McDonogh Video!

Here’s a video of our second round + jumpoff:

I realize that my turns are hella huge- remember yesterday when I said my reins kept slipping? This round was for sure the worst, they were basically there for decoration more so than any actual use. It’s too zoomed out to see the floppage too much, but you can take my word for it.

Yay for happy pony going jumpiez!!

 

 

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McDonogh Winter Classic

We survived our first outing in our new division! And not just survived, but had a total blast doing it. Francis is a prince. Here’s the rundown.

It was about 90 minutes to trailer there and then we had a wait before it was time to warm up, so Frankie came off the trailer looking a bit like a fire-breathing dragon. When I hopped on, he actually gave me the worst behavior he’s ever given me: put his head between his knees and dolphin leapt about a little. I nervously said to Trainer, “Frankie is kinda acting up right now,” to which she responded, “So? Go do something about it.”

……Right. I can actually ride my horse. I had forgotten that fun little fact for a hot second. I put my leg on and asked for some bend and forward and TADA no more shenanigans. I mean, he had been standing on a trailer for a couple hours, he came off in a strange place that was super breezy and loud with lots of strange horses, it was pretty frigid. The fact that he didn’t try to play MORE is cause for celebration.

The rest of our warmup went really really well- Frankie had fantastic forward energy and carried us up to the base of every jump super strongly. Then it was time for our first class in the 1.10m!!!!

So I looked in the ring and said oh good, once they reset the jumps we’ll be good to go. Except as we all know, I am the WORST at judging jump height. The jumps were already reset. So a big fat shoutout to Trainer for making us jump bigger jumps at home, because these looked totally manageable and not at all intimidating.

Here’s the diagram for our first course (sorry it’s blurry! I added in the numbers to hopefully help):

mcdonogh_speed2.png

So single oxer away, down the outside line in 5, across the middle, rollback, up the diagonal line in 5, one-stride, bending out in 6 strides.

Overall thoughts on the course: pretty hunterific! No really tricky questions- if you sliced 4 a little right-to-left, it set you up to go inside 3 and have plenty of room to roll back to 5. 6 to 7 was a forward five strides, but it was later in the course so there was plenty of time to get the motor going. The one-stride was very forgiving, and then just balancing down for the six strides out.

Francis. Felt. Amazing. Ears perked, forward, locking onto the jumps and galloping up to them, and he just felt like he was having fun around the course. The lines rode really nicely- we got in a little tight to the combo but legged through just fine and balanced out. Was it perfect? No way. But my horse felt like a rockstar and I felt like I rode it much more strongly than I usually ride. Sadly no video of this round so you’ll have to take my word for it. Double clear and a good pace got us 3rd out of 14ish in this class!!!

We then had a decent break before our next class, which was II2b (immediate jumpoff). After sitting for a bit we decided to trot around and jump another jump or two to get us moving again before going back in the ring for this course:

mcdonogh_jumpoff

A lot of the same lines as the previous course, just in a different order. The jumpoff was a little tricky: to get from 2 to 4a we went between jumps 3 and 6 (Frankie was v v confused by this) and I think a better option would’ve been to go to the left of 6 to shave off some time. I saw others do this and they’re the ones that beat our time.Even with that, double clear and good pace got us 5th in this round!

Fun side note: my gloves had ZERO grip for some reason. I’ve ridden in these gloves plenty of times without a problem, but this weekend I had practically zero purchase on my reins. Usually that wouldn’t be a problem, but when Francis wakes up and gets into fiery jumper mode, he pulls the reins right out of my hands. I have video of this round and once I’m able to share it you’ll see- I really had to cowboy around and flap a bit for steering. Thank goodness Trainer has had me strengthening my legs so I could mostly steer that way.

