Stepping back to step forward


   Ben and Murph on the show jumping course – I couldn’t watch the warm up

Well at the end of my last blog I reluctantly handed over the reins of my top horse Tempus Fugit (Murph) to my partner Ben to take around the lower grades. After Murph and I becoming more like bickering siblings and having less of a partnership than in previous years I thought it best to take a step back. I also thought it best to head to my sports psych to chat about it.

I have been going to my sports psych Kim for quite a few years now, and we have a great working relationship. She has a lot of in depth knowledge of my relationship with Murph over these past few years. Upon telling her about our relationship ‘dilemma’ we ran through a few exercises which included:

  • Wearing ‘Murphy’ coloured glasses, by getting my mind frame into a state of looking for the things I enjoy about him, rather than racking up evidence of all the stuff he does that ticks me off
  • At the end of each ride write down 3 things that I enjoyed that relates to Murph in particular.

As well as a few more exercises, but you get the idea. At the end of the session, Kim starts laughing while I sit there a bit puzzled thinking ‘what?’… “Well”, she says “this is classic marriage counselling material”… oh! So, hysterically enough, Murph and I are undergoing marriage counselling! Trying to explain that one to a non-horsey person would be interesting!

As for Ben and Murph – well they finished on their dressage score! Sure, the dressage wasn’t technically correct, with lots of ‘4 – not round’ comments being handed out. But the aim of the day was to get Murph actually listening to the rider, instead of trying to be one step in front (he knows the 2009 3star tests so well after doing them for five years!). Another aim was for him not to look around in the halt and to walk the entire walk – all of which was achieved. And at about halfway through the test Murph decided he had no idea what was next and just relaxed – I was quite jealous!

Show jumping and cross country went well also. The warm up was a little bit of a battle of the wills, and I admit I did walk away as it was hard to watch someone else jump Murph. But in the ring it all came together and they looked really good. Ben was under strict instructions to trot out of the start box cross country and although didn’t quite manage to succeed, they did start nice and slow. It turned into a case of Murphy yelling to Ben ‘just hang on and steer!’ but they got around, without time penalty, and I admit the commentary coming from the van was very entertaining including ‘OMG Ben hang on!’ as they went through the water jump.

   Ben and Murph make their way through the water
   Photo: Eric Lloyd photography

Since then I have taken the ride back on Murph (WA had a nice gap of four weeks between that event and the next one). I can’t tell you how well this little has experiment worked until I can get Murph out and about again, but so far so good. I have taken Murph to a training day show jumping, jumping clear around 1.25m and having a ball, it was a great day put on as a fundraiser for the WA Young Rider SJ Squad. I have also attended the marvellous Jon Pitts again and come away with a few light bulb moments, that came mainly from being able to observe someone else riding Murph…so maybe the experiment worked after all!

   Murph and I back together at a show jumping day