Nicely Played, Francis.

Those of you that connect with me on IG/FB already know, but Francis has actually been taking a little vacation.

He came in last week with a missing shoe (no big deal), but as I took a closer look and he got progressively more upset about me taking a closer look, it was clear that there was a solid heel grab in play there.

Of course being my usual dramatic self, I immediately made plans for Frankie’s retirement. In my defense, he was acting like that leg had been chopped off and his expression of long-suffering patience had a very studied air. Luckily my trainer took a look, smacked Frankie for being rude, and pronounced it essentially a really bad hangnail.

Not so dramatic after all.

But while it’s not that dramatic, Homeboy was still off for a little over a week as he healed. It’s been a lot of hand walking to keep him moving, plenty of epsom salt soaks to keep it clean, and lots of vetwrap and poultice pads to make sure no grit or germs get in there. He’s totally sound to tack walk and was at about 95% to flat around last night. Nothing visible but he felt just baaaarely NQR to me – could be the heel grab, could be stiffness from being stuck inside for a week in the cold. Either way he desperately needed some movement and the flatting helped his mood immensely. I’m not worried, we’re in no rush to get back to 100% and the wound itself is healing up just fine.

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He’s been standing like an angel for his warm soaks, as long as I let him lick my hand for the full 15-20 minutes. A small price to pay to keep him happy.

This is actually a huge novelty, since this was the first time he’s needed more than 12 hours off to heal from anything. For a horse, he’s generally pretty sturdy.

Now that he’s not nearly as ouchie on it and I can stop pitying him, I’ve actually enjoyed this time to play together and relax! I caught some lessons on the school horses so I still got a workout in, and we did nice long 30-40 minute hand walks together. It’s also been a great chance for me to practice some basic first aid skills (like, extremely basic). His auntie even brought him a stall toy to keep him entertained in his confinement (the combination of awful mud and the  placement of the cut makes turnout unfortunately no good for now) and while we all find the banging noises annoying, he seems to really like his giant plastic apple.

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He’s been making plenty of sand angels on our walks to make sure he gets to stretch and address the itchies. Literally as soon as we walk in the ring, down he goes.

He’ll get to stay in light work while I’m in Ohio next week (I swear his timing is uncanny, how do horses always know?!), but fingers crossed he’ll be healed up and ready to get back to full work when I return!

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And after every sand angel, he stays laying down for a little bit surveying the ring. Apparently he doesn’t like to be rushed.
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My Expensive Reality

When I got Frankie, I started tracking my monthly expenses for him in a spreadsheet I made (which should surprise none of you that know me at all). It’s broken out pretty broadly and probably has room for improvement, but at a glance it’s good for me to see what I’m spending in different categories at different points throughout the year.

The way I have it set up currently has the following categories:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides
  • Show fees paid to my trainer (which covers all the various pieces therein)
  • Other fees paid to my trainer (minor meds, blanket cleaning, random stuff like that)
  • Vet
  • Farrier
  • Insurance
  • Shows
  • Other

I don’t include tack/equipment (though I probably should), and I don’t include clothing for myself. So my tracker runs a little lower than what I truly spend on the sport, but it’s decently comprehensive for the expenses that are specific to the Frankenbean.

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Vet care costs have crept up over the years as we figure out how to make him feel extra special best. And don’t worry, chiro/massage goes right in that “other” bucket.

The reason that I bring this up is because I read Emma’s post about budgeting and how that has changed over time to account for reaching for certain goals. It’s a cool post with some cool comments on it, def check it out if you haven’t! But it also got me thinking about my own budget and my own goals, and what the investment looks like for those goals and for goals that may be a bit out of reach. Starting with WIHS.

Last year I peaked at 89th in the rankings for WIHS before dropping right off the radar altogether. While I was very pleased with our performance over the season, I simply didn’t have enough outings to get the points needed. Granted- WIHS wasn’t one of my big goals in 2018 and if it was I could’ve been MUCH more strategic about it by getting points at some of the smaller shows around here. But if I was aiming for that I still would’ve had to go to a lot more shows in total, so I don’t think the cost of showing would have been drastically different for the year. And certainly the money spent on training and equipment would not have gone down in the least- if anything, they would have gone up.

