Our WEC Schedule: As Told by GIFS

I’ve talked a lot about how we’re preparing for WEC, but I haven’t really talked about what WEC will actually look like. So here’s a rambling timeline of what’s happening when and how and where and why and who and all that fun stuff.

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This weekend: get a few final rides in, clean EVERYTHING, and pack my trunk. Give Francis an extra solid grooming and make sure the Treat Fairy leaves some snacks for him to find.

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What I look like to Frankie when I leave carrots in his bucket. Treat Fairy FTW.

Monday: Trainer, AT, and the horses hit the road bright and early. Or really, dark and early. It’ll be an 8-9 hr ride and they’re planning on getting there by mid afternoon so they can ride all the ponies- they’ll need some stretching of the legs after a long day in the trailers. I’ll still be in VA, going to work and making final preparations.

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Francis after getting out of the trailer

Tuesday: Trainers will get the horses more settled and our stalls set up. Another pro ride for Francis. I will again, still be in VA and working and packing.

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Me at work Tues

Wednesday: Travel day for me, which means a vacation day from work! I’ll hop in the car for the 7-8hr ride out west. I’m hoping to hit the road early enough that I can be there in time for an afternoon hack/lesson with the Beast. Tentative plan is to stay on an air mattress in a friend’s cabin (a series of rooming options fell through all at once, so I’m kinda scavenging beds at this point. Luckily I have the best barn fam to help me out!).

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I have plans with the barn children

Thursday: I’m working part time (probs about 4 hours), so I’ll need to time this around my ride(s). Potentially doing a warmup class to get us in the ring before our division starts. This day will be a combination of doing my job, riding my horse, and keeping in touch with my wedding vendors.

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What Thursday will look like

Friday: I preemptively took a full vacation day from work so I can focus on riding. This will be the first day of my division- we’re doing the Highs. Just one class this day. I’ll spend the time that I’m not riding helping our other riders and hanging out! Probs also doing wedding stuff too honestly.

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Time to go ride the horse for realz

Saturday: Two classes for the Highs. This will just be a horsey day with no work or wedding stuff. I have no doubt I’ll stay busy enough with the pony.

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The plan is to enter the ring with both of us feeling this confident every time. No invading Russia.

Sunday: Classic day! Another pony-centric day.

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EVERYBODY’S TALKIN’ BOUT MY WHITE PANTS

Monday: Frankie will get the day off from riding, but I’ll likely end up taking him for a walk or something so he can stretch his legs. I’ll be working full time remotely, so it’ll probably look something like working 7-11a, pony time from 11a-1p, working 1-5p (then obvi more pony time). We’ll see how the timing ends up working out.

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Oh right that thing that pays the bills

Tuesday-Wednesday: Still working full time, but I’ll throw some hacks/lessons in on Francis. As long as I get 8ish hours of work in I’m golden. Def also wedding stuff too. At some point during these two days my barn bestie will be arriving and I can crash in her hotel room for the rest of week 2.

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Preemptively congratulating myself for working, riding, staying hydrated, and planning a wedding from Ohio

Thursday: working part time again, maybe another warmup class.

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Get back in it!

Fri-Sun: same as week 1.

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Second verse, same as the first

We’ll see what the timing looks like on Sunday- if we’re done early enough, I’ll hit the road to get home that night. If it’s getting late, I’ll just wait and head home on Monday.

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Either way, Imma be dead.

We’ll also play it by ear during week 2 when it comes to classes. Right now we’re just planning on doing the Highs each week, but we may decide to do an adult eq class at some point, or have AT take Frankie over a bigger track to get some miles. I’m not too worried about it.

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IT’S SO SOON AND I CAN’T WAIT YOU GUYS.

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I’ll try to remember to blog as I go, but you can check my Instagram (@hellomylivia) for live updates on my story. I’m on there an inappropriate amount. Damn millennials and their phones.

millennial out

 

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Anchoring the Team

I found out who my teammates are for Finals this weekend!

And um. They’re like really, REALLY good.

