The Money Talk

Everyone says that if you want to keep the peace, avoid talking about politics or money.

You’re in luck for the first- I don’t plan to ever talk about politics on this blog beyond urging y’all to get involved in your state and local governments.

But screw it. I’m gonna talk about money.

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Frankie gets top notch care and we compete at some bigger shows, all of which comes with a price tag. One that I’ve always been willing to pay because I’m an idiot who can’t stay away from the barn, but one that I could only kinda afford to pay.

I don’t know how it comes across in this blog, but I was making a lot of sacrifices to make it work. A LOT. And it was only kiiiiinda working thanks entirely to the flexibility and understanding of my support network. The bills got paid every month. By a hair.

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Every month after bills

I started making a list of all the luxury items I would get down the road once I was able: underwear without holes in it. Makeup that isn’t just a sample I got from Birchbox in 2014. Windshield wipers for my car that actually, ya know, wipe the windshield. A damn haircut. The cheese I keep seeing at the grocery store that I’ve never actually tried but looks amazing.

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How I feel about the cheese aisle at Wegman’s

I’ll be honest: if I could go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t. Budgeting down to the nickel, being super disciplined with my spending, and maintaining that level of awareness of my finances were all skills that I needed to learn and carry forward. The opportunities I got to pursue were worth every moment of stress about how to pay for it, and there is a definite sense of pride that at the age of 25, I’m able to do what I love every day because I’ve worked hard for it.  

I don’t regret any of it- given the choice between anything else and doing another class at a show, I’d pick competing more every single time. As long as Frankie was getting what he needed to be solidly ready for his job, I was fine ignoring everything else.

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Right? RIGHT?!

But I did make a few big shifts lately- changed my budget, adjusted some spending, made some huge life changes (new job, new apartment), and took some steps to get into a healthier place financially.

I didn’t realize what a constant source of near-panic my finances were for me until they weren’t anymore. There was such a physical sense of relief from making these changes that I literally giggled out loud to myself.

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After a year-ish of stress (definitely a coincidence that I bought a horse a year-ish ago) I’m finally at a point where I’m able to do both- take care of Frankie AND myself. Nothing crazy, but I can now say yes to the occasional happy hour and have non-holey underwear and get the damn haircut. My life balance is shifting a little.

For my barn life, this will hopefully mean more horse shows next season (including a solid 2 weeks in the winter at Ocala or WEC), more frequent preventative vet visits for Frankie as I ask for harder work, more professional training rides for him, and more non-traditional care- I’m excited to see how he likes chiro/acupuncture/massage. He’s a sturdy dude and isn’t showing any signs of discomfort, but I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to get some extra pampering.

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I think the conventional takeaway from the past year would be “learn from your mistakes, don’t overextend!” But like I said, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Only other horse people can understand the near-compulsion to keep coming back to the barn and trying again no matter the cost.

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but holy crap am I glad to have a break. Frankie’s earned a massage (and so have I).

Chubby Bunny

Frankie’s mama may be a TB, but Francis is alllll warmblood in pretty much every way.

He is the epitome of the big dumb warmblood gelding ( I say this with love), he’s built a little thicker than many TBs, and he sheds out more on a warmblood schedule (literally still shedding). So while he’s technically only half Oldenburg, I definitely think he takes after that side of his breeding much more strongly.

Including the fact that his natural state is a little chunk-a-roony. Manfriend has gleefully taken to calling him “Ol’ Frankie Dad-Bod.” Francis has a great work ethic, is athletic, but he loses fitness practically overnight when he’s not in a pretty intense program.

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OK fine there’s a bit of a belly there I admit it

His fitness has improved over time- but his job has gotten a lot harder too. As I’ve mentioned a few times now, fitness is our main focus in the lead-up to finals. So that people can stop calling my sweet boy names like “chubby bunny” and start being like “wow what a shredded ripped Hulk of a horse.”

He’s not obese or anything, and is probably slimmer than most show hunters, but still. He’s only 11, is jumping 1.15m with tentative hopes for higher, and he has a total dad bod. A DAD BOD.

