Ramping Up

I’m now in week two of the official “Get More Better At Riding Again” unofficial bootcamp, and I’m loving it!! I had gotten kinda used to my 1-2x a week schedule for the last year+ and I don’t think I realized just how much my barn time makes everything better. Getting to log off the computer and immediately head to the barn is an amazing feeling, especially since my barn commute is 100x better from our new place than it was from my office.

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In fact everything about our new place is a vast improvement, including the sunsets and our happy lil front porch. We’re out there almost every evening. In the gap between the houses you see here you can actually see the horse farm across the road, and we often hear them talkin to each other.

Frankie is on his way down to Lexington for the show with his leaser, which means it is the Meeko show for the week. We had our second hack together last night and I definitely feel like I’m getting to know him better; where he wants more support from me, where I need to dictate a bit, and where he needs me to back off and let him do his thing. He’s very similar to Frankie in that he likes a lot of support from the leg, but his gaits feel so different and he’s more responsive off my aids. It’s really fun getting to know him, he’s safe and fun and I’m so grateful I get to hop on!

I’m also pushing the intensity of my rides more this week. Last week was dedicated solely to making it around the ring a couple times to start building up my sorely-lacking stamina. This week I’m trying to actually, you know, ride like I’m doing something. Tons of transitions and playing with some lateral work has my core VERY sore so I feel like I must be doing something semi-right. It’s making me super eager to get back into lessons when my trainer gets back from the show.

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Unrelated I just wanted to show you that Maggie is a big weirdo. This isn’t a screenshot, she likes to fall asleep like this.

I’m also looking ahead to our (hopeful) next show in September. It’s about 30 minutes away and we’ll be shipping in and out, and traditionally it’s not a super crowded show, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can do it in a safe way. I’ll be hopping on at our trailer after only touching my own tack, and I won’t have to touch anything again until they hand me my big blue ribbons – putting that out into the universe now just in case. I already have a decent selection of masks that I wear when I leave the house (which is extremely rare other than going to the barn), but after seeing some posts here in blogland and on social media about the gaiters people were using, I went ahead and got myself one of those for showing:

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Bordered in navy, because obviously

I also may have bought myself a little graduation present because you know what, I was tired and stressed and wanted something nice. It’s a new show coat!! I managed to find this Equiline in my size for an absolute STEAL since it’s used, but it’s in perfect shape. Black with satin pockets and burgundy suede collar. At least I’ve stopped compulsively buying new breeches? That counts for something, right?

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The black is blacker and the collar is a deeper burgundy in person and it’s SO PRETTY I LOVE IT

Anyway, I’m trying to get back in the rhythm of capturing the journey more often as I get back into the swing of things. Excited to share more with you as we start to figure things out again!

Adding the Letters

After 16 months of classwork, I am officially done with my MBA! It’s been a lot of work: I’ve taken at least two classes every term (and three this summer), all while working full time+, traveling to compete (in the Before Times), starting a new role at work, buying our first house and moving to a new state during lockdown, and navigating the chaos that is the world right now. I’m still waiting on the final confirmation of one class on my transcript, but the grades are in and I managed to finish out with As in all of my classes. It was definitely dicey in places and I wasn’t sure I’d make the grade I wanted, so I’m very pleased that I was able to finish strong and maintain that 4.0.

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Taken directly after submitting my last assignment. Balloons and champagne courtesy of WBH (World’s Best Husband), world-weary gaze courtesy of Maggie

Not to be cheesy, but this whole school thing would have been impossible without the whole cast of characters in my support system. My barn friends, who have kept me entertained and kept an eye on Frankie for me, my trainer for keeping him fit and ready for the sporadic times I was able to show up (and even got us in the show ring way more often than I expected), my family and in-laws for sharing food and family and love, and of course my husband. He has dealt with more mental breakdowns, exhaustion, tears, absenteeism, and overall craziness than he should have had to in the first 18 months of marriage, and he’s done it all with his characteristic unflappable support. I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Maggie also doesn’t know what she would do without him. Girl is OBSESSED with her papa.

