With only 5 weeks left until we ship out to Ohio, we are officially ramping up for our 2018 show season. Here’s how we’re preparing:
Francis got a fresh clip. Despite getting a very handsome clip in November (which lasted him all season last year), he immediately got stupid fuzzy again and needed another haircut to be able to work without sweating his butt off. AT did a fantastic job, and once I pull his mane he’s going to look super official legit shmancy show pony.
Training rides! AT will hop on once a week for a tune up until we leave. Honestly, we’ll probs just continue this all season since Frankie so clearly benefits from regular skillful rides. We can bump up to 2x later if we want, but I don’t think that’s super necessary at this point.
I’m on 5x a week to give Frankie a total of 6 days on, 1 day off (one lesson with me, one training ride, and four flatwork/relaxing hack sessions with me). That’s what we did for show season last year, and he really thrives in a steady routine like that. He’s had a very quiet couple of months in this off season, so we need to steadily ramp his fitness back up- though I will say, that his energy has been great and he’s been feeling nice and fresh. I think that mental and physical break was great for him.
For me, lots of no stirrup work. Both on my own and in lessons- Trainer has said that she wants me doing coursework sans stirrups every time I jump. I’m pretty comfortable doing courses up to 1-1.10m-ish without stirrups, but I’ll need to get a little stronger before I’m confident putting the jumps up to full height. I’m hoping to get to the point where I can stay with Frankie more easily when he cracks his back over the big ones.
Monitoring health- for both of us. I’ve definitely lost some tone over the holidays due to lots of tasty food and drinks and riding less consistently. I’m back on the healthy eating train, strength building train, and consistent riding train- see above. Frankie is currently feeling good, but we’ll be carefully monitoring him (as always) to see if he’ll need any extra support from us as we raise the jumps. Likely we’ll do another SI injection in May, but for now he’s feeling peachy.
Of course, I have to travel all next week for work and will be missing out on bootcamp. Womp womp. I have my favorite barn rat working Frankie for me, AT will do her ride on him, and I’ll be hitting the hotel gym to keep up, so hopefully we can hit the ground running when I return.
So excited to get back out there with the World’s Bestest Pony Ever!!!
I know, I know- I’m so late with this! Joke’s on all of you who called me “organized” on Amanda’s post. But I finally have a moment to breathe and tell you about the world’s most amazing present. From none other than Carey from Me Jump Pretty One Day!
I knew I was in for a treat when I got this teaser card:
Who can resist that face??? And the drool was a perfect touch- no joke, I have this hanging in my office and I’ve had people stop in the middle of sentences to ask what that is. I tend to start stuttering about how fun and silly horses are and try to get back on topic. They don’t get it. I love it.
A short while later, I opened up my package to reveal a personalized desk calendar!! The time and effort Carey put into this was so so so beyond thoughtful, and I love it so much. It’s even already come in handy flipping through the year as I’m wedding planning! Here’s the cover:
I quickly flipped through and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the pretty pictures of me and Francis.
And then I spotted something. And I turned back to the front. And I spotted those little letters: “Olivia and To Be Frank 2018. (and Cosmo)”
Ladies and gentlemen, as if this couldn’t get any better, we have Mo joining us in every. single. picture. Here’s January:
Hah! There he is!!! I cackle with glee every time I look at this!!!
Carey was kind enough to share the digital files she used, so here’s a selection of my favorites (though let’s be real, they’re all my favorites because this is AMAZING).
I’m pretty sure this is the Secret Santa gift to beat all Secret Santa gifts. I’m still giggly about it every day, and I get to giggle about it all year! Thank you SO MUCH Carey for this wonderfully thoughtful and hilarious and amazing present!!!
And of course a huge big thank you to Tracy of The Printable Pony for hosting this every year- this was a huge highlight of my holiday season, and I already can’t wait until next year!!
I gotta go stare at this some more and chortle like a bubbling-over teapot. I’ll be back in a bit.
We all know that Frankie is a perfect angel, right? Never does anything remotely bad, is rock solid 100% of the time?
Frankie decided to use this cold snap to remind me that he is not, in fact, the pretty pony on the merry-go-round. He is a horse. With opinions (even if they rarely make an appearance).
