Frankie Goals

We all love a good goal post, amiright??

football_goalpost
hahahahahahaha get it???

I wrote one of these up a month or two ago when we were still on the horse search, so most of them were pretty focused on myself. Basically: be a better rider. Of course these still hold! But now that Francis is in my life, we have some goals that are a little more specific to our partnership.

Well, I have some goals. His goal is to eat EVERYTHING.

  • Take some more private lessons. This of course depends on my trainer’s schedule, but once school lets out and the juniors can move their lessons around, she may have a semi-regular slot for me. I learn a ton in our group lessons and have no problem with them, but some super-targeted teaching every so often would likely help us progress even more quickly.
  • Make it to the High Adult Amateur Jumpers in the next few years. Ideally, next year, but we’ll see how things go. I looked at the prize lists for shows we usually go to and the High Adults are usually in the 1.10m-1.15m height range; seems pretty doable to me.
  • Have a successful show season at 1.0m/Low Adults this year. By this I don’t mean winning all blue ribbons- although I won’t complain if that happens. This means that I am confidently and comfortably able to ride a 1.0m course while giving Francis a positive experience in the show ring.
  • Compete in a horse trial. People from my barn tend to do a horse trial every fall as a fun way to shake things up, and I can’t even WAIT to take Frankie out!!!! He has tons of experience as a foxhunter and eventer so I have a feeling he’s going to be a blast.
  • Go on a hunter pace or two. Along the same lines- the more we can get out of the ring the better. Virginia in the fall is absolutely gorgeous. Last year I did a hunter pace in the division with a couple little logs, this year I want to do the one with all the coops!
  • Learn more first aid skills. I’m lucky enough to have a ridiculously awesome vet and an amazing set of trainers/BMs to help out with the major stuff, but I’d love to be more self-sufficient with the little things. I used to be very good at this stuff, but the knowledge has seeped out of my brain over the last 10 years of non-horse ownership.
  • Keep Frankie shiny. A minor goal? Maybe. But Francis showed up in my life gleaming like a mirror, and I want to keep him that way. He’s getting great nutrition and frequent, extensive grooming sessions, so I’m going to keep working to keep him shining.
  • Get WAY better at polo wraps. I used to be able to do these in my sleep. I was the QUEEN of all wraps- polo wraps, standing wraps, you name it I could do it. Fast forward a couple years and spend a year with an unbreakable DragonMare chiseled out of granite, and you lose your edge.

I’m leaving off on the show-ring eq goals for now. My budget is EXTREMELY tight when it comes to showing this year (and probably next to be honest) and I’m having to prioritize. I certainly enjoy the eq ring and hope to give it another go soon, but if I have to pick, you’ll find me in the jumper ring.

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Making really intimidating Brontosaurus faces at the competition

And now for my pie-in-the-sky goal: qualify for the Zone 3 USHJA Adult Amateur Jumper Championship. Not even necessarily compete in the championships, although that would be cool. It has both individual and team aspects that sound really interesting and I think it would be a HUGE learning experience. Basically the jumper version of a year-end medal finals. We’re nowhere near ready for this yet, but it’s a fun goal to work towards!

 

Hold Up Sometimes I Can Ride

We had a great lesson! Hallelujah! I needed that. I’m naturally a very optimistic person and I don’t tend to let things get to me, but I was starting to wonder if this was the end of my short and lackluster stint as A Very Adequate Adult Jumper.

Seriously Olivia, cut the dramatics and ride the damn horse.

Flatwork was great etc etc etc lots of no stirrup work etc etc etc (actually though I rode with some of our juniors and Trainer inflicts SO much more no-stirrup work on them than she does on us weakling ammies).

THEN JUMPING. Professional diagram incoming:

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Our warmup was to simply trot everything in the ring. There were 3 of us that made this pretty manageable, and Francis was very nonchalant about all of it. I mean, he’s nonchalant about everything, but still.

