The Cost of Improvement

So we just did a breakdown of how much we spend on horse shows, and now I’m on a kick. So I’ll talk a little bit about what else I spend my money on when it comes to Francis- specifically, how we ramped him up for this show season.

We took extra naps

You’ve heard me talk ad nauseam about how fantastically incredibly amazing Francis is- and I ain’t sorry. He deserves the hype. Those of you who have met him and seen him in real life can attest that he’s a straight up awesome dude.

I think we’ve progressed quite steadily since I brought him home a little over two years ago. We’ve both built knowledge, we’ve both built fitness, and we’ve really developed a wonderful partnership that I’m very proud of. But the rate of improvement has vastly accelerated over the last few months. When I say that I didn’t have this horse under me three months ago, I mean it. It’s an incredible transformation.


But it is not a surprising transformation. It has been a very deliberate, careful process.

First off we did some stuff to ensure his comfort- SI injection, hock injections, chiropractor, massage, shimming our half pad to get his saddle to sit better, etc. This is more than we’ve done in the past, but I think it’s appropriately commensurate with his workload and age. All things considered, he’s fairly low-maintenance (especially for a Shmancy Show Horse). I’d say we probably spent an extra $1500 this year on this type of stuff over last year.

So that was the base we needed to establish in order to push harder. We got his body feeling loose and happy and comfortable before we started asking him to work more.

The Hat of Knowledge told us what he needed

Because the real transformation came from more professional attention. Simple as that. Two training rides per week to teach Frankie how to use his body more actively and more correctly, and a full hour private lesson with me every week to teach me how to reinforce and correctly ask for that level of work. Over the past few months, I’d say we spent an extra $500-1000 or so on this over the same period last year.

I know there’s a range of opinions on training rides, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with how they’ve been working for us. Trainer and AT have built these rides to be part of a cohesive program- the skills that AT works on with Frankie are the same skills that Trainer works with me on in my lessons. We have frequent discussions on what/how they’re working on things so that I can continue that work on my own time. It’s very much a team effort to be consistent and fair with what we’re asking of Frankie.

“Fair would be more cookies plz.” PC- Liz

And it’s really really working. You should’ve seen our first private lesson when we kicked this phase of our program off. Trainer ended up having to get on to show me that yes, actually, Frankie is capable of this, he’s just not convinced that I mean it. We didn’t even jump because I was just trying to get a certain level of flatwork out of him. It took a solid 45 minutes to get a few moments of that correctness so we could end on a good note.

Nowadays when I hop on he immediately set off to work. It doesn’t take 45 minutes- he is right there offering it up as soon as I ask. He knows I mean it now. I’m having to get more and more creative with my rides. He answers every question I ask promptly and obediently, so I’m having to come up with new, harder questions. I am the limiting factor in this equation now.

So it’s a lot of work, and a lot of luck, and a lot of patience, but at the end of the day we accelerated our improvement by throwing more money at it. It’s not romantic and it doesn’t make for a good Lifetime movie. But hey- it works.

13 thoughts on “The Cost of Improvement

  1. Liz 07/06/2018 / 7:49 am

    Training rides seem like a priceless investment to me. And it’s obvious how freaking well they’re working for y’all. Frankie looks SO amazing lately thanks to all of the effort you’ve put toward things to make him the best he can be. That’s so awesome to hear that he’s giving you want you want on the flat so quickly now, too. You two are great together.


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 8:01 am

      OMG I need you to come back so you can see how much better he’s gotten haha (obvi he was already awesome, but homeboy is just so dang beefy now). Those training rides have just been so helpful in teaching him what the right answer is, and teaching me how to ask correctly.


  2. Centered in the Saddle 07/06/2018 / 9:37 am

    I would say that, yes, you threw some money at it, but you also threw your time, energy and focus at it. I don’t think you can improve like you guys have by just paying someone. You have to put in the work, too! 🙂


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 9:59 am

      Definitely lots of energy haha. My trainers have done a great job of integrating it all together so we can all work together to improve

      Liked by 1 person

  3. HunkyHanoverian 07/06/2018 / 9:56 am

    Training rides are life. Growing up (eventing and dressage) I did 95% of my own riding, but took regular lessons. Did we progress? Absolutely. But it took time. I now understand that training rides are the difference between progressing very slowly, and at a pace I am excited about. I don’t WANT to take 2 years to get solid in the 3 ft ring. In two years I want to be doing the 3’3 if not the 3’6. I have goals! These big old beasties are not cheap to maintain, so I feel more of a need to optimize our time together. Training rides just help Rio and I progress so much faster. My new barn is “full training”. Any day I don’t ride, Rio gets a training ride. It may be a light hack, or it may be an intense jump session- whatever he needs. I love it!


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 10:02 am

      Yes to all of this! Not to mention how much more straightforward Frankie’s workload has become- he has someone really knowledgeable guiding him along into these new skillsets so he’s much more confident in trying new things. He’s working harder, but he also has very clear and consistent demands.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. the_everything_pony 07/06/2018 / 12:19 pm

    Training rides absolutely help! I feel like that is what my mom and I are doing. I hop on Whisper a few days a week, get a good ride in, and then either that same day or the next day my mom gets on and I help her with what we’ve been working on. They’ve come really far together in the last few months of working this way, and I’m so excited to see their improvement! So I’m absolutely all for training rides especially if it’s super beneficial to both rider and horse. And obviously it is SO working out for you two! You guys have looked absolutely without a doubt FANTASTIC!!!


  5. Karen 07/06/2018 / 1:49 pm

    He is so handsome!


  6. Stacie Seidman 07/06/2018 / 2:56 pm

    I think training rides are awesome. Even if we’re the best rider ever, in the whole world (which we’re not, or at least I’m definitely not), it never hurts to have another knowledgeable, capable human have a feel of our horses. I’m not sure why, but there seems to be some stigma about having your trainer ride your horse. And I hate that. Just because I have my trainer ride my horse in a warm up class, or give him a school, doesn’t mean I’m a bad rider, or not capable myself. If anything, I think it’s more fair to the horse. Trainer rides all day, every day and is very, very good at what she does. Having her hop on the pony and remind him what the correct aids and answers are takes like 15 minutes. Would probably take me 2 hours. Lol. The important part of the equation is that those rides are followed up with lessons that teach us riders how to get the same answers and how to use those correct aids.
    Sorry, done with my rant… I think you have a solid program over there, and I really enjoy how much you’re willing to talk about and share with us. Plus Frankie is awesome. He’s definitely up there on the Rio level. (Which is REALLY high.)


    • HunkyHanoverian 07/07/2018 / 9:31 am

      Couldn’t agree more Stacie. I used to view rider’s that had their trainer’s warm-up their horses as “lazy” when I was a teenager. Now I know better! I think that it’s actually a lot more fair to my Rio to have my trainer give him a confident and accurate round, then for me need to do 3 or 4 (because I’m inaccurate and confusing him) just to work out the kinks. It keeps my Rio happy and confident, and less likely to waver when I slightly falter.


  7. Genny - A Gift Horse Blog 07/07/2018 / 3:36 pm

    Training rides are something that I will def be factoring in the next horse budget. Such value to both horse and rider 🙂


  8. eventerinprogress 07/09/2018 / 5:25 pm

    Isn’t it amazing that the harder you work the luckier you get haha?

    So good to see the hard work pay off! He really is a lovely beefcake.


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