Day in the Life: Full Training Edition

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

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

Tuesday-Thursday

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

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

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

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He loves his grandpony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A satisfied Frankfurter. PC- Liz Stout Photography

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

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

Weekends

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

Monday

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

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

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

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

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Viva Carlos Blog Hop: My Ideal Day

I’m loving this blog hop, because I’ll take any excuse to daydream about my ideal scenarios. The hardest part for me is narrowing it down to just one day, since there are so many iterations that sound so ideal.

First off, I’d wake up around 7 without any kinks in my neck or back. For me that’s just the right time to feel like I’m not waking up in the wee hours, but not lazing the morning away. And the neck kinks are self explanatory.

I’d then have a nice light breakfast of fruit and yogurt with my husband. Just a little something to wake up. Throw some English breakfast tea in there because in Dreamland I can have caffeine without staying awake for 3 days. I wouldn’t have to worry about preparing any of it or doing any of the dishes.

From there I’d head to the barn, with my magically not-allergic-to-horses hubs coming with to enjoy the fresh air. He would obviously bring a fancy camera with him.

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Like this only imagine that he’s not holding back sneezes

My first ride of the day would be on the schoolmaster I bought with my imaginary riches, with a brief lesson jumping the big jumps and learning more about how to ride the big tracks. After cooling and grooming my delightful packer, it would be Francis time. Plenty of time to groom and play to get ready, then a private lesson of learning to work together. I don’t even care what we do in the lesson. Then a nice cool out walk around the neighborhood with my ammy friends to enjoy the sunshine, more grooming time, and a deep clean of my tack while chatting and hanging out.

After that I’d probably want to head to a winery with friends to relax and enjoy trying some new wines. We’d be able to sit outside and pet everyone’s dogs and listen to music. It would be sunny and 70s – warm enough to be comfortable outside, but not too hot or humid.

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This one 10 minutes from the barn would do nicely (they have a mini donk there too so it’s literally a paradise)

I’m thinking this would take us to about mid afternoon, at which point I’d want to head home to my house with a quiet yard, garden, and plenty of ducks. I’d go for a leisurely swim in our pool, and we’d have the neighbors over for a barbecue, share a bottle of wine, listen to some music, not get eaten by bugs.

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I imagine it looks a lot like this. Source

The house would magically clean itself, and we could go to bed at a reasonable hour to the sound of crickets.

Basically all I ever want to do is ride ponies and drink wine with friends.

Alternative version: pretty much any day I get to spend at a horse show. Lucky me that I get to live my ideal day so often ❤

WEC 2019: The Rides

I’ll be honest with all y’all, I had a hard time sitting down to write this post. Not for any emotional reason – like I said earlier, I had a total blast and was super happy with my rounds, learned a ton, etc. But as this blog has grown and evolved, I’ve moved away from a round-by-round analysis as my own mindset and training philosophies have changed. I find it much more useful to consider a show as a whole and look for patterns, rather than fully dissecting what went right or wrong in each round. That worked fantastically for me for a long time and I’m glad I did it, but times and perspectives change.

That being said, I do want to share some of the course diagrams with you, talk about what I found good and bad in there, talk about some of those patterns that I noticed throughout the week, and a bit about the competition itself.

First I’ll kick off by talking about Tuesday and Wednesday, where I didn’t show but I did hop on for a brief lesson with Belle. We were able to go into the Sanctuary (the big jumper ring) both days to string together a few jumps instead of being stuck on a single in the warmup ring, but no full courses either day. Basically my thoughts are that I don’t particularly like flatting this horse. There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s not trying to do anything bad, but it wasn’t fun and interesting in the way it is with Frankie. She had a very VERY clear attitude that it was a necessary evil to get out of the way. But once we started jumping? Big fat grin on my face. She was a BLAST. Much much more forward than I’m used to and much harder to pull up off the last fence, but she locked on and carried me every step. I felt much more confident about heading into the show ring with her on Thursday.

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My first schooling class at 0.80m on Thursday
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And my second schooling class on Thursday at 1.0m

Notice how similar they are? Honestly these are both basically hunter courses with some combos and an end jump thrown in: bending, outside, bending, outside. Not a ton of places for inside turns which is fine, they were just schooling rounds to get used to the ring and each other. Clear in the first round and a single rail in the second where I didn’t quite give a generous enough release. I noticed that we had a pretty strong right drift, which is interesting to me since Frankie has such a strong left drift.

This was also my first full round jumping 1.0m since probably August or September, since Frankie and I haven’t jumped at height in a good long time! I definitely got a bit fetal in places when she jumped hard, but by the end I was feeling much more confident about the height and it wasn’t an issue again.

