GushFest 2018

You guys. It’s time.

It’s been a solid 6 months. And you know what that means.

It’s time for Francis GushFest 2018 (Q2).

Because UGHHHH GUYSSSSSS HE’S THE BESTTTTTTTTT

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Like he’s a total turdblossom at feeding time, and sometimes it’s hard to muck his stall because #NapKing doesn’t want to stand up, and he likes to play Bitey-Face out in the field, and sometimes he twists his body over the jumps so he doesn’t have to work as hard. So clearly he isn’t perfect.

But he’s so dang cool, day after day after day.

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Blerp PC- Liz

He’s the most fun ever to play with on the ground. He’s so inquisitive and happy and content and radiates that sense of calm curiosity. He’s pretty sure everyone loves him and he loves to make new friends- who coincidentally always love him. He makes funny faces for the camera and gives me the stretchy moose lips when we scratch in juuuuust the right spot. He offers to groom me back because that’s the polite thing to do.

He thinks baseball hats are very fun toys, and is always always always game for some face scratches and snuggles (Towel Time behind the ears especially is the Bestest Ever). But I can also trust him to stand calmly on the crossties for as long as I need to get ready and situated. He’s happy to chill. He will bend over backwards if it means he gets ear rubs- even when I’m on him, he’ll turn his head back for ear rubs when he knows he did a good job.

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Mahm. Scritches. Thnks. PC- Liz

And then under saddle. Man oh man.

He’s the best kind of teacher- the kind who doesn’t get upset when I make mistakes, but also doesn’t give me anything for free either. I can ask for something the wrong way a million times and he’ll just keep trucking until I ask correctly, and then he rewards me with prompt obedience. He works exactly as hard as I do. It’s a true partnership of give and take and give some more.

There’s so much trust. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around us, what the jumps look like, where we are- I have 100% faith that he’s going to show up to work. And he has trust that I’ll do right by him. I may not set him up perfectly to every jump and I may make mistakes with my aids, but he knows I’ll do my best to stay out of his way and that we get lots of pats and scratches and down time after we work. And so he goes to work happily every single time.

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So proud of himself for a job well done.

And as we’ve both learned and gained some measure of subtlety, dangit we have so much fun. He knows the game and needs less help from me on a basic level, but looks for more input on a tactical level. We can plan for the inside turn (blasting up to oxers off a short turn is his new power move) and moving my shoulders forward and back is like a magic lever to his stride length. He’s super fast without feeling like we’re racing at any point, so we’re competitive without the pace being intimidating.

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FrancisGoZoomies(TM)

He’s my absolute favorite horse that I’ve ever ridden by such a long shot. No matter how my day was, no matter how nervous I may be, as soon as my feet are in the stirrups I am happy.

His quiet partnership has given me the confidence to dream bigger, try new things, gain comfort in my leadership skills, led me to new friendships, and is such a bright light in my life. I don’t have adequate words for how special he really is and how much he means to me.

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My best buddy. PC- Liz

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a lot of sweat and mud and work and setbacks and triumphs and the whole range therein. He just makes it all a joy.

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PC- Tracy
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Show Recap: Blue Rock Classic

I have so many alternate titles for this show recap:

“Prioritize Your Protein: I Don’t Want to Look at Steak for Quite Some Time”

“Step Up: Not the Dance Movie, Just Trying to Match My Horse’s Skill Level”

“Rain Dances: For the Love of God Stop Doing Them, We’ve Had Enough”

etc.

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Baby thoroughbred just wants snuggles alllll the time. 

But at the end of the day, here’s your basic recap: Frankie was a freakin’ rockstar. You can stop reading now if you were just on the edge of your seat wondering if he would be a good boy. I know it’s a rarity.

I’m not going to go in chronological order for this post because I don’t feel like it, so here’s what happened:

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DragonPony went in the ring rarin’ to go every time. Smart boy knows what the buzzer means now!

Big Guy packed me around the Highs like a pro, as per usual. I will say, the first day I had a bit of a tough time. In the past, Frankie has landed off the jumps a little unbalanced and a little strung out. It’s always taken me a few strides to get my bearings and get him back under me, and our half-halts didn’t go very far- I’ve had to kinda adjust my track to suit the stride length and not the other way around.

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Unrelated he’s just the sweetest most handsome creature.

The fun thing about doing multiple training rides per week and private lessons is that he is now much more fit and broke and holy moly we actually have a fantastic half-halt now. Nowadays he lands balanced and immediately asks me what he should do next. So on that first day I rode him like 2017 Francis needed- a little “louder” with my aids and a little less trusting of my seat, and giving him room where I didn’t need to (or should have). He was a good boy, but was a little peeved at me- he was jumping out of his SKIN and I wasn’t really rewarding that effort.

