Day in the Life: Full Training Edition

So I realized that I talked a ton last year about how busy I was, how much time I spent at the barn, balancing everything, blah blah blah we’re all adults and all have to deal with this Olivia calm down. But then I realized that I never really laid out what that schedule looked like for me, and I’m self-indulgent and want to share.

Without further ado, this is what my schedule looked like when Frankie and I were in hardcore mode. Also this is admittedly an idealized version- we all know that things came up and changed day to day. It looked a little different throughout the week, so I’ll walk through what that was.

Tuesday-Thursday

5:30a- up for a workout. Mostly strength work with resistance bands, with some cardio thrown in. The program I used had fantastic 30-40 min workouts that hit that balance for me really well. (I’m using a different program these days that I actually like MUCH more. Still 5:30a wakeups though)

6:30a- grab breakfast, rinse off, listen to music, tidy up the house if necessary. The Spousal Unit does all the cooking around here so I cover dishes, and I’m usually too tired at night. So morning chores it is.

7:05a/7:15a- head to work. I work about 0.75 miles away from our condo, so I try to walk if weather permits. Sometimes I’m lazy or tired or cold or just a useless lump and I’ll drive. Either way, I call my dad to chat with him to start my day off. It’s the best way to kick off my morning.

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He loves his grandpony

7:30a- log in and start working! Regular office hours are 8:30a-5:30p, but I have an alternate schedule to get me in and out a little earlier. My boss and the entire leadership team seem fascinated by the whole horse thing, so they’ve been incredibly supportive and flexible with me.

5:00p- log off and hop in the car. Sit in traffic for a little under an hour to get to the barn. Ugh. I usually call the SO, my mom, my best friend, my sister in law, really anyone to keep me company. I legit hate being in the car so much. If any of you are ever free between 5 and 6pm EST and want to chat, lemme know. I require constant entertainment, and still have this commute most days.

6:00p(ish)- get to the barn, woohoo! During the summer Frankie was outside at night, so I’d either text AT around lunchtime to ask her to keep him in for me, or just go out and get him. He’s a brat and doesn’t come to the gate, so I have to tromp around to collect him. His patented move is to wait for me to come close, then walk a few steps away, then stop and wait for me to halter him. It’s not running away, it’s just enough to be annoying UGH FRANCIS.

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Can’t even get mad bc he’s the actual cutest

Timing then was flexible. Sometimes I’d hop on right away if the ring was relatively quiet, sometimes I’d wait a bit for it to quiet down. Or for there to be adults in the ring with solid steering. All the horses in the barn are fine with some traffic, but it’s always nice to have a bit more room to spread out. During the week we did a lot of flatwork, sometimes over poles if they were set up, lots of lateral work, extensions/collections/etc. I always tried to go along with whatever gait the lesson is working in to make it easier. Some days I’d head out for a trail ride to cool off, or some days I’d hop on bareback and plop around when we needed a mental break.

8:30/9/9:30p- head out. Usually I’d be off the horse by 8 or 8:30 at the latest, but somehow I almost always got sucked into chatting with my barn friends (still do tbh). They’re a super cool bunch. At this point traffic died down and I could make it home within 25-30 minutes or so.

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In my rickety old Jeep that had questionable brakes things were fine I lived

Once I was home (between 9-10ish), it was dinner-shower-bed in pretty quick succession. Maybe an episode of something if it was early enough. But I’m an annoying cranky turnip if I don’t get at least 7-8 hours of sleep and my husband is the sleepiest man alive, so bedtime seemed like a better idea.

So that’s Monday through Thursday! The slightly longer workdays meant that Fridays were (and still are) my flex days, which is totally awesome.

Friday

No workout in the morning. Maybe a stretch session, a jog, or a walk. Maybe not.

Log on to my computer around 7:30 or 8am from home. I try to do all my “tasks” earlier in the week, and save my WFH days for the more conceptual stuff- storyboarding, sketching out layouts for new projects, things like that. I have my little workstation set up in our den, but sometimes I’ll curl up on the couch and work there.

