Playing DQ

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

img_4486
What’s the point of playing DQ if you’re not going to wear white sparkly breeches???

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

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

img_4429

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

img_4430

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

img_4488
lol leg

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

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

And here’s our score sheet:

img_4431

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

img_4489
mOTHER pls hELP

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

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

img_4487
“If you’re not going to put your leg on and ride properly I will not work over my back those are the rules I don’t make them I just follow them”

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

img_4493
peep a perfect angel

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

img_4485
And always always always the most handsome hunk there ever was, no matter what he’s doing.

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

Little Sister Time

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

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

Enter Frankie’s new little sister, Maggie!

img_4067

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

img_4191

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

 

img_4110
Much like her brother, she is an extreme weirdo. Homegirl falls asleep like this and then snores like a truck.
img_4185
But also like her brother, she certainly knows where the camera is and proceeds to smize for it

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

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

img_4348
Morning walks with her sure ain’t ugly

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

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

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

 

Take Me Home

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

img_3294

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

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

img_4023
The one semi-organized section of the house is my lil baking nook 🙂

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

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

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

img_4031

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

Ocala 2020: The Beast

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

But let’s get back to our Southern Sojourn.

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

img_3735
Big pattern: the cutest possible ears to exist on the planet

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

img_3850
When we enter the ring and I get this sass face and this prancy trot, I know we’re in for a good time with an energetic horse

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

83641385-19cd-42a5-84fc-db52a87bc43f
I myself could use some polish, but ISN’T HE THE CUTEST REAL LIFE EQ HORSE?!

 

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

img_3867
Or we can do casual and cranky honestly either one is fine

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

img_3863
His eyes may be closed but his heart is already turning left

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

img_3757
DO YOU SEE THIS ANIMAL AND HOW PERFECT HE IS

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

img_3868
The button braids. The bonnet. the happy ears. All of it.

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

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

img_3851
The height. It did not pose a challenge for him (even with a spider monkey on his back).

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

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

img_3755
Sweaty, dirty, and full of love always for my perfect boy

Ocala 2020: Managing the Energy

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

img_3856
I need to start an album of pics like this where we both look so magically photogenic

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

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

img_3907
This is leaving that warmup ring. Ears alert but no longer doing his best Anxiety Llama(TM) impersonation. 

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

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

img_3785
99% sure he knows when I’m mocking him and makes grouchy faces just to play along

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

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

img_3908
WOW SHOW LIFE IS SO STRESSFUL FOR THESE GUYS THEY REALLY SEEM TO HATE THIS

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

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

img_3854
I’m honestly just along for the ride

Sunshine and Rainbows

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

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

img_3849
Going in for our first round the first week on my v v spicy pony. As always, entering the ring grinning like a fool because of how much fun I have with the Frankfurter. PC – K. Borden
img_3869
And leaving the ring after our last round the second week, happily accepting all forms of love and appreciation as his due. PC – K. Borden
img_3802
Having to stand to wear his ice boots was TORTURE how could I just LEAVE HIM THERE it was so BORING and TERRIBLE
img_3792
He had a bear of a time spitting out all those shavings when we woke him up to go work.
img_3781
Shmancy equitation pony being a total angel boy!!!
img_3725
Both of us were very happy to have some sunshine.

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

Final Ocala Prep

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

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

img_3336
We haven’t trained either of us how to take nice pictures but that’s ok we’re good at other things

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

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

img_2784
PLZ I NEED ALL THE ATTENTION IN THE WORLD OR I WILL DIE

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

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

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

img_3147
She is so small, and yet, so powerful

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

A Bit o’ Fun

Just kidding, finding the right bit is more annoying than it is fun.

Here’s what we’re working with: I almost always ride Francis in a French link elevator with my reins on the second ring. He is very happy and soft in this bit, I can have gentle hands, he prefers the clarity of leverage over mouth pressure, overall it works really well for him. We like it and have no real need to switch it up.

elevator
We have a happy horse in this bit which means we have a happy rider

Except, of course, that this bit is considered unconventional in the equitation and hunter rings. Which means that we HAVE to switch it up.

