Cheers To The Support System

2016 has been a huge, incredible year for Frankie and me. This post is dedicated to everyone who made it that way.

Here’s to my parents, who drove me to the barn every day without fail. Who woke up with me at 4:30am to go stand in the cold and cheer as I made it around 4 crossrails. Who held my horse, polished my boots, learned what a martingale was, signed the checks, took the videos. Who listened as their now-grown-up daughter gushed about taking lessons, then about leasing a horse, then about horse shows, then about this horse that I HAD to have. Who came to visit and spent the whole weekend at a horse show without complaint. Who don’t really understand the whole horse obsession, but know they don’t need to “get” it to be there.

Here’s to the friends who understand why I can’t make it to happy hour. Who listen over and over and over again as I belabor the fact that our impulsion and adjustability is really developing (because I realize that is absolute gibberish). Who wish me luck at shows and don’t complain about the fact that my car smells like manure and even come to the barn sometimes to visit.

Here’s to the ammies at the barn, who bring wine to horse shows to either toast our successes or drown our sorrows. Who keep an eye on each others’ horses when we go on vacation. Who take video for each other in lessons and empathize, “we’ve all had days like that,” when things go wrong. Who are the first to cheer when things go right.

Here’s to Frankie’s healthcare team: the vet, who lets me watch over his shoulder and ask a thousand questions every time I see him. Who excitedly shares his knowledge and philosophies every step of the way. Who came out at short notice to vet several horses and gave a clear, unbiased answer about strengths and limitations of each horse. And the farrier, who has kept my horse’s feet healthy and has never failed to tack a shoe back on within 24 hours.

Here’s to the barn team managing Frankie every day. The ones that make sure Frankie has a clean, dry stall and fresh water. Who come in late at night to check on him. Who make sure he is warm and fed in the midst of thunderstorms and blizzards. Who work tirelessly to make sure the entire facility is safe and clean no matter what.

Here’s to the barn manager, who carefully considers what nutrition Frankie needs to perform. Who manages his shoeing and deworming and vaccinations and a million other things to keep him healthy and happy and thriving. Who considers education and sharing knowledge with the boarders to be part of the job description.

Here’s to Trainer past, who instilled in me the love of the horse and the absolute necessity of good care. Who drilled “heels down, eyes up” into my memory until I recited those words under my breath while asleep. Who let me tag along every day to be jump crew, groom, warmup rider, course setter, and general shadow to soak up everything I could. Who even now, encourages and supports me from afar.

Here’s to Trainer present, who has taken my passion and taught me guts. Who sees my craving for more time in the ring and sees my empty wallet and tells me, “we’ll figure something out.” Who pushes me to do  more than I ever thought I could, demands excellence, and is the first to say “great job!” when we have a breakthrough. Who believes in my big goals and takes the time to figure out how to realistically get me there. Who demonstrates over and over again that the goal is not a quick buck, but a relationship built on trust and respect.

Frankie and I absolutely 100% could not have accomplished what we have this year without the encouragement and guidance of our whole support system. We love you all, and thank you for such an amazing year!

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The Last Lesson of 2016

A short and sweet lesson recap of our last lesson of the year!

This lesson actually ended up being very funny- Frankie kept sneezing over. And over. And over. And OMG I SWEAR YOU’RE FAKING IT NOW BUDDY. Coincidentally, I had over-oiled my reins a little ways back, but thought they were adequately dried out enough to use.

LOL NOPE. I had absolutely no grip on the reins WHATSOEVER. Like, at all. Of course it was Frankie so his only response to the super inconsistent contact was to just get super heavy and long and try to drag me around, but it was definitely annoying to feel the reins slipping through my fingers every time I tried to take a feel.

Of course, this was the day that we practiced a lot of canter in-trot out of a 4 stride line. We quickly realized that this was NOT working without a proper feel, and tied knots in my reins so I could at least have SOMETHING to hold onto. Things improved rapidly after that.

Trainer also had me do my trot jumps this time without reins- it turns out that when you take away my hands, suddenly my leg stays in place and my upper body folds better and I don’t jump ahead and things get magical. So my tentative plan in the show ring is to drop my reins before every fence and put my hands on my hips. Seems like a good plan, yes?

