Get on the Horse? I’ll Leave That to You.

You’ve heard from Manfriend, who gets dragged around to all sorts of questionably-smelling events. But what about the person who has to actually LIVE with the stink? Now presenting my wonderful roommate/best friend/life partner:

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Olivia is a Crazy Horse Person. I say that endearingly — she is wildly passionate about perfecting her riding form and refining her craft, and even more passionate about the animals themselves. She tried to put up a horse shower curtain, which I quickly vetoed. Our living room is adorned with ribbons from various shows, and the foyer will always have a dedicated place for her gear, no matter where we live. She is a Crazy Horse Person, and she is wonderful.

showercurtain
Hard pass.

I am not a Crazy Horse Person. I’m not even a horse person, really. They’re majestic creatures, but I have a healthy fear of them (they’re humongous!) and it turns out I’m fairly allergic. And while I knew that riding a horse wasn’t easy by any means, I always wondered, how hard it could really be? Could I do it? Would I have a knack for it the way I had a knack for basketball, soccer, weight lifting?

No. The answer is a resounding, all-consuming no.

I discovered this lack of ability after Olivia and Olivia’s Blog Friend (OBF) suggested stopping by the barn on the way home from an outing so I could hop on Addy (this was before Frankie). (Editor’s note: waivers were signed, helmets were worn, and all reasonable safety precautions were taken! Just covering my butt here.) Addy is a brick house of a lady, but my traitorous brain assured me that there was no way I wouldn’t master this horse thing after a couple of minutes.

Again, no.

Olivia and OBF figured I could go up bareback and be perfectly fine. Note to horse newbies: NEVER DO THIS. To my credit, I held on for dear life with my tree trunk legs, and I probably could have cracked a walnut with the force at which I was doing this. I also was told to hold on to her mane, and I was laugh-crying about how I didn’t want to hurt her and she has to feel this and I’m so sorry and oh my god I’m hurting her. Olivia assured me that it doesn’t and OBF agreed, but instead of holding on properly I decided that both of them are liars. How does hair pulling not hurt? Anyway.

We started walking. Not trotting, but simply walking. Holy god. I’ve ridden mechanical bulls that were easier to stay on than a walking horse. Not to mention that it’s a huge animal that you have to control, otherwise you could literally die. LITERALLY DIE. All aboard the Nope Train, people. My, ahem, “areas” were already feeling bruised (I was trying to post, I swear, but not having a saddle was hard!) when we decided to try out a little trot. It took approximately 7 seconds for me to realize that the amount of skill necessary to stay on a horse, saddle or no saddle, is both immense and terrifying, and also that I should have had a good talk with my lady parts before hopping up on that beast.

I left the barn a different person that day. And possibly one who can no longer have children.

All of this is to say that, I respect you Crazy Horse People. What you do is damn hard, and your passion is necessary to keep you motivated. I’m in awe of your dedication and your ability to harness such an extreme talent (see what I did there?). You should buy horse shower curtains, because this isn’t just something you do. This isn’t a hobby for weekends, or something you get around to. This… this is who you are.

Keep riding, keep sharing, keep getting better, keep getting stronger. Crazy Horse People 4 Eva.

I give you the eternal fist bump, my friends.

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The Dream Team back in 2014 when we first moved in together. Babies.

 

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What Brings You Here?

Out of curiosity, I decided to pull together all the search terms that WordPress tells me drives my traffic. And guys, I think you may be barking up the wrong tree.

wrong tree
You have options and you’ve chosen the wrong one.

We have the basic hellomylivia search- along with some interesting spelling choices like hellimylivia and helllomylivia. I was even flattered to see olivia addy horse blog. It was probably my aunt looking for me or something, but I can pretend it’s because I’m famous.

And then we have searches that lead to my header quote: I wasn’t born in a barn but I got here as fast as I could. And my favorite misspelling: I wasnt born in a barn but I get thete as much as. I don’t know why I find this so funny.

So far, so good. This all makes sense.

Next, we move into the horse-related search terms:

a gelding is everyones friend but a.mate
boots breeches
mares vs geldings
mountain horse.sovereign.field.boot
calf deep mud boots (I understand the need)
gelding lover 1 (this gives me the sense of a really weird chat room name)
horseshoe buckles just keepers
what does a horse trainer say (usually “more leg,” but I’m sure they say other things too)
wiggle right hand and left leg to move righ leg yield (seems about right, glad I could confirm)

Still in good shape! A little bizarre at times, but I can track it.

