October 10 Questions: Blog Hop

Thank you Liz for the awesome blog content! I’m loving the ode to all things fall- the best time of the year.

Most equestrians quote fall as their favorite season to ride. Are you one of those that does? Or maybe not; what is your favorite season to ride, if so?

Yes! So much yes! October in Virginia is my idea of paradise. Low humidity, beautiful breezes, cool but not freezing, and lovely views out over the neighborhood. The horses all start getting their dark winter coats and there’s enough crispness in the air to give them an extra pep in their step. Spring is nice too, but the pollen gets absolutely everywhere, and out of loyalty to Manfriend and his awful allergies I hate spring in a show of solidarity. Summer is too hot and humid and winter is the actual worst. Fall all the way forever.

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Beautiful views from the barn!

Do you clip your horse in the fall? Or maybe you wait a little longer? 

Ugh. Yes. Francis got super fuzzy super early this season, and the nights are starting to cool down while the days still get up into the high 70s. I’d consider his workload moderately heavy at the moment, so clipping him has helped keep him comfortable as I ask him to sweat.

Have any costume riding events in October on/near/around Halloween? What will your horse be dressed as? What about yourself? What would you dress as if money/time were absolutely no issue?

We have an in-house show coming up that I’m angling to do a costume class for! Though I will admit that I haven’t put any thought into what Frankie would be. If money/time was no object, I would love to either turn him into the Millennium Falcon so I could be Han Solo, or turn him into the USS Enterprise so I could be Captain James T. Kirk. I have a thing for scrappy belligerent space captains, clearly (so another option could be to turn him into Serenity and I could be Mal…).

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Last year’s Tour de Francis costume

Is your horse afraid of any autumn colors? Or maybe has a certain quirk that appears only in the autumn?

Hahahaha no. Frankie has not yet found something that he’s afraid of. And “quirks” are not really a thing that he does. I swear, he and Manfriend are tied for first place in the Most Emotionally Stable Creature Award. Which is a fantastic thing because I am a roller coaster of a human being.

Pumpkin spice. It’s everywhere right now. Find any natural pumpkin [squash] spice-esque recipes for your horse? 

I am the meanest ever no-treat mom. Tons and tons of pats and scratches and praise, but no treats for the big guy.

We’re getting to the end of the calendar year, any final few “big-bang” shows to look forward to?

Zone Finals! We have two classes on Saturday (the WIHS qualifier) and two classes on Sunday (actual Zone 3 Finals). I am super super excited for both days. We’ll get to see some of the friends we made at Team finals and I like how the schedule works- two classes a day is our sweet spot, and only two days in a row means I’ll still have a nice fresh horse on Sunday. They also build up the heights for each class which is a nice progression: 1.05-1.10m and 1.10-1.15m on day one, then 1.15m on day two. While we haven’t prepared for this as rigorously as we did for Team finals in August, I think a little mental refresher was great for both of us. Frankie feels fit, is going great, and I’m beyond excited to end our season with a bang!

Winter is coming. What are you doing to winterize your trailer/rig/car?

No trailer, so nothing on that front! And my car is a 4WD Jeep, so I don’t do anything differently with it in the winter. I do know that I’ll need a new car sooner rather than later, but I’m hoping my trusty vehicle will last through one more winter before I have to bite that expensive bullet.

Do you have any autumn traditions you/your horse follow?

More trail rides on the weekends! It’s just too hot to enjoy this in the summer. Even if I’ve already put in a good workout, I like to go for a walk around the neighborhood to cool out- as long as sunlight allows.

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Sometimes we go for walks together too

October in many places marks the beginning of deer hunting season. Does this affect your riding at all? Do you wear blaze orange or modify your schedule to accommodate the season?

Our barn is in a residential neighborhood, so I don’t worry about this too much. I do hear more gunshots (this is Virginia, after all) but never nearby. I also usually take my trail rides in the early afternoons on the weekends, which is not prime hunting hours.

What are you most looking forward to goal-wise as the final months of the calendar year approach?

Oh boy. I don’t even know- there’s a few things in the works that would be AWESOME if they happened, but I don’t want to jinx it by getting ahead of myself. At the end of the day, I’m just psyched to keep having fun with my favorite horse on the planet, building our fitness, and honing our skills. We’ll be picking right back up in February to kick off our new season!

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Barrel Jumpers, Not Barrel Racers

It’s a double post day! Curse my poor planning. But I had such a great lesson, I just want to share it with y’all before the memories fade.