We started by working on 1 to 2: trotting in over the crossrail, then bending out over a little oxer in 6 or 7. This was really hard! There were enough track options and jumps in the way that either the 6 or the 7 could be a totally accurate choice, but you had to know which one you were going for and ride that plan. Outside leg outside leg outside leg. After several weakling gross looking 7 stride tries, we got our butts in gear and went for the more aggressive 6. Sooo much better.

Then we did 3 to 4: canter in over the outside vertical and then out over the stone wall in 4 or 5. This was another toughie- the horses tended to get sucked out to the wall which forced the track wide, making the 5 a better option. But if you could swing out into your corner without stalling, you could power across 3 and go more direct in 4. The trick there was outside leg HARD around that corner to 3, because it comes up really fast out of the turn and you needed to be scooting. This was another case of do-it-weakly-a-bunch-then-realize-your-horse-is-a-jumper-and-you-can-ask-for-more-power-and-do-it-in-a-galloping-4. You know, that kinda thing.

Then our course: 1-2-3-4-5-6a-6b. Trotting in the crossrail bending out over the oxer, up the broken 3-4, down the wall, then up the two-stride. Trainer had me drop my stirrups after the wall before I got to the two stride because she’s a masochist, but that’s neither here nor there.

The two bending lines were ehhhh fine. Not stellar but workable. Then we gangsta leaned around the turn to the wall, I flopped my feet out of the stirrups, then popped up the two stride. That combo is set basically one stride off the turn and it’s long, so the trick there was WAIT FOR IT outside leg and pressing hard into it so you didn’t get an icky little third stride in there.

Sensing a theme here?

Trainer then popped the jumps up a little bit and had me do 2-4-2-6a-6b. Up the oxer bending out in 4, back down over the oxer the other way (it was a Swedish), then up the combo, again without stirrups.

Now this was more like it. Outside leg and stabilizing outside rein into the first oxer, with an opening rein that let us get a nice direct open four strides 4. Then I actually engaged my left leg and sat evenly in my saddle and LO AND BEHOLD THE HEAVENS OPENED UP AND ANGELS SANG.

But for real though. I could ride straight and BOOM LEAD CHANGE then BEND through my turn and I had SO MUCH MORE TIME* to figure out exactly what pace I wanted so that coming around to the brick wall, we had options. It wasn’t just accepting whatever came up out of the turn.

*I didn’t actually have more time- the number of seconds that elapsed from landing off 4 around to the brick were pretty much the same. It just felt sooo much more organized and intentional.

Then sitting Francis on his butt and getting a nice bouncy canter let us get up out of that turn so we could press across and out the combo.

UGH. YES. The pieces are starting to come together.

I think a big part of this is retraining my perspective from DragonMare to BrontosaurusRex. With Addy, getting to the base meant holding. Hold hold hold to the base, otherwise she would blow through to a dangerously long distance or just nope out altogether. Frankie is quite different- he will jump from anywhere. I don’t need to manage him mentally. So if we want the nice close jumper-y distance, I need to ride UP to that distance.

I’m still looking for that nice close spot that makes him jump carefully and sets us up for a civilized landing, but the way I mentally approach that distance is pretty much the opposite now. I’m still sitting deep and keeping my shoulders back and mashing my horse together so that we can compress the stride; I need that compressed stride to have some FIRE in it.

He is a Land Rover: he can happily handle rough terrain and is super duper dependable. But he does not have the sensitivity of a Ferrari. He will totally rev up and get going and attack the jumps IF I tell him to. Instead of being a calming influence, I need to be an energetic influence.

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Like, a super energetic influence.

And I’ll probably continue with the no-stirrup work too to keep tightening up…

We’re headed to our first show in less than 3 weeks and I am ITCHING to get out there and compete. And then I’m itching to tell you guys all about it 😉

Struggle Monorail: Express Line, No Stops

Pity party alert:

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I can’t get a full body shot of my horse because he wants to come get smooches every time. JUST KIDDING I LOVE THIS EVERY TIME.

