiety-inducing moment leaving her driveway (there is a VERY NARROW BRIDGE with a VERY TIGHT TURN) it was smooth sailing. A trainer friend helped me find someone to back the trailer up in a pretty primo parking space (I just had to drive through a dressage warm up to get to it), and we were set!

Right before we schooled in the dressage courts, I stepped on a snake for the first time! I was lining Murray up with a big wooden mounting block and checking his girth and the stirrups when I stood on something a little squishy. I looked down and thought “that’s funny, someone left a lead rope! Usually I’m the one who leaves lead ropes around.” And when I lifted my foot up, the lead rope SLITHERED AWAY.

Clearly my Australianness has worn off, because it’s genetically ingrained in us to NOT step on snakes. And there was a danger noodle, right under my foot!

helmet + bonnet + coat on point!

This was Murray’s first show wearing a bonnet, and my first show in my sparkly new helmet! (I’m pretty sure Leah found it for me last International Helmet Day, thanks Leah!!!) I think Murray liked his bonnets. Every time I went to put them on he’d duck his head down and let me pull the fabric over his ears. Normally he is not a fan of me messing around with his ears or the top of his head.

Oh and — duh — this was our first rated Novice.


and our first tail braid!

We had a personal best dressage score — our first 35! — even with two, two mistakes! Murray broke to the trot in the free walk and medium walk — another set of firsts, because usually he’s like “uggghhh do we really have to trot again, I thought we were done?”.

There were some less awesome firsts, though.

We had our first good crash into a fence, bringing down most of an oxer.

And for the first time, I retired on course.

It’s the only thing you can do after crashing like that, really.

This was also the first show I’ve gone to where I knew that I wasn’t prepared enough. Not that I haven’t been underprepared before — I just didn’t know it in the past.

It was by no means a perfect weekend. But all things considered, it was a pretty damn good one. Tears and all.

I learned a ton. I got to gallop fast and jump big. If there are holes in Murray’s ability to listen to the leg and go forward toward scary things, it’s nothing we can’t fix (I hear it’s all about this thing called “stimulus control”, right Kate?).

A million thanks to Sheila and to David and Olivia for pics. Where would I be without you guys?!

one-day horse show in numbers

200 — approximate man hours spent dragging the course and reworking the footing after it got absolutely annihilated and baked in the California sun for months and months

112 — projected temperature for the day of the show, in the middle of a six day heat wave

111 — temperature actually reached on the day of the show, well after all of the competitors were done with their rides

80 — hours spent painting, flowering, flagging, mulching, and rock-picking by hand on course

64 — starters on the morning of the show

18 — concerned queries we received regarding what we would be doing to keep horses and riders safe in the heat

10 — compliments on the adjusted show schedule

8 — ice and water buckets placed around the facility for riders to sponge themselves and their horses

7 — hours spent putting up and taking down misters on the temporary stables

october fence decorating plans!

6 — total number of hours we ran the show — 65 competitors pushed through three phases between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm!  riders traveled from dressage to stadium within about 45 minutes, then immediately on to XC. no rider had to be on their horse for more than 2 hours.

5 — adult sodas consumed while cleaning up after show’s end

4 — days before the show that we completely re-adjusted the schedule so that nobody would ride past 1 PM

3 — nights where I slept for at least 12 hours to recover from the show

2 — dressage rings running simultaneously

1 — month until we do it again (less than, actually!)

 

hunt & seek

On Saturday night I walked Murray around bareback in his wraps to stretch him out from cross country, and liberally used some of my homemade liniment on both him and myself.  The upside is that Murray doesn’t seem to hate my homemade liniment.  The downside is that, while it feels nice, I don’t think it does shit.  I mean, it certainly hasn’t helped the healing of my knees.  The formula might need some tweaking.  We’ll work on it.

It’s been a while since I walked my horse around bareback in the dark, and Kate commented likewise.  It was fun.  Murray powerwalked when we had company, and meandered when we were alone.  That night I slept like the dead.

there’s so much good stadium media thanks to the Kathy(s)

My knee was almost pain-free on Sunday morning, but it was also very, very stiff.  I was hobbling around like a peg-legged pirate getting Murray ready.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned this lately (it’s probably worth its own post) but Murray has made huge strides in tacking up lately.  At shows he’s been downright normal — it takes me five minutes to tack him up, and boy is that nice compared to 25 minutes.

Unfortunately for me, my knee was not holding up as well in the saddle as it had on Saturday.  Posting was a little painful (though the pain decreased as I rode), and I had a distinct feeling of unsteadiness in my two point.  Murray was a little sleepy feeling, but perked up when we started jumping.  I was back to riding like a juggalo, and leaned and kicked and crammed Murray to a couple of awful spots.  At one point I leaned and took my legs off to an oxer and Murray came to a gentle stop in front of the fence.  I turned to B and made excuses for myself, namely “my knee is really fucked right now.”

