The Dog Days of Summer

It may be a million degrees out, but we finally have a show on our calendar! Frankie and I will be heading to the Piedmont Jumper Classic the last weekend of September. No clue if we’ll be sticking in the 0.90m or if we’ll head into the Lows and I don’t much care, it’s just going to be fantastic to get our butts back in the jumper ring and let Frankie do what he does best. As much as I’m thoroughly enjoying our forays into the eq and derby rings, let’s not forget that Frankie has spent 3 years tuning up into a super fun amazing jumper. Plus, this show is held on the same showgrounds as Upperville and is entirely jumpers. All the beauty of Upperville, smaller crowds, close to home and reasonably priced – what is there not to like?!

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Seriously I will never complain about the chance to ride around in this ring. PC – G. Mohan

In other upcoming show news, it looks like the barn will be returning to Ocala this February after spending the last few winter shows at WEC in Ohio. I’m very much hoping to make it work financially so I can take Frankie down for both weeks and enjoy a change of scenery with him. The prize list is a mile long with a million different jumper classes we could do AND a very large array of adult eq and medal classes so we certainly wouldn’t lack for variety. Those of you who have been around for a while know that my trip down to Ocala back in 2016 was ultimately what sparked buying a horse to compete more heavily with (which of course led to Frankie joining the family #bestdayever), so I have some amazing memories of being down there. It would feel kinda full circle to go back there with my own horse to the place that was such a catalyst to a turning point in my riding journey.

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Baby me on my lovely lease horse, trying desperately to convince myself and everyone around me that “no I really don’t think I’m going to buy a horse any time soon.” Signed the check for Frankie less than 6 weeks later. Willpower: I have none.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the World’s Best Horse Husband (WBHH). We’ve got some financial goals we’re working towards together and clearly horse shows are a luxury and NOT a necessity, so for him to support this pursuit of my passion really does mean the world to me. He’s a good one. I like him so much.

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Also he’s real cute and I like his face a lot.

In the meantime, we’re chugging along happily. Frankie is secretly part dragon and handles the heat like a champ, I myself turn into a slightly al dente linguine, but between the two of us we’re getting some good work in and staying in reasonably decent shape. I will say, his coat right now is LOVELY. He is shiny, sleek, some dapples are peeking through, and his winter coat is just starting to grow in with that gorgeous dark color. We’re going to be supplementing his hock injections with an SI injection to make him feel extra good, I’ve been icing his legs pretty much every time we jump, and he’s honestly looking and feeling great.

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Not sure what I’m doing with my hands here but I’m sure it made sense at the time

I’ve been enjoying my summer break from school, but I’m also excited to jump back into classes next week. I have two back to back terms which means no break until December 6, but then I get a two month break until February! …and then it’s another marathon straight through to the end of May. But that’s fine. I’m on track to finish the program early October 2020 which really isn’t that far away, and so far I’ve maintained my 4.0. They don’t do anything higher, I checked.

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I’m pondering some ideas for blog posts about some of the training approaches we’ve been taking lately and how that balance has been working, but for now the short version is: it’s hot but Frankie is cool, we’ve got some exciting shows coming up, and I’m a happy nerd.

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My Non-Horse Summer

It’s been a wild summer, you guys. Of course I love sharing all my Frankie updates with you, but thought it would be fun to give you a little snapshot of all the other fun adventures that have been going on when I’m NOT at the barn.

Back at the beginning of summer we had our annual staff retreat, which involved decorating and piloting little slide-y go carts. When brainstorming ideas on how to decorate, I loudly blurted out DRAGONS and everyone just kinda rolled with it. I think you can see which one I am here. Earned the nickname Token Extrovert at this retreat. Whoops.

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We got a new car! I’ve driven it approximately one time for approximately 90 seconds, but technically it’s both of ours. Ask me how much I enjoy having a car payment, but then ask me how much happier my guy is driving something that has actual air conditioning in the Virginia summer. It all evens out one way or another.

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Speaking of which, he also learned how to make the world’s most amazing french fries from scratch and we now eat them all the time omg they’re actual perfection. Better than any restaurant.

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Already mentioned this, but pulled off a surprise trip to LA for his 30th b-day where we got to see a bunch of his best friends and chill with them for a weekend. It was awesome to see them and celebrate.

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We went up to upstate NY for his annual family reunion, where one morning they all woke up to do hill runs. Like…what. Why did I marry into this??? This family is all annoyingly athletic, it’s wild. I’m going to need to step my game up to keep up.

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I cut even MORE of my hair off and guys I love it. Less hair = less heat.