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The most flattering picture ever taken

With 6 weeks to go until finals, what are we doing to turn Francis from Andy Dwyer to Star Lord?

  • Training rides. AT will be hopping on 2x a week to put some pro rides on him. We wanted to hit a balance of still giving me plenty of saddle time, but often enough to let the pro rides build on each other. 2x a week it is.
  • A 6 on/1 off schedule. Frankie will be worked with varying levels of activity 6 days a week. We’ve worked this schedule with him before with good results, so we’re getting back into that stricter rotation. It’ll be 2 pro rides (which will vary in time/intensity based on his schedule for the week), 1 lesson, 1-2 days hill work/terrain hacks, 1-2 light days.
  • Hill work. As mentioned above, we’ll be incorporating more hill work in our schedules. Some days will be more dedicated to this- there’s a low-traffic road near the barn with a nice shoulder and gentle slope that’s just perfect for trot sets- and we’ll be searching out more hill terrain for cool-down walks after other rides. I haven’t taken enough advantage of the terrain we have nearby in the past and I’m excited to make use of it. I think this will also help us have a good balance with rides- while we’re upping the intensity, we’re also going to be doing more hacks and trail rides to let him get out of the ring and decompress.
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Ambivalent ears
  • Raising the expectations. My “practice rides” with him often end up being fairly short, and I don’t make him do too much. Especially in the summer heat, my motivation to sweat even harder wanes a little. But enough of that crap. Francis knows how to carry himself on the contact. He knows how to collect with impulsion. He knows how to counter-canter and leg yield and shoulder-in. We won’t drill for the sake of drilling, but I will be asking for more out of our rides- he knows the right answers, I just need to be more insistent about asking the questions.
  • No stirrups. What, you thought Frankie was the only one who needs to get in shape?! I’ll be jumping on the fitness train and spending a lot more time without my stirrups. I’ll also be making more consistent use of the gym during my lunch breaks- with free access within walking distance, I have zero excuse not to go. I’m gonna need to get my own butt in gear to keep up with Frankie.

As always, we’re doing all of this in close contact with a whole team of professionals to make sure Frankie is getting the right nutrition, has healthy balanced feet, and is as healthy as…well, as healthy as a horse.

We ask an awful lot of him and finals will be a real test of that- three straight days of long championship courses. We owe it to him to give him every single tool that we possibly can, so he can perform his job comfortably without exhausting himself.

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Like that one time he literally fell asleep every time I wasn’t actively asking him to move.

I’d also like Manfriend to stop calling him Frankie Dad-Bod, but I think he finds it too hilarious to ever stop saying it.

 

Progression: Jumping

This has been mentioned time and time again in my posts over the last few months, but I’d like to take a minute and devote some time specifically to this:

Frankie consistently jumps much better now than he used to.

I don’t just mean that he jumps prettier- though he absolutely does. I mean that he jumps better- more strongly, cleanly, and powerfully. The “pretty” is a lovely side effect of these improvements.

So let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to see where we started together, and talk about some of what we’ve done to get to where we are today.

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First time I tried him, March 2016

 

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Our first show together, Loudoun Benefit, June 2016

 

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Our second show, HITS Culpeper, August 2016

 

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Working hard over the winter, November 2016

 

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Playing over the bigger jumps, January 2017

 

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NEVER NOT SHARING THIS PICTURE. First big outing in our new division, HITS Culpeper, April 2017

 

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Warming up at Upperville, 2017

 

Let’s go ahead and contrast an early and more recent one together real quick:

The height of the fence isn’t a factor here- in fact, the warmup fence on the right is quite a bit lower than the one in the show ring from last year (same venue, funny enough).

What we had early on was a horse that knew to get to the other side of the jump, but didn’t know how to use his body to do that efficiently.

What I see more recently is a horse that pushes off more powerfully from behind, uses his back and neck more actively, and is tidier with his front end.

And I think this speaks to a couple of different factors: (1) fitness and (2) knowledge.