And then we get into some non-horse related searches:

ambidextrous muscle balance
blame and redemption (this has a very Russian lit feel to it. I feel serious now)
make happy on job
otter instagram (aka my favorite type of instagram)
the fun twice 2 lesson 23 (what does this mean?! Is it a code??? I’M CONCERNED)
sa braidings
when someone responds to you saying kindness
why things don’t scare me anymore
wisdom snippets 01 (yes, I am an endless source of wisdom)

And here’s the part where I have to apologize. Remember how I call Addy Pretty Girl??? And remember how last summer I talked about my pit stains a lot? (Get ready for the pit stains to make a comeback- I’m still an oversharer)

Apparently this is bringing some people that are NOT expecting to read about my horseback riding lessons.

party pics pit stains
photo dump sites girls
pit stains girls
pretty girl photos
pretty girl pics
pretty girls from behind pics dump

To those of you who expected more nudity here: I am deeply sorry. We just don’t run that kind of establishment.

Ugh Real Life

This post will feature a rare appearance of my Non-Horsey Life. Mostly because that’s been busy lately. Sorry, horse.

Francis got Thursday off to Be A Horse after our great lesson on Wednesday so that his mom could go see Riverdance. Did anyone else grow up with a weird crush on Michael Flatley from Lord of the Dance and Riverdance? And watch it endlessly on VHS? I know I’m not alone in this. They came to my area and my work wife and I HAD to go to celebrate our friendiversary and OMG IT WAS AMAZING EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO. There were dance battles and suspenders and a passionate fiddler and I’ve been tap dancing down every hallway since then. Seriously, go.

riverdance
We will both be quitting our jobs to join the cast.

I actually managed to make it out to the barn on Friday! And my heart grew three sizes that day. I almost cried. Because when I went out to get Frankie and saw that he was at the other end of the field, I started trudging out to get him. I usually call his name while I’m walking to get him, mostly so I can disturb his eating so he can feel bad about making me walk that far.

But this time I called his name. He picked his head up to see who was yelling. His big old donkey ears perked up. And he immediately galloped up to me.

Oh. My. Gosh. HE DOES LOVE ME!!!! Or he thinks I have food. OR HE LOVES ME!!!! I’ve never had a horse actually come when called and it was Magical with a capital M.

And then I rode him and he was a very good boy and I figured out how to more consistently and accurately ask for haunches-in and shoulder-in and blah blah blah he’s a very good boy and we love him very much.

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I didn’t get any pics of him that day, so enjoy us both looking off into the distance in an inspiring way

And that was the last time I saw Frankie for the whole weekend. I don’t think I’ve had a horseless weekend in MONTHS. Do not like. But it was necessary…

…because Roommate and I are moving!

Very unexpectedly. About a week ago (while I was at Loudoun), roommate called and told me that repairing the water damage from the flood in our apartment a few weeks ago was going to be SO extensive that we should probably just leave. She is a gorgeous amazing creature who is more organized and efficient than I could ever hope to be, and one week later we got the keys to our new place.

new_apartment view
Not the view from our porch, but the view from the communal grilling area. Well done, roomie.

We’re really happy with it- more natural light, great location, two full bathrooms so we don’t have to share a shower, gorgeous pool. All sorts of good things. And it’s basically across the street so we don’t have to move far!

But GAWD moving is the worst. It’s dusty and sweaty and packing is hard and unpacking is hard and I genuinely want to burn half of the crap I’ve managed to collect over the years. Just burn it. Or like, leave the door unlocked and hope a burglar targets us. That would be super convenient. Please someone take this off my hands.

We’re also kinda spreading out the move a bit- we got a ton done yesterday, but we don’t have a Uhaul to get the furniture over until Thursday. This makes unpacking anything almost impossible, but we’re procrastinating.

Mostly because Manfriend and his very-strong-furniture-moving-muscles have been in the Mojave for the last two weeks, and he doesn’t get back until Tuesday. When he left, we weren’t even talking about moving. So this will be a fun little surprise for him.

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Welcome back from the desert, darling! Now please move all my junk.

Roommate and I plan to let the big strong devil dogs handle the big stuff. My contribution that day will be pizza and a cold six-pack.

So yeah. Real life has been a bit hectic lately and Francis has gotten a very light workload. He’ll probably only see me a couple times this week as we finish the move, and we’ll get back into bootcamp mode next week. I hate to lose any momentum coming off our show, but such is life I suppose.

TL;DR: everyone needs to go see Riverdance, Francis is the sweetest, moving is the actual worst, and I’m not a very fun girlfriend.

After-Work Barn Routine

Loving this idea from Karen at Patently Bay! All us ammies have our own schedules and it’s so fun to peer over the fence to see what we’re all up to.