You may have noticed that it’s been a relatively quiet few weeks at the barn. After the pressure of preparing for team finals, we have taken a noticeable step back from our training.

I think that’s been more mental than anything else- I’m still lessoning every week, Francis is still getting at least one training ride every week, we went to a show and XC schooling and we’ve still been working hard.

But we also have not schooled any height since finals and my “homework” rides have been more about enjoying my pony than anything else. This week’s lesson was the first time that we played with tighter turns/combos/bigger fences since we went in for our last round at Culpeper.

And I think that taking a deep breath to relax was exactly what the doctor ordered. Our canter work felt balanced and adjustable, Frankie jumped out of his skin, he carried me forward through the combo, and felt really fresh the entire time (not like, sassy fresh, just energetic in a good way. Because Francis.) I didn’t have to find a spot to the jumps- we had such a great canter and so much adjustability that the spots came up to us. Funny how having the right canter makes everything better, right?

While warming up we did have a moment that warranted some strong correction: Frankie likes to dive left. Even if we’re on a nice straight track to the jump, he will throw himself left over the jump and then immediately fade left upon landing. If I let him. This time I booted him HARD with my spur off the left side as we were warming up, and lo and behold: my horse jumped a straight line. Correcting that firmly early on in our ride made him pay attention the rest of the time. And when we do that, we land our leads/get our changes!

We warmed up with a couple basic exercises, then Trainer jacked the jumps up and gave me this course:

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The first “jump” was just one of the brick walls we use as fill, without standards. Frankie was pretty sure that going around was the right answer, so I had to really over-ride this and get him balled up between my leg and hand. I sense more wingless jumps in our future.

Then it was down the single outside- this rode up wonderfully every time, since Frankie was carrying a lovely pace to flow up out of the corner. The short rollback to 3 was tough- I needed to get my left leg on HARD and then straighten with my left rein to get that to work.

Then the bending out over 4 was either a bent 5 stride, or a more direct galloping 4. The first time through I held for 5 and didn’t love it, so the next time I booted up for the 4 and LOVED IT SO MUCH OMG WE HAD FIRE IN OUR STEP.

Then it was down the faux coop- Trainer stacked some cavallettis and put some plywood sheets on them. My job upon landing was to control that left shoulder so that we actually had some straightness to ask for a change.

Then it was up the one-stride and I was honestly thrilled with that. I’ve mentioned before that Frankie tends to back off in combos and needs a ton of support from yours truly. But homeboy must’ve been feeling like a fancypants rockstar, because he galloped right up and carried me through like an absolute professional- even though the oxer out was a big lofty swedish.

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That one in the background. Frankie jump big!

Now for the fun part: it was a bending four strides from the green box down to the barrels. My trainer is a generally nice person, so these barrels were on their sides, with the fake bamboo acting as wings. But she hates me likes to challenge me, so she stood them up and said AIM STRAIGHT.

So I landed off the green fuzzy, locked on…and Francis did a drive by. I’ll be honest, it took us a couple tries to eventually make it over.

But I don’t really count this as a refusal. I genuinely think that Frankie did not realize that he was supposed to jump it. He wasn’t peeking hard or spooking or anything like that, he’s just always gone around the barrels in the ring instead of over. Once we made it over once (with the help of some guide poles), we had zero problem locking on and jumping it like a pro- even after we took the guide poles away. He’s not the fastest thinker in the world, but he is very willing once he understands the game.

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We started trying to get his ears up for the pictures, but AT said “this face is more true to his mood right now.” Poor, long suffering Francis.

Takeaways: we need to practice more wingless skinnies to test our steering! I need to be more active in telling him “yes this is a jump” and he needs to be paying attention enough to say “yes ma’am.”

Another takeaway is to let go and let my horse do his job. He’s so much more educated now and I can trust that education instead of needing to micromanage every step. We are going to be trying some new bits to take advantage of his buttons- remember I mentioned that I didn’t love the slow twist for shows? We’ve got some ideas to play around with so I’ll let you know what we end up using.

I do really wish we had gotten some video from this lesson. Not only did Frankie go SO well, but I had shortened my stirrups a hole. It was a revelation. Everything was better. All of a sudden, a whole bunch of bad habits went away. Like. Guys. The skies opened up and the angels sang. I would love to get a visual to see if it made as much of a difference as it felt like. If nothing else, I felt tons more secure in the tack so it’s for sure a win.