A short list of things that I’ve been able to do comfortably and confidently for a long time that I can no longer do:

  1. Pick up the correct lead. Either direction.
  2. Sit squarely in my saddle, even a little bit.
  3. Not collapse on my horse’s neck upon landing off a jump of any height.
  4. Put together a short course without falling apart in the middle.
  5. Actively ride my horse instead of clomping around up top like some sort of Jello-based dessert.

I’m just being bitter because of a series of sub-par lessons. I’ve mentioned that it feels like I’m having to re-learn how to ride with Frankie, but apparently I’m having to un-learn everything first. Including all the stuff I really would rather not un-learn.

And none of this is on Frankie: homeboy is a SAINT. Legit, he trotted over a 2’9″ square oxer rather than stopping when I absolutely mangled the approach. He would’ve been well within his rights to coast to a stop but he knows his job is to jump the jump NO MATTER what I’m doing. Much love to my best boy.

frankie_crossties_boots
He’s sexy, he’s cute, he’s popular to boot, he’s bitchin’, great hair, the girls all love to stare

But I’m frustrated that I mangled that approach. Blah blah blah hooray for pony saving my butt- I don’t WANT him to have to save my butt. I want to take care of my own butt, thank you very much.

Enough about my butt. (EVEN THOUGH APPARENTLY EVEN MY BUTT CAN’T SIT STRAIGHT IN MY SADDLE OK NOW I’M ACTUALLY DONE WITH BUTTS)

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Do I look crooked here? I analyze my butt in every picture now. (Side note- cutest saddle pad ever or what?!)

Pity party: over. Thank you for indulging me for a couple paragraphs.

Time to focus on an action plan instead! Here’s what I’m doing to tighten up:

  • Drop dem stirrups. Even better, take them off my saddle before I hop on so there’s no temptation. I’ve been sore in some form or another literally since I bought Frankie, so I may as well intensify those muscle aches a bit more.
nostirrups_grimace
Both of us make faces when the stirrups come off.
  • Continue the pick-up-the-lead-I-ask-for exercises that my trainer suggested. These exercises went amazingly on Saturday, which is why I was so frustrated that we bombed our lesson on Sunday. Such is the manner of progress with riding, I suppose.
  • Get more comfortable with spurs. I tend to wear these in lessons and then flat without them- I need to learn to use them more intentionally at all times. No accidental poking allowed.
  • Get. My. Head. In. The. Game. It’s been a weird couple of weeks and I haven’t had the same focus I usually have, and I need to shake that off and get back in it. I want/need to be fully present during our rides.

At the end of the day I’m allowing myself to be frustrated about these lessons going poorly, but then I intend to channel that frustration into something productive. I have a fantastic horse who loves his job and will do anything I ask without question. I have the desire and the ability to work hard to improve. I have a trainer that will make sure that my horse and I are safe, and who will push us to expand our abilities. It’s time to really take advantage of these wonderful resources and turn them into something amazing!

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Even MORE amazing than this family photo. Sorry Manfriend, but this is your family now. Get pumped for the Christmas cards.

PS- Seriously though, I love my horse. He’s the bestest pony.

When you’ve started riding a new horse, what was the learning curve like? Any tips for adjusting to such a different ride??

Balance.

I did something very unexpected yesterday.

I told my trainer that I would not be there for my weekly lesson, and that I would make it up another time.

Now, this particular action has occurred many times over the last year due to travel or illness or other barriers to me getting to the barn and riding.

But this time I cancelled because I needed a day to just not. There was nothing that would’ve prevented me riding. I was physically capable, the weather was fine (though gross, as has become the eternal state of weather in NoVA), and my horse was ready to go. I could’ve gone to the barn and hopped on and had my lesson.