Then we had another decent break before our classic, with this course:

mcdonogh_classic

Again, not a ton of new questions. Our first oxer on this course was our best jump all day- Frankie used himself beautifully over it! But by this point I had been on for close to 2 hours and both Frankie and I were cold and pretty exhausted. I had also decided to take off my gloves and ended up choking up on my reins- overcorrecting from my inability to hold my reins in previous rounds. Predictably, we ran into trouble in the combo.

You know what you should do when your horse is tired and you’re headed into a triple combo? Because I can tell you right now what you SHOULDN’T do. You should not make your reins super duper short, hold his face, add in the previous line, then kick up into a strung out gallop, then lean with your shoulders while still holding his face. Because that leads to a Francis trying very hard to do his job but simply not being able to due to rider interference.

We reapproached the combo and I did literally the exact same thing: death grip on the face and leaning. So Frankie basically coasted to a stop and said, “Nope. No more for me, thank you.” And honestly, I couldn’t blame him. At this height, with depleted energy levels, I needed to be there SO MUCH MORE for him and I really wasn’t. Asking him to cart me around with no help was unfair. It wasn’t a dirty stop, it was a I-can’t-do-this-alone stop. This meant it was time to retire from the ring, and while I was disappointed that we didn’t make it around the course, it was definitely for the best. Frankie always ALWAYS jumps the jumps, so when he says “I can’t” that is something that I want to pay very close attention to.

Overall thoughts on the show: a really confidence-boosting wonderful first outing in our new division! The height was not intimidating at all, Frankie jumped two double-clear rounds really powerfully, and we had tons and tons of fun getting out there and galloping around the course. Our 3rd and 5th place got us 5 points towards the 20 we need to qualify for our Zone championship too- score!

mcdonogh_ribbons
That sweet face!!!! His, not mine. Obviously. Homeboy loves trying to eat his ribbons ❤

I was really proud of how Frankie handled the whole trip. Not surprised because naturally he’s always a total bro, but very proud. We had no problem getting on and off the trailer, no spooky moments, and once he let out the minor silly beans during our warmup he was super workmanlike and marched around like a pro. Of course he was a good boy last season, but it feels like our hard work over the last few months has really paid off in improving Frankie’s fitness, the way he uses his body, and building some of that jumper “fire” in him. He has just come such a long way and has turned into a wonderful competitive partner in the show ring. UGH EMOTIONS. Seriously so incredibly grateful to have a horse that is such a pleasure to work with and learn from.

My barn is headed to Ocala for a few weeks in February (BRB sobbing that I can’t join this year) so I won’t get to go show again until March, but I’m already itching to get back out there. I’m crazy excited for our season in the High Adults with the bestest pony in the whole world.

Not Dead Yet!

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Even though my body has been trying hard to kill  me- I was out of work almost every day this week with a KILLER sinus infection. Currently taking 4 different types of pills every day (most of them multiple times a day) and FINALLY I’m on the mend. After spending most of the week watching roughly forty million episodes of Forensic Files it’s really nice to get out of the house.

iamadetective
Pretty sure I could solve any murder cases now tho

I’m super behind on responding to comments and I gotta be honest- my energy levels and breathing ability are telling me to just give up and start from scratch. So just know that I’ve read and appreciated all of your comments lately.

Not a ton to report, so I’ll just give a quick rundown on what’s been going on in the magical land of pressure headaches:

We have discovered that in the case of the torn-up blankets, Frankie is the culprit. I have failed as a mother. My low-maintenance, angel of a horse is a blanket shredder *sob*. One of these bad boys is currently being shipped to my place so my fellow boarders don’t have to keep buying new blankets (sorry guys!!!).

4 T UMAX     PowerLook III    V1.5 [5]
Maybe Francis can be Bane for Halloween next year with this sucker
Assistant Trainer has been hopping on Frankie for me while I’ve been convalescing. Super duper grateful that she was able to make space in the rotation for an extra horse at very short notice, and very happy that he’s gotten some professional tuning up as we head into show season.