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Schooling class at 1.0m on Friday before our division started

This was another really soft course in my eyes. There really isn’t that much to say, it’s another glorified hunter course. I had to sit back pretty hard in the lines to help her fit it in, but she went clear for another blue ribbon round.

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Our first Low division class!

I was hoping that the division courses might be a little more intense, but I didn’t really get my wish. I had one rail at 10a that I’m actually not at all mad about – she was trying to blow through my hand and leave a stride out to the combo (UM NO MA’AM) and I had to check her pretty hard to get her back under me. Checking her earlier would’ve saved the rail, but I’m glad we at least got the job done and rode the striding. That rail was enough to bump us to 5th out of I think 8th. I’m thrilled that we weren’t last considering how rusty I was!

I forgot to take a picture of the course for our speed round on Saturday, but I have something better: video! Monica came for a visit and was there to see us go in the ring. Funnily enough, this was probably the round that I was least happy with all week. Still happy with it in many parts, but there were several sticky moments where Belle 100% bailed me out of trouble.

She was definitely the most tired in this round out of the entire week, and I didn’t adjust my riding enough to that. You can see that 2 was an OHCRAP moment, we left one out for a launcher at 6, and it was a bit of a wrestle to fit in the stride to the last jump. Other than that, there were some great moments! You can definitely see that right drift, and me doing approximately zero to correct it. Womp. Overall her majesty did manage to take us clear and fast, and she earned us a second place in this round. Queen Mare is a Queen.

Also this was my first show with my hair in a braid and I hate how it looks swinging around so BRB going to chop it all off.

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Which brings us to classic day! I was expecting a tired pony again, but certainly did not get it. I think only doing one class on Saturday was just enough of a break for her.

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Classic round from Sunday

Everything rode in a 7 here. Legit every related track you see was a 7 stride (except 3-4 which was 8. But that I rode in a 7). I was super bummed to have a rail at fence 1 – I think I just didn’t help get her eyes on it quickly enough, because it was a good spot and she jumped well out of stride. Other than that, this course rode wonderfully and was our best one of the week. I was able to rate her stride to get just the jumps I wanted, I controlled the right drift at least a little, and our turns were super efficient.

Luckily, tons of other people got rails in this class too (I mean, luckily for me, not for them). Only two people made it to the jump off and we were the fastest 4-faulters, which earned us a big pretty yellow ribbon!

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It’s the one directly over her left ear. My friend took some shmancy ribbon pics with us, I’ll share when I get them!

I’m beyond thrilled with all of these placings. I was able to knock the rust off after over 7 months out of the show ring, navigate at 1.0m on a strange horse with some solid rounds, and felt confident and positive all week long.

I’m so happy that we had Belle in the barn, not only for me but for her. She got to have turnout every day which is unusual for her, we got her a massage on Saturday, and she was fed and groomed and loved on with a lot of care and attention. Our barn has a reputation for returning our leases in better shape than we got them, and she 100% deserved that as well. She had to put up with a lot with a rusty ammy in the irons, so I’m glad she seemed to enjoy pampering that came along with it.

This was exactly the show that I needed to boost my confidence and make showing fun again after a season of some pretty intense burnout. I’m feeling great and ready to get back out there with my bestest boy to tackle some new adventures!

 

 

WEC 2019 vs. 2018 Comparison

Not getting into the actual show recap quite yet, I just want to talk about how different this year felt compared to last year. I’ve been to plenty of shows over multiple years (HITS, Upperville), but having to travel out this far is a different ballgame. There were some nice changes in the facility as some construction has completed (the vendor area is stunning), but it felt like I hadn’t even left. Like, it was creepy. It’s been a full year. But even though it felt like I had never left, this week was completely different from last year’s outing. Completely 100% different.

For one, I stayed on my own offsite in a hotel, not on the grounds. While it was still only 10 minutes away, it meant that I did all my work in my hotel room instead of working from the barn. Much more separation than before. It also gave more separation to heading back and forth from the show – I didn’t feel like I was on the grounds 24/7 like last time, which was a nice change. Having my own room also gave me much more alone time in the evenings, which this outgoing introvert thrives on.

We were also in a completely different barn! Last year we were in M, and this year we were in A. Check the map below and you can see that they literally could not be further apart.

