McDonogh Winter Classic Video

It’s weirdly smushed, the quality is potato-like at best, but we have actual media of our classic round! One of the dads very kindly filmed us going in for our second round of the day.

A couple rough spots that I’d like to smooth out, but I think the pieces are coming together. I need to keep supporting with my leg across the jumps (and STOP JUMPING AHEAD YA DINGUS), and we need to figure out a bit setup that gives us a more nuanced connection. I was so happy with how Frankie pressed through the combos, how he balanced through the turns, and how dang easy the height felt to him. He basically cantered over the whole course. That definitely makes me feel more comfortable about trying to move up- 1.10m is clearly just a speed bump to him at this point. It’s me much more than him that’s causing any problems hahahahahaithurtsbecauseitstrue. He definitely gave me everything I asked for, so now I need to remember to ask the right things at the right time.

As always- it’s far from perfect, but it’s an encouraging step forward together! Love love love this big leggy goofy guy for packing my butt around.

Advertisements

Season Opener 2018

We made it to our first show of the season! A few major takeaways before we dive into the detailed recap:

  1. Francis knows his job. Real well. I definitely needed to keep my leg on to channel the energy, but he pressed across the jumps nicely and was clearly having a blast out there.
  2. Our bit setup still needs some attention. The gag converter was great, but Francis absolutely tuned out the plain snaffle. Like, just parked on the end of the rein and hung there and dragged me. No bueno. Trainer and I are setting aside some time to play around with this more.
  3. This was a great “pulse check” for where we are right now! We’re a little rusty from being out of the ring since October, we’re better at some things than we used to be, we have some stuff to focus our attention on, and overall we’re making steady progress.

Now into more details!

The jumper ring didn’t start until 12:30 (which got pushed back to 1p), which means we didn’t have to leave the barn until 10a (it’s about a 90 min drive). I’m a huge fan of not-too-early show days fo sho. The horses all loaded on the trailer quickly and quietly, and I hopped in the truck with Trainer to make our way to Maryland.

We had one ammy taking her new horse to their first jumper show together- they got some great ribbons in the 0.80m classes and had SO MUCH FUN. Her gelding came from the same sale program as Frankie and clearly has a similar outlook on life: things are fun, I like jumping, I like my person, don’t worry I got you mom. Such a good egg, and his mama was having a blast out there. I think we have another jumper ring convert!

IMG_2027
Trainer loving on this excellent egg

We also had one of our kids come with her little mare, and they totally rocked the 0.80m classes as well! They’ve come SUCH a long way together, I’m weirdly proud of this kid that isn’t mine. But she has such a great attitude and is a hard worker and the mare is the COOLEST little Connemara and I love seeing them go out there and improve every time. They even went in for their first ever .90m class and did SO well!!

Then Assistant Trainer took one of our OTTBs in for some schooling rounds at 1.0m and 1.10m. This little horse is AMAZING. He won 4th in the show hunters at RRP in 2016, but he is definitely blossoming into an incredible jumper. He’ll be doing the 6yo YJC jumpers this year with AT, and when they put him up for sale he’s gonna make an INCREDIBLE Jr/AO jumper for someone. The kid has springs in his feet, and has so much heart. I’ll keep you posted on him, because he’s gonna be one to watch.

Then it was our turn to go in the Highs! We just signed up for the first class- a II.2.b round- and the Classic- also a II.2.b. I opted out of the speed round- I don’t like to do more than 2 classes per day with Frankie, we’re not chasing points or anything, this was just a chance to knock some of the dust off and get back in the show ring.

It was rainy and wet ALL DAY and our classes were held outside, which meant slop. I was thrilled with our first warmup- we had one dolphin moment where Francis thought it would be fun to root and play, but I informed him that it wasn’t funny, booted him up into a hand gallop, and that was the end of that. Turns out the right answer really is more leg. He was so totally on it to all our warmup fences, super locked on and carrying me forward.

Here’s our first course:

IMG_2030.jpg
Hunterific

If you’re thinking that this looks like a hunter course, I agree. It was outside line in 5, bending line in 7, outside in one to four, diagonal in five to two, single diagonal to finish.

