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.
I mentioned in my Blue Rock recap that I started out riding the 2017 Frankie before getting my butt in gear and riding the 2018 Frankie (new Francis who dis). I’d like to elaborate a little bit on what I already mentioned, because I’ve definitely adjusted my strategy in the ring.
Getting our gallop on: I used to go in the ring and immediately pick up a hand gallop before waiting for the buzzer, because I needed a little extra time to open up his step. Nowadays we can get that fire stoked much more quickly, so I don’t need that runway as much. It ends up giving me a bit too much time to overanalyze and start picking at him. Much better to just rev the engine and head to the first jump.
Related distances: I used to have to land and WOAH hard in every line, because he almost always landed a little off balance and strung out. Not awful, but it definitely took a stride or two to get him back under me, and that would eat up a decent part of the line. Nowadays he lands in much better balance and much more tuned in to me, so I can simply steady him and press out of the line- which has the added benefit of me being able to soften and allow him to the fences, which leads to him jumping out of his skin.
Left drift: we’ve always had a left drift. Partly because I think he fires a little more strongly on the right side, partly because I have a weak left leg that doesn’t block him hard enough. We’ve gotten much better at using outside aids around the turns and getting him straight in both directions, and I think the carrot stretches have helped him feel more bendy.
Release: he used to jump fairly flat all the time without really using his neck, so there was never a need for a big release- he just didn’t take up the slack when it was given. Now he’s firing harder off the ground and using his body much more actively, which is awesome! But it also means that I need to reward that much more actively. I need to focus hard on some core work, since right now I tend to collapse up his neck a bit upon landing when I give that long release. I have a decent auto release in my toolbox, so it’s just a factor of getting that super ingrained in my muscle memory. Planks galore!
Taking breaks on course: yeah I never had the mental state to be able to do this before. This past show was the first one where I felt like I could use the ends of my ring to take a deep breath, half-halt and reset, and give Frankie a little scratch on the neck as I softened. Not too much because I didn’t want him to think we were done, but we were both able to calm down a bit before firing back up. I definitely think this helped keep him tuned into me and feeling fresh instead of tiring out in the latter parts of the course.
Part of this progression has been due to working on our adjustability, partly due to increased fitness, partly due to education (for both of us), and in large part due to me relaxing enough to think more actively while in the ring instead of LOSING MY MIND OMG FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL. Let’s be real- there will always be Francis-take-the-wheel moments. No one is perfect. The goal is to make them less frequent and less cringe-inducing.
After all, it’s like I’ve always told you. I’m not so concerned with our ribbons- I’m concerned with making sure I can come out of the ring and internalize the lessons learned and apply them in the next round. Go make new mistakes, and then fix them, and then move on to even newer mistakes.
At this point, the horse is super broke and fit and educated, and will go around as well as I allow him to. It used to be that mistakes in the ring were kinda 50-50 due to me getting in the way AND him still learning the expectations we had. Well, we’ve gotten rid of that last part. He knows the game, likes the game, and is damn good at the game. Mistakes are now 100% rider-generated. In one way, WOW OK PRESSURE IS ON because I can no longer cite “lack of experience” as an excuse, but in another enormously huger way it’s AMAZEBALLS. I have a schoolmaster packer that will turn and burn and slice and sit back and do absolutely everything I ask. Now it’s on me to ask for the right things at the right time.
Francis got a light week post-Blue Rock. Partially by design to let him recuperate after working hard, partially because work was crazy and I was playing catch-up from being out of the office, and partially because I couldn’t really breathe properly.
See, in true Olivia fashion, I managed to bash myself in the chest SUPER hard with the butt end of my crop while at Swan Lake. Adrenaline carried me through the rest of the show, but it started hurting more and more acutely. Laughing, sneezing, coughing, and taking deep breaths all caused pretty severe pain. As did turning my steering wheel with my left arm. All of which I basically ignored because ugh whatever.
But then I hopped on for a hard ride over the weekend, and had to quit early since I couldn’t catch my breath. No deep breaths = getting winded WAY too quickly. I’m only willing to ignore things until they interfere with my riding, so I went in for medical attention.
The good news: there’s no fracture! Hooray for keeping my bones intact.
The “eh” news: there’s a deep bone contusion, and the treatment is basically the same as if I’d fractured an upper rib. Hooray!
I’m now on a medication to manage the inflammation and resulting pain, another for the resulting muscle spasms, and get to play with a fun toy called an incentive spirometer 4x a day for the next 10 days to make sure I don’t get pneumonia.
The especially fun part is that breathing deeply is still painful (though the anti-inflammatory helps a TON). Don’t injure anything near your lungs, kids. It’s annoying.
Luckily I’m medicated and on the mend, so we can get back to our regular training program without lurking fears of a punctured lung. Sorry Francis, hope you enjoyed your break while it lasted. Your mama is broken, but not broken enough to stay out of the saddle.