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It was lovely though, we got our own spacious aisle and even turnout!! This was my one big gripe last year, that the ponies didn’t have any time to go play and stretch their legs. We had to rotate them through so it wasn’t a full day like they get at home, but a huge huge huge improvement over none at all. I think it really helped them stay fresh. (Interesting side note – we were the only ones using turnout. I found that absolutely wild)

I also showed up suuuuper early in the week and was the only client there for a solid 3 days. I opted to drive out on President’s Day since my office was closed, so I could work remotely Tues-Wed and then take Thurs-Fri off completely. It meant a few extra nights in a hotel, but was totally worth the savings on vacation time. It was super leisurely for those few days: I did my work during the day, then headed over to the barn to lesson, clean tack, hang out with my trainer and AT. No stress no fuss.  It’s not often that I get to be the only client and I obviously adore my barn fam, but there was something really chill about having such an open schedule for the first few days.

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As the resident tall girl, I was in charge of hanging all the ribbons throughout the week. This is my aesthetic.

 

 

 

Of course probably the biggest difference is that I was riding a different horse. I haven’t shown another horse since before I bought Frankie back in 2016! I leased a gorgeous mare named Belle, a 17yo Selle Francais who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and leads tours. No joke, this mare is the ultimate definition of a packer. She self-adjusted, aimed herself at the jumps, found her own spots, maintained her own forward (and hoo boy was she a rocket), and was generally self-sufficient with very little needed from me.

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She was also a VERY sweet girl with some of the best ground manners I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Her only little quirk is that she’d get spooky walking back from the ring. All business on the way there to warm up, but she knew when she was done and started giving everything the hairy eyeball. Funny mare.

I’ll be honest, riding something like this kinda opened my eyes to how hard I need to work with Francis. Obviously he’s still my favorite ride and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do have to be giving him constant input. Constant. Belle did not require input beyond pointing her at the jumps and encouraging her to fit the last stride in, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve completely dropped the reins and she still would’ve found her way around the course.

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Clear schooling round meant a blue ribbon, and Big Lady knew she earned that for me.

So another big difference was that the pressure was off. I did some 0.85m classes as a warmup to get to know each other, then stuck in the Lows for my division. No pressure to do any big jumps. As long as I released, Belle jumped a 10 from any spot. And it wasn’t my horse. I had nothing to prove. She wasn’t even a sales horse, where I might’ve felt pressure to show well to help her resume. Her entire job is to take people like me and give them a safe and enjoyable ride in the jumper ring.

While I certainly missed my big bay beast, he was very happy back at home – fully recovered from his heel grab – and I was thrilled the get the chance to learn how to adjust my ride to something so completely different.

Overall it was a much more relaxing trip than last year, and I had a much more enjoyable time. So much so that I was sad to leave on Sunday! I know that doing another week would’ve been too much (contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes learn from experience), but it was hard to pull myself away to head back to reality.

IalsoboughtbeautifulbreechesIhaveaproblemit’sfinethingsarefine

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World’s most supportive husband right here

Next up I’ll write about some of our rides, and do a bit more cohesive recap of how the week went!

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.

Kicking Off the New Era

Building on the new-car-news, I have more non-horse related news! It’s been quietly in the works for a bit now, but I’ve been keeping it on the DL as I’ve figured things out.

Basically, I was so relieved by being done with wedding planning that I almost immediately started looking for something else to fill my time. Because I’m garbage like that.

I considered a couple things:

  • I could get back into the 6x/week training schedule with Francis that’s worked well in the past. But I’m honestly feeling really good about the slightly lighter schedule that I have while keeping him in training with AT. I don’t have huge competitive goals this year, so I’m happy with this different balance of barn time for a little bit to re-set.
  • I could throw myself into my workouts more devotedly. But I also already do them consistently and as much as I like feeling healthy, I have approximately zero desire for it to be a “thing” in my life besides serving a basic purpose.
  • I could throw myself into keeping a really beautiful home for myself and my husband. But we live in a small 2 bedroom condo that takes very little effort to keep tidy and clean, so there’s not actually that much to do.
  • I could start cooking meals more often hahahahahaha yeah right nope.

And as I was considering and discarding each of these options, I got an email from a listserve I had signed up to on a whim 6 months ago: “Do you want to meet with an admissions rep for X school in your area?”

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How I stared at this email 6 times a day for several days

I was about to send it to the trash without responding, but I paused and thought about it. And thought about it the next day. And brought it up to my husband. And then brought it up to my boss which lead to one of the most amazing professional mentorship conversations I’ve ever had.

So after ALL that, I finally responded that yes, I’d like to meet with this rep. I knew next to nothing about the program, I had done zero things necessary to apply to ANY program (let alone this one), but I decided to go for it.

And in the intervening 8 days until that meeting, I had researched 50+ other programs, attended two info sessions in person, talked to 10+ admissions reps, and applied to one. Oops.