I spent some time scrubbing my tack HARD the other day and it was so beyond satisfying. I wipe down my tack regularly but this was a super intense cleaning. I also took the opportunity to switch out the nameplate on my saddle to one that, you know, has my own name on it (and by this I mean I hovered nearby while Assistant Trainer did it because she is actually the best). Womp womp. It only took over a year.

clean_saddle
I haven’t mentioned it lately, so friendly reminder that I am obsessed with my saddle in all ways. It is the light of my life.
nameplate
OH NO NOW YOU KNOW MY FULL NAME PLS DON’T USE THIS INFORMATION FOR EVIL

My brother and his wife came down for a visit recently and met the Frankfurter, and it was super fun getting to chill with them. My brother is way cooler than me in every way (unlike when he forced me to say this as a child, I actually mean it now) and his wife is even cooler than he is- combined, they are legit a mega awesome power couple.

sisters_noonoo
We look a lot alike. Especially when we both have luxurious long hair and matching bags under our eyes. He’s a beautiful woman.

Speaking of embarrassing pictures, this gem showed up in my memories on Facebook and I thought you might like a laugh. This was taken with a disposable camera at the sweet age of 13 during summer camp. I was clearly not a cute preteen, like, at ALL.

ohgodawful
Every time I look, I find something new to cringe at

I’ll be hopping on Frankie today to get my sea legs back, and we’re still planning on showing this Sunday! I am extremely eager to get out there and kick our show season off. I’ll need extra sustenance and rest to offset the sickness but GET AT ME.

And that concludes this episode of Random Stuff Happening Lately! More updates as events warrant.

 

Lovin’ Through the Cold Months

I realized something recently. It was something I already knew, but recent events made it SO much more obvious. Here’s the scenario:

The weather is much colder, and Frankie is clipped. I worry about him getting cold while grooming, so I try to work around a cooler and move as quickly as possible so I can hop on and get his muscles warmed up. After riding, I brush him and get him snugged back in his blankets as quickly as possible.

Frankie becomes less affectionate and snuggly. He doesn’t do anything bad, but he isn’t his usual sweet self on the crossties and ignores me when I go into his stall.

So after a few days of this I pop a second cooler on, switch on the heat lamps, and groom him for a much longer time. After riding, I put his blankets back on but then take the time to brush his mane and tail, rub his ears, and polish his hooves.

Frankie tries to get in my pockets and has his ears up watching me the whole time. The next day I walk into his stall and he leaves his hay to come say hello and get scratches.

Um. WOW.

I hear you loud and clear, Francis. Message received. More quality grooming time moved up the priority ladder to “Crucial.” I’ve always known that Frankie loves himself some lovin’, but this really drove the point home that his mood and attitude towards work is SO so so tied to that time together.

I’ve made an effort to spend more time on the ground with Frankie over the past couple of weeks and it’s been noticeable how much happier he is to see me. Which totally makes my heart so happy! Even without giving him any treats, he mooches on me for scratches and ear rubs. He even returns the favor for me sometimes by using his nose to “groom” my shoulder or hip.

So this is my reminder to myself: no matter how caught up in training and competing I get, I need to make Frankie’s comfort and happiness a priority by making sure we spend plenty of time bonding together. Even when it’s cold out and all I want to do is go to my heated car. Frankie is worth braving the weather.

winter_bundled
Even when I’m wearing literally 5 layers and can barely move my body

How do you build in bonding time when the temperature gets low?

One Ammy’s Rambling Thoughts on the Business of Doping

For those of you who have not yet seen, a very high profile hunter trainer and rider duo have been slapped with some pretty stiff penalties after one of their horses tested positive for GABA last summer. I was able to talk to a few people who have exposure at that level of the sport- with the gazillionaires and the circuit riders and the ones who go out there and win every time at the highest levels- and get some perspectives.

 

 

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Enjoy this unrelated pic of me tryin’ to look cool and Francis tryin’ to sneak a bite of grass.