It started last weekend in my lesson- we warmed up on the flat just fine, popped over a few crossrails, and then the wheels fell off. Frankie discovered that when he sneezed, rooted, and humped his back just so, he could pull the reins right out of my hands. LIKE A JERK.
We would head up to a jump (tiny ones in short courses bc omg cold), he would canter up like a normal horse, jump it like a horse who has done this a thousand times, then his brain would fall out his butt and he would land porpoising until I pulled him up in a heap.
And I won’t pretend to any startling feats of bravery here: while I never felt unseated, it definitely did kick some nerves into play. It didn’t feel dangerous, just entirely unenjoyable and yucky. For that lesson, we ended up doing a bunch more flatwork to get our brains back in our skulls and get my own body to stop emitting PANIC vibes.
Listen, I get it: the temp had plummeted, he hadn’t gotten much turnout time for a few days, it was windy, all these things would make any horse fresh. And all things considered, it wasn’t dangerous or malicious behavior- it was a fit horse with a lot of excess energy that simultaneously wanted to play but also get out of work. It isn’t hard to figure out why this happened.
Still annoying as hell tho.
Fast forward to Thursday, which was equally cold and gross and turnout-less. In the interest of self-preservation, I asked Trainer if I could lunge Francis for 10-15 min before hopping on to let him move out and warm up and let out any silliness. And yes, if you were wondering: this was my first time lunging him. Homeboy hasn’t really needed it in the past.
Luckily, his unicorn status held and he lunged like he does it every day (after a quick reminder that coming into the middle is invasive and rude and not allowed). I say luckily, because I spent most of the time trying to organize the line and half-heartedly clucking at him. Good boy Francis.
So I hopped on, very pleased that we had warmed him up and let him work out some energy.
Until we cantered and he remembered that rooting and pulling and humping was super fun last time. DANGIT FRANCIS NOT AGAIN.
So we borrowed a gag converter from AT and set off again.
And the next time he tried to dive down, we had a bit of an Earth To Francis moment with the leverage. Which he did not like. So he cantered like a normal horse in a straight line. And then tried again. Earth To Francis. Rinse. Repeat. Multiple times in each direction.
Eventually he realized that the pressure only hit when he was acting the fool, so he stopped acting the fool. We did a few little courses to confirm that we had a balanced, thinking horse under us, then called it a day.
And I promptly went out and ordered my own gag converter.
I will say, I actually liked the feeling of the gag more than the three-ring we tried before. Especially with the double reins, it was easy to engage when I needed a little extra lightness in the front end, and chuck away when we were doing fine- by our last mini-course, I didn’t need to engage it at all. I plan on using the converter for a while, then potentially getting a regular gag bit to try out. We shall see.
The countdown is on for WEC! 43(ish) days until Frankie and I head west for a few weeks.
Coming up soon: telling you all about my AMAZING Secret Santa gift, some product reviews of things that are making my winter hibernation more bearable, and continued ramblings from yours truly.
I have so much to talk about, I don’t even know where to start! I need to tell you all about my Secret Santa gift (you can all sit down because mine wins everything), our recent lesson where Frankie discovered how to root and crowhop at the same time (oh joy), how I’ve pretty much already planned our wedding (yessir we have a date!), and a whole bunch of other stuff.
But to start off my year, I do want to put down some goals that have been tumbling around in my head. Pinky promise we’ll get to the rest soon.
So without further ado, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish in 2018.
Work with my trainers, my vet, my farrier, and other members of the team to keep Frankie healthy and sound. He’s currently in great shape both physically and mentally, so I’m looking forward to working with these awesome pros to make sure our program keeps him happy and feeling his best!
Test the waters at 1.20m. We don’t need to win the class, and we may not “officially” move up completely, but I do want us to safely and competently make it around at 1.20m. I know Frankie is plenty capable, so I’ll just have to get my butt in shape!
Become a better rider. This is intentionally vague- I have different bad habits that come and go at random. I’d like fewer bad habits, and I’d like them to show up less often. I want to go make newer, fewer mistakes and improve the support I’m able to give Francis on course.
Come up with a plan moving forward. Frankie told me that he really wants a brother, but mama’s broke. Talk to Trainer and figure out the best way for me to continue moving up without having to sell an organ.