To celebrate, I decided to take last week off entirely. I set up an away message at work, shut down my laptop, and turned off all notifications on my phone. I definitely have plenty to catch up on this week as I get back in the swing of things at work, but it was SO SO SO WORTH IT. And I think you know why: I spent literally every single day at the barn. Several hours. Every day. With my perfect boy. I feel like a different, better person.

What I also learned during this amazing week full of saddle time is that WOW MY STAMINA IS NEAR ZERO. By the end of the week I was comfortably trotting 6-10 laps and cantering 5-7. If that doesn’t sound like that much, you’d be right. It isn’t. I am just that out of shape. It’s frustrating because I have the muscle memory so my body knows what to do, I just don’t have the strength or tone to maintain anything for very long. I’m extra grateful that Frankie is fit and forward right now; I’m not sure I could handle trying to get both of us back up to speed.

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My favorite view through my favorite ears ❤

The plan right now is to take this week to keep building my stamina on the flat and re-enter lessons next week, tentatively planning for a group jump lesson and a private flat lesson as time permits. We’re keeping the jumps low for 2-3 weeks to see how I survive and then I’ll move into another group jumping a bit bigger if we’re feeling comfortable. That will take us to the end of August, when I think we’ll have a better idea of how quickly I’ll be able to get fully back up to speed. While it seems crazy to think about now, I do still want to aim for the Highs at Piedmont at the end of September. I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out – we can always go be the defending champs in the Lows – but I don’t see the harm in setting my sights higher.

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Remember when we used to jump this height because I do and he has such better body awareness now and I have better timing now and I’d REALLY LIKE ANOTHER GO AT IT

 

I’m also getting to diversify my riding a bit this week which I’m excited about! Frankie’s leaser is taking him to their first away show to do the equitation and some jumper classes, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes. In the meantime, my friend has very generously offered to let me flat her GORGEOUS horse Meeko so I don’t lose any opportunity to get in the saddle. He’s of similar unicorn status to Frankie with the added bonus of being an absolutely lovely mover. I’m excited to learn more about his buttons and practice on a different ride.

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v v v excited to learn how to manage and encourage his big floaty gaits

Moving forward Frankie still is in his half-lease situation, and I don’t plan on ending that any time soon. The kid is a super hard worker and the whole family has been wonderful to work with, and it’s been so satisfying to see them figure each other out. However, this does mean I’m only riding Frankie 3x a week which is definitely not enough to get me back in shape for the Highs. Feeling very grateful that between Meeko and some other options, I should be able to maintain a solid 5-6x/week schedule, and may even get to lesson on some of these other horses!

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Sweet Meeko!!

Frankie recently got a massage showing no major hot spots and got his regular SI injection and is feeling super fit and forward. I’m beyond excited to get back into training mode with my bestest boy ❤

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I promise he’s excited too.

The End is in Sight

Hi guys! Still here and still kicking, albeit weakly.

You haven’t heard from me in a while because I’m a little less than two weeks away from graduating from my MBA program and it’s been a BUSY summer. I’m taking three classes while still working full time and two of those are capstone courses, so I haven’t had much time to do anything besides work and …more work.

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One day I cracked and put the dog in a kimono don’t judge me. Also she loved it.

I knew it would be tough going for this final stretch, so I set myself up to power through: I told all my friends and family to ignore me for 7 weeks, I put Frankie into training and half-leased him out to a junior rider at the barn, and my momma has spent a few weeks here helping take care of the dog/house/everything I’m neglecting. It’s been pretty relentless and I’m eager to have some free time back in my schedule once I finish, but all this really has made it manageable. I’ll be finishing out strong instead of dragging myself to the end.

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I very much missed my mom ❤

 

But enough about school, let’s talk about Francisco! In short: he is an angel, I am floppy. I’ve been on a very very very sporadic riding schedule since March, to the point where I get sore from trotting a few laps. It is humbling. Meanwhile, he’s still in training and getting ridden 6x a week and feels simply lovely. He and his kid have been doing some local hunter/eq classes and the judges seem to love him, much to my surprise. And the kid just adores him so he is thriving with the attention. The whole family has been so great, it’s a really nice set-up for all of us: the kid is getting to learn and grow on a safe horse, Frankie is getting loved on and adventures off property, and I have the peace of mind knowing that my creature is staying in work.

