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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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!
We’re just about a month out from our trek down south to Florida for a blessed two weeks in the warmth! I’m getting crazy excited to spend that time with Frankie down there (not least because he can finally get a bath omg he REEKS). I remember feeling really burnt out after two weeks of showing at WEC, but I’m feeling confident that the better weather and a lighter schedule will alleviate that. We are very much there to have a good time.
In the spirit of the final countdown to departure, I figured I would share a few things I’m bringing, a few ways we’re preparing, and just talk about it more a bit.
The first exciting thing that I’m bringing is a portable hotspot. My parents gifted me their previously-unused MiFi hotspot to bring down and I’m super grateful for it. I’ll have guaranteed wifi to do my work and school assignments on the showgrounds or wherever else I find myself. I’m able to do most of my communicating and social media via phone, but have you ever tried writing an essay or creating a slide deck like that? It ain’t fun.
The second exciting thing I’m bringing down is my giant cooler. I’ll be able to keep that stocked with ice to hold Frankie’s ice boots (along with some wine and hummus for yours truly). Especially for such a long show, I want to have all tools on hand to keep Frankie feeling good about it.
As you may guess, a giant cooler doesn’t really fit in my plane luggage. I will be making the drive down south. All 12 hours of it. Not really my idea of a great time, but the price of a roundtrip plane ticket plus rental car blew my budget out of the water. It looks like I’ll make the trip down solo, but I’ll be caravan-ing back up with a friend so we can at least take breaks together. She offered to just make the whole trip together in the same car, but with my work schedule and homework I really need the flexibility of my own vehicle. This is probably the part I’m least excited by – I HATE roadtrips with a fiery passion. The plan is to hit the road around 5am so I can be there in time for dinner, and then we’ll break the trip back north into 2 days to arrive home on Monday. Ugh.
Luckily, I’m able to split my hotel room with said friend and her daughter! She had a zillion points she was able to use so my hotel expenses are WAY WAY lower than I had worried they’d be. There’s a 24hr gym, a pool, a business center, complimentary breakfast, and (most importantly) a bar, all about 20 minutes from the show. I plan on making full use of all these amenities. It’s tough to share a smallish hotel room with 2 other people for 2 full weeks but I’m hopeful that we’ll manage.
For Frankie, there’s not a ton of prep work to take care of. He’ll need another full clip in the coming weeks to get him looking show-ready and I’ll need to scrub my tack. But for anything else? He’s feeling pretty darn good. I’d like to make a concerted effort to make sure he’s getting worked consistently to get his fitness a titch better, and I’m sure my trainer will have us work on some stuff in our lessons, but he’s at the point now where I’m confident taking him wherever and knowing he’ll be happy to go around. The only thing left on my to-do list is to stock up on Ulcergard – he is probably the least anxious, least ulcer-prone horse I know, but I refuse to take chances on such a long trip.
We’ve set up the commercial shipper for the ponies to head down – it looks like we’re bringing 4 or 5 with us and leasing a couple ponies for the kids down there. Frankie did well with the commercial shipper up to Lake Placid so I’m not super concerned about that. He’ll also arrive on Sunday or Monday, and Trainer will have the chance to get him out a bit before I arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. We all chipped in for a paddock so he will get his beloved turnout every day that weather permits. I’m hoping that he can share with one of the other geldings to get double time, but we’ll see how that works out. I’m just glad he’s getting any turnout, it makes such an enormous difference in keeping him feeling fresh!
Budget-wise I’m trying to pre-pay as much as possible. Our stalls and splits are already paid for and I’ve put in several deposits to my trainer. My goal is to take care of as much as possible ahead of time so I’m not scrambling on the back end – this isn’t a trivial expense, so I’m continually grateful to my husband for being entirely on board with my going. I’d ideally like to open up a little room in the budget for some shopping – y’all know I can’t resist the vendors at these things. I do have an actual useful wishlist, so hopefully I don’t get sucked into getting something ridiculous that I don’t need.
At this point, this ain’t our first rodeo. I’d love to write about the secret tips and tricks, but I don’t think I have any – it’s all kinda old news at this point! That being said, let me know if you have any questions or comments or anything about prepping/attending one of these, clearly I love to talk about it!
