Guest Post: Father of the Crazy Horse Girl

Remember how my dad came to visit last weekend? Well here he is chiming in. A little intro: he is a colonel in the Air National Guard, an exceedingly accomplished surgeon, and a professor at an Ivy League medical school. So yeah, no slouch. He’s smarter than anyone I know, works harder than any two, and loves harder than any three people put together. I could talk for days about how wonderful of a person/father/brother/husband/son/friend/doctor/etc. he is, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, I’ll just let the man speak.

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Sweet mother of pearl, you’re going to jump WHAT?!?

I am no ninny.  I’ve climbed vertical cliffs hundreds of feet high, I’ve scuba dived,  I’ve jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, I’ve flown straight up at 1,000 mph and thrown my F-16 through 9G turns (at one point I had missile lock on a tractor trailer, but that’s a story for another time), and I’ve been to war. Honest. In all of this I do not recall a moment’s fear or hesitation.  Truly, I am no ninny.  What I am is the father of one of those crazy horse people, and watching her and that behemoth arc through the air over those oh-so-folksy looking death barriers makes me afraid.

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This is the “my dad can beat up your dad” picture

I don’t know that all horse people are crazy horse people because I haven’t met all the horse people, but all the ones I have met are of the crazy variety.  Not the insane kind of crazy or any bad kind of crazy, just completely over the top about horses and anything to do with horses; A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.!  What proof do I have, you ask?  Example the first:  would it ever occur to a non-horse person to dress up a 17+ hands animal as a Tour de France bicycle – complete with huge cardboard wheels and  handlebars – for Halloween and then actually ride around in this getup? No, of course not!  Example the second:  Go to a tack store (the bigger ones are the best for this because you get a bigger response), go to about the middle of the store and say in a loud, friendly voice “Um, could I please get some advice on which one of these things to buy?”  Immediately you’ll see heads pop up over the top of the shelves all over the store, swiveling in all directions in an attempt to locate the source of the request, looking for the life of me like a bunch of meerkats or scouts from a prairie dog city.  All helpful, all happy, all knowledgeable, all delighted to help out at length, and all completely crazy.

The amateur animal behavioral psychologist in me is puzzled about why a 1500 pound animal will take directions from someone a fraction of his size and weight.  Yes, yes, I’ve heard this crazy horse lady say that all Frankie has between his ears is elevator music, but before you say “well, if all there is in there is elevator music, then of course he listens to her” I’ve also seen this same phenomenon when she rode Addy, a VERY smart Percheron cross boss-mare, and Star, a four-legged warmblood thug she owned and campaigned  in high school that would have just as soon bite me as look at me.  I’m pretty sure I know what ran/runs through the minds of all three horses: “this two-legger is crazy, and I better do what she wants or she might snap!”

I think horses are magnificent animals.  Watching the invisible communication between horse and rider and seeing the elegance of movement is breathtaking.  Watching draft horses, muscles rippling, lean into the collar and pull with immense strength and fortitude  makes my heart want to burst with admiration for the pureness of their effort.  Put crazy horse lady up on one of these magnificent creatures, and HAY ZEUS, you’re going to jump over WHAT?!?  Elegance-schmelegance, fortitude my aching mustache! That horse is trying to kill you , those jumps are too high and I saw that rail over there, the one with the colorful stripes, actually try to grab the leg of the last horse to run this course (that’s right, I’m looking right at you, stripey-pole)!  I can’t watch, you can’t make me watch, I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and closing my eyes so I can’t see or hear this, you can’t make me watch LALALALALA I can’t hear you!!!

But of course I watch, with my heart in my throat, because crazy horse lady is my daughter,  Frankie is the horse version of tall, dark and handsome, and when crazy horse lady and Frankie are on their game, I can’t tell where the one leaves off and the other begins. The economy of motion, the seemingly effortless fluid movement, crazy horse-lady’s laser focus and Frankie’s near-intuitive sensing of what she has in mind, the oneness, is nothing short of marvelous.  That kind of partnership, born of training, affection, caring and mutual respect, is so unusual and so special.