Frankie has now spent roughly 18 months in a consistent professional program- he was certainly in training before that, but transitioned to a stricter program when he was put up for sale (which has continued since I bought him). Through that steady increase in fitness, he’s better able to power off the ground by rocking back instead of “pulling” himself over the jump. His back and neck muscles have developed the strength to use them in different ways. I’d still like to condition him further and fitness will be our main focus in the coming months, but the consistency of our program has been good thus far for his muscle strength and endurance.

In terms of knowledge, we’ve tried to build exercises that set him up to jump well- that make it clear what the “right answer” is. This means lots of grids set fairly short- asking him to rock back and collect his stride to carry himself through. This also means lots of lateral work on the flat, to unlock some of that motion and get him stronger in his hind end and over his back.

I think those shorter lines and grids are absolutely crucial for Frankie. He has a naturally big stride- not fast, just big- and it tends to get bigger and more strung out as he gets tired. By building the strength he needs on the flat to carry some collection in his stride, we are able to set him up to carry himself to the jumps. These shorter lines also force him to rock back on his butt to launch off- there’s no room for him to lurch over. And these lines make him fire a little faster to get his front end up and out of the way.

These are not often big jumps- we jack the jumps up 2-3x a month, if that. We only jump 1x a week, and most of the time they’re kept at 3’ or (usually) lower. We spend the time working on more efficient turns, adjusting our stride, playing with our track, and setting ourselves up to make jumping easier for him. So while I think Frankie gives a better effort over the bigger jumps partially because he has to in order to make it over, we have built up his fitness and ability mostly over smaller jumps and on the flat.

I will say that Frankie still prefers to gallop up out of stride instead of riding to the “jumper chip.” Doing that makes his life easy, since he has plenty of time to get his legs out of the way and doesn’t have to shift his weight back as much for takeoff.

The big difference now is that even though he doesn’t love the close spot, he can still give me a powerful effort. In the past, he simply didn’t (1) know that the close spot was the right answer or (2) have the fitness to give me that answer even if I asked (which I didn’t because I also didn’t know what I was doing and mostly still don’t so luckily he does now womp womp). It used to be extremely weak and lurchy and gross and icky.

In the spirit of total honesty- it is still sometimes totally icky. This is a work in progress, and I definitely need to back up all of my asks with a crapton of leg, otherwise he says HAH I CAN HALF-ASS THIS TOO MAHM. Which is fair.

So I definitely think there’s plenty of room for improvement here. As mentioned, fitness is going to be a big priority for us moving forward, to continue building that ability and willingness to rock back, adjust, and power off the ground. We’d like to shift that close spot to more of an automatic answer for him instead of automatically looking for an out-of-stride spot.

I think this is a great example of form following function. We’ve never tried to make Frankie jump prettier- we’ve just tried to get him fit for his job and set him up to answer the different questions he’ll be asked on course.

Hopefully as we continue to build our muscle and endurance, we keep improving together!

Especially for those of you with young/green/inexperienced horses: what have you done to develop their jumping abilities? I’d love to see any progress pics y’all have to share!

Planning Ahead to Move Up Someday: the Maybe Edition

Just to clarify up front: we are not moving up any time soon. We are in the midst of a lovely season in the Highs and are continuing to work out the kinks and polish it up.

Because let’s be honest, there is PLENTY to work on.

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For example, some day I’ll actually learn how to ride, maybe. PC: A. Frye

But I also like to have a bit of a longer view to what’s coming up, and sat down with my trainer to discuss what our plan is moving forward. The verdict: we have no real verdict, and I’m really excited about it.

What we do have is a series of options depending on how things go throughout the rest of the season. A couple of soft “maybes.”

One maybe: we get to the end of this season in the 1.10m-1.15m classes and decide we need another season in this division. Which would be fun! We could really focus hard on perfecting our rounds at that height, and there are plenty of fun classics and competitions at this height to keep us entertained.

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We can get plenty of cute pics in this division. And yes I’m still sharing this picture forever.