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My big goal for the year was Lake Placid and all monies went right to that.

Between all those categories shown above, the investment money-wise was not trivial. Far from it. If I was one of those people that needed to recoup my investment on Frankie (HAHAHAHA RIGHT THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS), I would need to get an absolutely absurdly out of reach price for him. It ain’t ever gonna happen, despite his theoretical increase in value due to training and show record (I say theoretically because homeboy obvi isn’t for sale so we’ll never know what he’d go for).

I’m comfortable with my show results. I’ve never done this because I need blue ribbons, I compete because I love the atmosphere and trying new adventures with my horse. Ribbons and points and qualifying are the nice but unnecessary icing on the cake for me.

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I mean clearly I’m never MAD about the ribbons

But I can absolutely understand the frustration of someone who DOES want to qualify and be a stronger competitor. Knowing that the the time and money and soul I’ve poured into training and showing has gotten me to be a solidly middle-of-the-pack competitor could be disheartening. If that’s the investment it takes to be mid-range, I don’t even know what it would take to be consistently in the ribbons.

If qualifying and ribbons were my goal, I would step down a level. Do the local rated shows instead of the biggest AA ones I can find. Maybe step back down in height and get really really perfect at that. There are definitely plenty of things I could do differently if that was my aim.

I’m not gonna do any of those things though. I’m going to keep reveling in the atmosphere and presence of great riders at the big shows, even if I’m out of the ribbons in a class of 60. I’m going to keep feeling like I’m flying over the big jumps with Frankie, even if we have a rail here and there. And I’ll keep signing those checks, even if that monthly investment has hit embarrassment levels.

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All I want to do is All the things in All the places with this creature.

The first step to fixing the problem is admitting that you have a problem, and I’ll be cold in my grave before you get me to admit this one.

WEC Take 2

A week or two ago I mentioned that I asked my trainer for a quote to attend WEC again in February.

And if you all know me at all, you know that my willpower hovers between “non-existent” and “will disappear with any passing breeze.” So clearly once I ask for a quote it’s all over from there.

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Honestly a solid 85% of my decisions are based on FOMO with this crew

But I knew that I definitely didn’t want to compete for two weeks again. Last year it became way more of an endurance test than actual fun, and I’m all about having fun in 2019. But for Frankie to go, he needed to be there the full two weeks my barn is attending- they’re not able to trailer back and forth due to the distance.

So with all that in mind, I came up with a couple different scenarios:

Scenario 1: bring Frankie, and commute out for both weekends. It’s a long drive but not a terribly difficult one, and it would be possible for me to drive out Wednesday night, school Thursday, compete Fri-Sun, then drive home. Then I wouldn’t be staying full time and I’d get to have my own horse, but it meant paying for a full two weeks for Frankie, and extra gas/hotel costs for me.

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This face represents how I feel about driving to Ohio voluntarily twice in a row (no offense to my Ohio peeps but I have an irrational antipathy to your state)

Scenario 2: lease a horse there. Then I could just go for one week no problem, not have to trailer out a horse, and could spend the shipping money on a lease fee instead. The obvious risk here is that I’d end up with a horse that I didn’t really like, but I’m fairly easy to get along with and my trainer has a proven record of finding me great horses quickly.

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Must be a horse that I can teach the course to by showing him the course diagram as such

Scenario 3: See if we can find a leaser for Francis for the second week. In-barn, so that he could stay under my trainer’s watchful care. This would mean I could have my own horse, only have to pay for one week of care, and have a lease fee to help cover some of those costs. This would rely on Trainer having a client who was A) looking for a lease and B) comfortable and able to ride the Frankenbean.

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He literally did the pleasure classes 2 weeks after Lake Placid, he’s not exactly difficult to figure out

I eliminated Scenario 1 pretty much off the bat. It was by far the most expensive option, and I hate being in the car any longer than I have to. I also don’t know that I’d want to compete for two weekends in a row- I’m a tired whiny baby and need my recovery time.