We finished up the lesson by doing a no-stirrups course with the jumps around 3′ ish, as seen here:

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Similar setup to last week, just slightly different course

Long approach down the oxer, up the quarter line in a galloping 3, down over the stone wall and rollback between 1 and 6 to come up the red outside vertical, then down the liverpool.

This whole thing rode fantastically! Frankie was really up in front of my leg and locked on to every fence- the rollback rode really powerfully and came up out of stride, and he powered right up to the base of the liverpool. I think riding this without stirrups really helped place me in more of a driving seat which got Frankie more revved up. And you know Frankie. A little revving is just what the doctor ordered.

We decided to end on that note since it rode so well, and chatted for a bit. We discussed how much more educated Frankie is about the contact nowadays and how we can continue to progress that education. We talked about different exercises we can do to keep Frankie fit even when the ground gets harder over the winter. And then Trainer gave me the best birthday present she could have given me.

I mentioned to her that the jumps last week looked pretty big to me, and I was excited that we’re really getting used to the bigger fences. To which she responded, “that’s kinda weird.”

Um. Sorry? I explained that the 3’6″ is quickly becoming more manageable, but sometimes when I first see them I get a bit star-struck and intimidated.

So she explained,”Olivia, the reason I’m surprised that 3’6″ looked intimidating to you is because I’ve had you schooling 3’9″ pretty regularly for a month or two. You never ask about the height so I assumed you knew. Are you sure those jumps were only 3’6?”

So yeah. My birthday surprise was that I’ve apparently been schooling higher than I realized for a while now. Hooray for jump height ignorance!

I’m headed home for Christmas and you may not hear from me before then, so in case I forget to post:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, your families, friends, and animals!!! Much love to all of you ❤

THE BIG 2-5!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEEE

If you need me, I’ll be hugging my horse and thanking him for being the best goober in the world, eating brinner and drinking wine with my roommate, and telling every person I come in contact with that TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAYYYYYY AND I AM A BIRTHDAY PRINCESS. I’ll be the one in the tiara.

Cheers to the next quarter century!!!

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2016 in Review

Wow. It’s been a totally huge year! Let’s take a look back:

January: Was still half-leasing Addy and lessoning with her. This was a quiet month as I saved up for Ocala.

February: Ocala!!!!! Total game-changer for me. I took Poppy in the 0.80m-0.90m jumpers and the 3′ Adult Eq, and then took Victoriosa to an 11th place in the 0.95m jumper classic (and a 2nd place in our 0.90m class that morning). It was all horses, all day, all week. This was my eye-opener that WOW this is what I want to be doing. A week after returning from Ocala, I told Trainer to start the horse search.

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March: Last show with Addy– we did the 3′ jumpers and she was a powerhouse. It was bittersweet to go out on such a good note, but then we got to try some fun horses. We had a failed vetting on a cute chestnut, tried a SUPER fancy baby TB, and then found our unicorn. Frankie joined the family on the last day of March!

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April: The new horse honeymoon! We lessoned, we hacked, we went on trail rides, we got to know each other. I marveled (totally still marveling BTW) at my good fortune in finding this amazing beast. I also drained my bank account equipping said horse.

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May: We decided to send our entry in for our first show in June, opting out of a “get-to-know-you” show. It was all in at our new division height of 1.0m. We spent our time learning how to navigate some bigger fences to prepare. We also got my saddle re-paneled to fit Frankie better, so we could have a saddle that made us both happy.

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June: We headed to our first show together at Loudoun Benefit (which was so major, we had a Part 1 and a Part 2). There were a lot of nerves on my part that ended up being totally unwarranted- Frankie jumped around at his first show like he had been doing it for 10 years. We hit the ground running at 1.0m and it started out a little sticky, but every round got better and by the end we were confidently navigating the giant ring.

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July: The dog days of summer. We got creative with our ride times to beat the heat, but Frankie maintained a great work ethic as I started asking for more refined flatwork. We found out more about Frankie’s past and how he turned into such an excellent beast.

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August: We headed to our second show at HITS Culpeper to continue improving in the Adult Lows. We finally made it to a jumpoff and earned our first ribbons! Frankie continued to be a horse show star and we even got to play in the GP ring.

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September: Frankie went into full training while I was on vacation, and we upped the ante with our rides. Proof that all our hard work paid off: we went to our third show at HITS Culpeper and made it to every. Single. Jumpoff. We even wrapped up our season by bringing home a 3rd in our classic! There were happy tears.