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Every once in a while I get to see him and it makes everything better 100%

We also got a new pro at the barn who is taking some of the training rides and so far I’m thrilled with what she’s doing. She’s super patient with all the horses and rewards the try, which is definitely what helps Frankie feel confident in his work. She also took it upon herself to get Frankie good at trot jumps – something he has always been atrocious at. No joke, three people (including me womp womp) have fallen off him trying to trot a jump. It’s just awful. But no more! I popped over a few little jumps over the weekend and we officially have a real rideable nice trot jump installed. Nice to have that on my 14yo packer.

I am hoping to do some close-to-home shows this fall, with my sights set on Piedmont Jumper over in Upperville at the end of September. I love the showgrounds, it’s a relaxed schedule, and it’s an easy trailer ride from our barn so no need for stalls. I think it’ll be a great way to get back in the ring in a safe way. I am still holding out hope that we might be able to step back into the Highs at that point; Frankie honestly feels the best he’s ever felt in terms of fitness and conditioning. My trainer has said that if I can get myself in shape and up to speed, she sees no reason why the horse can’t go do the job.

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He was thriving in Florida and has built so much body awareness and confidence since the last time we were in the Highs; I think it will be a much much more easy step up

So, you know. In two weeks I’ll be back at the barn and will be spending the month of August completely sore as I try to leg back up to 1.10m from 4 months out of training. Very casual. Wish us luck.

I’ll see you all in 11 days when I will officially have my MBA!

Playing DQ

Frankie and I got to do our mock dressage show that I mentioned to you last time! We opted to do USDF First Level Test 3 and the ANRC Novice Flat Program. Our trainer was able to use some poles and cones to get a dressage court set up in our outdoor, she enlisted some barn kids as scribes, and set up camp at C. She has spent time in Germany working at a dressage facility and we spend a lot (A LOT A LOT) of time on our flatwork in her program, so I was excited to get to put things together into some full tests.

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What’s the point of playing DQ if you’re not going to wear white sparkly breeches???

I do want to caveat that I have ridden my horse literally 3-4 times since early March, and each of these times have been short simple rides with very little hard work involved. My practice for these tests involved laying strips of paper on the ground in my empty spare bedroom and prancing around like a madwoman to memorize them. I’m not sure it’s possible to be less prepared that I was for this haha. But when you have a perfect Frankfurter, you go for it.

We kicked off with 1-3. I over-anticipated the first lengthening and we had a little upwards break, and my geometry DEFINITELY needs work. But overall? I felt like it rode great. Frankie stayed very in tune and interested in the work; I think the constant changes of direction/gait really worked to his strengths to keep him focused. I decided to sit the trot through most of it so I could use my seat more effectively and that was definitely the right call for Frankie – he tunes in SO much better when I have that extra aid solidly on. I got my sheet back and was pretty darn happy with my scores!

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In both leg yields I didn’t quite make it to my mark. Frankie has really solid leg yields installed, so I can easily improve those movements by asking for a tad more oomph and watching my markers. I also need to be more careful with my turns: a few times I overshot, and it would work better for us to start our turns a hair sooner and then leg yield out as needed.

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Our halts also need some work, this isn’t an area we’ve spent a lot of time on and I tend to let him rest a leg instead of holding his posture. In all areas of improvement, it comes down to me asking more accurately.

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lol leg

I think with some more attention to my track and some tuneups to make sure we’re getting prompt transitions, we could do pretty darn well! I will admit to you all that we did this in his usual elevator bit, which I know is not even remotely dressage legal. Now that I know that Frankie seemed to really enjoy the challenge of it, I’m determined to continue our search for a snaffle that he’s really happy in.