Another maybe: we get to the end of this season and feel really great and comfortable with how we’re going, and decide to try and move up. Which leads to another series of maybes.

In this case we work really hard over the winter to build fitness and accuracy, and very slowly start to try out a 1.20m class here and there- maybe putting my trainer in the irons at first to give him a better ride. Focusing on the ones offered early in the season and early in the week, where the courses are set more simply and forgivingly. And we pay very very close attention and make sure to work closely with our vet to make sure we’re not pushing further than Frankie wants to go- we know that being able to clear a few 1.20m fences does not equal the ability to navigate a full long course at a show. So this potentially leads us to a couple other maybes.

Maybe Frankie and I have built up enough fitness to do a soft entry into the 1.20m classes, and can give the Low A/O division a try. Which I think would be super cool.

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Seeing him fly like this over 1.15m is encouraging. PC: G. Mohan

Or maybe Frankie gives it a try and tells us that he’s not comfortable moving up more- which is also fine. Because that leads to another set of maybes.

Maybe at this point I decide to stay in the Highs with Frankie and come up with new goals within that height range- WIHS, other finals, etc. There are plenty of options!

Or maybe we decide to lease Frankie out to someone looking for a proven 1.15m packer, and use that lease fee to find me a 1.20m lease. Which would mean no A/O division for me, but there are other opportunities to give that height a try- the regional championships that I’m doing offer a 1.20m/1.25m section and they don’t require ownership to compete like they do in the A/Os.

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Have someone else deal with Sir Naps-a-Lot for a year

And because horses like to poop all over the best-laid plans, I am so sure that there are at least 100 other “maybes” that we haven’t even started to consider. Chances are high that we end up with the final option of “none of the above.”

So there you have it: we have no idea what we’re going to be doing long term, but we’re excited to find out. In the meantime we’re going to focus hard on fitness, get our eyes fixed on Regionals, and keep building our partnership for whatever the future might hold!

Ending note: I’m grateful to have a trainer who takes the time to talk about those longer-term goals with honesty and openness. And especially grateful that throughout our whole conversation, she made it abundantly clear that her #1 priority is Frankie’s health and longevity. In a sport where we so often hear about people pushing hard and fast at the expense of the horse, I’m proud to ride with someone who never compromises the horse for the show.

Do you like to plan out your maybes? 

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.  

Full Service at Shows

I read an interesting article from Jumper Nation the other day, bemoaning the overuse of grooms for younger students at shows.

I think the author made a great point about the importance of horsemanship, but I’d contest that the author is rolling two points into one, and I only really agree with one. From how I read it, I took away these major themes:

  1. Knowing your horse inside and out and spending time with them grooming, tacking, and general care is hugely important, especially for young riders
  2. People that use grooms at shows are not on the track to becoming well-rounded horse-people.

I agree completely and wholeheartedly with the first point. I don’t think I have to convince anyone here that grooming, tacking up, untacking, grazing, bathing, loving on your horse at all possible times is a GREAT thing. And that putting in the time and effort to learn about aspects of horsemanship other than purely riding is really necessary to becoming a well-rounded horsewoman/horseman.

I just don’t think that using full grooming at shows is mutually exclusive with this.

I say this as someone who rides with a barn that provides full grooming at shows: someone grooms the horse, tacks them up for the riders, bathes them when they’re done for the day, wraps them at night, and basically takes care of everything. All the riders (young and old) have to do is ride.

Does that mean the kids don’t know how to do any of those things? Hell no!

They all spend 5-6 days a week doing all of those things and more for hours and hours at home. For every time someone else has tacked up their horse, they’ve tacked him up hundreds more. For every grooming they get from our helper at a show, they’ve scrubbed their ponies waaaaay more often. These are kids that show up and work hard.

“Well Olivia, if they’re sooooo good at all these things, why don’t they do them at shows?!”

Glad you asked!

