Other alternate title: Dear Lord I Have an Lovely Fiance
Do y’all remember just about a year ago, when Roomie and I moved? It was a wildly hectic time full of travel and job changes and Upperville. As a refresher: we had a hard move-out date for our apartment. The weekend of Upperville. While I was competing with the Frankenbean, ex-Manfriend basically did all the heavy lifting of moving all my stuff out. And by basically I mean entirely.
I’ve been with Roomie and her ManDude in our townhouse for the last year and it’s been awesome. But it’s also time for some changes.
First off, Roomie and ManDude eloped! They were already engaged and planning their wedding, but didn’t want to wait to be married. So they straight up just got married. Ya girl here showed up to take pics and 3rd-wheel their elopement brunch because I love them so much.
It also means that I went from living with my best friend and her boyfriend (fairly normal) to living with my best friend and her fiance (pushing it a bit) to living with my best friend and her husband (full on You Me and Dupree).
The other change is that ex-Manfriend and I are also getting married soon (duh). And after close to two years of living 2+ hours apart, he just got a job offer back here so we can get our first place together! It’s been a whole long hiring process for him, so we’re beyond thrilled to have things moving forward.
So with all these big changes, the stars are aligning and we managed to find a really great place with a really lovely landlord (seriously, he’s just a delight) that’s in a great location for a great price. Our official move in date is at the end of June!
What else is going on at the end of June?
You guessed it.
So for the second year in a row, my dearest betrothed is tasked with moving for me because of a horse show. I want to promise him that this won’t become a pattern, but apparently we only move during peak show season…sooooo…????
Frankie ships up on Monday, I’ll spend Tuesday driving up, and I’ll be returning Sunday.
I guess I’ll return home…to a different home?
BRB frantically trying to pack everything I own in one weekend before leaving.
I may be a little behind on the blogging front as I try to juggle packing, a week long horse show, and then arranging a new apartment and adjusting to living with my giant ManCreature while also keeping up with a busy season at work. But I pinky promise to take tons of pics and share all my adventures in Lake Placid, and I’ll pick it back up as soon as possible!
You know what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately? Expectations for our horses, and how reasonable those expectations are- and by extension, what we can do to make those expectations more reasonable.
I admittedly have very high expectations of the Frankenbean. I expect him to jump anything I point him at, perform at consistently high levels, and to behave in a calm and civilized manner. So how do I set those expectations up for success?
Jump anything: create positive experiences for him. He came to me with a great deal of confidence (seriously forever grateful for the people who brought him along so wonderfully), and we work very hard to keep up that confidence. By creating a variety of experiences for him and setting him up to do well in all of those experiences, he knows that things will be ok even if they’re slightly different from the norm.
Perform at consistently high levels: give him the fitness, support, and knowledge necessary. He can’t jump the big jumps if he’s fat, has sore hocks, and lacks adequate body awareness. He can’t give me truly obedient lateral work if his hind end is weak, he’s stiff through his body, and dull to my leg. Those basic building blocks of conditioning, health, and training MUST be in place for any sort of progress to happen.
Behave calmly: manage his energy levels with a consistent routine. This brings me to the crux of this post, and is something that feeds into everything else I’ve already mentioned. Horses are creatures of habit, and creating a steady routine is key to creating expectations.
Yes, Frankie is a naturally very relaxed dude. But we don’t take that for granted- we work with that to create a program for him that allows him to meet (or often in his case, exceed) our expectations. He is worked with enough intensity to build fitness, with enough variety to build experience, and with enough frequency to maintain/improve condition. And when he’s conditioned up fully, to maintain a healthy energy level- we all know that a truly fit horse is going to have a bit more fire than a tubby one, no matter how naturally relaxed that horse may be. When other adult responsibilities get in the way of maintaining that type of schedule, the two options that make the most sense to me are (1) enlist help, usually in the form of a professional or (2) lower our expectations for a bit until we can support them better.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying hopping on once a week, five times a week, twice a month, however often. Everyone is on their own journey with horses, and no two people are going to enjoy being in the exact same program! But the expectations must fit that program. The higher the expectations are on the horse, the more consistent and deliberate that routine must be to help them succeed.