But I knew that if I did, the tension and frustration and frazzled feeling I’ve been carrying for the last week or so would carry over to my ride. And as terribly guilty as it made me, the best thing I could do for me and Frankie both was to take a step back and give myself permission to take a deep breath.

I felt so guilty about this- why should Frankie miss out on work just because I’m feeling off? The weather has been so crappy, he would probably love the chance to stretch his legs and play. I was gone over the weekend and he hasn’t gotten worked with the consistency I’d like- is he going to start losing muscle mass? What if he forgets about his mother? What if he HATES ME???

I don’t have to elaborate further because you all share a similar type of crazy and know what those thoughts are like.

Thankfully, I’ve got a support system that helps me out in every way when I work myself into a frenzy like that.

I’ve got the friend who reminds me that one day off is NOT the end of the world. That we are not showing this weekend and Frankie is dead-broke, it’s not like we have him in a strict training program that I’m messing up. That he deserves my patience and hard work instead of my stress and baggage. That ONE DAY OFF WILL NOT KILL HIM SERIOUSLY OLIVIA CALM DOWN YOU RIDICULOUS BALL OF ANXIETY.

And then I’ve got the friend who I can trust to hop on Frankie in her lesson and give him a good ride. Who sent me video of her jumping so I could see for myself how it went. Who called as soon as she left the barn to give me a FULL report on what they worked on and how Francis did. Whose first words on that phone call were, “Oh my God your horse is so fun.”

So yeah, there’s still some residual guilt. I really did miss my guy yesterday. But I definitely made the right choice for me and my pony- to take a step back and take care of myself, as hard as it was.

We all have to figure out our own balance and what works for us, and I’m still figuring out my version of what that looks like. It’s going to require saying no to more things so I don’t get as spread thin, and it’s going to require a little more organization.

Thank goodness for the people I have helping me out while I catch my balance. ❤

frankie_kisses

 

My Day at Jersey Fresh

I had a very different post planned for this. I was so excited to tell you about how cool jump judging was, how thrilling it was to see these incredible athletes leap and gallop by, and the new friends I made through that unspoken camaraderie of people who volunteer to wake up at 5:30AM to help at an event they aren’t even competing in. And there were certainly moments of all these things- jump judging IS exciting, these horses and riders are awe-inspiring to watch, and I made so many connections with some lovely people. But all these wonderful things have been overshadowed by one thing.

I saw someone die this weekend.

I saw a cute paint horse galloping along in the lane behind me and watched it go by, admiring the balance of the rider and the big galloping stride of the horse. I saw them go down the field, and then I saw a rotational fall that defied physics. The *crack* of the horse crashing into that jump echoed across the field a half-second later, and I heard hysterical voices on the radio calling for a medic. I saw someone giving CPR within 10 seconds and the ambulance was there within 30 seconds and the screens went up.

And then an hour and a half later, I watched more riders come up over our fences and I almost vomited every single time, just hoping that everyone else would be OK. Every time I could radio in and say, “rider clear at fence 21AB,” I leaned over, put my hands on my knees, and let out a big breath.

Because I couldn’t say “rider clear” every time. The ambulance was able to get to Phillipa so quickly because they were nearby at our fence the whole time- after two horses fell at our combo early in the day, they realized that was the place for them to be. We had several more horses fall at that same jump. I got very good at calling in, “rider and horse down at fence 21B, medic is here, lane is not clear.”

Luckily all of the riders that fell at our jump were able to stand up and walk away from their falls, and all of the horses were quickly caught and declared to have no serious injuries.

I took care of the footing around those jumps like you wouldn’t believe, hoping that by packing down the divots and smoothing out the landing I could prevent any more falls. I held my breath when riders took the inside track, knowing that unless every hoof fell in the exact right place, I’d be calling in another fall.