I did my blog recap of 2019 mainly for my own records, but I’m begging your indulgence for a bit more high level recap of what the year looked like for our little family, along with a look ahead to 2020.
Well, you already know he was perfect. I started the year thinking that I would be getting back into full training for a move up to the 1.20m after the wedding. For various reasons this didn’t happen, and I’m so glad that we took that pressure off. Frankie spent the year with his confidence soaring at every outing and we built a stronger partnership than ever. He’s another year older, another year smarter, and his coat and muscling honestly look better than ever. He truly thrived this year and we learned so much about what makes him happy.
Looking forward to 2020, I have a couple goals with him. Firstly, I’d like to qualify for the VHSA Adult Eq finals. He was such a pro and got better with every outing in the eq this past year, and I’d love to keep building that skill set together. I don’t anticipate making it to Cap Challenge or anything like that, but the VHSA final is a great show down in Lexington and is straightforward to qualify for. Secondly, I’d like to qualify for Zone finals in the Low Adults. We have totally hit our groove in the 1m classes (you should see just how proud of himself he gets) and this would be a great goal to help focus our efforts. Lastly, I want to have fun with him. 2020 will be our fifth(!!!) show season together and I want to fully enjoy all the adventures, opportunities, and time together that we can. At this point my goals for Frankie are ever-flexible because the one that trumps all others is making sure he’s happy and healthy and enjoying his work. So far, so good!
I started up my online MBA program back in April, and as of year-end I’m officially halfway through the program. It has introduced a whole new level of balancing act as I tr to meet deadlines while working and traveling and competing and (maybe even sometimes) sleeping and eating. That being said, I’m SO glad I’m doing this, especially in the online format. I’m able to learn something in my course materials over the weekend and apply it at work on Monday. I get to learn new things, debate ideas with interesting people, stretch my skills in different ways. It’s incredibly stimulating.
Looking forward to the next year, I’ll be finishing my program in early October! I’ll be finishing with a dual concentration in Business Analytics (hello numbers my old friend) and Strategic Leadership (which is the first step of my bid for world domination). There’s just a marathon 18 week triple-term this spring, a summer term, and 7 weeks in the fall between me and that sweet degree.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a huge year for me professionally. Not bad by any stretch, just nothing exciting to report. Worked on some cool projects, got some new coworkers, loved my boss a ton (she’s amazing). I spent a decent amount of time kinda bored, but it sure did pay the bills so I can’t shouldn’t complain.
I am planning to leverage this new degree moving into 2020. There are a few different avenues this can take and I’m hoping to be able to share which avenue this follows fairly early in the year. At the end of the day my motivation for career growth is to (1) be able to provide for my family and (2) not be bored so fingers crossed we can make both of these happen at the same time.
Holy moly guys, 2019 was a very full year from a personal relationship standpoint. My best friend got married, my mom came for a visit, our friend kicked off a new career, BOTH my parents came for a visit, we made a surprise birthday trip to LA, my best friend announced her pregnancy (OMG HER LIL BELLY IS TOO CUTE FOR WORDS), we went to a family reunion, we visited my side in RI, we went on our honeymoon, we celebrated my dad’s retirement from the ANG, we went to Cali for a dear friend’s wedding, we went to MD for ANOTHER wedding, we went out to the country for a weekend with BOTH our sets of parents, celebrated Christmas up north, celebrated countless birthdays, went on lots of dates together, saw friends, and spent tons and tons of time with our friends and family. It was a lot of traveling and all worth it. We are incredibly blessed to have these people in our lives. It was also our first full year of marriage and it totally rocked. I like him even more than I did on our wedding day. I also found an amazing new hairstylist in 2019 and if any of y’all don’t think that’s revolutionary then you also need to find a new one.
Our slogan for 2020 is: “Y’all can come to us.” We’re hoping to cut down on some of the constant travel – but realistically, we’ll still be hopping on planes with some regularity. My hope is to be a bit more deliberate about protecting our time together especially as I power through the final terms of schoolwork. I’m trying to plan a vacation adventure for the two of us later in the year as a pseudo-graduation present to myself. Whatever we have going on, it’ll be a ton of fun.