Not a ton to say about this course- we had to rock back to fit the 5 in comfortably in the first line, we got up on 4 because I let our track from 3 get too direct, the one to the four was fine, the five to the two was fine, and turning to 9 was fine. Not always a perfect spot to every jump, but no disasters. Francis kinda tuned me out throughout a lot of it, but the course was simple enough that we still made it through clear. That won’t be the case for harder courses, hence the need to figure out a better bit setup.

We moved on to the jump off, which was just the first line, jump 3, rollback to the oxer, two-stride combo, and final jump. We decided to go inside the end jump to get to 3, which set us up to slice it a bit to get a nice tight inside turn to 6. Then we just kept rolling right to get to the combo, and turned hard to get back over 9.

Again- not perfect, but Francis was happy to make the tighter turns and it was fast enough to get us 2nd in a very competitive class! It’s really cool to know that even when we’re not at our best, Frankie has the pace and turns to be a strong competitor, and it motivates me even more to tighten up and get us really on it.

IMG_2033.jpg
Yay Francis! Handling the mud and slop like a champ.

We had a bit of a break while the speed class ran, so I hopped off and walked him around so he could catch his breath. He was like a big puppy mooching for scritches, saying hi to passing ponies, lookin’ all cute. Sweet boy.

Frankie was listening better during our second warmup, which we kept fairly short and sweet. We focused on pushing up to the base to get a strong short distance, rather than giving up and letting him go for the long one. That’s another piece of homework for us- working really hard to build strength so that short one can always be powerful and pressing across. It isn’t about finding a perfect distance, it’s about giving him the tools to make any distance workable.

Here was our classic course:

IMG_2031.jpg
Also hunterific

The only change here was the first line, bending in 6. Then it went into the same lines as before: 5 to 2, outside in 5, bending diagonal in 7, outside 1 to 4.

I gave plenty of shape to the first 6 since it walked a tad short, and bending out gave us some more room to fit it in really well. I pressed up a little in the five to get to the base of 4A, which set him up to land a bit more compressed for the short 2- the vertical out had been changed to a plank, so we wanted him really up and down for that*. The outside 5 was harder to fit in since we were already rolling, but Francis obliged. I gave more shape to the bending 7 which made it flow much more nicely. Then we got a great moment of softness going into 9A, which made the one stride feel a lot more powerful, and I was able to compress for the 4 strides out.

* I need to write up some of the stuff I’ve been learning about course design and how different types of jumps invite different efforts. It’s so fascinating.

Our jumpoff was fun- I went more direct 1 to 2 to leave the stride out to put in 5, had a decently tight turn to 3, rollback to oxer, then other diagonal rollback to oxer. Very symmetrical. We need to work on our balance through those tighter turns, but Frankie was very tidy and they’re definitely getting better. I was a little nervous to ask for super tight turns in the sloppy footing, but it didn’t end up being a problem.

One thing that went better in this course was putting leg on- often when Frankie starts dragging, my instinct is to take my leg off the gas pedal. Which just leads to a strung out horse. I’m still not doing it 100% of the time, but there were definitely spots on course where I remembered to put my leg on when this happened and VOILA. We had a horse that lifted and came back under himself. It’s almost like riding with a strong supportive leg leads to clear communication with my horse. Who woulda thought.

We got a pretty pink ribbon for our efforts, and the prize money paid for most of my show bill! That’s a first for us, and something I could happily get used to.

Especially thinking back to where we were at this same show last year, I’m beyond thrilled with how far Frankie has come and how much we’ve learned together. We had a blast jumping over colorful sticks together and we get better with every outing. So excited for WEC in 15 short days!!!!

Also all my muscles hurt and I’m dying, but worth it. We gotsta get our butts in shape.

Before I sign off: my trainer has been blogging more often lately, and I need to share it with you. I tend to keep her name and our barn name relatively quiet, but I got her permission to share- I think you all will love it. Some of my recent favorites talk about overcoming fear and moving forward- not just in riding, but in life. Posts like these are the reason I call her my life coach and not just my riding trainer. She rules. I’m excited to hear what you think!