Our next test was the ANRC flat ride. Both of us had lost a little juice by this point and it lacked some of the zazz we had in the first ride. But I do have video of this one!

And here’s our score sheet:

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The biggest oops here was the counter canter. We picked it up just fine, did great down the long side, and then OUTTA NOWHERE Francis gave me a lead change around the short end. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that we have literally never schooled changes on the flat. He has a solid counter-canter, but to be fair we haven’t schooled it in a while and MAN that dressage court is narrow. I can’t blame him for trying to catch his balance with me flopping around up there. He was NOT HAVING IT.

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mOTHER pls hELP

The other big UGH was the back. Again, my fault since we haven’t schooled this in some time. Some stronger points were our halt after the sitting trot (it was surprisingly square!), our serpentine where Frankie gave me some lovely smooth changes of bend, and our turn on the forehand. Despite our bad geometry at the leg yields in 1-3, he really does have lovely lateral buttons in there and I think that’s a great show-off point for him.

A big thing for me in both tests: I was floppy. The combination of not riding plus quarantine eating has not been kind to my muscle tone. I was sore for two days after this. Because I am WILDLY out of shape. Francis is the type of horse that relies a lot on his rider to help him hold his shape and balance and I certainly was not the most present for him in that regard.

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“If you’re not going to put your leg on and ride properly I will not work over my back those are the rules I don’t make them I just follow them”

But because this would not be a real hellomylivia blog post unless I ended this way: YOU GUYS FRANCIS WAS SO CUTE. He literally did a 1-3 test with zero practice and a supremely weak rider up top, and he did it ADORABLY. The two jumps in the ANRC test were the first two jumps I’ve done in over 2 months. And he packed me over perfectly. He was delightfully responsive, forward, eager to figure it out, and as always a total pleasure to ride. In case you’ve forgotten because I haven’t been posting a lot lately: he is total perfection in horse form and that is just scientific fact.

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peep a perfect angel

My heart definitely lies in the land of colorful sticks, but we had a total blast trying something new!! If I can (1) get myself back in shape so I can hold him together much more strongly and (2) find a snaffle that he wants to soften to, I’d love to take him out to try a dressage show sometime. He doesn’t have the flashiest gaits and I’m certainly not the strongest rider, but I think we could have a blast and do respectably at the lower levels. He thrives on learning new things and keeping it fresh, so who knows! Maybe my failed foxhunter turned lower level eventer turned pro jumper turned adult eq horse will also be my local dressage mount.

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And always always always the most handsome hunk there ever was, no matter what he’s doing.

PC for all photos: K. Borden (as always <3)

Little Sister Time

All of you that are thriving in lockdown, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS. I am going basically insane with such low human contact – my husband is totally rad, and our new neighbors are great to periodically stand 6′ away from, but guys. I am a hugger. I am a talker. I am a people person. Every time my husband goes to work and leaves me home alone I spiral a little further.

Well, he leaves me home *almost* alone. After literally 1 day by myself in the new house, I told him that this was not sustainable and I needed a buddy.

Enter Frankie’s new little sister, Maggie!

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She’s a 3(ish)yo Great Pyrenees that we found through a nearby shelter. The foster had gotten her started on a good track, but poor girl had been on the streets for a while and was extremely emaciated, had ear infections and skin infections and missing hair and kennel cough and all that jazz. But despite the coughing and itching and stress, she has been a sweet good-natured girl since day one.

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A few medicated baths, lots of ear drops, and a LOT of groceries later, she’s looking better and better every day. The hair will take some time to fully come in, but shes gained about 20 pounds and has another 10ish to go before we can go to maintenance mode!

 

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Much like her brother, she is an extreme weirdo. Homegirl falls asleep like this and then snores like a truck.
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But also like her brother, she certainly knows where the camera is and proceeds to smize for it

It’s been fun watching her personality emerge as she’s gotten her energy back. She’s definitely a little goblin that wants to play constantly, but she’s also incredibly sweet and social. The neighbor kids love coming to pet her and despite her size, she’s very gentle with them.