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This is my spot and it’s my favorite place to curl up ever

Log off around 11:30/noon. Since I work longer days Mon-Thurs, I only had to put in a few hours on Fridays!

Then it was time to head to the barn. Since 1p doesn’t count as rush hour, I could make it there in 30 min or so.

Friday afternoons were (and sometimes still are) for private lessons. These. Were. Intense. Sometimes these were entirely flatwork, sometimes grid-focused, sometimes jumping. Usually the jumps were fairly small as we focused on skills, but we bumped them up a couple times a month so I could remember how to see a spot to the bigger fences. I was usually gasping for air and had noodle legs by the end. But I also was beaming with satisfaction at what we accomplished.

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A satisfied Frankfurter. PC- Liz Stout Photography

By the time Frankie was cooled out and put away, other people started to arrive as their kids got out of school/they got out of work. There aren’t usually any lesson kids on Fridays, so it’s the core group. We take turns bringing wine, we watch the juniors ride, we chat, it’s awesome. Friday barn happy hours are the actual best.

Depending on how much I got sucked into happy hour, I’d try to do some grocery shopping on my way home and start doing laundry/cleaning/anything else that I didn’t have time to take care of between Mon-Thurs. Eeeevery once in a while I’d get to see some friends.

Weekends

Weekends were mainly spent with morning/afternoons at the barn, afternoons/evenings at home. Or at horse shows. Everything that normal people do during the week got shoved into these days.

Monday

The weekend of the horse world, right? This was Frankie’s day off, and mine as well by default. This was my day to just go home after work and relax. No chores. No anything. Just hang out at home.

At this point, Frankie was being ridden 6x/week by myself, and 2x/week by AT, getting 1 day off, along with hilly turnout every day. It was certainly hardcore mode for both of us.

So there you have it. That’s what my life looked like for much of 2018.

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It was a great schedule, even when I felt a bit hectic. But I’m sure you can see why it wasn’t particularly sustainable once I added hardcore wedding planning into the mix, and now adding classes into the mix. I’m currently at a more moderate 3-4x/week schedule with Francis and while I certainly miss the drive and focus of 2018, I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the journey in a different way.

A Love Letter to Training Rides

While I had my Trainer or AT hop on Frankie with some regularity (if not frequency) during the first few years of owning him, 2018 was the first year that I set aside a larger portion of our budget for a more regimented schedule of training rides. Frankie spent pretty much all of our show season in his 2x/week program of pro rides in addition to his rides with me.

As a training tool for competition, these rides were absolutely invaluable. My lessons always built on the exercises that Frankie had worked on that week, so there was a ton of consistency and continuity in our work. The extra saddle time helped his fitness immensely, and the correctness of the work made sure the right muscles were developing appropriately. It was a very sympathetic program, but rigorous nonetheless. And while Frankie likes to pretend that he’s a lazy slug that hates work, he actually thrived in such a busy program- both physically and mentally.

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AT taking Frankfurter in a schooling round at Lake Placid before I arrived

But as we kick off 2019, I’m not in the midst of show season, I’m not planning on having a particularly busy or competitive show season in the next few months- but I still have Frankie in a 2x/week program.

And I still love it just as much, albeit for slightly different reasons.

For one, there’s the continued benefit to Frankie. His training rides are tailored to exactly what he needs to work on- not any other horse, not his rider. Just him. While he’s always been a confident horse, I’ve found that these sessions have made that confidence absolutely skyrocket as he’s been set up for success and praised for trying. He’s kept fit, he’s kept limber, he’s kept educated.

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A very blurry screenshot of AT taking Frankie in for miles in the 1.20m at Upperville

But there’s also several enormous benefits to me.

The first and most obvious benefit is when I’m in the saddle. A fit and well-educated horse is a million times easier and (in my book) more fun to ride. Especially Frankie, who tunes into me much more easily when he’s in consistent moderate-heavy work. So as I’m getting back into shape and gaining my strength back, having his help makes it much easier and more enjoyable. Basically I only have to worry about myself since I know he’s got this on lock.