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We went up to Rhode Island and got to hop on my dad’s boat for a bit. It was crazy hot but worth it for some time on the water.

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And last but not least, we went on our honeymoon down to St. Lucia! It was amazing and gorgeous and relaxing and so so so much fun, and I’m really not loving coming back to reality.

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So there you have it. It’s been a whirlwind of traveling all over during the past few months, but it sure has been fun. Just a heads up though that we are boycotting airports in 2020 and our slogan is Y’all Come To Us. We’ll be at home.

Porpoise for President

I promise we’re still alive and kicking over here! My guy and I have been traveling every other weekend for a while now, I’m in the last week of this term for school, and work is picking back up after a lull, so I’ve had to be more deliberate about my time management – hence why you haven’t heard from me in a while.

But I still have two legs, Frankie still has all four of his, and even if I’m only riding 2x a week that’s still saddle time with my favorite creature and I still love it.

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One of our many trips, this one to RI to visit family!

This week’s lesson was really fantastic. Due to a perfect storm of weather, hock injections (woohoo!), me being out of town, and mercury being in retrograde, the big guy was stuck inside for several days and not ridden for even longer. Not ideal, but we did the best we could with what we had.

So when I hopped on for my lesson, I had a speecy spicy Francisco under me. Homeboy just had so many excess calories that needed an outlet!  He really was quite obedient as we warmed up – loose through his back, getting some great lift at the trot, rather exuberant about his lengthenings. But I could definitely tell that there was a lil more pizzazz under me than usual, so I took the opportunity to just trot/canter on a looser rein for some extra time during the breaks to give him an outlet. I could tell that he very badly wanted to be a good boy, but just HAD TO MOVE OMG PLS.

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My friend sent me this while I was out of town. She is his favorite auntie because she always gives scratches and leaves treats in his bucket ❤

Once we started jumping, we did have some porpoising on the back side of a few fences. Not even true crowhopping per say, more of a put-my-head-between-my-knees-and-hump-my-back-for-a-bit. He’s really not very good at misbehaving, I think he just felt so GOOD to be working (especially with those hock injections kicking in) that he had to express his emotions for a bit. Not a big deal, just sat back and slipped the reins til he was done, then kept him cantering and moving forward. No need to react or pull or start a fight about it – I learned a while ago that when he’s got the sillies, the best thing to do is to stay light and let him do his job.

Sure enough, we ended up getting some really lovely courses. He was light in the bridle, forward thinking, and jumping like a dream. Not every spot was perfect, but he felt comfortable and able to sit down a bit to the shorter ones, and he was even cute when we moved up to a bit of a gap! Honestly, I’ll take spicy Francis any day.

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We did hill sets recently and I was brave enough to trot which displeased Francis greatly. But the view and breeze from the top weren’t too bad at all.

I have to say, I really really think that we’ve clicked to the next level of communication over the past few months. It seems silly to say that since I’ve been riding so much less, but it’s true. I’ve always enjoyed riding him and we’ve learned and grown along the way, but it just feels so natural right now. I think something and he does it. I can predict how he’ll react to just about anything (I knew the porpoising was coming the instant we walked away from the mounting block). We enjoy each other’s company, we enjoy our work together, and it’s simply a joy. I’m so-so at riding other horses, but right now it feels like I’m pretty darn good at riding mine.

Sorry not sorry for the gushfest, guys. I’m more obsessed with this creature every day.

Porpoise for president.

How to Be Good at Riding as a Busy Ammy

I am flawless and have never made any mistakes or done anything wrong in my life, so it seems appropriate that I share with you my secrets of doing everything perfectly while maintaining clear skin and an amazing sleep schedule.

My first tip is to make sure you’re eating super healthy. Definitely don’t skip breakfast because you slept in an extra 15 minutes, definitely don’t skip lunch because you worked through it (again), and definitely don’t just eat a ridiculous amount of buttered noodles when you get home at 9:30pm. Snacking on candy throughout the day is right out, and taking a multivitamin can really only cover for so many sins. You’ll want to plan out nicely portioned and packaged organic balanced meals with planned healthy snacks. Gotta fuel your body with the nutrients you need!

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Use this time to call your friends and maintain healthy relationship!

The next tip is to set aside blocks of time throughout the week for your different activities! If Mondays are set aside for schoolwork, focus on that to get it done. There is no possible way that the only day your case study group can meet is on Tuesday so you have to miss your lesson. Not even a thing that happens. It’s all about setting up your schedule in advance because you have complete control over these things!