My plan is obviously to turn her into a barn dog so she can come along to shows! Sadly she’s a terrible guard dog – she loves EVERYONE and would guaranteed try to throw a party at our house while we’re gone if she could. We’ve been “practicing” leaving the house by just driving around for a while to get her used to being away from us for longer stretches (I will eventually have to go back to work someday I suppose) but she just curls up and sleeps til we get home.

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Morning walks with her sure ain’t ugly

But of course I have to provide you with a Frankfurter update while we’re at it: he is, as always, an angel. He’s been getting extra pro rides since I’ve cut back on lessons and is looking in great flesh with a lovely summer coat coming in. I’ve gone out a few times after hours during the week to love on him, and have snuck out a few weekend mornings for some quick flat rides. I had planned on staying away entirely, but at a certain point my mental health really needed some Francis time. Taking tons of precautions and being super careful, and it’s made a world of difference in my resilience and overall state of being.

In a stroke of genius way to keep us boarders entertained, my trainer is even hosting a mock dressage/flat test show soon! We’ll have ride times to ensure there aren’t too many people on the property and we’ll be using the outdoor, and I’m excited to try it out! We’re currently planning on doing USDF First Level Test 3 and the ANRC Novice Program Ride for the Flat Phase. I schooled through some of the movements over the weekend from 1-3 (at least as much as I could in a ring full of jumps!) and while the movements themselves feel solid I think the main challenge will be maintaining a steady connection through our transitions.

So my DQ and eventing friends: I’d love any suggestions you have! What should I know before we trot down centerline?

 

Take Me Home

A little sliver of exciting news to share amidst the pandemonium: my wonderful husband and I have bought our first house!

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We actually started the process back at the beginning of February – we weren’t planning on buying yet, but we wanted to start getting a feel for the area and tour some open houses. We ended up seeing this one on a whim and by the time we walked out we were sold. I spent much of my Ocala trip not just working and doing schoolwork, but negotiating a mortgage and getting things set up to make the purchase!

After some last minute hurdles that may have given me five heart attacks, we closed mid-March and moved in over the weekend. It currently looks like several bombs have gone off and scattered our belongings everywhere, but I’m totally in love with our new place.

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The one semi-organized section of the house is my lil baking nook 🙂

Moving during a pandemic has provided a few unique challenges. Our washer and dryer will be delivered to the house, but they are not currently offering in-home installation. So getting those up the stairs and installed is going to take a while (I’m planning on going full Little House on the Prairie and washing stuff in the sink). Internet installation is delayed due to short staff, so I’m working off a hotspot until they can come out (fingers crossed within the next few days). We can’t go to Home Depot to get blinds and we can’t find the right drill bit to install curtain rods, so there’s very little privacy at the moment.

But you know what? Our new neighbors have been incredibly welcoming and I’m already in a group chat with them checking in with each other. The sense of community despite the times is a huge blessing. And we’re finding workarounds for these other snafus.

I’m so excited to keep settling in to our new little slice of almost heaven. If you need me, I’ll be gazing out the window.

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PS because I know you’ll ask 😉 No, Frankie is not moving. One of my main criteria when house hunting was that we stayed within reasonable distance of our current barn where he could remain in excellent care. Especially now when I’m not seeing him, having that confidence in his care and regular updates is a huge weight off my mind.

Ocala 2020: The Beast

Pardon the delay in sharing the rest of my Ocala experience – life has been a bit bonkers lately and the blog has taken a bit of a backseat as I try to sort some things out. All good things that I’m excited to share, just want them a bit more settled first!

But let’s get back to our Southern Sojourn.

I don’t want to dissect every single ride in detail, so I’m going to do what I did in my last post and just kinda share overarching thoughts and patterns that I noticed during our two weeks down there.

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Big pattern: the cutest possible ears to exist on the planet

First off, Frankie felt fit. I already talked about how we carefully and successfully managed his energy throughout our time there, but this only worked because I had a really fit and happy horse. His joints felt good, his muscling felt good, his saddle fit well, and he had the conditioning to hold up to the workload. After literal years of trying to find the right balance for him, this is what I’d consider our greatest success of the past few months – pushing hard enough without overdoing it.