I’d also like to take some official confo shots of Francis soon, maybe this weekend. He got his first clip of the season and honestly AT did such a stupendous job that I want to capture it on camera. He looks like a stud. I also want to do a comparison- we’ve worked so hard on building muscle and developing him, I want to see if there’s a visible difference from last year. I also just want a million pictures of my horse, so sue me.

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His Coggins pic from the day we vetted him, March 2016. I def see a big difference in the shape of his body.

Your turn to share! What are some of the stranger looking jumps you’ve done lately?

Mental Health 2: Electric Boogaloo

As the days get shorter, I want to talk to you once more about something I feel very passionately about: mental health!

While October is for sure my favorite month of the year (Pumpkins! Pretty leaves! Drizzly gray days! Not feeling sweat dripping down my back when I do literally anything!), I head into the winter every year with the same attitude as I approach a root canal: let me get to the other side in one piece, and then I can actually return to the land of the living.

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Just wrap me in several sweaters and stick me in storage til April kthanksbye

Advice that historically has not helped me cope with Satan’s Season:

  • “Oh, you’ll grow out of it someday.” STILL WAITING
  • “Try smiling more!” YES LET ME FAKE SOME MORE EMOTIONS, SEEMS HEALTHY
  • “Just remember that it’s all in your head.” tHaT iS lItTeRaLlY tHe EnTiRe PrObLeM

However, over the years I have managed to find a few things that make a truly noticeable difference in my ability to navigate the uncaring ocean of my brain chemistry from November through March:

  • Drinking too much water. Staying hydrated gives me so much more energy, keeps me more mentally focused, helps stave off headaches, clears my skin, and keeps me moving. You know, because of all the bathroom breaks. Seriously though- I can’t emphasize enough how much of an effect this has on every aspect of my life.
  • Making my bed every morning. This creates a definite separation for me from bed time to awake time. Literally as soon as I’ve gotten out of bed, I’ve accomplished something! Sometimes that’s the momentum I need to start my day. And then when I get home in the evening I feel like I’m coming home to a neat, clean room. Even if the bed is the only neat and clean thing about it.
  • Cutting out caffeine. I know, this sounds like sacrilege to you coffee-addicts out there. But I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker, even in the summer! My sleep schedule definitely gets more sensitive when the days get shorter so I tend to cut out caffeine all together. I stick with herbal teas or cocoa when I’m craving a warm drink, but my best friend is my Nalgene filled with- you guessed it- water. Otherwise I end up staying awake for 3 days in a row and I wish I was exaggerating.
  • Staying active. That physical momentum is so helpful. And I like the way my body feels when I’m fit- I look pretty much the same all the time, but I can definitely feel the difference when my fitness starts slipping. I even invested in some stupid expensive equipment to make exercising fun, and his name is Francis.
  • Buying a horse. For realz, Frankie has been the biggest bro in the world. He gives me a huge reason to stay active- he thrives on exercise, we need to stay in shape to keep progressing, etc. He also gives good structure to my days- I can’t just go home and shlump into bed. I gotsta get dem endorphins going. And I can’t leave out the fact that he’s just the sweetest creature on the planet. He doesn’t care that there might be a few crossed wires upstairs, he just thinks it’s neat that I scratch his ears and take him on adventures. He is a never-ending source of quiet affection. Also owning a horse means I’m too distracted by stress about money to remember that I’m depressed!
  • Giving myself days off. Between work, the barn, going home to see family, celebrating birthdays, going out for happy hour, and other social events, sometimes it feels like I have something on the calendar every single day. And while I genuinely like people, I NEED my alone time to rejuvenate and re-energize. So sometimes I’ll pencil in a day to just lay around in my pajamas, watch Netflix, drink tea, and be a lazy garbage person. These garbage person days make me less of a garbage person on the other days. It’s a delicate garbage balance.

I’ve also built in a bunch of fun things to look forward to this winter: I’m visiting family and bringing Manfriend, we’re taking a trip to Florida with my roomie and her manfriend, I’ll be taking time to go compete at WEC with the Frankenator, all sorts of things like that.

So while I’m already looking forward to the warm spring breezes that bring allergens to make Manfriend sneeze real cute, I feel good about the robust preparation I’m putting into making this winter an enjoyable season instead of just a survivable one. I know there will still be ups and downs, and I’ve got the warm fuzzies thinking about the absolutely stellar support system I have- both two-legged and four-legged.

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My attraction to tall, strong, gorgeous, emotionally stable males is extremely helpful

For all of you: I would love to be part of your support system. As mentioned, I genuinely like people (weird, I know) and I like crazy people the best. I have no answers to big questions and give pretty crappy advice (usually I just tell you to hydrate more), but I’d love to chat at any time. Unless I’m sleeping. Hit me up but not before 7am or after 10pm thanks.