I will now get off my high horse, and get back on my big brown high horse 😉
Upperville 2018 is a wrap! It was definitely a rollercoaster of a show- long days and good moments and pilot-error moments and all that good stuff. Spoiler alert: Frankie could not have been better. He was professional to the extreme, and packed me around with incredible consistency and kindness.
So let’s jump into it! (Strap in, because this is a MONSTER post)
On Wednesday, Frankenbean trailered in with Trainer and AT to get some more miles in the 1.20m. While I would’ve loved to be there, I sadly had to be at work and missed his round. Fortunately I was able to get a full report card from Trainer that evening!
Her thoughts, in no particular order: overall, thumbs up. He looked much less surprised by the height and settled into it much more quickly than his first outing. She’s very happy with the increase in his fitness and recommends we continue the program we have him in (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). He was able to handle a range of distances with much more power and agility- he did have one rail on course, but it was from a perfect spot, he was just a little careless over it. The close and long spots he rode cleanly. There was a four stride set a little short and he kinda blew through the half-halt until stride 3, so working on responsiveness is (as always) something for us to focus on. He finished middle of the pack (26th) in a class of 59, against much more experienced horses, and didn’t look like a newbie- he looked like he belonged there.
I got to watch the video and I absolutely agree, he looked rather nonchalant about the whole thing. Trainer did recommend that AT take him in at least one more time to solidify him at this height before I take over, which I’m entirely on board with. It gives him more positive miles, and it gives me a little more time to make sure I’m totally tuned into giving him a good ride.
Francis got to go home and relax outside, and I gave him a short flat ride on Thursday to stretch out before our weekend together.
Friday. Was. Long. I was up by 4:30a, at the barn by 5:15a, on the showgrounds by 6:45a. And I didn’t show until 4:30p-ish. At one point I slumped over a folding table and napped for a solid hour. It was great cheering on my barnmates and seeing AT take our OTTB in the 1.25m 6yo class (he seriously gets better and better every time out, whoever buys him is gonna be one lucky rider), but I’ll admit that I was pretty exhausted by the time I hopped on.
We got to the warmup ring and my eye was…uncharacteristically long. Like, a mile long. This used to be my default, but I thought we had conquered that instinct a long time ago. AT worked with me to get to the base, but for whatever reason I just struggled seeing anything but an awful gap.
Our first fence on course was a big wide oxer on a long approach away from home (I have opinions about that being the first question in the first class- from a course design standpoint, I think that would be more appropriate on a Saturday or Sunday once we’ve had the chance to get a sense of the ring), and instead of trusting the rhythm and my horse’s brokeness, I straight up gunned him at it. For no reason. And he very understandably said NOPE WE DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE. I reapproached and FINALLY asked for the short one. And homeboy was perfection- a little sticky off the ground because he was like wtf is going on up there lady, but he carried on without holding a grudge. I was still a little frazzled going into the line 2-3, but by 4 I felt mostly recovered and was very happy with the rest of our course. As if I needed more proof- I have a super broke horse that will perform exactly as well as I allow. Overall disappointed in myself for giving him a mediocre ride, but still very proud of how he handled it and moved on without question.
I didn’t get home until 9p that night after trailering back and getting Frankie settled in and my tack cleaned, and I fell asleep before I even finished lying down in bed haha. Luckily, we didn’t have to leave the barn until 11a the next day so I got to sleep in!
The sleep definitely helped (both of us). I had one or two flyers in the warmup that Trainer swiftly put the kibosh on, and we went in for our II.2.b (immediate jumpoff) round.