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Did he clear it tho
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I left the ring with the words, “holy crap I don’t even deserve you, you are a prince.”

So the next day my trainer sent me in with the phrase, “we have beautiful hands.” I rewarded more over the jumps, I trusted his balance, I supported with my leg more without nagging. And lo and behold: we had a lovely course, with a very happy horse.

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Those ears though. I know he loves food and scritches more than anything else, but he does seem to really enjoy his job ❤
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Until I get used to his new style of actually working hard over the jumps, I’m exaggerating my release. Better than punishing him for all that effort!
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And when I ask for the long one, he’s still happy to deliver. Best boy.

Classic day was similar- I’m still learning how to press all the buttons on my crazy-amazing broke horse, he was a little more tired, but overall thrilled with how we went around. I felt like I actually had a brain in my head- when jump 1 came up a little sticky, I actually made a move to help him get set up for jump 2 instead of saying OH CRAP FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL like I would’ve in the past. Our sticky moments were less sticky and happened less often, he was less tired and felt fitter than has on Sundays past, and our good moments are getting better and better and more consistent. And of all places, we had a rail over the liverpool. I mean, I’m glad he doesn’t care what he’s jumping, but maybe care a little bit?!

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And we got to compete with one of our barnmates, which was super wicked fun. We agreed that we were definitely the most obsessed with our horses of anyone on the showgrounds. Probably because we had the best horses, and that’s scientific fact.

So there’s our recap of the Highs. Trainer is very happy with his continuing development, we are both continuing to grow and learn, we’re excited to keep improving, and we had a total blast in the ring together. I swear, he is the most fun horse to ride.

But here’s something else that’s super cool: I have a 1.20m horse.

That’s right, the Big Man made it around his first ever 1.20m course with AT!! Both of them worked so so hard and it was absolutely incredible to watch. AT reported that he was a little surprised and definitely needed some help from her to get to the right spot- he can’t handle a joke at that height at this point. But he was game for it and went and played the game, which is all I was hoping for in his first time out. We’ll powwow later to see what our plan should be moving forward, but I am beyond thrilled with how he did.

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Jump 1 was very soft, jump 2 was a surprise, and by jump 3 (this one) he seemed to be getting it.
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NO SCOPE NO HOPE

My sweet boy officially made it around a 1.20m course without looking or feeling overfaced, and I am bursting with pride. This was never on our radar for him when we bought him- his willingness to go out there and try makes my heart so absolutely full.

As usual, Frankie gets an A+ for handling the horse show life. He ground-tied politely at the wash rack despite many distractions, he came out of his stall happily for every ride, and settled right into work despite the icky weather and sloppy footing. We’ve come to expect excellent behavior from him, but I’m still grateful every time that he handles travel and competition life so well.

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He really doesn’t stress about being in new places.

I’ll try to upload some of our videos to YouTube soon so I can share. Frankie will get today off and a few light days to work out any soreness and give him a break, but then we’re back to it and prepping for Upperville in early June!

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More adventures with the Frankfurter!

Transportation Woes

Alternate title: At Least One Thing That Carries My Butt Around Is Functional

The functional one being Frankie, of course. The not-so-functional one is my car.

Long story short, I no longer have working anti-lock brakes in my Jeep. Options are to either shell out more money than the car is worth to fix it, scrap my show season to afford a new car, or ignore the problem until show season is over.

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I think you can guess which one I’m going with. Luckily this didn’t happen in winter when the roads get slick, and the mechanic said the car was totally fine to drive as long as I was careful. So if you see a red Jeep with horse plates in VA, give me a little space to brake, k? I’m frantically doing research on what I’ll do in the fall and calling in all favors from friends and friends-of-friends, so at some point I should be able to introduce a new (or more realistically, used-and-slightly-crappy) vehicle.

But back to the functioning beast. Our private lessons are, as expected, absolutely transforming us. Even with just 3 under our belt, I can already feel such a difference in my ability to ask Frankie to work harder as well as his own ability to work harder. At first he threw a few tantrums about settling into work, but he very very quickly learned that this is the new normal and now steps right into it. He still has his evasions that he tries and a big part of our lessons is teaching me how to anticipate and preemptively correct those evasions, but it really does feel like getting to the next level of our feel and communication.

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“Communicate THIS” PC: Liz

A few examples: transitions. THEY’RE HARD YO. We’ve been doing tons of them and insisting that Francis step under into them (both upwards and downwards) without popping up and inverting. When I get it right, it’s magical. Slowly starting to get it right more often.

Connection. It used to take me a solid 45 minutes and a virgin sacrifice to get Frankie up into the bridle. And to be totally honest, even then it wasn’t great. I simply did not give enough leg, hold a steady enough contact, or insist on this enough. This is still very much a work in progress, but I’m actually able to get him pushing from behind up into the contact much more consistently. It’s not 100% of the time by any stretch, but it’s vastly improved!