Higher Heights, Higher Responsibility

As mentioned last week, Frankie is hopping on the bodywork train this year! I’m so so excited to see how he likes it- he absolutely THRIVES on human touch/grooming/interaction, so the combination of touch plus actual help with his muscles should be his heaven. I’m actually considering taking time off of work so I can be there for his first session to watch.

IMG_0929.jpg
Don’t just stand there lady, gimme scritches!

I was talking to someone about the care I provide for Frankie, and how it’s changed since I got him in the spring of 2016.

In that first year, the biggest we jumped was about 1m/3’3″. We weren’t too worried about the nuances- we were just getting used to each other and learning how to navigate the jumper ring. That height was not difficult for him, and while he certainly gained muscle throughout the season, there wasn’t a concerted effort. There didn’t need to be.

For care, he received lots of turnout, a regular exercise routine, high quality feed, and routine vet/farrier care.

culpeper_propic
Not a ton of effort needed at 1m for the Big Man

In the second year, we started raising the jumps up and adding more shows to the schedule. We started asking for inside turns. We added training rides to the rotation and had a concerted conditioning program. He had to learn how to use his body better as the jumps got taller and wider. We ended the season at 1.15m, going for all inside turns.

For care, he received all of the above plus a hoof supplement, special shoes, joint supplement, and SI injection.

jtc_fri_stars2
More effort needed over the bigger sticks

As we move into this third year(!), the jumps are going to keep getting taller and wider as we dabble in the bigger tracks. The turns will get tighter and the questions on course will get harder. We will still have training rides and will be managing his fitness even more closely. There will be several multi-week shows on the calendar.

So with that increased demand on his body, we need to increase our care. He’ll be getting everything mentioned above plus regular body work (massage and/or chiro as necessary), and we’ll be working closely with my vet to see what preventative maintenance would be most effective- he’ll get whatever he needs in that area.

cn_fri_nap
Francis has also put in a request for moar naps

My trainer says that we can only take as much feel on the mouth as we can back up with leg, and I feel like that concept applies here- we can only demand so much of him physically as we are able to support. The more we ask of him, the more support we must provide.

I would much much much rather invest in his care now and keep him safe. I don’t want to be in the situation where we’ve pushed too hard and have to rehab him back. It simply isn’t fair to him and to all the effort he puts in! He can’t tell me when he’s unhappy, so I consider it my biggest responsibility as his owner to do everything in my power to keep him comfortable in his job.

Selfishly, keeping him comfortable in his job also means I get to enjoy riding my favorite Beast, so it’s a win-win situation! I know I gush about him on the regular, but I can’t stop. We’ve grown so much together and he’s my absolute dream horse. I could’ve never imagined having a horse like Frankie to call my own. UGH FEELINGS. Seriously guys- come visit us so you can meet him. You’ll fall in love too.

Brb I gotta go book my horse a massage and cry about how much I love him. Like a normal human.

IMG_1858.jpg
You’re an angel I’d do anything for you

Doing Work and Getting Homework

You know those lessons where things aren’t perfect, but you hop off and feel really good about the work you put in?

We had one of those this week. We made some mistakes, my bad habits popped up, but I felt like Frankie was really workmanlike and we were super on the same page about fixing what needed to be fixed.

IMG_1981.png
Aw so sweet

One highlight was a long approach single vertical on the wall that showed up every course. First try: we got to a decent spot, but for some reason my body totally pretzeled and we took the rail down. Second try: we got to a decent spot, but Frankie thought it was boring and we took the rail down. Third try: Trainer decided to give him something to focus on and raised it to 4’ish, and we left the rail up.

When left to his own devices, Frankie jumps SO much better and cleaner when we amp up the difficulty and engage him mentally. Tighter turns, bigger jumps all are interesting enough to him to get him really firing off the ground and thinking about his job. My job is to create that fire and get him focusing and thinking, even when his job is a little bit easier.

On that note, it’s super cool to see what engages him and what doesn’t and how that changes over time. Things that used to be difficult (and therefore interesting) for him have slowly become easier (and boring), and we’re able to turn up the heat to ask for more. He’s delightfully trainable and not bothered by pressure.

