Things I Take for Granted

While I never take Frankie as a whole for granted (I’m extremely grateful every dang day for this horse), I realized recently that there are quite a few aspects of his behavior/personality that I do take for granted. These are things I can’t imagine having to handle differently, because they’re just life for us.

He likes to be groomed. He’s extremely happy with literally any type of brush I use on him, leans into the curry comb, picks his feet up for me before being asked, and genuinely enjoys the attention and feeling of being groomed. He’s not particularly sensitive, and is not at all picky about any part of the process. In fact, he’s noticeably much happier when I take extra time to groom him. It’s clearly one of his (several) love languages.

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We accept scritches and we give them in return

He walks pleasantly on a lead rope. In over 3 years of owning him and taking him to various hectic places, I have never once needed a chain to get his attention or give me some leverage. I’ve used the same plain cotton lead since day one, and it’s pretty much always loose. He is very polite whether we’re walking around the farm, walking onto any size trailer, around a busy showgrounds, or anywhere else.

Speaking of which, he walks on and off the trailer with no fuss. He’s been on 2-horse trailers, 4-horse trailers that he had to back into, commercial semi shippers. Even when there’s commotion around him due to other horses protesting the trailer, or showgrounds packing up, or airplanes flying low overhead, he ambles right on and starts munching hay.

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He especially likes when Vinnie is next to him, even if Vinnie is ambivalent about the whole thing.

And then once he’s on and off the trailer he’s an easy traveler. Even after a long trailer ride, he hops right off to get a drink of water and roll. He eats well, he drinks well, and he’s generally very happy to go for a walk and explore. He’s always very interested in his new surroundings but very rarely (if ever) anxious about them.

He will bend over backwards to make sure I’m safe. This struck me especially recently, when I went to bring a horse in from a field and she very clearly projected her intention to kick me every time I got near her with a halter. Not fun. Frankie has never once expressed any body language with even a whisper of aggression, and he has even deliberately placed himself between me and other horses that were playing rambunctiously. He’s a big horse so I handle myself with care around him, but I 100% trust that his intentions are good.

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Old picture, but I can hand him off to just about anyone and trust that he will be polite and safe with them

On a related note, his intentions in general are good. Sure, he likes to try new evasions to get out of work. But when something doesn’t quite go perfectly I know it’s because (a) I’m not asking correctly or (b) he’s not sure how to use his body in that way or (c) this is hard work for him and he’s building strength. Trusting his intentions means that we give each other some grace and I think really helps him thrive and feel proud of himself (oh jeez this is gonna be a whole other post about this one topic).

Overall, I think I take for granted what an easy horse he is. I never have to consider how he may act or feel on any given day – he has his ups and downs like anyone, but they never affect how he is to handle or how safe he is to ride. I never have to say no to anything because I don’t think he can handle the atmosphere/travel/challenge. He doesn’t require anything special to be happy (though he does really love his massages). I love that I can just show up and trust that he’ll be my trusty steed.

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Always happy to play along ❤

Your turn! What do you take for granted about your mount?

 

Confession Time

So guys, I have a confession for you.

You all know Frankie’s stats by now: he’s a dark bay 17.1 Oldenburg x TB gelding that is turning 14 this spring. Easy stuff that we all know.

Except I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’ve suspected for a while (and continue to suspect) that one of those stats is wrong.

I don’t think Frankie is about to turn 14. I think he’s about to turn 15.

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Hear me out here – I bought him in spring 2016, where they told me he was 10. I was like great cool he is 10 years old in 2016 which means he was born in 2006 end of story. Got him signed up with USEF with that info and we all continued on our merry way.

But I then found a sale ad for him from the previous autumn, also listing him as a 10yo. And I do think that one was accurate.

So what I think happened: he was 10 when they had him at the consignment barn, but turned 11 sometime that spring (forever annoyed that I’ve never been able to learn more about his birthday or younger years). Which would mean that he was actually born in 2005, which means that in a few months I will have a 15yo horse.