First of all, sometimes they do all of these things! Sometimes our helpers are busy, or they want to run their faces under the hose while bathing their horse, or any number of reasons. And then they tack up their own horse or bathe them or whatever. It happens regularly. No one is warding them away from their horse and telling them they can’t come near them, and they are all more than happy to join in the work when need be.

Really the main reason we do full grooming is because it lets my trainer exert a little more control on the situation. Instead of wrangling 7-10 students going in 6 different rings for 3 different disciplines and hoping everyone knows when to be ready and where to go, she has one go-to person coordinating that for her.

She can focus on the training and coaching, because she has her one point of contact getting people where they need to be, when they need to be there. She has one person to call to say, “Rosie needs to be up at Jumper 1 warmup in 15 min, and Shadow hacks in Hunter 2 in 30.” And she knows both horses will be shiny, riders in the saddle, ready to go when she gets to the ring. There’s a lot to be said for that kind of well-oiled machinery.

To be fair, I think the author is referring to the kids that NEVER tack up their own horse or take part in their care beyond riding. And for that segment of the population, I would agree entirely with everything she says. But I would contend that there are plenty of people who have similar arrangements to our barn- grooming at shows but not at home- who use this service for more reasons than simply, “I’m too lazy to brush my own horse.” A middle ground to the entitled elite and the scrappy DIYers.

So there you have it. I’m a huge believer in well-rounded horsemanship and hope to see our barn kids continue learning and growing in this area as they progress. But I’m also entirely OK with someone else tacking up their horses at shows.

From the brief conversations I’ve had with people, this seems to be a hot topic. So please jump in and share your thoughts on this- I’d love to hear different perspectives!

Upperville: The Recap

Phew. Moved into the new apartment, had my first day at the new job, and now I need to tell you more about Upperville.

I had some pretty high hopes going into Upperville- not of the ribbon variety, but more just reeeeally wanting to go lay down some good rides in our division. I combined that drive for success with barely riding for two weeks prior to competing. Because that’s always how to get better at things, right? Completely wing it.

Except you forget the part where Francis is literally a unicorn pegasus hearts and flowers kind of horse that is way better to me than I deserve. Srsly.

Overall I was thrilled with our rounds- despite my lack of saddle time I think I made decent decisions and stuck to the plan, and Frankie was just so on top of things that he made up for any of my deficiencies.

On to the details.

I arrived on Saturday to the oh-so-familiar sight of Francis conserving his energy for the upcoming competition:

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Too tired to close his mouth.

Someone commented that the stalls seemed small and I just pulled this pic out and said: “17.1 horse. Stalls are fine.”

But I left him to his beauty sleep and went to learn my course with my trainer. By the time we got back to get ready for warmup he had roused himself (luckily, I had a BEAST of a time getting him up at Culpeper) and we were able to go get our muscles moving.

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The rule is that I’m responsible for listening to our trainer, and Frankie is responsible for finding the nearest camera to make cute faces at. (PC: A. Frye)

Weirdly enough, I’m almost more proud of our warmups than I am of our actual rounds. It’s always taken me a little while to get my head in the game and ask Frankie for some real work, but this time we set right to it and were making better choices much more quickly. I consider that a big step forward for us. And of course, he met this dedication with his own hard work:

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I swear he doesn’t even look like the same horse as last year. (PC: A. Frye)

We didn’t need a ton of time to get us going and it was pretty hot, so we opted to head into the ring without too much of a delay. Course here:

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I liked this course a lot!

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His first time in this ring, keeping an eye on things. (PC: A. Frye)
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Specifically, keeping an eye on the camera because he is a diva (PC: A. Frye)
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UGH MAHM FINE WE WILL GO JUMPS (PC: A. Frye)

We came up to jump 1 off a shorter turn on the right lead- we like to collect through the turn and then bounce up instead of taking a longer runway approach.

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And it paid off with this lovely effort. In love with those perfectly even back feet!

We stumbled a bit off 2 but recovered in time for 3, and just continued on to 4. The bending into the combo walked a little short and I ended up holding a bit too much- it was uphill and away from the gate so it didn’t ride as short as I anticipated. But Francis was a bro and powered out the one stride totally fine.