So knowing that I only wanted 1 week, my decision hinged on finding a leaser for Frankie. But we really did’t have the biggest pool of people going to Ohio, and while Frankie is a good boy, he also takes a rider who is willing to kick. When we weren’t able to find a solid in-house lease option for him, we decided to leave him at home for a brief vacation and find me a lease horse!

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It’s a good thing he gets a vacation because he gets SO INCREDIBLY STRESSED at shows. Clearly.

While of course I always want Frankie there, I’m super excited about this- I’ll get to test my skills on a new mount and try some classes I might not otherwise try, and it takes all pressure off my performance. Seriously if anything is less than perfect you know I’ll be using the excuse “oh this is only my 3rd ride on him.” I am not above that, I am petty and obnoxious.

The specifics of what classes I’ll be signing up for remain to be seen, but my hotel is booked for WEC 9 and I’ll be comin’ in hot. If you’re even remotely in the area, let me know! Mystery Horse and I would love to hang ❤

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.

 

2018 Highlights

I’ve enjoyed doing this in the past, so I’m going to keep up the tradition of highlighting some of my favorite posts over the last year.

January: We entered bootcamp mode to prep for WEC, and we worked our butts off getting into shape. We talked about how his care has changed as the fences have gone up and had our first show of the season.

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Francis was a star despite the mud!

February: I had a meltdown about pants and surprised approximately no one by talking about the importance of flatwork. Then we spent most of the rest of the month at WEC 8 and then WEC 9!

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We won our first blue ribbon as a team here- and it was a speed class!

March: I gave my official review of the WEC shows and we talked about how we manage our pony finances. I was able to share some of our amazing engagement photos just before Francis and I celebrated two years of partnership.

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It was freezing but it was worth it. PC- Samantha Robshaw Photography

April: We got the vet out and realized that Frankie needed some better support from us. I talked about what I didn’t know I didn’t know, and shuffled my work schedule to accommodate private lessons.

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We wore the hat of knowledge to learn what he needed

May: We got to hang out and play with Austen and Liz (and the pups)! Then we headed to Blue Rock where Frankie rocked his first 1.20m with my trainer, and I gushed about how cool he is. Obviously.

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Liz took this picture and I’m still crying about it to this day

June: I was thrilled with Frankie at our annual Upperville outing (and our best round was even on the live stream!) My favorite pic of all time arrived, and I got on my soapbox about the importance of routine and consistency.

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Frankie was absurdly fantastic PC- K. Borden

July: I talked about my emotionally tough but rewarding trip to Lake Placid, and then discussed the cost of showing and the cost of improving. In the midst of my move to a new apartment with my then-fiance, Frankie went for a spin as a pleasure pony and I mused on what success looks like to me.

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Just 2 weeks after doing the 1.15m at Lake Placid, he bopped around the pleasure division with my friend

August: things quieted down on the horse front around here as wedding planning ramped up. Frankie took a junior around all three rings because he is adorable, I got myself a new helmet FINALLY, I adjusted to the lack of training structure, and we had fun talking about what we’d buy with a zillion dollars.

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Showing us all just how willing he is to play any game

September: it was the season of blog hops, as we talked about how Frankie has changed since I got him and we went “Behind the Stall Door.” Frankie continued to show up to work– only when I asked him to- and I reminded myself to give myself some grace during the light season.

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Literally the only picture I have of him during this month. It was quiet.

October: I was extra grateful for how broke my horse is these days, but felt the effects of not getting enough barn time. We discussed jump height and what counts as “big,” and then I started considering what I wanted to do with Francis in 2019.

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He requested that we do not continue these shenanigans into 2019.

November: wedding prep was in final countdown mode, so things were very chill at the barn. Amanda gave us 25 interesting questions to answer, and I started considering using a gas mask around my smelly horse. We went for the world’s chillest XC session, and started planning on legging back up post-wedding.