“This is when you have to really ride perfectly then,” she responded. “Dig deep. Don’t think about it.”

ugh I just ❤ him so much

I came back around to the oxer and pointedly did not get ahead and kept my leg on, and Murray was more than happy to comply.  I stopped warming up after that, hoping to save both Murray and myself for the actual stadium round, and did some meditative deep breathing to put the pain out of my mind.  I had walked the course the evening before, and given the state of my knee I wasn’t about to walk it again.  B walked it separately and we had a little pow-wow on the strategy for the fences.  I told her I was planning to try to square out my turn between 2 and 3 to avoid a weird curvy line, but she said it wouldn’t be too bad to bend as long as we didn’t drift.  She told me not to rush the turn to fence 5 and let myself take my time to get there, and to take the outside turn from 8 to 9, not the (tempting if I had been feeling better) inside turn.  Otherwise, it was a sweeping, fun course that felt a little oddly familiar.

It’s no secret that Murray and I have struggled a lot with stadium (also in general).  We have had bouts of mystery stops, major problems with distraction, spookiness, being afraid of standards, not even making it to stadium because we got eliminated… you name a stadium problem, and we’ve probably had it.  And I’ve spent a not-insignificant amount of time watching people cruise around stadium courses with horses that seem like they are going no matter what.  You know the horse — the rider can be flapping and flopping and not riding at all, and yet nothing short of an unseasonal hurricane would stop them from jumping the next fence.  I have longed for that horse.  While I’m flopping and flapping and kicking and pushing and kissing and coaxing, I have wondered many times why I do not have that horse.

uphill-fence-attacking-canter

On Sunday, I had that horse.

Murray was a little looky when we entered the stadium arena, and I struggled to get him into a canter to the first fence because he was staring at everything.  I gave him a little precautionary tap on the shoulder as we approached, and Murray was right there for the fence.  We had a big sweeping rollback to the oxer for two, and once again, Murray was on top of it.  The line to 3 could have been more square, but Murray locked onto the fence and took me there.  There was another big sweeping turn to 4AB, and not only did Murray see the fence and go there, but he took the long spot into the combination and made the two inside the combo.

Murray making the combo happen

The turn to five was good, but after fence five I couldn’t seem to get my body back under control.  I couldn’t get my right knee to bend so I could get my butt back down toward the saddle, so I was left awkwardly hanging on Murray’s mouth as we made the turn to six.  This directly caused Murray to take six down, since I was hovering over his withers, and he got deep deep deep to the fence.

murray: I can’t can’t jump good when you are crooked and perchy!

No matter, he recovered amazingly and powered up to seven in the five strides it measured.

murray: leave the fallen!

We had a very Murray approach to fence 8, the first one with strange/scary fill and the dreaded sharkstooth fence.  I managed to keep my body under control and my leg on, so even though we got deep we got over it, and left it up.

taking the deep one

The rollback to 8 yielded the fantastic jump near the top of this post (american flag fence), and then we gunned it home over the knights oxer.

 

Blurry stadium video below!  I need to clean my phone camera lens.

I’m not going to pretend that the ribbon doesn’t matter to me — I’m glad I got to take home some satin, because I’m a money-grubbing whore and #swag.  But the ribbon really was just icing.  For a move-up show that looked like it could go pretty spectacularly shittily on Friday evening, there wasn’t a single thing I would have changed about the weekend (er, except spraining my knee).

I have been working and waiting four years for this ride.  To feel like this is a partnership we are both committed to, where we can complement and improve one another.  To know that I’m not bullying and forcing my horse into something he actively dislikes and barely tolerates because it’s what I want to do.

I wasn’t all there this weekend, and Murray stepped in to make up the difference (again, actually).  And he did it at a new height, avoiding the problems we’ve had before.  I feel like we could do anything together if we just put our minds to it.

I don’t know where we are going from here.  But wherever it is, I know we can do it.

not throwing away my shot

I didn’t sleep at all on Friday night.  I mean, I probably napped and dozed a bit, but there was no true sleep to be had.  It was warm until the wee hours, and never really cooled down enough for me to need any blankets.  To add insult to injury, it turns out that you use/twist/stretch the ligaments in your knees a lot without realizing it.  A lot like every time you roll over or change positions, which it turns out you do a lot when sleeping on hard ground, you will be reminded of your injury with shooting pain up and down your leg.  So when braiding time — 5 am — rolled around I was already awake and peering out at the ponies.  Murray was snoozing quietly, so I took my time slowly getting out of my sleeping bag, putting on some clothing, and hobbling over to the bathrooms.  Murray and I braided in the slowly lightening pre-dawn, and while it wasn’t my best job, it held for our test.