The way it works is that they match the top point rider with the lowest (who is qualified), second highest with second lowest, etc. Seeing as I squeaked in riiiiight over the minimum required to qualify (mama can’t afford no more shows, sorry), I’m matched with the two top point riders in my zone and one other with lower points. But the girl with lower points is actually a beast too. I may or may not have stalked all of them on Instagram and found their show results on USEF.

You guys. They are all seriously so much better than I am it isn’t even funny.

I’m not saying this in a self-deprecating “I suck!” kind of way. I mean this entirely in a “holy crap this is so awesome I get to ride with some total badasses” kind of way. They all have way more mileage in the division, some really freakin’ cool horses, and I know I’m going to learn TONS from them.

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Except Frankie will be leading the class in posing for the camera. (PC: A. Frye)

Don’t get me wrong- Frankie and I are planning to show up and lay down some powerful trips. I’m not just happy to be there, I want to be there and be competitive- and we’re in a much stronger place to do that than we ever have been. Frankie is fit and spicy and raring to go (and by spicy I mean he swished his tail once over a jump this weekend WATCH OUT WILD MAN but yeah that’s sassy for him). We’re not going to be phoning this one in.

But I’m also realistic about our abilities compared to the other pairs- we’re not going to be anchoring the team with my blisteringly fast times. So I have to come up with other ways to anchor the team.

I am going to be The. Most. Enthusiastic. Teammate you have EVER heard of. I am going to cheer all our rounds like a crazy person, dress our horses up in war paint (single-handedly if I have to), bring the wine, drink the wine for our underage teammates, all of it. If everyone on my team doesn’t feel like a powerful amazing woman at all times, I am not doing my job.

If you can’t tell, I’m really really really really excited. It’s going to be AMAZING.

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What I lack in skill and decorum, I make up for in enthusiasm

This week’s schedule:

Monday: Frankie gets new shoes and fresh feets. It’s his day off to play with his buddies and rest. I’ll take the time to polish my boots, pack my bags in advance, and do any final prep to my own gear.
Tuesday: we have a lesson, and this will be our final jump school before the competition.
Wednesday: I’ll flat around and probably go for a little trail ride; all tack will get a deep cleaning; Frankie gets a bath and neatened up- bridle path, mane pulled, etc.
Thursday: we trailer over at an ungodly early hour- we have to be on site 24 hours before the jog Friday morning or something like that. We’ll have a lesson on-site to get us tuned in.
Friday: jog in the morning (we’ve been practicing) and rider’s meeting to make sure we all know what’s going on. First individual qualifier round (1.10m) in the afternoon after the regular classes have gone in the GP ring.
Saturday: team day! Two identical rounds at 1.15m in the GP ring, again in the afternoon. Frankie’s previous owner and trainer are both coming to see him!!
Sunday: individual final day at 1.15m. Only the top 20 riders at this point are invited to compete in this class, and I plan to be one of them.

It’s a pretty busy week ahead so you may not hear from me on the blog, but stay tuned for updates on my Instagram (@hellomylivia) and on my Facebook page (….also Hellomylivia)- I’ll be keeping up with these throughout the competition!

I can’t wait to tell you all about how much fun Frankie and I will have anchoring our team.

You Guys Rock and So Does My Horse

Today is a hodge-podge of thoughts- I am working on a more formalized schedule for myself so I can get back to blogging about our rides and lessons! Until then, I appreciate you all putting up with my semi-cohesive ramblings lately.

In exciting news, Jumper Nation decided to run my last post! The editor reached out to me and said they like having different perspectives for editorials, and I was more than happy to share my thoughts.

Of course, in hindsight I should have tweaked it a bit before sharing. I wrote my post for a specific audience: you all, who know me pretty well and generally give me the benefit of the doubt (thank you!). Turns out that some of my wording offended some people on Facebook, because they don’t know me and assumed I meant something different than what I did mean. Can’t really blame them, it’s super hard to read tone in text, especially when it’s a total stranger that you’ve never read before. Hopefully it added a little to the conversation, but I think I’ll do a couple things differently next time I want to share something with a wider platform. Live and learn!

On to the even more fun stuff: Francis.

