balance

Murray and I have now proven ourselves to be such delicate flowers that Alana offered to take me on my very own XC schooling adventure last week, to prep for the upcoming show at Woodland Stallion Station.  You see, our last adventure didn’t go so well, and beyond my general lack of understanding how I needed to ride, part of that was the group atmosphere.

If I didn’t tell you before, I hate schooling in big groups.  It’s generally nothing about the people themselves, but just the emergent property of groups that somehow it takes 2^n (where n is the number of people in the group) amount of time to get anything done.  People are gabbing, facing the wrong direction, not paying attention, having a jolly good time and all that… and I’m over here like “let’s jump this shit and move on. Jump it and move on.”  It’s part an adaptive strategy from Murray (who until quite recently couldn’t school in groups), and part just my general desire not to sit around in the sun, wait, or force the horses to do those things.  Now, of course I’m very understanding when someone needs additional schooling — that’s something else entirely, and I get that everyone (especially me) has those days/weeks/months/moments — but it’s all the other sitting around that gets to me.

So we went schooling all by ourselves.  And it was awesome!

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The theme of the outing was accountability (much like my life, right now).  Within the first couple of jumps, Murray proved that as long as I’m riding right, he’s willing to go.  As I’ve written about, at Camelot I mistook Murray’s forward gallop for confidence and bravery.  Since then I’ve been slowing everything down so that Murray can remember that fences don’t eat you, and I can re-learn how to ride.  But in the course of slowing everything down I over-corrected too far in the other direction.  On our first approach to a quarter-round-bench-thingy, I mistook Murray’s slow-and-steady canter for quiet confidence and didn’t check in with him to remind him that we were really going.  So we didn’t.

Alana reminded me to actually be present for the ride, and when I re-approached with some leg (possibly more than necessary!), Murray went right over.  For the rest of our time out on course, I worked on finding the pace that was calm and steady enough to be safe, while also containing enough energy and enthusiasm for Murray to feel like this was no big thing.  A very valuable lesson, since clearly balls-out galloping is not a solution.

We worked backwards through the course and came to our old nemesis… the curious case of the extremely steeply downhill log.  Alana had me trot up it first so that Murray would know exactly what the question looked like backwards and forwards.

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I was a little apprehensive but just maintained that forward canter and soft contact and Murray took care of the rest.  Thank goodness for awesome ponies.  Also, powerful canter uphill feeling!

And then we trotted down it the other way.  Alana checked out all the footing in front of it first, as part of our problem last time was that Murray skidded in the loose footing.  Clearly we were not the only horses that had slipped because there were two distinct divets/holes right in front of the log.  Alana had me steer to the left of those and approach at a trot but not let Murray die out and lose power.  Our first go over was a bit lurchy, so we repeated it a few times for good measure.

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Improvement, right?

We worked our way back towards the beginning of the old course and strung together a few fences at a time.  Murray felt better and better as we went, and finding the right pace became less challenging.  At least part of that was Murray listening to me more — he had to spend less energy just figuring out how to keep the two of us alive (technically my job, but apparently I couldn’t be trusted).  The super awesome upside of this is that it left Murray free to do all those awesome things he used to — like regulate his own striding as we approached the fences, settle back on his haunches, and not rub every single fence we jumped.  Now I just need to get my position back under control.

I have a few new rider-goals for the event at the end of the month.  First, to balance Murray’s energy to prevent him from getting rushed and frantic but keep enough power and speed.  Second, be present for every fence.  Even though you can’t always ride just one fence at a time, I can’t let my thoughts about the next fence prevent me from riding the one in front of me.

I find myself slightly annoyed that I didn’t take the time to learn these lessons before — or at least, did not learn them well enough to implement them when they were critical!  But it is a learning process, and we’re working on it together.  Probably it’s a good thing that Murray let me know I couldn’t ride him absentmindedly at such a low level; much safer than if he’d suddenly put up a fuss at Novice or above.  Yet another thing I ought to thank my horse for.

camelotfallOne more time for good measure.

Wordless Wednesday: Camelot XC

Well friends, it’s here.  The video of the hardest thing I’ve ever done (because I’ve not yet finished my PhD).  In the time I’ve had to reflect, I’ve thought a lot about this ride, and I know that there were plenty of flaws in my riding that contributed to our end.  I hope that we can address my issues and Murray’s before WSS this month!