Have a blast competing! We’ve got some INCREDIBLE shows lined up on the calendar for this year and I plan to enjoy the heck out of every single one!
Take the time to consider what I want my long term trajectory to be, and create a more concrete pathway to reach that point. I’m finally starting to figure out what I really like doing and starting to coalesce a vision of what I want to achieve, so it’s time to get deliberate about moving in that direction.
Research business schools and the GMAT. I don’t think I’ll want to start school in 2018, but 2019 may be the year to go start working towards that MBA. This ties into that first goal of finding my pathway- I have a strong feeling that another degree will be majorly helpful to advance the way I’d like to.
Maintain close relationships with my mentors and colleagues. I’m lucky to have a fantastic network of professional (many of whom have become close friends). Life may get busy, but I want to be sure that my relationships with these talented and intelligent people stays a priority.
Plan a wedding and get married! Does this count as a goal? I feel like it’s more of a major life event. Leaving it here anyways. Super psyched about this. Along these lines- move in with Buddy Fianci (sorry guys, this is the one that’s sticking in my head for now). It’s gonna be rad to be roommates.
Maintain a consistent workout schedule and (semi) healthy eating habits. There’s a lot of stuff that I really enjoy doing that requires me to be in good shape, so I’d like to make sure I’m as physically prepared as possible to Do All The Things.
Make time to just breathe and rest. Between riding, competing, planning a wedding, moving, maybe starting school, and just existing, it’s going to be a MAJORLY busy year and I don’t want to burn out. I want to make sure that I build regular self-care into my routines.
So you know, nothing ambitious for 2018 😉
Can’t wait to share the adventure with all of you wonderful people!
I’m going to need your help, everyone. We have to come up with a new name for Manfriend.
He’s decided that he’s sick of dating me. He no longer wants to be my Manfriend.
SO WE’RE GONNA BE PLANNING A WEDDING Y’ALL OMGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!
As a native Rhode Islander I’m strongly leaning towards Buddy Fianci, but that’s a bit of a mouthful. We’ll be taking suggestions. Hit us up.
We’d been talking about getting married for a while so I could put my Pinterest boards into practice we could take an exciting new step forward together. I knew it was coming soon. I knew that ex-Manfriend (which he will go by until we get something better into play so get your suggestions in soon) had talked to my parents for their blessing over Thanksgiving. Mostly because he is not subtle and I’m exceedingly nosy. We’re a fun couple. I’ve spent the last 3 months turning to him every time he tied his shoe and yelling, “Nicholas is this it?!”
Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m hard to surprise. ex-Manfriend gets a zillion bonus points for managing to COMPLETELY bamboozle me.
Because I honestly thought that he was visiting his grandma that morning, but would be meeting me at the barn afterwards to watch me ride. I honestly thought I had a lesson scheduled for 2, but would be going early to hang out. In case my trainer is reading this, you still owe me that lesson.
As I was getting ready to head to the barn, I got a call from my friend saying that she was taking Christmas pics of the horses because it was so nice out- we could take Frankie’s after my lesson, but could I come a little earlier to hold horses beforehand?
Here I am thinking I’m so slick, like HOLY CRAP THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR HIM TO PROPOSE AFTER MY LESSON WHILE WE’RE TAKING PICS HE NEEDS TO CAPITALIZE ON THIS. So I picked my outfit with care. My favorite navy breeches. My favorite tech shirt. My Team Finals hat. Actual makeup. Like a real person.
I called ex-Manfriend as I was about to pull into the barn to ask him to grab a change of clothes for the pics- and being a skilled con-man, he said he would be there in 20 and probably had a blazer in the trunk or something. I was busy blasting some seasonal Mariah and in a fantastic mood, so I let the “probably” slide.
And then I pulled up to the barn and saw balloons.
Something you should know about me: I LOVE BALLOONS. Like, a lot. My dad always brings them to the airport when he picks me up because I always tell him that a reunion without balloons is just a meeting. Balloons are my favorite.
At this point, I’m thinking that someone has decided to take their Christmas pics with balloons. Because naturally, balloons are festive and lovely and who wouldn’t want that?! I’m ready to go help out this genius soul with their gorgeous balloon-inspired photoshoot.