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THE BEEFIEST. THE SHINIEST. PC: Liz

 

Adjustability. Turns out that when I stop using a driving seat and have my horse balanced underneath me, I can totally pick whatever stride length I want. Which means I can then pick whichever spot I want. It also turns out that my eye is a lot better than I thought it was- I just haven’t had the tools to accurately ride to the spot I see. Now that I’m communicating with Frankie more clearly and he’s built the knowledge and strength, I feel so much more confident in our ability to get to a really solid take-off.

Overall brokeness. Holy. Crap. Guys. My horse is so frickin’ broke now, it’s not even funny. He will always be a little dull and he would not make a professional happy (pretty sure you’d see a pic of him in the dictionary under “Ammy Friendly”) but he has become the fanciest horse I have ever sat on. Ever. Including my German import I had in high school. He has so many dang buttons and he’s gotten so strong, it’s like I can think something and he does it. Part of that is the training we’ve been doing super intensely lately, part of it is me learning how to ride more better, and part of that is continuously building our communication and partnership. I’ve been absolutely blown away by him in our last few lessons.

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Let me love you forever PC: Liz

It feels like we’re in a totally different place from even a few weeks ago. I need to get some video so you can see the Frankfurter strut his stuff- hopefully we get some good ones at the show this week! Trainer confirmed that she’ll be taking him in his first 1.20m and I’m spazzing out excited. Keep your fingers crossed and send high-flying thoughts in our direction!

Ow. My Legs.

Before I get into talking about how my legs hurt so much, I have to tell you about my meetup with Liz and Austen!! We got to meet up (huskies in tow) out in Middleburg for lunch, and it was so fantastic to be able to just talk ponies and cocktails. It’s the funniest feeling meeting blog friends in real life- even though it was our first time seeing each other in the real world, it felt like we already knew each other so well. I was hoping they would have time to come meet Frankie, and even more fantastically they had their cameras with them!

It was so lovely to get to introduce them to Frankie. I know I may be biased because I’m his mother, but there is something so special about that horse and I love getting to share that spark with friends. He was enthralled with the huskies and was on the lookout for scritches the whole time. We even popped Liz and Austen up for a brief ride- Frankie was a bit confused that he still had to work, but was happy enough to go be a good goober for both of them. It makes my heart so happy to see him go be such a good soul. Bonus: I have so many absolutely gorgeous pictures to share with you guys!!

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This one is absolutely getting framed. Liz, somehow you managed to capture Frankie so beautifully and with such kindness, and it brings tears to my eyes.

Now on to my muscle soreness: we have officially entered the era of private lessons once more. It’s been two weeks with my new flex schedule and while it’s been a bit of an adjustment to get out the door earlier in the mornings, it’s ABSOFREAKIN’ FANTASTIC. I may never be able to go back to a normal schedule again, you guys. So far we’ve had two (incredible) private lessons on Friday afternoons, and here are some jumbled thoughts that I have so far:

  • In our first lesson, we did not jump a single fence. We worked on correct transitions, channeling our energy straight and powerfully, and convincing Frankie that I know what I’m doing up top (which is only sometimes true, but he doesn’t need to know that). I was sweaty and dying by the end.
  • Frankie absolutely can and should carry himself, and he is smart enough to know that historically I have not insisted on this. He does not test Trainer or AT. He does test me- which is fair. We had a few mini-tantrums when I continued to insist, but once we pushed past that he gave me INCREDIBLE work. He’s pretty sure this whole “work super hard to build muscle and self-carriage” thing is bogus, but he seems to be resigning himself to it.
  • THIS IS SO FREAKIN’ HARD. My muscles are so sore. Like, muscles that I don’t usually use for riding are sore. Which is actually also super encouraging, because it means that I’m moving in different ways and the whole point of this is to be doing things differently and better. But ow. Seriously, ow.
  • Francis is, as always, my tattletale. My leg comes off? Head immediately pops up and he totally inverts. I stop engaging my core? Prancing jigging steps. He is happy to work, but only as hard as I am. And he will not give me what I’m asking unless I ask properly, which makes him such an excellent teacher! Luckily he’s patient as I work through all the ways to *not* ask properly before landing on the right way.
  • He needs to respect this new bit- he cannot park on the end of it like he did with the snaffle. If he learns to park on this bit, we have just lost all our adjustability that we gained with the additional leverage. This is why I must insist on that self-carriage, and it’s why my trainer didn’t entrust me with this type of bit until quite recently.
  • Rewards must be quick and frequent. As soon as I feel him soften, I must soften in return- but not until I get that softening. Reward the good, and respond to resistance with consistent but firm correction. Set him up to answer correctly so that we can reward often.
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We take breaks when we are a good pony. PC- Liz
  • When we have the right canter, we don’t need to see a spot. In our last lesson, I felt like I nailed every single distance to every single fence. Some were a little longer or shorter than others, but every single one felt powerful and out of stride. He was so adjustable and powerful that getting to that right spot was downright easy, and he rewarded me by cracking his back over the fences- I got popped out of the tack a few times because of the strength of his effort!
  • Riding him more strongly and insisting on more is downright addicting. Of course he’s always a blast to ride, but feeling that balance and power underneath me is the most incredible feeling. I was grinning through my entire last ride. I was also panting and sweating trying to get all my muscles to move in concert, but I was on the verge of giggling as I felt Frankie round up into the bridle and push. I didn’t ever want to hop off.
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“Do not want work, pls stop.” (as I gasp for air) PC- Liz