CEPF Horse Trials: where XC went wrong, and what I plan to do about it

If you saw my recap on Monday you saw under “ugly” that cross country had more than one mishap.  Don’t worry; I bought the professional video so we can all enjoy this mishap for generations to come.  There’s also a little bit of video from a friend, but it is a little disappointing because I was riding really hard yet I look kinda like a sack of potatoes up there.  Whatevs.

Instead of dwelling on how things went wrong fence by fence, since they all went bad basically the same way, I want to instead think about the bigger picture of things going wrong.  I will preface this by saying that out on course, and in the immediate aftermath, I had no idea what had just happened to make the ride so bad.  I mean, I knew what the proximate cause of all the fuckups were, but I didn’t understand why the course never got any better, why Murray couldn’t or wouldn’t just listen to me, and was both devastated and furious that I had been unable to adapt my riding to get it done.

19482783501_95bcf337d6_kGetting it done at the scary brush rolltop

It started in warm up.  I felt Murray noodle to our first XC warm up fence (a small lattice coop) but I got him over it with a strong leg and words of encouragement.  Unfortunately he stopped at our next two XC warm up fences and I had to smack him to get him over them.  After all the times I’ve read that run outs are the rider’s fault and stops are the horse’s fault (and knowing there are caveats to this, like when I climb Murray’s neck and he’s like “nope too heavy for takeoff, Houston”) these stops were definitely on Murray.  I was balanced back on both of them, and as he rocked his weight back on to his hind I softened my hands to encourage him to use his body correctly, and instead of taking off he planted his front feet.

Ultimately, this is my fault too.  It’s a training issue that, somehow, I’ve let him come to think that it’s acceptable to stop thusly.  However, at the time I didn’t want to get into a huge fight with Murray in the warm up because a) show officials (remember how I didn’t want to be disqualified for horse abuse? I read the rule book section on horse abuse very carefully.) and b) getting into a fight with Murray has never the first ingredient to a good ride.  Sometimes it’s the fourth or fifth, but never the first.  Gotta give the princess some benefit of the doubt before resorting to the jockey bat.

IMG_2781Bad stopping pony. This was after his momentum change threw my forward — I assure you that I was sitting back right up until this moment, and he could easily have taken off had the urge struck.

After our third stop (at the up bank) I did give Murray a solid smack and rocked his world a little bit.  He hopped up and flung himself backwards a bit but listened to me whenever I pointed him at another fence in the warm up.  But as you can imagine that did not inspire great confidence in our ride.  I told Alana I wasn’t feeling confident, but I went on to the course with the intent of growling a bit if I had to and with the hope that my trusty XC loving Murray would return when he saw the awesomeness ahead.

Out on course I started as I often have – letting Murray pick his own pace (within reason), following softly with my hands, and rebalancing him as necessary, particularly as we approached the fences.  I’m pretty much never going to have to trip balls about speed until training or above: we’re fast enough that we’ll easily make optimum, but not so fast or talented that we’ll get faults.  The problems started with fence three where Murray first spooked at a jump judge and skittered sideways to the fence. This continued to be Murray’s MO for any fence where there was anything remotely scary nearby: spook and bulge to the opposite side of the scary thing (typically right but sometimes left).  I would then re-direct his attention to the question at hand (the fence), and with the exception of the trakehner he went over everything once reminded what we were actually doing.

IMG_2773 IMG_2776But I don’t want to jump it — YOU WILL TOO JUMP IT

At first I was really angry with Murray for not realizing, after successfully passing several jump judges that didn’t jump up and kill us, that the remaining jump judges on course were probably not going to try to murder us either.  I know, I know.  Horse “logic”.  I should lower my expectations.  In his mind, whatever behavior he was demonstrating towards the jump judges (DISTRUST! HATE!) was working just fine to keep us alive and therefore he must continue that behavior at all costs.  Sigh.  Our best fences were honestly the ones where there were no jump judges visible – the up bank, ditch, water, and canoe all warranted zero looks.  My barn manager Lisa (remember, Murray adores her above all else, and she’s a Murray Whisperer as well as generally fantastic read of horse body language and behavior) watched the whole thing and said that after every fence Murray just got more and more frantic and bunchy and that frenetic energy just compounded his fear of the random shit that was clearly going to kill both of us.

11540849_943642228991984_1621103932468790413_nAt least we know how to gallop

(When I first started this whole blogging thing, I thought about featuring “shit my horse spooked at today” Wednesdays or something.)