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And AT giving him a great ride in his first ever 1.20m class at Blue Rock

The other benefit is when I’m out of the saddle- namely, that I actually feel that I can take days out of the saddle. As much as I love being at the barn and want to be there all the time, I have other responsibilities to take care of (that I ignored for like 3 years straight womp womp). It used to be that I’d try to cram everything in after the barn and would have to stay up super late, or I’d just push everything to the weekend when I had a bit more time. But now I feel like I can take a day to go home after work and take care of things without feeling guilty about not seeing Frankie. He’s still getting worked, he’s still progressing. It’s allowing me to find a different balance in my life without sacrificing Frankie’s quality of workload.

Basically instead of trying to be an ammy that trains like a pro, these pro rides let me be an ammy that trains like an ammy. Some days I’m a pretty good ammy, some days I’m a pretty floppy ammy, some days I’m an absentee ammy, some days I’m a competitive ammy. I work hard, I cross train, I spend most of my time obsessing about my horse and his care and his work and his health and his schedule and all things Francis-related. But it’s really really refreshing to give myself permission to spend time on other things every once in a while without feeling like I’m trading away my progress in the saddle.

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All that pro attention has made one extremely ammy-friendly pony

I’m still figuring out what my new normal is as a newlywed, and I’m so grateful to have the help of wonderful people and a great program at the barn to help me as I adjust.

 

Making the Small Stuff Fun

I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that we don’t school Francis at heights over 3′ too often, preferring to work on our skills at a lower height. This is mainly to ensure that we’re not putting too much impact on his joints too often, but it also has the benefit of really tuning him in to my aids.

The reason for that is because left to his own devices, Frankie doesn’t care about jumps below 3’ish. He can trot those. He. Does. Not. Care. You can put him on the buckle and kick him at them and he will take a slightly-glorified canter stride over. And for lower levels of skill and fitness, this is totally fine. For a school horse this is desirable even. Let him take care of the smaller stuff so that his rider can focus on her own skills.

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Back in the first few months of owning him, sans stirrups and letting him just take the wheel so I could work on me. Not the end of the world, but we’re not really helping him develop.

But in that scenario, he’s also not really learning to use his body over the jumps and he’s not building his fitness at all. He’s just cantering. It doesn’t do much for his attention span or his muscles.

So something that we’ve worked on extensively is making him care about the small jumps. When we trot a crossrail, he must carry me to it and then away without lurching half-heartedly over it (have I mentioned lately how much I hate trot jumps??). When we canter small verticals, he must listen when I place him at the base, and he must pick his feet up. Once he’s fired up and moving, he must STILL compress when I ask so that he can jump well.

He must care about the small jumps just as much as he cares about the big jumps, or else the skills we’re working on won’t transfer as smoothly.

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The angle makes this look bigger than it was. He had a lovely bouncy canter going in, he had lovely freedom of motion over the jump, and he had a lovely forward canter away- even though this is still trot-able height for him.

This did not come naturally at first to Francis as I mentioned, and it’s still something that I have to be conscious of every ride. It requires a solid squeeze off the ground to support him and let him know that I’m still active so he must be too.

I’ve found that the benefits of this are entirely worth it. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Keeping him tuned into me at all times. There is no such thing as being left to his own devices. He learns that the answer is always ALWAYS to check in with his pilot. This majorly helps his rideability and sensitivity on the flat and over fences.
  • Building hind-end strength. At the lower heights, I will pretty much always ask him to fit the stride in to the base. This requires him to power off the ground even for lower jumps.
  • Developing the jumper chip. Much as there is a hunter gap, there is also a jumper chip that we like. Practicing that at the lower heights helps him build the muscle and the memory to aim for that spot as the fences go up. He jumps much more cleanly and carefully from that close spot, so this helps him develop the ability to carry himself powerfully from there.
  • By using his body properly, we can practice everything at a lower height in a way that translates directly to the bigger heights. Our canter, our takeoff, our landing are all the same- the only change is how much time we spend in the air. We don’t need to revisit our stride power and stride length as the jumps go up as much, since we’re already working on that. This makes it that much easier to raise the jumps since he already has the tools he needs.