When going through a bending line (bending left, four strides that needed some woah once the jumps went up), Trainer made the rail very uneven with the left side higher. My job was to still jump the center of the jump, with the uneven rail encouraging Frankie to keep his body straight over it instead of leaning to the left through the turn. When I let him jump the low side- yawn, poor form. When I kept my leg on and got him to the middle, we got a great effort. Trainer commented that going to the low side is a green horse move- it gives them more room to fit the stride in, makes the track a little easier, and keeps the question simple. Frankie (and I) both know better, so we need to perform at a higher level.

We used the gag converter in this lesson, and I gotta say- I love it! 90% of the time I don’t need it and that gag rein has some flop in it. But the 10% of the time that he’s kinda tuning me out and bopping around singing LALALA I AM FRANCIS, it’s been just the right amount of “oomph” to get him back under me. I really like that it’s the same plain snaffle too. I felt like he got a little backed off on the slow twist, but with the plain one he feels more comfortable in the mouth. I’m excited to take it for a test run at McDonogh this weekend! We’ll be doing the 1.10m Ch/AA division as a nice soft season opener to get our sea legs before Ohio.

We also have homework from AT! She put her first ride since October on him last week, and gave me the following instructions for my own rides on him:

  • Ride him off the rail, and don’t let him fade out through our turns. He’s developed the habit of fading out to the rail and picking his own track, and we want him tuned in. No more just following the outside- lots of figures and working off the rail and CONTROLLING THE DANG HAUNCH THROUGH THE TURNS.
  • Amp up the intensity. He’s getting one pro ride from her, one lesson with me, and one day off a week which means four days of flatwork. Those are no longer allowed to be toodling. If we want to build enough fitness and muscle for the bigger tracks, we need to work towards that. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) high impact work, but tons of transitions between and within the gaits to get him firing harder and develop those muscles. She mentioned that every horse has a weakness, and our job is to make sure that we’re not stressing that weakness. Frankie’s is that he’s a little bit over at the knee, so we want to help make sure he can rock back to use his hind end more, and use his body effectively over the jumps so he lands comfortably.
IMG_1984.png
This angle makes it look more pronounced than it actually is, but you can see that he’s definitely over at the knee
  • More carrot stretches! His left side is stiffer than his right- it’s naturally his weaker side and I’ve only made it worse with my own unevenness. We’re going to incorporate more stretches every day to help him even out and build that suppleness. Along those lines, we’re also going to be incorporating massage/chiro to make sure that as he’s working and getting more flexible, we’re removing any barriers to that and keeping him comfortable.

I feel super super motivated after getting these instructions from her. I absolutely love that she takes the time to explain the “why” of the work and how it will help keep Frankie in top condition. It makes me even more determined to follow through- we’re not just doing this so Frankie can jump big jumps, we’re doing this so that he can be healthy and safe for a long time to come.

PS- Every person to whom I’ve mentioned, “oh yeah, my horse will start getting regular massages this year,” thinks I’m a total nutcase. But I know all y’all are nutcases too. Anything for the ponies, amiright?

Sharing the Warmth

It’s no secret that I hate the winter. Hate hate hate. Loathe entirely. We could just skip over it entirely and I’d be happy.

Luckily, I have something in my possession that’s making things bearable. It’s a sweatshirt. It’s my new favorite sweatshirt. I love it more than I love a lot of sentient beings. Not even exaggerating.

Here’s how it came into my possession: Lauren reached out and asked if I’d be willing to do a product review for The Plaid Horse on the v-neck sweatshirt in their “Cozy” collection. I consider myself a connoisseur of cozy clothes (affectionately called “my comfs”), so I obviously jumped immediately at the chance.

tph_cozy_vneck

And I haven’t taken it off since. In the 6 weeks or so that I’ve had it, it has been in every single load of laundry because I wear it every single day. As pajamas, as knockaround clothes, when I’m working from home, when I’m chilling on the couch. It’s amazing. The coral color is one of my favorites and hasn’t faded a bit (despite the constant washing and drying), the inside is delightfully soft and cozy, it’s lightweight and breathable, and I love the fit- the arms are snug enough to keep it in place, but the body is nice and loose and swingy.