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When we enter the ring and I get this sass face and this prancy trot, I know we’re in for a good time with an energetic horse

On the equitation side of things, we’re getting there. Considering this was only our third (I think?) time tackling the adult medals, we’re making solid progress. My main job is to remember to drop him a bit when he wants to speed up. When I relax my body like that and allow him to soften in turn, he is really a lovely ride that allows me to stay very quiet up top. It’s a very different feel from the jumper ring where I want him fired up and dragging me a bit, so I’m extra proud of him for being able to switch back and forth like that. We ended up having some strong rounds, and even managed a 5th out of 21 for one class with some truly top notch horse and rider pairs in there. There was a definite sense of satisfaction to know how far my Francis has come in his training and to be able to hold our own against those superbly polished pairs.

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I myself could use some polish, but ISN’T HE THE CUTEST REAL LIFE EQ HORSE?!

 

During this whole show, Francis felt SMART. You all know that I rarely use that word when it comes to my lovable Dingus Man. Kind and forgiving, he is. A genius, he is not. He’s been very good at his job in the jumper ring for quite a while, but this is the first show where I felt like I had a truly very intelligent animal under me. This was also the first show that my trainer gave her full blessing to take the riskiest inside-iest turns possible. We used to go for the more conservative inside turns, aiming for efficient and smooth.

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Or we can do casual and cranky honestly either one is fine

This time we aimed for the bonkers turns where you look and say, “there’s no way that can work.” At one point I was going the opposite direction of my next jump, directly next to it. Within 3 strides we had already turned and jumped. We made slices, we cut through the ring, we wasted no strides going around where we could squeeze through instead. And Francis was absolutely brilliant about all of it. He was catty, he was tuned into me every step of the way, he was maneuverable and eager to do it. My job was to not fall off the side when he made those turns. He simply felt downright smart about every single course. (I have videos to share, I just gotta upload them first!)

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His eyes may be closed but his heart is already turning left

Along with the smarts was some really lovely adjustability. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those riders with a naturally perfect eye, but our hard work on quality of canter, adjustability of stride, and judgement to the base has definitely paid off. There were certainly “oops” moments here and there but far fewer than there used to be. I know a bit more about what to ask for, Frankie knows a lot more about how to respond, and it led to some of the best courses we’ve ridden to date. Of the rails we pulled on course I can confidently say that there was only one that was a true omg-I-biffed-it rail. The rest were just unlucky rubs where we weren’t quite careful enough. And as a whole there were fewer rails than there used to be. At some point I need a shirt that says #fastest4faulters because every time we had a rail, we ended up being the fastest time on the clock. We’re putting the pieces together of taking those risks while still going clean and seeing a ton of progress!

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DO YOU SEE THIS ANIMAL AND HOW PERFECT HE IS

As a truly wonderful feather in our cap, Frankie carried me clear and fast in our Classic the second week to an astounding 2nd out of a combined Child/Adult field of 37. We managed to hold the lead until the very last rider, who put down an INCREDIBLE jumpoff and 100% deserved the win. That big red ribbon was the best possible finish to our bootcamp.

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The button braids. The bonnet. the happy ears. All of it.

This whole show felt like a really lovely assembly of so many of the lessons we’ve learned over the years. We set ourselves up for success, we took risks that paid off, we went in the ring trying to win and not just make it around, and the ribbons reflected the ride.

We had the type of consistency I’ve been hoping to accomplish for a while now. At the end of Week 2, my trainer and I even said that we kinda wished I had moved back up to the Highs that week. Frankie clearly was feeling funky fresh and we had the accuracy.

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The height. It did not pose a challenge for him (even with a spider monkey on his back).

So coming off such a successful show we’ve decided to dabble in that division again this season! We’ll do a step up at a smaller nearby show that tends to set a bit soft, and we’ll hit the 1.10-1.15m ring again at Upperville. I honestly did not have plans to step back up this year (or ever, really) and I’m still delightedly surprised at how good my horse is feeling these days. I fully expected to need to slow things down as he moves into his teenage years; he’s always been tough to keep fit. But whatever we’re doing is clearly working well for him so we may as well keep flying!