If we’re friends on Facebook, you already saw the video I posted of this round (and if we’re not, why aren’t we?!). Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it yet:
Short version: Francis. Was. A. Star. Jump 2 to 3 walked in a bending 7 but we did a more direct and forward 6, I got a little up on 5a but he powered out the 2 stride, 8 to 9 walked in a balanced 6 and I didn’t steady enough so we got a VERY flowing 5. So certainly not even close to perfect, but Frankie was forward and eager and listening and obedient and all those good things. And we went clear so we got to jump off! In case it’s hard to see on the diagram, the jumpoff was 9-6-7-8-10a-10b-11. All very standard- we had a rail at 8 where I asked for the close spot and he just nicked it slightly, then we stayed inside 1 and 6 to set up a more efficient turn up to the combo, and then we left out a stride over 11 to gallop out in 6 instead of the 7 we had put in the first round.
I was dripping with sweat but happy as a clam. It was redemption from Friday for sure. I felt like I was making better decisions and Francis was responding beautifully.
I also got to see Jen and Cally go in the sidesaddle! Is there anything better than meeting up with blog friends?? Both of them performed wonderfully- you can tell how hard they’ve been working, and Cally was such a queen. Jen even let me hop on for a quick WTC in the sidesaddle! New goal: do sidesaddle on Francis. It was such a weird sensation, but super fun to try something new. Maybe we’ll be in the ring together next year for the sidesaddle classes 😉 Enjoy seeing a short clip of Cally being very tolerant with me!
And then Sunday. I have mixed feelings about Sunday. Not about Frankie obviously- he was a little more tired but was really nicely balanced and lovely to ride. But there was kinda a lot going on for me mentally.
For one- upset stomach. Like really really not comfortable, regretting ever eating any food, could not talk about food or smell it or anything. Part of that I think was from eating something that disagreed with me.
But the other part was definitely nerves. Which was kinda new for me. I’ve gotten jittery anxious energy before, but I rarely get full-on nervous. I don’t like it. 0/10 would not recommend.
Luckily I have a trainer who knows me extremely well and knows how to work me through it. When we were watching some rounds go in the Children’s before my class, she went, “Hmm. The jumps look like they’re set lower than yesterday.” Since she is the Alpha and Omega to me at shows, I immediately believed her and felt better because the jumps totally looked lower! Looking back- I have my doubts. I think they were set pretty normally. But she knew that I needed some reassurance that it was well within our skill set. By the time I hopped on, I was feeling a lot better and ready to go.
Ok so funny story. I was pretty concerned about the turn from 2 to 3. That’s super early on course for a combo, away from the in gate, and historically we struggle more turning left. Repeat after me: OLIVIA STOP LIVING IN THE PAST. I was so concerned with that left turn, in fact, that I continued turning left after 3a and missed 3b altogether. Frankie was a little confused at the track but totally game for it! Legit just straight up bad steering hahaha. Circled back and made it through just fine, and was quite happy with the rest of the course. I was especially happy with the combo 10abc- we haven’t done a triple since Team Finals last August, but we got in powerfully and he pressed out wonderfully.
So overall: some really great moments, some struggles to work through, but I could not be any more grateful for my horse. We nailed every combo (when I actually steered) which is something I so badly wanted to improve upon. We went and made different mistakes. And every single time we walked in the ring, I had complete faith that Frankie would be there with me every step of the way. We’ve spent so much time and effort getting him up to speed- now it’s time to get myself up to his level!
I somehow managed to get several recent videos to share! I’m excited for you to see the Frankenbean in full force being a rockstar.
First up: our speed round from Blue Rock. I used to hate speed rounds- we were never that fast- but it has quickly become my favorite format. This round wasn’t blindingly fast and we did have a rail coming out of the 4 stride vertical-vertical line (when we were walking the course, I knew that would be a potential trouble spot to get him rocked back hard enough there) so we were out of the ribbons in a competitive class, but I was overall very happy with this course. As always there is rider error to work on (anyone see that short one into the combo because I didn’t set up the track properly AGAIN), but Francisco is one happy boy out there.