It’s been a solid 6 months. And you know what that means.
It’s time for Francis GushFest 2018 (Q2).
Because UGHHHH GUYSSSSSS HE’S THE BESTTTTTTTTT
Like he’s a total turdblossom at feeding time, and sometimes it’s hard to muck his stall because #NapKing doesn’t want to stand up, and he likes to play Bitey-Face out in the field, and sometimes he twists his body over the jumps so he doesn’t have to work as hard. So clearly he isn’t perfect.
But he’s so dang cool, day after day after day.
He’s the most fun ever to play with on the ground. He’s so inquisitive and happy and content and radiates that sense of calm curiosity. He’s pretty sure everyone loves him and he loves to make new friends- who coincidentally always love him. He makes funny faces for the camera and gives me the stretchy moose lips when we scratch in juuuuust the right spot. He offers to groom me back because that’s the polite thing to do.
He thinks baseball hats are very fun toys, and is always always always game for some face scratches and snuggles (Towel Time behind the ears especially is the Bestest Ever). But I can also trust him to stand calmly on the crossties for as long as I need to get ready and situated. He’s happy to chill. He will bend over backwards if it means he gets ear rubs- even when I’m on him, he’ll turn his head back for ear rubs when he knows he did a good job.
And then under saddle. Man oh man.
He’s the best kind of teacher- the kind who doesn’t get upset when I make mistakes, but also doesn’t give me anything for free either. I can ask for something the wrong way a million times and he’ll just keep trucking until I ask correctly, and then he rewards me with prompt obedience. He works exactly as hard as I do. It’s a true partnership of give and take and give some more.
There’s so much trust. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around us, what the jumps look like, where we are- I have 100% faith that he’s going to show up to work. And he has trust that I’ll do right by him. I may not set him up perfectly to every jump and I may make mistakes with my aids, but he knows I’ll do my best to stay out of his way and that we get lots of pats and scratches and down time after we work. And so he goes to work happily every single time.
And as we’ve both learned and gained some measure of subtlety, dangit we have so much fun. He knows the game and needs less help from me on a basic level, but looks for more input on a tactical level. We can plan for the inside turn (blasting up to oxers off a short turn is his new power move) and moving my shoulders forward and back is like a magic lever to his stride length. He’s super fast without feeling like we’re racing at any point, so we’re competitive without the pace being intimidating.
He’s my absolute favorite horse that I’ve ever ridden by such a long shot. No matter how my day was, no matter how nervous I may be, as soon as my feet are in the stirrups I am happy.
His quiet partnership has given me the confidence to dream bigger, try new things, gain comfort in my leadership skills, led me to new friendships, and is such a bright light in my life. I don’t have adequate words for how special he really is and how much he means to me.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a lot of sweat and mud and work and setbacks and triumphs and the whole range therein. He just makes it all a joy.
I have so many alternate titles for this show recap:
“Prioritize Your Protein: I Don’t Want to Look at Steak for Quite Some Time”
“Step Up: Not the Dance Movie, Just Trying to Match My Horse’s Skill Level”
“Rain Dances: For the Love of God Stop Doing Them, We’ve Had Enough”
But at the end of the day, here’s your basic recap: Frankie was a freakin’ rockstar. You can stop reading now if you were just on the edge of your seat wondering if he would be a good boy. I know it’s a rarity.
I’m not going to go in chronological order for this post because I don’t feel like it, so here’s what happened:
Big Guy packed me around the Highs like a pro, as per usual. I will say, the first day I had a bit of a tough time. In the past, Frankie has landed off the jumps a little unbalanced and a little strung out. It’s always taken me a few strides to get my bearings and get him back under me, and our half-halts didn’t go very far- I’ve had to kinda adjust my track to suit the stride length and not the other way around.
The fun thing about doing multiple training rides per week and private lessons is that he is now much more fit and broke and holy moly we actually have a fantastic half-halt now. Nowadays he lands balanced and immediately asks me what he should do next. So on that first day I rode him like 2017 Francis needed- a little “louder” with my aids and a little less trusting of my seat, and giving him room where I didn’t need to (or should have). He was a good boy, but was a little peeved at me- he was jumping out of his SKIN and I wasn’t really rewarding that effort.
So the next day my trainer sent me in with the phrase, “we have beautiful hands.” I rewarded more over the jumps, I trusted his balance, I supported with my leg more without nagging. And lo and behold: we had a lovely course, with a very happy horse.
Classic day was similar- I’m still learning how to press all the buttons on my crazy-amazing broke horse, he was a little more tired, but overall thrilled with how we went around. I felt like I actually had a brain in my head- when jump 1 came up a little sticky, I actually made a move to help him get set up for jump 2 instead of saying OH CRAP FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL like I would’ve in the past. Our sticky moments were less sticky and happened less often, he was less tired and felt fitter than has on Sundays past, and our good moments are getting better and better and more consistent. And of all places, we had a rail over the liverpool. I mean, I’m glad he doesn’t care what he’s jumping, but maybe care a little bit?!