Here’s how things usually go for me:

5pm: change into riding boots. I usually just wear my breeches to work because they’re so much more comfortable than jeans to me at this point and I SWEAR EQUESTRIAN CHIC IS TOTALLY TRENDY RIGHT NOW. So my changing is pretty much just my shoes.

5:05pm: Get in the car and call my mom. She is wise. Sit in a little bit of traffic, but make it there in ~20 minutes.

5:30pm: Make the rounds. Check the lesson board to see who’s riding that day, pet some ponies, say hi to the cats, help as jump crew for lessons if needed, just chill and decompress.

6:35ish: Fetch Frankie from his field. I like him to be outside as much as possible, so I’ll wait until the last possible moment to bring him in. Usually he just stands there and waits for me to go get him, but last week he trotted up to me and I almost cried.

6:40pm: Groom and tack up. I don’t groom TOO intensely before riding, just picking feet, curry, soft brush. Everything else waits until after we get sweaty and gross. Tack is basic: open front boots go on first (for the simple reason that if I wait to put them on, I will forget and he will go sans boot. Not the end of the world, but homeboy kicks his own legs sometimes and I feel better having some protection on him), then saddle, then I get my helmet/gloves/crop, then bridle. Nothing fancy and it’s the same day-to-day.

7:00pm: Hop on! If we’re lessoning we’ll do about 20-30 min of flatwork before jumping, but otherwise we focus on flatwork. Sometimes I’ll drag out poles to work through to mix things up. Usually sharing the ring with at least one other person.

8:00-8:10pm: Hop off. Run up stirrups, loosen the girth, undo his noseband, pick his feet, and clean up any poops before leaving the ring. Usually end up standing in the ring chatting with people for a while before ACTUALLY leaving the ring.

8:15pm: Eventually make it back to the barn. Depending on how sweaty he got, we’ll (a) curry the crap out of him, (b) sponge off the saddle area and any sweaty areas, or (c) hose off his whole sweaty body. He gets some Heal Quick/Healthy Hair from the Herbal Horse put on his various scrapes, and then some Shine Bright coat conditioner. Can you tell I’m a fan? Francis smells so purdy after this.

8:45pm: Fly spray and turnout. Big Man is on night turnout so he gets to go right back out when I’m done. More often than not, he sticks around for smooches at the gate, takes a good long drink of water, and then heads off for a good roll. And more often than not, I stand there watching him roll around like a dork and take snapchat videos of it. It’s never not funny.

8:50pm: Clean tack, put away all gear, sweep the aisles, clip up crossties. Basically taking care of everything that ISN’T Frankie. Also chat with Trainer, other ammies, the cats, etc.

9-9:15pm: Hit the road. Hope that manfriend is coming over and bringing food. Call Dad to gush over how great my pony is and give him the low-down on what we worked on.

9:45pm: Make it home, shower, eat whatever is easiest to grab, and fall asleep before doing any of the laundry I’ve been needing to do for weeks now.

This happens pretty much every day during the week except Tuesdays! Those are super busy lesson days at the barn so I skip the craziness and let that be Frankie’s day off. So far it works great! I’m lucky enough to have some great ammies to hang out with at the barn and be social, so some nights I’ll stay later. It’s not hard convincing me to stay at the barn 😉

 

Keeping the Momentum

Francis and I had our last class on Sunday morning before he headed home, and due to weather and an unexpected move for me* he got Monday and Tuesday off. I ain’t mad, homeboy earned a break!

*my apartment flooded two weeks ago and it turns out the repairs will be extensive enough that my roommate and I are headed to a new apartment. Everything is working out and she and I and the dog are moving this weekend! It’s just been a whirlwind getting it all set up in a matter of days.

But we did get to have a lesson on Wednesday and I was reeeeeally eager to ride. Loudoun was such a boot-camp and I want to make sure we capture those lessons and internalize them!

He was a little heavy during our warmup and wanted to lean on my hand- nothing new there. While he’s very happy to follow instructions, he’s not a sensitive horse. Leaning on the bit doesn’t bother him. I’m learning to use my outside aids to steady and balance him around the corners so doesn’t have to lean on me as much.

My crookedness is also getting better! My trainer has reminded me often that when I ask for the canter I need to ask the hind end first- if I don’t think that way, I start getting handsy and grabby. Asking for a bit of haunches in and true bend into the canter has made our departs much more consistent.

We also discussed canter-walk transitions. Namely, that we need to sharpen ours up. Trainer made an excellent point that once we have sharp transitions, we can use this as a litmus test for his hocks- if he starts getting unwilling or unable to step under into that downwards, we want to see if his hocks need maintenance. So not only is this a useful thing to work on in terms of precision and obedience, but it’ll be a great “marker” for us in years to come. We know he has a mildly boggy hock and the vet said it shouldn’t need maintenance for quite some time- I’d like to keep it healthy and happy and do whatever we need to do to keep Francis sound and enjoying his job.