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Francis using this as an excuse to say he canNOT do work anymore

This matters exactly 0% to me – his muscling and his coat look more amazing than ever (seriously, he is SO FREAKIN’ SHINY), he’s sound as a bell and healthy, and he truly looks better with every passing year. I suspect (and hope) he’s going to be the type that I can enjoy at varying levels well into his late 20s. Whether he’s 15 or 14 doesn’t change anything in terms of what we’re doing, because what we’re doing is clearly working for him.

But apparently I don’t even know how old my horse is, and for that I get to wear a dunce cap.

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Washington Regional 2019

I’m finally playing catch-up and covering our most recent show (it’s only about a month later, it’s fine it’s all fine).

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Cutest pony on the planet!

I was mostly excited for this show because it meant a chance to go in all 3 rings: we had two AA hunter classes and an adult medal planned for Friday, then the Low Adults over in the jumper ring on Saturday. I know it’s laughable to put us in the hunters, but he sure looks cute all braided up, and it was my only chance to get in the indoor before our medal class ran.

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Fun fact, he stood here licking the wall literally all day. Hours on end. He is a very speshul boy.

While we’ve done a couple derbies this year, this was actually our first time in a regular AA hunter class. Is he a good enough mover to pin? Not even close. Was he the ACTUAL CUTEST BOPPING AROUND ON A SOFT REIN AND FINDING HIS OWN SPOTS?? Yes. Yes he was. Like, catch us in the hunter ring because that was so much fun and he was literally the cutest creature to ever exist. I basically got up in my halfseat, grabbed mane, and let him do his diagonal-outside-diagonal-outside thing. He was like a happy lil rocking horse, entirely point and shoot and adorable. I died. I think both of us wish that he was a better mover because it was so low-stress and enjoyable for both of us.

I’m ultimately very glad we went in the two AA classes, because our adult medal ended up not running. There were 5 in it and then at the very last minute 2 scratched and they needed at least 4 to fill. We found out about this as we were trotting around the warmup getting ready, but we at least were near the cool photo op area!

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Drama llama not amused by being woken up from his nap to go work.

Overall it was a fun foray into a ring that we don’t usually go into. I do this whole showing thing for fun so I’m never bothered by the lack of ribbons if my horse was a good boy and did his job – which, yeah. It’s Francis. He’s always a good boy and always does his job. It’s literally always fun.

Saturday was our triumphant return to the jumper ring for the Adult Lows, with one speed class and one jumpoff class.

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Pretty basic speed round, it felt pretty hunterific to me. Lots of big bendings and the only real inside turns were from 6 to 7 and 7 to 8a.
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Those little back feetsies

Keeping up our streak of only ever winning speed classes, Frankie laid down an incredible pace to snag the blue! In a weird way, I almost knew we were going to before we even got to the first jump – I literally said to him under my breath, “let’s go win this” as we approached. He felt so locked on and focused, and I know that if I match his focus he can absolutely set the pace. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – speed is definitely my favorite format!

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Similar lines, this course felt even more basic than the speed round. Jumpoff didn’t have any wild turns either.
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Oh my gosh you angel boy just be cuter with those lil ears

We had a good long break before our jumpoff class, so the big guy got to go rest for a bit. I’ll say that class was definitely weaker – I thought I tipped a rail at 5b, so I decided to go for broke and leave out strides to be the fastest 4 faulter. Which then led to me ACTUALLY tipping a rail. It was A plan, it probably wasn’t the BEST plan. On the bright side, the mistakes that I made were very intentional. It wasn’t that I lost control or didn’t know what I was doing, it’s that I made the wrong call and my horse listened to me. I still see this as progress! My trainer noted that this so-so round was still more accurate and deliberate than my best rounds were not that long ago and I’ll absolutely take that as a win.

Despite our rail in the jumpoff, our win in the speed was enough for us to get the reserve champion ribbon! So far Francis has managed a tricolor in both division outings we’ve done this year.

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We even got a fancy little plate (which I think is cool) and a big bag of treats (which Frankie thinks is VERY cool)

This was a nice relaxed show for us, where we got to go have a great time playing around together. I’m feeling really great about our step down to the 1.0m classes – it has taken all nerves away about the height, Frankie is extremely confident, I’m not as worried about getting in his way, and it’s allowing us to be competitive without having to be perfect. I’m an amateur, this is supposed to be fun!