 

 

Note: other people have extensively discussed the effect doping has on the horse’s health and safety. This will focus more on this issue from a governance/competition standpoint.

  • These penalties, while a decent first step, are not likely to materially change anything. It will not affect their ability to do business, because people will still train with them and buy horses from them. Do you think Paul Valliere is suffering right now due to his lifelong ban? He still has a thriving training business. The only way to truly make an impact that hurts at this level is to impact their business.
  • The outrage from the people at our level (in this context, I mean the people who compete regularly at rated shows, but maybe not at the circuit/BNT level) straight up doesn’t matter to these people. It does not shame them or register as a concern- we are not their target market. The only way  to influence them in this way would be if other trainers/riders at the top levels publicly spoke out and denied them their business. Those are the people that matter in their world.
  • Along these lines, we need to consider the social aspect as well as the monetary. $24k is a drop in the bucket at those levels. But losing status or standing with their peers? That would hurt. How could a governing body enforce something like that? In my own opinion, we would need a culture shift for this, not a rule change.
  • It isn’t just the pros that drug their horses. Example: say you want your 12yo daughter Muffy to go in the 1.10m jumpers this year. And you want her to go win, because your friend’s daughter seems to be winning and you need to be able to chat about that over lunch. Muffy probably doesn’t have the training or strength to jump a clear round at 1.10m, but why should that matter- you simply have your trainer pay six figures for a 1.40m jumper and put in lots of training rides. Muffy isn’t allowed to ride the horse outside of the show ring, because that would undo all the training your trainer has done. So when Muffy goes in the show ring, we need to give our 1.40m something to take the edge off so that Muffy can hold on and steer over her 1.10m course. Lo and behold, Muffy goes clear and wins the class! Clearly the decision to over-horse your child and then drug it down paid off.

These are just a few rambling thoughts interspersed liberally with (hopefully accurate) paraphrases from people much more experienced and knowledgeable than myself. My own thoughts are this: on top of being a safety hazard, drugging horses in order to win is an insult to the people who spend day-in-day-out working to develop their horses. It’s not fair to the horses, and it isn’t fair to other competitors who are putting in the time and effort to progress.

I know that my wonderful readers come from all different parts of the spectrum: different disciplines, different involvement in showing, etc. I’d love to hear your perspectives on this!

Potential

I had an “aha” moment recently. I’m not sure why it hit me- my lessons have been going well, but they haven’t been earth-shattering. We are consistently and steadily improving, but there wasn’t some huge breakthrough that changed my whole view on everything.

But for whatever reason, I had a flashbulb moment:

I have to go after this whole horse thing with everything I have right now. I have to see how far I can go.

Since I’ve gotten back in the saddle, I’ve set goals for myself. Big goals! Ones that I would’ve never dreamed of achieving when I was a kid! And we keep meeting them, thanks to my ever-wonderful steed and the guidance of a fantastic trainer.

But if I’m meeting these goals so easily, it means I’m not thinking big enough. Six months ago, doing the 1.0m was daunting. It was a HUGE goal for me. Now we’re schooling 1.15-1.20m courses and it ain’t perfect, but it doesn’t feel like a big deal anymore. It isn’t scary or intimidating.

I have everything in the world going for me right now: my youth and health, a horse that is so game for everything I want to try, a trainer that believes in me and pushes me and is flexible because she knows how much I want this, friends and family who are always there for me, a Manfriend who is amazingly supportive in so many ways, a boss who approves time off for horse shows, no kids, no mortgage, a steady career, and so many other things.

So if I don’t take advantage of this incredible confluence of blessings, I have no one to blame but myself. I am beyond extremely fortunate and I need to grab this opportunity while I can.

Because I really do think that if I push myself and work hard and stay the course, I can achieve some crazy cool stuff. My goal is not to go out there and win every class at every horse show, but to stop setting arbitrary goals and push so I can see what my potential is.