This is something I only started working on with him after a year or so of getting to know each other. It’s never something that I even considered as a problem- I thought that “he just doesn’t care about the small jumps!” was a positive and never thought to address it. Now that we’ve learned to make him care about the small jumps, I can recognize how much it’s helped us in so many aspects of our riding, while having the benefit of better preserving his joints.

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Not to mention that this careful work has helped him develop muscles in allll the right places.  PC- Liz Stout Photography

We’ll likely spend a good amount of time at some lower heights as we both get our sea legs back, but we’ll definitely be working hard at it!

Smartypants McRetainsWell

I’m officially all healed up from my tailbone injury and back in the saddle! I think taking a solid week or two of next-to-no activity was just what I needed to let the inflammation die down. Even with the holiday this week it looks like I’ll get a solid 4 rides in. That’s more than I’ve done in months!

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My Christmas present was being able to ride pain-free!

True to form, Francis has been an angel boy for me. I’m comically low on endurance, so he’s pretty thrilled about the frequent walk breaks as I gasp for air. I WOULDN’T BE SO OUT OF BREATH IF YOU’D JUST MOVE FORWARD MORE, HORSE. He’s a little confused and annoyed that after so long I’m asking him for correct work again and actually backing that up with some semblance of leg, but is begrudgingly delivering.

And luckily he remembers all the stuff we worked on over the summer. He thinks self-carriage is The Worst and would rather not, but I’m not having to hold his hand nearly as much as I did last spring. This is regular “would rather nap” and not “I literally have no clue what’s going on” like it used to be.

I’m also really really glad that we opted to bump up to 2x/week with AT as I get back into it. She’s definitely sharpening him back up so that when I’m on he’s able to respond quickly and correctly, and it’s certainly helping get him back in shape. It means that he sometimes gets ridden twice a day but he’ll live. I promise.

It’s funny, now that he’s back in a more intense program, he actually comes out more eager to work. He’s gone back to shoving his face in the bridle and putting his face at chest level for me to tack up. Legit he was mouthing around looking for the bit as I tacked up the other day. So he can fake the grumpies all he wants, he actually loves having a job to do.

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“hello mahm would like scritches pls”

The super fun part right now is that my muscle memory is definitely there. I know how to ride my horse to get good work out of him, and I know the timing I need to ask. You know what’s not there? The muscle strength. You know, a very minor consideration. Those things combined mean that I’m riding him pretty well since my body does it fairly automatically, and then the next day I wake up INCREDIBLY SORE.

It’s the best sore I’ve ever felt. I’m so incredibly happy to be back on board this creature and back in a training program.

So our short term steps forward: Mama needs to work out, hard. I already have my program chosen and will be kicking that off this weekend. Between that and returning to a 5-6x/week riding schedule I think the first month of the new year may be a bit achy. It’ll be fine.

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I even went for a jog. It was awful. I’ll probably do it again soon.

We’re also looking to restart the private and/or semi-private lessons- it turns out our other rider in my division is also free on Friday afternoons, so we may combine forces! We’ll play showing by ear, likely making an excursion in the Lows in January or early February depending on what’s available, timing of any injections, finances, etc. I don’t have any major competitive goals for this year besides enjoying ourselves, and will likely be trying to save money for more clinics and training opportunities.

A few things tentatively on the radar are trailering in for a lesson with Joe Fargis, potentially doing Team Finals again, signing up for when George comes to town in the fall, and Upperville. Because I can’t NOT go to Upperville. We’ll see what happens as we get back into shape!!

 

Order of Operations

Since I’m still doing super boring things in the saddle (aka walking around with two coolers and letting my pony snoot all the things in the ring for 20 minutes), I’m going to talk for a while about what we used to do when we did not-boring things. Today specifically I’m going to talk about the different skills we tackled with Frankie, what order we tackled them in, and why (not that I always have stellar insights, but I’ll try to articulate it).

