See You on the Flip Side

Hey gang!

As you may know, I’m headed to Greece for two weeks and Frankie is going to be in bootcamp with my trainer while I’m gone.

I don’t have much to share- I had a great lesson with lots of no-stirrups jumping this week- but I just had to chime in one last time before I ship out early early Friday morning!

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Also my pro pic from HITS came in and I was too excited not to share it before I leave. Francis: making 3’3″ look like 2′ since June 2016. Ignore my bug eyes and focus instead on his sweet face and the fact that he looks like he kinda considered picking his feet up.

Hope you all have a FANTASTIC end of August/beginning of September, and I can’t wait to catch up with you all when I get back!

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HITS Culpeper: Winston National

Second show is in the books! And we have ribbons!!! You all know that I love my pony no matter what, but I will admit that coming home with some ribbons feels darn good. Here’s the recap:

Friday:

Got there bright and early to walk my 0.90m course that would be running in the GP. We decided to use this as a warmup to see what kind of horse I’d have under me- always a well behaved horse, but energy levels do vary. Of course I showed up and Francis was lying down for a nap.

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FIVE MORE MINUTES MAHM

But that must’ve been super restorative, because homeboy was LIT. Between the warmup and then our 0.90m round, I was basically grabbing mane and steering at jumps while he jumped the course like it was 1.20m. I’m actually not joking, he was a full 2′ above the rails. I can tell, you think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.

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I know it’s blurry, but I’m sure you can see that top rail. And then if you scroll up about 10′, there’s Francis.

This was definitely the most “up” Frankie has ever been and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. Holy moly apparently someone told Francis that he’s supposed to be a big fiery jumper and he was like OK SURE SOUNDS GREAT and went for it.

I do think part of that is because the lighting in the GP ring is kinda weird early in the morning and the jumps are harder to see. So he jumped super big juuuust to make sure he cleared them.

Sadly we had one unlucky rail on the very last fence, which put us out of the ribbons (with about 30 people in the class, you really had to go clear for a ribbon). So we went and let Frankie take a break while I learned my next course for the first class of my Low division at 1.0m.

And he promptly decided to take another nap.

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Clearly horse shows really stress him out and he can’t relax.

Our Low class was a liiiittle less ON FIRE, but still definitely powering around. Pics:

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Aww he’s actually picking his feet up!
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OK buddy, the jump is down there
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Cutie over the oxer!
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But seriously Francis what height do you think you’re supposed to be jumping?

We had one rail in this class, but we were fast enough to earn our very first ribbon together!!!!

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I was ecstatic
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Frankie was more curious as to why I would hold something up to his face that he couldn’t actually eat

So overall, Friday was a blast. We got to go in the big Grand Prix ring, my horse was ON IT, and we earned our first ribbon as a team in our division.

Saturday:

Saturday we just had a single power and speed class. Course here:

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I gotta say, I really liked this course. Very straightforward when you break it down- outside line, diagonal line, bending line, outside line, around the end, rollback, across the middle, around the end. To anyone who wonders how to remember jumper courses- this is how. Your related options will always be an outside line, broken line, diagonal line, or something like that. Your unrelateds will be rollbacks, S-turns, or end jumps. That basic concept is to get from one end of the ring to the other a couple times using these combinations. Becomes a lot easier to remember when you think about it this way.

I digress. I could write a whole post about remembering jumper courses.

This was definitely our best course of the weekend. Frankie had settled down a little bit and was listening better- not that he wasn’t listening on Friday, but he felt much more responsive to my aids on Saturday. We tend to struggle with related distances- life is hard when you have a 14′ stride- but he sat back for me (most of the time) and waited to fit it in.

And for the very first time together, we made it to the speed round!!! We had one single rail in that phase because I let him get a little flat and up on it, but I was literally fist pumping as I left the ring. Because we made it to the jump off. I’m grinning just thinking about it. Here’s some pics:

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Bein’ super cute out of the first line. Those ears!
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Launching out of the broken and being ADORABLE ABOUT IT
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Ugh literally the cutest little donkey that’s ever existed on the planet
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Coming out of a one stride LIKE A BOSS

I was really pleased because combos were something we struggled with at Loudoun. Not that he didn’t like them or struggled to get out, but I didn’t support enough with my leg and they were a little messy. So to be able to ride in strongly and then ride out strongly almost every time was a big improvement that I was very happy with. It was something I was focusing on doing better, and we did better. Boom.