And then I spot a bay horse. There’s plenty of bay horses at the barn, but this one looked pretty tall. And handsome. But it could still be any of the bays, really.
And then I turned the corner and realized that it was for sure my horse. And that standing in front of him was Manfriend in the blazer that he DEFINITELY HAD and holding roses.
Being a rational human being, I completely froze and considered driving my car past them to park.
Then I saw my friend frantically gesturing for me to get out of the car, so I stumbled my way out and said, “Nicholas you liar.”
Sweet words of love.
To be fair, he retorted by mockingly saying, “Nicholas is this it?!”
I feel like we’re even.
I side-eyed my way over to him to listen to what he had to say. But real talk, I was on a major adrenaline high and the phrases that I caught were “love you so so much” and “want to spend my life with you” and then he was on one knee and I pretty much dive bombed him and then took the ring before he could give it to me and got kinda aggressive about it.
I swear I wasn’t crying, I was just…leaking. Mighta been sweat, mighta been tears, mighta been both. Francis joined in the celebration looking for scritches.
There were confetti poppers waiting for us.
There was champagne.
The balloon with words on it simply said, “You’re Special.”
We went inside and shared some bubbly together with Francis and some of my closest friends, as we started to share the news with friends and family.
What does one do when freshly engaged? Clearly there’s only one right answer here.
You ride the horse. Without steering.
Seriously, I could not have asked for a more magical day. I would’ve said yes no matter how he asked, but the fact that he came to my favorite place on the planet and involved my heart horse made it so far and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of.
I’m so grateful for my friends who took all these wonderful pics to remember the occasion and helped Nicholas coordinate everything. I’m so lucky to have such generous, caring, hilarious, wonderful people to call my barn family!! My favorite little barn rat even captured the whole thing on video- including lots of her giggles.
Most of all, I’m grateful that I get to lock down this wonderful guy of mine. It’s gonna be a real awesome life together!!!
As promised, here are the questions from the application I had to fill out for the Gold Star Clinic! I didn’t include my answers, but I did include some thoughts on the questions, format, etc. in italics below. Let me know your thoughts!
At what age did you start riding?
At what age did you start jumping?
Is your family involved in the horse industry?
Have you participated in any other disciplines? Check as follows: Hunter, Jumper, Equitation
How many years did you compete in the Hunters?
Do you feel your Hunter experience helped you develop as a Jumper rider? Please explain.
How many years did you compete in Equitation?
Do you feel your Equitation experience helped you develop as a Jumper rider? Please explain.
Pretty basic stuff so far.
Did you compete in the Talent Search competitions?
Have you competed in any Equitation Finals? If so, in which did you compete and at what age(s) and year(s)? Did you place?
At what age did you start riding in Jumper competitions?
Have you competed in the National Junior Jumper Championship and Prix de States competition? If so, at what age(s) and what year(s)? Did you place?
Have you competed in the North American Children’s, Junior or Young Rider Championships? If so, at what age(s), level, and in what year(s)? Did you place?
It is important to know how you felt about the experience of competing at the Junior Jumper Championship/Prix de States and the NAChJYRC. Please write about that experience and how it did or did not impact your riding career.
It is important to know how you felt about the experience of competing at the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. Please write about that experience and how it did or did not impact your riding career.
Clearly this above section was aimed at people who had a fairly prolific career as a junior or are currently juniors. I had to put N/A for pretty much all of these except the last question about Team Finals.
When you started your riding career, did your parents feel that they had enough information about the sport to make informed decisions on competitions, trainers and horse selection? Please explain.
Again, this is clearly aimed at junior riders. Also I competed mostly locally and at small rated shows at the 2’6″ level as a kid, so my parents didn’t really need any info.
Have you ever taken dressage lessons? If so, did you find it beneficial and why?
Do you have a young horse between the ages of 3 and 7 that you are working with?
Do you know and follow top breeding bloodlines?
Do you have an interest in your horse breeding and development? If so, please explain how it is important for your future and the future of the industry.
Have you had any education on conformation, lameness, feeds and nutrition, shoeing, health and welfare of the horse? If so, was it helpful information and do you use the education you received? Please explain.
I found this section interesting- looking for diverse knowledge bases. I thought some of the yes/no type questions should have prompted more explanation (which I provided unprompted because I like to say stuff).