In a nutshell, I’m trying to learn how to ride Frankie like my trainer rides Frankie. And it’s really really hard and a lot of work and everything hurts and it is so incredibly fun as we both learn the rules of the game.

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THE SWEETEST SNOOT. PC- Liz

Muscles are sore, heart is full, and I’m so beyond thrilled with the Big Best Beast.

Words Matter

I may be an engineer by education and an analyst by trade, but I am of the firm belief that the language we use has a distinct effect not only on the way other people perceive us, but on the way we perceive the world.

Example 1: What we call our horses and ourselves. I mentioned that AT has officially forbidden me from calling Frankie a llama. I am only ever allowed to call him Fancy WonderPony and other such posh names. The reasoning there is that if we use language implying that he’s not fancy, then we subconsciously set our expectations lower. No one expects a llama to perfect their half-passes. But we would certainly expect that a Fancy WonderPony has the ability- in fact, a Fancy WonderPony will inevitably be good at that and our job is simply to unlock those skills. In a similar sense, we are no longer allowed to call our fav 12yo barn rat Shrimp, Little One, The Tick, or other such affectionate nicknames we’ve been using for years. AT wants her to think of herself as a strong capable junior rider, and part of that is using that kind of language to refer to herself. It may seem like a fairly minor thing, but the names we use to refer to each other and our animals subtly color our perceptions of them. Calling Francis “Studly McGrandPrix” for a few days won’t turn him into a 1.45m horse, but it certainly sets a more encouraging tone to our pursuit of improvement.

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He is a fancy shmancy horse that can hold his own with the best of them. Because he is the best of them ❤ PC- K. Borden

Example 2: How we give instruction. My trainer is very deliberate about using positive instructions. I don’t mean positive as in happy-happy-joy-joy (though I often find her very positive in that way too!), but as in framing things in an active way. Instead of “don’t stiff him in the mouth,” she will say “reach forward with your hands.” Instead of “don’t lean forward,” she will say “open your hip angle.” The focus is on the action to perform, not the habit to correct. Studies have shown that negation actually can make it harder for us to understand the sentence– when someone tells you not to do XYZ, your brain automatically hears “do XYZ” and you have to process past that. Especially in a sport where timing matters so much, using the clearest possible language helps us comprehend and act more efficiently. Not to mention that for visual learners (like myself), the positive description of the action is much more helpful in identifying what I should be doing with my body.

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This is right around where she says something like “half halt and release.” PC- Tracy

Example 3: Dealing with nerves. I think it’s healthy to express when you’re not totally zen. I don’t think you should just shove it all deep down until one day you die. But I do think saying “OMG I’M SO FRICKIN SCARED” isn’t super helpful because then you’re just reinforcing how frightened you are. Acknowledging the anxious energy: yes, good, allows you to continue moving forward. There have been several times that I have gone to my trainer and straight up asked for a pep talk to help me channel my nerves into something productive. Telling everyone how nervous you are: creates a feedback loop without giving it an outlet into something productive. By verbalizing it in a more positive way, you can often talk yourself into a more positive mindset- “I have a lot of energy focused on creating a good experience through the combo” certainly makes me feel a lot better than “holy crap that oxer out of the combo looks huge I think I’m gonna die.” [Side note- show nerves are one thing, intense anxiety is a whole other animal. I’m talking about the former here]

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It also helps a lot to have a trainer who knows you well, and a horse that you would trust to take you through fire. PC- K. Borden

So three very different scenarios, but all areas that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately where the words we use have a lot of power over the way we perceive ourselves and our horses, the way we train, and the way we compete.

What are some examples you have of the way language affects your equestrian pursuits? 

PS- I realized that me posting links to my trainer’s blog is dumb, when y’all can just access it yourself on Facebook. Go ahead and follow Clairvaux LLC for blog posts, cute ponies for sale, show updates from our team, and other awesomeness!