Next up are a few clips from our lesson last Friday. I wish I could express just how fantastic he was, it was seriously one of the best lessons we’ve ever had. He was so tuned in and workmanlike from the moment I got in the irons. Gah. I’ll just let you watch. He’s amazing. I did not have this horse under me 3 months ago, I can tell you that. Both our trainers have really been pushing us to raise the bar and he keeps coming out and showing us just how hard he can work.
Hope you enjoy getting to see the Frankenbeast strut his stuff! He’ll be doing a 1.20m class with AT at Upperville during the week, and then we’ll be doing our High division Fri-Sun. Can’t wait to get out there with the biggest bestest brownest unicorn!
A few new things have joined the rotation recently, and I wanted to give you the benefit of my very expert and very important opinion on them. HAH.
RJ Classics Gulf Breeches, tan, on sale for $75 from Luxe Eq
Remember the Great Pants Debate? This is one of the pairs I brought home. And I really really wanted to like them, guys. But I just don’t. It’s not a burning hatred, but I’m very “meh” on the fit. I’m a pretty true 26/26L, but these just fit…funky on me. The knee is SUPER tight and feels very constricting and the Euro-seat seaming digs into me and gives me LBS (Lumpy Butt Syndrome)- but the waist fits well, so I wouldn’t want to size up because then I would get GWS (Gappy Waist Syndrome). The fabric is nice, the fit just doesn’t work for me. I’m keeping them around due to my paranoia of running out of clean tan breeches at shows, but I don’t reach for these very often.
Iago Giulia Breeches, gray, on sale for $150 from Luxe Eq
This is the other pair that made the cut, and I absolutely LOVE them. The sock bottoms are super comfy, the material is sturdy but comfortable with good stretch, the leather accents on the pockets are lovely, and they make my butt look great. They’re my first pair of silicon patch breeches and I don’t notice a huge difference in the feel, but they sure do look cool. If I’m griping, these may be a little lower rise than I usually like since I have a long torso (and long everything else) and like to tuck my shirts in, but they stay put and don’t sag so it hasn’t caused any problems. Big big fan, will likely buy more of these in different colors, and a bunch of my barnmates want a pair too.
OK so I didn’t buy this, but it showed up in the wash stall and I used it and YES LOVE. Frankie bears the dubious distinction of being the smelliest horse in the barn due to his proclivity for napping in his own urine (homeboy likes to make a huge mess in his stall, which makes it a million times worse), and he gets grimy quickly. This helped lift all the crud and gunk all the way down to his skin, and he absolutely loved the sensation as we attacked all the itchies.
BackOnTrack Saddle Pad
I figured as long as we were doing injections/chiro/fixing saddle fit/etc., I may as well throw this in the mix. It’s hard to isolate what effect this has had (due to the aforementioned injections/chiro/saddle fit/etc.), but his back has definitely been less “flinchy” overall and I certainly don’t think it hurts. I like that it’s long enough to still look nice under my monstrously long saddle flaps, the profile gives great wither clearance, and I love the navy blue on Francis. I’m planning on getting the barn logo embroidered on it so it can be our show pad!
Smartpak Wellfleet Figure-8
This is another one that I didn’t technically buy- one of my awesome barn buds had this lying around and is letting us use it. Have I mentioned lately that I have the best barnmates? Took oil beautifully (and is still taking oil, that leather is THIRSTY), fits Francis beautifully, and looks really really nice on him. I think it can still darken a bit, so the oiling shall continue!
The bills for Lake Placid, Upperville, and Blue Rock are all coming due at around the same time, so I’m on a spending freeze until after I can recover a bit from show season. Next on the must-have list once I’m ready to start spending again: a new helmet! I have some ideas about what I want, but will be sure to keep you posted about my noggin protection.