We’re now on a showing hiatus so I can save my pennies for Ocala, but I’m already very eager to get back in the ring with me big sweet boy. It’ll be a whole new set of competitors and big classes and I know we’re going to have a fantastic time.

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Even if he does make cranky faces when I wake him up from naptime.

Our First Clinic

At long last, I’m finally typing up my thoughts about our clinic with Will Simpson last month!

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There’s Francis trying to snuggle with Will! PC – Phelps Media Group

This was a one-day clinic where each group had 4-5 riders and about 90 minutes with Will to work on the flat and over fences. They started with the 3’6″ group, moved on to the 3’3″ group (which was mine!), took a lunch break and then had the 3′ and 2’6″ groups in the afternoon.

He had all of the groups do similar exercises on the flat, and I found this part really useful. Starting at the walk and eventually moving up to the canter, he has us establish a nice forward pace on a very loose rein, then add a bit of leg and a bit of hand to encourage a release over the poll. The instant the horse gives, you release the hands. Nothing groundbreaking in itself, but his explanation of the timing and aids definitely helped it click into place for me. He even got on Frankie to demonstrate!

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Not a big deal at all, just my horse being ridden by an Olympian.
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Francis: “Oh crap oh crap this isn’t my mom, he actually knows what he’s doing, this means work, MAHM COME GET ME”

For a horse that struggles with the concept and execution of self-carriage (or more accurately, a rider that struggles with the right way to ask for this), I’ve found this exercise to be extremely helpful in every ride since. I’m able to remind Frankie to soften and give, allow him a release when he gets it right, and decide how frequently and for how long I ask for it. Not only am I getting a rounder horse up into the bridle, but I’m able to ask for a more productive stretch once we’re warmed up.

You can even watch Will work with him on these exercises!

The next exercise he had us all do was a figure-8 over a pole at the walk, making sure to step over it with the inside front leg first. It was simply a very tight turn, eyes locked on the pole, and adjusting your track by moving left or right to get the perfect spot. I was a bit nervous about this since I am regularly a clueless monkey up top, but this actually worked pretty well. It was great practice for getting your eyes on an obstacle and keeping them there while making adjustments as necessary. He said he loves this exercise because it’s a great chance to practice precision and finding a spot without pounding the horse or stressing them out – they have no idea if they got it wrong since they’re just walking over a pole on the ground, so it’s easy to go try again.

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Francisco had those thinking ears on

The last big flat exercise he had us work on was cantering small circle-big circle-small circle. The way he had us do it was to pick up the canter on a very small circle to really encourage the horse to rock back and power up into the new gait, establish the canter on a larger circle, and then ask for the walk transition on a very small circle by using the turn to let them balance themselves into the downwards. I did like this a lot for Frankie – anything that puts the onus on him to balance and propel himself is very helpful and keeps his brain engaged. He caught on to this delightfully quickly and I really liked how the small circle discouraged him from “plopping” down into the walk.

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The actual most perfect Frankfurter be-boppin’ around

Then we moved on to some over fences work. The main exercise Will had our group do was coming to a small jump off a short left hand turn. His order of operations was: (1) lock eyes on the jump as soon as reasonably possible (2) use an opening rein to establish the bend towards the jump, then release the bend to allow flexibility in the track (3) actually jump the jump.

The hardest part for me was keeping my eyes on the jump for that long. Will really drilled it into us that once you look at the jump, you should not be looking away – that gives your brain the chance to get distracted and lose the spot. It definitely took some practice to not let my eyes wander off #easilydistracted and I noticed a difference when I was able to stay super focused on the jump. I found it interesting that he seemed to like a bigger flowier distance even to the little jump we were doing. For small jumps I usually try to put Frankie a bit at the base to encourage a better effort and I had to adjust to leave a bit further out for the spot Will wanted us to get.

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This is why I like a closer spot for small jumps – when we’re any further out, he’s comfortable cantering over it. And apparently taking a quick nap.

We moved on to doing 2 jumps on a circle, putting our eyes on the next fence while we were still over the previous one. Continuing to use the opening correcting rein to give us options on the track. It was interesting and certainly effective.

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It was the brown end jump and the tan RF jump (that was set smaller for our exercise). Bit of a circle of death in a good way.