Protect your weekends. With work and school during the week, your weekends are your time to catch up on errands, see friends, and spend quality time at the barn. You probably don’t have any trips scheduled ever, and it’s unlikely that you have weddings to attend in the near future. You definitely are always at home and available to catch up on things.

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No one ever has birthdays to celebrate so you never need to go anywhere or pose for stupid pictures

Most importantly, make time to ride consistently. How can you get better (or even maintain) if you’re not getting consistent saddle time?! You need to spend time on your own improvement and keep your horse in shape!

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Round is a shape

I mean, when you’re out of town on those RARE trips, I guess the barn rat can hop on to keep your horse moving.

And when that case study needs to get done and the group can only meet on lesson day, I suppose he can get a training ride instead.

And when your immune system just shuts down from exhaustion and you can’t stop coughing, maybe he can be used in a lesson.

Screw it, guys. I’m getting floppier by the day, relying on my entire barn fam to keep Frankie fit and in work, and taking it one day at a time.

To all my fellow ammies juggling all that life brings, I salute you.

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Someday I’ll get to hang out at this magical place more ❤

Loudoun Benefit 2019

Frankie and I went out and dabbled in the eq/hunter rings again! Short version: tons of fun, continuously learning how to adjust to this new way of going, and Frankie was literal perfection.

Are you at all surprised by that last bit??

Anywho, we opted to stick in just the derby/eq rings again for this show since it worked so well last time. I think with some practice, Frankie will be able to more easily transition between the jumper ring and the others, but for now it’s super helpful for both of us to “drill” a bit to really figure out what we need to do.

He shipped into the showgrounds on Tuesday with a whole bunch of other ponies, by all reports settled in like a gentleman (aka naps. Immediate naps). Our barn had 11 or 12 horses at this show, so we staggered shipping in over the course of a few days! Kinda crazy, I think pretty much everyone that shows went to this particular one. A much bigger group than we usually have, and it was fantastic!

I opted to have Trainer take Francis around one of the 3′ hunter divisions (sans U/S) on Wednesday, just so he could see the big ring and get the measure of it. I would do it myself if I didn’t have this pesky office job getting in the way, but I wanted him to go around that ring before the derby on Saturday. He absolutely LOVES my trainer – it’s seriously adorable – and was a very sweet boy for her. With 50+ in the class there’s zero chance that my mobile sewing machine would place against actual hunter types, but I’m always pleased when he shows his consistency and good nature. I do really think we could do well in the AA or AO hunters, where manners and suitability are considered!

He then got a light day on Thursday – no competing, just stretching his legs a bit.

Friday I was FINALLY able to get away from work, and got to do our Ariat Adult Medal class! First thing in the morning, bright and early. Trainer did hop on him for a quick hack early in the morning – the temp had dropped down to the low 50s overnight and she wanted to make sure he was feeling mannerly. In her words: “I forgot it was Frankie. He’s obviously fine.”

I have video of this class from two different angles, funny enough! I’ll include them both here, along with the course map.

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Overall thoughts: I literally rode him to nothing at that first jump. I was just happily sitting up there and did. zero. things.

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FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL WE’RE GOIN FOR THE LONG ONE. 

Then I majorly overcorrected and chased him to jump 2. Because clearly that’s the right move. But after that I was really happy with the rest of the course! I didn’t get him straight enough after jump 4, so we had a bit of an unbalanced late change (and you can see me wrestling with him a little bit as he goes WEEEEEE and stops paying attention). But overall he was responsive, polite, and handled himself really well in such a big ring.

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Look at how happy he is. Just look at him.
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Ignore my questionable position here and just admire the scenery and cute horse.

It was pretty cool being done by 8:30am, and I got to spend the rest of the day cheering on my barnmates, loving on Frankie, and enjoying the gorgeousness of these showgrounds.

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This is God’s country

Then Saturday was kinda hysterical in its timing. The Jr/Am derby started at 7:30a in the main hunter ring, and I was third in the order. Then the VHSA Flat class started at 8a in Hunter 2, followed immediately by the VHSA medal class. This meant going from one ring to another very quickly, including a costume change for both me (getting rid of shad and stock tie and donning my hunt coat) and Francis (taking off his martingale and adding his boots). This led to a pretty hysterical revolving door of show coats, martingales, and boots. But we figured it all out!

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It’s really a shame that Frankie gets so keyed up before we go in the ring. You can just see it in his expression.

Lucky me – I have video of our derby trip too!

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Thoughts on this: I really need to get my act together when the first jump is a long approach oxer away from home, apparently. But honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how he went around. He was super adjustable, flowed well, carried a nice steady rhythm without needing too much from me, and was a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

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Does he have the tightest form? No way. Does he have the sweetest expression? For sure.
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Seriously I know he’s basically cantering over this but his little ears and little nose are just the cutest I’ve ever seen.