Inaugural Outdoor Course

If your trainer ever says, “I have something really fun for you!” just run in the other direction. Save yourself. Learn from my mistakes.

The other day trainer said that she had a fun favor to ask of me and Devyn (my favorite not-so-little-anymore 12yo barn rat): did we want to design and set this season’s inaugural course in the outdoor ring? You all know that I’m an aficionado of course design, so of course I immediately said yes! Of course! That’s gonna be a blast!

And then the 12yo got evil and decided to make a bunch of oxers and also is tiny so her mom and I were stuck moving all the SUPER HEAVY standards. Cue soreness.

We had a few constraints to work with- Trainer wanted a triple bounce of crossrails on one of the quarter lines, and it had to be something that could be set for a variety of riders. Devyn showed up with 3 options to choose from, all with measurements for the lines asking a variety of technical questions (including a slightly short vertical-vertical 2 stride to a slightly long four stride out…I told you the kid is evil. Knowledgeable, creative, and ambitious, but evil. It’s a potent combination). That plan survived first contact, but we ended up having to make tweaks to work with the types of jumps we had, the shape of the ring, and the versatility we wanted to have.

Trainer showed up as we were setting, and was able to give some helpful pointers:

  • Diagonal lines need less room on the side away from the ingate, since you naturally don’t have quite as much pace heading away and therefore don’t need as much room to turn. Better to give a little extra room for when you’re heading home so you don’t have to veer through the turn.
  • Don’t think of the ring as a rectangle. Think of the exercises you want to include, and then build those- that way you’re not locked into measurements and can adjust the exercise to any type of space you have available.
  • Don’t bunch the jumps in the middle of the ring. If you spread them out them you give yourself options to do long OR short approaches because you’ve given yourself room to move.

After much trial and error and cursing from dropping heavy jumps on my toes, here’s what we came up with:

outside course

So we have the triple bounce on the quarterline, a blue plank on the far outside, a yellow plank in the corner, a stone wall oxer on the near outside, a plain vertical single, a diagonal line (set to 4 strides) with a gate oxer and rolltop, a yellow vertical end jump, and a small crossrail jumping out of (or into) the ring. The big green shapes are little hillocks in the grass outside the ring.

I think we’ve got some fun options here! One of the exercises that I think would be fun would be jumping out of the ring, coming back to a walk over the hillocks, then trotting back in the ingate to do the end jump away from home. Then you could either do the rollback turn left to continue up the diagonal line and bending line towards home, or continue right up the single outside to the bending line towards home. We were hoping to include a skinny trot jump in there, but we just ran out of room. Maybe that yellow end jump could be the skinny? Only if someone else wants to move it though, I don’t plan on moving any rails any time soon!

I’ll get to observe the course in action this week and I’ll get to play with it myself on Friday, so I’ll have to report back with how people like it. Until then, let me know what you think! Any ideas for fun exercises we can include next time Trainer asks us to help design?

Because let’s be honest- I’ll keep saying yes every time.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Some very exciting changes going on in my little corner of the universe!

First off- there was a bit of a re-org at work. Nothing dramatic and my job title didn’t change, but the focus of my work is shifting a bit to more organizational effectiveness and process streamlining. I. Am. Thrilled. It’s a much better fit for my experience, skills, and interests, and my new manager and I have already worked together multiple times to great success. I think this new little department of ours is going to be super helpful for the company as a whole, and it’s going to be superduperamazingfantastic for my own career growth.

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#professional

Also work related- my flex schedule was approved! One of my all-time favorite perks of my job is that they’re very willing to be flexible with my schedule (remember when I worked remotely from Ohio for 2 weeks so I could compete without using vacation time?). As long as the work gets done when it needs to be and I attend any meetings that require my presence, no one is too fussy about the specific hours and where I am. But even better than that is a formalized flex schedule! Starting next week, I’ll be in the office Mon-Thurs 7:30a-5p with a 30 min lunch break, WFH Friday morning for 4 hours, and then I have every Friday afternoon off. Entirely.

What does one do with a free Friday afternoon? One heads to the barn.

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DUHH

One of the big reasons I wanted to work on a flex schedule was to fit in a private lesson somewhere. Currently I’m really only available for a 7p lesson, or maaaaaybe 6p if I can rush out the door. You know who else is only available at 6p or 7p? Every single other person. So all lessons at those times have by necessity been group lessons. I knew that if I wanted to get an hour all to myself, I’d have to come up with a way to get to the barn at a different time. Which I now have every week!