Cheers to a fantastic season of fun adventures and progress in all of our personal and professional endeavors!

It Don’t Come Easy

I absolutely love hearing nice things about my horse- and I know I’m not alone in that. Whenever anyone says anything remotely complimentary about Frankie, I automatically think they’re a good person with fantastic taste in horseflesh. And I’m also the type of person to take things in the spirit that they’re meant. I don’t really read into things and tend to assume good intentions.

So recently when someone complimented Frankie, I was very pleased, and then it made me think a little harder. To paraphrase, what they said was: “Frankie is such a good boy, it’s so cool to see how far he’s come! You’re so lucky that he’s progressed so easily!”

First of all, yes he is such a good boy and has come so far! We’re all so proud of him, it’s so gratifying that other people notice it too! And yes, I am so so so lucky is so many ways, including with Frankie. I was very grateful to receive such a sweet compliment.

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Sweet Jesus he has come so far

But I’d like to clarify: I wouldn’t call it easy.

Fun, engaging, rewarding, exciting: yes.

Easy: no.

You’ve heard my phrase: bringing Frankie along has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Minus the blood and tears.

Notice that we kept in the sweat.

It’s been a LOT of sweat. Not just from myself, but from my trainers (let’s be honest, probably MORE from my trainers). They have very thoughtfully and carefully put together a program that has taught Frankie the right answers to our questions, while building the fitness to safely answer them.

It’s been a lot of lessons, a lot of homework rides, a lot of training rides BEFORE we actually need them so he doesn’t have a chance to dull any skills. It’s been many many dedicated hours from a whole cast of people.

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Including taking him in the show ring to teach him some skillz

We’ve always had good material to work with: Frankie may have been inexperienced in some ways when we got him, but he’s always been trained as a sporthorse and was plenty broke. He’s athletic, sane, and a very hard worker. He’s responded to this consistent training so incredibly well and is a pleasure to work with.

But let’s be honest, I have frustrating moments during my rides on the regular. Despite being a Very Good Boy, Francis is not a sensitive character. This is a good thing in so many ways, but it also means that it can be tough to get his attention. Little cues don’t really register with him. They need to be a bit louder. So escalating my cues to the volume he needs in order to recognize what I’m asking can be a bit of a process. We’ve definitely had rides where I felt incompetent and downright annoyed by the end, but we chip away at building those skills and eventually we add them to the toolbox.

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Not trot jumps though. Or straightness. Those are not in the toolbox.

I consider myself beyond fortunate to have a horse that responds so well to the training that we’re putting into him- but that training is still a lot of work, and I’m really proud of that work.

At the same time, I’m weirdly glad that it looks easy from the outside. It’s kinda an affirmation that we’re introducing new skills and upping the difficulty for Frankie at a very manageable pace- we have never over-faced him with something he could not do. If it looks easy, it means the countless hours where it’s NOT easy are paying off.

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Natural talent: world champion snuggler

So at the end of the day, I’m still extremely gratified by that compliment. Even though it’s a little inaccurate, it was said with kindness and really- anyone who loves Frankie is OK in my book.

Frankie Plays Outside

We got out for a XC school this past weekend! I’ve been looking forward to this literally since the day I brought Francis home and spoiler alert: it turned out to be just as super fun as I expected it to be.

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Perfect sized group at a variety of levels! We all had so much fun, and all of the horses were really well behaved.

Sadly I have next to no media of the outing since our only ground crew was my trainer (who was busy actually watching us ride) and her 2nd grader (who is enthusiastic but easily distracted). So you’ll just have to take my word for it: Francis was perfect.

He bopped over everything with no urging on the first try every time- down banks, double up banks, water, logs, brush, benches, all of it. When some of the other horses got a little balky at the stacked logs going downhill, or the down bank into the water, or the log in the treeline- Frankie forged ahead as a lead for them. When I slipped my reins going down a bank, I didn’t worry about getting them back too quickly because Francis was happy as a clam to keep jumping anything in front of him.

I’m too much of a weenie to try anything too hard and this was a purely just-for-fun outing, so we stuck to mostly the teeny tiny jumps. I have no doubt Frankie could’ve done way more- maybe next time we’ll tackle some of the bigger combos!

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Ignore the shirtless teens- the local high school XC running team was using the course as well. Frankie kept an eye on them for us, good guard horse.

