Hello Please Hold

EVERYBODY STOP THE PRESSES WE ARE DOING A LESSON RECAP FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A MILLION YEARS.

I had my first group lesson in a while with some of my barnmates- my friend on her fancy hunter, one of the juniors on her fancy eq horse, and a fellow ammy on her brand new 4yo hunter (who is SWOON gorgeous). Basically a sea of beautiful horses and riders and then me and my chunky overgrown pony.

Francis was…fine. It’s not that he was bad or disobedient, it just felt kinda like when you call a customer care center and they put you on hold. They eventually pick up. When they dang sure feel like it and not one second sooner. He did not feel as eager to play the game as he usually does. Granted- it was a trillion degrees out and humid, and he’s pretty out of shape (still weeping softly that he lost fitness SO FRICKIN’ FAST) so I’m not surprised that he wasn’t the most fiery and adjustable. We took lots of walk breaks to stretch and rest.

I’m going to ignore the other jumps we did so I can show you this gymnastic. I think Trainer said she got it from McLain or something, so you know it’s gotta be good.

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It’s a canter in to a crossrail, bounce to a small oxer, then two strides to another small oxer with a ground pole placed as marked. We only did it a few times due to the heat, but I think this was a really useful exercise for Frankenbean.

The bounce to the wide oxer meant that we had to come in with plenty of power to press across, but then he had to rate himself back for the two stride. My job was to keep my leg on, follow with my hand, and let him figure himself out. Educating him to adjust himself like that is something we’ve been constantly working on since it doesn’t come naturally to him.

It’s funny- he’s a super duper easy horse to ride in the sense that if you tell him to do something, you can absolutely trust that he will do that thing. But I’ve had some people hop on and tell me that can make him a tougher ride for beginners for exactly that reason- he needs a lot of input to know what he’s supposed to do and they’re not equipped to manage that. He’s just not a super independent thinker. Food for thought.

After getting a nice trip through the gymnastic where we got some softness and good pace, I asked to be done on that note. I felt like I had been low-key arguing with Frankie all evening to get him on board with the plan, and wanted to reward him for listening and agreeing to play the game.

I also signed him up for a massage next week as a preemptive measure. We’re trying to get him back into *moderately good* shape which likely means some tired muscles, and I don’t want him getting sore and cranky about being back in a program. Yes, I signed my horse up for a massage because he felt a little less unicorn-y than usual in one lesson. It’s a new level of spoiling the Big Beast. BUT HE’S REAL CUTE AND DESERVES IT.

We have an official schedule for who is riding him on different days of the week, which is just in time for my trip north this weekend for wedding stuffs. 93 days left to go and I can’t even wait.

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We’re gonna take family pics like this together until we’re all old and decrepit

Random quick PSA- if you’re ever in the mood for a pick-me-up, look at the Highlights marked “Snugs” on my Instagram. It’s exclusively pics and videos of Francis being a sweet bean. I figure if it makes me so happy to see it, maybe it’ll make other people happy too 🙂

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Millionaire Me

What would you do if a long-lost distant relative died and left you a zillion dollars?

If you’re tempted to say something responsible like “continue working and invest for the future,” please go have 3-6 margaritas and then try again.

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We’re here to have a good time

I’ll start.

Firstly, Frankie’s life really wouldn’t change hugely. We’d up the frequency of massages/chiro/acupuncture/etc and he’d get some more pro rides. But other than that, homeboy is already getting fantastic care from fantastic people. Maybe I’d get him some customized brushes, and we would build a custom saddle for both of us, and we’d also get dressage tack for the heck of it, and we’d go to a horse show every month. I don’t think he would really notice the difference (except the massages, he always wants more massages).

But Rich Me would get him some friends. A couple of them.

First off, Francis needs a mini. Either a mini donkey or a mini horse (or a mini mule?!). With a big fluffy mane and a sassy lil tail. This tiny little mini would come with us to shows, wander the farm, and provide entertainment to us all.

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MAYBE A SPOTTY ONE??

Francis would also get a little brother. A well-bred baby that shows potential for the upper levels. This fancy baby would go straight into the capable hands of AT to break and train and get show mileage with. I’d be the absentee mother that shows up periodically to torture the baby with hugs and kisses and ponying off of Francis, and when Frankie starts stepping down Fancy Baby would become my main mount. By that point AT will have trained Fancy Baby to be amateur-friendly as well as talented.