Then jumping time! We warmed up over a crossrail blah blah blah. These trot jumps are getting better as I’m pressing him across them- less lurchy than before. Then we started playing around with courses:

june_postshow

First course: A-B-C-D-E-F. Go figure. Twist: after landing off of the oxer (B), we had to break to trot for the crossrail (C) and bending out over D. This went wonderfully! I was able to get the energy up and have a useful canter around the course. Some of the distances were gappier than others, but none of them felt lurchy or too chippy- we had a nice powerful stride to work from. Coming back to a trot from that oxer was tough and we may have had to use the wall to help us brake. But Frankie loves taking breaks on course and thought that was fine. Our first time through the bending E-F I put four strides and wasn’t thrilled with it. The four could’ve worked if we rode more direct and galloped out a bit more, but it wasn’t quite there the way I rode it.

Next!: E-F-C-D-B- circle around to roll back over F- immediate left turn to A. E to F rode will in a more shaped, balancing 5 strides, which made getting our trot back much more smooth. Everything else flowed up nicely out of stride, and the last turn was SO cool. With my equitation background I have a deeply ingrained love of my crest release. Guess what you can’t do with a crest release? Steer in the air. Guess what NEEDED to happen so we could change direction over F and make it to A? Steering in the air.

AND WE TOTALLY DID IT!!!! Outside leg made that right turn to the brick (F) come up well, and an opening left rein meant we landed already heading in that direction. I was able to sit back and let A come up in a balancing four strides. I definitely need to be more still with my shoulders and let him jump up to me more, and remember to have a present inside leg to bend around.

My big VW bus of a foxhunter is transforming into a zippy jumper! I’ve always been a little nervous to go balls-to-the-wall with the jumper turns, but this was a great confidence booster that I CAN ask him to do it and he WILL deliver if I set him up properly.

The plan is to maybe hit a local show in July depending on timing, and then either Lexington or HITS Culpeper in August. Maybe dabble in some adult medals? Who knows!

Any tips for sharpening our canter-walk transitions?

Definition: Green

I had an interesting conversation with my trainer at the show last weekend. It was about Frankie (obviously) and whether or not he counts as “green.” After all, this was his first time in the show ring. And the answer we came up with? Eeehhhhhh kinda-sorta-maybe-in-certain-ways-but-not-really.

On the one hand: my horse is broke. Super duper very broke. Broke on the flat, broke over fences, broke in the ring, broke on the trail, broke broke broke. He ate up the dressage training he got at Phyllis’ barn and whoever taught him to jump did it right- he jumps the jump every single time.

He knows his lateral work, he knows his lead changes (even if he doesn’t offer them up, he will give them when asked), he knows how to move forward on a contact. He doesn’t get anxious about new venues, loud noises, or poor riding.

He knows how to gallop up to a fence without tuning me out, and he knows how to rate his stride and adjust in a line. He does all this in a basic snaffle, and my rolly spurs and crop are more for decoration than anything else at this point.

This is turning into another bragfest about my horse and it’s not meant to be- I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to pretend that my horse is a project. So we have a bunch of big checkmarks in the NOT GREEN section.

But he did have some greenie moments at the show. Not surprising- it was his first show. And it was a different job than he’s been trained to do in a couple ways.

Exhibit A: combos. Again, he will jump the jumps. But how often do you see a one-stride out in a hunt field? He’s used to having a bit of a recovery stride after a fence and definitely needed my support to press through more powerfully. These got better throughout the show as I figured out how to set him up better, and by the end he was starting to carry me through more instead of waiting for me to carry him. Practice will make perfect.

LB_sat_red
Actually legging through the combo = more power out and jumping more cleanly.

 

Exhibit B: pace. Big long lopey gallop? He will maintain that all day. In terms of speed, he’s actually right on the mark. But we’re not looking for a big long low canter- we’re looking for something powerful and energetic with fire behind it. He will happily rev up the RPMs into that jumper-y gait, but that is not his default setting. I have to explicitly ask for that. You may have noticed that in my last two rounds I went into the ring and immediately asked him to stretch out and gallop a bit across the ring- this was to get him tuned up to that tempo and get him pumped up for our round. When we did that before asking him to balance into a rate-able canter, he carried a much more lively pace around the course.

lb_classicturn
This was a turn that rode nicely for us. Because we had power and not just speed.