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WOAH THERE CALM DOWN EASY WILD STALLION

December: I got a new name and Frankie got a dad! It was the best wedding I could dream of, but I was so thrilled to get back and play with my ginger-snooted creature. I talked about the way we’ve tackled new skills, gave you a how-to guide on riding the Beast, and finally reviewed the goals we set in the beginning of the year.

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The love of my life ❤

This year I logged more miles in the car to get to horse shows than ever before, I got to meet and spend time with some amazing people, and best of all- I got to marry the funniest, kindest, best man I’ve ever known. 2018 will always be a year to remember.

Blogiversary Math

It’s hard for me to believe, but my fourth blogiversary is already here! It’s so crazy that I’ve been writing about my adventures for so long, and that so many of you have joined the journey. Many of you have even been here since Day 1, and I’m amazed and grateful that you’ve stuck around. You’ve all been an incredible source of support, advice, hilarity, and general awesomeness over the years.

To celebrate, I did what I do best- I analyzed some numbers. Enjoy a few charts of this blog!

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I thought this one was interesting! Visitors and views have both increased steadily over time even though the number of posts per year has declined. My hypothesis is that the content has gotten more relevant- while I did enjoy my lesson recaps, those didn’t encourage as much interaction as some of my more recent posts.

Based on the average % change in visitors and views (excluding the jump from 2015 to 2016, which was abnormally high), I can aim for roughly 37k views and 13k visitors in 2019. I mean, as long as I can maintain some decent quality of content, no pressure.

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This one isn’t too surprising for me. Basically the number of comments I get on each post is fairly steady, but the number of comments per visitor and per view has gone down. I interpret this to mean that there are a fewer number of people commenting, but those people that do are more active. Like I said- not surprising. I don’t have the largest following, but those of you who stick around are a frickin’ fantastic group that I get to chat with a ton.

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These are all the countries I’ve been able to reach over the last few years! My readers are predominantly in North America (consistently about 93% of my traffic), with roughly 4-5% of you in Europe, and the rest of you coming from all over the rest of the globe. Hi everyone!!

Some of the links you all have clicked on most often from here:

My trainer/barn’s website
Instagram
The Printable Pony
The 900 Dollar Facebook Pony
In Omnia Paratus
Amateur At Large
Guinness on Tap

And some of the ways you have found me:

Fraidy Cat Eventing (aka everyone’s favorite blogroll)
A Enter Spooking
The 900 Dollar Facebook Pony (apparently the link-love is reciprocal)
Instagram (weird how linking between my accounts actually works, right?)

Some of my most popular posts by views:

2015: How to Groom Your Gray Horse
2016: Setting the Record Straight (which I didn’t even write you guys, come on)
2017: How to be a Better Horse-Show-Boyfriend (seriously guys?! After all I do for you, you like him more than me?! Uncool)
2018: What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (Finally. Thank you.)

And some of my most popular posts by comments:

2015: First Time XC Schooling
2016: The Maybe-Not Forever Home
2017: HITS Culpeper: Commonwealth National 2017
2018: Show Recap: WEC 9

And not to get sappy at you, but the fact that these are the ones you’ve commented on the most makes me so happy. Most of these were really big adventures and you guys were so awesome and encouraging about them.

A lot has changed in the past four years: I’ve moved (three times), gotten married, changed my name, changed jobs, bought The Best Horse(TM), traveled all over for shows, tried new adventures with the Frankenbean, and have learned more than I could’ve imagined. This blog and the community I’ve found with all of you has been a wonderful constant, and I’m so excited to keep sharing the adventures with you!

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From 2015…
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…to 2019 and on. Cheers to 4 fantastic years! PC- Liz Stout Photography

GIF Name Game

Ok, you guys got me. I was curious after seeing the hilarity ensure from all of you. Would the GIFs encapsulate Frankenbean? Would his many names lead to the many facets of Francis?

I started out with his actual real name (that I rarely call him): Frankie.

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Alright, alright. He does think the mares love him. Spoiler alert: approximately zero of them do. Doesn’t stop him from flirting tho.

Now onto what he goes by more often: Francis.