Physical fitness is a key component to top athlete performances, please describe your personal fitness program. Well that’s kinda a leading question, dontcha think?
Have you ever participated in a clinic or the USHJA Emerging Athlete Program? If so, who was the clinician, did you feel it was beneficial and why? This was a tough question to answer- no I did not do the EAP, but yes I have clinicked. It wasn’t a USHJA registered clinic though, so does that count? I ended up mentioning it, but I think this should (1) be separated into two questions and (2) clarified.
Have you ever been a working student or have you been an apprentice for anyone other than your current trainer? If so, who did you work for and at what age? What did you learn from the experience? Well yeah, as a kid. Which wasn’t THAT long ago, so I think it should count.
Do you use visualization techniques when competing? This was just a checkbox yes or no, but I would’ve loved a chance to write more about this.
What do you feel are your riding weakness and strengths? Please explain.
What are your immediate goals? Please be specific.
What are your long term goals? Please be specific and explain how you intend to reach those goals.
In what way do you think that the USHJA/USEF can help you to reach your goals? Lemme suck up to you real quick.
Do you intend to become a professional or are you already a professional? This application was for a junior/amateur program, so not sure why there was an option to say that you are currently a professional.
Please list your goals for the current competition year. Be sure to include your tentative schedule for both yourself and your horse(s) (i.e. Zone Jumper Team Championships, NAJYRC, Prix des States, Equitation Finals, Nations Cups, and international competitions, as well as any preparation for these targets). This was another section that felt tough for me to answer as a working amateur, because the honest response is “it depends on whether or not I get a good year-end bonus and how much time off my boss approves before she gets fed up with me missing meetings to go compete.” I have plenty of goals, but my budget requires me to be flexible on those and pass up on things I’d otherwise like to do. Most of these big shows listed are specifically for junior riders (which I am not) or for those competing at very high heights (which I am also not). Team Finals is pretty much the only nationally recognized program for ammies at the 1.15m level.
Provide a written recommendation from a show jumping professional/trainer.
Write a short essay describing your equestrian goals and future plans. 1 page maximum. Let me tell you, it was HARD to get this down to 1 page. As evidenced by the posts on this blog, I can talk for days about my plans and goals and my path forward. Thousands and thousands of words.
Submit any additional information you wish to have considered by the selectors. Like…anything? Anything at all?
As you all know, one of my favorite aspects of my barn is everyone’s willingness to talk through different aspects of the industry. Of course my trainer and I spend a ton of time talking about (1) how to ride more better and (2) how to schedule shows to meet my goals without going broke. But she also takes the time to talk to me about the overall industry and the moving parts that make up the equestrian competition world.
One thing that we were talking about recently was turnout. All the horses in our barn get turned out for at least 12ish hours a day, with many staying out closer to 24 hours if the weather is nice (they’ll come in for meals and riding, and then go right back out). They all go out in groups unless they’re in the med paddock, and will only stay in if there is truly extreme weather.
I love this for Frankie. No matter how intense our training program gets, he gets guaranteed “horse time” every day to stretch, roll, interact with his buddies, and relax. Of course there’s always a risk that he could get injured, but for me the benefits of group turnout outweigh the risks. We’ve had several people bring their horses into the barn and warn, “she’s spooky, he’s hot, be careful, he needs a specific bit, etc.” Once they’re on the full turnout schedule, literally every single one of these horses has ended up being completely chill. Without exception.
But this isn’t a blog post about how I’m a big fan of turnout. That’s boring. What I found much more interesting was our discussion of how turnout time actually can have a cascading effect on an entire training program.
For example: let’s say that Frankie only goes out for 1-2 hours every day. In order to not lose competition-level fitness, this means that he needs to be ridden every day at least once, maybe twice. As a working amateur I certainly don’t have the time to ride twice a day, so Frankie goes into a full training program.
Well, now my horse is being ridden 6 times a week by a professional. So now I have certain expectations for how he will perform. If we struggle with an exercise in my weekly lesson, I’m annoyed that the pro rider didn’t school this enough with him. If we have rails down at a show, that’s my trainer’s fault for not preparing him to go win. I’m paying the trainer big bucks to have Precious Pony in a rigorous program, why pay that money if we’re not going to go win? I have relinquished responsibility for my progress and my results, and put a whole lot of stress on my trainer to be responsible for how I do.