Exhibit C: overjumping. This translated to a lot of hang-time in the air, almost stalling out over the jumps. He likes to gallop at the fences and take the gap (like a hunter), but jumps cleaner when I rock back to the base- and rocking back to the base is hard work for him! Once I figured out how to keep my leg on more strongly across the jump this improved, but he’s still learning to embrace the jumper chip.

lb_pinkoxer
I had gotten to a decent spot to this jump, but he kinda popped over it like a deer. Why? Because look at just how useless my leg is right there.Doing literally nothing to help him out.

Exhibit D: llama jumping. I’ve heard people say, “Frankie could be a great hunter!” And I get why they say that- he has a lovely ground-covering canter and a super level head. But have you seen my horse jump?? He looks like an idiot. I love my boy to the moon and back and he is perfect in my eyes, but cute pictures of him jumping are few and far between because he jumps like an idiot. This isn’t actually a green-ness thing, I just wanted to let you know that he does, in fact, have flaws. Pretty sure he’ll start jumping cuter when we jack the jumps up to a height that actually intrigues him. Or, you know, he’ll keep flailing over the jumps. Like a dork.

Back to Exhibits A-C. I wouldn’t label any of these as “problem areas,” just areas for us to build more and better experiences in. Frankie was not offering any bad behavior at all in these areas, he simply wasn’t offering any behavior at all. How could he? These were new concepts to him. He was very much waiting for my input around each course. It’s my job to clearly instruct him on what he needs to be doing and when, where, how he needs to do it. Basically, Potato Brain needs to go away and I need to be very present with my leg around every course.

Need to press through a combo that’s set long? LEG ON

Need to package our stride into something that’s got hella impulsion? LEG ON

Need to get to the base and then power across a big oxer? LEG ON

It’s almost like better riding leads to a better, more educational and supported experience for the horse. I knew I was paying my trainer for something.

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Verdict? We already knew that Frankie isn’t a green horse, especially compared to those of you with actual baby greenies. But I’m really excited to have these little things to work on together- I feel like it’s forcing me to step up my game so I can start giving back to him a little.

What do you consider “green?”

Loudoun Benefit: Part 2

So we’ve covered the weekdays, now let’s dive into the weekend.

Saturday

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Dressed and feeling funky fresh
We opted not to hack Frankie around that morning- he clearly didn’t need the extra exercise to calm him down, and we wanted him a little “fresh” for our speed round later.

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My mom was totally cool with the horse poop everywhere. Despite a >10 year hiatus, she was the best show mom ever!!
Our warmup was much better and closer to what we were looking for: moving up to the close spot and pressing up and over instead of dropping him to the base.

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Warmup oxers ain’t no thang to Frank the Tank
With a good warmup under our belt, we headed into the ring…and proceeded to read Braille around the whole course. Three rails down. Frankie is usually allergic to fences so I always know that any rails down are rider error- in this case, I didn’t rock him back enough. I managed to get the RPMs up where the needed to be and was much more intentional about riding the plan we had walked, but I let him get a little fast and flat in places.

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But this out of a combo was much stronger than in the past, so we accomplished our goal of creating a good experience through a combo

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And I actually steered over the jumps instead of flapping my reins and hoping he’d interpret it as “turn right here.” LAWLZ at the 12 faults on the board by jump 8.

LB_sat_green oxer
And we did get some super cute jumps.
So yeah- three rails isn’t great. But it was a more confidently, strongly ridden course on a horse that felt more “jumper-y” than he had on previous days. I was beaming as I left the ring! You can see Saturday’s post for the video of this round.

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Well, I was beaming once I caught my breath. Promise.
We even had D’Arcy from thecluelessbutcuriousrider and Courtney from An Equestrian Life there to watch and love on Frankie! I mean, I’m sure that’s not the ONLY reason they were there. But that’s what I’m going with.

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Francis casually mooching for treats from the Horse Blogger Contingent

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And from the Family Contingent
One of the many many many things I love about this horse? I can go gallop around a jumper course, and a few short minutes later I can mosey around with him on a long lead after a bath. Homeboy is chill with all of it.

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mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem

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Endless smooches for my best boy.
We watched some cute pony hunters go as I attempted to explain the purpose of a fake tail to my godmother, cheered on our junior rider in the Maclay, and headed out to get some shuteye before an early morning- our classic was running first thing on Sunday.

Sunday

Classic day! And sadly, the last day of the show. Boo.

Since our classic was the first class of the day at 8am and we were 9th in the order, we knew we wanted to walk the course around 7:30 to give us plenty of time to tack up and warm up. I was up before 6. Do not like.