He was brave and relaxed and happy the entire time, which meant that I was brave and relaxed and happy the entire time. I had bitted up a little to a slow-twist snaffle, but I really don’t think that was necessary. We would’ve been fine in the plain snaffle- after a few “sassy” head tosses during our warmup, he settled right down into his normal chill self.

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I’m still trying to figure out banks, don’t judge me.

My only real regret from this outing was that we didn’t capture more on camera so I can relive the fun and share with you all. It was the best feeling in the world to have so much trust in Frankie and enjoy him being an absolute pro out there.

Blue ribbon eq horse last week, XC superstar this week, and we’re heading to Zone 3 finals for the 1.15m High Jumpers at the end of the month. I’m thinking we really need to fit in a dressage lesson soon so we can cross another discipline off our list! I’d honestly really love to try a low-level (VERY low-level) HT with Francis at some point- in the spirit of Doing All The Things with him.

 

Maybe someday we’ll find something he’s bad at or we won’t have fun trying a new thing together. But I doubt it. 18 months in and I’m still just as obsessed with this horse as the day I brought him home- more so, even. Best pony ever!

The Rollercoaster Show

Alternate title: How Stupid of an Injury Can You Get?

I’ll allay your fears off the bat: no one has any lasting damage, and nothing was even remotely related to Francis. Homeboy was uninvolved in my tomfoolery and continues to be his awesome amazing wonderful self.

This was probably the most relaxed show I’ve done in a long time. The numbers were EXTREMELY low so the showgrounds were crazy quiet, we weren’t trying to qualify or get points or anything, and it seemed super low key.

Friday was just a schooling day for us- we went in to do a ticketed warmup in one of the rings to try and find our eq pace. Which was hard. My trainer kept telling us to slow down, even when it felt like I was going backwards! I needed to get us into a nice rhythm and then leave my horse alone, instead of letting my electric seat take over and build a gallop. No gallop needed. But overall it was a great schooling session where we got to jump some fill (which we haven’t done in a good long time) and get my eye adjusted to the different pace. When we got the right pace, Frankie was able to jump up nice and square every single time.

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How is my horse so handsome all the time? How?

 

Saturday was our first eq day! Due to ring changes and schedule shifts, our very first class was a 3′ Eq Classic in the GP. On the one hand, a nice familiar ring with jumper-style jumps to ease us in. On the other hand, Frankie definitely knows that this ring means zoomies. It was an…interesting round. I came out of the ring and yelled DOUBLE CLEAR to my trainer, which is apparently not what we are supposed to go for in the eq. It was an odd combination of zooming around, yet not really making the striding anywhere. I think for me, it was tough to adjust my eye to the smaller jumps. Overall though Frankie was obedient and wanted to please (as always) and we ended up getting a nice big pretty yellow ribbon for our efforts.

Then we had two trips for the 18-35 Adult Eq division in the big Hunter 1 ring. We hadn’t gotten to school in there and I’ve never shown in there before, so I was excited to give it a try! The courses themselves were a little disappointing- they were the exact same as the hunter rounds, so no opportunity to show off any handiness. The most “exciting” it got was a two-stride across the diagonal.

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Literally no effort went into the eq courses

I was really really happy with Frankie in both trips. Neither trip was beautifully polished, and definitely had a lot of room for improvement, but Frankie was thinking hard and trying to figure out what I was asking. We’ve spent so long telling him that the show ring means GOING NOW MUST RUN and this time I was telling him the opposite. He definitely thought he was supposed to turn and burn around some of those corners and kept checking with me to make sure he was doing the right thing. My big thing to remember was softening at him- when I dropped him a little bit, he responded by relaxing and coming back to a more appropriate pace.

I could also feel him jumping SUPER cute- I didn’t end up buying it, but the photographer got a really adorable one of him over one of the oxers. I know he doesn’t actually need to try at 3′, so I’m proud of him for still putting in some effort! He makes my job so much easier when he jumps like that. His motion is so much easier to follow, the timing is much easier to allow to happen naturally, overall I feel like I’m able to show off my eq a little bit more.

Despite the little bobbles for us to work on, we took first in both classes! Full disclosure: we were the only entry in the second class. I told you the numbers were crazy low. But there were four entries in the first class! I may or may not have hugged the announcer when he told me (I really should stop hugging strangers at horse shows).

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We’ve got the blues!

I couldn’t be prouder of Frankie for going into a new ring, in a new discipline, with new jumps and new courses, and trusting me enough to listen and think so hard. He always has so much try and this was no different- I could really feel him trying to figure out what I wanted. He got lots of pats and scratches as I took out his braids.