When I thought back on the course in the past few days, I really chastised myself for not containing that frantic energy better.  In a jump lesson before Camelot Murray got super disorganized during one round, but all I felt was this open, forward, powerful canter, and I misinterpreted his speed and gameness.  In my cloud of hindsight misery I kept dwelling on how things might have gone differently if I’d instead slowed Murray down and really forced him to get organized and focused on me between fences, instead of just seeking out the next fence and trusting his view of the next fence to get him organized.

However, upon reviewing the video it turns out that even with getting him balanced and organized before a fence, he wasn’t really focused, and was more than capable of unnecessarily looking out for scary things, so I feel a little less like chastising myself in that regard.

Typically when I am working with something scary at home, I demand that Murray soften and get his head down and listen to my aids and bend away from the scuurrrryy thing.  Once he’s done that, I then ask him to walk up to the sccurrrryyyy thing and make him touch it.  Typically we can then work past it just fine.  So while that works fine at home, it’s obviously not a viable solution for away.

Unless… can I perhaps walk him up to one of those jump judges next time?!!  Maybe I can yell “SCHOOLING!!!!!!” and trot him up to a scary jump judge and make him nose it then continue on our merry way?  As long as they don’t talk to us it’s not outside interference RIGHT?

IMG_2800Though he did end up picking his knees up better than usual here

As many times as I told people over the weekend that he was, Murray isn’t an asshole.  He’s not a hundred percent honest or listening, but he isn’t an asshole.  Most of the things he does aren’t out of some kind of defiance or annoyance, but it seems because the little cogs are turning faster than I can keep up with and he doesn’t actually trust me when I say that these things aren’t something to be scared of.  (Not an asshole, just an idiot.)

This annoys me, of course, because I’ve worked really hard for the last few years to get Murray trusting me and working right.  And for fuck’s sake horse, nobody wants to be nice to you except me, just cut me some fucking slack all right?  Whatever, horse logic, I do have higher expectations of you.  Alana and Lisa really think that Murray entered a place of extreme sensory overload, which got worse as the course went on, and finally hit his breaking point at a really unfortunate location.  This is corroborated by Alana’s observation that once I was off, Murray completely relaxed.  I was too fucking angry at him at the time to notice it, but apparently once I was on the ground he put his head into me and his scared, panicked eye disappeared.  He didn’t jig on the way back to the stall, he didn’t try to run away or spook any more, he just wanted to be on top of me (which you can imagine was absolutely the last thing I wanted from him at that point).

IMG_3305Excalibur redemption

I hear that there’s a way to fix the overstimulation that comes with showing.  It’s called: more showing.

Yes, of course Murray, you would pick THE MOST EXPENSIVE POSSIBLE FIXABLE PROBLEM TO HAVE.  THANKS A LOT.

This isn’t something we can fix (easily) with just schooling.  Schooling isn’t scary enough – there aren’t announcers, fifty other horses, pop tents, flags, or jump judges.  Sure, I could invite two hundred of my closest friends to come and scream and carry on and make schooling just like a showing environment, but I feel like that’s a lot to ask even of my wonderful team. (OH GREAT IDEA: CALIFORNIA BLOGGER MEET UP?!  We will call it “bombproof the baby”!)  But we can work on it by going to lots more shows, to compete or just to school (so I don’t have the pressure of performing well, but I feel like if I’m going to pay a non-comp fee I might as well pay the whole entry fee and just accept many more eliminations), and going to all different types of shows.  Though schooling stadium on Saturday was fine, it wasn’t great, and clearly the distractions are going to get to Murray in that arena too.  So stadium schooling shows (or even little rated ones) will be a good idea too.  So hopefully we can get him over this.

IMG_3333I’m also considering some kind of new supplement program.  Something with the word calm in it.  Perhaps that starts with “smart”.  I am also considering Quiessence, but when I tried it last September it most emphatically did not work, but if I can get away with making it free I’ll give it a go.  Obviously I will stop short of actually sedating him… maybe.  Additional considerations include poneh earplugs, and a shadow roll.  A shadow roll worked in the past with Quincy, who went over almost every fence with his head under his belly because he was so busy looking at things.  The earplugs will mandate a bonnet, which I have never been the world’s  biggest fan of, but as Lisa put it “what do you dislike more, bonnets or elimination?”

Blogland: I am open to suggestions.  Let them at me!

xc schooling at camelot

It has been getting hot fast here in the central valley.  Temps this week were up in the hundreds (although we had one super weird summer storm Tuesday/Wednesday) and my weather app said something absurd like “Actual Temperature: 93. Feels like: 98” which I super do not understand.  But it was correct.  That meant, of course, that in order to beat the heat we left to school Camelot at 5:15.