I don’t pretend to have that kind of communication with Frankie, but crazy horse lady let me get up for a short bit and walk around some.   Before I got down, I leaned forward, patted him his oh-so broad and muscular neck, and whispered thanks for being such a good partner with her and for taking such good care of her.   He flicked an ear back towards me as I spoke.  And then I listened ever so carefully just to make sure- definitely no elevator music.

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Frankie Zoolander

Courtney from An Equestrian Life came to the barn over the weekend, and took some absolutely wonderfully amazing pictures of Frankie and me that really make my heart sing with joy. Here are some of my favorites:

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Let’s be honest, they’re ALL my favorites. Thank you so much Courtney for capturing all of Frankie’s happy/grumpy/silly/bored/hungry faces- he loved hamming it up for the camera.

Moving Sideways and Moving Up

Startlingly enough, I actually have a lot to say about the flatwork we did in our lesson this week. I know, I know, usually it’s “blah blah blah warmup stuff then JUMPS,” so this will be a bit of a departure.

I’ve mentioned lately that Frankie and I have worked a bunch on our shoulder-in. And it’s really come together nicely! He’s already well schooled on it- I just had to learn how to ask properly.

So we decided to switch things up and work on strengthening our leg-yields. We’re pretty solid at coming down the quarter-line and leg yielding out to the wall, so Trainer decided to switch it up and make it hard for us: bring his haunch in off the wall, and then leg-yield diagonally down the long side. As thus:

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Pretend that potato-looking thing is a horse, this is about the limit of my Paint skills.

So the wall is essentially blocking any attempts to evade forward. I set this up getting the counter-bend through the corner, asked his haunch to move over….and Frankie very promptly gave me a BEAUTIFUL shoulder-in (or should I say shoulder-out since it was towards the outside).

Like, he wasn’t confused or anything. He was very pleased that he knew exactly what he was doing. Except Francis, there are other things besides shoulder-in.

We came back to the walk and worked on communicating the whole haunches-in-straighten-your-body-yes-that-means-you-have-to-cross-over-I-know-it’s-hard-but-please thing. It took a few tries, but I could really feel him thinking, and we eventually got some great steps!

So we stepped back up into the trot (this was all done sitting without irons, so I could get a nice deep feel) and tried again. I’ll freely admit that at one point, Frankie bumped his nose into the wall because I wasn’t indicating “sideways” enough and he is such a pure soul that he tried to go forward through a wall for me. Dear sweet boy. But we got some good effort and a couple great steps! This will be a work in progress but I can definitely feel when we get it right.

Side note: all this sitting deep and pushing sideways had the effect of getting Frankie really up into the bridle. It felt great.

We did some regular canter work to get him moving- big circles and such, and he was feeling nice and light on my hand. Trainer had us start developing our counter-canter this week too, which is new for us. The key with Frankie was to keep his stride nice and collected, since he really wanted to dive down and get strung out off balance. He is more than happy to gallop around on the wrong lead- getting him to collect and balance for a true, nice counter-canter was a bit more effort for him.

To work on this we did a fun figure-8 exercise: Pick up the correct lead, then come across the diagonal to change direction while holding the same lead, come around the short end on the counter-lead, then go back across the diagonal to change direction and be on the correct lead. We did this in both directions and it went well! Frankie has a fairly easy change when you ask but it isn’t auto by any stretch. Which honestly, I prefer. This way I can choose exactly which lead I want him to be on no matter which direction we’re going, and can only ask for the change when I really want it.

Trainer and I are thinking that if I qualify for Regionals early enough, Frankie and I might go play in the eq ring once I’m not having to chase points. So we gotta get that counter-canter and lateral work polished up!

Trainer also made a great point- in the winter when we can’t jump as much, lateral work is going to help keep Frankie fit and muscled for his job. I also like this because it’s something I can work hard on between lessons when we’re flatting together.

NOW we can talk about the jumps. But you don’t get a Powerpoint diagram today because that whole Paint diagram thing took all my artistic skill for the day. I’ll recover soon. Probably.

But really, we didn’t do anything crazy course-wise. A couple diagonal jumps, a bending line in four short strides, a one-stride combo then bending out in three strides. Trainer did put the jumps up pretty high once I was warmed up, so that felt great. And I’m not sure what “pretty high” means to be honest- coulda been 3’3″, coulda been 3’6″, coulda been 2’9″ for all I know. They looked bigger than what we usually do so I’m guessing around 3’6″? I’ve learned not to ask.