This lovely course got us another ribbon! In a different color!

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MAHM STILL CAN’T EAT THIS YOU HAVE TO STOP

Just the one course on Saturday, then hanging out with the gang and cheering on our superstar junior.

Sunday:

Francis was definitely more tired by the time we reached Sunday. We had a good warmup, but he was taking much more leg than usual and needed more support from me. Our first class was another power and speed:

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Nothing crazy here. I really didn’t like where jump 5 was set because it forced you super deep in that corner of the ring and there wasn’t any way to get from 4 to 5 except touring around the whoooole end of the ring. Not the best course design for a jumper class. We did end up having a rail or two because I wasn’t as present with my leg as I needed to be, so I elected to take a wider turn off the combo at 6a-b around to 7- I had originally planned to go inside the end jump and shave some time off. But with two rails down, I decided to play it safe and try for clear the rest of the power phase since I wouldn’t make it to the speed.

I’m glad I made this choice, because it got us another 5th! I’m just glad that I’m finally getting to the point where I can ACTUALLY MAKE DECISIONS ON COURSE INSTEAD OF JUST POINTING MY HORSE AT JUMPS AND HOPING FOR THE BEST.

Even though I still do that a lot.

We had about an hour break before the last class of our division, the speed round:

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Another fairly straightforward course. Annnnd we went and read Braille around it. Again, I needed to be much more present and supportive than I was, since Francis was getting tired. I’m used to him kinda pulling me to the jumps, and this time I really had to push him up. It’s a matter of me adjusting more quickly to the horse I’m on in that moment instead of assuming he’s the same day-to-day.

Enough to get us 8th though! There weren’t a lot of clear rounds.

I can’t tell which pics are from which course, so here’s some Sunday pics:

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Sweet little feets!
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Coming in for a landing!
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This is how I know that any rails we have are due to rider error- when I set him up properly, this is how he jumps. NOWHERE NEAR THE RAILS.

So overall we won a ribbon in every class of our division! They may not be primary colors yet, but it was an IMMENSE improvement over our first show at Loudoun.

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Geldings love pink

Side note: you may have noticed that I’m wearing my coat on  both Saturday and Sunday. “But Olivia, I thought you loved that you don’t have to dress up as much for the jumpers?!” Why yes, you are correct. But Trainer said that a lot of the serious people tend to dress for their division classes, to which I responded, “I’d like to pretend to be serious.” We always joke that with looks you’re halfway there, but I think there’s a lot of truth to it. I may not be winning my division (yet), but I can go in there looking like I give a damn. Because I do.

Coming out of the ring from my last class, my trainer told me that she wasn’t worried about me anymore. That now she knows I can make it around the ring, and we can focus on fine-tuning and addressing some of the finer points. We’re not just discussing how to get from point A to point B, we’re talking about the inside turns and where we can shave off time. She told me it was “leaps and bounds” from where we were two months ago (no pun intended). And she mentioned that next year the plan is to do the Highs. So clearly she thinks it’s something we’ll be capable of when the time comes.

I also can’t end this post without giving a HUGE shoutout to both of my trainers. They kept us all organized, made sure we were where we needed to be when we needed to be there, and pushed and encouraged us all weekend long. The last thing Trainer said every single time I walked in the ring was, “Go have fun.” They truly worked their tails off to make sure we were equipped to go out there and answer the questions that the courses asked of us.

I couldn’t be happier or prouder of my boy- he was a true gentleman all weekend and gave me everything I asked for. Despite this being only his second show, he was the definition of a packer! He trailered there and back without a fuss, settled into his stall, took naps, got baths, jumped the jumps in several rings, went for walks, grazed, and did everything I asked with zero fuss.

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In fact, our whole barn did great!

Soooo I know that I said I can’t afford to show at the end of September. And it’s not so much that I lied. Buuuuut. I gotta. I just gotta. I’ll be talking to Trainer tomorrow about figuring out a way to get there. I’d love to make it out one last time before we go on hiatus for the winter. My bank account is sweating nervously.

This has been a monster post, so congrats for making it to the end! Short version: huge improvement over our first show, Francis continues to be the absolute coolest, and I love horse shows.

Lesson Recap: The Sweet Spot

We managed to squeeze a lesson in on Wednesday before Frankie shipped down to Culpeper and it was great!