We’ve been using a plain pelham for the last year, a la this:

pelham

It’s been…fine. Frankie historically is not fussy about his bits and this is no exception. The only one he’s really shown a vague dislike for is a slow twist, so we keep the mouthpieces smooth now. I rode him in a plain full cheek snaffle like this one for the first 2 years I had him and it worked well enough.

fullcheek

So my hope was that the pelham would be similar to that, with a little bit of the leverage he seems to prefer. And again, it’s fine. No theatrics, nothing awful, just kinda dull and leaning. It’s a good thing those courses are less twisty turny than the jumper ring, because I feel like I have a much slower line of communication with this bit.

It’s not a big deal if I’m just popping in an equitation class now and then, but I do enjoy them and want to continue to give them a go with Francisco. So I decided that it’s time to find something better than “fine.” I want something actively good.

The first place I started was by testing the mouthpiece. I picked up a French link full cheek snaffle to see if this mouthpiece might fit more happily in his mouth, similar to his elevator.

frenchfullcheek

I do like this bit a lot, especially on the flat. I don’t have the same brakes that I do in the elevator, but I have a surprising amount of adjustability and softness that I never had in a snaffle before. I think this is partially due to Frankie’s continuing education since we last tried the snaffle, but I also think that this mouthpiece is a little gentler and encourages some more softness for him. My only qualm is that I have to make any adjustments on course 4 strides out instead of 2 since it takes a bit longer to communicate – and let’s be honest, I’m not good enough to always know what I need to do a full 4 strides out. So a step in the right direction but not quite where I want it. (Side note – I’m having Frankie’s half-leaser use this bit with him. He’s easier to get to know in a snaffle and I always hesitate putting leverage in hands that I don’t know as well.)

The next one we decided to try was a shaped Mullen Happy Mouth pelham:

mullen

I know some horses love the single piece and some are not fans. So far Frankie seems to be a fan! He’s soft and forward into the bridle, and I have that little bit of leverage to help me communicate. He has such a dull mouth that it really doesn’t make much sense to use harsher mouthpieces, so backing that off to something softer for him makes sense to me. My trainer doesn’t absolutely love it, but this is what we’re tentatively using for now.

Of course, I then asked my trainer what she’s been using on him in her training rides, and she responded that she’s been using no noseband and this KK Ultra loose ring and he’s been very happy.

kkultra

So I’m going to see if I can find this in a D to try out (loose ring is technically allowed I believe but is not The Look(TM) at the moment). Of course it’s a fancy expensive one, so I’m looking for a used one (please let me know if you have anything for me I will happily buy it off you!!). I keep my noseband pretty loose anyways, but hey maybe I’ll just take it off altogether for the jumper ring. Let his nose fly free in the breeze. I would really prefer to put him in a snaffle that he likes for the eq/derby rings – I think having a bit that looks stronger visually (like the pelham) sends a signal to the judge that he’s a stronger or heavier ride and that isn’t the case at all. So we’ll keep working on it to make sure he’s comfortable and can hear me.

Basically the verdict is that my horse likes a center piece to jangle, except when he likes a single piece. And he likes the clarity of a little leverage, except when he goes better in a snaffle.

Right.

 

Goodbye and Hello

It’s kinda a season of exciting but bittersweet news over in our corner of the world.

Firstly, our beloved Assistant Trainer has decided to move on to new adventures after 6(!) years with our barn. She’ll still be around ad hoc when we need her and she’s certainly not disappearing into the ether, just not as our end-all-be-all barn manager anymore. We’re all thrilled for her new venture and it is a very positive parting, but we’re all also very brokenhearted to lose her. Her attention to detail and her horsemanship are far and away the best I’ve ever encountered. Having her knowledge and eyes on the horses has been reassuring in the extreme. She knows just when to push and ask for more and when to give a break, she takes her time developing new skills with endless patience, and never takes shortcuts when it comes to the horses’ well-being. I’m sure we will find a wonderful new barn manager/trainer, but I’ll honestly be satisfied if they are even half as good as AT has been. With all her talent and attentiveness and tenacity, I can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish!