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Basically what I’m trying to say is that Rich Me really really wants Presto’s half brother Manny.

Francis would also get a short-term friend in the form of a lease. This lease will have recently been doing the High AOs/regional GPs, and is looking to step down to the 1.30m or lower. This Yearlong Pal will cart me around the open 1.20m and up and teach me about the bigger tracks.

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A schoolmaster like this would be fine by me, I wouldn’t complain.

Since Rich Me has two horses, Rich Me can get that much more saddle time (especially since Rich Me doesn’t have to work) and can compete in more rounds every shows. Then if the stars align and I can take Francis in the 1.20m, I’ll already have some experience and can help him out a bit more instead of both of us being green to the level.

And Rich Me has a whole lotta shows she wants to go to. In no particular order:

  • Team Finals, wherever they’re held (maybe Tryon again?)
  • Lake Placid because that stuff is GORG
  • Vermont Summer Festival because ALSO GORG
  • WIHS
  • Penn National
  • LGCT Miami (fun fact they have classes down to 1.15m, so you can compete there at a variety of levels if you qualify)
  • WEF. Not the full circuit, but maybe the Great Charity Challenge and a few other classes.
  • Upperville. Yeah, I know we’ve been a bunch. It’s still my favorite and Rich Me still wants to go.
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Rich Me doesn’t like this ring any less

BRB, gonna go buy a bunch of lottery tickets.

What does Rich You want to do?

Shifting the Balance

Ever since I’ve gotten back in the saddle as an adult, I’ve been super focused. Always looking for ways to go improve my skills, train harder, compete more successfully, raise the jumps. I’ve spent every spare moment at the barn trying to fit in more saddle time and I’ve spent every spare dollar (and more) fitting more shows into my schedule.

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It took me approx. 3 months back in the saddle to get back in the show ring, and I’ve never looked back.

So taking a step back as we get close to the wedding is Weird for me with a capital W. I’ve cut back to riding 2-3x a week, and have a mix of pro rides and junior riders hopping on for the other 3-4x. I gave up my private lesson spot for one in a group lesson. The jumps haven’t gone over 3′ in a little while, and our rollbacks are decidedly hunterific these days. For the first time, I didn’t respond to our quarterly show schedule update email with an enthusiastic “sign me up for those 4!” For the first time, riding is my hobby and not my entire focus.

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Also a big part of that hobby is endless nose smooshes. PC- Liz

I don’t like it. No I do not. I miss my schedule and I miss my horse and I miss the sweat and the aches and the struggles and I’m itching to get back to it like you wouldn’t believe.

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I like doing this. I already miss doing this. 

But at the same time, something had to give as we round the final stretch to the big day. I’m traveling north to Rhode Island for planning sessions increasingly often and even when I am in town, I have fittings and events and phone calls and all that fun stuff eating up my time and energy. Setting up a program for Frankie that requires less time from me was painful, but is also a relief to know that he’s getting loved on and groomed and worked just as often as his attention-hog heart desires. It takes away a lot of the guilt I was feeling about not being there as often as I’d like.

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Francis don’t care WHO is paying attention to him, as long as SOMEONE is paying attention to him. 

Frankie is feeling just fine about all of this. He’s been carting me around my lessons with his ears up and happy snorts (even if he does try to break wayyyy more often because #chunkaroo). He makes silly faces when I curry the itchy spot on his neck, he puts his face down for towel time behind his ears after every bath, and he’s always happy to see me when I’m there. He’s sound and healthy and with the help of my amazing barn family, he’ll be fit and ready for me to take the reins back after the wedding. I already have some ideas for fun new adventures next show season.

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At least one of these ideas may or may not tie into him apparently being a really adorable eq horse.

While I’m already eager to get back to a full training program with World’s Best Horse (TM), I’m going to enjoy this hobby season as a mental break from the pressures that I’ve put on myself and my steed for a while now. I’m going to view it as a reset for us to go back and work on some basics without an urgent timeline, a chance to share Frankie with some talented riders looking for saddle time, and a chance for me to explore a different type of balance in my life.

96 days until I can get that dang balance shifted back to the barn.