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SHUT UP AND HELP ME WRITE MY ESSAY

The more I researched, the more I knew what questions I wanted to ask and what was important to me. By the time I got to that originally scheduled meeting that kicked this whole thing off, I had already realized that program was not a good fit. But it seemed rude to cancel.

The long and short of it is that within 2 weeks of seriously considering applying to schools, I had an application in. About 2 weeks later I had an acceptance letter. And in just about 2 months I’ll be kicking off the next phase of my education as I pursue my MBA!

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Dad if you’re reading this just know that I’m doing this at least partially to prove that I’m the superior child.

The closer it gets, the more excited I am. Getting my MBA has been in the back of my mind for a while now (as you may remember), and while it will require some sacrifices and changes, there won’t ever be a better time for me to do this.

For those of you worried about Francis, never fear. He’s obviously not going anywhere. Robust employee benefits mean that my financial situation remains unchanged, so my only consideration is time. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t ride at all, but realistically I know there’s no way to support a 5-6x/week schedule while also working full time AND going to school. He’s currently in a 2x/week with a pro and 3-4x/week with me program, and I’ll plan on sticking with that until I have a better handle on the workload. My trainer is on board and I know that we’ll adjust as needed to make sure he’s getting plenty of exercise and plenty of love!

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Fewer interrupted naptimes are fine with him.

This will mean fewer horse shows and the jumps will likely have to be lowered a few holes, but I’ll still get my saddle time and the knowledge that he’s healthy and happy in his beloved program. And yes, the flexibility and cost of the program factored into my choice very heavily for this reason. Can’t make any decisions without considering the bestest Frankenbean ❤

I’m not sure how this blog will be affected by this new enormous piece of my life, but I’m excited to find out and bring you along for the journey!

A New Era

Guess who has a new ride! And no, Frankie hasn’t gotten a brother. It’s the kind with four wheels and a steering wheel.

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Introducing new red car! And no worries – I still have the best plates. Photo cred to WBH for the dramatic angle.

I’m so beyond excited to have this new-to-me car. But while it’s newly mine, it isn’t completely unfamiliar to me.

Rewind a few years. Before I bought Frankie, I had this tidy little savings account (because I was super boring and never did anything besides pay rent and buy groceries) and was planning to use it to buy a car. I did tons of research, asked tons of questions, and talked to my very wise father about it extensively.

Of course we all know this ended by me blowing my savings on a big bay behemoth instead of a vehicle.

But right around the same time, my dad called me to share the exciting news that he had just gotten a new car. Hooray! And he started describing it. When he finished, I asked why he had picked that car.

“Well, I did some research and talked to people and thought this was a good choice for what I need.”

UM NO FATHER ‘TWAS I THAT PLANTED THAT IDEA because he literally bought the exact car I described. Even in the color that I liked.

Naturally, I spent the next several years trying to convince him to sell me the car. I was not discouraged by failure, because my father also taught me tenacity. See, this whole thing is really his own fault.

Things kinda reached a head this past year when my beloved Jeep started needing more and more attention that I was pretty unwilling to invest in. I knew the inspection would be up in January (and that it would fail), and that I would need to get a new ride by mid-February.

Lo and behold, my parents decided that their car was actually a little too big for their needs, and they were going to be getting a different model.

We negotiated a price, we picked a day, and Nicholas took a one-way flight up to RI to drive it down to VA the same day. Yes, he does win Husband of the Year. And so we have a new big red Subaru.

That same day, the mechanic who saw the Jeep for the inspection (and failed it, obviously) made an offer. I accepted immediately and signed over the title. And yes, there were tears as I let go of my car of 10 years.

So while I spent 4 days and roughly 8 hours at the DMV trying to get all the paperwork sorted last week, it’s at least because I’m now driving a car with solid brakes and windshield wipers that work. I’m in love and really enjoying the Bluetooth connection to talk to my family and listen to podcasts.

But for all its quirks and constant need for repairs, that little Jeep carried me through everything. From the day he arrived in the driveway for my 17th birthday, he carried me to high school, college, boyfriends, breakups, road trips, moving to VA, 6 apartments down here, interviews, my first job, my second job, buying a horse, countless lessons, so many amazing shows, my first date with my now-husband in a blizzard, his proposal, our mini-honeymoon for my 27th birthday. As silly as it may seem, that car was a constant fixture in so many important moments of my life and occupies a large space in my memories. I’ve made countless phone calls to family members from that car, I’ve laughed with friends on our way to adventures, I’ve cried on my way home from bad days, I’ve napped in the backseat, I’ve sang along to the radio as loud as I could,

Cheers to Benjamin, the little red Jeep that helped me grow up. And cheers to the new big red car that will see me through the next exciting chapters!

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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.