IMG_3192.jpg
She built Frankie’s fitness and confidence to the point where he happily tackled heights far greater than I ever anticipated. Her guidance helped him become the athlete he is today, and her training has helped me try to keep up with that athleticism. Forever grateful.

The other bittersweet piece of news is that one of the horses in the barn colicked the other day. He ended up needing surgery, but it went well and he’s recovering (thank goodness). Of course, this means he’ll be rehabbing for a good long time and is out for the rest of the season. Major bummer for all parties involved.

However, the silver lining here is that his teenage owner is a fan of the jumper ring, and her mom is trying to figure out a plan that means she still gets to show while her horse is rehabbing, without having to buy or full lease a second horse.

I think you can guess who is coming to the rescue here: Francis.

img_3242
“Will rescue for scratchies”

We’ve set up an excellent partial lease situation that means this kiddo is still getting to train and show on a confidence-boosting horse, and I get (a) reassurance that he’s getting loved on when I can’t be there and (b) help with some of his bills. I wasn’t actively looking for someone to share Frankie with, but I’m happy with how well this works out for all of us.

There’s also a certain sense of circling back around: having a flexible partial lease on Addy opened up a lot of doors for me and helped me grow in ways I never would have been able to otherwise. It feels kinda karmic to now be on the other side, able to share my own horse with someone in need of more saddle time.

So there you have it. We’re bidding a fond farewell-for-now to one of the very biggest influences on my riding, and we’re giving a warm welcome to the newest member of the Official Frankie Fan Club.

Change can be intimidating, but I’m eager to see where it takes us over the next few months!

90c9605e-3836-4213-a7cc-cd0fc196c863
As long as we’re together, it’ll all be great ❤

The Between-Shows Training

We’ve reached an interesting milestone in our training called “Frankie is dang good at his job and there’s no reason to pound on him.” What this means in practice is that we do the 1m classes at shows, and we don’t really jump a ton or very high at home. I joked that I feel like one of those ammies that toodles around at home and just shows up for competitions every so often.

Our lessons rarely go up to 3′. We don’t even jump every week. Maybe once a month (or less) we put the jumps up to competition height for a single course to check and make sure we remember how to do it. We do.

img_2461
v v casual

I think there’s a lot that has gone into making this a sustainable way of moving forward together.

Firstly, we spent a long time schooling 1m+ with consistency. Never a pounding, but it took a long time for Frankie to develop better body awareness and get confident navigating that height and above. We needed to school it regularly to help him build on those experiences. We could not have gotten comfortable at this height by schooling it as infrequently as we do now. We can only back off because we have something to back off from.

Secondly, he has the temperament for it. His reaction to a bigger fence has never been to back off or get flustered. We certainly don’t try to surprise him and we ramp back up to make sure he’s ready to go, but he’s easy going enough to see a bigger fence and simply put in a bigger effort. No muss no fuss.

img_5667
The least muss. The least fuss.

Thirdly, we have a program that keeps him fit enough to do the height. Between myself and his pro rides he is worked most days and encouraged to use himself properly. We do pole work, we do stretchy work, we do transitions, we do all the good stuff to help build muscle. And then we do lots of stretches, regular massages and chiro, veterinary maintenance as needed (yes he is incredibly spoiled). So when we do ask him for the bigger effort, he feels strong and limber enough to happily give that.

The other day we had one of our check-ins pre-Ocala. We had spent most of our lesson at around 2’6″ schooling the add, which is forever helpful for Frankie to sit and work his booty. At one point we put 7 strides in a bending that was later a comfortable 4. It was actually ridiculous. But the jumps went up to full height and I asked him to stretch out and give me a bigger step. He opened right up and went around beautifully. Trainer simply said, “Well that didn’t look like a hardship.”

img_2958
Very little is a hardship to this guy, he’s living a real good life

So here we are. We’re saving his legs for shows, and giving him all the tools he needs to succeed. My hope is that by being careful and intentional about his workload we can keep him sound and happy in his job for many years to come!