We kept the flatwork pretty short and to the point- it was stupid hot out and there was a thunderstorm threatening to break right overhead. Frankie was definitely lazy to start off- meaning that he reeeeally wanted me to carry him around the ring instead of carrying himself- but to his credit, he showed up to work and put in some effort as we got going.

Then we did our super fun warmup exercise of Trot Every Jump In The Ring All At Once. Four horses. Tiny indoor. A tad chaotic. But really good practice for the warmup ring at shows! Frankie woke right up when he realized it was almost time for zoomies, so we had to go back and actually TROT THE JUMP NO CANTER NOT YET a couple times.

And then it was too hot to do a 2’6″ warmup course like we usually do so Trainer just jacked a bunch of them up to 3’ish (I think? We all know I’m the actual worst at figuring out how big jumps are. They’ll look really big at the time but then I’ll review videos and be like huh that’s actually kinda small. Who knows).

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First course: long approach down to the box at A, up the oxer, down the single diagonal, up the outside, down the quarter line. Super straightforward. Lots of single, unrelated distances which is really where Frankie and I shine. I’ll sometimes push through the distance to the base, but we can pretty consistently see the spot from a long approach. It’s those darn lines that I have trouble with- do I ask him to package more? Open up? One then the other- no definitely not that. We also experimented with taking the inside turn (turning before E and C) to come to A, which was plenty of room to maneuver.

And then we got fun! Coming off the left lead to rollback over A, immediately turn right and rollback over the oxer at B, up the quarter line, down C to F in a broken four, up the outside at D.

That S-turn to start actually went surprisingly well. I don’t know why I’m surprised- my horse is pretty darn good at his job- but it was pleasant. Not particularly pretty, but serviceable. The quarter line to the bending four was where we had to go back and try again. The quarter line was a forward three away from home and came up nicely every time. But then I had to rock him back and get in close to the red vertical because the broken four was TIGHT. We had another smaller horse do it in 3. Trainer and I decided that we needed to school the add though, because Francis jumps much better and more cleanly from that tighter spot.

This took a couple times through to really correct. I needed to land off the red and IMMEDIATELY sit deep and package that stride. A.k.a. I really needed to use that auto-release so I could land with a feel on his mouth. The last time through felt really good- I was able to leg him up to the base of the out instead of holding all the way through.

The single vertical on the outside was fine. Because singles are my jam.

Takeaways: the spot I get Francis to VERY much affects how he jumps. He is not like Addy, who tucked neatly and jumped a 10 every time. Frankie needs to get a little deep (but not too deep) to the base, and needs a lot of support from my leg in order to get a good clean effort. Some examples here:

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Still hanging his legs, but much less “pop”-y when we don’t get buried at the base
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Same jump. Same height. Different distances. Different breed of animal: alpaca vs. horse.

And then just because I think he’s really cute:

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Here’s the compilation of our coursework from this week:

Looking at this, I see a couple things: I need to work on my release. I’m just not happy with that at all. I also need to wait with my shoulders and stop trying to jump for Frankie. Let him jump up to me. In fact, I’m picking apart most of my eq and have lots of homework for myself.

But I’m also very happy with the improvements I see: I’m able to get a good quality canter more quickly that has better energy. I’m able to get clean lead changes in both directions, even if I have to ask pretty firmly. Frankie is able to power up and over the jumps even from awkward distances, because he has great muscle and athleticism. The awkward distances are less frequent and less awkward than they used to be.

So overall I’m happy with our progress. We still have a ways to go to suit my perfectionist tendencies, but we are on our way!

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll likely already be done with my first trip- we decided to add a 0.90m class first thing (8am gross) to let Frankie stretch his legs and see what energy level we’re working with. Later today I’ll be doing the first class of the Low division- hopefully I can rope a barn rat into filming both trips. Can’t wait to report back on To Be Frank’s second outing!

How much does your distance to a fence affect how your horse jumps? Are they more like Addy (affects it relatively mildly) or more like Frankie (affects it dramatically)?

Lighting the Fire

You go in and put in a mediocre round. There were some decent moments, but overall it was not your best riding and it showed. You come out of the ring and debrief with your trainer:

Scenario One: “Good use of your corners and I liked your controlled release going into those tighter turns. Next time remember that outside leg and push a bit harder for the striding and things will click into place more.”