I was extremely pleased with our base score of 72, with the two high options giving us a score of 74. We held on to a top 12 spot for much longer than I thought we would before the cutoff for the handy rose above a 74! With almost 60 in the class, there were some truly gorgeous rounds that got some very high scores. Overall, I’m delighted. We’re never going to be truly competitive in that ring with Frankie’s movement and his lack of desire to try very hard at that height, but we sure are having fun learning how to show ourselves off to best advantage.

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Took the high option here, and Francisco was not particularly bothered

We then did our costume change and headed over for our equitation on the flat class! Nothing too crazy here – they had us sit the trot for a while, and show a lengthening at the trot (we may have broken into a canter for a stride going to the right oops). I definitely need to polish myself back up, but was able to snag an 8th place and a ribbon! Ain’t mad about that.

We then had our VHSA adult medal class, which was super fun. Frankie gave me all the cool inside turns, sat down and waited to the base for me, and didn’t even mind when I took him on a track that meant I had to duck under the branches of a tree. He was definitely getting tired at this point though, and I had to really kick hard for the lead changes. I think I should get bonus points for literally carrying him through those because homeboy was not offering them up in the least.

I thought it was a solid, workmanlike trip but nothing stellar. I was very surprised to be called back to test in 4th (this class has the option to test the top 4)! The test was pretty simple: canter directly to an outside single, rollback to an oxer, rollback to a trot fence, rollback to a long approach oxer towards home, then show the sitting trot to the in-gate.

I am a noodle brain and completely forgot the sit trot to the gate, but other than that it was a great test! I think if I had remembered that dang trot, we may even have moved up. But considering this was my first time having to test in a solid 12 years, I’m really very happy with it.

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Very proud of our ribbon!

I then got to spend the rest of the day cheering on friends and relaxing again. It was lovely.

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I wanted to take his braids out, he wanted to nap. We compromised and did both at the same time. He kept trying to lay his head on my legs for snugs.

Thoughts on the show as a whole: I own a unicorn. He truly is incredible. I also think that with some practice and polish on my part, we’re going to be really strong competitors in the adult equitation. Trainer agreed, and mentioned that Frankie looks super handy and capable in that ring, and it’s something that he can excel at with the lifestyle he’s leading right now. He’s obviously fantastic in the jumper ring, but that does require us to keep him more conditioned and fired up, which is something that I don’t really have the capacity for right now. He’s really fitting into the equitation very naturally, and it’s a ring that’s very familiar to me as well.

I don’t know when our next show will be – I’m travelling a lot in July and August – but I think we’ve found a solid groove to work in.

As always, feeling so grateful for an amazing barn family, an amazing group of horses, incredibly supportive and encouraging trainers, and for my darling Francis. Every day gets better and better with him

 

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He is beauty, he is grace
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BUT WHAT EVEN IS THIS LLAMA FACE

 

25 More: Hop

L kicked this off with some questions she found on Tumblr, Amanda chimed in, and y’all know I can never resist these things.

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

I stop in and see Francis! I’m usually still holding my keys and gear, but I head straight for his stall to say hello and trades scratches. If he’s outside, I’ll wander the barn a bit first to say hi to any friends that are there.

2. Is there a breed that you would never own?

It kills me to say this, but any pony breed. I deeply love ponies, but at almost 5’10” it would be pretty impractical. We’ll see if any future spawn wants a pony though, because I am entirely on board with living vicariously through them.

3. Describe your last ride?

Our lesson this week, where we practiced being hunterific and handy. Frankie was wonderfully responsive, rateable, and had great energy. He’s pretty sure that slowing down like this is his favorite thing.

4. Have any irrational riding fears?

My one big one is riding outside the ring any faster than a walk. It’s completely irrational – I ride the actual safest calmest horse on the planet – but there you have it. I enjoy walking around the neighborhood, but the idea of picking up a trot gives me the cold sweats.

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After our TERRIFYING hill set in the pasture where he was deeply content to not move very quickly, while I myself was spooking at the wind.

5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?

When I was younger, there was an ancient lesson horse named Alfie where I learned to ride. He was the slowest kick ride to ever exist, and was pretty much the only horse that didn’t make my neurotic self break down in tears. He was a wonderful big chestnut old man ❤

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?