So there’s our recap of the Highs. Trainer is very happy with his continuing development, we are both continuing to grow and learn, we’re excited to keep improving, and we had a total blast in the ring together. I swear, he is the most fun horse to ride.
But here’s something else that’s super cool: I have a 1.20m horse.
That’s right, the Big Man made it around his first ever 1.20m course with AT!! Both of them worked so so hard and it was absolutely incredible to watch. AT reported that he was a little surprised and definitely needed some help from her to get to the right spot- he can’t handle a joke at that height at this point. But he was game for it and went and played the game, which is all I was hoping for in his first time out. We’ll powwow later to see what our plan should be moving forward, but I am beyond thrilled with how he did.
My sweet boy officially made it around a 1.20m course without looking or feeling overfaced, and I am bursting with pride. This was never on our radar for him when we bought him- his willingness to go out there and try makes my heart so absolutely full.
As usual, Frankie gets an A+ for handling the horse show life. He ground-tied politely at the wash rack despite many distractions, he came out of his stall happily for every ride, and settled right into work despite the icky weather and sloppy footing. We’ve come to expect excellent behavior from him, but I’m still grateful every time that he handles travel and competition life so well.
I’ll try to upload some of our videos to YouTube soon so I can share. Frankie will get today off and a few light days to work out any soreness and give him a break, but then we’re back to it and prepping for Upperville in early June!
Alternate title: At Least One Thing That Carries My Butt Around Is Functional
The functional one being Frankie, of course. The not-so-functional one is my car.
Long story short, I no longer have working anti-lock brakes in my Jeep. Options are to either shell out more money than the car is worth to fix it, scrap my show season to afford a new car, or ignore the problem until show season is over.
I think you can guess which one I’m going with. Luckily this didn’t happen in winter when the roads get slick, and the mechanic said the car was totally fine to drive as long as I was careful. So if you see a red Jeep with horse plates in VA, give me a little space to brake, k? I’m frantically doing research on what I’ll do in the fall and calling in all favors from friends and friends-of-friends, so at some point I should be able to introduce a new (or more realistically, used-and-slightly-crappy) vehicle.
But back to the functioning beast. Our private lessons are, as expected, absolutely transforming us. Even with just 3 under our belt, I can already feel such a difference in my ability to ask Frankie to work harder as well as his own ability to work harder. At first he threw a few tantrums about settling into work, but he very very quickly learned that this is the new normal and now steps right into it. He still has his evasions that he tries and a big part of our lessons is teaching me how to anticipate and preemptively correct those evasions, but it really does feel like getting to the next level of our feel and communication.
A few examples: transitions. THEY’RE HARD YO. We’ve been doing tons of them and insisting that Francis step under into them (both upwards and downwards) without popping up and inverting. When I get it right, it’s magical. Slowly starting to get it right more often.
Connection. It used to take me a solid 45 minutes and a virgin sacrifice to get Frankie up into the bridle. And to be totally honest, even then it wasn’t great. I simply did not give enough leg, hold a steady enough contact, or insist on this enough. This is still very much a work in progress, but I’m actually able to get him pushing from behind up into the contact much more consistently. It’s not 100% of the time by any stretch, but it’s vastly improved!
Adjustability. Turns out that when I stop using a driving seat and have my horse balanced underneath me, I can totally pick whatever stride length I want. Which means I can then pick whichever spot I want. It also turns out that my eye is a lot better than I thought it was- I just haven’t had the tools to accurately ride to the spot I see. Now that I’m communicating with Frankie more clearly and he’s built the knowledge and strength, I feel so much more confident in our ability to get to a really solid take-off.
Overall brokeness. Holy. Crap. Guys. My horse is so frickin’ broke now, it’s not even funny. He will always be a little dull and he would not make a professional happy (pretty sure you’d see a pic of him in the dictionary under “Ammy Friendly”) but he has become the fanciest horse I have ever sat on. Ever. Including my German import I had in high school. He has so many dang buttons and he’s gotten so strong, it’s like I can think something and he does it. Part of that is the training we’ve been doing super intensely lately, part of it is me learning how to ride more better, and part of that is continuously building our communication and partnership. I’ve been absolutely blown away by him in our last few lessons.
It feels like we’re in a totally different place from even a few weeks ago. I need to get some video so you can see the Frankfurter strut his stuff- hopefully we get some good ones at the show this week! Trainer confirmed that she’ll be taking him in his first 1.20m and I’m spazzing out excited. Keep your fingers crossed and send high-flying thoughts in our direction!