IMG_1473
Tight where it should be, loose where it shouldn’t, and soft all over.

Just so you understand how impressive it is that this makes it into the rotation so often: I have an itty bitty tiny bedroom and got rid of a solid 70% of my clothes when I moved in, but I still have 3-4 drawers full of sweats and comfy clothes. And they are all for different occasions. I’ve got my day comfs and my night comfs, my semi-formal comfs for when the plumber comes and I don’t want to look entirely homeless (yoga pants are the tuxedo of sweatpants), my party comfs for when we’re breaking out some wine, my cute comfs for dates (no joke I broke out the sweats on Date 3 with Buddy Fianci. Reeled him in HARD). There is a comf for every season. This sweatshirt has superceded all these comfs for all occasions.

It’s cute enough for when I want to impress my guy with how great I look in loungewear. It’s soft enough to sleep in. It’s bright and fun enough for party time (and by party I mean drinking a little too much wine with my roommate and singing Disney songs poorly). It has the word “Horse” on it so clearly it satisfies that need. It is the comf to end all comfs.

IMG_1960.jpg
This sweater pairs perfectly with a nice Cab Sauv

I don’t usually get this excited over a sweatshirt, but I am absolutely in love with this one and I want everyone to share in the warmth and joy that I’m getting from it.

And you can! It’s a Hellomylivia first- we have a giveaway! For your shot at winning your very own coziest of cozy sweaters in the size of your choosing, simply comment here with something that’s getting you through this nightmare of a season!

I’ll use a randomizer to pick the winner out of the entries, which will close at 10pm(ish) on Monday, January 29. May the comf be with you!

Frankie’s Future

As I start to think about my own future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means for Frankie’s future and how best to ensure that it’s a happy and safe one.

Because while I’m optimistic that Frankie will be able to cart me around 1.20m, I think that will be about as far as I’m willing to push him. Could he have scope for the 1.25m? Maybe. I know he would try his heart out. But as the jumps go up the courses also get more technical, and I want to be very conscious to not overface him with something that will knock his confidence. He’ll be 12 this year and I want him to have a long and sound career, so we may start backing him off height-wise after this season depending on how things go and how he feels. I’m not committing to that yet, but it’s something we’re constantly monitoring and considering.

img_17761.png
This was set to somewhere between 1.15-1.20m and clearly he wasn’t maxed out. So who knows how high he’ll end up taking me!

At the same time, I do want to compete in the AOs, hopefully up to the 1.30-1.40m height. Not tomorrow, but eventually. Which most likely means means a second horse. I cannot afford two horses. All of which means Frankie will need to earn his own keep.

Selling him is not my first choice (or second or third or fourth…)- he’s absolutely worth his weight in gold and eventually I want to teach my kids how to ride on his steady safe back (FAR IN THE FUTURE SO FAR IN THE FUTURE). He’s such an incredibly special horse and I don’t plan on letting go of him unless it was to a situation where I knew his life would be better than the one I can provide for him.

But leasing him out is on the table- ideally to a tall junior or ammy in the barn who is looking for a safe fun ride in the jumper ring. I’d prefer in-barn just so I could see him and know that he would still be under my trainer’s excellent care, but we do have some trusted contacts in the area that would be options. Trainer and I have discussed this possibility moving forward, and we had an interesting conversation on what type of person would do best with him.

IMG_1949.jpg
Darn this kid for getting her own horse, she’s SO GOOD with Frankie and he adores her. Think I can convince her mom to lease a second horse??

She commented that he’s not so good for a nervous rider. I was a little surprised by that, since he’s so so so steady and safe- all things nervous riders are usually reassured by. But she reminded me that Frankie is definitely a kick ride. He’s happy to gallop up to the big fences- but only if you tell him to. If someone is nervous and starts picking at his face, he is more than happy to oblige by coasting to a slower rhythm, at which point he physically can’t make it over the bigger jumps. I can hold his face all I want to package him up, but only if I’m backing it up with a crapton of leg to maintain the power in his stride, and it is definitely a workout. He does best with someone whose first instinct at all times is to KICK JUST KEEP KICKING. He is the epitome of the phrase “the right answer is ALWAYS more leg.”