Sunday dawned cool and breezy as I loaded my gear into the car for our final day of showing. And stick with me folks, because this is where I get dumb.

A little context: I have a Jeep Liberty. And the trunk of the Liberty opens in two pieces, as such:

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In this picture, the car is nice and clean and not a decrepit old trash heap like mine is. So the top part opens all the way automatically. But in my decrepit old trash heap, it does not actually open all the way. It opens to about forehead height.

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My professional reenactment diagram

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

While swinging my gear into the car, I smashed my head into the glass so. Dang. Hard.

I made it about 45 minutes before the pressure-headache-feels-like-a-hangover-slight-dizziness set in. I chugged water, took some Advil, and waited for it to subside. And it didn’t.

And that is the story of how I slammed my head into my car so hard that I ended up scratching my classes and having my boyfriend and his brother drive 90 minutes to come pick me up and drive me home.

OMG.

Was I being overcautious? Probably. I’m pretty sure I could’ve made it around another couple trips- especially with such a trustworthy steed. But I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to any sort of head injury, no matter how IDIOTICALLY they may have occurred. Part of me is saying that I was being way overly unnecessarily careful about the whole thing, and the other part of me is saying that I made the right call by scratching. Ugh.

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MAHM WUT R U DOIN Y R U SWAYING

Further earning his Sweetest Horse Ever award, Frankie stood calmly with his head down so I could take his braids out without using the step ladder. I swear he always seems to know when I’m feeling unsteady and is extra careful with me at those times. Such a total lovebug.

The dizziness wore off within a few hours and I’m now just nursing a bit of a headache and some wounded pride. If nothing else, it makes a pretty funny story (especially when I act out the field neuro exam Manfriend gave me upon my father’s instructions). Luckily Manfriend had a sense of humor about the whole thing and reassured me that next time I should just ask him to come to the show, there’s no need to bash my head in to convince him. Har har har.

I guess I was overdue for a klutzy moment.

Please make me feel better and share your most ridiculous injuries that kept you from riding/showing. I can’t be alone in this!

How to be a Better Horse-Show-Boyfriend

From my favorite horse-show boyfriend himself, here’s Manfriend’s instructions on how to survive as someone who loves a girl who loves horse shows:

Alright gents.

If you’re reading this, there’s a fairly decent chance that you’ve been to a horse show. If you’re reading this and you haven’t been to a horse show, then: A. Why are you here? and B. You’re a terrible horse-girl significant other and she’s probably mad at you.

Being a horse show boyfriend/husband is unlike watching any other sport because quite frankly, there’s not a lot of spectating going on. It’s a relay race of hauling, holding, schlepping, reacting, and then maybe a little bit of watching. Being around your woman while she’s competing means that for the next several hours, the horse is the center of her universe and you are essentially Pluto. You have to be barely seen, not heard, but if she needs a planet then it’s handy that you’re there.

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I was actually there for this show, I just wasn’t allowed close enough to show up in any pictures

Now, before I’m made out to be a hater who dreads going to shows, you must know that watching Olivia compete, win, and win some more is an absolute joy for me. Frankie is an awesome horse and equestrian sports (once you learn how it all works) are a blast to watch. Having said that, I felt compelled to post my “Crack Commandments” as it were so my other dudes in the game can survive and thrive as well.

Here’s a man’s guide to surviving a horse show.

