Now Hack It Out (now hack it out)

You’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head.

Just a brief update today on our show prep!

One of the lovely ammies at the barn suggested a trail ride this weekend, and I eagerly jumped up and down with my hand in the air and yelled PICK ME PICK ME. Turns out it wasn’t a contest, just an open invitation. But I got to go on the trail ride so who’s the real winner here?

Anywho.

We were out for a solid hour on trails by the barn that I had NO idea existed. Like zero clue. Big hills, through the woods, across hay fields, it was stunningly gorgeous. I would’ve taken some more pictures, but I am a trail riding weenie and don’t like letting go of the reins when I don’t have walls holding me in.

But in all seriousness, Francis was his usual lovely self- he poked around on the buckle the whole time with his usual sweet curiosity. He thought the deer leaping out were super cool, he dolphin-leapt up some bigass hills and then came right back to me, and loped around a hay field with his buddy Moose. We were both sweaty and tired by the end of our ride and I think it was EXACTLY what we needed. A good workout that was a great mental refresher!

kissing_moose
Frankie LOVES his best buddy Moose. They’re turnout buddies and inseparable. They also had matching hats. I am also scared of the sun and will cover up from head to toe in 90 degree weather.

He got some TLC afterwards and lots of grazing time. My saddle came back and he seems SUPER happy with it- he offered up some great engagement over his back with very little urging from me (I basically picked up a light contact and he rounded and stepped under). I’m hoping this means he’s happy with the saddle fit, but we have the rep coming out before the show to watch us go and confirm.

squad_goals
Mister Piggy wanted to eat 5ever

I spent time polishing up my boots and prepping some gear, and then today will be the final preparations: all tack will get deep cleaned, I’ll pack up and lock my trunk so it’s ready to be loaded on the trailer, and Francis will get his own deep cleaning. He’ll probably roll in the mud tonight, but I at least have to say I tried.

polishing_boots
Because your boots aren’t REALLY polished until you’ve tried to set them on fire.

More updates as events warrant!

I have a crush…

…on my horse.

Soon we will return to discussing our learning process and what we’re working on, but today I’m just going to love on my boy and tell you just how wonderful he is.

Because honestly Frankie is my dream horse. I don’t know what I did to deserve him and I don’t know what stars had to align to bring him into my life, but I am grateful every day for this big brown brontosaurus. And here’s why.

  • His stunning good looks. He may try to maim himself out in the field and scrape off all his skin like a dope, but goshdarnit he’s a well put-together horse. I realize that I’m biased here, but I love everything about how he looks- from his deep dark color without a hint of white, to his giant donkey ears, to his big thick tail, to his liiiittle hint of dappling, to his sturdy legs, to his sweet expression, the list goes on and on. If I could have built a horse from scratch, this is what he would look like.
frankie_side
DROOL
  • His terrible goldfish memory. To be fair, he may actually have a great memory. But he has a wonderful ability to forget when things go wrong. We crashed through that jump? No problem. I can circle around and try again without wondering if he’s going to back off it. I pick up the wrong lead? I can just bring him back to trot and ask again. He doesn’t get flustered by any of my rookie mistakes and is patient enough to take care of me until I figure it out and give him a good ride.
frankie_chip
Like when I BURIED him to the base and he didn’t care
  • His ability to compartmentalize. This kinda goes with the goldfish memory. Even if he gets riled up about something before I hop on, he settles into his job as soon as my butt hits the saddle. For example- we clipped him in preparation for the show next week. He was totally fine for everything except his ears. The ears were…exciting. A twitch seemed to have no effect other than giving him a weapon to impale me with. We did manage to get them done without too many hysterics, but he certainly made his displeasure known. I let him decompress in his stall for five minutes and then hopped on for a hack- no residual tension or angst. He lets the past be the past.
saddlepad_f
Happy horse ALL THE TIME
  • His consistency. He comes out of his stall/his field every day the same- ready and eager to work. Even when he has a few days off due to a lost shoe/flooding in his mother’s apartment/whatever reason, he doesn’t get sassy or fussy. Tired Frankie rides the same as Fresh Frankie rides the same as Rainy Day Frankie rides the same as No Turnout Frankie rides the same as any other Frankie. I don’t wonder what kind of horse I’ll have under me on any given day- I know he’s gonna be my reliable guy. Indoor arena, outdoor arena, grass pasture, side of the road, any venue.
nostirrups_grimace
He also consistently makes llama faces
  • His nonchalance about the jumps. He doesn’t blink at them. You know that perky cute expression most horses get when they approach a jump? He doesn’t make that face. He just lopes along and takes the jumps as they come up. Gates, verticals, oxers, boxes, poles, mountain blocks, muck buckets, traffic cones, whatever. He will jump whatever I present to him. I was used to having to manage Addy and wonder if she would jump the jump, and it’s so different having a horse that doesn’t need that mental reassurance.
frankie_combo
Yeah. No cute perky faces.
  • His ability to jump the jumps. He’s just so ATHLETIC. I’ve jumped him 3′-3’3″ fairly regularly and he barely puts in any effort, and when I popped over 3’6″ he was juuuust starting to pay attention. And he takes the bigger jumps with the same laid back attitude- he is confident in his ability to get over the jump. My goal has always been to make it to the high adults at 1.10m and that’s still the case, but it’s kinda crazy to realize that Frankie could likely take me higher if I wanted to.
frankie_crossties_boots
MUSCLE AND ABILITY
  • His willingness to try new things. I’ve hopped on him bareback with just a halter and he has behaved just as well as when there’s a bit in his mouth. I’ve used the horse vacuum on him without really showing it to him first and after an initial sniff of curiosity, he leaned into and got a droopy lip. I took him for a trail ride around a residential neighborhood and he bopped around on a loose rein the whole time. He is totally game for any harebrained scheme I can come up with.
frankie_bareback
Literally any harebrained scheme
  • His personality. You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you? Francis is one of the absolute cuddliest snuggliest horses on the planet. He LOVES hugs and smooches, loves scratches up near his ears, loves to give kisses on the cheek, and will press his face into my tummy just for loving. He hangs out by the gate when I turn him out so I can give him more kisses, follows me along the fenceline, stands for HOURS to be groomed, and generally just soaks up attention like a sponge. The epitome of a sweet goofy gelding.
frankie_kisses
Snugglez 4 dayz

Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. We can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Countdown to Loudoun Benefit

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG it’s almost here. Our very first outing as a team. Our first time off property as a team. Maybe his first time staying on-site for a week-long show (not sure about this one). My first time taking my OWN horse to a big show since I was 14.

Can you tell I’m excited?

ocala_stall setup

I figured now is as good a time as any to fill you in on our preparation and what the game plan is for the show itself. Here goes:

Prep

Homeboy is getting his fuzzies clipped- muzzle, ears, and fetlocks- and his mane pulled. I try to maintain his mane at a non-ragamuffin state, but our working student will be adding some actual polish there. He has literally tufts coming out of his ears, the fetlocks of a clydesdale, and generally looks a bit homeless. A very shiny homeless pony. I’m excited to see what he looks like all prettied up.

Feet are done. Dear sweet dinosaur pulled a shoe earlier this week, but the farrier was able to come out the very next day to tack it back on and he’s A-OK.

Saddle is re-paneled! The rep came and got it yesterday and it should be waiting at the barn for me today when I go after work. The rep assured me that if it doesn’t fit Frankie perfectly then they’ll go re-adjust it for no additional fee, but I’m really hoping that the first time’s the charm here. My half-pad is great and all, but I want Frankie’s back to be as happy as possible.

Bathtime next Monday. He will be arriving on the showgrounds either Tuesday or Wednesday, so he will be getting his first full bath from me earlier in the week. Yes, you read that right. I’ve had my horse for three months now and I’ve never given him a bath. I’m a big fan of currying the crap out of him ’til he shines and using some Herbal Horse coat conditioner to keep his skin and coat healthy. I haven’t saved up for the bathing supplies that I want yet, and the stuff I have access to seems like it strips out the natural oils. In fact now that I’m thinking about it I may stick to just washing his legs. We like those natural oils. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not my horse gets a bath (RIVETING STUFF OLIVIA, THANKS FOR THE UPDATES).

Tack will get a deep cleaning and conditioning and trunk will be packed with the essentials. The showgrounds are close enough to home that I can pretty easily swing by the barn and grab anything I’ve forgotten, but I’d rather not forget things (Seriously Olivia do you think anyone WANTS to forget things?). I’ll pack my Pelham just in case, but I’m planning to ride Frankie in the same bit he’s always worn with me- a plain full cheek snaffle.

Note on tack: we’re pretty minimalist with the Tank. He’ll go in his regular snaffle bridle and my saddle, an AP pad, half-pad if needed depending on saddle fit, and open front boots/polos as Assistant Trainer decides. No breastplate, martingale, or gadgets. We stay very consistent with his tack from day to day and I don’t want to introduce any new variables right as we’re adjusting to show life.