I know that riding is not my career. I know that I’m toeing the line financially. I’ve had several people tell me that I shouldn’t be making major life decisions based on my hobby. I’m choosing not to listen to them.

If I don’t put everything I have into this sport now, when will I ever get that chance again? Maybe there will be another time that things line up and that would be amazing, but do I want to gamble on that?

Nothing has changed really: I will continue to ride 5-6x a week and compete as often as finances allow. But I felt a physical sense of relief when I gave myself permission to put my whole heart into this. I’m so hungry to be a good rider and I’m beyond excited to see where I can go from here.

I simply love sharing the journey with you all. It’s a hell of a ride.

17

The High Schoolies

I was able to take a makeup lesson this weekend despite the STUPID FREAKIN COLD WEATHER, so of course I jumped at the chance (HAH FUN PUN). I may or may not have asked my Trainer if she was going to cancel lessons the day of, but I bundled up and braved the cold.

This ended up being a group lesson with the three of us competing in the High Child/Adults this season- two of us ammies, and our superstar junior. Despite LOVING my private lessons, this was a great chance to learn from watching some super talented riders- and my trainer was happy she could just put the jumps up and leave them there for the duration of the lesson.

Warmup was slow and steady to get us all accustomed to the cold. We spent the first 20-30 minutes just focused on getting our muscles moving and letting our lungs adjust. Lots of lengthening and shortening within the gaits, with frequent change of rein. Francis didn’t have the same elastic-ness that he often does these days- but can you blame him?? It was disgusting out. Like the total bro that he is, he showed up to work and did his best.

We warmed up slowly over fences too, doing plenty of crossrails to get our backs working. We also did a trot-in-canter-out bending line to play with stride length.

Then it was time for a warmup course with the jumps set low:

jan_high-schooling_1

Bear with me through this recap, a couple jumps moved/changed. But to start we simply did outside single, diagonal oxer, up the diagonal in a forward three strides, and then down the combo in a balancing two.

That three stride proved to be a really useful exercise for us- Frankie is not naturally a “spicy” horse, so he doesn’t land and rev. Which is totally great in a lot of ways: I never worry about him landing and taking off. BUT. We do want him to land and continue instead of landing and saying “well I hope that’s it for me.” A friend commented that she was really surprised when she rode him because in videos he looks like a pretty forward ride over fences. He is not. He is happy to go forward, but only when told. So having that forward line to practice landing and GOING was something we really needed.

Trainer then put the jumps up to a decent height and we did the following course:

jan_high-schooling_2

Cut through the quarter line to get to the oxer, up the bending line in a balanced five, down the single oxer, up the forward three, down the combo again- this time with an oxer in- and finishing on the single brick. Or something like this. My video is showing me that I’m wrong, but something like this ended up happening eventually and I already saved the jump diagram, so you’re going to have to deal with the fact that I’m knowingly lying to you.

Overall not too bad! I needed to balance a little more in that five to even out the striding, I didn’t support enough with my leg over the single oxer, we got a bit of a launcher over the oxer into the combo, and Frankie tried to blow through my hand so we ended up popping up a chip to the last jump. So not great either. But manageable. I simply was not as present as I needed to be up top as we navigated the course, so Frankie was left to his own devices a few times. I would defend myself by saying I could feel neither my fingers nor my feet, but let’s be honest: this is a problem even when I have full feeling.

Our last course:

jan_high-schooling_3

Up the brick to start, down the outside line in a pretty standard three strides, up the bending in the balanced five, down the single oxer, up the forward three, and down the outside 2-stride.