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PC-Liz

What? Just because I’m trying to enjoy the break doesn’t mean I’m not psyched to get back into it 😉

A Chunkaroo and a New Helmet

Y’all. Frankie has upgraded from dad-bod status to straight up FAT. Homeboy has butt wrinkles. Literally he had one month of light work and his body was immediately like HAHA PACK ON THE POUNDS. This means he also immediately lost all self-carriage and impulsion. It took a solid 6-9 months of hardcore training and work to leg him up to full fitness, and 4 weeks to completely lose it all. COOL.

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Remember when he was so fit and muscley and beefy in the very very distant past? Me neither.

Anyways, I don’t want a fat horse. It ain’t good for him (though he seems to be enjoying himself) and it ain’t good for me. Once we get past the wedding, I’d really like to have a competition season (albeit with less traveling than I did this year), and that will be hard if I have to spend several months legging him up basically from scratch.

Enter, the world’s best barn family. With their help, Frankie will get his 6 rides a week from a variety of sources- 2-3 from me, 1 from AT, and 2-3 from some of our TJRs (Talented Junior Riders). I can’t even express what a relief this is- I’ve been feeling so much guilt about not being able to get out as often as Frankie needs, and knowing that he’s getting exercised and groomed and loved on when I can’t be there lifts an enormous weight. I’m so eager to get back into more of a program with him, but I can breathe a sigh of relief that he’ll be ready for me when I’m able to do that. Seriously: world’s BEST barn fam.

In other news, I got myself a new helmet! I’ve had my Charles Owen GR8 for just about 4 years now- it smells like a dead animal, has little to no ventilation, and I’ve now fallen in it twice. I didn’t hit my head either time, but all those factors combined to make it definitely time for a new noggin-protector. And the timing worked out perfectly with International Helmet Awareness Day(s)! I headed over to my local Dover with the plan to buy the Samshield I had tried earlier in the year and loved.

Yeah, I didn’t walk out of there with the Samshield. The girl helping me was FANTASTIC. She knew what to look for in terms of helmet fit, told me what she was looking for, and spent a reeeeeeally long time working with me to try on every single helmet that might’ve possibly worked.

We started with the Samshield- she pretty quickly gave that a nope because they didn’t have one small enough for me #childsizedhead. We tried a Kask and she didn’t even let me look in the mirror. Then we tried a rose-gold-accented One K that I IMMEDIATELY fell in love with, which she gave a tentative thumbs up. And then she destroyed my rose gold dreams by putting me (very reluctantly) in a CO AYR8 plus. Which she then pronounced to fit me the best of everything we tried.

I then proceeded to try on an IRH, a GPA, the new TraumaVoid, and a Tipperary because UGHHHH I DIDN’T WANT ANOTHER CHARLES OWEN. Can’t tell ya why. My CO has served me faithfully for years. I also kept putting the rose gold one back on, and she kept looking at me dubiously. None of them fit nearly as well, no matter how much I tried to negotiate.

Ultimately, we agreed that the safest helmet is the one that fits the best, and it was very obvious that the CO fit the shape and size of my head the best by far. She tried to soften the blow by offering customization which I eagerly latched onto, but then we realized that this model doesn’t offer customization.

SO MANY DREAMS CREATED AND SHATTERED.

So I walked out of there with my new AYR8 Plus, and I’m really warming up to it. It has a removable washable liner, tons more ventilation than my old helmet, and it really does fit like a glove. It’s a definite upgrade.

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It sure is a helmet

So I’m riding less but we’re keeping Francis fit, I have a new helmet for the first time in several years, and I’m ready to just GET MARRIED ALREADY so I can get back to the barn more. Priorities.

Three Ring Francis

The Big Guy had his field trip last week! He and one of our lovely junior riders went out and competed in all three rings: they did the 0.85m and 0.95m jumpers, the 3′ equitation classes, and the 3′ children’s hunter division. CHECK THE CUTENESS:

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A REAL LIFE TAIL BRAID
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Nah it’s cool I’m not crying or anything
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When did he learn to jump so cute?!

I’m not comfortable sharing pics of a minor without their/their parent’s consent and I’m too lazy to edit more emoji faces into the pictures, but rest assured that I have lots and lots of pics of the Frankfurter being adorable.

Apparently he had a few rails in the hunter classes, because natural fill is a real snoozefest. But the videos I saw were really lovely- she rode him beautifully, very steady and consistent. And the two of them got 3rd in one of their 0.95m jumper classes- this maaaay have actually been her first foray into the jumper ring. So happy that Frankie could share his awesomeness ❤ Trainer said he was “wonderful” so I’m just bursting with pride at that.