To start, let’s rewind to the “base” that we started with when I bought Frankie. I won’t go over this again because I talk about this literally all the time (the words “good egg” and “broke but inexperienced” come up a lot). In a nutshell, we had a physically and mentally mature horse with decent fitness and the basic buttons firmly installed. A fantastic base to work with!

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Calm, obedient, and love at first sight.

The very first thing we worked on was the go button. We ignored my equitation for a while, we ignored collection (for the most part), we ignored technique, we ignored a great many things and we made. the. horse. move. forward. off. my. damn. leg. This was not a trivial exercise for a horse like Frankie, who had made it to the age of 10 without reeeeally needing to move very fast. We were NOT trying to gallop him off his feet, just make sure he understood that he must move forward promptly when asked. Thankfully he did catch on to this fairly quickly and while he’s certainly still a leg workout, I find him appropriately responsive and downright speedy when I ask.

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OMG HORSE MOVE IT PLS (this is before I figured out the joys of the driving seat)

Once we had a HAUL ASS button installed, we started focusing more on straightness. Not only must he move forward promptly, he must do so without trying to evade out sideways. The outside rein started being mentioned more often. Transitions had to happen without losing the shoulder or haunch. Walking in a straight line had to be a thing. Lateral work was our friend here, connecting his different parts and teaching him that he can move them independently. Going sideways in order to go straight, in a sense. He still likes to wiggle at the walk if left unattended, and will throw his shoulder out if I let him, but is much more educated to that straightness.

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“NO GO STRAIGHT I WANNA DO MY GANGSTA LEAN”

So then we had forward and straight. WOAH REVOLUTIONARY IT’S ALMOST LIKE THIS IS THE BASIS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE.

The next thing we did? Put the jumps up. This is around when we moved up to the 1.10-1.15m height and started schooling some bigger jumps at home. I don’t know that I would recommend this 100% of the time to 100% of people on 100% of horses, but I’m comfortable with how this worked for us. It wasn’t until we introduced some height that Frankie started really figuring out how to use his body a bit better over the jumps, and that now translates over the lower fences as well.

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“Oh wait you mean like THIS OH OK GOT IT”

In conjunction with that, moving up to the next division introduced some more difficult turns as we started exploring the inside options. Getting him to move not only forward, but sideways off my leg was crucial. Counter-bending through turns. Maintaining good balance. All that good stuff.

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I also learned that it really helps to actually look where I’m going. Weird, right?

This is around when we also began a more in depth conversation about adjustability. Can I place my horse where I want him? Can I feel my stride length and adjust to ride the plan? Our collection work became more intense as we pushed the envelope- changing his stride length between 10-14′ was no longer acceptable, we wanted 8-16′ of play or more. “Canter up and down like a carousel pony” was said more than once. Frankie did not like learning this skill. Collection is hard, yo. Butt muscles got sore.

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It sure did help his quality of movement at all stride lengths tho

And finally, we began having a really serious conversation about self-carriage. I know what many of you are thinking- WOAH THAT IS BACK ASSWARDS. I get it. But the fact is that up to this point, we were chugging along pretty well, and likely could’ve continued chugging along if I hadn’t said “hmm I wonder if Frankie can jump 1.20m” one day. He was always obedient and athletic enough to do just fine. Frankie is incredibly hard to push up into the bridle, both conformationally and in way of going. It absolutely does not occur to him at ALL and even now that he’s a bit more educated, it takes constant reminders. Convincing him that this is how life is now was very difficult and came with many grumpy ears. Getting him to carry his own dang head around sharpened up every other ask and took it to the next level.

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“NO NO NO NO HATE NO NO NO” PC- Liz

 

But ultimately, we now have a horse that knows how to use his body, moves powerfully across the ground, is adjustable and forward, and is broke as shit. The self-carriage is by no means a complete check in the box- we have a ways to go to really help him understand and move this way. But so far developing this has also developed more specific skills- our lead changes are prompter and smoother, our turns are tighter, he can literally canter like a carousel pony, and his movement has much more suspension and lift to it. Even if he thinks this is a total scam and he should go be a camp pony.