Seriously you all are probably sick of me gushing over him, but I feel like the last few weeks have been a different gear for us. Not that we’ve been jumping big jumps (we haven’t) or doing super difficult courses (also no), just getting a lot of our basics tuned up and more correct.

For example: contact. Frankie has progressively gotten more educated to the contact and knows how to carry himself on said contact, but it was not something that he automatically thought to do. Of course he wouldn’t, that’s hard work! My trainers could always get him going really well over his back and up into the bridle, but I struggled to get that consistently.

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It’s hard to do things when all you want is to nap

It’s still not perfect and it will forever be a growing and learning process, but I do think we’ve turned a corner in terms of asking and receiving a more balanced contact. I think it’s a combination of me asking a little differently and a little more strongly, Frankie understanding the question better, and Frankie being fit enough to answer the question.

I also think he loves our new outdoor ring. He’s got a bit more room to move, the footing is a tad firmer (it’s gorgeous omg), and he’s just a happy horse when he’s outside. Before our new outdoor was done, we really only rode outside for shows- wondering if maybe he associates jumping outside with showtime? Whatever the reason may be, he is a very happy boy and is going around fantastically.

I have more stuff to talk about with Frankie, but I think that’ll all need a dedicated post.

Second to last thing for now: I have a new toy! You may have seen my video on Instagram (if you haven’t, go check it out @hellomylivia) and I’m really excited to put together more POV videos! I opted for a chest mount instead of a helmet mount because I am cheap and the helmet mounts in my price range looked really flimsy. So I now have a funny looking strappy contraption that holds my phone to my chest. I’m still figuring out how to adjust the angle and secure it so it won’t flop around when I jump- any suggestions? Here’s the link to what I got.

I’ve decided to remove most sound if I post videos from lessons. Namely, my trainer talking. Little snippets here and there are fine, but I don’t want to be giving away her livelihood for free. I also won’t be posting videos with kids visible in there. Any other suggestions for ways you keep your media barn-friendly?

And the last thing for now: I love my new job! It’s requiring me to be much more structured with my time and plan things out, which makes my color-coordinated file-folder heart go pitter-patter. Everyone has been so nice, and my new boss has been incredibly supportive of barn time (I’ve already got time off approved for Regionals in August!). The only real downside is that my commute to the barn has increased by a decent amount, but thankfully my trainer has been flexible and understanding as I adjust to the new schedule. And my new boss has already offered to put me on an alternate schedule so I can beat traffic and get to the barn earlier- how ridiculous awesome is that??

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I even look moderately less feral on a regular basis now

The crazy hectic-ness of June is dying down and Frankie and I are adjusting to our new normal. Lucky for me, he continues to earn his barn nickname of “The Unicorn” and continues to be the best pony on the planet.  

Frankie Updates!

It’s still kinda hard to believe that I own a horse. And not only that I own a horse, but that I own THIS horse. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve him- did I stop Jesus from tripping over a tree root in a previous life, maybe?- but I’m not gonna question it too much.

He’s been home with us for almost a week now and has settled in like he’s been here forever. He goes out with a group of geldings that he gets along with wonderfully, we’ve ridden in the indoor, outdoor, and all over the property, we’ve spent time in both barns, and he has handled it all with the same relaxed curiosity I noticed in him when we first met.

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His main question seems to be “Is this a thing I can eat?”

I have to thank whoever owned him before me- this horse has been loved. He has not felt tense or anxious at all in any of the situations we’ve been in over the last few days. He certainly takes a look at new things, but has shown a remarkable trust in me and has done every single thing I’ve asked him to without hesitation.

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Including the endless selfies. This is the face of a horse that is humoring me.

He’s quite different from Addy so I’m definitely still adjusting to his style of ride! He’s been very patient with me as I work some new muscles and figure out how to rate his stride properly. He’s shown that he’s willing to wait to the base as long as I’m not leaning up his neck (bad habit confession), and with every ride I get a better feel for his pace! He’s tolerant enough to handle my ammy mistakes, but when I manage to get my life in order and ride properly he gives me WONDERFUL work. Basically the best combo: he’ll jump the jump no matter what, but if I give him a good ride he’ll give me a great ride.