Totally! I’m still enjoying the heck of out Francisco, but that’ll likely be in his future. He’s a pretty darn perfect 3′ packer that can easily do higher with a solid ride, can cross into any ring (as long as you’re not trying to win the hack), and is super chill and easy to handle/ride. He’s going to be a great teacher for a tall kid/adult re-rider.

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?

I won’t turn down a good mare! I tend to click more with geldings since they usually forgive my transgressions a bit more quickly, but I adored Addy and her quick-thinking nature.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?

These days, around 3-4x per week. At our peak it was 5-6x pretty consistently, but adding classes into the mix has required me to adjust my schedule. Luckily he gets pro attention a couple times a week, so he’s still shiny and happy!

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?

Hop on bareback in a halter and mosey about the property watching lessons and drinking wine. I do this on Fridays sometimes when I’ve had a rough week, and basically use Francis as a mobile couch while I hang out with friends and watch some of our talented juniors work. Bless the ammy friendly horse.

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We do this regularly and it is therapeutic

10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?

This is a tough one – basically anything that would make it difficult/dangerous for a horse to jump safely. Frankie is pretty over at the knee and while it hasn’t posed problems, I would definitely correct it if I could.

11. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?

Eh I’m honestly not that self-conscious of a person. I would love to have a more stable lower leg, I’d love to address my asymmetry better, I’ve gotten in the bad habit of hunching my shoulders, my eye for a distance comes and goes. But those are just skills I want to work on, not things that make me feel self-conscious.

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

Partially? I do need to include more no-stirrup work to get back into shape. But I don’t track my times or anything like that.

13. What is your grooming routine?

Pick feet, curry all over, brush mane and pick shavings/debris out of tail, soft brush all over twice. The longer I take, the happier Frankie is. I’m saving up for a nice brush set, so I think this will expand when I have the full set!

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?

Come inside for breakfast, lay down for a long mid-morning nap, wake up and eat some hay, get groomed, go to work, more groomings/bathtime, and then go outside overnight to play with friends and eat more hay. It’s a good life.

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Must nap. All the time.

15. Favorite season for riding?

Either fall or mid spring. The air is crisp and clear, we can ride outside without broiling in the sun, Frankie’s coat gets super dark and beautiful as it changes.

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Fall in Virginia is just heaven on earth

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?

Oooh this is a tough one. I love love love having our indoor so that we can ride in all weather year-round, but we do get a little stir-crazy after being stuck in there all winter. Can I opt for a covered ring to get the best of both worlds?!

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?

This may seem silly, but their setups at the big shows. The way they take these stall fronts and turn them into completely new areas is totally mindblowing.

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?

Antares. I love it.

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?

Just 3 – one light, one medium, one heavy. He’s blanketed in various combinations as weather demands from late fall through early spring (we just packed ours up to be cleaned and stored last week). I also have a wool cooler and a fleece quarter sheet that I use in the winter.

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?

Literally all treats are favorite treats, which is why he gets very few and in moderation. My trainers will often give him a mint/carrot when he leaves the show ring, and he has yet to say no to any of them. He loves being scratched right at the base of his ears/his forehead, he always really leans into that.

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I gave him a treat the other day and proceeded to have this up in my business. Adorable, yes, but OMG GET OUT OF MY FACE YOU GIGANTIC GOLDEN RETRIEVER.

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?

I just sat here and thought for a while and I really don’t have one haha. The care is wonderful, the training is thorough, the people are lovely. I very much enjoy my time there and can’t think of anything I would change. If anything, make it closer to home. One the weekends/off hours it’s only 30-35 minutes from my house and the office, but I do spend about an hour getting there after work during rush hour.

22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?

Pulled manes for sure, but I do sometimes do a quick neaten-up with scissors at the very end. I don’t usually pull too short since we don’t braid for the jumper ring, but I have a feeling we’ll being keeping it more ready for braids these days.

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?

Definitely a buck, but I’d really prefer neither thankyouverymuch.

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?

Was super spooky. Even if they don’t bolt or do anything too naughty, I really don’t like riding something that I have to coax along like that. It makes me really keyed up and nervous and I ain’t about that.

25. Favorite facial marking?

Frankie has a little double swirl right in the middle of his forehead and I think it’s the most precious thing in the world. It’s a perfect spot for scratches and smooches.

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The sweetest bestest spot for scritches

That Summer Ammy Life

Frankie and I are living the ammy life hardcore these days, yo.

Twice a week, AT hops on and reminds Francis that he knows how to do fancy things. A couple other times a week, his mother hops on and does her best to uninstall all fancy things by letting him toodle.

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He’s extra happy to see me these days because he knows it entails little to no effort

Every so often my schedule actually allows a lesson and I lean entirely on Frankie’s willingness to cart me around with very little input. Bless his education because heaven knows I’m not helping him out that much these days.