Much like my trip down to Ocala in 2016, this trip down to Florida turned out to be a game changer. Cheers to my fifth show season with the Frankfurter and cheers to always being amazed by this horse.

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Sweaty, dirty, and full of love always for my perfect boy

Ocala 2020: Managing the Energy

Man, I don’t even know where to start with our trip down to Florida. It was such a long time (felt like it at least), so busy balancing riding, working, homework, and other stuff, and had a ton of stuff that I’d love to share. This is going to be several posts, so I beg your patience as I try to organize my rambling thoughts.

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I need to start an album of pics like this where we both look so magically photogenic

First I’d like to talk about some of the things that we learned/did differently based on what we’ve learned before.

The first is what happened on our first Thursday, which was our first competition day. Frankie had been there and had explored the showgrounds since Monday, but it was definitely much more crowded and busy on Thursday. I got to the warmup ring with a VERY tense horse under me. I couldn’t blame him in the least – there are 17 rings there, many loudspeakers, buzzers, gold carts, mopeds, TONS of activity all around. Lots to look at. I opted to do a short flat warmup and then take a solid 10-15 minutes to simply walk around the warmup ring. That did the trick and after a few big sighs we were able to have a much more focused and productive warmup. That’s something I learned a while ago: Frankie is usually pretty relaxed, but sometimes he just needs a moment to take a breath. After that he was certainly interested in all the activity, but in a curious way and not a WHAT THE HECK IS ALL THIS MA way.

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This is leaving that warmup ring. Ears alert but no longer doing his best Anxiety Llama(TM) impersonation. 

The other is a new learning! A little context: usually we only do one round with Frankie per day. I know that seems like very little for the amount that I pay to show, but with the height and the jumper divisions I’ve found that one round hits the sweet spot for us to keep him feeling fresh and ready. But I had two eq medals both Fridays. Not a big deal when it’s an open card and I can just pop in and out of the ring for multiple rounds in a row. But that becomes difficult when the woman running the gate fed the order sheet to her dog and decided smiling and shrugging was the answer to all questions. That means that all of a sudden we have a dreaded gap between our rounds.

So we ended up sitting there for 10, 15 minutes waiting for our next turn in the ring. And it was dinner time. So by the time I finally go back in the ring, Francis is D O N E with all of this GARBAGE it’s time to EAT why am I even HERE. I asked for a bit more pace, he said “NOPE SLOWIN WAY DOWN.” I asked him to steady back a bit, he said “NAH GOTTA GO FAST.” We missed A WHOLE ENTIRE LEAD CHANGE. FOR NO REASON. It was the biggest pettiest little temper tantrum that my angel boy has ever pulled, and it was hysterical. I’ll be the first to say that mistakes on course are pretty much always caused by me, but this was certifiably just Frankie giving a hard NOPE to doing a second round. Bless his heart, his little rebellions are too funny.

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99% sure he knows when I’m mocking him and makes grouchy faces just to play along

So the following week when we knew we’d have a small break in between classes, here’s what I did: I hopped off, loosened his girth, hand-walked him in circles to keep him entertained, played with him a bit, then hopped on and did a quick WTC to tune him back in directly before heading into the ring. Worked like a charm and I had a soft happy horse under me for both rounds.

Frankie was also able to go play in the paddock almost every day, often with his buddy Vinnie. It’s certainly not as big as he’s used to, but it very noticeably helped keep him feeling fresh. I do think getting to go out with Vinnie helped too; Francis is such a social animal and thrives when he gets to hang out with buddies.

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WOW SHOW LIFE IS SO STRESSFUL FOR THESE GUYS THEY REALLY SEEM TO HATE THIS

Between regular turnout, ice boots after every round, a massage between the two weeks, and very judicious jumping, we had a fresh and happy horse all the way through. Managing his energy levels has always been tough for us to ensure that he doesn’t hit Sunday totally exhausted and honestly I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found what works. He works very hard for me so it feels good to be able to support that better!