And that was our session. Some good takeaways – nothing truly groundbreaking, but clearly communicated and good practice applying those concepts.

However.

There were several other exercises set up in the ring. There was a series of 8 bounces to encourage self-propulsion, and there was a gymnastic set up with 4 oxers each set one stride apart. I was really pumped to give those a go with our new skills. But then we broke for lunch and didn’t get to do either of them. Every other group got to do every exercise except for ours. Other groups ran over their allotted time to be able to do them while ours ended a bit early. I’m definitely salty about that. I’m not sure of the reason for it and I assume there is a logical one, but logically I also paid the same amount of money and would have liked the same opportunity to go through all the exercises.

You can read about all the exercises here: https://www.phelpssports.com/five-essential-exercises-olympic-gold-medalist-will-simpson/

You can also watch the 3’6″ group on USEF on demand here (complete with AT on her baby horse that she’s brought along from the ground up!): https://www.usef.org/network/coverage/2019rutledge/?cl=b

I will say that the venue itself and the way the clinic was run was wonderful. The farm is stunningly beautiful, the ring had great footing, there were snacks and water and a few little vendors set up, and I even got a swag bag! Frankie got some treats and I got a customized wine glass with the date and the clinician’s name on it. Not gonna lie, it made my hoarder heart want to go back and clinic there again just so I can collect a set. The host did a truly fantastic job of making me feel welcome and supported as a rider there, there were plenty of opportunities for auditors to ask questions, and you can’t beat the location.

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Is there anything better than a beautiful barn in Virginia in the fall? I think not.

I also had a great time with my friends that went, and of course I enjoy any opportunity to try new things with my favorite beast.

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Friends!
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The sweetest bay boys were happy to chill on the trailer while the other folks rode. Frankie loves Vinnie, and Vinnie solidly tolerates Frankie.
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This post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of Francis making some sort of funny face.

So overall thoughts: I’m kinda eh on it. It was fine. There were some interesting takeaways that I’ve found useful in the month since the clinic. I think I would’ve been perfectly happy for the novelty of riding with an Olympian if I had paid less for it. As is, I’m not thrilled that my group got less to do, and ultimately that colors my view. That being said, I’m already looking for the next clinician I want to ride with at that venue because the overall experience of participating there and the atmosphere was A+. Clinician was a decent 6/10, venue and experience were a solid 11/10.

 

BRB Dying

I know I haven’t yet gotten around to recapping our clinic or most recent show – recently I’ve been travelling to see family and to be in my dear friend’s wedding, school has been fascinating but busy, work has been demanding a bit more time, and I’m straight up exhausted. I’ll get to it when I get to it.

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My college roommates are the prettiest, you can’t change my mind.

I haven’t had a lesson in several weeks now due to travel and feeling run down, and luckily Francisco has been getting plenty of exercise and love. He’s getting his first clip of the season soon (partially to help him cool off after exercise, and partially so his fluff doesn’t trap his stench so strongly). I’m a bit of a hands-off owner right now as I try to gain some energy and consistency back. In the past I’ve felt some guilt about needing to step back, but at this point I know that he’s perfectly happy and healthy and will be waiting for me.

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His favorite junior has been cooling him out with beautiful walkabouts. He’s a happy camper.

We do have a bit of a break from showing for the winter, which certainly helps. November historically is a pretty quiet month for us and is a good reset after a busier-than-expected show season. My plan is to keep Francis in comfortable moderate work to maintain fitness, then start ramping back up in December.

Because we’re planning to head to Ocala for our February vacation! I still need to hash out the details with my boss and barn-wise we’re still building our cohort, but WBH (World’s Best Husband) and I talked about the expense and the tradeoffs and he’s supportive of us making the trip. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – I’m unbelievably grateful for this guy and his encouragement of these hare-brained schemes.

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Even if this is what happens when I ask him to take a nice picture

We’re planning to be down there for two weeks in February doing jumper and eq classes to our heart’s content. We already have a barn outing planned to see the manatees and it looks to be a good group heading down (let’s be honest, we always have a good group).

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So stinkin’ excited to be in the sun again, this time with my most favorite horse in the world.