We’re going to shows and doing the 3′ where Frankie can jump from literally any distances without having to work at it. Thankfully. And we’re spending time in rings that don’t require us too move too fast because we’re both hot and lazy and out of shape.

It could not be more of a contrast to where we were last year: conditioning intensely, schooling 1.20m+, firing on all cylinders. It looks a lot more like grazing in the sun, walking around the pastures and calling it a “hill set,” and getting pictures from my barn friends of Frankie enjoying his naps when I’m stuck doing schoolwork.

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A lot of views of this chonkasaurus

I love that he can fire up and be my fancy prancy show pony, but I’m eternally grateful for my steady-Eddie, easy-going, happy-to-chill bud. He is the ultimate ammy packer and we’re having a wonderfully relaxing and fun summer so far.

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With plenty of naps.

Blue Rock Classic 2019

 

Apologies for the week delay on this post! In a nutshell – I got home from the show Sunday evening, left first thing on Monday morning for a staff retreat in Maryland, got back home from that Wednesday evening, spent Thursday after work finishing all my schoolwork for this term, then promptly got sick with a killer cold on Friday and spent 90% of my long weekend either in bed or on the couch.

It’s been a busy week.

But I can’t leave you hanging forever, because I seriously had SO MUCH FUN at this show! If you’re connected with me on Facebook or Insta then you’ve already seen some of the adorable pictures that came out of it.

The high-level recap: we ended up doing the hunter derby and Adult Medals, Francis was mildly bemused at first that it wasn’t time for zoomies, but by the end was absolutely delighting in his new job.

We just did a short lesson on Thursday in one of the hunter rings to let Frankie know he could open up his step. We kept it fairly short and sweet since he was jumping so well and flowing so nicely. We’ve worked so so hard to tell him to collect and fire more up-and-down, and I think it was refreshing for him to be told to move more across the ground like that. It was definitely useful to play with his stride to figure out where to place him. In the jumper ring I always have to shorten him up since we’re galloping, but his natural stride length was actually spot on in the lines for the hunter ring. I just needed to keep my leg on to help him balance, rate him a bit towards home, and encourage him to keep a steady pace and he took care of the rest.

Then Friday was derby day!! We did go in to do a 2’6″ schooling round first thing in the morning, just so he could get a chance to see the ring. I’m never worried about him spooking, but I figured with a big class like the derby with a lot of commotion, I’d rather do everything I can to set him up for success.

As you can imagine, he was downright adorable in the 2’6″. I don’t think he’s ever actually shown that low, and he was probably thinking that his blessed retirement was upon him.

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“HELLO RETIREMENT THIS IS THE LIFE FOR ME”

Unfortunately for him, he’s still young and healthy and while I’m happy to step down to the 3′ for now, I’m not quite ready to step all the way back down. Sorry dude. Because it was time to get braided and primped and shiny and shad-ed up for the derby!!

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Notice the two ammies that have no shame and the two juniors that are beet red and would really rather not be seen with us. They will learn in time to give zero effs.
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We decided to do a quick high fashion photoshoot. The hairnets. The stock ties. The bright blue sports bra extremely visible through my shirt. The height of luxury.
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All jokes aside, these young ladies are wonderful riders, even better horsewomen, and just stupendous teammates. Couldn’t ask for a more supportive and encouraging crew.

As an extra special treat, I actually have video from the derby! So I’ll keep my comments brief.

And thanks to my favoritest barn mom/photographer/bestie/wine sharer/snarkfest, we have some pictures to share from derby day too!!

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Does Francis go in a martingale ever? No. Did we put one on him to visually break up his brontosaurus neck? Yes. Yes we did.
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“Quick, look dramatic and oddly butt-high”
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Jumps 1-4 were in the main ring, then you crossed over into the neighboring ring for jumps 5-6, then made your way back to the main ring for jumps 7-12. It was super cool.
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This wasn’t even the jump we had the rail on. I know 3′ is easy for you dude, but maybe try just a leeeeettle bit harder?!
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There it is. My hunterific prince.
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Basically my new favorite picture. 

Brief comments: first jump was a little sticky as I figured out my striding, and definite wobbles here and there while I figured out what horse I had underneath me and Frankie figured out that there was not actually a time to beat. An unlucky rail where he simply didn’t bother to pick his feet up all the way so our score was appropriately low, but overall I’m tickled with our first attempt. I learned a ton about how to adjust my ride and I think next time we’ll do even better!