2019 felt like a year of big change and a year of staying still all at once. My goals changed, my balance changed, my perspectives changed. But I was in the same job, same apartment, with the same incredible support system. There were lots of wins to celebrate and I learned a lot about what the people around me need from me and what I need from myself.
I think 2020 will be a year of greater change, with a lot less staying still. I don’t really know what that looks like yet, which used to scare me. I like to have a plan. But I have the world’s best partner to share the highs and lows and make me laugh, and I have the world’s most wonderful horse (who also constantly makes me laugh). I’m not so worried with those two in my corner.
It was a year full of changes and growth, full of fun adventures, and full of wonderful sweet times with my family and friends and favorite horse on the planet. Cheers to a fantastic 2019, and cheers to an even better 2020!
I’m loving the walk down memory lane we’re all doing as we get psyched for a brand new decade. It’s been a heck of a 10 years for me, so it was wild looking back at old photos to figure out what to share!
I can’t wait to see what the next decade brings for me and the Frankfurter!
We all know and love Tracy over at The Printable Pony for organizing the best Secret Santa every year, and this year has been wonderful! It’s been so fun seeing everyone sharing and reaching out to new people.
And get presents. We all like presents.
In a wonderful twist of fate, I received my gift on my birthday itself! A little holiday cheer, a little birthday cheer, and a whole lot of happiness. A huge thank you to Kristen over at Stampy and the Brain for such thoughtful gifts!!
OK first of all the puppy wrapping paper is the cutest possible way to wrap, amiright?!
It’s tough to see in this lighting, but this is my absolutely favorite navy!! I’ve been lusting after one of these surcingle belts for a while now, and it’s even cooler that it comes from a fellow blogger and horse girl: Rachel over at For Want of a Horse.
Y’all know how obsessed I am with socks, and this pair is too cute. I think these are going to be my new lucky show socks – there’s something about getting dressed for battle (in an adorable way) that brings good juju.
And of course Kristen didn’t forget Frankie! He absolutely adores all things peppermint flavored, and these are the perfect size for our post-ride carrot stretches. He’s going to be one happy camper!!
Thank you Kristen for a ray of sunshine in the form of a package, and happy holidays to all!
Of all the rides I’ve had on Frankie, this is the one that I truly wish we had video of. Not because it was a paragon of correctness and grace. Not because it highlighted all of our natural strengths.
No. I want video for the pure comedy gold.
Our exercise this past week has been a series of trot-in one-strides, inspired by an exercise Joe Fargis has recommended in the past. It was set as so:
The full exercise was simply weaving across the ring from A to B to C to D. The first jump in each was always a crossrail, but the second jump went progressively higher. Seems very simple and straightforward, right? Right. It actually is a very straightforward exercise.
But here’s the cool part about it: since everything is trotting in, your horse cannot rely on speed to make it out over the second jump. The striding is set fairly short, so speed actively makes it more difficult (and cheating to allow more space by getting crooked was Not Allowed). The only way to make it out is to power off the hind end.
So yeah, we were basically doing super-sets of squats with our horses with this exercise.
The first time we did this earlier in the week, we ended up putting the back jumps up to roughly 3’ish to encourage a bigger effort, then backing the height back down to make sure we were still able to stay super straight and careful even at lower heights. It was a great way to work on strength for our horses and correctness of position and placement for us riders.
We’re not at the comedy part yet.
The second time we did this was during a lesson I had with our juniors. It started out similarly – working to keep Frankie straight through a combination of leg and opening rein as needed, staying out of his way when he wanted to stretch over the oxers, overall building on what we had done previously.
But you know what the juniors do? They jump big.
So Trainer jacks the back jumps up to whatever height (3’6″? more? no clue but it looked real big) and has us go again. Quick reminder that I haven’t jumped that height in a super long time but I was thinking not a big deal, I know my horse and he’s a pretty smooth ride and I definitely haven’t forgotten everything about how to jump bigger.
Turns out that I’m really quite comfortable getting to bigger jumps at speed.
What do you get when you take away that speed, add extreme power in the hind end, and jack the oxer up real big?
HOUSTON, YOU GET LIFTOFF.
I swear zero part of me was making any sort of contact with Frankie. I was completely airborne. He went up, I went up with him, and then I KEPT GOING UP. Launched into the stratosphere. The air started getting thinner. I had time to reflect on all the choices that had carried me into the rafters.