Scenario Two: “I need you to focus and be more present, because this is not the kind of work I expect from you. Get it together and go do better. Here’s how we’re going to do that…”

You’re kinda nervous about tackling a bigger oxer. You pop over it, but knock the front rail. You land with a big smile. You look at your trainer for feedback:

Scenario One: “Great job! We’ll polish it up as we go.”

Scenario Two: “Again, and this time wait with your shoulders so he doesn’t knock the rail.”

Which scenario would you prefer? I promise I’m not setting anyone up to look bad here, because I can honestly tell you that I very much prefer Scenario Two.

This is what works for me. I need the fire lit. I hate being told I did a good job if I know it wasn’t good work.

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Listening intently. Tell me everything.

For example: one time when I was about 11 I went to a horse show with some of the girls at my summer camp. I went in for my crossrails round and broke to trot in places, missed my leads, and generally flopped around the ring. I came out and my counselor said, “Great job Olivia!” I promptly asked to switch lesson groups because I no longer trusted her as a trainer.

Even as a child, I had no patience for that crap. Tell me how to get better or GTFO.

My trainer has other clients that are more uncertain. They are the ones that she congratulates for making it around the ring- because that’s what they need. They need to know that they can get the job done before they start working the kinks out. They are still unsure, so adding too much pressure would make it even more intimidating. These are the clients for whom she emphasizes the good parts and endlessly encourages.

But over the last two years, she has learned that I can take a little bit of heat. She knows I need some pressure in order to perform. She will always be constructive with her feedback and discuss how to improve, but she also won’t sugarcoat anything. She knows I have big dreams and she knows that I’m going to have to work my ass off to achieve them, so she makes me work my ass off. Because she believes that I can get there and she’s going to do everything she can to help me there.

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Including but not limited to physical labor in the sun at every warmup ring

Because another piece of the puzzle is that she wants us to achieve our goals, whatever those may be. If someone’s goal is to make it around a 2′ course of 8 jumps without wanting to vomit from nerves, she builds confidence slowly and surely with tons of positive feedback and sets them up to achieve that goal. If someone’s goal is to make it to the 1.10m classes (hmmm wonder who I’m talking about), she is going to demand precision, because misses start getting dangerous at that height. And at the end of the day, horse and rider safety is paramount.

So from my musings I think these different training approaches come down to two main components:

  1. What coaching style the client responds best to
  2. What type of goal the client is trying to reach

In my case, I respond best to someone pushing me hard and I have admittedly “reachy” goals. For the safety of my horse and for my own safety, we need to demand accuracy above anything else- including my ego.

Frankie heads to the showgrounds today and I’ll follow tomorrow, and I absolutely can’t wait for another weekend of learning and improving under her guidance.

But like I said- this coaching approach doesn’t work for everyone! So tell me:

What type of coaching style do you respond best to?

Guest Post: Frankie’s Godmother

Jenn hasn’t blogged for a while, but she has been extremely active in her role as Frankie’s fairy godmother. We finally got her down for a visit so she could hop on and play around with him, and here’s what she had to say!

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Greetings blog land! It’s been a minute since you heard from me last, but I need to share my firsthand experience of riding Franklin(/Frankie/Francis/To Be Frank) when I visited Olivia and her roommate last weekend.

I was super excited to re-meet Francis, since I had only briefly seen him go when Olivia tried him for the first time. We both loved him from the first minute, but I (obviously) didn’t get to sit on him that weekend, and the trial ride wasn’t terribly long. So when Olivia told me I could flat Frankie around during my visit, I was really excited! He’s probably one of the nicest horses I’ve sat on, and while I love me some Roger, I was really looking forward to getting a feel for Olivia’s horse-child.

Olivia hopped on him first for approximately 6 minutes, and then we jacked up the stirrups and I climbed aboard. Though he’s 17h, I don’t think he rides quite that large. In other words, I don’t feel like an ineffective munchkin sitting on him, although I’m sure I looked like one!

Frankie is suuuuuuuper wiggly at the walk, which is surprising, given his training level and age, so that took a minute to get used to. The wiggly walk is almost comical, because it’s definitely NOT indicative of his trot or canter. I picked up the trot, and once I got used to the forwardness, it was really fun! Frankie definitely has a metronome trot, and is easily adjustable with a half-halt or a tiny spur. Homeboy can go all day every day at the same speed, and will only stop when you tell him to, but you don’t feel like he’s running away with you either.