On the flip side, let’s say that Frankie is turned out every day for 12 hours in a hilly field (which is the real life scenario). He can easily stay fighting fit in a 6 day/week schedule, because he spends most of his day moving up and down hills. That’s a schedule his ammy owner can work with. He may get regular tune-ups from a professional, but the vast majority of his rides come me.
So now the expectations for performance lie within myself, because I’m the one who puts most of the miles on him. If we mess up, I know why- it’s because we need to work harder on XYZ skills. If we do well, I can be really proud of the work that’s gotten us to that point. My trainer is responsible for making sure we’re competing at an appropriate level and giving us the tools we need to succeed, but as the main rider I am responsible for actually following through and giving a good ride. It puts the ownership of the accomplishment (or slip-up) firmly with the rider.
So the attitude and perspectives that we have while exiting the ring can lead back all the way to how much time the horse spends outside.
Is this a 100% direct exact correlation? No way! There are plenty of owners and horses that work hard and do well with less turnout, and there are plenty of kooks who turnout 20 hours a day. This is more of a thought exercise on how the pieces of how we care for our horses feed into the way we approach a training program, which feeds into the way we approach competitions.
I’d love to hear your thoughts- how does your approach to care affect how you train or compete?
I don’t know if any of you caught it (why would you?), but for a hot second my sidebar for upcoming shows said:
“Lake Placid June/July 2018 OR Tryon June/July 2018”
In the email I received about the Gold Star clinic, they said that they hoped to see me next year at Team Finals, which would be held for my area from July 4-8 at Tryon.
See, my barn has already started making plans to be in Lake Placid at that time. So of course I immediately emailed my trainer to ask what I should do because she runs my life, and she gave me the most ANNOYING ANSWER EVER: “What are your goals for the year? We can make either work depending on what you’d like to do.”
UGH STOP BEING REASONABLE AND ACCOMMODATING AND TRUSTING ME TO MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS WE ALL KNOW THIS IS A BAD IDEA.
So suddenly, I had to make the choice between two incredibly amazing opportunities. A no-lose scenario. Either way, I’d be competing at a gorgeous venue and having a fantastic time. These are the fun decisions!
Considerations about Tryon: I would still be on the radar for USHJA programs and get the chance to try again to make it into a Gold Star clinic. Since Trainer and AT wouldn’t be able to join, they’d send me down with another trainer from the area that I HIGHLY respect, and there’s definite benefit to getting fresh eyes. I’ve heard Tryon is a gorgeous venue.
Considerations about Lake Placid: it’s high profile enough that I won’t be fading into obscurity there, especially if we manage to place well. I would have my own trainers to work with and my show family to have fun with. It’s been described as a total paradise, the barn doesn’t go every year, and my family is tentatively willing to come up for a week’s vacation since there’s so much to do in the area besides just show.
While a tough decision (because both sound so fun and I like to do All The Fun Things), I’ve decided to commit to Lake Placid! At the end of the day I compete because I have a blast doing it, and the idea of doing two weeks of vacation/showing with my barn family sounds like the most fun I could possibly have. Trainer has offered to take us down to Tryon another time since that’s more easily accessible, but I may not get another chance to go north for several years.
Another consideration is that I may simply not get enough points to qualify for Team Finals. Trainer and I have decided that while I’ll spend part of my time in the division where I’ll likely get some points, I’m also going to be dabbling in the 1.20m. I’ll be moving between two divisions enough that it would be difficult to get a lot of points in either. I’m a member of WIHS and NAL so if I get points for that I wouldn’t be mad, but I’m not going to chase those. This will be a very busy competition year of challenging ourselves and progressing- not necessarily qualifying for any big finals. I’m hopeful that this year of some big shows and big tracks will be the set up I need for 2019 to be absolutely killer.
I’m officially no longer sick and SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED about our upcoming show season!!! I’m pinching myself a little that I get to do so many cool things with the best horse on the planet. Can’t wait to take y’all along for the ride!
Lemme know if you’ll be at any of the shows in my sidebar! Frankie and I would LOVE to meet you in person!