I wasn’t going to let my knee prevent me from riding in the show.  Murray had been so phenomenally honest and fun after my tumble during schooling that I knew we could pull off a solid cross country run.  We just had to get there first.  I downed three ibuprofen while one of my friends went out to get me some more, and got on right on time at 7:35 for my 8:00 ride.  My knee did not feel great, but it wasn’t too bad, as long as I didn’t lean on the right stirrup too much or move too quickly.  This definitely changed how I approached the ride.  Based on how Murray felt a little behind my leg and small, but still relaxed and round, I wanted to push him forward for more ground cover.  But I knew that if pushing led to any kind of antics the likelihood that I would be able to stay on through them was small at best.  Also, squeezing with both of my calves hurt!!  So I kept it low key and just asked for little bits of increased ground cover and impulsion.

I developed a new warm up routine last week that I wanted to use at the show.  It focused on transitions on a circle, which have been problematic for Murray and I in the past: I always tend to just ask for a canter and pray that it goes well in the test, because the transitions are so explosive in the warm up.  This time, I wanted to really school the transitions and get Murray listening to my seat for the transitions to hopefully minimize tension and make the transitions more every-day feeling.

Murray was so quiet during the warmup that I was done early, and we walked over to the dressage court to see if I could head in a few minutes early (the one perk of being the first in your division).  Murray tensed up again when we went into the new arena, but I went back to our transitions on a circle, and he settled.  He still wasn’t as round as he had been in warmup, but it was still very good for us.

The test itself felt fantastic.  I haven’t been practicing my centerlines, and haven’t had a measured court to practice in for a little while, so my geometry was not what it could have been.  Like… my first circle was more like a 15 meter circle.  I realised that we were pretty far off the rail during the circle, but there wasn’t much I could do about it since we’d already started turning back toward the centerline.  I held my breath for the right canter transition, but it was beautiful.  I mean, there’s not really much more to say.  You can see for yourself.

Collectives:
Gaits – 6.5, some tension
Impulsion – 6
Submission – 6.5
Rider – 6.5
Overall – Need to develop rounder topline, some tension, try to place down trans between letters, work on throughness back to front

It was awesome.  It’s taken a while to get us to work together so well in public.  Feels pretty amazing.

After dressage I hung out and watched Olivia’s ride while luxuriating in my friend’s Back on Track quick wrap.  It felt niiiiice.  And even better, my knee felt way better after taking the BOT wrap off.  I didn’t walk my cross country course because, well, there was no way I was gimping around that thing on foot.  It was mostly on the same track as the BN course from June, and I read the course map, so I figured we’d be fine.

Fortunately for me, my knee felt pretty awesome by the time we got around to cross country time.  Almost normal again.  We jumped a few warmup fences, had a little gallop, but kept it pretty quiet.  I knew we’d be making a conservative cross country run, because all I wanted was to jump all the things and not fall off.

Murray was a total champion on cross country.  I just had to point him at a fence and his response was “that one? okay, let’s go.”  It’s a good thing he was feeling so honest, because at one point when we started going the wrong direction and had to make a sudden (albeit shallow) change of direction, my knee let me know with some stabbing pains that such maneuvers would not be repeatable.  Even better, we managed to ride pretty much according to plan!  I planned to circle Murray well in advance of the trakehner to avoid him galloping down to the fence and not seeing it in time.  If you recall from June, the approach to the trakehner is downhill, and Murray tends to turn into a little snowball running downhill, gathering momentum and ignoring everything in his path.  We circled well back, but Murray ate up the ground between the circle and the trak. I gave him just a whisper of added leg, and over we went.

We did have two stops, neither of which I gave a second thought to.  The first was at the first water entrance, which is a new pond on the back side of the course.  The water was dark, brown, and frothy at our entrance, and I do not blame Murray at all for not wanting to walk in there.  He wavered back and forth for a few minutes before leaping over the foam and running through.  The second was at the down bank, which Murray understandably suggested we just skip.  We came in just barely under optimum time for no time penalties.

We totally deserved the stops, but at the same time I feel like they don’t really count.  Maybe I’m having my cake and eating it too, but what horse doesn’t want to stop at a muddy water trap that looks like it might be harboring lepto, and a down bank that ended rather poorly very recently?  Maybe it doesn’t bother me because I know that those are two really easy to fix issues — we just need more practice.  No deep, underlying issues that will take months of backtracking to fix.  No evidence of serious training holes that I’ve neglected for years.  Just surface scratches that we can buff out with a little wax-on-wax-off.

It felt pretty freaking awesome to know that we conquered our first Novice course with so much more success than our move up to BN two years ago.


also, Kate let me school this little nugget on Friday so that was a huge plus