I somehow managed to land on top of my horse as he calmly and quietly cantered away. AND PROCEEDED TO DO THIS 5 MORE TIMES.
On the plus side, I very much stayed out of his way so he was never punished for putting in such a powerful effort. On the other side, the reason I stayed out of his way was because I was nowhere near him. There was a solid 6″ of air between me and my saddle.
Trainer was cracking up laughing, I was cracking up laughing (while desperately trying to keep my stirrups), and Frankie was boppin’ around wondering what was so funny.
From the way it felt and the way Trainer described it, Francis basically gave us a really incredible hunter-style jump. You know the kind you see in a derby, where the horse is not moving quickly and then they just LAUNCH super powerfully over the big jump. And then they land back in the same quiet rhythm. It’s why I don’t get annoyed at the big hunter riders for having less-than-perfect equitation – that type of explosive jump out of that quieter pace is BONKERS difficult to stay with.
And now I have first hand experience of this and no thank you I have zero aspirations to do any big hunter classes ever in my life good lord that is INSANE.
I hit the gym with our new barn manager (who I’m slightly obsessed with HI COLLEEN I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS YOU’RE/WE’RE INCREDIBLE) a few hours later because wow ok Francis if you’re going to work that hard I gotta step up my game to match.
Next time I’m bringing a hang glider to assist in my return to earth.
I opted to leave Francis at home for the week, and leased an amazing mare to do the Low Adult Jumpers with. She was a great teacher and it was a fun and satisfying re-entry to the show ring after a 7 month(!) break. I really enjoyed the chance to learn from a horse that was so been-there-done-that and it was nice to stretch myself to adapt to a very different type of ride.
Results: clean schooling rounds, 5th in our jumpoff round and 2nd in the speed with a 3rd in our classic.
I got back in the ring with my favorite boy! We shipped in and did a couple 0.90m classes to knock some rust off and Frankie turned out to have no rust at all. This was a low key and fun outing to build confidence for the rest of our season.
Results: 3rd in our speed round and 7th in our jumpoff round.
For the first time ever, we didn’t do a single jumper class at a show! This was our first foray into the adult medals (including tests) and we even tried our hand at our first hunter derby. We were certainly more competitive in the eq than in the derby, and it was a BLAST trying some new things with the Frankfurter.
Results: 4th in the Ariat, 3rd in the Dover Adult Medal, 6th in the MHSA Adult Medal, and tons of fun in the USHJA National Hunter Derby.
Continuing our streak of new things, we played in the medal/derby rings again at this show. It was a great chance to finesse our equitation rounds and Francisco showed up and excelled at that type of precision. We also took the high options in the derby for a score that I was really proud of.
Results: 8th in the VHSA eq on the flat, 4th in the VHSA Adult Medal, and lots of fun again in the derby.
Returning to those same showgrounds after a little summer break, we stepped back into the jumper ring for a full weekend of the Low Adults. He was forward, eager to the jumps, landed turning, and was simply beyond professional. We have fun in the other rings, but Frankie clearly knows the job superbly well in the jumper ring.
Results: 7th in our jumpoff round, 1st in our speed, and 3rd in our stakes for division champion.
Frankie and I tried out the AA hunter division for the first time! We certainly don’t have the movement to excel in that ring (I mean, no horse can be good at EVERYTHING) but Frankie was a winner in my heart with his sweet attitude and gentleness. The next day we zipped back over to the jumper ring, where we put the pedal to the metal for some great rounds. It was a perfect way to end the year with versatility and challenge.
Results: king of my heart in the AA 18-35 Hunter O/F classes, 6th in our jumpoff class, 1st in our speed for division reserve champion.
I can’t believe that this show year was so full! I fully expected to have to cut way back on showing when I went back to school in the spring. I’m beyond grateful for my support system that made this all possible – my trainers who kept Frankie fit and ready to go every when I couldn’t get out as often, my husband who took care of things at home when I was away, my classmates that put up with conference calls from hotel lobbies, my boss who gave me the flexibility to work from the barn when needed. It hasn’t always been easy balancing it all and I’m so fortunate to have this kind of help along the way.
Cheers to a fantastic and full 2019 season, and cheers to all that’s next with my Very Bestest Boy!