While I was figuring him out, I was able to get some nice work out of him in a frame, and I wish we had gotten video of it because it felt amazing! He needs a little help in the corners with keeping that shoulder where it belongs, but other than that, Frankie is really fun to trot around.

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The lone screenshot. And it’s blurry. I, Olivia, am a disappointing turnip when it comes to documenting anything

I brought him back down to a walk, and then Olivia advised me about how best to pick up the correct canter lead…basically, just set him up with a little haunches-in and inside bend, and outside leg, and BOOM correct lead. I made sure to ask in the corner just for some added help, but Frankie was totally on point and we got the correct leads both times. Olivia says he’s slightly weaker to the right, but Frankie isn’t green or inexperienced by any stretch of the imagination and once I picked up the canter I couldn’t tell which side was slightly weaker.

Now, I adore Roger’s canter and think it’s really comfortable, but ohhhh man, Frankie might give Roger a run for his money. Frankie’s canter is super easy to sit and covers a lot of ground, but again, you never feel like you’re getting run away with, or like he’s unbalanced or flailing around. I can see what Olivia means by easily seeing distances from his canter; you can set a metronome to it and you’d always know where you were in the ring, and while I didn’t jump him at all, I can see how he’s easy and fun to jump around with that lovely canter.

Francis is a super fun guy; totally willing to do whatever you ask and will stay in cruise control in whatever gait unless he’s told otherwise. He’s definitely NOT spooky or easily distracted, and he loves attention and will stand cross-tied forever if you let him. He has great muscling and is SO SHINY, and he’s totally a love bug…Olivia jokes that he’s the horse version of a golden retriever.

I’m really glad I got the chance to hop on Frankie, and I can’t wait to hear about their show at HITS this weekend!

HITS Prep

Francis heads to the showgrounds on Thursday!

I wish I had a fun prep post like I did for Loudoun, but uhhhh…..I don’t.

I honestly forgot that the show is this week until just now. Oops? I guess now is as good a time as ever to figure out what we’re doing for prep:

Oh wait. Nothing. We’re doing nothing to prep.

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Seriously though, I think we’re in good shape! Despite looking like he’s fresh from the slaughterhouse (homeboy is covered in scrapes and cuts from “playing” outside), Francis is shiny, in good muscle, and has been working hard lately. Our tack is clean and neat, my show clothes are ready to go, and my entry has been in for weeks.

Basically I’ll pack my trunk, polish my boots, and off we’ll go.

I’m extremely happy about this- that a big horse show is not some huge intimidating event we have to go out of our way to prepare for. All the work we do on a day-to-day basis is the prep work and we can just ride that wave right to Culpeper. That’s a testament to the training and care Frankie and I get from Trainer and Assistant Trainer.

Here’s the plan: he will show up Thursday and Trainer/Assistant Trainer will likely hop on to let him stretch his legs. Not so much a schooling ride since he’s invariably well-behaved, just a chance to see where he is and get the muscles moving.

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I will show up Friday morning and we will do our division class: Low Adult Jumper (II.2.b). Saturday we’ll do the same thing (II.2.c), and then Sunday we have two classes to round out the Low division (II.2.c and II.1). Sadly there isn’t a classic for the Lows! There is a 1.10m Adult Classic on Sunday that I’m going to plead with my trainer to let me do, though I have a feeling she’ll tell me to slow my roll and enjoy our season at 1.0m. But I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t fling myself into situations with minimal preparedness.

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Overall I think we’re going to have a great week! We have riders doing a wide variety of classes- our superstar junior is doing the Big Eq and jumpers, we have a re-rider making her rated show debut in the maiden adults with her hunter, we have an ammy doing the 3′ hunters, and yours truly in the jumper ring. All fantastic show buddies and excellent horsewomen.

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Gonna be another great show!

Curing the Achies

Trainer is at Lexington with some riders all week, so Assistant Trainer took over teaching. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed a pattern, but AT kicks my butt HARD. I love her, but ouch. So I’m always excited when she teaches!

Frankie started out pretty stiff, which is quite new for him. Putting the stiffness together with the myriad scrapes and cuts I found on him, we deduced that he was playing and rough-housing with his buddy all night. Awesome. Once he got moving he opened up a bit, but he was definitely lazy.