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Please ignore everything about me in the Superman position and focus on the cute horsie NOTHING TO SEE HERE EXCEPT MY HORSE (told you he’s better to me than I deserve) (PC: A. Frye)

6 to 7 was fine and all was clear, so we continued on to the speed phase.

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Aw buddy be cuter (PC: A. Frye)

I let him get up on 8 too much and knocked a rail, and then we knocked one of the rails in the combo, got a bit of a flyer out over 11, and then 12 to 13 was decent.

Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Did my horse listen like a champ and give me what I asked for every step of the way? Also absolutely. His first time in the ring, tons of activity, and he stayed tuned in to me the whole time. Even better- after going through the timers and finishing, he tried to veer left and pull me towards jump 3. He wanted to go jump more. While we were out of the ribbons, I finished in the top 50% of the class and with a happy horse who was loving his job. I consider that a definite show success!

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We also got to go cool down with these views, so not too shabby.

On to Sunday!

Sunday was brutally hot. Like, it sucked. You know how when it’s that hot out you don’t want to eat because nothing is refreshing enough and your body is just too hot? Yeah. I did choke some fuel down, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.

But Frankie continued his eternal streak of being a Very Good Boy.

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Including mugging for the camera while getting tacked up.

I was a little nervous for our Sunday round- our first 1.15m class together, and Upperville does not set the heights forgivingly. This was going to be a true test at height, and I knew there would definitely be a triple combo in there somewhere. I was right:

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While more challenging, I thought this was a really fair test. There were a few options for the bold to make some intense inside turns, the time allowed was tight, but it wasn’t trappy anywhere. If you rode a good pace and made efficient turns, you could safely ride this competitively.

We again chose to make a short turn on the right lead to jump 1 (passing in front of jump 3). 2 to 3 was a standard 5 strides- I saw some horses struggle to get out in 5 if they didn’t jump in correctly, but I liked our jump 2 and Frankie carried his standard stride to take us out just a leeetle bit long.

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Cute jump 2! (PC: G. Mohan)

End jump at 4 was fine, 5 was ok- it was a skinny and a very upright vertical so a lot of horses knocked that one. We got a bit close on it, but Frankie was scrappy and got his feets out of the way. I needed to hold more left leg and get straighter into the combo, but we ended up to a good takeoff spot and made it through unscathed. We flew a bit into 7 which made 8 really tight- Frankie earned his oats by getting clear over that, because that was a tough spot for him.

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Flyer to 7 but he still real cute (PC: G. Mohan)

And then my horse started running out of steam. Due to scheduling confusion and the heat we had done a longer warmup than we strictly needed, and this was a long course. But true to self, he still went about his job like a pro and carried me through the triple combo without touching a rail. We galloped up 10-11 and took a well earned breather.

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Yeah he totally looks tired, doesn’t he? (PC: G. Mohan)

Despite the heat and both of us starting to flag, we had gone clear and within time! They buzzed us for our jumpoff almost immediately.

Again, 1 was fine. I didn’t get him back quickly enough to make the turn I wanted to 3, so we went a bit wide. 13 to 14 was a basic bending line, not much to say there. Then I am so proud of Frankie- we took a tighter turn and sliced across the oxer at 10 and he didn’t even blink. We made it around through the one-stride no problem again, and just has one jump left. Away from the gate. The course designers absolutely did this on purpose- both of us tired and hot and ready to be done, and I didn’t get his attention back on me and we biffed the last one. Womp womp. Just goes to show- do not relax until you are through those last timers.

But we again managed to finish in the top 50% of a big class, even if we were out of the ribbons. And we again finished with a horse that was tired, but a horse that had his ears up and made his way back to the barn with a spring in his step.

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And the height? Not even a thing. Frankie charged fearlessly ahead to every jump on course.

So yeah. My goal of going to Upperville and having some good rides was 100% successful in my book. Nowhere near perfect, but we’re further along that path than we used to be. And if you didn’t have a crush on Frankie before this, I hope you do now because he deserves all the love in the world from everyone. I count my lucky stars every day to have this goofy wonderful gelding in my life.