  1. Embrace the smells. I think there is something wrong with Olivia’s olfactory receptors. She seems to think that horse manure, hay, urine and general barn smells are like a Yankee Candle burning softly in a cinnamon factory. This is the same woman who will get in my car and gag at the Febreze air freshener. Barn smells aren’t something I’ve gotten used to and probably won’t for a long time, but it’s something you’re just going to have to suck up- figuratively and literally.
  2. Become “The Invisible Mule.” After your lady has walked her course, she is in the zone. She is Eminem before facing off with Poppa Doc at the end of 8 Mile. She will need things like water handed to her, someone to hold the reins while she takes care of something, or someone she can hand her phone off to when it’s go-time. If you’re one of those guys who rocks flip flops and those Chubbies shorts, you’re gonna have a bad time. You’ll need something with ample pocket space to hold water, gloves, her crop, etc.- a hoodie at the bare minimum. You will have to be silent and unseen until your services are needed. Also, you’re going to be walking alongside her while she’s mounted quite a bit, so flip flops are a bad idea. Actually, no man should ever wear flip flops in public for any reason so write that down.
  3. Learn to be a cell phone camera expert. Unless you’re a step ahead of me and you have a nice camera, learn how to film a round. You need to get good at keeping the horse in frame and zooming in and out as you go (without making it a shaky Cloverfield J.J. Abrams-esque mess). Olivia has this blog in which she posts her video/picture content, but trust me, your horse lady would love to (and should) watch her rounds to review her technique. Not only does it help her progress, but it also equals mad likes on Instagram. And as we all know, if you can’t post it on Instagram then what’s the point? Does it even count?
  4. Bring water. Seriously. Half of you people are dehydrated throughout the entire day. This has a bit to do with horse shows and being outside and everything to do with not being a moron and wondering why you have a headache around 1:30PM. Sure, it may not look that cool to be having to make a bathroom stop more often, but it’s even lamer to be a grown man who passed out because you forgot to drink a beverage that keeps you alive.
  5. Learn the sport. As cool as it is to watch your girlfriend/wife pilot around a 1 ton beast that has a mind of its own; it’s MUCH more fun when you actually know what’s going on. Imagine going to a hockey game for the first time and wondering why all the figure skaters with shoulder pads are hitting each other. That’s what watching the jumpers without knowing the scoring system or rules is like. Once I learned what I was watching, I found myself muttering “sh*t yea” a lot more when I watched Olivia nail the last fence. Also, if you’re like me and curse like a 14-year-old on Call of Duty when mom’s not home, watch your language. There are lots of kids at these things, I’ve probably gotten stared at.

Hopefully by now you’ve learned a few things from a guy who has committed nearly every faux pas in the horse show universe and learned from it. Have fun at these things- they’re seriously a great time if you like competitive spirit and watching your loved one be better than other people.

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After all, in the words of Coach Reilly from the first Mighty Ducks: “it’s not worth playing if you can’t win-WIN!”

Guest Post: Horseshowing, Bravo Edition

Many of you likely remember Holly of HeyHeyHolls fame, and I have good news for you. She’s back! I managed to coerce her into a visit to me and Frankie (I bribed her with wine and pony rides, it worked like a charm), and then managed to coerce her into a guest post. Y’all should absolutely go add her new site Marescara to your feed as she forays into eventing with her new lease.

Without further ado, I present: horse shows, as told by toddlers in tiaras and a couple of real housewives.

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Stemming from a running conversation Olivia and I have been having, I decided it was more than time to just turn this into a post. Consequently, I present to you…

When I have to put my horse on a diet because he keeps taking his grazing muzzle off

I guess I’ll go braid and clip my fat horse for this show

Getting ready to show and realizing I have no idea what I’m doing

The real reason I horse show

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So I try to ask for nice dressage work during our test and instead I get

After dressage, I go to get my horse out of his stall and instead, he’s laying down

But then my horse realizes it’s time to go run cross-country

I ask for a distance and my horse blatantly ignores me

My trainer and barnmates watching my rounds

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If you cut me off in the warm up and don’t apologize

First jump, check. Second jump is… where?

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My trainer when I pick and pull and fidget to the base, AGAIN

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My horse when I pick and pull and fidget to the base, AGAIN

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Come out of the ring and didn’t fall off or go off course!

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And just because I think this is hysterical, here’s Holly making Frankie look like a giant. Or maybe Frankie just makes Holly look like a child. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way:

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Good Francis

Make sure you chime in to Marescara for more fun posts from Holly!

Best Laid Plans

So. Um. I know I told you all that we were just doing the eq this weekend, some XC schooling next weekend, and maybe a pleasure division at a local show in October to wrap up our season.

But then this happened.

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So we’re gonna go do that instead.

100% sure that I’m only invited because people that actually qualified decided not to go, but WHATEVER WE’RE GOING TO ZONES!!!! This was not even remotely on my radar as a possibility this year. Like, at all. Which of course also means that I did not budget for this and will have to get creative with how to pay for it. I only need one kidney, right? RIGHT??

Man, you guys. You know I get so sappy about Francis, but can you blame me? He’s helping me achieve all these dreams I could’ve never imagined. It’s our first year in the division, we just had our true move up in April, I was doing the 0.80m/0.90m only a little over a year ago. And now he’s taking me to Zones for the Highs.

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He really is the horse of a lifetime.

Eq Lesson Recap

Alternate title: “Olivia, you’re not being timed right now.”

Francis and I were able to fit in an extra lesson this weekend to sharpen up some things, and I was super happy with the Beast. I mean, I’m always super happy with the Beast, but it’s really fun getting to push our comfort zone and work on some different stuff together.