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October: We made the switch to private lessons. A full hour of scrutiny every week, and we got to really play with some difficult exercises. Frankie rose to the occasion and turned his motor up a bit. We also discovered that Frankie is totally on board with the whole Halloween thing.

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November: A quiet month. Winter was supposed to be show-hiatus time, so we focused on maintaining muscle and improving our adjustability. There was some schedule upheaval due to a crazy work project and Manfriend moving to join the police academy, but Frankie stayed consistently ready to work. My dad came to visit and had a heart attack seeing how tall Frankie is, but admitted that Frankie was a very trustworthy partner.

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December: Lots of lateral work as the weather got colder. We were supposed to make our big move up to the 1.10m division, but the show was cancelled due to icy weather. Instead, we had an awesome lesson where we tackled the elusive liverpool and jacked the jumps up.

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Overall, this has been a year of HUGE growth, and I don’t just mean in terms of moving up in height. Frankie is a totally different horse than we brought home- he’s still my steady Eddie, but now he’s so much fitter and better equipped to handle the demands of the jumper ring. He can turn tighter, adjust his stride so much more, handle a variety of distances with ease, use his body over the jumps better, rock his weight back off his forehand more consistently, perform a much wider array of lateral movements, and is generally a more broke, schooled horse. We knew he would be a great horse when we bought him (duh, it’s why we bought him), but I had no idea I would have the pleasure of sitting on such an incredible animal! My trainers have been AMAZING with him and I can’t thank them enough for putting in the time to teach and guide us.

It’s been a hell of a year, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for the Frankfurter and me.

Eff You Winter: A Tale of Show Prep for a non-Show

But like actually, people. I hate hate HATE being cold. And I hate hate HATE freezing rain. Mostly because freezing rain means shows get cancelled.

Yes, our move-up show has been cancelled due to weather Y U DO THIS TO ME WEATHER GODS.

Honestly though, if the weather is going to be that bad then I’m glad we’re staying home. It’s nerve wracking enough to jump all the big jumps for the first time, I’d rather do it when I’m not also panicked about the trailer sliding off the road and sending Francis to an icy doom. Not that I pictured that at all when I saw the forecast. No way.

So a little disappointed that the show is cancelled but also grateful for the chance to 1. sleep in omg I haven’t slept in for MONTHS it feels like and 2. have a bit more time to prepare for the move up. That can never hurt.

Our lesson this week was under the assumption that we’d be showing, so it was prep time. Assistant Trainer taught so you know it was good. Her style of teaching really works with Trainer’s style so well and I LOVE lessoning with her- I always know that we’re going to do something super challenging and I’ll be majorly sore the next day, but I’ll also walk out of the lesson feeling really accomplished. She won’t sugar coat things when I mess up, but she’s the first to throw a big party when I get something right. Seriously, both my trainers are amazing and I can’t say enough good things about them both.

Anywho, I’ll hop off the love train and actually tell you about our lesson.

Flatwork this time was much more basic, mostly to get us moving and warmed up. Lots of extensions and collections within each gait to get us tuned into each other and adjustable. Frankie started out a little sluggish so my job was to get him moving forward and powerfully first before trying to contain and recycle that energy. Lots of big circles to small circles, serpentines and changing direction to make sure he was moving off my leg and suppling throughout his body.

Warmup was trotting a crossrail a few times which UGH TROT JUMPS ARE SO HARD and why can’t we just canter everything pls. I think they’re getting better- Frankie has figured out that they do actually count as jumps, and I’m trying to wait with my shoulders a bit more. Maybe someday they won’t be terrible.

Then AT put the jumps around 2’9″-3’ish (I think?) to give us a bit of a warmup course, seen here:

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So it was single outside vertical, down the bending line in a waiting four strides, up the single oxer, down the box again as a single, up the one stride combo on the outside, liverpool, and up the quarter line in a GALLOPING three strides.

You read that right. The famous liverpool indeed made an appearance. But I’ll get to that when I get to that.

Single jumps off a long approach are kinda our jam at this point so the first jump came up nicely. Getting to a nice close spot to the box meant sitting back for the four strides was very do-able, and we held out to get a nice wide track up the black oxer. Down the box was another straightforward jump, got some power through the end of the ring to get up through the combo, and then it was a long approach down the diagonal to the liverpool. I sat up, legged on, held my breath, channeled Frankie straight, prepared for a peek or a hard jump….and nothing. He galloped right up to the base and popped over it like any other wide jump. There was no time to celebrate though, because that turn to the quarter line was TIGHT and we had to really dig in out of the corner to make the striding, especially at the lower height.