My one concern is figuring out how to do work/schoolwork while I’m down there. I remember in 2016 that there was some spotty wifi in the food building, but I also heard a rumor that they’ve improved their wifi coverage and even added some to the barn areas. Have any of you been there recently and can share your experience with the wifi? Would love to know if I need to invest in a hotspot device!

Short version: I’m beyond worn out from an incredibly busy fall, but quieter times are coming before ramping back up for a wonderful spring.

Horse of the Year

I didn’t buy a super fancy horse back in 2016. I bought a safe, athletic horse with the kindest eye I’ve ever seen, but I did not buy fancy.

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I love him dearly, but he does kinda have the conformation and movement of a cart horse.

I had very moderate expectations for what we would do together. I had my sights set on the 1.10m jumpers and hoped to compete in some bigger shows, but mostly wanted a safe partner to learn new skills on.

Obviously Frankie blew this out of the water – he’s earned me ribbons up to 1.15m and has even done 1.20m with my trainer, and has held his own at some of the biggest shows in the country. Fancy or not, this horse can jump and walks into the ring with a swagger in his step because he knows how good he is at his job.

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He walks out with a strut and a smile too

And then this past year was a reset of sorts. I got married and went back to school, and our super intense training was put down a notch into a more moderate schedule. Frankie gained a bit of a belly and got a bit fuzzy – like I keep saying, he’s not the fanciest horse. With the scale back in our training came a scale back in my expectations for him.

Within the last three weeks alone, my kind un-fancy horse has won division champion in the jumpers, participated beautifully in a clinic with an Olympic rider, toted me around the Adult Amateur hunters, and carried me to yet another division tricolor in the jumper ring. Expectations be damned, Frankie cheerfully showed up for all of it.

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Calmly interested, eager to hop on the trailer and explore new places, always turning around for ear rubs when he thinks he deserves them (which is constantly), and always happy to receive love from his people (which is everyone). His contentment in his job makes it all a joy.

Sometime soon I’ll get around to recapping our clinic experience, and sometime soon I’ll share our recent show where he moved flawlessly from the hunter ring to the jumper ring, but for now I’m just going to shamelessly dote on my imperfect, un-fancy, perfectly fancy horse.

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Yeah buddy, you can have all the ear rubs in the entire world.

Our Show Warmup

I realized that while I love giving you all a blow-by-blow of our shows, I tend to gloss over the way that we warm up for our rounds. Not that it’s particularly exciting, but every horse is a bit different and it seems that we all have slightly different approaches to the way we prepare to enter the ring.

 

The main title of our approach is: Conserve All Energy. That is really our goal behind all showing decisions, but it especially comes into play in the warmup ring.

What this means in practice is as short of a warmup as I can reasonably get away with, while still making sure my horse’s muscles are stretched and ready to go.

To go into a bit more detail, I tend to mount at our stall and use the walk to the warmup ring to set the tone of  “we move forward off the leg when it’s time to work.” By the time we get to the ring, I may do a lap or so at the walk depending on timing, but we get to work pretty quickly.

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Stretchies on a loose rein to get us goin’. PC – A. Frye

At this point it’s just about loosening up. I’ll do a couple laps each direction at the trot and then the canter to get the blood flowing and start really reinforcing the GO button. Light contact and a supportive leg to reassure him in a new environment but not asking for much yet.

Once we’re all on board with the forward motion, I’ll do a few lengthenings/shortenings within the gaits to tune him into my seat and make sure he’s fully paying attention. Maybe a few little shoulder-ins to help move his body a bit more. At this point I start picking up more of a feel as he starts lighting up a little.

And that’s my flat warmup. Short, simple, to the point. Francis is luckily well-behaved and attentive in busy rings, so we do not use this as a schooling opportunity – it is simply a warmup in the purest sense of the word: we warm up our muscles. We may throw in a few extra shoulder-ins on the rare occasion that he takes offense to a wheelbarrow by the rail, or we may do a few more transitions if he’s feeling antsy, but by and large I simply use this chance to make sure we’re paying attention to each other and are ready to jump. I very much want to save his energy for the jumping efforts.