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Paparazzi shot of me doing my hairnet magic. I blame my hunter roots for my obsession with perfect hair. It is a destination that eludes me, but I will continue to strive.
In the true nature of horse shows where something has to go wrong at some point, I lost a glove (we later found it at the hotel, so it wasn’t completely gone, just not available to me at the time). And in the true nature of a fantastic show mom, my momma ran to the first open tack trailer and snagged me a new pair, then jogged them out to the warmup ring. Because she’s an awesome show mom like that.

This was another great warmup- we galloped up to the jumps and got moving quickly. It was one of our shorter warmups because of that; we didn’t need more time to get our butts in gear because our butts already were in gear.

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Francis continued his streak of saying, “eh no problem.”

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Even when the height went up a bit
And I’ll just show you our round here:

Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I overrode that first bending line so that he had to pop up and over, I let him get flat out of the one-stride so we knocked the rail on the way out of the four stride, and that last bending line we got a little up on it.

But this was our best round yet. The jumps looked downright teensy, the turns came up, we were straighter to the jumps, we rode the plan, and we had SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, does he look super shiny and buff and adorable, or am I just biased???

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All smiles as we left the ring

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Biggest hugs for show pony
My boy is a real show pony. We threw him in the deep end: our first show together, at a new-to-me height, which just so happened to be AA rated and a week long. This could have blown up in our faces if Frankie didn’t like being a show horse.

But every step he took and every sweet smooch he gave was pure Francis. He went around a gigantic new ring at a bigger height, with tons of chaos and noise and distractions in a simple snaffle. We have tons to work on and practice and improve- no doubt about it. We came away from this show without a single piece of satin.

I couldn’t care less. My goal was to create a positive experience for my horse and make it around at 1m, and by the end of the show I can confidently say that I accomplished both. So we had a couple rails. Big deal. We can work on that. We have the attitude and now we have more know-how.

To Be Frank is just getting started, and it’s onwards and upwards from here!

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Loudoun Benefit: Part 1

Our first show is in the books! Before I dive into a detailed day-by-day recap, let me just share a few overall thoughts:

It takes a village. I had two incredible trainers, a team of barn hands helping me get where I needed to be with Frankie when we needed to be there, a great show team to cheer each other on, the best show mom and show godmom, and countless other people that offered encouragement and support throughout the weekend. Thank you doesn’t quite cut it for these amazing people, but I’ll say it anyways: thank you.

I’ve been on the verge of tears for several days now. Don’t be worried, they’re happy tears! I’m just overwhelmed at just how amazing my boy is. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than my Francis, and I love him more and more every day. He’s everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

On to the recap!

Wednesday

After just baaaarely making it until noon at the office, I sped over to the showgrounds to check in with my pony and see what the plan was. Trainer had ridden him the previous day when he arrived and said he was a perfect gentleman- there was no need for her to hop on again. We had a mini-lesson in first the jumper warm-up ring, then the Salem hunter warm-up ring, then the hunter 2 warm-up ring. Basically we tried to go where the ring was most clear to give the competitors right of way. We didn’t jack the jumps up too big, just popped over and did a few exercises with rollbacks, slices, blah blah blah. Francis was a dream! Despite tractors dragging rings, water trucks, ponies going up his butt, and the general hubbub of shows, he didn’t blink an eye or take a single wrong step. He got a nice bath and a walk before being put away.

Thursday

First competition day! We had signed up for the open 0.90m class early in the day to get our feet wet, and then the open 1.0m class to test the waters before our official division at that height. It was an excellent plan.

You know what they say about best laid plans?

Yeah. They moved the 0.80m and 0.90m classes to a separate ring in order to keep things moving- a fantastic idea. But that meant that my 1.0m class ran before my 0.90m class. Because gradually moving up SOUNDED TOO TAME.

So Frankie’s and my very first class together at our very first show was also at a new height in the GP ring. And it was the Hot Mess Express. Like, someone build a bronze bust of Francis because he deserves a shrine in his honor. Let me back it up.

We walked the course with my trainer and the jumps looked HUGE. Like, OMG WTF LOL. I saw them measuring the jumps and you know what that means- they were at max height. Deep breaths. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never actually done a FULL course at that height. Or that he’s never shown before. Or that this is our first show. Or that maybe I should be doing Short Stirrup instead.

thisisfine

Definitely the attitude you want to go in with, right?

WRONG.

The first jump came up beautifully, and I let out this deep breath and said hooray! This is so easy! I don’t actually have to do anything! Frankie totally got this!

And I abandoned my pony to his own devices.

And this is where he earns that bronze statuette- he went around that course and tried his very best to cart my butt around despite ZERO input from the lady upstairs. It never crossed his mind to stop, even when he really should have. I would not have blamed him.