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Remember back when I got him and lobbied for his show name to be Saint Francis or Pope Francis but got told that was distasteful and borderline sacrilegious? Me neither. But yeah. It fits.

What about his affectionate nickname of The Frankfurter?

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Yeah ok I see it. Finger guns and all.

And lastly, what about his official show name? To Be Frank:

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Aaaaand this one may just fit the best of all. Constantly eating. Always making a mess. Only smart at weird random things. Always up for weird hijinks. Yep.

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!

Welcome to 2019

Happy New Year everyone!

In past years I’ve set yearly goals, which have worked out well. 2016 goals were set before I bought Frankie, but were general enough that we were able to accomplish them. 2017 goals were focused mainly around showing, and included some stretch goals that we achieved. I tried something different in 2018 by breaking my goals out into equestrian, professional, and personal themes.

So with all that in mind, I’ve been wracking my brain on how to set goals for 2019. What am I hoping to accomplish with Frankie, with my husband, with my career?

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Francis is hoping to accomplish many more scritches in the new year

I’ll be totally honest with you- at this point, I have no idea.

I’m still reveling in the sense of relief and freedom from wedding planning. It was entirely worth it and magical, but having all this free time back is pretty liberating. What do I want to do with it?

For now, I want to just enjoy. I’ve spent the last couple of years purposefully overextending myself to chase a lot of goals while I’m young and healthy. While I’m still young and healthy, I’m also really satisfied with what I’ve been able to accomplish. There’s still plenty to do, but there isn’t as much of a sense of urgency as there has been in the past. We’ve already managed to check off so many bucket list items.

Team Finals? Not only did we qualify, but we helped our team win a silver medal against excellent competition.

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The most professional boi

Two week show? We went to WEC and won our first blue ribbon as a team.

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Never tired of seeing our name in lights

Lake Placid? We made it! Even if I struggled mentally, there was lots to be proud of.

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Big guy knows how to pose

Upperville? We’ve gone several years in a row and had fantastic rounds each year.

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Lawd he struts

Moving up? Frankie has been a rockstar with me in the irons at 1.15m, and I’ve gotten more joy than I anticipated from watching him go at 1.20m with AT.

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He flies

Trying new things? We’ve gone XC schooling, we’ve gotten blue ribbons in the eq ring, Francis has tried out the pleasure division and the children’s hunters, and we’ve hacked out regularly.

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Happy pony does ALL the things

Improving our abilities? Frankie is now hands-down the fanciest horse I could hope to have. And he only gets better over time.

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Literally a flying pegasus unicorn angel

Staying healthy? As he approaches his teenage years, Frankie looks and is going better than ever. His vets/farriers/healthcare team are the best in the business.

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After a few months of light work, he’s gaining fitness back very quickly and looks shiny and happy

We’ve accomplished an incredible amount over the last almost-three-years together. And it’s been beyond fun to tackle all of these things with the happiest sweetest big bay guy. With all that to be proud of, it’s hard to say “I wish I could do more with him.” He’s already given me more than I could’ve ever dreamed of.

I’m naturally a very goal-driven and competitive person by nature, so I may eventually come down from this post-wedding high and decide to set some goals to work towards. I’m certainly not counting that possibility out. But for now, here are my main goals for 2019:

Be happy with Frankie. Train hard because we both are happier in a fairly intense program and we both love to learn, go to shows where we can have fun, spend lots of time together, expand our skills, and enjoy our partnership. No specific heights or shows necessary, we’ll take those as they come in whatever form they come.

Be happy with my husband. Our first month of marriage has flown by with all the chaos of the holidays, and I have a feeling it’ll only get better from here. He’s the best guy I’ve ever known and we have so many exciting adventures ahead of us.

Be happy with my career. Do the best work I can, learn from my brilliant coworkers, move forward with my own skill set.

Be happy with myself. Find a balance that works without needing to overextend. Eat right and work out to feel strong and confident in my skin. Use face masks as often as needed because those TOTALLY count as self-care. Use this blog as the creative outlet it is.

sunny pic

Cheers to the new year, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

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!!