But then I was done and BEAMING because bucket list item totally checked off! I’m sure we will jump many more liverpools in our career but this was the first time I’ve ever jumped one! Remember that I only started doing the jumpers a year ago, I’m still new at anything that isn’t huntery haha. But seriously, if I needed another reason to love my Francis…he is such a confidence booster and takes SUCH good care of me.

So with my confidence high and my horse warmed up, AT put the jumps up. And up. And up (except the liverpool, she left that around 3’ish). And holy crap my heart kinda went into my throat because those jumps are so freakin big and you actually want us to jump that are you sure this doesn’t seem right maybe we should go back to the 0.65m division for a bit because those look way bigger than 1.10m and now my internal voice is babbling oh god oh god oh god. I’m sure none of them were over 1.10m, they just looked HUGE because our standards are not tall and the ring itself is not big. So yeah, definite nerves. Of course, as soon as I picked up the reins and moved out the nerves disappeared- Francis has that effect on me.

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BIG AIRY VERTICALS OMG DO YOU EVEN SEE THAT BLACK OXER ON THE LEFT OMG

AT had me pick up a gallop down the long side to get our energy up before packaging down at the short end for our first approach. We had to work a bit harder to fit the four stride into the broken line, and power up out of the corner to the black oxer. I got Frankie a little too tight to the single box and we popped it a bit, and then I just absolutely mangled the one-stride and had to come back around and try again with more leg. The liverpool came up just as nicely as last time, and the quarter line was another HAULING ASS down the line.

AT’s comment: “Not bad, made some good decisions and some bad decisions, but you look a little starry-eyed at the height. Give him a break and then try again, this time with more gusto and intent.” She was totally right- I was a little intimidated by the height and I let that back me off.

So we tried again. And I didn’t necessarily make better decisions, but this time I kept my leg on and RODE instead of just steering around the course. We still got a few fliers and a few tight spots, but they weren’t as “sticky” this time around because it turns out keeping your leg on really helps support your horse WHO KNEW.

Final comments from AT: “Was this your best coursework? No. But you’re learning that the answer when shit hits the fan is to just keep kicking and GO. So we can work on smoothing things out, but that intent is more there and that’s what we need to see.”

I gotta tell you- I’m thrilled. We managed around a full course at the bigger height including a liverpool and made it happen. Pretty? Not yet. But my horse tried his heart out and jumped the big jumps for me without question. We only had a single rail the whole lesson when I biffed it HARD and to quote AT, “he didn’t even look like a moose over some of those.” Progress! Best jumping moose in the world.

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And yes, obviously I needed to take a pic with the liverpool to commemorate the occasion.

Product Review: ColorTack

There are products you absolutely need, and there are products that you want. I’ve had to be very controlled about only buying from the need column lately, because I have no willpower about turning down horse shows and that means I have very very little “play” money left over at the end of the month.

But then there are the products in the “it might not be a need but they bring me such joy” column. The ones that don’t directly impact your ability to live your life, but that bring a big beaming smile to your face. The not-necessaries-but-definitely-desirables.

And when I saw the ColorTack booth at WIHS, I knew that their spurs were solidly in that column.

A little information on the company: ColorTack is a young company based out of New Jersey, which manufactures entirely right here in the good ol’ US of A. They offer spurs and stirrup irons in any color you can dream up- or you can even send your own spurs and stirrups to them to refurbish and add color! They offer a whole rainbow of colors in their catalog, and there’s also the option for an extra stripe of color for those of us who have two barn colors. The color itself is a baked on epoxy ceramic finish, which is guaranteed not to fade, chip, or peel. As someone who regularly abuses her gear, I can attest to this- these things take a beating and still look gorgeous.

I really wasn’t planning on buying new spurs any time soon. Honest. I’ve had the same pair of roller-ball spurs for the last 10 years, and every horse I’ve been on seems to be cool with them. Besides, there were no roller-ball spurs out on the display.