This pic right here?

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There’s a reason he’s jumping 2′ above the rails. It’s because the first time we attempted that jump (it was part of a combo), I basically crashed him through it. And he was like HELL NO THAT SUCKED LET’S NOT TOUCH ANY RAILS and finished up the course pretending it was 1.20m. Because he is too pure for this world and wants so badly to do a good job.

I came out of that ring to a puzzled look from my trainer asking what the hell that was. Vacant was the word we came up with. My trainer kinda lit the fire then and I’m grateful- one of the many reasons I ride with her is because she doesn’t sugarcoat bad rides. My mommy and daddy can pat me on the back and tell me “good job,” but my trainer is there to help me improve. Her criticism was constructive and we came up with a plan for our next round.

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Cool part? Seeing our names up on the board together. Why is my name up there twice? Because I’m the owner AND rider. Call me sentimental, but it was HUGE to see our names up there.

Next was the 0.90m. This was just to be a confidence-builder after the Scrambled Egg Breakfast Special that went on earlier. We both took a breather before it ran, and when we walked it we decided that I was going to aim for time-faults. Because let’s be real- Frankie doesn’t get time faults. I’m pretty sure we could trot the whole course and still make time allowed. This was more of a mental technique to slow myself down and BE DELIBERATE. As in, actually make choices on course and adjust as different things happen instead of playing elevator music and saying YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN YOUNG ONE to my horse.

This did go better. We had one rail and the combo was still a bit messy (homeboy trotted out because HE IS TOO PURE FOR THIS WORLD) but overall it was an improvement, and that was what we were going for. When we debriefed afterwards, we agreed that combos have to be our focus moving forward- he likely hasn’t had a ton of exposure to them and I had just given him two crappy experiences through them. We need to teach him that we love combos and want to jump them strongly and power through.

So day 1 was a bit of a mess, but it ended on a better note than it started. Which is the goal!

Friday

First day of our division- the 1.0m Low Adult Jumpers. This was better!

I took Frankie for a short hack in the morning to get his muscles stretched out and let him check out the day. He was lovely again- a little sluggish at first, but he woke right up and gave me some excellent flat work in a very busy ring.

me and momma_LB
My Momma came to town!!!! It was an adventure with some severe weather, but she made it…
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…and brought my Nouna, who couldn’t get enough of Frankie! Frankie picked up on this immediately and just ate up all the loving.

We then had a little break before walking the course. We brought a bunch of the kiddos to teach them how to accurately walk striding, so we had one of the biggest contingents in the ring.

LB course walk
My mom thought the course walk was hilarious. She called it the “Zombie Walk” the whole weekend.

Then it was time to go back to the barn and get tacked up!

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You can tell by my face that I’m NOT nervous as I watch Frankie get tacked up. Totally not. In all honesty though, I always get keyed-up-anxious-energy before I hop on and then relax once we get moving. Francis is a very soothing presence.

When we were officially warming up for our class, it still took longer than it should have for me to get my head in the game and RIDE. I was still kinda letting him pick the spot and didn’t leg across the jump. It’s not that the distances were bad, I just wasn’t helping my horse out. Again. After my trainer yelling out, “MANAGE THE POTATO,” I got my ass in gear and rode my horse. Yes, she literally said that. She knows that I call it potato-brain when I mess up. New favorite phrase: manage the potato.

But we went into the ring after a couple good jumps in the warmup. Overall? This still wasn’t a perfect course by any stretch of the imagination. We had some bad spots. BUT. We got the bad spots because I was riding to the bad spots.

Wait, what? Why are we pleased about this?

Because it means that I was RIDING! Yes, I was riding poorly, but at least I was doing something. The height was less intimidating than the day before, I knew that I needed to give my horse more oomph off the ground, and while a rail kept us out of the jumpoff, I was thrilled that we managed to fix a bunch of the mistakes from the previous day.

Frankie got tons of hugs and kisses and scratches and a nice bath.

Bonus?

I got to see Jen from A Year in the Saddle take her girl Cally in the side-saddle classes!

LB sidesaddle Cally
Which they obviously rocked!

Dudes, go watch side saddle sometime. It’s so intense. It’s even better when you can cheer someone on and they exclaim, “OH MY GOD WE DID IT” after jumping the line. Have I mentioned lately how much I love horse bloggers??

And since this is already a monster post, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a recap on the rest weekend!

Sneak Peek

This is just a little snippet to tide you over until I have a chance to sit down and write!