Also never fear, I got plenty of nap pics of him. He certainly wasn’t worked up that I wasn’t there.

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Screenshot from a video of one of the girls snuggin’ on him. Tough life, dude.

I felt a bit like a parent who had a kid away at summer camp- it was odd to not go to the barn at all after work. I don’t plan to make a habit of that, but it was nice to have a break to catch up on things!

And getting to catch up on things while Frankie got to go play with a talented rider, in some new rings, under the trusted supervision of my trainers? It doesn’t get much better.

I can’t wait to go out and love on my 3-ring creature! A break was nice, but I miss my giant four-legged buddy.

Not Dead Yet!

Just a little exhausted.

See, all the movies make wedding planning look like an endless series of brunch meetings with your mom and maid of honor laughing prettily as you effortlessly agree on everything.

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Expectation

But like for realz we all work which means that we can really only do stuff on the weekend, and THERE’S NO TIME FOR BRUNCH WE HAVE 18 DECISIONS TO MAKE IMMEDIATELY and yes I understand that person wants a plus one but it ain’t happening so stop asking and why did four separate people straight up not provide their apartment number and no I don’t want a human gargoyle outside the doors and why was that even on the list for consideration??

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Reality

Don’t get me wrong, wedding planning is a lot of fun. Every vendor we’ve chosen has turned out to be a Total Bro about everything we throw at them, and our coordinator is the most delightfully enthusiastic man. We love him. My maid of honor and I have actually done some lovely brunches, and my mom could legitimately start a career as a wedding planner- she’s amazing at all of this. It’s going to be the most rad party in the history of rad parties.

BUT WHY WERE HUMAN GARGOYLES A THING I HAD TO EVEN THINK ABOUT???

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I literally had to explicitly say no to this. It was not assumed. WHAT EVEN.

Anyways, as we’re getting closer to the wedding, planning is really ramping up which means that my time and energy is ever-more devoted to that.

Ergo, my time and energy is not at the barn as much as I’d like.

Frankie is entirely on board with this. He is reverting to DadBod Francis, which apparently is his natural state if he’s not in a 6 day a week program. I swear, total fat kid at heart. He may be half TB, but he definitely takes after the WB side in the hard-to-keep-fit sense. I can definitely feel his hind end losing some power- nothing crazy, but he was SUPER powerful off his hind end earlier in the summer and he lost that explosiveness practically overnight. 100% chunkaroo.

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A very thirsty chunkaroo.

Luckily, I’m not asking him to do anything that requires him to be in peak shape. I’ve done a few lessons where we do simple courses with jumps that stay below 3’3″-3’6″ish, and we toodle. I have the barn juniors hop on fairly regularly, and I still have AT do one ride a week on him to make sure he still gets a steady reminder on How To Horse Properly. One of the (many many) reasons I am so grateful for this horse is that he has handled it all without blinking- he went from full show training to practically a pasture pet overnight, and he just kinda rolls with it.

He’s actually going on a fun adventure with one of the barn girls this week- he’ll be making his hunter debut! She’s doing a week-long lease to take him in the 3′ Children’s Hunters down at Lexington National. It’s going to be adorable! He’s super NOT a hunter, but he’s steady and safe and willing. She’s an absolutely lovely rider with impeccable horsemanship, so I think this will be a fun outing for both of them. Gotta love that Frankenbean- in the course of two months, he will have competed in the 1.20m jumpers, the WT pleasure, and the 3′ Children’s Hunters. Atta boy, go Do All The Things!

I originally had big plans for late summer/early fall- namely, a move-up to the 1.20m with the Beast. But realistically, I just don’t have the time, energy, or quite frankly the funds to support the training program needed to be strong enough at that height. It was disappointing to look at the schedule and realize that I’d have to shift my expectations, but that’s life!

Luckily I have a healthy and sound horse, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to give it a go next year, when I have a new name and no wedding to plan. I think I would take it harder if I had a different horse, but it’s hard to feel bad about pretty much anything when I ride Frankie. Whatever our adventures end up being, and whatever the timing is, we’re going to have fun.

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Literally always a perfect sweet boy ❤ PC- Liz