The next day, we were up bright and early to do our two adult equitation medals (I think it was the Dover and the MHSA if I remember correctly?). Sadly no media from those two trips, but I was very very happy with both of them. In the first we got called back in to test on the flat, and were able to move up from fourth to third! We got a shmancy medal for that one. The second trip was overall more balanced and a better showing, but we did have a little weak spot into the two-stride that bumped us down to fifth. Entirely fair, we were up against some strong competition! We were able to do some really cool inside turns with our track that I think showed us both off to best effect.

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No video or pics of our rounds, but we do have a nice sweaty pic with our ribbons!

I had originally planned on doing the Low Adults over in the jumper ring that afternoon, but I definitely had a tired horse under me. Neither of us are in the best physical condition, the temperature was quickly rising, and so I opted to scratch our jumper class (knowing that it meant we would not be eligible for the classic the next day). While a bummer to miss the classic, it definitely felt like the right choice to make sure Frankie wasn’t getting overworked.

This meant that the next day we just had our Ariat Adult Medal first thing in the morning! Lucky us – one of our barnmates woke up early too so they could come video and cheer us on. And also lucky us – Austen was there too!!

And lucky us, they got to witness me LOSE MY MIND ENTIRELY OH MY LANTA.

OK so you know how I go to horse shows pretty regularly? Like, not as often as some, but more often than many. I’ve done this before. I know the drill. I can get myself and my horse to the ring looking good and on time. No big deal.

EXCEPT APPARENTLY IT IS A BIG DEAL AND I CAN DO NONE OF THESE THINGS BECAUSE I LITERALLY FORGOT TO PUT MY NUMBER ON. AND THEN WHEN THEY SAID WHATEVER JUST GO IN THE RING AND TELL US YOUR NUMBER, I TOLD THEM THE WRONG ONE.

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1. Realization 2. Resignation 3. PANIC

This was caught on video that will certainly be turned into a reaction gif sometime soon. Just wow. Why am I like this.

Anyways, we did go in and put in a pretty decent trip actually.

Again, not perfect, but I think it showed steady improvement day over day. They had everyone back in to flat (AT WHICH POINT I DID HAVE A NUMBER ON) and I pulled a sixth here. I do think our flatwork should have bumped us up a place or two (there was a decent amount of crowhopping and swapped leads among our competitors), but I’m just happy they let me continue despite my absolute ammy potato brain!

I’ll close out by saying that I think it worked out for the best that we stuck in the eq ring instead of going back and forth to the jumpers. Frankie is a great learner with repetition, and maintaining the same expectations for his pace and rhythm over the course of the weekend 100% helped it *click* for him. By the last day, he very noticeably understood the game much better and I was able to sit and equitate instead of having to manage him.

I’ll also add that I think the equitation/medals is a really bright spot for Frankie and I. The courses are interesting enough to keep him focused and attentive, the jumps are low enough that he doesn’t have to work too hard, and the striding is very suited to his natural way of going.

We have Loudoun Benefit coming up in a few weeks, and I’m excited to go do a similar mishmash with him! Love love love my happy, sweet, game, wonderful steed.

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And don’t you worry. He got plenty of naps.

 

 

 

OK Showoff

Recently, Franklin has been a downright pleasure to ride.

Don’t get me wrong, the Big Man has always been a joy and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every ride with him. Even the “meh” rides with him always have something redeeming for me to focus on.

But for a while, it was a different type of enjoyment. It was a developing kind of enjoyment, where I had the satisfaction of knowing that we were building skills together and helping each other learn new ways of doing things. Tackling new challenges to push our limits and improve. We were in that mode basically since day 1, mastering new skills  and heights and then looking for the next one to push for.

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Bigger jumps, wider jumps, harder striding

As you know, we’re keeping things a little easier lately. We’ve put the jumps back down to 1m or lower, we’re competing less, and we’re not aiming at any particular goal right now. We’re not pushing that hard for new skills or heights, we’re working diligently to be better at the ones already solidly in our toolbox.

And Frankie completely and totally gets it. I haven’t had to explain anything for him lately. There has been no learning curve or delay while we both try to figure out what the right answer is. He has promptly understood and delivered every. single. thing. I’ve asked him to do.

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Me: Go be cute. Francis: U MEAN LIKE DIS

A few major examples that pop into my mind are from recent lessons. A few weeks ago, he warmed up beautifully – softly and happily, really just lovely. While that may be pleasant to flat, historically that translates to a weak and underpowered jump from him. At shows we joke that if he’s too happy in the warmup, we need to ruin his day a little bit to get him fired up enough for our round. So I was prepared to have to wrestle with him a bit during our first course to get him firing on all cylinders.