No time like the present, right?

Anyway, we of course left a little late (horse people problems) but still got to Camelot in good time.  I was fortunately riding in the first group and tacked up Murray supah fast (new ground manners work is going excellently!) and we were all on and ready to go in about fifteen minutes.

IMG_0690Murray is extremely excited for the day.  However, I’m fairly pleased at his shininess because I barely groomed him before tacking up.

Murray marched right towards the cross country course as soon as I got on him, which I thought was pretty funny because a) he totally remembers Camelot and why we even go there and b) he walked into a blocked off section between the concessions trailer and a giant wood pile because he thought he knew the way.  Silly pony.  He was super fab when we got out there — quiet for warming up (no theatrics), into the water, cantering around, all of it.  Very good.

I’m a bit more of an aggressive XC schooler than some of my friends, which really means that I just really don’t appreciate sitting around.  I like a good walk break as much as the next girl, but I don’t think there’s any reason to be sitting around in our horses shooting the shit when we could be JUMPING ALL THE THINGS.  I know who I inherited this from (Mr. Impatience himself!) but I also feel that it’s fairly functional — don’t use up your horse any more than you need to be sitting around shooting the shit.  So I was a bit frustrated because it was a little windy so people were having a hard time hearing Alana about which fences to go to, and there was some confusion on course about which fences we should be schooling and what direction some of the symmetrical ones rode.  No matter.  We jumped all the shit anyway.

IMG_0707Novice warm up log

I also managed to achieve all of my goals for this XC school too.  I hit up every possible scary BN element on course, as well as several novice elements, and it was very confidence-building.

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Murray looked hard at the guillotine above — it was a training & prelim fence with lots of scary decorations sandwiched between the BN and Novice benches — but he just skittered sideways and I managed to get his attention back on me in time to re-direct him to the bench and ride it at an angle.  I don’t think that move would, technically, count as a refusal, as we never pointed away from the fence and I was pleased that Murray was willing to take on the bench (that I think he’s never jumped?) from essentially a standstill just a few strides away.

Murray is so game out on XC it’s almost ridiculous.  In fact, it does get him into a bit of trouble on occasion.  He’s barreling down at a fence — with a completely huge, open stride that I never ever see in stadium — and will listen to my half halts to balance up a little when he realises there’s a fence coming.  But he’s still strong and forward until, on occasion, he realises the fence has a huge shadow or is neon blue or something, and then I really feel him suck back.  When I’m riding in a more forward, open-hipped XC stance this can get in me in trouble as the combination of momentum change and hesitation often leads me to jumping ahead.  So I really tried to work on keeping my weight back and up, and doing what Denny Emerson describes as the “light sitting canter” before the fence to get my heels down and keep my leg on Murray.  I found that really worked well to keep him bold to some fences where he might otherwise have been a little looky.

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However, I also need to commit to a distance and ride it, because letting Murray choose to add or takeoff early is not always the solution.

We jumped our first trakehner — first for each of us!! — and it was as awesome as I hoped.  I’ve been waiting to jump trakehners for like four years.  I’ve always thought they looked awesome.

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After a few perfect runs at the BN trakehner we moved up to the Novice one, which evidently presented us with a little more difficulty.

IMG_0813Murray wanted to add, I said no but stayed in a defensive seat, and fortunately he didn’t add.  But then he did deer-leap.  No matter.  I’m not sure anyone was harmed by the experience.

Our last three fences were a galloping line of three that went up and over a hill.  We couldn’t see the fences on the other side, but Alana assured us that there were options for everyone (BN for me, Novice for three others, Training/Prelim for one) and so we jumped them without looking.  After the first horse galloped off I pushed Murray forward and over a little bit so our line to the first fence would be a bit more reasonable.  Evidently, Murray thought he’d been completely and utterly abandoned on cross country and started pitching a fit.  In all his leaping and kicking around he managed to unseat me over his shoulder, and I thought, well, I could save this, buuuut that will be hard so I just popped off and landed on my feet holding the reins.  This also upset Mr. Horse and he was like “what? NO NO NO NO NO” and started to back away from me as I stood there and tried to soothingly (will admit it probably was more like exasperated yelling) say “Murray, I’m not hurting you. Murray, I’m not doing anything to you.”  Eventually he realised nothing was actually attacking him, I wasn’t going to hit him, and settled down.  I patted him and walked him over to a training corner to get back on, which he was quite polite for, and we headed back towards our “starting” point for the last few fences.  Alas, there is no media of this as everyone on foot was headed over to the other side of the hill to see the ending line.