Game Plan

If Frankie arrives on site Tuesday, he will get a training ride from Trainer or Assistant Trainer that day. Since I’ll be taking time off later in the week, I won’t be able to get to the showgrounds in time after work to ride him, so he’ll get some professional attention.

Wednesday

On Wednesday I’ll be leaving work early and heading over to the show for a lesson on Frankie the Tankie. There aren’t really any classes I need to be in that day and we want to ease both myself and Francis into the show atmosphere, so we’ll plan to just school around under the guidance of my trainer. Trainer said that she’s prepared to take him in a class if we think he needs the extra schooling, but we don’t think he will. Homeboy is pretty chill and I’m comfortable prepping him myself unless something truly dramatic happens.
Outfit: who cares we’re just schooling. Probs break out my brown boots and watch the traditionalists gasp for air.

Thursday

Thursday we will go in the 0.90m jumpers (Table II). This height is super familiar for me and barely a blip on Frankie’s radar, so it should be a good way for us to get our feet wet. We’ll play it by ear to see if I want to give the 1.00m a try also. I think this will depend a lot on how the 0.90m rides, the weather, how long we’d have to wait, that type of thing. Both are halfway through the order on the prize list so it won’t be an ungodly early morning.
Outfit: Green/tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, navy/white belt.

Friday

Friday we’ll do the Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II2B). The Ariat medal is running that morning first thing and I’m really tempted….but I’m not sure if we’re polished enough yet. Also braiding and show coats and formality…. The Low Adults run almost last in the order so we’ll have all day to chill and see how things go.
Outfit: Navy/tan TS breeches, white polo/show shirt, navy/white belt. Unless we do the eq, in which case we’ll dress up like real people.

ocala_navy outfit
As such (I’m on the left)
ocala_eq outfit_2
Or like dis if it’s eq day

 

Saturday

Saturday will be the same- Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II.2.1). This should go about mid-day. Then maybe the Small Pony Hunter. I’m kidding. But I wish I wasn’t. Ponies!!!!
Outfit: Tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, burgundy belt

morven_oxer
Dis. But with short sleeves.

Sunday

Sunday will be our big classic day, the $1,500 Low Children/Adult Jumper Classic (Table II2B). We’re the first class in the ring that day so we’ll be there bright and early and have the rest of the day to get things squared away and relax.
Outfit: White TS breeches, white show shirt, green coat, burgundy belt

ocala_classic outfit
Outfit like dis

So there you have it! All of this is subject to change (except the outfits, I’m pretty firm on those), but that’s what our plan is for now. We’re not planning to longe or do any special prep (though we’re prepared to if necessary) and we’ll take the week as slowly as we need to so that Frankie and I have a positive, confidence building first time out.

Because moving up in height at an A rated show which just so happens to be your first show with your new horse who hasn’t really done the H/J thing is a totally normal reasonable thing to do.

Extra bonus: my Momma and my Nouna (godmother) are flying down Thursday night so they can cheer me on and be my horse show moms for the weekend!!!! It’ll be my mom’s first time meeting her grandpony and her first time seeing me show in about 10 years and I couldn’t be more excited.

Anyone gonna be in the northern VA area next week? Always looking for a blogger meetup!!

Out in the Weeds

As you may have seen in the zillion pictures I post her/on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/everywhere, my barn has a big lovely indoor, and a moderately sized outdoor. I like these rings very much. Frankie is happy in these rings.

So of course, Trainer had to shake things up. Every summer she puts a course of jumps out in one of the turnout fields and uses it for lessons. For whatever reason I missed out on this last year, but I got to the barn earlier this week and saw the course re-set up.

Cue the terror.

jumpfield_ponylesson
I tried to assuage my terror by watching tiny children ride up there. Not super effective- little kids are stupid and brave.

I’m generally pretty brave- jack the jumps up, let’s school XC, haha was that a buck?? But for whatever reason, the idea of jumping around in a big field makes my stomach sink.

Well, made my stomach sink.

Because I decided to flat around up there on Tuesday to get my sea legs before lessoning on Wednesday. A nice no-pressure hack where I could walk whenever I wanted and pull up if anything wasn’t totally under control.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my horse??? Because I really, really, really love my horse. He was perfect- honestly he was even more relaxed and settled than he was in the indoor or outdoor. (Seriously Olivia you bought a seasoned foxhunter why does this surprise you).