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“Why. Why is this my life.”

Your turn! What has your approach been? How has it changed for different horses? Has it followed conventional approaches pretty closely, or have you changed your order of operations? I’m curious!

XC, Wedding Prep Style

Our annual XC school was an absolute blast. Tons of rain the night before meant soggy footing which meant Frankie and I kept it VERY low key, but we loved our glorified trail ride.

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Just how low key was it?

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WOAH THERE DON’T TRY TOO HARD FRANCIS

Literally we popped over a couple logs and then WALKED SO SLOWLY up out of the water. That’s all we did.

It was thoroughly delightful.

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With our wonderful group of bays! (plus one token chesnugget). This group includes AT’s 4yo uber-talented baby jumper out for mileage, my ammy friend with her new horse playing around for fun, myself (duh), my friend with her super amazing shmancy hunter that is a MACHINE ON XC OMG, a junior on her newish eq horse, and another ammy on one of the saint-like schoolies. Everyone did something slightly different, but everyone had a blast and the horses all really enjoyed themselves.

10/10 will do again.

Decisions, Decisions

And all of them fun!

As you know, I’m already pretty pumped for next season with the Frankfurter. I’m absolutely giddy at the thought of getting our butts in shape and working together towards our goals.

But that means I have to define our goals. Which is HARD YO. Because we have some really great options.

Option one: stick with the original plan and work towards a move up to the Low AOs. This would mean competence at 1.20m and tentatively 1.25m for some of the bigger classics. I think this is pretty within reach for our abilities. I doubt we would qualify for any year-end shows, because the additional fees for the bigger heights would mean fewer shows, and also let’s be honest it’s historically tough for me to be any good in my first season at a new height. But that’s fine by me if we go this route. If I want to do this with Frankie, next year would be the time to do it since he isn’t getting any younger.

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His first 1.20m class this past year and while he was surprised, he wasn’t particularly struggling

Option two: stay at the 1.10-1.15m and try to be really really good at it. If I did this, I would set my sights on qualifying for some fun shows- Penn, WIHS, maybe Team Finals again, etc. I’d have to be pretty strategic about getting points for these since the budget is not unlimited, but I certainly think we could have a blast exploring new options at our current height. It’s clearly well within Frankie’s abilities, and I could still send him in with AT to do some 1.20m classes to keep him really sharp (also I love playing Owner, it’s super fun).

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We could try for more big ribbons

Option three: say screw it all and go for something completely different like the Adult Eq or some National Derbies. BECAUSE WHY NOT HAVE ALL THE OPTIONS??? Especially with how dang broke my horse is now, and how cute he’s learned to jump, I think we could try some different rings and have a blast. I’m leaning towards doing this in a few years though, once he wants to step down to 3′.

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IF A JUNIOR CAN DO IT SO CAN I

Option four: some mix of all of these? Forego some of the shows and try to clinic with some big names? (Peter Wylde is coming to my area next June, and GM tends to roll through every fall). Try a local HT? Do other stuff I’m not thinking of?

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We could just stand majestically for a while, he’s pretty dope at that.

Basically, I can’t lose. There’s certainly tradeoffs to consider, and in some cases choosing one option means closing another one off, but there really is no bad option. I’m planning to sit down with my trainer in the next few weeks to come up with a game plan for our show season, and see what she thinks will work for us.

No matter what we choose, or if we do a mix of everything, there is one constant.

I will take a thousand pictures of Francis napping everywhere we go.

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SNOOZES 4 LYFE

How Big is Big?

There was a question on COTH recently about what counts as a “big” jump.

There were a range of answers, but the general consensus seemed to be that it’s entirely relative. What’s big to one horse and rider pair might look small to the same rider on a different horse. What’s small change for one rider may be prohibitively daunting to another.