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Unrelated but I’ve got some tall beefy men in my life and Manfriend is delightfully tolerant of the fact that I’m constantly staring at the horse.

Our flatwork involved a major focus on straightness, and riding off the rail to test that straightness. Francis has thoroughly figured out the leg-yield-to-the-rail game and we wanted to get him ACTUALLY listening to my cues instead of assuming he knew what was happening.

We also know that between him and me, our left turns are crap. I don’t know if I’m so lopsided that I’ve made him lopsided, if he was one-sided before and made me more one-sided, or if both of us were lopsided to start and we’ve just fed on each other. Whether the chicken or the egg came first, the fact remains that we are not ambiturners. We worked on a lot of serpentines with the intent to keep our turns smooth and consistent. No making angry faces and speeding up through the left turns because stepping under is hard.

We put some work in on our counter-canter as well, which I really enjoy working on with Frankie. I have to help him get those haunches out of the way around the turns, but he’s got good balance and it doesn’t feel too difficult for him. I’m pretty sure it’s just because he doesn’t care about being on the wrong lead, but I’ll take it. We talked about how I can set him up for it- come off the rail and ask for the bend like we’re turning back to the rail- and AT reminded me that pumping with my shoulders is not traditionally accepted as a canter transition aid. I GUESS.

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Literal death grip on the lead because Francis was throwing a tantrum about not being able to eat the grass.

 

On to jumping! Warmup over a little crossrail went relatively well- I’ll never be a huge fan of trot jumps, but we’re getting better at finding forward-but-not-running-at-it. Then a nice big bending line with a focus on straightness over and away from the jumps.

Then we started building our course! The jumps were set to mimic one of the Maclay Regionals- I love this time of year because we end up trying out all the medal courses and it’s a BLAST. We did a different course from the medal so we could focus on what we needed to try, but it was great nonetheless.

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We started out with the S-turn: red to gray Swedish oxer in 5 or 6, out over green skinny in 5 or 6. Either a 5 to a 5 or a 6 to a 6. We clearly did the 5 to 5 because Francis is a tank. Frankie has a tendency to bulge left so I pushed him right hard over the gray and he responded surprisingly well- so well, in fact, that the 5 out was a little tight because I wasn’t anticipating such a reaction. Happy to see progress there, even if it led to a closer spot out!

Then it was around to the outside line, set in 4 strides. I LOVED how this was set. My trainer is a huge fan of setting short lines for us to help that booty werk, but this one was set on a regular flowing stride. It was lovely. My only job was to keep both legs on so Frankie could stay straight through and land his lead.

Then it was two long approach oxers. Going down 6 was junky every time- either we ended up moving up to a gallop spot, which was adequate but not delightful- or we shortened to a smaller spot, which was fine but not as smooth as I’d like. Nothing disastrous or dramatic, just not as rhythmic as I was aiming for. Balancing through the end up to the gray Swedish the other way went fine every time.

Then it was come back to walk and counter-canter the long approach to blue oxer on the rail. For this I turned early to go between jumps 10 and 11, which set us up to “turn left” to the rail to more easily get the counter-lead. Francis jumped this blue one super cute every time.

The first time through the combo, Frankie assumed he wasn’t jumping it. We got through it just fine- homeboy can walk a 3′ jump- but he was pretty sure that there wasn’t a jump coming up out of that corner. Second time went much more smoothly. The five strides out over the oxer was set short, especially flowing out of a combo, but he sat back nicely for me.

Then it was just a simple rollback to the final vertical- the first time I went around jump 1 to get there, but then decided to go inside the next time. I need to remember to support strongly with that outside rein and leg around left turns to help him out, because we are much more balanced when we do that.

I liked this course a lot! It was a good test of our “togetherness” over a variety of questions. It’s refreshing to take a break from the get-it-done attitude and drill more into getting every piece polished and perfected.

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Short answer: yes

We’re not trying to qualify for anything or pursue a career in the equitation (literally already missing the jumper ring and I haven’t even done the eq yet)- this outing will be an opportunity to school my horse. Straightness ALWAYS over every jump. Forward pace without getting heavy on the forehand. But like, not too forward because OLIVIA YOU’RE NOT BEING TIMED. No need to rush anything. The eq courses at Culpeper are usually pretty hunterific so we can find our stride and let it flow around the course.

Frankie’s mane is pulled and ready for the braider, I have laced reins instead of rubber on my bridle, and we are feeling good about exploring a new ring together! I can’t wait to let you know how it goes and share pictures.