Which we also try to limit before we go in. We’ll pop over a vertical a couple times, going up in height every time. We’ll then move to an oxer and do that 2-3 times. By that point we should be up to full competition height. We’ll then usually reset to a vertical and go up a bit over competition height to remind Frankie to pick up his feetsies. If there’s a particularly tough turn on course we’ll end practicing that turn – for example, if I know that there’s a point in my course where we have to land and immediately turn right, I’ll practice coming off a short approach and immediately turn. It sets the tone for him that he needs to be asking where we’re going at all times rather than assuming.

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Always always, the emphasis is on forward and straight to the base to encourage a good effort. PC – A. Frye

That’s pretty much it. We limit our flatwork to what we need to prepare to jump, and we limit our jumps to get us up to height and ready to turn. I like to head over to the ring when I’m 1 or 2 out which gives us a brief break to walk and relax before picking up the reins and heading in.

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I like to take this chance to let him relax and reset mentally so he feels fresh going into the ring.

That’s our warmup in a nutshell! It tends to be shorter than many others that I see, but over the years we’ve found that it works best for us. I have a fairly lazy horse, we often compete in the heat, and I like him to exit the show ring still feeling like he has plenty of gas in the tank.

I know warmups look very different for everyone, especially across disciplines – how do you approach warming up at shows?

Piedmont Jumper Classic 2019

We came, we saw, we jumped! After much of a spring and summer spent dabbling in the other rings, we spent our whole weekend chasing time and rails.

The short version in case you’re in a rush: I am proud almost to the point of tears with the Frankfurter. He was beyond professional in a big ring and packed my rusty butt around the Lows with those cheerful ears hunting down the jumps, including some delightful inside turns. Best Boy Francis is very much Best Boy and he earned us the ribbons to prove it.

For those of you not in the area, this show is held on the same showgrounds as Upperville and Loudoun Benefit, but only on the jumper side. The way the schedule ran meant all my classes went in the main ring over there – which you may remember as the class Frankie and I were in for our very first classes together as a team a few years ago. Despite returning to Upperville/Loudoun for several years since then, I’ve been in other rings. So this was actually the first time we’ve back in that giant ring since that very first show! Talk about a walk down memory lane.

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A little throwback to 2016 when I first saw my name in lights when we marched in that ring. Emotions!

Originally the plan was to go in and do a 0.90m as a warmup on Friday, see how that felt, then plan on doing the Low classes later that day and throughout the weekend.

Fate is funny though. Just like that first show back in 2016, the schedule got moved around fairly last minute so that the 0.90m ended up running in a different ring AFTER the Lows had already gone. So much like 2016, we ended up going straight into the Lows and saying “cool cool cool this is probably fine.” The parallels with that show really were kinda comical.

But no matter how similar, there were a few big major difference from that first show. Instead of it being the first 1.0m class for both of us, we now have several years under our belt competing even higher. Our confidence over this height is rock solid, our skill set over this height is solid, and nowadays Frankie really is a schoolmaster dream to pilot around the jumper ring. I know I say this all the time, but he’s just so. dang. good. at his job and it makes taking him around a downright pleasure.

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Big smiles all around with this excellent creature

Our first round on Friday was a mix – we ended up with 3 rails, but I’m actually extremely happy with the ride. Frankie was accurate, forward, and responsive. I don’t think either of us did anything really *wrong* to have those rails, I simply think he wasn’t expecting to have to do a full round at that height. It’s been a little while. Considering how long it’s been since we’ve gone around the jumper ring (6+ months) and how long it’s been since he’s had to compete over 3′ (14ish months), I was thrilled with how well he remembered the game.

Saturday was a speed round. In case you didn’t know, speed rounds are my FAVORITE OMG I LOVE THEM. It’s just you and the course, being as efficient and aggressive as possible to get. it. done. No phases, no separate jumpoffs. Just one round to go kill it.

And kill it we did. Francis was a STAR. He galloped up when I asked, he sat down when I needed him to, he helped me out when I gave a bit of an override, I helped him out when he needed some support to rebalance into a shorter line. He landed asking to turn and locked onto every jump. It was fantastic. We went early in the class to set the pace and held onto the lead for the blue ribbon.

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Have you ever seen a more handsome hunk?!?!!?
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The most handomest derp in all the land
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Our awesome kiddo won her High Children’s jumper class earlier that day, so it was a fantastic day for the barn!