I’m not sure why I’m giving all this detail- I realize this post is a bit rambling. But I’m in a weird headspace right now. This is not my discipline and I won’t pretend to know what developments are in place- Amanda just shared a much more informed post.  This is the perspective of an outsider to the sport who just so happened to be on the inside on this day.

If you are interested, a college fund has been set up for Philippa’s young daughter Millie here.

Seriously Olivia: A Tale of Blame and Redemption

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Mom get out of my ear this is not fun for me

STOP THE PRESSES. Last night’s lesson was just a series of “Seriously Olivia”s.

I, Olivia, do solemnly swear to stop implying that shortcomings in our ride are due to shortcomings in my horse. I’ve been proven wrong every time. This I do swear, so help me God. (Seriously Olivia you bought a nice horse stop pretending like he isn’t a super nice horse)

With that binding oath out of the way, lets talk about left legs. Because honestly, I don’t know any other group of people who willingly want to talk about left legs. But y’all are nuts and I love it. So back to my left leg.

Well, the left side of my body in general.

A little while ago I asked all of you for advice on how to get Francis to respect my left side more, and you gave me some FANTASTIC ideas, many of which I tried. And Frankie the Tankie was perfect with them. Like, weirdly perfect. Shouldn’t he be more resistant??

NEWSFLASH FOLKS THIS HAS BEEN ENTIRELY MY FAULT (Seriously Olivia how had you not picked up on this pattern yet it’s been quite apparent)

Turns out I’m like a super subtle Quasimodo on horseback. It would probably actually be better to be a true Quasimodo, because then it would be very obvious and we could clearly point to what was wrong. But this is a sneaky, insidious kind of crookedness. Where my left shoulder drops, my right seatbone twists back and down, my right leg shoves forward, and my weight drops unevenly into my right heel.

It’s hard to see when I’m going right, and it’s still pretty subtle when I’m in motion. But Trainer took a burst of still-shots at the canter and showed me and it was like wellllll….I’m not with my horse’s motion AT ALL. Like, even a little.

“My horse doesn’t like to bend left.” Except for he totally does when my weight is even and my left leg is legitimately on him and not just wiggling around.

“My horse hates to pick up his right lead.” Could it be because I’M TOTALLY BLOCKING HIS BODY FROM DOING THAT????

“My horse falls in around the corners.” Except he doesn’t do that when I’m not leaning to the outside.

Brain. Exploded.

We even had confirmation of this: when I landed off the jumps and very consciously stayed even and straight, he didn’t even try to fall in, and bent around the turns just fine.

Turns out that when you ride correctly, your horse goes better. NOVEL CONCEPT. (Seriously Olivia you’ve been on horseback for decades now how is this even a statement you have to write down)

Pretty much all the little things I’ve been trying to fix are stemming from this crookedness. We all know that he’s going to jump the jump no matter what I’m doing, and I’m getting better at asking for an energetic bouncy canter off the bat as we get used to each other more and more. What we need now are deliberate tracks so I can ask for my nice close jumper distance, and so I can set him up for the inside turn.

So overall? This was not one of those lessons where I walked away feeling like Beezie Madden. My trainer told me “we have things to work on” instead of “good job” when I left the ring. But MAN OH MAN I am excited that we’ve diagnosed the problem here so that we can now go about fixing it. We were trying to fix the symptoms before, but now we can go about curing the disease.

Yet again, I am calling on Blogland for your collective wisdom.

Have any of you dealt with this kind of crookedness, and how have you gone about addressing it?

 

Setting the Record Straight

Manfriend has been dragged along to lessons, shows, XC schoolings, and countless other barn outings over the last few years. It was time to give him a turn to talk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greetings to all you equestrian enthusiasts and faithful readers of this awesome blog. I have been asked to post as an outside guest, and the best thing I could think of was to debunk some myths that I have had in my head for years about the world of horses. Here are the 5 top misconceptions I’ve had, and the facts behind them.

Myth #1: Girls love horses because horses are beautiful creatures.

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Disgusting.