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Big enough that the Beast had to put in an actual effort to get over it

But I really do prefer the bigger jumps on Francis- when he puts in more effort, I find it a lot easier to keep my leg tight and stay centered. Like his motion pushes me into the right spot.

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Well maybe not the right spot. But a BETTER spot.

We discussed how I need to recover a lot faster after each jump- I tend to take a full stride after landing to recover and that’s like 16′ into a line. Not OK. Trainer wants me to think of standing up in my irons as we land- not sitting back down in the tack, but stretching up. This is the first time in my life that I’m jumping big enough that there’s a “landing phase” instead of just putting feet down so it’s going to be developing muscle memory. I plan to watch a lot of Beezie and McLain to see how they move their bodies on that larger scale.

I’ll wrap up by confessing to you that I’m a liar. I’ve been telling you over and over how we’re on show hiatus for the winter to save money. BUT. BUT. Trainer has some one-day rated shows she’s willing to go to so I can get points for Regionals early in the season before classes get huge. And the one-days are so much cheaper than the week-long ones (obvi). So this will save money in the long run!

We haven’t picked which one (or two or three) we’re going to do, but it looks like the move up to 1.10m is going to be in December or January. I’M SO EXCITED TO JUMP BIG JUMPS WITH THE FRANKFURTER.

What are some fun lateral-work exercises you like to use to keep your horse fit during the winter?

The Dad-Friendly Horse

I haven’t had a full-on lovefest over my horse in too long, guys. It’s been all blah blah blah competition blah blah blah improve our flatwork blah blah blah consistent correctness.

So strap in, because today I just wanna gush about my pony.

My dad came to visit this past weekend, and he got to meet his grandpony. And from the very first moment, Frankie was so SO good with him.

Let’s rewind the clock a few years: my dad came out with me to fetch a horse, they were all going nuts and galloping around, and he ended up getting kicked squarely in the thigh. To this day, there’s a dent in the muscle.

So when we rolled up to fetch Frankie, and saw him playing Wild Island Stallion with his best buddy, my dad was understandably leery about wading into the ruckus to fetch him.

So I went out there, put Frankie’s halter on, and walked him out of the paddock. No dramatics involved. Because Frankie knows that it’s time to play nice and be gentle when mom is there. And if one of the other horses pin their ears, Frankie will move in between us. He may not come to the gate when I call- but Francis knows to be careful with his mama.

So off the bat, Frankie is impressing my dad with his ability to say “OK, let’s not kick anyone when there’s a two-legs in here.”

Then we headed inside….walking right past the tarp that had blown free from the shavings pile, and was flapping like a sail in the gale-force winds.

I think Frankie may have looked at it as we walked by….but he also may not have. He was busy leaning into his daily neck scratches.

Another check in the box for my dad: Frankie does not care about killer tarp animals. Frankie cares about neck scratches and food.

We tacked up- my dad helped brush him- and he stood stock-still to receive the loving. He moved only to greet the cats and to give kisses.

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U FEED ME NOW???

Check: pleasant to handle.

Then I hopped on. In the raging winds. Buildings were creaking, gravel was splatting against the wall, birds were zooming around the indoor. Francis responded to all of this by sneezing four times and going around on the buckle during our walk breaks.

Check: pleasant to ride, even under less-than-ideal conditions.

Naturally, I decided that a pony ride was in order. We lengthened the stirrups and legged my dad up, and sent him off towards a crossrail!

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Happy dad, happy daughter, happy horse

JK LOL. We kept it simple. My dad has been on a horse before so I had him do some basic stop-go-turn left-turn right. We then enjoyed Frankie’s neck reining skillz (seriously his turning radius is impressive) before hopping off to put him away.

Check: calm and happy enough to take care of anyone on his back.

Frankie then spent the rest of our time there mooching on my dad for treats- he always hopes that new people won’t know his mean mom’s rule of no treats. Even without treats, Francis was leaning into the brushing my dad gave him, soaking up every spare scrap of attention because his mean mom never EVER pays any attention to him. Obviously.

So we didn’t do anything crazy with the Beast this weekend- just rode around to get our muscles moving and ask for some correct work. But in this week where we reflect on what we’re grateful for, I’m so incredibly grateful for the fact that I can feel safe handling and riding my horse at all times. Because safe for me equals fun.