Don’t get me wrong- my group lessons have been great. I love learning from watching other riders go, and hearing my trainer explain things in different ways to different learners has been enormously helpful. But I’m also now at the point where I’m hoping to get Frankie feeling great at 1.20m+, and there are few other riders at the barn with that ambition (at least in the near term). I think some individual attention will really help push us to the next level and get us focusing on tackling the skill sets we need to master. Our last spate of private lessons was totally transformative for us and I’m excited to keep transforming!

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Last time we did private lessons, it started out like this. I fully anticipate that I will be cursing this decision and become incredibly sore, but it’s gonna be awesome I swear.

This timing works out perfectly with Frankie’s maintenance- by the time next Friday rolls around, he will be ready to get back into full work after his series of SI and hock injections. He’ll be full of bouncy juice, has been adjusted by the chiro, has better saddle fit, is rocking his carrot stretches, and I just got him a shiny new BoT pad (in navy, duhhh). Because why not do everything we can while we’re at it, right? I have a feeling he’s going to be feeling fantastic, and I’m going to have to grab a lot more mane!

I also got his new 3-ring in and have been using a borrowed figure-8 to great success. I think we’ve really found a great balance of giving him something soft enough to move forward onto, while still giving me a clear enough line of communication to get his attention.

We had a lesson in it last night and I fell in love with my horse all over again. He was hunting down the jumps, had fire in his step but was tuned into me the whole time, and was straight up FUN. He’ll get a few more days off after his hock injections today and I seriously can’t wait. If he’s already going around so amazingly beforehand, I can only imagine how incredible he’ll be once everything is totally 100%.

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He seriously felt like this last night, he was springy as all getout

I also got to sit down with my trainer to talk about our show season coming up, and how best to prepare. Right now the tentative plan is to have AT hop on 2x a week leading up to Blue Rock in May, and then have her take him in a few 1.20m classes to see how he likes it. I’ll stick in the 1.10m Highs for now. We’ll plan on attending Upperville in early June (my favorite show of the year!) where I’ll do the 1.10m/1.15m Highs and she may take him in a 1.20m schooling round, and then late June at Lake Placid I’ll just take him in the 1.15m Highs. If all is going well at that point and we’re all comfortable with the moveup, I’ll take over the ride in the 1.20m Low AOs in August or September. It’s all very tentative and subject to change at any minute, but I’m very happy with this plan. We’re in no rush, so I’d rather Frankie build a lot of confidence and know-how at that height before his amateur mother steps in. As always, we’ll be paying very very close attention to see how he likes that job to make sure we’re not pushing him too much. Even if it doesn’t materialize the way we’re planning, the fact that my trainer has faith in us and Frankie’s abilities means the world to me.

It also turns out that I’m no longer busy during Team Finals (we’re only doing Lake Placid for one week instead of two) and I have enough points to qualify….so I may be looking at the finances to see if we could go from Lake Placid down to Tryon first week of July. I don’t have to decide for a while and it may end up being too much for the Frankfurter, but cool to have the option!

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EVERY SHOW JUST TAKE MY MONEY HERE YOU GO

Things are feeling really good right now. Exciting career changes, exciting progression in our training, and an exciting summer coming up. It’s all a little crazy but it’s the best kind of crazy.

Oh yeah, and I’m planning a wedding. Coolcoolcoolcoolcoolcool.

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Product Review: Roeckl Madrid Gloves

You all know that I’m a little bit obsessed with breeches, but you may not know that I’m also pretty obsessive over my gloves. I think I might just have a riding clothes obsession in general. Or an obsessive personality. But that’s neither here nor there, because we’re talking about gloves.

See, I’m really picky. They need to be grippy in all weather. They need to be small enough to be snug through the palm, but still long enough to fit my spider fingers. They must have touch-screen compatible fingers so I can add to my Insta story while I ride #essential. And they must be breathable, because I am a sweaty person.

I’ve used Roeckl gloves for many years very happily- their base Roeck-grip model has taken me in all three rings over the years comfortably and stylishly. I haven’t had to think about them. They have been a constant in my life.

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They’ve been keeping me real since the DragonMare days.

But all good things do eventually come to an end, and after busting a hole in the finger due to my own carelessness, it was time to replace them. My first thought was to get the exact same pair- why mess with a good thing?

But then I realized. I’m firmly ensconced in JumperLand now. I have a backup pair of black gloves in case I want to do the eq again, so why limit myself? There’s a whole wide world of possibilities out there, it’s time to live a little.

Enter the Roeckle Madrid gloves, which I bought from Smartpak for $59.95. Spoiler alert: worth every penny.

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You guy, I’m in love. I opted to get the pair with red accents to match my barn colors #coordinated, but I will absolutely get this style in all-black if I need something more conservative in the future (for my DQs out there, they also come in white!). Let’s walk through my checklist:

Grippy: yes. I ride in notoriously slippery reins (side note, why on earth have I not replaced these yet??), but had no problem maintaining my grip throughout the warm-up-sneezes that Frankie likes to do. No death grip on the reins necessary, these kept my hands right in place.