So if someone wanted to do the Highs with him, it would have to be someone who has strong legs and isn’t a puller. Not because he gets offended by pulling, but because he thinks slowing down is great and would love the excuse. Even at 1m where he’s now super comfortable, he does best with a foot constantly on the gas pedal. He’s never been the type of horse to pull you to the jump.

jtc_pro pic
This effort was a result of me heartily utilizing some mondo spurs and squeezing until I couldn’t feel my legs. Time to wake up, Francis.

On the flip side, we could probably stick anyone on him to do the lower level jumpers/3′ equitation. Homeboy can hop those fences from a standstill, so it don’t matter if you pull. He’ll pack around the smaller jumps no matter what his rider is doing (ask me how I know, womp womp). So he could potentially be a great match for someone wanting an intro to the jumper ring, even if they are a nervous picker.

These aren’t decisions we have to make right now, as I plan to enjoy the heck out of this show season with him. As always, we’ll keep an eye on him to see what he’s telling us he wants to do, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Things have a way of changing, no matter what the best laid plans may be. Our number one priority at all times is making sure we have a healthy happy Francis! I just love the snot out of this horse.

IMG_1947.jpg
Sweetest orange snoot!

A Case Study About Case Studies

Today, I want to talk to you about something completely not pony related. It’s work related. It’s about a fascinating session I was able to attend at this conference I’m attending for work, and what I observed.

This particular session was a discussion about female protagonists in case studies used in the classroom for graduate management education. Or more accurately, the lack of female protagonists. Graduate business programs often heavily utilize these cases to teach concepts across their curricula, but very few of them mention women at all- even if they are present, it’s even less likely that the woman is in a leadership position, and even LESS likely that they speak to another woman at any point. And it’s overwhelmingly likely that women are featured in “pink industries” such as cosmetics. So these programs are trying to teach their students how to be leaders, but 40% (roughly the percentage of women in many programs, which is rising) go through their classes without seeing anyone like them succeeding.

I don’t think any of this is really a surprise. Frustrating and disappointing, yes. A surprise, no. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what I expected in the room, and what I observed.

First of all, I expected this session to be packed to the gills. Given the #MeToo visibility and current climate, I expected that anyone in a position to effect change would be desperate for information and the opportunity to brainstorm solutions. But that wasn’t the case at all. While there was a decent turnout, there were plenty of empty chairs in the moderately-sized room. I would argue (and have already spoken to some conference organizers about this) that this should not have been a breakout session- in the future it should be one of the main discussions held in the main ballroom, with everyone in attendance. This is a conversation that requires everyone’s participation. Cultures and climates cannot change in a vacuum.

I also expected there to be very few men in attendance. I was semi-right on this. I’d say about 25% of the room was male. Given that there were more men than women at this conference, this certainly was not a representative sample of the population- but not surprising. In fact, it was a little higher than I had expected.

When talking about goals for female representation in case studies, I expected the goal to be about 50%. After all, women are half the population and will (hopefully) make up half the classroom in the not-too-distant future. Not so. I heard 3 men say that 30% “would be hard enough to achieve.” I understand that change doesn’t happen overnight and there’s a considerable workload to updating course materials, but I was blown away that they so casually dismissed the possibility of even trying to achieve an equal balance.

I then observed the conversations taking place. I observed one of the co-panelists (a middle-aged white man) refer to complaining as “bitching,” I observed the same man share 3 stories on how supportive he is of these efforts, and I observed that 4 men spoke about 80% of the words spoken in total in that session.

So we have a session about the need for more equal female representation. And these guys were so busy telling us what allies they are that they left almost no time for the female co-panelist to actually share the results of the research her foundation has done.

I know these men had good intentions and do genuinely want to help make lasting changes in their programs. None of this was maliciously done. It was simply lacking in awareness that they had completely hijacked the conversation and proved the point of why exactly these changes are necessary. It was the most frustratingly ironic thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a perfect case study (about case studies).

The cure for this is increased awareness. It’s making sure that this conversation keeps happening and is visible and can grow and evolve. It’s getting people in positions of influence to join the conversation and then DOING something about it. I’m planning to be one of those influential people one day, and you can bet this will be top of mind.