Fact: FALSE. I actually have zero idea why girls love horses because they are disgusting. They poop on their own tails, they fart extraordinarily loud when they jump, and they spew green foamy slobber from their mouths. And that’s just the first 10 minutes of a riding session.

Myth #2: Horse girls are crazy and high maintenance.

Fact: This is a big one. I know a lot of you guys out there have heard that you should avoid horse girls because “they’re crazy and their whole world revolves around horses”. This is absolutely false- I’ve heard my horse girl mention time and time again how much she cares about things that truly matter like friends, food, a good home, blankets, shoes, saddles, water, bits, turnout time…wait.

Myth #3: Horse races are for the cultured and those of high society.

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Darling, looking at the camera is for sober poor people

Fact: Oh MAN have you guys been found out. You thought you could fool me with your fancy hats, your pretty dresses, and those long glove things that reach up to your elbows. You people are the biggest bunch of goddamn phonies I’ve ever seen. You see, my only experience with horse races prior to dating Horse Girl was what I saw of the NBC coverage of the Kentucky Derby on TV, where everyone is wearing a watch worth more than what I make in a year turning tricks down at the docks. When Olivia took me to my first steeplechase event, we pulled into the lot and I thought we had gotten the wrong directions and wound up at an outdoor frat convention.

You see, it was at that exact moment that I realized horse races are an excuse to drink liquor at 10AM and maybe, if you feel like it, glance at a horse or two. My eyes are forever open, I’ve been unplugged from the matrix, and I’ll be taking my red pill straight up with a whiskey back. What? No thanks…no I’m good on food, I had some from the taco truck. What? Yea, yea the one right next to where the girl in the sunhat was puking a few minutes ago.

Myth #4: Horse shows are where they trot the horses around with bows and do their manes up like my little pony.

Fact: This is literally what I thought a horse show was before actually going to my first one. The fact is that shows are competitive, sometimes dangerous and downright dirty. I didn’t fully realize this until I saw a rider fall off a horse straight into the muck on her back only to pop right back on like nothing even happened. Just a close call to a spinal injury, no big deal, that only happens to newbies and Superman right? Don’t even get me started on the cross country stuff. Barreling down an open and uneven field at top speed and launching over fences that are usually sufficient enough to keep rioters at bay? Keep on truckin’, ladies, you’re making it look easy and reminding the rest of us uninitiated folk that we would probably scream like Thad Castle (look it up) if we went half that speed.

Myth #5: She probably loves her horse more than you.

nickandaddy
Pick a favorite face.

Fact: She lets me sleep inside, the horse has never once been invited over to her apartment (I have, lots of times), and she doesn’t smack me on the rib cage for not holding still. Usually. Besides, has Frankie ever had a slice of her homemade coconut cream pie? I think not. Who’s the clear winner here? Thought so.

Myth #6: Riding is easy because the horse is the one doing all the work.

Fact: This time I’m only talking to the men. Guys, in the 2 years I’ve been involved with the horse world, I’ve learned one simple tip if nothing else. If you have ever thought about even THINKING about maybe entertaining the thought of saying this………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

………………………………………….go for it, you’re absolutely right.

Raccoon

Monday Tidbits

Fun little updates to start your week:

  • Saddle Updates: I talked to my local saddle rep that I bought my lovely glorious saddle from and had her take a look at Frankie. We tried a couple different saddles on and found one that fit him wonderfully….and had a flap that was way too short for me. But riding him in it was lovely- I could really feel the difference in his freedom of movement. We talked and debated the pros and cons of different options, and came up with a beyond ideal outcome: they are re-paneling my saddle! The tree was already fine, it was just the paneling that didn’t sit quite right on him. The saddle already fits me like it’s custom (it’s a 17.5 seat with a 5A flap, meaning it is a regular sized seat with the longest flap they make, forward. Not a common combo.), and now it’ll fit Frankie like it’s custom! Basically I’ll have a close-to-custom buffalo-leather Antares saddle for a small fraction of the price of a new one. This is why I love my saddle rep. She’s the bomb dot com.
  • Addy Updates: we haven’t found a new leaser for Addy yet, but her owners are just concerned with keeping her in consistent work when they travel for work. So during the weeks that they’re gone, I still get to hop on twice a week! It’s just a few times a month, but I’m incredibly grateful that they’re still letting me play an active role in Addy’s life. Even better: they understand that my finances are tied up with Francis and we’ve agreed that this arrangement is mutually beneficial with no need for money to change hands. Addy gets consistency with a rider who knows and loves her, her owners have the reassurance that someone who adores their horse is keeping an eye on things, and I get to have more saddle time with my favorite mare.
  • Other Horse Updates: I was chatting with a woman at the barn whose horse was getting spooky and naughty, and ended up hopping on and helping get her horse settled down. Her reaction was to ask my favorite wine and tell me her horse may need some conditioning rides, would I possibly be interested? I don’t anticipate it being a regular thing, but MOAR PONIES! OBVIOUSLY Francis is my priority at all times, but I will never turn down another ride. Danny Emerson said something about gaining mastery by spending the hours and days and weeks and years putting in the time- I really really really want to be a good rider, so I’m going to get as many hours in the saddle as I can.
  • Cool Barn Updates: my trainer is hosting a study group for our younger riders to prep for the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge. How cool is that?! They’re meeting every week to learn both theory and practical skills. I’m incredibly proud to ride at a barn that values horsemanship just as much as competition, and makes it a priority for our young riders. Can she host a study group for her ammies too??? I’ll bring the wine!

Hope all of you are having a FANTASTIC start to your week!!

At it again with the lesson recaps!

Subtitled: “Seriously Olivia your left leg theoretically has muscle and is not just a limp spaghetti to drag around”

We’re now a little over a month into horse-ownership (OMG) and things have been going…how do I put this….AMAZING. THINGS ARE AMAZING. HOLY CRAP I LOVE THIS HORSE. LIKE AGGRESSIVE AMOUNTS. IT ACTUALLY MAKES ME ANGRY SOMETIMES HOW GREAT HE IS.

But we’re not going to focus on that right now. We’re here for a lesson recap! With the return of professional Powerpoint diagrams! (seriously Olivia this is not a talent that makes you stand out from the crowd)

Flatwork: getting there. I’ve mentioned that if I ask correctly and consistently, Francis will give me correct and consistent work. I’ve started getting the hang of the correctness, so now it’s more of an exercise in consistency. Asking for a bouncy collected canter and MAKING it happen before softening at him. In some ways Addy really prepared me well for this- to ask as softly as I can but as firmly as necessary to get a response.

A big focus in our warmup was controlling our pace within gaits- lots of extensions and collections. Extensions are definitely Frankie’s happy place and he loves to cover the ground, but he needs some help from me to package that whole long body of his together to collect. Holding my outside aids around the corners, sitting deep, and keeping my shoulders back instead of hunching in the fetal position have all really helped me maintain my own balance and help him maintain his.

Then we did no-stirrup work and shallow serpentines along the long sides to get them softening and changing the bend and blah blah blah lets get to the fun part.

Jumping!!!!!

We trotted a crossrail a couple times to get ourselves in the zone, and then started with a really cool exercise. We trotted up 6, came around the corner down 3, and then HALT. And then canter out over 1.

may4_lesson

This was tough! Frankie likes to jump. Frankie does not appreciate being told to halt when it’s jumping time. Luckily I learned how to ask for a halt on the DragonMare so his half-hearted “but mahhhhhhm” was met with my cackle as we halted WITHOUT EVEN USING THE WALL TO RUN INTO. Sucker.

Then of course we picked up the wrong lead to canter out over 1, because we can’t have nice things.