Fit my spider hands: yes. I opted to size down since my last pair of Roeckls ran a little large, and they are perfect. They fit like a second skin without being too tight, and are long enough to accommodate my fingers. I do have freakish fingers though, so it may be a bit too much length if you have smaller hands. The velcro close is just right.

Touch-screen compatible: fo sho. And since they fit so snugly, I don’t have to deal with bulky seams or extra fabric getting in the way when I’m tryna get my ‘gram on.

Breathable: this is where they really shine. I have never ridden in gloves this breathable- I swear I could actually feel the breeze on my hands. I will forever be a sweaty person, but I didn’t end my ride with wet gloves for once in my life. They’re reinforced where they need to be along the palm and fingers, and extremely lightweight everywhere else.

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Be honest, the

Add to that how sporty and cool they look, and I’m definitely obsessed. Time will tell how they hold up to wear and tear, but I’ve only had good experiences with Roeckl’s in the past and anticipate these will wear just as well.

Final rating: 5/5 would recommend to all, go grab a pair!

Disclaimer: a distributor reached out to me about doing a product review, but I paid full price for these gloves- the timing worked out that I needed to replace a pair right at that time! 

What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

I was reading through some COTH forums the other day, and for whatever reason a topic that kept coming up to the top of the list was beginner riders wanting to go Grand Prix. I think I saw 3-4 different posts about that- either from novice riders asking for advice on how to achieve that, or more experienced riders wondering if the desire to go big-time is a phenomenon in other sports as well (the consensus is yes, lots of people like to dream big no matter the sport).

I obviously scrolled through all of them hoping to glean some useful information to make it to the big leagues. There was definitely some great advice on putting in the hard work, setting incremental achievable goals, finding a good network to work with, etc. And it was heartening to see people giving realistic but positive advice- we all start somewhere, and it’s great to have ambitious goals no matter what level you’re currently at! But I realized- if I had gotten that advice a few years ago, it would not have resonated as much. Not because I’d want to ignore it, but because I didn’t have the experience to understand and internalize it.

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You will learn, young grasshopper

So I’m going to address my post to the 2015 version of Olivia, who hadn’t competed in 10 years, had rarely (if ever) jumped over 2’6″, but knew she wanted to do big things. Here’s a few things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

  • Moving up in jump height is not as simple as “improve my eq and be brave enough.” It is only that to a certain point. After that, there are other factors. Having the right horse who can handle the height (and providing adequate care to said horse so they can comfortably do the job), creating a fitness plan for you AND the horse to be strong enough, being able to feel when you have the perfect canter to jump from, developing a consistent eye to the fences, learning how to handle the “drop” as the arc of the jump changes. Heels down and eyes up can take you far, but you need other skills too. I had no idea what those skills were, let alone how to attain them.
  • Holes in flatwork will show up in jumping. I treated my flatwork as a warmup for the jumping, and was happy to rush through it. It was only when I started taking this more seriously and working on real brokeness on the flat that our abilities over fences truly grew. Watch the dressage riders- they’re onto something.
  • You get what you pay for. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good, and just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad- but pretty often the more expensive piece of equipment is more expensive for a reason. It’s worth paying for quality. That being said, there’s no need to break the bank on the most expensive trendy brands. There’s a middle ground of reasonably priced, good quality gear.
  • Know what’s important to you, and cling tenaciously to that. I used to want to move up in jump height, and was willing to ride anything to make that happen. Now I know that my biggest priority is safety. I still hope to continue moving up the levels, but I will only do so on a horse that I can feel safe riding. If it turns out that I can’t handle the blood of a horse at that level, then I will not ride at that level. Simple as that. Safety trumps moving up.
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This is really only fun when it’s with a horse I trust [PC: Tracy]
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a really great trainer. I knew that I liked my lessons with my trainer and got great value out of them, but in the years since I have gotten SO MUCH more out of our relationship than one hour a week in lessons. She has worked with me to set achievable but ambitious goals, helped me lay out a plan financially to pay the bills that come along with pursuing those goals, introduced me to a network of horsewomen, talked extensively about the greater industry as a whole, lent her perspective as an R judge, and shared advice that I’ve even applied to my life outside of riding. A good trainer won’t just teach you how to ride well, they will help forge a path for whatever it is you want to do with that improved riding.
  • Be ready to obsess. Obsess about your tack, about your equipment, about your schedule, about your fitness, about your finances. Getting better takes time, and if you want it to happen faster you have to be willing to obsess. A lesson every week is great. Two is better. Two lessons plus a pro ride for your horse is even better than that. Obsess over finding the right tack, and then let it be. Until you need to change it, and then obsess over figuring out the right change. Create ever-more-elaborate financial tracking tools, because this sport ain’t cheap and improving doesn’t just take time, it takes money. Obsessively track your progress to ID the problems you didn’t know you had, and then obsess about fixing them. Obsess about your horse’s conditioning and soundness, because he’s the ticket to all of this.
  • Be ready to sacrifice. That time and money you want to invest in this sport will inevitably be taken away from other things. It is possible to have it all, but it depends on how you define “having it all.” I thought I would be that flawless girl with a thriving career, glowing social life, steadily moving up the ranks at shows, and well rested. Turns out I get to pick 2.
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As I work remotely from horse shows, I’ll let you guess which two those are

