October 1st is Murray’s and my one year leasavearsary. For those of you unfamiliar with our story, last year I returned to California from more than a year in Africa in mid-September and promptly texted my trainer, barn manager, and barn friends at 4:30 in the morning* (because jet lag). “I’m home. I can’t wait to come to the barn. See you tomorrow.”
Or something like that.
My trainer knew that I was looking to do some serious riding now that I was home, and that I had a bit of a crush on a certain pony her parents owned. Maybe she said “I have this horse I think you’ll love,” or maybe it was “You can totally handle him,” or “Of course you can ride him.” I don’t exactly remember. The important part is that months later she said “I knew you’d get him.” So on October first I started care leasing Murray, a 4-year-old OTTB officially registered as “Ima Looking Cool.” A little more than 16 hands of Fabio-forelocked, girthy, really cute, dark bay opinion.
A year is a long time. A lot happens in a year.
From lunging before every tack-up to “prep him for the girth” to a pony that can almost stand quietly for the entirety of tack up, but more importantly, do so while tied (and only break his halter and the cross ties once every six months or so). Trailering reliably only required two months of daily buckets in the trailer. Cantering without bucking was a tough one, but we got through it after seven months. Lifting the back and giving at the poll – working on it. Leg yields. Shoulder in. And circles! No longer oblongular monsters but round and ever-so-slightly egg-shaped. And jumping! There was a long moment when I didn’t think we would ever course; there was far too much time between jumps where things could go sideways (and sometimes we went sideways over the jumps). Now I ride a jump-seeking-missile; as long as I put a jump in front of him and stay the course, Murray will fly over it.
To Murray: I adore you.
More than any official in a developing nation, you have taught me that bribery can get me whatever I want.
You have taught me inside leg to outside rein and how to sit a buck, but more importantly the trot; to keep my damn heels down, sit tall, and wait wait wait.
You have taught me patience: for you, for myself, and for our progress together. To be the best I can be before asking you to be even a little better. To have a plan but leave it open to change.
You have taught me to share your love, because I simply cannot compete with our barn manager for it. Playing second fiddle is all right, I guess, though I refuse to be third.
You have taught me to laugh at myself; not because you would ever laugh at yourself but because you certainly make others laugh at me. I hope you don’t mind that I also laugh at you.
You have taught me the value of a whisper, a gentle nudge, and how to be supportive without smothering you with direction. Also: the value of a shout, how to draw the line, and that sometimes it’s just better to let you run away bucking at a show. It’s both entertaining and horrifying to be the person whose horse gets loose wearing only a saddle, so that would-be-helpful bystanders have nothing to grab on to.
You have taught me the importance of mimosas with friends, and always packing beer for a horse show. To be quick with four-letter-words but also praise. That my trainer is always right, as are the barn manager and assistant trainer, and to hide the twitch from you if I’m walking down the barn aisle with it. That my barn family can teach me all I need to know about life, love, and especially you. That it takes a village to raise two quirky green beans into a near-fully-functional pony and horsewoman.
Dearest Murray, my princess and the pea, General Dickwad, Lil’ Asshole: Thank you, for everything. Your attitude determines your aptitude, and with that ego, my friend, we are bound to fly.
To another wonderful year together.
* I now know that 4:30 AM texts are generally reserved for emergencies, and wait until the more reasonable hour of 7 before texting good news.