This felt better! Definitely not without some sticky points, but definitely more active and present. We got a nice gallop up to the first brick and then backed up into the short end before revving up to the outside line. Funny enough- we had been doing so many bending lines and singles that Frankie assumed he should turn out of the line. He was happy to continue out over the oxer when I put my left leg on, but that was definitely not his assumption. Balancing around the tight turn back to 4 and then sitting back for the five strides (which was def tight), and then I was thrilled with our straightness and pace to the yellow oxer- for sure our best jump. I got him a little tight to the line and we had to cowboy out for the three (good practice!)- I sat back too soon over the green wall which caused a hind rail- and then we came out pretty nicely in the two- this started feeling tighter and tighter as the jumps went up and we carried more pace, and we knocked the rail the first time through.

jan_lesson_yellow.jpg
OK so we’re not going in the hunter ring, but this is pretty cute as far as Francis-style-jumping goes

We ended up going back one last time to just do the last 4 jumps: the three stride diagonal to the combo. I was happier with our balance and pace there. We came in pretty tight to the combo and still managed to make it out in one piece: our big project is getting Frankie more comfortable with the tight spot and I’m so proud of his progress here!

We then got to watch our superstar junior jump 4’6″ and I was really weirdly proud of her. Not my child, not my horse. But like, I was vicariously jumping that through her and she rocked it with picture perfect eq. I want to be like that 17 year old girl when I grow up.

Overall: we had our sticky spots that we need to work on. I need to be more present and active from the get-go instead of taking a course or two to warm up to it. I need to support Frankie more when I ask for the closer spots, since he will always jump it but is MUCH happier if I help him out. I need to adjust my timing so that I can recover quickly after the jumps, without causing hind rails. Lots of homework.

But my horse also jumped like a freak and kept the same ears-perked-but-also-flopping expression as the jumps went up and up and up. We were able to get out of the sticky spots more quickly and more easily than we could even just two months ago.

frankie_jumpingfreak
One time I can actually comment on height: we know that the wood kickboard sticks at 4′, so clearly the 1.10m will not pose a problem for him.

I sound like a broken record and I sound like a sap, but I’m going to keep saying it: I am incredibly grateful to get to learn and progress with this horse. He’s the most patient and wonderful teacher I could ever ask for and hold on I’m literally crying as I write this because GAWD I’m obsessed with my horse. He is the coolest.

jan_lesson_canter
And he be super cute too.

As a treat: here’s the video from our lesson, so you can see said sticky spots. The vain part of me wanted to edit out the icky parts, but hey, THAT’S WHAT INSTAGRAM IS FOR. But actually. Enjoy the honest version here. I will continue to watch this over and over and sob quietly about what a saint my pony is.

Any tips on developing that landing-softly-but-not-too-soon feeling?

Happy Blogiversary!

Somehow without realizing it, my second blogiversary came and went this past weekend! I’ll soon return to my lesson recaps and upcoming show schedule (spoiler alert, there are two on the near horizon), but here’s a fun little view of how Hellomylivia has grown over the past few years:

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As you may remember, I took a little hiatus in Dec/Jan of last year because I couldn’t handle living my life like a normal person needed to step back and slow down for a bit. Womp womp. But since then, we’ve been back and better than ever! We’ve managed to even out through the rest of 2016 and I’m hoping to keep up that momentum in the new year!

I started breaking things down further, getting all math-y and creating roughly 900 MILLION graphs. But you know what, guys? I live my life in numbers and spreadsheets. This blog is my escape from the constant number crunching. So you will take my lone graph and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

Or not. No skin off my nose.

We started when I was riding Addy in the 2’6″ Hunters

2year_firstshow

And now we have our boy Francis prepping for the 1.10m Jumpers

frankie_jumpingfreak
Clearly the quality of media has gone downhill

I’ve met some of my closest friends through this blog, learned new skills (website, social media, horsemanship, and myriad other areas), explored my creative side, and have gotten to join in with a community that I never even knew existed.

Thank you to all of you for following along (especially to my Superstar Commenters: Micaylah, Stacie, Carey, Monica, Heather, and Alli). I know that this blog provides no real benefit to anyone besides myself: I don’t have cool coupon codes, I rarely do meaningful product reviews, and I ask for advice constantly while giving little advice back. So the fact that you still join in for this journey just tickles me pink. It means the world to me to have you all coming along on these adventures with me.