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“Ugh. must I?”

Lazy for him does not mean slow. It does not mean that I have to boot him up constantly. What it DOES mean is that he has absolutely no desire to hold himself up. This isn’t as apparent at the trot, but as soon as we stepped up into the canter he basically said, “Mahhhm, I’m tired, please carry me around the ring.” OK BUDDY THIS AIN’T WORKIN’ FOR ME. As much as he is my baby and I will do anything for him, I am not physically able to drag his ass around the way he wanted me to.

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These ears are at half-mast because I am the wORST MOM EVAR and am making him hold up his own gigantic head.

Those half-halts were getting CREATIVE, let me tell you. Like, they started out very soft and subtle and got zero response, and it eventually escalated to me bumping him HARD in the mouth with my outside rein to get him to just GETTHEFRICKOFFMYHANDJESUSCHRISTISWEARTOGOD. He got with the program and tried a bit harder once we had one or two of those come-to-Momma moments.

It did get better. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I love this horse’s brain. There were 4 of us in there and some of the lesson kids got rather close and he didn’t blink. Just kept truckin’ around.

It was pretty stupid hot and none of us had the brain power to remember courses, so we made it a gymnastics day. We had a pretty wide variety of rider and horse abilities in the lesson and I think gymnastics are perfect for these- you can very easily adjust them to be suitable for anyone.

It was set as a short one stride to a longer one stride- the first was tough for Francis to get bouncy through, but he loved opening up through the second part. Predictable.

The take-aways: I need to just keep my leg on for support and let Frankie do his job. I tried to manage that short step a bit too much and he simply didn’t need my help. I was also getting too forward with my shoulders and trying to jump for him- I need to wait and let him jump up to me. He’s gonna jump the jump. I don’t need to do it for him.

Lastly, I really need to work on that auto-release. I know that I don’t hit him in the mouth, but looking at some slo-mo videos it definitely doesn’t have that smooth quality I’d like; it looks like I’m pulling back on take-off before releasing. I think part of this is the way Frankie jumps, but a much bigger piece is that I need to strengthen my core and get my hands truly independent.

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Knees are slowly making their way up when he has to start trying a little. 3’6″ seems to be where he starts putting in an effort.

I was really happy with this lesson though! My leg is slowly getting better and less slippy on Francis, and he was totally game even as the jump went up. AT sticked the last oxer at 3’6″ by the last time through and I was having a blast. It’s still a novelty for me to do those bigger jumps, but I feel so confident with Francis! He doesn’t blink and just does his job.

I’m also glad we made him stretch a little bit over the bigger jumps- he was moving out sooo much better by the end and I think getting to move those muscles made him feel tons better. No more stiffness.

I also have a short cautionary story to share: I turned Frankie out once he was done getting a bath and cooled down. As he often does post-bath, he immediately searched out a spot to roll. This time, he chose RIGHT next to the round bale. Like, he bumped into the bale going down.

And as you can probably guess, he eventually got stuck as he rolled around. The round bale was between his front and hind legs and the ground was mucky enough that he couldn’t get purchase to roll away from it. I’m just glad that he’s not a panicky horse by nature- after trying to get up a couple times, he just lay still for a moment and then looked back at me. “Mahm. Help?”

Of course I was already running to him to get that bale away from my precious boy. Manfriend was luckily there to help (he is SO MUCH STRONGER THAN ME) and Francis was able to quickly stand up and shake off.

And get this- shaky and bug-eyed, he just walked over for kisses. I swear he was so nervous and needed his Momma for a minute. After some much-needed snuggles, homeboy quickly calmed down and was back to munching his hay peacefully and no worse for the wear.

So I’m not sure what we could have done to prevent this (seriously horse you have a solid couple acres to roll, why did it have to be right there???) but just a tale of caution in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t figured this out yet: horses will try to injure themselves on literally everything. EVERYTHING.

Two questions today:

  1. What do you do when your half-halts aren’t making a difference?
  2. What’s the weirdest thing your horse has tried to maim themself on?

Bootcamp for Francis

I’m heading to Greece for two weeks for a family vacation at the end of August and I can’t wait! Two weeks of lounging by the pool, playing with my niece, laughing with my brothers, sailing the Aegean with my parents, telling stories with my sisters. Two weeks of paradise.