But then they mentioned that “yes we absolutely carry roller-ball spurs!” and casually threw in “if you send us yours, we could just add the color to your existing spurs.” And then I started thinking that it would be awful nice to have one pair of spurs for schooling, and another for shows. Just so I wouldn’t have to swap the spurs from boot to boot, you see.

With my justification firmly in place, all that was left to do was pick out a color. No easy task, with all of the options there! There was an amazing arrays of blue shades that caught my eye in particular. But we all know that I’m obsessed with all things shiny and gold- I finally settled on a metallic gold roller-ball spur in a satin finish.

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Pardon the black boot polish on the insides- I was too excited to wear them and didn’t take pics ’til after I abused them!

 

 

They. Are. Beautiful. I’m totally in love. They look stellar on my black boots, and once I get some more coordinated spur straps, I’m sure they are going to be GLORIOUS on my brown boots! They’ve already been tossed around and abraded quite a bit in the dirt/sand/mud/gravel/tack trunk/car/you get the picture, and show zero signs of wear and tear.

For those of you who value customer service: be prepared to love this company. I sent an email with a few questions, and never had to wait more than 10 minutes to hear back from them. Their reps at the show were friendly and knowledgeable, the woman who corresponded with me over email was professional and prompt, and overall the whole process from ordering to use has been a pleasure.

Do you need colorful spurs? Absolutely not. But I can promise that these will put a big smile on your face.

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Check our their offerings here: https://www.colortack.com/

Note: I did not receive these spurs for free or for a discount, nor was I paid in any way for this review. I was just thoroughly impressed by this company and the products they offer, and wanted to share them with you all!

Show Prep: Winter Edition

Our first show of the new USEF year is coming up this weekend! It’ll be a lot of firsts for us: our first indoor show, our first time trailering in to a rated show, our first time in the 1.10m division, our first winter show with my trainer.

Up until now, I’ve managed to only show in the warmer spring and summer weather because I used to be a smart woman. Alas, my brain fell out when I bought a horse and I transformed into a big dummy that will say yes to any horse show.

A lot of the prep for this show is the same as the summer shows: cleaning and conditioning all tack, loading the trailer/packing my trunk, polishing my boots, reciting prayers to the god of good distances. You know, the usual stuff. But we do have a few things that are a bit different:

Frankie got a haircut. Homeboy got clipped! Originally we were going to do a blanket clip, but when I lost my everloving mind decided that showing in December would be fun, we went ahead and shaved him all over. I was told he was well-behaved for the torture that is body clipping and he looks SO HANDSOME OMG. So shiny and sleek and pretty!!! I worried that the extra cold air might make him a little *spicy* but let’s be real here. It’s Frankie. His version of spicy is picking up the canter when I ask him to trot, then coming back to trot when he realizes that’s what he supposed to do. Not exactly Secretariat. His tail is in good shape and his mane is neatly pulled, so he officially looks like a fancy shmancy show pony.

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He literally looks exactly like this

Bridle Break-In 101. The birthday fairy sent me (aka Frankie) a BEAUTIFUL new show bridle off my wishlist, then I spent way too long gazing at it lovingly and left the breaking-in part until this weekend. It has been scrubbed, dunked in oil overnight, and tenderly massaged for a few days- I’ll be riding in it every day this week to get it softer. Any tips for getting the reins to soften up faster? I hesitate to oil them because, you know, grip. And yes- I know I should make the switch to rubber reins. But that’s a solution for a later time. In hindsight, I could have planned this better.

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Planning for a long, cold day. We have a junior going in the first classes of the day (Big Eq), and then we’re waiting until literally the last division of the day for the High Adults. Meaning we’ll probs be there around 6am and I’ll be surprised if I’m showing before 3pm. I’m planning to hack Francis around when we get there so I can see the ring (because real talk Frankie doesn’t need to see the ring first. We all know who the neurotic one is in this relationship), then hand-walking him periodically throughout the day. Layers on layers on layers will be the name of the game. And then more layers.

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TURN ME INTO A BEAUTIFUL BURRITO OF BLANKETS

In terms of riding, there’s no final prep work to be done. I will likely make mistakes on course but that’s OK. Our problem-solving skills have come a long way in the last few months and I’m confident that we can safely navigate the courses. Frankie is in great muscle, sound, fit, healthy, and getting more responsive with every ride. We’re ready for the move up!

Any tips for surviving winter shows without dying from frostbite?