Handling him on the ground has been super easy too. He LOVES being loved on! He’ll stand in the crossties for hours if it means he’s getting attention. He does tend to get a bit mouthy when he thinks I have treats- he hasn’t tried to take a nibble yet, but he does get a little pushy. Now he only gets treats when he’s NOT mooching. Other than that (very) minor thing, he’s a perfect gentleman to lead, tack up, groom, and spend time with!

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Do you even see how shiny he is?!?!?!

I’ve also managed to finish up my shopping list- all we’re waiting on now is my order from Riding Warehouse to come in! I have a few bills to pay off, but it looks like the river of cash is slowly adjusting to our basic monthly expenses. Which still gives me a bit of a panic attack, but at least it’s not, you know, BUYING A HORSE. The only thing left to figure out is saddle fit. My beautiful saddle that I’m in love with and fits me perfectly does NOT fit Frankie well. I’ll be talking to the saddle rep to see if this is something we can adjust, or if I may need to trade in for a new saddle. For now, I’ve got a shimmed half-pad to keep his back comfy.

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We’ve got another lesson on Wednesday and I can’t wait to share how it goes! In the meantime, you can check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) for videos and pics of Frankie being handsome!

PS- In a funny full-circle twist of fate, Frankie is wearing my old gelding’s halter. I was going to swap out the nameplate, but it’s kinda a nice homage to the bay gelding that taught me as a junior. My new bay gelding doesn’t seem to mind too much.

Show Recap: The Big Kahuna

I swear, there has been a reason to my absence. I was in boot camp mode getting my butt in shape. And I was prepping my gear. And I was packing. “For what??” you may ask.

For those of you who do not follow me on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: I had the chance to go down and show at HITS Ocala for a week!

My trainer goes every year and gave me a quote for joining (which my wallet spasmed at), but I basically said “screw the cost, this is a bucket list thing.” I’ve always wanted to go down and show in Florida, and by golly I was going to.

Spoiler alert: it was incredible. Life changing, fantastic, incredible.

For the first few days I leased this ROCKSTAR of a Dutch Warmblood named Poppy, show name Emblazon. Homeboy was only 6 years old, but I would’ve guessed he was 14 or 15. He was a total steady Eddie- nothing phased him for a second and he went around every ring like he had been there a thousand times. Fantastically uncomplicated and a wonderful teacher. We did the 0.90m/low adult jumpers and dabbled in the 3′ adult eq classes.

On Friday morning we found out that Poppy was going to be headed north a day early, so my trainer had me quickly hop on 3 other horses that evening to see if we could snag one for Sunday. This led to the running joke in the barn, which is that I fell in love with every single horse I sat on. Apparently taking me to try horses is like taking a child to a candy shop- I can’t decide which one I like best because OMG THEY’RE ALL SO PRETTY GRABBY HANDS ALL OF THEM PLZ. But I loooooved the feel of the mare that I tried (I think maybe I just have a weird mystic voodoo connection with mares), which is what brought me to Saturday: showing Poppy in the 0.80m, taking Poppy early in the order for 0.90m, then untacking him and taking a golf cart over to get the mare and taking her last in the order for the 0.90m.

Mareface was a 7 year old WBxTB named Victoriosa and I was IN LOVE. Smoothest canter you’ve ever felt, jumped clear every time, and crazy adjustable. Did I mention she went in a rubber snaffle and no martingale?

So Sunday I took her in the 0.90m Low Adult Jumpers. The course seemed fair, a couple turns and some combos, but nothing outlandish. And we landed off the last jump. And the bell didn’t ring. And you know what that means: JUMP OFF TIME!! We picked up the gear a bit and flew through the final sequence with room to spare. I was a hot mess and got her to some awful spots, but that saint of a mare just kept trucking and picked her beautiful feet up every time.

Homegirl got us second place. A beautifully clear round with the speed demon mare: I was ecstatic.

And then we geared up for our Low Adult Classic: 0.95m in the Grand Prix ring. This was another great course! I thought it was a very fair test with a lot of interesting elements- a couple spots where you could really shave your turn, some combos you had to power through, and a couple bending lines to pick up speed. And pick up speed we did. We had an unlucky rail on the VERY last jump that kept us out of the jumpoff, but apparently we hauled ass enough to be the fastest 4-faulters, putting us in 11th!