Sweneyway.  I jumped a little roll top with some brush on it — which is actually where I would have incurred a jump penalty earlier as Murray was like “WTF BRUSH NOOO WAYYYYYY” and I had to let him investigate it before he would jump it (but then he was very game).  We then galloped down the hill to a cutout-table that we have jumped many times before, and then over to a very friendly BN house by what I can only assume is the finish line.

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I’m not going to lie: the fact that Murray handily clears the BN fences with plenty of room to spare is extremely comforting to me.  He really doesn’t feel like he’s expending much effort on these fences, so hopefully moving up in the future will not be an epic challenge.  At home though, some days it feels like he’s got springs in his feet and some days he’s like “meh, minimum effort” so I can never tell.  Photographic evidence is good that way.

We finished off the ride by going to investigate some of the KRAZY stadium standards that Camelot has built.  In addition to a castle with dragons on it they have a shark, a pool table (complete with a panel with all kinds of pool balls on it), and these MAJIKAL SPARKLY UNICORN STANDARDS.  Obviously I had to take a picture with them.  I stupidly didn’t think to open my vest and reveal that I was wearing a unicorn tee at the time.  Ah well — in the future.

 

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Ah yes, and this is the head of the aforementioned dragon wall.  Her wings aren’t quite as scary as I had thought, and her name is Camille.  Which is really not that comforting at all.

 

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XC schooling is uuhhhhhhmaaazziiiiinnnggg!!!

This weekend was a pretty freaking good one.  Saturday I worked on data analysis with some labmates and had a pretty good time, surprisingly, helped others (what! I knew enough about data analysis to be helpful?!) and was helped in turn.  So that was pretty awesome.  Rode Murray briefly, just asking him to stretch down into the contact and move out at the trot at the same time, which is soooo haaaaarrrrdddd, and did lots of walking poles to limber up his back and stretch him out for XC Sunday.  Then I came home and did no writing which was very naughty.

THEN WE WENT CROSS COUNTRY AND IT WAS SOO COOOL.

We went to Camelot Equestrian Park, which I have spoken about before.  It’s a super fun, huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge, and this year they are holding their first ever rated event and so are revamping all their jumps and footing.  Despite being in a drier area of California (though they did get lots of rain this year), they have do an amazing job with their footing and put tons of care into it.  This weekend it was seriously like riding on a cloud.  Even the loudest horses made absolutely no noise.

IMG_3457Training battering ram. All their jumps are Camelot themed!!

Literally the only downside to Camelot is that it’s a two hour drive away — and every other facility is further so whatever.  Everything else about them is so freaking fantastic I can’t even handle it.  They have pipe panel stalls available for you to keep your horse in for the included in the facility use fee.  They have like 500 miles of trails.  They have two stadium arenas.  They have two dressage courts with great sand and an awesome warm up that doubles as their long court when in times of need.

I digress.  Anyway.  Murray got to hang around in a paddock while the first group schooled, and then I took my time getting him ready.  He’s been on omeprazole for three days now, and I’ve not noticed a huge difference, but he certainly was very easy to tack up.  I’m not sure if that’s the changes I’ve made in my tack-up procedure, the fact that he got some time to relax after getting there, or what, but it was nice.  I was schooling in a beginner novice+ group with three friends.  I warned everybody that Murray and I may need to split off from the group because in the past he’s struggled with schooling in groups — he gets really confused and doesn’t take direction well, and then will go any direction but forward until literally one stride before a jump.  It’s not fun/the best/productive for horse or rider.

So we got out there and started schooling the water, and except for a few spooks thanks to some 15 mph winds, Murray was really solid.  We walked another horse through the water, and we started trotting and cantering and warming ourselves up.  My friend’s horse, who LOOOOVES him some XC, was pretty raring to go sp let out a few small bucks, and Murray seemed to take that as an indication that he, too, should bring out his best moves.

IMG_3747Look, internet, I invented a new gait! I’m a five gaited horse!

IMG_3749Coming down from a buck — devastated my photog didn’t get the full extension on this one.

He bucked all around, in the water, through the water, all around, and then bucked some more.  But hey! At least we had forward!

One of the huge benefits of schooling with a group of adults is that everyone helps things run smoothly and communication is fluid.  We were all warmed up and through the water by the time Alana came over to get us started, and we promptly headed out to our warm up fences.  Murray takes warm up very seriously.