 

Much Needed

As you could likely tell from my post the other day, I wasn’t in the best spot mentally. I also hadn’t ridden my horse in three days. HMMM I WONDER IF THERE WAS A CONNECTION THERE.

I showed up to my lesson this week and warned Trainer: “I’m probs rockin’ a low grade fever, and I may start crying for no reason. Just a quick heads up.” Being used to my various mental gymnastics, Trainer just rolled with it and said she would give me other things to focus on. She’s the best ever.

I was actually a little curious about what Frankie would be like when I pulled him out- he hadn’t been ridden in three days, hadn’t been turned out in two, was body clipped over the weekend, and the temperature had dropped by a lot. Kinda  perfect recipe for freshness. I knew he wouldn’t be wild because that’s not in his wheelhouse, but I expected a few small shenanigans.

 

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THE FACE OF A NATURAL BORN KILLER

And he offered such big misbehavior: he walked off from the mounting block as I was getting my stirrups, before I told him to walk off. WOAH THERE WILD PONY, CALM YOURSELF. No seriously though, he was absolutely perfectly behaved the whole time. Love love LOVE my steady Eddie.

We’ve been playing a lot with different lateral movements lately and how to adjust our contact depending on our needs, and we continued that work. Lots of shifting the contact from indirect/direct outside and inside reins around smaller circles, and how we can use that to encourage the bend through his whole body. Weirdly enough, when I managed a more correct, steady contact, he instantly rounded onto the bit and stepped under. Strange how that works, right??

We then started playing around with canter half-passes. And I say playing around because they were nowhere near an actual half-pass. But sucking at something is the first step at not sucking at something! We ended up taking a step back from this to work on our haunches-in at the canter on a small circle to develop that type of motion- lots of balancing on the outside rein, getting that outside leg back to push his bum over. Not perfect by any stretch, but we had our moments and I could really feel it when we got it. I think as I learn how to ask more accurately this will come together, because Frankie was really listening and trying to figure out what I wanted.

All this lateral work has been FANTASTIC for us. Honestly this wasn’t even on my radar, but Trainer has been pushing us and introducing these movements and it’s really noticeable in our jumping work- turns come up more balanced and I’m much more able to place his body exactly where I want it.

Next step, canter pirouettes, amiright? Seriously though, we’re getting some really nice dressage buttons installed on him and he’s been super trainable for all of it. Hooray for versatile pony!

On to the jumping work! We kept the jumps low and worked on a gymnastic type exercise, as seen here:

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We started by trotting in-cantering out each bending line in 6 strides (1-2 and 1-3). Then trotting in-cantering out each way in 5 strides by moving up to the base.

Then we did this exercise in 5 strides cantering in both ways for the add step: 1-2-3-1, and 1-3-2-1. Like a teardrop pattern.  Then cantering in and doing all lines in 6. Hear that? We totally did the double add!! And it actually looked like we did it on purpose instead of landing and two strides later saying OH CRAP and hauling back and breaking to trot and then almost stopping and then lumping over the jump. Because, you know, that’s totally never happened or anything.

This time when I mashed him together, he actually came up rounder and gave some real collection of his stride without losing impulsion. And it made him jump more carefully, even over the smaller jumps. As Trainer says- he doesn’t care about the small jumps because they’re not hard, so we have to make him care by creating the impulsion and pushing him up to the base.

We’re working on adjustability no matter how we get into the line- it might not be the perfect distance in, but I have to keep my leg on and believe in the base and mash him together for the stride length I’m asking for. A common theme lately: recover faster after every jump. Still in progress, but it’s definitely improved from a few weeks ago.

I’m pretty sure that next week we’ll be schooling the liverpool for the first time in case we run into it at the show- here’s to hoping that isn’t the one thing that bothers Frankie! I’ll try to get media too, it’s totally a bucket list thing for me to jump that liverpool (Trainer’s is M-A-S-S-I-V-E).

Any tips as we work to install the half-pass?

ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

Hopping on the blog hop wagon! Like Sarah from A Soft Spot for Stars, I’m in the wonderful state of Virginia. But while she is in the beautiful southwest part of the state, I am in Northern Virginia, aka NoVa. Which may as well be on the other side of the country- NoVa is it’s own beast.

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It’s basically “DC Lite”

It has rapidly turned into a very urban/suburban area over the last decade, with lots of people commuting into DC. And it is EXPENSIVE. Absolutely absurdly expensive. With all the expansion going on, you really have to head towards the western part of the county to find true horse country, which is about 40 minutes from my apartment (but only 20 min from work, score!).