And I’m so SO grateful that my dad finally got to meet his grandpony! Of course we did plenty of other fun things during his visit- but let’s be real here, folks. We all know that Francis is my fuzzy child and deserves center stage.

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My three main men ❤

I’m already planning for my dad’s next visit- I think he needs to come join during show season, amiright???

Do your parents like to come to the barn? How are they with your horse?

 

Thanks Fam

(Look Monica, I’m learning how to use cool words!)

Thank you all so much for your cheering Frankie and I on in HorseHack‘s recent blogging contest- we are officially the runners-up! This was my first time participating in any sort of blogging challenge and it was SO MUCH FUN. Seriously, holla at me if you have any other challenges, I wanna play more.

And of course a huge thank you to Aryelle, the lovely mind behind HorseHack, for organizing this whole thing WHILE she launched a business WHILE in grad school WHILE actively competing with her horse. I’m exhausted just typing that, but you’re rockin’ it girl.

My amazing father is flying into town tonight for a visit and has already agreed to supply some content for the blog- I think you guys are going to love it. He’s actually the coolest ever.

Not much to share today- just wanted to chime in and thank y’all for being awesome, and give you a heads up that my padre is going to be meeting his grandpony for the first time. Gonna be amazeballs.

PS- notice the lack of media? That’s because my photographer/videographer (aka Manfriend) has joined the police academy!!! I’m so proud of him. But like, still figuring out how to get new media…..DARN YOU FOR PURSUING YOUR LIFE CALLING AND MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, MANFRIEND. CURSE YOU.

10 Questions: November

As always, L from Viva Carlos is the content-Santa of blogland.

How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?  Short answer: not very young or green. I love me a well-schooled horse. I’ve hopped on a couple fairly green-broke 4y.o.s for short rides, but nothing substantial. Mad respect for those who regularly ride greenies, I have a hard enough time figuring out how to not ruin my packer.

How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden? Late 20s-ish. He was a school horse at the barn I rode at in middle school and was mostly retired, but they let me ride him because I was too nervous to ride anything else. Womp womp. We do have a 34yo pony at my current barn that is still in better shape than me or Frankie, and we’re pretty sure he’s going to last forever.

Were you scared of horses when you first started riding? Ummmmm, kinda? It was this weird juxtaposition of wanting to be near horses during every second of every day, and also freaking out hardcore whenever they did anything besides stand there without moving. I was a conflicted, neurotic, terrible child.

Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider? These days, I’d definitely say confident! I have a lot more trust in my own abilities than I used to, so I believe that I can safely accomplish whatever my trainer sets for me. I still have my nervous moments, but I’ve gotten pretty good at taking a deep breath and giving myself a pep-talk.

Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses? When they don’t listen. If I tell you to stand over somewhere, it’s for your safety. If I tell you not to walk in that area, it’s for your safety. If I ask you to put something away, it’s for your safety. If I tell you not to feed my horse, SERIOUSLY DO NOT FEED MY HORSE HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF I SNUCK YOUR TODDLER CANDY BARS THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS LIKE RESPECT MY AUTHORITY AS HIS MOTHER. But seriously- if you don’t know what you’re doing around horses, please follow my instructions promptly so we can avoid you getting kicked or stepped on.

A time you’ve been scared for your life? (horse related) Like every day from the ages of 11-15. Seriously I was a neurotic little ball of anxious energy. Nothing truly bad every actually happened though! The times I’ve fallen off haven’t even been when something crazy happened. I always fall off when my horse trips at the walk, or canters a crossrail or something dumb like that. I once got caught in a stampede of 25 ponies getting loose and making a break for their paddock, but that was more adorable than anything else.

Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened? Eeesh, just the once. I was in a flat class with roughly 75 people- we were literally 3 deep on the rail, and it was a tiny warmup ring with no fence around it. Instead of splitting the class to canter, they just had us all go at once. Three deep. Quite understandably, my horse said “eff this, I’m out” and took off towards the middle of the ring crow-hopping. I landed flat on my back in the dead center of the ring with the wind knocked outta me. Everyone stopped and people rushed over to check on me to see if I needed an ambulance, but the only thing hurt was my pride. My horse had even stopped immediately and was waiting patiently for me to get up and feed him. It was just embarrassing more than anything else.