Cheers to 2 years in Blogland!

My Horse is a Prince and My Life is a Lie

We’ll start out with the part where my horse is a prince and get to the lying later on.

We had our first lesson of the new year! I hadn’t ridden in almost 2 weeks (one brief hack in there doesn’t reeeeally count), but one of our junior riders flatted Frankie around for me while I was out of town. 10/10, would recommend barn rat usage to all people. So the only one feeling flabby and out of shape after the holidays was me!

Naturally, Trainer had me do a decent amount of no-stirrup work. She said “sorry” at first, but I told her to take that back, we both knew she wasn’t sorry. Lots of circles and changing rein and changing the bend helped keep my mind off that oh-so-pleasant burning sensation in my legs and core.

We also played around more with our shoulder-in which has developed very nicely, and then worked on that leg yield exercise I told you about before, where we leg yield diagonally down the long side. I’ll wait here if you want to review the professional diagram I made of that.

This exercise has come a long way! I’ve been able to keep his haunch in off the wall and give little corrections to keep his body straight. I still have to exaggerate my aids a bit, but they get a reaction more crisply and more quickly. My homework is to continue working on our lateral work and get that shoulder and haunch more precisely where I want them. We’re really happy with how well Frankie is retaining and progressing with these movements- he may be solid bone between the ears, but he truly is supremely trainable and wants to please.

No crazy canter exercises in this lesson, just a couple large-ish circles and extension-collection exercises to get us tuned in and listening. He felt absolutely fantastic in his canter work- up and light in the bridle, round over his back, listening well. We kicked it up into a hand-gallop for those extensions but he still came right back to collect. Good pony!

We warmed up over a crossrail end jump a few times going to the right….and every single time we landed the left lead, no matter how strongly I asked for the right in the air. So we cantered it and angled it to ask even harder for the lead, then went back and trotted it again. Bam. Right lead. He just needed a little louder message on that one. Of course, he then proceeded to land the right lead after EVERY jump for the next 5 minutes, but we’re working on it.

We built up our course in pieces, here’s the diagram:

jan_sturns

The first exercise was trot in 1, canter out 2 in a bright five strides. Not much of a story here- we had to be nice and forward to the first jump in order to kick up for the five.

Next was 3-4-5: trot in the end jump, hard left for the yellow, then s-turn to the corner vertical in a balancing 5. The key was looking over 3 and leading with that left rein to get us looking where we were going, and then holding out and shaping to make 4-5 fit in more evenly.

Next we did 6-7-8: canter up the quarter line, bend out in a waiting 5, then down the single gate. The five was a little tight but not terrible when this exercise was done alone, but it got much tighter when this was at the end of the course. Single gate was….a single gate. Not much to say there.

Then the jumps went up and we put it all together! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Corner vertical bending up the outside in a balancing five (now cantering in), then immediate left over the end jump, hard left over the yellow oxer, s-turn out back over the corner vertical in a shaped five, immediate turn up the quarter line oxer, bending out in a collected five, and ending down the single gate.

Overall, I was very happy with how this rode. We were able to get a nice conservative distance to one, which set us up to rock back for the five. The turn to the end jump came up fairly easily, and once I remembered to look where I was going and start the turn over the jump, the yellow oxer came up nicely too. We shaped out for the five and jumped the left side of 5 to give us a little extra room to get to the quarter line, and sat back for the bending line. And then the single gate continued to just be a single gate. Whatevs.

We did end up doing 4-5-6-7 one more time to practice that turn from the corner to the quarter line- once I got back with my shoulders and sat my butt in the saddle like ze Germans this rode up really powerfully and I could feel Francis jumping the heck out of that green oxer. Of course then I was excited and galloped out in four, but we made it work.