I couldn’t agree more. Jumping over 3′ on the DragonMare was intimidating because I knew we were reaching the max of her scope and she could be a difficult ride. The same height on the Frankenbean causes no angst. I also remember how long it took me to ever go over a 3′ jump- so for a very long time, my decisive answer to that question would have been 3′. That counts as big. Nowadays I feel differently. It’s completely relative.

But then thinking about it further, I started considering the skill sets I needed at each height and how that changed. At this point, what would I consider “big”? Keep in mind- I’m coming at this with my own experiences and my own horse. He’s tall. He’s powerful. He makes jumps feel smaller than they are. I’m fully aware that a smaller horse that moves differently will make this journey looks COMPLETELY different. It’s all relative!

At 18″ I was learning to stay with the motion, release with my hands, stay steady in my leg. Distances were unimportant because of the height. Lots and lots of focus on my equitation- heels down, straight back, elbows in, etc.

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Short Stirrup QUEEN

At 2’6″ I had to fold a tiny bit more. Distances were still pretty unimportant, but we started counting strides and trying to find the sweet spot. Continued focus on correct equitation.

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Grab mane and look cute

At 3′ finding the right spot started to become more important. Still not the end of the world if we missed, but there was more of a focus. We started to introduce the auto-release as I got stronger. The motion was slightly bigger over the jumps, but technique still held- heels down, eyes up, release. Correcting my position constantly.

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Remember when I actually used to have really great equitation? Ah the days of yore.

At 1m (3’3″) it was more of the same. Slightly more important to help my horse to the spot, release a little bigger for the bigger effort. Position is finally starting to get into muscle memory, but still constantly working on it.

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For realz though I used to look pretty in the saddle

At 1.10m (3’7″ish) it was NOT more of the same holy CRAP it’s time to learn how to ride. All of a sudden we need an actual useful canter because he can no longer just lurch over it from any gait. So he has to do way more conditioning work. All of a sudden it becomes much more important that I support from any distance. So I have to do way more conditioning work. All of a sudden riding that powerful canter at any stride length is crucially important. So we need major adjustability which means focusing hard on his self carriage and responsiveness. AND THAT’S BEFORE WE EVEN GET TO THE JUMP. Then once we’re at the jump, it’s no longer just fold and then unfold. THERE’S AIR TIME AND A LANDING PHASE NOW FOLKS. I won’t get into the gritty details because I already did last year, but suddenly I had to pretty much re-learn how to jump. At this point we talk about my equitation purely in terms of utility. At this point, if I don’t have my technical skills in order, I’m just gonna fall off the side. They’re not taken for granted and we still work to correct them, but there’s more of an assumption of base-level correctness. Now it’s about truly using my position instead of having a position.

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Releases get bigger, staying centered becomes WAY WAY WAY more important, and core strength becomes a major factor. 

At 1.15m (3’9″ish) it’s pretty much more of the same.

At 1.20m (3’11″ish) it’s pretty much more of the same.

At 1.25m (4’1″ish) it’s pretty much more of the same.

So yeah. For me there was a clear tipping point in terms of skills and training that happened right around the 1.10m mark. Do I have a magical amazing horse that bails me out at that height when I mess up? Yes. Does that make his life way harder at that height than it was at anything lower? Definitely. Once I’ve gotten over that hump it’s been relatively straightforward to put the jumps up little by little.

I always thought of moving up in height as a very linear process, and that’s certainly not true. The graph of height vs. skills needed has looked a lot more like this for me:

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I really hope that one day I look back on this post and laugh that I ever thought 3’6″ was big. I’m curious to see if there is another “tipping point” in the future as the jumps continue to go up. I’d love to find out!

There’s my long winded answer that can be summed up as this: I feel like jumps start getting big at around 3’6″, but that answer has changed a thousand times over the years and I think the answer is going to be different for everyone at different times.

Your turn! Tell me- how would you answer that question?

Sneaking It In

With just about 50 days left until the wedding, I feel a lot like a deer that someone has slipped some caffeine pills to. High alert and gangly. Now that invites are out and we’re getting RSVPs back, it’s really kicked into the next gear of our final approach.