What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride? Anything gaited! Paso Fino, Tennessee Walker, something like that. I’ve ridden an Icelandic pony and that was pretty cool. I live in a world of TBs and warmbloods (and the occasional draft-cross), so something totally different would be fun.

Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden? This is a tough one- I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to horses, in that OMG PONIES I LOVE THEM ALL. And my trainers/friends know me well enough that no one has ever asked me to hop on something spooky or truly obnoxious- I will nope out of that with zero hesitation. I’ve hopped on a couple horses and then almost immediately hopped back off for that reason.

The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had? This is another tough one. Even if I come out of the ring feeling frustrated, I try really hard to re-frame it in my mind as an opportunity to learn and get better. So ultimately those rides end up going in the “positive experience” memory bank. I’ve had rides with Addy where it felt like everything we had ever worked on just flew out the window and our brains fell out of our skulls- but it was just kinda like, “eh, you win some you lose some.”

Boarding Your Horse: The Barn

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the interactions between boarder and barn owner/manager, and what makes that interaction easier or harder from both ends.

So in this first post I’d like to talk about what I expect from my barn owner/manager. Next time I’ll chime in on what I think a good boarder does and does not do.

I know some of you have boarders, some of you keep your horses at home, and some board your ponies, so I’d love to hear your perspectives! Especially those of you who have dealt with boarders- do you think my list is reasonable? What would you change or add?

Must haves:

Communicate regularly and promptly. If my horse comes in from the field missing a shoe/with a giant cut on his face, I want to know. If my lesson is cancelled or postponed, let me know. If Barn Manager (BM) is going to be out of town, I want to know who I can contact if need be. I don’t want to get to the barn and be surprised.

Be upfront about costs. This ties into communication- I never want to see my monthly invoice and be surprised. I understand there can be errors and I’m very happy to work those out, but I don’t want to be quoted one price and then see a different charge on my bill.

Be clear about barn rules. Whether it’s dress code, rules about ring usage, what supplies are communal use, or whatever else- make these rules visible and accessible. I’m happy to follow rules, I just have to know what they are.

Be open to discussions about feed/vet care/farrier care. As the owner, I want a say in every aspect of my horse’s care. I like to have a  BM that can offer guidance and knowledge in these areas, but I also have to be able to make the final call.

Maintain turnout. I’m a big believer in max amounts of turnout for my boy. I expect him to have a place to run around that has safe fencing in good repair, clean water, and decent drainage.

Maintain my horse’s stall. Plenty of clean water, frequent and generous hay, and clean shavings. Any broken boards or hazards should be dealt with quickly.

It really comes down to two main categories: make sure my horse has safe facilities, and COMMUNICATE.

Of course I also have the “nice to haves.” These are the things that I can do without, but definitely make my life easier:

A decent sized indoor. Virginia can have harsh weather during the winter and I can’t often get to the barn before it’s dark out. I know plenty of people that make it work without an indoor, but I reeeeally like having access to one that’s big enough to jump around in.

Track my farrier and vet care. Currently my BM makes sure Frankie is on the appropriate shoeing cycle, reminds me when I need routine vaccinations and vet care, and covers deworming. I LOVE this. It makes my life so much easier knowing that there’s a pro keeping track of my pony’s feet and health.

Training services. I like working with a trainer. I know plenty of people that choose not to take lessons/take less frequent lessons, but weekly lessons are my jam. Having an onsite trainer(s) that I like is big for me.

Currently I keep Frankie at a “show” barn- I have all of my “must haves” plus all of my “nice to haves” and more. I really like that I have a BM I can trust to help me track Frankie’s fitness and overall health, and who builds a program to fit that in with my competitive goals.

Your turn: what are your must-haves and your like-to-haves?

The Maybe-Not-Forever Home

I’m about to share what seems to be a rather unpopular opinion: I don’t reeeeally believe in the idea of a “forever home.” When I signed the sale papers to make Frankie mine, I did not promise him that he would be with me forever.

What I did promise him was this: I will always endeavor to make the best choices for your health and happiness.