I think I’ll leave it off here for now, and save talking about the rides themselves for the next post. In case you’re new here, spoiler alert: Francisco was beyond incredible and blew my expectations out of the water with every single round.

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I’m honestly just along for the ride

Sunshine and Rainbows

I’m back north and back on reliable wifi after our little Florida vacation!!!

I have tons and tons to share with you about our two weeks down in the sun and am working on several big posts, but for now I wanted to share a few pictures of our trip.

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Going in for our first round the first week on my v v spicy pony. As always, entering the ring grinning like a fool because of how much fun I have with the Frankfurter. PC – K. Borden
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And leaving the ring after our last round the second week, happily accepting all forms of love and appreciation as his due. PC – K. Borden
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Having to stand to wear his ice boots was TORTURE how could I just LEAVE HIM THERE it was so BORING and TERRIBLE
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He had a bear of a time spitting out all those shavings when we woke him up to go work.
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Shmancy equitation pony being a total angel boy!!!
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Both of us were very happy to have some sunshine.

I can’t wait to tell you more about the show – it far exceeded my expectations, my horse was even more incredible than I could have hoped for, and I’m going to be riding this high for a while.

Final Ocala Prep

We’re in the final stretches of prepping for Ocala!!!!

To get Frankie super ready to go, we’ve been amping up the duration and intensity of both my rides and his training rides. I continue to be the world’s biggest fan of training rides – they remind him how to be shmancy and he is just a delight to ride when he’s all tuned up like that. We spent so long encouraging and teaching him how to use those muscles and I’m still giddy about how much more educated he is now. I never want to hop off these days.

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We haven’t trained either of us how to take nice pictures but that’s ok we’re good at other things

We also went ahead got a bulk order of Ulcergard for the ponies. My friend found a great price and we all jumped on it. Frankie will get a heavier dose for his travel days and then smaller amounts every day that he’s there. I hate how expensive this stuff is but you know what’s even more expensive? Treating ulcers. I’ll happily spend a little on the front end to keep his tummy feeling good.

Our chiro/acupuncture guy came out this week, so Francis got himself an adjustment. I opted not to do the acupuncture this time since I didn’t really see noticeable results the last few times, but he does seem to really enjoy his chiro. Anything to help him feel his best down there! My husband was recently musing that he never expected to be in a serious conversation about the pros vs cons of equine acupuncture, but here he is. It also turns out that our favorite braider will be down south, and she’s also the person that does Frankie’s massages. So he’ll get a nice refresh between weeks 1 and 2!

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PLZ I NEED ALL THE ATTENTION IN THE WORLD OR I WILL DIE

I was originally hoping to stock up on some show clothes before heading down (despite my obsession with pretty things, I really don’t end up actually purchasing clothes all that often) but ended up deciding to save my pennies. Of course as soon as I said that, a good friend ended up selling me a bunch of breeches for a ridiculously fantastic price, including 2 pairs that are show ready. Between those and the laundry facilities at the hotel I should be able to clean up as often as needed. I already mentioned that I’m hoping for a buffer in my budget to allow at least a little shopping while there.

There’s something else exciting potentially in the works for while I’m down there, but I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. I promise to share once things are finalized! (And before you ask, no I will not be buying/leasing another horse, I really like spending my money on my own darling spoiled boy).

I’m also actually getting excited for the drive down! My mom decided to fly in to the closest airport and we’re splitting the drive into a couple days before she flies back home from Jacksonville. So I’ll get to Ocala Wednesday afternoon, not completely hating my life and having had a super awesome roadtrip with my momma.

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She is so small, and yet, so powerful

I have a pretty solid packing list and a final few things to do before heading down. I’ve got my cooler for his ice boots, my wifi hotspot device, a few other random things I’m trying to remember. My spring term for school starts the Monday that I hit the road so it’s going to be a balancing act fitting work, school, and ponies into my days. I wouldn’t have it any other way.