My bridal shower and bachelorette party were both last weekend, and both were amazing. So many friends from so many different parts of my life were all in the same room for the shower which was weird and amazing- Trainer was chatting with my in-laws’ neighbors, my cousins were hanging out with my college roommates, etc. It flew by and I felt incredible loved.

For the bachelorette part, I’ll just leave you with this picture from the morning after.

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#classy

Despite my current extreme case of raccoon brain, I’m managing a sneaky amount of horse-related activities over the next month or so until I head north.

Folks at the barn are organizing a group excursion to WIHS to watch the medal and GP classes go. I’ve gotten to go for a couple years now, and while I was hoping the next time would be on Frankie, I’ll still take a seat in the stands!!

One of the ladies also organized an event at a local animal park for the barn folks. I think it’s geared mostly for the kids, but I’ll show up for anything that includes llamas and my barn peeps.

Lastly, by some incredibly lucky stroke of fortune, our annual XC outing is actually going to happen on one of the only weekends I am available to participate. I may not be actively competing, but I’m excited to get off property with Francis! Hoping we can enlist someone for more media than last year, because he is such a tank and I know all you eventing folks would love to see my weenie butt cling on as he packs me around.

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It was so fun with both of these beasts, can’t wait to do it again!!

Lucky me to have so many fun things on the calendar ❤ Can’t wait to share them all with you!

Snaps for Olivia

So earlier this week I had a little party about how my professionally-trained-for-years horse was acting like a professionally-trained-for-years horse. That even though he’s a little out of shape and out of a consistent program, he’s still a super capable steed with lots of buttons that can Do The Things. Because while I know it’s pretty normal for a trained horse to remain trained (especially one with his disposition), I’ll never stop being giddily grateful for my shmancy pony.

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Unrelated, I just think it’s funny how much he enjoys the vacuum. PC- Liz.

 

We had our first lesson since August this week, meaning we jumped for the first time in 3 weeks. I certainly didn’t ride at the level that I was at during show season- my muscles are much weaker, I was cursing out my trainer while doing our no-stirrup work, and our turns were…creatively angled. But Frankie packed me around cheerfully, adjusted his stride promptly when asked, jumped cute, and was overall an absolute prince for me. Seriously, I could gush about how great he was for hours.

But I won’t. Because today I want to give myself some kudos.

I arrived home from my lesson beaming from ear to ear, and told my fiance all about how great Francis was, how the jumps stayed around 3′ but that was kinda a welcome step back since I’m so out of shape, and how glad I am to have a horse that can take care of me when my riding is decent-not-awful-but-definitely-not-great.

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We’ll work our way back up to being able to steer in the air. For now it’s no shame grab mane.

And then he reminded me- only about 3 years ago, jumping 3′ was my white whale. It was my hump that I had never conquered in all my years of riding. Counting up my years in the saddle, it took a solid 10 years to get to the point of jumping 3′ with any sort of consistency. And because he is a lovely person, he gave me a big hug and told me how he thought it was pretty cool that something that had been a mental block for so long now feels easy enough to be a step back. He was there when I got back in the saddle, he was there when I jumped my first 3′ jump with Addy, and he was there when I came home from a show with a ribbon from my first ever 3′ division. He has many clear memories of my endless monologues about the journey to 3′. He’s been there for every move up over the past few years and he’s cheered for all of them.

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He took this picture, back in 2015. I was so excited to finally jump this height.
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Having him there means the world to me. 

So yeah, he reminded me to give myself some grace. I’ve been kinda disappointed about stepping back after being on such an incredible trajectory for the past few years. I needed that reminder to consider the bigger picture, and give myself some credit for the progress we’ve made instead of being glum about what we’re not currently doing. Because what we’re doing is still really cool.

Thanks for bearing with this remarkably self-indulgent post, and we’ll get back to the pony-indulging posts shortly. We all know that Francis is the real MVP 😉