This was huge for me, and it’s for a very silly reason. It’s for the pants. Almost a full year ago, I bought a pair of white Tailored Sportsmans as a reminder to reach for my goals and work hard. And almost a full year later, I got to wear those whites in the Grand Prix ring in Ocala, even making it into the ribbons. I don’t think I’ve ever teared up about pants before.

This whole experience just shifted my perspective so much as a rider. Being in the saddle for several hours a day did absolute wonders for my balance and ability to change my seat. I’m much stronger and can be much more subtle with my aids.

It also made me recognize just how much I love competing. Not necessarily winning- though I’ll never complain about getting a ribbon- but getting out in the ring and doing my best to lay down a good trip. The atmosphere of focus and determination, the exhilaration of galloping up to that wide oxer, the knowledge that I can and I will do better this time than I did last time. I couldn’t wait to get in the ring for each and every round.

And I can’t wait to get in the ring again. I’ll be saving my pennies to take another week to show next year (either at Ocala, Vermont, Lake Placid, or one of the other big shows my barn goes to), but in the meantime I’ll be planning on getting out and showing at least once a month. Who cares if I have to go broke to afford it? The whole point of having money in the bank is to spend it on ponies…right?

I should have some more exciting news for you in the near future (and I promise not to leave you hanging for quite so long this time). But for now, check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) or friend me on Facebook to see pics from Ocala!!!

 

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Wordless Wednesday- Faces

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Y’all need more of our smiling faces in your Wednesday.

PS: Guys I’m on Twitter now and pretty confused about how it’s supposed to work. But if you want to see me fumble my way through a new social media channel, then find me @hellomylivia!

Over the Moon

But, like, literally.

To those of you who haven’t seen this on Facebook or Instagram yet (find me on Instagram @hellomylivia! There’s lots of cute pics of Pretty Girl and my roommate’s adorable dog!), check out what we jumped yesterday.

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No seriously, we actually jumped over that! While 3’6″ might not be a big deal to a lot of people, this is the highest I’ve ever jumped in my entire life. Read: THIS IS A HUGE DEAL!!! I don’t usually jump on Mondays, but the assistant trainer (who is one of the best people on earth) had me pop through a small grid while she was there: cavaletti, crossrail, one stride, crossrail. Except every time through she cranked the back fence up a bit until we reached what you see there.

Pretty Girl was perfect! It was such a different sensation: when the jumps are smaller, her front feet are pretty much already on the ground by the time her back feet launch. With this height, there was so much hang time and she really had to crack her back over it. Which in turn cracked my back. I also tended to anticipate and try to jump for her, so I’m definitely going to have to work on that position.

But I did manage to use my automatic release, which made a lot more sense over this height. Now that I’ve started to actually use my muscles instead of flopping around like a salmon trying to spawn, I was able to follow with my hands instead of grabbing mane and reciting Our Father. I think Addy appreciated this: she practically dragged me towards the jumps when I would circle past them. Turns out she really likes the bigger heights! I’ve been boring her with this 2’6″ nonsense.

This was a lot less scary than I thought it would be- I’ve always had a sort of mental block about anything over 3′. Even 3′ seemed a bit overwhelming, and 2’6″ to 2’9″ has been my very comfortable comfort zone.

Now that I’ve seen how much fun she has over this height, there’s no stopping us. We’re still showing in the 2’9″ this weekend, but the move up to 3′ seems like a no-brainer now. And I’m begging and pleading our assistant trainer to come with me to some local jumper shows so I can start moving up there too.

After all, the lowest adult jumper classics I’ve been able to find in the area start at 1.10m (3’7″). And I reeeeally want to wear those white pants I grabbed, so we’ve got to start practicing.

Side note- We’ve picked out a show name for Pretty Girl! Jen from A Year in the Saddle, you’re brilliant. It turns out that your idea was one of the names on Owner Lady’s short list! She will be debuting this weekend as No Regrets.

Any suggestions for maintaining a good position and adjusting to these bigger heights?