Now, these two things are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible that the best possible outcome for Frankie is to grow old in my care, and that would be a lovely thing. The best choice for him could be a forever home with me.

But there are so many things that could happen differently.

If I hit on hard times financially and could no longer feed myself while paying board: Frankie would go to a home who can feed both themselves and him. There is much I will sacrifice, but I will not sacrifice my basic needs. The better option for him in this case would be to go to a home that could offer more stability in care.

If Frankie gets injured and is no longer sound to jump: he would go to a home that would appreciate his easy-going temperament and trainability for dressage, hunter paces, trails, or other flatwork. The better choice for him would be to go somewhere where he would be appreciated for all he could still offer.

If Frankie tells me that 1.10m is about as high as he wants to go, and I decide that I have 1.20m goals: he would go be the perfect division move-up partner for a timid junior or ammy who needs a confidence-booster of a horse. The better choice for him would be to stay at a height where he is happy and comfortable competing.

These are worst case scenarios- I have a steady career and Frankie is sound and scopy. But they are worth considering.

And these situations hinge on the fact that Frankie is my athletic partner, not my pet. I love him so so so much and always want what is best for him- but I have competitive goals too, and he was purchased as a partner to help pursue those goals.

This is not the case for everyone- I know many people who have switched disciplines and changed their focus in order to pursue the career that is right for their mount. They adjust their goals to meet the abilities and willingness of their horse, and this changes over the years. I am not knocking this in the least- I admire and respect this.

That’s just not how things are for me right now. I love competing in the jumpers, and I want to go be competitive at the bigger shows. I want to jack the jumps up. And up. And up. And while it may be inflexible of me, I’m not willing to change those goals. Nor do I have the wallet to support two horses- I can only pay for one, so that one has to be a mount that can take me where I want to go.

Let me be clear here: Frankie is not for sale. I hope to have many happy years to compete and grow with him.

But I will also put the work into him to increase his value- put on show miles, build his USEF record, install those lateral-work buttons. He is the type of horse that will always make someone very happy. I’m thrilled that person is me, but I’m not morally opposed to it being someone else if circumstances change.

As long as that is the best choice for a safe and happy future for my horse.

What are your thoughts on “forever homes?”

 

Haunches-Out and Outside Leg

No political discussion from me, guys. All I’ll say is this- I have seen so many people reaching out to each other today to express love and support, and that gives me a lot of hope.

Let’s talk about happy stuff though- I got to ride my horse for the first time in a week! I can’t even tell you how happy that made me. AND it was a lesson, so we were able to really buckle down and work hard.

We’re continuing our pursuit of stronger lateral work- for my last few lessons, Trainer has had me drop my stirrups and sit the trot so I can really get deep and drape around Frankie more as I ask for these movements. Our shoulder-in has progressed and is much more consistent (though there’s still a ways to go), so we’ve started working more on our haunches-out.

To do this we’re practicing a lot of true counter-bend throughout his whole body- it isn’t enough for me to ask for the bend in front of me (seriously Olivia that’s not bend that’s just crooked). We’ve been doing circles on the counter-bend and asking him to push his haunches to the outside and it’s hard!! Frankie is eager to please, but making him move his body in these new ways is tough for him, and he generally tries to evade by speeding up. It’s taking a lot of core strength to pick him up and say, “no friend, we move sideways now with tiny powerful steps.” We got a couple good efforts from him last night, and we’re going to keep working to develop his sensitivity to my leg and ability to isolate his front and hind ends.

Our canter exercise involved a lot of circle work: canter a large circle, BALANCED sitting trot small circle, canter large circle, BALANCED canter small circle, repeat. When he stayed round and balanced and up off my hand, this worked well. When I let my leg get weak, he decided that breaking to a giant trot was easier than continuing a collected canter. Frankie really is such a tattle-tale: he will put in exactly as much effort as I put in.

My key takeaway here was to make sure my outside aids were present and pushing him around. I needed that inside leg to shape the circle, but he needed that outside leg to push his body around and channel the energy around the turn. And at all times, I need to sit up and get deep in my seat- Frankie needs that support right now and he doesn’t get that when I hover up out of my tack.