Sunday was our stakes class with a jumpoff, which ended up getting combined with the Low Children’s. Frankie is always a bit tired on Sundays and needs a bit more support so my plan always accounts for that a bit. A surprising number of people that day were going clear in the first round but getting time faults, so I knew we couldn’t take our time at all. We certainly had to take turns helping each other out over such a long course but ultimately Frankie did pull out a clear round within time allowed!

Our jumpoff came up pretty fantastically – I swung way wider on a rollback than I had planned which ate up some unnecessary strides (around 0:32 in the video below), but we did a pretty killer inside turn (0:40ish) and a super fun slice (0:47ish) that I don’t think many people ended up doing.

Double clear and a speedy jumpoff were enough to clinch us 3rd behind two children, which also earned us champion in the division for the weekend!

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Frankie: “Why did you pull me out of my stall for this?? I cannot eat this?? Mahm??”

In a nutshell: Frankie was perfect, we had a total blast, and he is incredibly good at his job. I’m also very glad that we chose the division that we did – sticking with the 1m classes right now means that we can go in and build confidence while trying some of those tougher turns without overfacing ourselves. While I’d love to eventually get back into the bigger classes, this was 100% the right choice for where we are right now.

To close out, I’d like to share with you my new favorite photo ever taken of all time:

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I….I have no words.

And an obligatory nap pic:

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Cheers to a fantastic weekend of fun and jumps with the bestest horse to ever exist!

Can We Try This Again

Y’all, I’ve been riding my horse more often and for longer times lately and IT FEELS AMAZING. He’s giving me lovely work, he’s jumping out of his skin and firing off the ground beautifully, and he’s straight up happy. I’ve told you so many times that the big dude thrives in a fuller training regimen and the proof is so clear – his already playful and curious nature is absolutely next level these days.

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I need to remember how to hold my position more tightly when the jumps go back up a bit, but the Frankfurter is simply excellent at his job

 

We’ve been incorporating more conditioning rides and as it turns out – Francis is totally faking being a chunk. I mean, physically he’s obviously rockin’ that Dad Bod. But endurance-wise? Barely sweating, not even puffing. Jokes on him, that just means we’re making these sets longer and more difficult. Seriously Francis, now I don’t believe you when you say you’re exhausted after trotting two laps.

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Couldn’t quite seem to keep all my body parts coordinated through this grid, but I’m confident it’ll all come back in time. 

Making the point to ride more frequently and with more focus is also straight up making me a better person in all areas of my life. I know it was the right call to take a small step back from riding for the wedding and for school, but now that I have a better handle on things I definitely prefer getting back into my previous 5-6x a week schedule. It forces me to be more disciplined and productive with my time and I’m simply a better student, employee, wife, daughter, friend, etc. when I’m getting my full horse fix. I suspect a lot of you know the feeling.

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We’re both much happier when we get extra time to goof off together.

As you may have seen in pictures, I also got myself a new helmet during the IHAD weekend sales! And this whole thing is actually where the title of this post comes in. As you may or may not remember, I got a new helmet about a year ago – I went to Dover, tried on a bunch, and was informed that nothing really fit my head except the CO that I ultimately ended up buying. I was super bummed because I had really liked a Samshield I had tried on previously, but we all know that helmet fit is paramount and that was basically the only thing they had in stock that truly fit my head. The rep there sadly informed me that the Samshields just didn’t fit my head as well.

You know what I wish she had said instead, that would’ve been more accurate? “The Samshields THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE IN STOCK don’t fit you as well.” That sentence would have been accurate.

Because back in June, I stopped by one of my favorite show vendors to peruse their ever-lovely merchandise. I admired the Samshields yet again but informed the rep there that sadly my head was not destined for such breathability. She then proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes pulling out not only different SIZES of liner, but different SHAPES. Because newsflash guys, Samshield makes liners for both round and oval heads. And it turns out that yes, Samshield does have an option that fits me perfectly and safely and is extremely comfortable (and yes, I have basically a child-sized head). I didn’t pull the trigger and buy it on the spot because I was in the midst of paying for the show – but with truly amazing service, the rep wrote down all the info I needed to be able to order it myself when I was ready.

