Murphy started riding a horse that had "what they call a roar. It's a wind problem. He was 12 years old then, and sometimes when a horse gets older this flap in his throat loses its elasticity and makes a roaring noise," Murphy recalls. "His name was Blaze. And he was about as average a horse as that name is."
"With me on my good horses," says Warner, "and Murphy on his sorry one, he considered me just a competitor." Pretty soon it became clear that Murphy was good enough to be on the good horses. "He rides softer than any person I've ever seen," Warner says, "and I was in the cavalry when cavalrymen were the Olympic team. A kid like Dennis, who doesn't have a rich momma and daddy, he's got to have somebody helping him. A poor man can't do it. Now it's gotten to where I'm training for Dennis."
The switch came about when Murphy made his decision to try out for the U.S.E.T. last year.
"I had a little problem understanding Bert when I came to Gladstone," Murphy says of de Nemethy. "Now, if I'm looking at him, and I kinda figure out what he's talking about to start with, it's pretty clear. But I was a little scared at first. Bert would say, 'That's the wrong way to work him.' I always used to just make the horse do what I wanted, however I could, but Bert wants the horse trained the right way, and now he tells me what to do and I do it."
Murphy was picked to be one of the four young riders de Nemethy will spend the next two years working with, along with eight other, more experienced, hands, and from this group of 12 the Olympic team will be chosen.
Murphy attained to this select company aboard old Blaze. And where is Blaze now? "Horse heaven, we all hope," Murphy says. "His Achilles' tendon ruptured and he couldn't stand up. He was 15. I'd rather people didn't hear all about it. He got me started. Let him rest." This is said with some emotion, and Murphy is not a demonstrative man.
Do Right, Murphy's current favorite mount, cost Warner $4,000. "He was a very nervous horse," Murphy says. "He'd been through different hands, and trained on tranquilizers. I saw them lunging that horse for an hour. When you lunge a horse you tie him to a rope and let him lunge against it to tire him out, then work him. I figured any horse that tough...well, I changed his name from Roguish Eye to Do Right. I worked him for three months. I figured one of us would start understanding the other. He got so fit he wanted to go 100 miles a day. Finally I started working him twice a day for just 15 minutes. He kinda builds up on the inside. As soon as he starts getting tense we quit. You have to go a long way to get to the bottom of him. Do Right, he'll work for me, but he won't ever say uncle. I believe a horse that trains very early usually gives up very early, so it's worth working with a hard horse sometimes. When you're on the course, asking unbelievable things out of 'em, they won't spit out the bit."
Murphy was on the course with Do Right in the Garden, and Do Right did not spit out the bit. In the Puissance, the jump that is the high point of horse show proceedings, Do Right carried Dennis Murphy up and over 7'1". Dennis Murphy spoke later of having won the "Poosance."