The last and biggest one: someday, you’ll know all this, and you’ll start to know what you don’t know. Stay humble, ask questions, show up. There’s no guarantee that you’ll achieve every goal you thought you had, but that knowledge will open doors and help you understand what goals you truly want to set.

Tell me: what did you not know you didn’t know? What advice would you give your younger self on pursuing your dreams?

Dolla Dolla (Vet) Billz Yo

So last week we had the vet out to give Frankie his full head-to-toe eval! Here’s what we found:

  • Fixing the saddle fit gets a thumbs up. The spots in his back that were sore before are much improved. I think it’s also likely that the chiro helped.
  • Keep up the carrot stretches. He’s a tall guy, but more importantly he is a LONG guy. Total long brontosaurus neck. He’s not naturally flexible, so we need to help him by encouraging him to stretch. As a side note- Frankie seems to really love his stretches! I don’t even have to use a cookie or anything, I just snap a little where I want his nose, and he comes sniffing around. He gets lots of face scratches as a reward. I thought he would lose interest once I stopped using cookies to bribe him, but he’ll ignore all distractions and even his hay to do his stretches with me. Sweet boy.
  • His SI joint needed some happy juice…like, yesterday. This was a big big ouchie point for him. I’m not super surprised since he got it done last May, so we’re coming up on a year. I think we may switch to a 9mo schedule instead of the full year though, so we don’t get to the point where he’s this sore. Poor guy.
  • The lameness locator picked up just a hint of something in his right hind when he’s traveling to the left (I’m going to ask for more detailed results of this so I can share with you, I think it’s such interesting technology!). This is the same leg that has mild arthritis in his hock- we found that in his pre-purchase exam. While we knew this was likely to just be a progression of that arthritis due to work and age, we decided to go ahead and do an ultrasound to completely rule out any sort of soft tissue injury on that leg. The vet said that his suspensory looked totally fine, so we decided to inject his hocks to keep him more comfortable there. We have a few other ideas just in case this doesn’t get him feeling 100%, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it- the vet is pretty confident that this will do the trick.
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Handsome boy bein’ sweet

I have a lot of feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I’m so so so glad we’re doing all of this BEFORE Frankie takes a bad step. He has been cheerfully coming out of his stall and doing his job without protest, so we didn’t wait until he was demonstratively off. He’s had a quiet schedule since Ohio, so he hasn’t had to work too hard in a while. I’m also INCREDIBLY relieved that we were able to rule out soft tissue injury, and that all he needed was some more aggressive maintenance.

On the other hand, my poor boy has been sore in a couple areas- his back from my saddle not fitting properly anymore, his SI from needing support, and his hocks from the arthritis. The few stops we got in Ohio make more sense now- they were not unreasonable stops and not dirty at all, but you all know it’s very unlike Francis to stop EVER. Between the SI and the hocks, it was probably just too uncomfortable for him to really rock his weight back when I got him to a tough spot.

So there’s definitely a mixture of relief at finding this early while it’s all still very manageable and treatable, guilt at not figuring it out earlier, and more guilt at letting this happen at all. I don’t know how I expected to halt the progress of arthritis, but we’re not always logical when it comes to our horses, right?! This was definitely a useful learning experience on what he needs from me and how often he needs it.

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His face hole is also healing well, so we’ll put his noseband back on shortly. Could he have a sweeter expression??

He’s been on a long-low-stretchy routine lately while we’ve been scanning him, and will be on light work a little while longer as we do this series of injections, but luckily after that we should be cleared for full work! It looks like I’ll need to take a show off the calendar to pay for all this, but that means I’ll have a happy, healthy horse. And with all that bouncy juice running through his veins, I’m guessing I’ll have a happy healthy horse with MAD ups. #blessed

Yet again, I am so so so grateful for my trainers. Assistant Trainer was the one who thought it would be a good idea to get him scanned, she arranged the vet visits and coordinated the whole thing, and kept me in the loop throughout the whole process. Her standards of horsemanship and care are second to none, and Frankie and I are so lucky to work with such a great role model!