Then the jumping part! We warmed up a couple times over a little vertical off a diagonal turn, focusing on finding the right track out of the corner and channeling him straight to the base. Once we were feeling that, we started building up our course:

nov_bending

Our first exercise was 7 to 2 in a bending 7 strides. This was still pretty much part of our warmup, but Frankie was nice and forward and responsive so this came up nicely without having to go back and make any fixes.

Next was 1-2-3a-3b-4. Outside vertical, end-ish jump, four forward strides to the oxer into the combo, one stride to the itty bitty skinny box out, hard right over the other end-ish jump. The first jump came up nicely- we motored out of the corner and homeboy carried a nice pace up and over- then I needed to hold that outside leg to push him across 2. The four stride was a bit gallop-y, but that set us up for a decent combo. Luckily Frankie is super point-and-shoot, so the skinny was very straightforward for him. Then it was lots of right leg to push him out the the corner and give us more space to make the turn to 4.

Next part: 5-6-7-8. Diagonal vertical, rollback over outside (going between 2 and 8), back up the white gate, and bending out over the wall in a forward bending four. I had to look through that rollback so we didn’t get sucked out to the wall, and motor up out of that turn. Then again- we had to motor up out of the rollback to the gate. Then it was holding my outside aids in the bending- left leg to push him over on the track, and left hand to straighten him out once it was in view.

Then we put it all together! 1-2-3a-3b-4-5-6-7-8. The only different part here is 4-5, which was a bending 4. Nothing crazy there as long as I landed looking through my turn to set us up for the rollback.

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This was the hilarious last jump on course. Pic was taken from Frankie’s back so perspective is a little off, but this was about 3′. I giggled when I saw it.

Overall I was happy with this course. Some takeaways:

  1. Ride the frick up out of the corner. Yes, we need to package and balance into our turns. But then it’s time to hit the gas and get him to dig in and power out of the turns up to the jump. When he has that power, we can make pretty much any distance work.
  2. Outside leg 5ever. Two legs, two hands. All the time. Outside aids are what get him straight, and straight means power.
  3. Use our power to push across the jumps. Yes, even from the short tight spots. This was such a noticeable difference- when he had a bit of fire in his step, he jumped so much better, which allowed me to maintain a stronger position and land galloping.
  4. On that note- land galloping when we can. Obviously if there’s a combo or set striding we have to recover quickly off the jump and balance, but when possible we want to land and immediately rev the engine back up. That way we don’t have to build our pace and power back up from scratch every time.

I really feel like we’re making great progress- sometimes I get discouraged by how much difficulty we (mostly I) have with certain exercises, but then I realize that these exercises are much harder than what we’ve done in the past. Of course we’re going to struggle more, this is difficult stuff! I’m so proud of how far and how quickly Frankie has developed a lot of skills that are new to him, and it’s getting me really excited for our future together.

And lucky for me, work has slowed down enough that I can get back to my usual routine of riding 6x/week! Frankie might not be thrilled about the extra work, but I sure am.

What are some exercises you use to develop haunches-out?

Still Alive

I’m still around, I promise! I’ve gotten to work on a big assignment at the office lately- super exciting stuff that will hopefully open some doors, but it also has meant some pretty late hours and weekends. Frankie has been getting some guest rides from some of the other ammies at the barn- I warn them all that he’s wIlD aNd CrAzY but they just laugh at me. I’ll be hopping on for my lesson tonight (if I can escape the office early enough) for my first ride in a week!

Once I have the chance to breath a bit and have some actual spare time to do laundry/grocery shop/do anything besides work and sleep I pinky promise I will have some fun stuff to share.

Until then, enjoy these self-indulgent pictures of Manfriend and myself at the Marine Corps Ball last weekend- my one escape from the office.

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Wearing actual makeup that I did myself! Nothing classier than a bathroom selfie.
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I did this! Doing updos on the prom circuit is my backup career for when this analysis stuff falls through.
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Wasn’t even an open bar. Jipped.
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What’s better looking than a Marine in dress blues? Trick question. Nothing. Literally nothing.
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Except maybe multiple Marines in dress blues.
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My new favorite picture of me and Manfriend, I just wish it was less grainy.

And just you wait until the professional picture comes in. I won’t share too much, but the aesthetic is “Early 90s rap album.” You’re gonna love it.

Updates on Frankie and the barn once I get those updates myself!