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Though he got most of it out around the water, Murray was still a bit confused about the whole “group schooling” thing, and was a little chargy to the fences and very playful afterwards, so our first jumps were pretty ugly.  I was riding really defensively and I kept missing our spots and getting left behind, because Murray was taking the long ones (in stride with his gallop) and I wanted him to take the deeper one.  My defensive riding probably didn’t help the fact that he was kicking around on landing, so next time I will work hard to stay with him more and just bring him back after the fences with my body instead of my hands.  As you can imagine, this combo of charging + defensive riding resulted in just our best possible form ever.

horze1Ever.

Anyway, we moved on, and Murray and I got into a better groove, and jumped this huge scary beginner novice “mouse house” (a table with holes in the front) which I have always been intimidated by.  It’s max height and width for beginner novice, and Camelot doesn’t really have a lot of super flat ground so all of the approaches are either uphill or downhill, and those holes in the bottom really draw your eyes in.  Murray, however, was not tripping.  Not tripping at all.  And I managed to get my body back under a bit more control.

IMG_3806 IMG_3807 IMG_3808

After the mouse house was a little roll-top like thing and we went straight to it without looking at it.  This was the first moment that I felt Murray hesitate at all headed towards one of the fences, and I just kept my leg on, and he got a deep spot, and it was great!  A couple of the other horses had a bit of a hesitation there as well, and we think it was because the landing isn’t visible from the front side, so they’re not sure what to expect.  It’s a very gentle downhill though, so it was all good.  We also did the dragon wall, which was one just river stones held in by rebar but is now being cemented over (probably for durability), both the BN and Novice side.  This was previously the site of Murray throwing himself on the ground and rolling, but I was smarter than him this time — there was no putting one’s head down today!

Our best form — no sarcasm — probably came when I biffed a novice coop-log thing, and Murray got too deep and actually brushed it.  Right before I came into it I had been thinking about what it feels like to ride forward without clinging and trying to describe it to you guys, and as we bore down on this thing I did the opposite and took my leg off.

IMG_3838IMG_3837 IMG_3844attempt number one vs attempt number two.

We even did a canoe jump into the water and out of the water, which was super fun.  The jump wasn’t very big, and I think it’s one of the new beginner novice questions if you follow the new rules closely (I haven’t), but Murray was very forward to it and we didn’t struggle.  Then up the hill to the up and down banks.  This was the only place Murray really started to fuss a bit, pulling me off the track and back up towards his friends.  So I declined to do the bigger down bank until our steering got a little better.

We ended on a little loop with a fairly solid novice table with Nacho Libre faces painted on one side (probably actually knights helms), headed to a BN roll top, and then around to some railroad ties.  Murray handled the table and roll top beautifully, but took a rather long one to the railroad ties.

IMG_3963So sad you can’t see the nacho libre faces on this.

longspotNot where I thought we would take off. Also not where I thought we would land.

So we schooled the loop again and got much more reasonable jumps to each fence.  Alana called it there, and even though there were a few more fences I definitely could have jumped (and Murray even pulled towards them when we were going around a few times), it really was the better choice to let him be done before he got tired.  Since he was so, so good and schooled in a group (which has been impossible for us since last April), I knew it was really important for him to end on a very positive note and not feel tired out or pushed.  I think his sourness over group schooling was started by being really tired during an outing last year.

Overall, such a great confidence builder!  I’m always a little butterfly-y when I get out on XC and when Murray was all bleckaw with his legs I definitely got a little nervous.  But everything we jumped proved to me that he really DOES love what we’re doing, and that we really can do it.  Between now and our next schooling adventure, I really need to nail down my position a bit better, and get back to a place where I follow Murray more naturally over jumps even when he is being a little rushy.  Oh, and we rode in a snaffle again!  After the Hawley clinic I switched Murray’s loop gag back into a snaffle (just moved the rein attaachment) and he’s been doing great in it!  So I didn’t change it again today, and once again: perfect!  I could not have asked for a better horse out there today.  He was brave, game, and honest.  He saved my butt and he also listened to me, and everything felt easy.  It’s the best feeling.  THE BEST!!

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At the end of March, we’re returning to Camelot for a 3-day eventing camp (if you’re in the area and want to join, holler at me!) which is going to be an absolute blast!!  Oh, and Murray didn’t even sweat the whole time we were out — now, granted, it wasn’t very hot and there was a cooling wind, but he hardly even sweat UNDER his saddle.  So I know the next time he tells me that he’s too tired to do more dressage it’s a lie!!  Kid is fit as.