Here are some costs, heavily caveated by the fact that I board at a barn that takes care of a lot of these things for me:

 

  • Trim- no idea, since Frankie is shod
  • Shoes-$180-$250 depending on type, special needs, etc.
  • Average monthly pasture board- not super common in my area
  • Average monthly stall board- $850-$1300 depending on which barn you go to, and often certain training services are thrown in there
  • Average cost of a month of full time training- $1400-$2000
  • Hay- absolutely no clue haha

Weather: Honestly I really like it- winters can be harsh but tend to be brief, and summers can  be scalding but I am secretly a reptile that thrives on sunlight. Autumn is by far my favorite- we usually have gloriously crisp but mild weather up into December.

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Yeah, fall views are my fav.

Riding demographic: This is hunter land. For sure. There’s actually a very active community of foxhunters in this area- Middleburg is basically a town devoted to foxhunting and the equestrian lifestyle. But the show hunters are also a huge thing around here. Along with that, jumpers and eq. I know there are also quite a few active eventers around here with some great venues nearby (Morven Park, anyone?), and I’ve seen quite a few dressage barns in the area. With all the suburban yuppies (myself included), English disciplines seem to be the most prevalent around here.

middleburg
Seriously Middleburg is basically Fantastyland for foxhunters

Other notes on the area: While it is expensive, this area is really AMAZING for accessibility to hunter/jumper shows. The VHSA hosts local shows in the area almost every weekend year round for both the hunters and jumpers, and there are so many venues hosting rated shows year round as well: HITS Culpeper, Upperville/Loudoun Benefit, McDonough, Swan Lake, Lexington, WIHS, and the Mid-Atlantic Eq Festival are just a few of the AMAZING shows within an easy drive of the barn. It’s also pretty easy to get to either Ocala or Lake Placid/Vermont for the seasonal shows. Seriously, if your goal is to compete on any H/J circuit from the locals to the AA, this is the place you want to be. In my mind, it’s totally worth the extra cost of living to have all these equestrian amenities so close by. And because there is such an extensive community of equestrians in the area, it’s really easy to shop around to find your favorite trainer, tack shop, vet, farrier, bridle trail at the state parks, hunter pace, etc. You want to clinic? We have actual Olympians from several disciplines just down the road. It’s all here.

LB_sun_scenery
Loudoun Benefit, about 30 minutes from the barn

Frustrating things about my area: Nothing that I can think of (besides cost, because I am a broken record. A broke-en record. Hah.). It took me a while to adjust to living in this type of mega-suburb, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get all the conveniences of living in the city, with easy access to world class training and show facilities.

 

Burnout

You know that feeling when there’s 2148734 different things going on and all you want to do is hibernate for 7-8 weeks? Yeah, I’m there. Totally there.

Not with Frankie though- never with Frankie. He’s my decompression and therapy time to handle the burnout. We’ve had a series of great lessons lately where our flatwork is getting more and more refined, and we’re asking him to really turn ‘n burn around some sharper rollbacks.

Which is great, because our big move-up is coming up on the 17th! We’re headed to a venue in Maryland for our official debut in the 1.10m High Adults. It will be Frankie’s first indoor show, his first time showing out of a trailer instead of having a stall, and our first time at this new height- somehow, I don’t think any of this will bother him at all. He has never blinked at any ring/commotion, he hops on and off the trailer with no hesitation, and he’s been rocking the bigger jumps in lessons lately. We’re hoping to get some points towards qualifying for the Zone 3 USHJA AA Jumper Finals in August.

I thought I would be more nervous for this move up, but really I’m just excited. I feel ready. And that actually surprises me- we bought Frankie to be my 1.10m horse eventually, I just thought it would take a year or two to get there instead of 8 months. I didn’t expect to feel prepared quite yet. But as my trainer said, why wait around if we’re ready? It’s the start of a new show season and we’ve got some new goals to pursue, so let’s go out and chase them.

So lots of excitement around that. Which is really really great, because I kinda need that to keep me going right now amid the craziness at work and holiday season and random “stuff” that always seems to pop up around this time of year.

Apologies in advance if the blog goes a bit quieter than usual this month- Frankie will be helping me past the burnout ❤