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After a VERY intense week of lessons/pro rides/conditioning rides, we did have a much-needed toodling day to stretch our muscles and recover. I love my mobile couch so much.

So fast forward to now, I went ahead and ordered it from their site. They put in the customer service and effort so they 100% deserved that sale. And I now have a helmet that fits perfectly, helps with the sweaty head, makes me feel super fancy, AND I can swap out different sized liners so I can actually safely wear my hair either up or down. This is LIFE CHANGING to no longer get a blinding headache when I need to wear my hair up in the eq ring.

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Francisco approves of it and that’s clearly the most important thing

So the moral of the story is that when working with a salesperson, it would be good if that salesperson is not only knowledgeable in what you’re talking about, but is willing to, I don’t know, PULL OUT ANOTHER SIZE WHEN ONE DOESN’T FIT.

And in a quick mishmash of other updates: Frankie’s leg wound is healing great with no complications, we’re psyched for our show this upcoming weekend, and I finally bought brunette hairnets (I haven’t been blonde in many years). All good stuff.

Time to Tighten Up

As we’re heading into our busy fall, I’m thinking hard about how to make sure Frankie is ready to tackle every adventure feeling fit and healthy. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing his workload at shows so he doesn’t get too tired – he never does more than 2 classes a day, and we stick to 1 when possible – but the clinic we’re signed up for does have a roughly 90 minute slot. I definitely don’t want to be the pair that’s losing energy halfway through, so conditioning is the name of the game!

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I feel like this angle is EXTRA unflattering but yeah he’s a real chonky boi right now

To do that, I’m trying to increase the length of our rides. My lessons once a week are obviously a full hour, but historically I’ve let myself get lazy with our other rides. I’ve been making an effort lately to help increase both of our fitness levels by pushing a bit harder (within reason) and this is roughly what I’ve come up with:

Lesson 1x a week. Hoping to transition back into private lessons on Fridays this fall as the show season slows down a bit – maybe even this week? A full hour private lesson vs full hour group lesson is quite different in terms of duration of work. And I do miss those private sessions where we can really drill into the specifics of what Frankie needs from me to be better.

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Honestly I kinda desperately need some dedicated attention so we can look like this again

Training rides 2x a week. These happen mid-week and to be fair I do need these days at home to get schoolwork done. These tend to not be hugely long sessions since AT has plenty of horses to get done. They’re more targeted at tuning up his sensitivity and getting him to work really correctly, which is more of a weight-lifting exercise for him. I then usually manage to undo all this hard work from week to week, but that’s fine we don’t need to talk about that.

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My trainer can literally make my horse go around a course this big looking happy and confident so yeah big fan of what she’s doing with him

Conditioning rides 2x a week. I’ve been keeping up with our hill sets with some degree of success when weather cooperates for us to get out in that field. We’re up to 6 sets up the long steep hill, and I think we can comfortably add a 7th the next time out. He’s definitely sweaty and puffing by the end, but less so than when we started. It’s also a long enough walk back down to the bottom that he gets solid recovery time between sets. I also kicked off trot set days, which are the most boring thing ever but super helpful. After the first couple sets Frankie likes to offer some great stretch, so I think these days will be a great mental break for him to stretch out and metaphorically jog on a treadmill for an hour (with regular breaks, of course).

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Off to the right is the hill we use, it’s nice and steep and goes on just long enough that Francis hates me by the time we reach the top

Practice rides 1-2x a week. These days are more for me than for Frankie, and these are really the ones I need to extend. Our dedicated practice days tend to feature pole work, focus on improving our lateral work, tons of transitions, and getting Francis super tuned in to me. These days he’s so dang good at his job that I tend to ask, get the right answer, and want to let him be done because he was a Good Boy. I need to get more creative about offering breaks in different ways without being done so we can continue to improve our stamina while reinforcing those skills.

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Note to self practice rides are for more than just bopping around on a loose rein

This puts me on roughly 4 times a week, which is proving to be fairly attainable with my school schedule these days! Francis also recently got his hocks and SI injected, is getting a massage next week, and has been seeing the chiro regularly. I’m hoping that with some help from my trainer during the week, this schedule and support will help him feel his best for our busy schedule of fall outings coming up through the end of the year!