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We’re heading back to the same villa we stayed at 5 years ago. It is not terrible
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Five years younger but we’re still all fresh to death. We get to bring another sister this time around!
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Accurate. Will be doing this in every picture.

BUT.

Two weeks away from my Francis.

Sadface. I hate not seeing him two days in a row, so to go two full WEEKS is going to be a major bummer. I’ll miss my sweet boy so much! Not to mention I’m going to lose all my muscle because I refuse to work out on vacation. I’m sorry but I just won’t do it.

For the first time, I’ve had to consider what to do with my horse when I can’t be there for a solid 16 days. I can ask buddies to hop on him once or twice if I’m gone for the weekend, but I like him to be ridden 5-6x a week and I simply can’t coordinate 10-12 rides for while I’m gone.

So after talking to my trainer and discussing the different options available, I’ve decided to put Francis into full training for the month of September. He will get ridden by a pro 5-6x a week including flatwork, gymnastic work, and conditioning rides. I’ll be having a chat with Trainer before I leave to discuss what we want to work on with him and formulate a plan to get there.

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Priority numero uno: snuggle him tons while I’m gone because he needs his smooshes.

In an ideal world I would then compete at HITS Culpeper finals at the end of September, but it’s looking like the finances won’t be in place for that. Because I will have just paid for a month of training. So my wonderfully tuned up horse will just have to dazzle me at home. Womp womp.

Honestly though, this is going to set us up really well. Our first show at 1.0m this year was very manageable once I got over my stage fright, and I think with some hard work at home over the winter we can move up to the High Adults (1.10m) in the spring without too much fuss. This month of training will kick us into gear and get him ready to tackle some bigger fences in the fall and winter training season.

I’m dreaming pretty big with Frankie. It’s no secret that I want to make it to the 1.10m classes, but I do think he has the potential to take me even higher. I don’t think he’ll ever be the most traditional jumper- he doesn’t have that FIRE to attack the jumps like a lot of the top finishers I see at the shows- but I simply love competing and progressing on him. Despite the expense, I think putting him into professional training for the month is going to be fantastic for both of us as we pursue our goals!

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Clearly scope is not an issue for him

What arrangements do you make for your horse when you travel?

Little Facelift

Just a short check in to tell you: check out the new header for the blog!

The old one was a picture of star trails taken from the observatory at Cornell (go Big Red!!) which was a subtle shout out to my alma mater, but you guys aren’t here for stars. You’re here for ponies.

It was made using free software and my very rudimentary skills, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’d love to hear what you think!

10 Questions

I love me a good blog hop! Thanks L from Viva Carlos for giving us all some fun blog fodder.

  1. What is your biggest source of caffeine that gets you through your day? (drink, not just brand)

So I’m a weirdo in that I’m pretty indifferent to caffeine. In fact during the winter I can’t have caffeine at all or else I won’t sleep for three days straight. Legit I can have half a cup of coffee at 8am on a Tuesday and I won’t sleep ’til 4:37am Friday. It’s bad. So during the winter I drink water and herbal tea and that’s about it.

During the summer I’ll grab a cup of coffee in the morning to be social and kinda settle into my day. French vanilla creamer is my jam, people who can take their coffee black frighten me.

Overall though I’m really more of a water drinker! I drink absurd amounts all day long. I don’t feel awake until I’ve had a solid 16 oz. Hydration is the key! If I don’t have to pee, I’m behind on my water.

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MOAR WATER

2. Do you honestly think your trainer is the best for you?

Absolutely. She knows how hard to push me and when to give me a minute to decompress. She does a really fantastic job with her students- there’s a wide array of learning styles and it always impresses me how she manages to tailor her message.

For example: I completely botched my first course at Loudoun. She came down on me hard. She totally lit the fire under me. My friend was a little taken aback when she heard. BUT the reason she did that is because she knows how competitive I am and she knew how to motivate me to cut the crap and DO BETTER. And the next round I went in and did better, and she made sure I knew that she was pleased with the improvement.

Someone else botched their course that same day. Trainer gave them 10 minutes to decompress and then very calmly talked through the parts that they DID nail.

She really has the knack of knowing who needs the fire lit, and who needs the confidence boost. When to push for more and when to praise the improvement.

Of course she’s also immensely detail-oriented, endlessly patient with the horses, and an all-around technically excellent trainer which is what drew me to her in the first place. But I think her ability to coax out the best work from her riders is something really special and something that takes her coaching to the next level.