Overall, a fantastic lesson to kick off 2017! We did discuss bumping up to a slow twist- not because we want to slow Frankie down, but because we want a titch more responsiveness for those turns. Now that my legs are stronger and Frankie has developed some of that jumper-fiery-fitness, we’re going to play around so I can be lighter with my hands.

Now on to the whole “my life is a lie” part of the story. As I finished up my lesson, the following conversation ensued:

Me: Thank you so much for a great start to the year! And thank you for not putting the jumps up too high, I’m glad you’re easing me in after the break.
Trainer: …..you realize part of that course was 3’6″, right? You really have no idea how big jumps are, do you?
Me: HAH awesome. Then props to me for not being intimidated by 3’6″. Big progress! Less than a year ago, 3’6″ was the biggest I had EVER jumped, and even that was only once or twice.
Trainer: And look at you now, jumping 4′!
Me: ….you said 3’9″.
Trainer: Well the course overall was set to 3’9″, but some of those jumps were 4′.

So I officially quit. I give up. I completely give up on knowing how big the jumps are. From now on, I will no longer even attempt to estimate what we’re jumping unless we are at a show and someone officially tells me what the deal is. Because clearly I have no earthly idea what’s going on.

Womp womp. Extra big pats for pony for not even blinking and dealing with my ammy mistakes every day ❤

We have another lesson this weekend where Trainer said she would jack the jumps up, and all I want in this world is to get some media from it. Private lessons are great, but it means I haven’t been able to get pics/videos of our rides in over a month and I’d love to be able to review our progress! Maybe I can coerce a barn rat….

My question for you today: How do you get media of your riding when you’re the only one in the ring? I need your tricks!

The Year Ahead: 2017 Goals

Let’s start this out by taking a look back at the goals I set for Frankie and myself this past year:

  • Take some more private lessons. Check! We transitioned to private lessons in October and it has been AMAZING for our progress.
  • Make it to the High Adult Amateur Jumpers in the next few years. Sending in entries for our new division as soon as weather permits!
  • Have a successful show season at 1.0m/Low Adults this year. We absolutely did- we wrapped up our first season strong and that height is very comfortable to us now.
  • Compete in a horse trial. Womp womp, fail. Money is TIGHT, so all extra budget is going towards shows.
  • Go on a hunter pace or two. See above.
  • Learn more first aid skills. Yes and also no. I certainly know more than I used to, but this will be a continuous learning process.
  • Keep Frankie shiny. Yes! Even after being clipped he is sleek and shiny and looking really fantastic.
  • Get WAY better at polo wraps. Another fail. We didn’t end up using these nearly as often as I anticipated, so I didn’t spend time on this.

Now that I know my horse, my budget, and my own skills a little bit better, here are our goals for 2017:

  • Continue strengthening and advancing our flatwork. We have our leg-yields, shoulders-in, and haunches-in installed at all gaits. I’d like to get those even stronger and more tuned into my aids, and start working on our other movements.
  • Have a strong season in the 1.10m High Adult division. We’ve been schooling at (or above, as the case would have it) our new division height pretty strongly, and we’re ready to go attack the new show season!
  • Qualify for the USHJA Zone Jumper Championship. This is a Nations Cup-style final with individual and team aspects that sounds SUPER fun. We had a junior do the Children’s section of it last year and she had a total blast. It’s set to 1.10m with a 1.15m final round, which sounds like the perfect stretch for us. We just need 20 points to qualify, so we’re hoping to get those points as soon as possible.
  • Take Frankie in an eq class. This will depend on quickly we accrue points for Zones. If we can qualify early and then stop chasing points, then I’d like to take Frankie in some of the Adult eq medal classes for a change of pace- I think he’d be really good at it, especially with all the progress we’ve made in the quality of our flatwork!
  • Try riding bridle-less. Hey, they can’t all be show goals! I’ve ridden him in just a halter plenty of times, this seems like the logical next step.

We have our first lesson of 2017 tonight, and I can’t wait to get working towards these goals. Cheers to a new year!

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