This is a pattern: Francis does not like my left leg. He will pick up the left lead 100x more willingly than his right, dives around corners going left, and generally thinks my left leg is a funny concept but nothing to take seriously. This is something we will be working on.

Anwhosicle. On to our course! 1-2-3-4a-4b-5-6-7-8. It’s almost like I labeled it that way on purpose. So up the outside line in a quiet 4 or a forward 3 (in an amazing show of faith, Trainer left it up to us to decide), down the swedish oxer, 3 strides to the bounce, up the outside vertical/maybeitwasanoxer, then down the s-turn: green, itty bitty three strides to wall, two galloping strides out over the coop.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I loved this course. Anything that smells like a gymnastic is solid gold in my book, and this course had lots of fun little gymnastic-y elements. I of course went for the galloping 3 up the outside line because reasons, Frankie promptly dove through the corner and did a gangsta lean until I dug my spur into him and gave him a big fat nope, popped over the swedish and came to the bounce no problem, got to a nice close distance to the outside verticalmaybeanoxerimnotreallysure, and then survived the s-turn. It wasn’t really that dramatic because the jumps were basically speedbumps at 2′, but that tiny 3 to a big 2 was probably very entertaining to watch.

When we went back and did it again, Trainer added on a fun little thing at the end: after landing out of the s-turn, drop stirrups and jump 1 to 3 in a bending 6, then trot and come back over 6.

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So you don’t have to scroll up. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you.

At one point I crashed through 1, but Francis is the ultimate ammy-packer type and went back and jumped it as if I hadn’t crawled up his neck and whispered “I’m so sorry” in his ear as things went south.

I was really happy with this! We learned that Frankie is not suuuuuper into my left leg at the moment, but we made new mistakes. That’s one of my favorite things my trainer has told me: go make new mistakes. New mistakes means we’re not making the same mistakes as last week means progress.

At this point, one of the other girls in my lesson asked Trainer to put the jumps up (she’s our Maclay junior who is an insanely talented rider, with an insanely talented horse, and an absolute pleasure to watch). Trainer had her pop over 1-2-3-1 once she set the jumps to 3’3″-3’6″ and they just flowed. It was gorgeous.

And then Trainer turned to me and said, “Olivia, do you want to give this a go?”

UM YES OBVIOUSLY PLEASE LET ME AT THEM

So we did the same mini-course. The first time through we took a bit of a flyer to the swedish, but we went back and fixed it and it was absolutely lovely. This horse, guys. He didn’t even blink.

Also- when I biffed that distance, Trainer said, “Olivia, you won’t be able to get away with that distance when the jumps really go up, that’s the kind of distance that will land you in the middle of the spread.”

Of course she’s totally right and all that. BUT. “When the jumps really go up.” LADY I THOUGHT THIS WAS UP. But this is the second time she has alluded in passing to the fact that we want to jump big and she doesn’t see it as a total impossibility for me and Frankie. She sees it as a logical progression. Beyond cool to have a trainer that believes in us and our abilities.

Speaking of logical progressions, we just sent in our entry blank for our first show together!!! We’re headed to Loudoun Benefit in June, held on the same showgrounds as Upperville. The tentative plan is to do 0.90m as a warmup on Thursday to see what kind of horse we have, and then do the 1m Low Adults Fri/Sat and the 1m Low Adult Classic Sunday.

To prepare for this, Frankie now has his lifetime membership with USEF as To Be Frank. I can’t wait to hear our names over the loudspeaker!

Any ideas for A) how to strength my legs or B) how to convince Frankie to respect that left leg more or C) build up Frankie’s strength to that side so it’s EASIER for him to respect it?

Wordless Wednesday

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Thank you Courtney for the photos!!!! I’m sorry that I can’t look majestic on cue. And sorry that my horse looks like an 80 year old goat here. This face of his seems to be popping up pretty often and I like to call it “Seriously mom you’re lucky I’m tolerating this.”