WEC Bootcamp

It’s bootcamp time for me and Francis!

With only 5 weeks left until we ship out to Ohio, we are officially ramping up for our 2018 show season. Here’s how we’re preparing:

Francis got a fresh clip. Despite getting a very handsome clip in November (which lasted him all season last year), he immediately got stupid fuzzy again and needed another haircut to be able to work without sweating his butt off. AT did a fantastic job, and once I pull his mane he’s going to look super official legit shmancy show pony.

frankie_side
OMG Frankie the day before I bought him. I put this here bc I wanted a pic of him clipped, but he looks so different now!

Training rides! AT will hop on once a week for a tune up until we leave. Honestly, we’ll probs just continue this all season since Frankie so clearly benefits from regular skillful rides. We can bump up to 2x later if we want, but I don’t think that’s super necessary at this point.

I’m on 5x a week to give Frankie a total of 6 days on, 1 day off (one lesson with me, one training ride, and four flatwork/relaxing hack sessions with me). That’s what we did for show season last year, and he really thrives in a steady routine like that. He’s had a very quiet couple of months in this off season, so we need to steadily ramp his fitness back up- though I will say, that his energy has been great and he’s been feeling nice and fresh. I think that mental and physical break was great for him.

IMG_1858.jpg
Naht fresh. Want naps. Moar food.

For me, lots of no stirrup work. Both on my own and in lessons- Trainer has said that she wants me doing coursework sans stirrups every time I jump. I’m pretty comfortable doing courses up to 1-1.10m-ish without stirrups, but I’ll need to get a little stronger before I’m confident putting the jumps up to full height. I’m hoping to get to the point where I can stay with Frankie more easily when he cracks his back over the big ones.

IMG_1549.jpg
I may or may not be allowed to use my hands

Monitoring health- for both of us. I’ve definitely lost some tone over the holidays due to lots of tasty food and drinks and riding less consistently. I’m back on the healthy eating train, strength building train, and consistent riding train- see above. Frankie is currently feeling good, but we’ll be carefully monitoring him (as always) to see if he’ll need any extra support from us as we raise the jumps. Likely we’ll do another SI injection in May, but for now he’s feeling peachy.

Of course, I have to travel all next week for work and will be missing out on bootcamp. Womp womp. I have my favorite barn rat working Frankie for me, AT will do her ride on him, and I’ll be hitting the hotel gym to keep up, so hopefully we can hit the ground running when I return.

upp_sun_purple
Let’s get back to this! Only bigger! (There’s totally room for another rail there, right?)

So excited to get back out there with the World’s Bestest Pony Ever!!!

2017 Secret Santa!

I know, I know- I’m so late with this! Joke’s on all of you who called me “organized” on Amanda’s post. But I finally have a moment to breathe and tell you about the world’s most amazing present. From none other than Carey from Me Jump Pretty One Day!

I knew I was in for a treat when I got this teaser card:

img_1864.jpg

Who can resist that face??? And the drool was a perfect touch- no joke, I have this hanging in my office and I’ve had people stop in the middle of sentences to ask what that is. I tend to start stuttering about how fun and silly horses are and try to get back on topic. They don’t get it. I love it.

A short while later, I opened up my package to reveal a personalized desk calendar!! The time and effort Carey put into this was so so so beyond thoughtful, and I love it so much. It’s even already come in handy flipping through the year as I’m wedding planning! Here’s the cover:

IMG_1865.jpg

I quickly flipped through and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the pretty pictures of me and Francis.

And then I spotted something. And I turned back to the front. And I spotted those little letters: “Olivia and To Be Frank 2018. (and Cosmo)”

AND COSMO.

Ladies and gentlemen, as if this couldn’t get any better, we have Mo joining us in every. single. picture. Here’s January:

img_1866.jpg

Hah! There he is!!! I cackle with glee every time I look at this!!!

Carey was kind enough to share the digital files she used, so here’s a selection of my favorites (though let’s be real, they’re all my favorites because this is AMAZING).

09
February: the subtlety! Can you spot him keeping an eye on us??
05
April: the attention to detail! The just-right-out-of-focus-ness!
02
May: there he is, watching our trial ride!!
10
August: like we just interrupted his grazing time!
07
December: classic Mo face photobombing!!!