So Mission: Be Less Scared was a resounding success, and I couldn’t wait to get out there for our lesson the next day. Until I woke up and got scared again. This is very much a process.

But I fly-sprayed the heck out of him and put his ear bonnet on and we vigorously walked up to that field.

Spoiler alert: IT WAS SO FUN. OMG SO FUN.

Trainer let us warmup on our own because she recognized the futility of yelling directions over several acres- there’s a relatively flat area where the jumps were set up but she encouraged us to use the whole space and learn how to handle the uneven hilly ground. Aside from tripping over his own feet a couple times because he wasn’t paying attention, Francis was a champ. We W/T/C, did trot poles, did canter poles, you name it. He was absolutely lovely- once we had stretched out and warmed up a little he almost automatically pushed himself up into the bridle. SUCH a cool feeling.

Then it was time to jump! First, let me orient you to the jump-field setup:

jumpfield_june1.png

The dark green splotches you see are hilly/weedy areas with tall grass and slopes. The bright yellow is where the round bale lives (horses do live in this field at night- we use plastic jumps so they’re not tempted to eat them), and the light yellow patch is where the ground is a bit harder near the gate. The weird triangle is a fenced off somethingorother, and the big brown thing on the right is the run-in near the fence line. Also: the ground slopes down to the left.

jumpfield_crossrail
Even ground? Not even close.

Got it? Good.

We went back and forth over the crossrail a couple times with an emphasis on staying straight and not letting the horse pick which direction we went afterwards. Francis loves himself some left side, so we spent a lot of time going right to prove that we could.

Then we came up the line orange to blue- it was not an oxer yet at this point. Trainer said we could come off of either direction since there isn’t a long or short side out here, so I opted to come in tracking right, go down the hill a bit, then line it up out of the right hand turn. We put in 8 strides the first time and 7 the second- both could have been good options, but I liked the 8 better. For trotting in and being uphill, that just seemed like a more powerful spot to jump out of.

Next was a bending line orange to orange down the hill- these weren’t really related. Frankie got a bit wormy in here because MAHM WHY ARE WE LEAVING MY FRIENDS so my job was to stay steady with my hands and legs and channel him forward. Then the kicker: we had to stop in a straight line. Trainer said we could take as much time as we needed to stop, but we were NOT allowed to turn. So jumping down a hill, then stopping. Luckily Francis thinks taking frequent breaks is a fantastic idea- some of the other horses galloped away a bit into the distance before coasting to a stop.

Course time! I’ll even put the diagram back here again for you to reference:

jumpfield_june1

Crossrail down the hill, bending out over the oxer in 6ish. Then left and coming up the zebra gate to the orange jump in 7-10 strides. Then turn right and come back up the hill over the white gate, then go left and go around the hay bale up the blue vertical.

(No, I’m not joking with the striding. We had horses do lines in 7, we had horses do it in 12, we had horses do it somewhere in between- some of them got quick outside and some of them backed off. And some of them were perfect Francis ponies who didn’t change anything OH WAIT there was only one of those.)

GAH SO FUN. The first bending line was fine- I always lean at trot jumps but I’m workin’ on it. Frankie landed off the oxer on his right lead (HALLELUJAH IT’S A MIRACLE JUST IN TIME FOR US TO GO LEFT) and while he’s quite good about offering the change right to left, I opted for a simple change. Downhill, uneven ground, long slippery grass, off a jump. I ain’t tempting fate. We galloped back up the hill to the zebra gate which showed up beautifully out of stride, and got a big galloping 7 out over the orange. We got a bit wormy coming around to the gate until I remembered duhh straightening outside rein, then he came around beautifully up to the blue vertical.

We did go back and do the first four jumps again, this time putting 8 strides in the zebra to the orange. I liked this much better- it felt more powerful and less reachy than the 7 did. This was also a suuuper cool feeling- landing off the zebra in a huge stride and then sitting back and packaging for the add-stride. Someone even commented- he looks like he should be too big to be that adjustable. Proud mama moment!!!

Overall I was totally thrilled with this lesson. Having the space to get him reaching and powered up made seeing a spot on him sooo much easier- we had the power behind the stride to back up the short spot if that’s what we wanted, and we had the responsiveness off my leg to gallop up to the gap if that’s what we wanted. Basically, having the space to open up and extend made it much much easier to collect and package later on. Novel concept, I know.

I can’t wait to get back up there for our lesson next week!

How do you change up the scenery on your rides? Is your mount more of a ring princess, or do they like the breeze blowing through their manes as they canter through the tall grass?