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She has also NAILED the patented “hands on hips” trainer’s pose, and I respect that stance of authority.

3. One token of advice from a fellow rider/trainer/horse person that you still remember to this day?

Gosh, literally everything Danny Emerson has ever said haha. He is so wise.

But also someone once told me that riding should be fun. And I think that really is what it always comes back to. So many of us tend to get wrapped up in our goals: improving our lower leg, getting more straightness and engagement from behind, jumping higher, moving up the levels, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, we need to remember that this is supposed to be FUN. The tough days where it feels like training isn’t going well and you and your horse will flail around forever need to be balanced with days where you can take a deep breath and just enjoy being on a horse. If there aren’t any of those “deep breath days,” something’s gotta give.

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If you can’t manage a smile, go home and drink a bottle glass of wine and try again the next day.

4. If riding meant costing your family so much money that they’d be basically on poverty line, or making your family terribly unhappy (if they were not supportive or understanding, etc.) would you still do it?

Yes. Call me selfish, call me short-sighted, call me whatever you want. Riding is a non-negotiable for me. Manfriend and my family understand this and have been wonderfully supportive. I’m not sure what I would do if I ran into that sort of resistance- I hope I never have to!

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Your allergies are meaningless! Hug my horse!

5. Would you ride while pregnant?

Depends on how I was feeling, the horse, the weather, the moon sign, all sorts of things. If I was feeling healthy and strong and it was a horse like Frankie who is a total steady-Eddie-packer type, then probably. But that’ll be something I play by ear and listen to my body about when the time comes (years in the future).

6. How do you tell when a horse likes someone/has bonded with them?

Depends on the horse! A horse like Frankie who is a total snugglebug likes literally everyone off the bat. Legit he’s the biggest flirt on the crossties, he wants to be besties with every living creature. There is not bonding process: as soon as you say hi you are bonded with him. You are his herd. He loves you.

Addy is a little more standoffish. The absolute sweetest girl and always with good manners, but she’ll kinda look at you sideways a bit if she doesn’t know you. Like, you’re cool, but don’t  be acting all familiar when she ain’t know your story. I could tell I was good in her book when she would actively seek my company- come to the stall door, graze by my side, etc.

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But she’s not gonna look happy about it.

7. Are horses capable of loving?

Love is a strong word. I could talk for days on how we define love and what it means and doesn’t mean. In my mind, love is a uniquely human emotion.

But I do think that horses are capable of intense affection and attachment in their own way.

8. If you could have one horse from your past come back for 5 minutes, who would it be, why, and what would you do with them in those 5 minutes?

My boy Star! He was my gelding in high school and I was terrified of him. He was supposed to take me up to 3′ and I straight up was too scared to ever jump him over 2’6″. Looking back he was probably a bit too much horse for such a timid rider (let’s be honest, anything more than a 27yo pony was too much horse for me), but if I could go back now I think we could have a blast. He was super broke, super fancy, and all our adults used to show him in the adult medals and win every time. I miss him!

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9. Should a trainer also be a friend, or should it be a student/teacher relationship?

I believe pretty strongly that for me, this needs to be a more business focused relationship. Other people may be able to make the friendship angle work, but I need my trainer to be my trainer first.

Of course I chit chat with my trainer, we share funny anecdotes when I’m taking walk breaks during my lessons, etc. I don’t mean to say that every single conversation is directly related to me and my horse, because it isn’t. But at the end of the day she is my trainer and barn owner first and foremost.

10. One piece of advice/training you were given by a trainer or mentor that you look back on now and view it as incorrect?

This is a tough one. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some reeeeally great trainers throughout my riding career. I’m also an intense know-it-all (just ask my boyfriend, I’m pretty insufferable), so if I don’t think someone is giving me good advice then I kinda “bye Felicia” them and ride off into the sunset.

I’ve always ridden with/worked with really classical instructors and barn managers too- my trainer as a junior was a really traditional equitation coach, I kept my horse at a dressage barn where good care was paramount, and I now board and ride with a trainer who is no muss, no fuss, just do things well. I’ve always been given pretty good advice from these sources.

Short answer: no, I have a ton of respect for the coaches and mentors I’ve had over the years and can’t think of any advice that doesn’t still hold true!