Imagine my surprise when he was forward, adjustable, listening, and jumping extremely well. No need to ruin his day at all. I think this was partially due to me providing more proactive support (albeit in anticipation of needing to provide more), but I do think it’s at least partially his own knowledge and fitness being at the point where his job makes sense to him. There is a definite sense of things “clicking” for him lately, where it used to take a bit longer for him to fully understand the rules of the game.

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Don’t let these happy ears fool you, historically he really only jumps well when he’s mad

And this past week, we were schooling a diagonal line to a bending line. Trainer didn’t tell me the striding, so the first time we went through and it rode in a very comfortable, slightly flowing 4 to a 5. Very easy.

You all know that Trainer doesn’t like when things are too easy, so of course she asked me to go back through and school the add. Do it in a 5 to a 6. You all also know that the add has always been a tough sell for Frankie – it’s hard to get that big body compressed and powerful enough!

So I approached the line, sat him down to collect him, got a really wonderfully collected carousel horse canter, got him to the base, and asked him to fit it in.

And this beast went and did it in 6. And then bent out in 7, and then happily kicked up to a hand gallop for our next fence.

That’s right, folks. We got the elusive double add.

Honestly having this much adjustability feels like a bit too much power and responsibility for me, but I’m tickled pink that he understands that cue so well now and is able to execute it so well. Seeing his thinking ears and then seeing him be so proud of himself at every “Good man!!” is a different and wonderful kind of joy.

At the end of the day I’m happy if Frankie is happy, and seeing him blossom under the praise for a job well done is just what I said above – a downright pleasure.

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My sweet sweet angel boy

Chugging Along

I wish I had something super exciting to share with you, but things are pretty quiet over here!

By quiet I mean that work is very busy but manageably so, school is interesting and fun and not nearly as time-consuming as I had feared, I’ve been spending some wonderful time with friends, and Francis continues to be the World’s Best Horse(TM) at all times forever.

I guess by quiet I actually mean it’s not even a little bit quiet, but it’s been really nice finding a new equilibrium for myself.

I’m now about 5 weeks into my first 7-week term, and I continue to love being a student. Even the dreaded group projects have been great, as I hooked up with 3 other fantastic people who are smart and interesting and great to work with. We share pictures of our dogs every day (we all agreed that Frankie counts as a giant dog) and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them and work with them!

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Everyone needs to see this picture of Francis being the most precious snoozler

On the home front, I bit the bullet and hired a cleaning service to come into our house once a month. So far it has been worth every single penny for peace of mind. Could I just do it myself? Absolutely. But with work and school and the barn and other commitments piling on, I want to be able to just enjoy my limited free time at home with my husband without worrying about chores. It took a major source of stress off the table entirely! I don’t know that it’s something we’ll continue once I finish school and my schedule opens up a bit, but for now it’s some very welcome help.

On the random personal front, I finally got that haircut I’ve been talking about! I told you all how much I hated that super long braid coming out of my helmet, so I went ahead and chopped it all off. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner bc OMG I LOVE MY NEW HAIRCUT SO MUCH. Seriously, I feel twenty pounds lighter and a million times better.

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I’m not so great at selfies but I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER

On to the star of the show: Frankie continues to be a steady rock of wonderfulness, sharing his happiness every day. He recently accidentally got a week off – between school, work, sickness, and my trainers being gone at a show, he missed his training rides and I didn’t make it out – but I didn’t even find this out until after I hopped on and he was absolutely perfect. He’s constantly re-winning the Best Ammy Horse Ever Award. I can almost see my reflection in his coat right now from the shine, he has little dapples peaking out, and is just looking beautiful right now. I know soon enough he’ll get sunbleached and faded so I’m enjoying that spring coat while it lasts!

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The lighting isn’t great but just look how handsome he is!!! I just can’t stand it.

We have a show coming up later this month and I’m feeling great about it! We’re planning to do a mishmash of things – some Low Adult jumper classes, some adult eq classes, and if the weather holds and they run it outside I’ll do the hunter derby with him too. We’re not trying to qualify for things, we’re not trying to get the jumps higher, we’re just planning to go out there and have fun doing some different work together. I’m incredibly excited to go play with my best boy!

So there you have it. Things are busy, but a good busy, and I’m thoroughly enjoying this stage of life. Hoping to rope a friend into videoing some rides soon so I can have some media to share though – I realized I don’t have any record of me jumping my horse since last year!! I pinky promise that we’ve actually been doing work and he’s been awesome at it. Can’t wait to share when we have something 🙂