This week has been a huge learning curve, and every round is better than the last. Frankie is a legit professional at being a show pony and has been perfect from day one! I’m slowly learning how to ride this bigger (to me) height more accurately- the pieces are definitely coming together. We still have our classic tomorrow morning to strut our stuff. Can we just show together forever??

https://youtu.be/S2CzRaMPGWQ

Here’s our speed round from today. If I had to come up with a headline, it would be:

Horse and Rider Test Fence Strength: Poles Fall to Ground in Despair

Can’t wait to fill you in fully!!!

Tutorial: Boot Polishing

Oh man guys. Ask and you shall receive. I included a pic of my polishing party yesterday as a fun sidenote, but got a whole bunch of interest in the whole process. Here I’ll present you with two different ways we polish our boots- one is a shorter process that we do regularly, and the other is a much more intense process that’s usually done before shows or special occasions. Or because we’re dorks and polish our boots a lot (legit we’ve made Facebook events called “Boot Polishing Party”).

These are both pulled almost word-for-word from the instructions Assistant Trainer sent me, so all credit goes to her!

Weekly Polish

Materials:

Tin of wax-based black polish
Polish applicator
Boot brush (usually horse hair)
Soft buff cloth
Latex/vinyl gloves

Note: you can usually find all these things in a kit at really any store- I use Kiwi brand

Other note: wearing the boots makes polishing them easier, and cuts down on chances of getting polish all over yourself/clothes/etc.

Instructions:

  1. Make sure boots are clean and dusted off- don’t use too much soap or conditioner. Just scrape off the worst mud and then use a little glycerin soap (like old school orange bar saddle soap) and very little water to get the rest off. (*Note: once your boots have been polished a bunch and have a solid layer of polish on them, all you’ll have to do to clean them off is wipe them down*)
  2. Wearing gloves (to keep fingers polish-free), use applicator to layer on a good amount of polish onto boots everywhere EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf (so you don’t get black polish on your saddle or pony)
  3. Let polish dry. The dried polish will give your boots a matte finish, which will make it easier to see if you missed any spots.
  4. Taking the boot brush, use quick strokes and start buffing across the polish. Use a light pressure- if you’re leaving drag marks from the bristles, you’re pressing too hard. This should start putting a light shine across the leather. Break a sweat, buff a lot!
  5. Finish the shine by using the buff cloth. Drape cloth across boot, grab on either side, apply firm pressure downward, and pull side to side briskly. Make sure to slide the cloth up and down while you’re going back and forth. Keep breaking a sweat!
  6. TA DA! Quick polish and shine. Now just make sure you don’t cross your boots over your knees if you cross your legs, or you’ll leave black smudges on your breeches.

Mirror Polish

Materials:

Tin of wax-based black polish
Latex/vinyl gloves
100% cotton tshirt (cut some large chunks and a couple strips out of it)
Polish applicator brush
Small bowl of water
Lighter (or two)
Nylon stocking
A dumb movie you don’t have to pay attention to
Drink of choice

boot_polishing
Optional: something to protect your floor. Also optional: expression of total disgust.

Instructions:

  1. Clean and dust boots (see above)
  2. Wearing gloves, wrap your first finger in a chunk of the tshirt, and use the shirt to start applying liberal amounts of polish to the toecap in small, circular motions with even pressure. Use the applicator brush to help get the polish into the crease where the boot meets sole. I usually just do the toecap first, then the rest of the boot after.
  3. After a layer of polish is on the toecap, dip the polish cloth into the bowl of water, then put a drop of water on top of polish on toecap and rub in over whole toecap using even pressure. (the water and circular rubbing help the polish to soak into the leather more.)
  4. Take lighter, and use the flame to heat the polish on the toecap. (if you’re terrified, breathe, it’ll be okay. Move flame across the polish quickly, and I promise you won’t set anything on fire.)
  5. Boots not aflame? Super! Breathe!
  6. Repeat Steps 2-5, at least 4 times minimum.
  7. Final layer will be of polish, let polish dry for a few minutes.
  8. Rehydrate yourself and stretch.
  9. Take strip of tshirt and buff across toecap.
  10. Ohhh shiny.
  11. Take nylon stocking and buff across toecap again. (the secret is the nylon really smooths everything to the finest degree)
  12. Admire your reflection in the toecap.
  13. Repeat Steps 2-5 on the rest of the boot (EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf), 2 times at least. **this is the point where the double lighters come in handy, because the lighter top will get hot heating half of the calf, so switch to the second lighter to heat the other half so you don’t burn the crap out of your thumb. Or you can use one of those lighters with a long neck to reduce finger singing.**
  14. Finally, repeat Steps 7-11.
  15. HUZZAH! Your boot now almost looks like patent-leather!
  16. Now repeat everything on the other boot!! YAY!
final_shine
Ooh shiny!