I’m pretty sure this is the Secret Santa gift to beat all Secret Santa gifts. I’m still giggly about it every day, and I get to giggle about it all year! Thank you SO MUCH Carey for this wonderfully thoughtful and hilarious and amazing present!!!

And of course a huge big thank you to Tracy of The Printable Pony for hosting this every year- this was a huge highlight of my holiday season, and I already can’t wait until next year!!

I gotta go stare at this some more and chortle like a bubbling-over teapot. I’ll be back in a bit.

Earth to Francis

We all know that Frankie is a perfect angel, right? Never does anything remotely bad, is rock solid 100% of the time?

Frankie decided to use this cold snap to remind me that he is not, in fact, the pretty pony on the merry-go-round. He is a horse. With opinions (even if they rarely make an appearance).

It started last weekend in my lesson- we warmed up on the flat just fine, popped over a few crossrails, and then the wheels fell off. Frankie discovered that when he sneezed, rooted, and humped his back just so, he could pull the reins right out of my hands. LIKE A JERK.

We would head up to a jump (tiny ones in short courses bc omg cold), he would canter up like a normal horse, jump it like a horse who has done this a thousand times, then his brain would fall out his butt and he would land porpoising until I pulled him up in a heap.

Every. Time.

IMG_1846.jpg
MAHM MUST PLAY

And I won’t pretend to any startling feats of bravery here: while I never felt unseated, it definitely did kick some nerves into play. It didn’t feel dangerous, just entirely unenjoyable and yucky. For that lesson, we ended up doing a bunch more flatwork to get our brains back in our skulls and get my own body to stop emitting PANIC vibes.

Listen, I get it: the temp had plummeted, he hadn’t gotten much turnout time for a few days, it was windy, all these things would make any horse fresh. And all things considered, it wasn’t dangerous or malicious behavior- it was a fit horse with a lot of excess energy that simultaneously wanted to play but also get out of work. It isn’t hard to figure out why this happened.

Still annoying as hell tho.

Fast forward to Thursday, which was equally cold and gross and turnout-less. In the interest of self-preservation, I asked Trainer if I could lunge Francis for 10-15 min before hopping on to let him move out and warm up and let out any silliness. And yes, if you were wondering: this was my first time lunging him. Homeboy hasn’t really needed it in the past.

Luckily, his unicorn status held and he lunged like he does it every day (after a quick reminder that coming into the middle is invasive and rude and not allowed). I say luckily, because I spent most of the time trying to organize the line and half-heartedly clucking at him. Good boy Francis.

So I hopped on, very pleased that we had warmed him up and let him work out some energy.

Until we cantered and he remembered that rooting and pulling and humping was super fun last time. DANGIT FRANCIS NOT AGAIN.

So we borrowed a gag converter from AT and set off again.

gag converter
Example: it goes through the bit rings and up through the brow band, then a second set of reins attaches and gives the gag action.

And the next time he tried to dive down, we had a bit of an Earth To Francis moment with the leverage. Which he did not like. So he cantered like a normal horse in a straight line. And then tried again. Earth To Francis. Rinse. Repeat. Multiple times in each direction.

IMG_1841.png
MAHM NO STAHP

Eventually he realized that the pressure only hit when he was acting the fool, so he stopped acting the fool. We did a few little courses to confirm that we had a balanced, thinking horse under us, then called it a day.

And I promptly went out and ordered my own gag converter.

I will say, I actually liked the feeling of the gag more than the three-ring we tried before. Especially with the double reins, it was easy to engage when I needed a little extra lightness in the front end, and chuck away when we were doing fine- by our last mini-course, I didn’t need to engage it at all. I plan on using the converter for a while, then potentially getting a regular gag bit to try out. We shall see.

The countdown is on for WEC! 43(ish) days until Frankie and I head west for a few weeks.

Coming up soon: telling you all about my AMAZING Secret Santa gift, some product reviews of things that are making my winter hibernation more bearable, and continued ramblings from yours truly.

IMG_1842.PNG
See, we can be cute