We now have our sights set on Zones in August! Our new outdoor is complete (post to come once I get pics I’m satisfied with) and full of fun jumps for us to practice with, and Frankie has never felt better.

It’s looking like we’ll do that in August, and then wrap up our season at Culpeper Finals end of September- we’ll plan to do the Modified A/O division at 1.15m, and I’m going to beg and plead and work really hard to convince my trainer that we should probably try a 1.20m class. We’ll revisit as we get closer depending on Frankie’s fitness, my own fitness, and how our training is going, but that’s a tentative stretch goal. We’ll focus on smoothing out the rough edges at 1.15m first, I GUESS.

Hope to get some more updates out to you soon!

Bear With Me!

I’m in the midst of a move right now (technically homeless for a few days, but a barn friend is graciously putting a roof over my head and feeding me wine, so it’s all good) meaning I don’t have access to my computer for a bit- I’m writing this on my phone right now. 

But my Upperville recap will be the first thing on the docket when I once again have a keyboard, never fear. 

Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING. No ribbons in a super competitive division of about 35 horses, but rounds that felt good, that I’m proud of. Frankie was the best he’s ever been (which is saying something, we all know he’s always great) and was absolutely worth his weight in gold. Sailed through our first 1.15m like it was nothing even with my ammy mistakes, and tried to pull me to jumps even when our courses were over. I know you’re all probably getting sick of reading this, but wow. This horse is so far beyond anything I could’ve hoped for in a million years, and I am so grateful to get the chance to go out and have fun with him. I may be biased, but pretty sure I have the best horse in the world. Love my Francis!!!

Ok I got a bit carried away, but here are a few pics to tide you over until I can put a real post together. 

Mother ran you past a distance to a 1.10m oxer? No problem for a FrancisBeast!
Somehow he always knows where the camera is…
Our first jump in the ring at Upperville, and he galloped right up like a champ
The traditional horse show nap. At least he knows how to relax.
This is the same horse that used to hang his legs and heave over a jump. Doesn’t look like the same horse, but it is.

Thank you so much Abby, Glendon, Manfriend, Manfriend’s Momma, and everyone else who snapped some great pics this weekend!

Can’t wait to share more details with y’all. 

Moving On: June Edition

I’ve kinda roundabout hinted at some exciting news to share, and I finally have the green light to make it public:

I have a new job!

After four great years with my current company, I decided it was time to move on to a different industry. I’ll have more of a business and strategy focus in my new role- I think it’ll be really challenging but equally rewarding. And don’t worry, I already asked about flex time for horse shows (literally mentioned horse shows in my first interview) and they assured me that they’re on board with show season. They already realize where the true priorities lie.

I’m lucky that everyone at my current company has been really supportive and encouraging about this move. I’ll definitely miss seeing my amazing coworkers every day, but so many of them have become like family to me at this point and I know we’ll still spend time together outside of work hours.

Along with moving jobs, I’m also moving houses! For those of you who have followed along for a while, you may remember that Roommate and I had to move suddenly due to our old apartment flooding last June. Well, a full year has passed and we opted not to renew our lease- cue Roommate taking charge (as usual) and making awesome things happen (as usual), and we will be inhabiting a much larger townhouse just 12 minutes away. We can’t wait for more space, more sunlight, more room for the dog to play, it’s going to be AMAZEBALLS.

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Derp dog just wants a comfy place to snooze

But here’s the extra fun part about moving: we don’t overlap at all with our current lease. In fact, we have to be out of our current place by a Tuesday and can’t move in until Friday. So really we have to move twice. Awesome.

June is shaping up to be wildly hectic:

Last day at new job on a Wednesday.
Two days in Richmond (Thurs-Fri) to celebrate Manfriend’s graduation.
Zooming back up north to Upperville for the weekend.
Moving out of our apartment (Monday) and couch surfing for the week.
Moving into our new townhouse (Friday).
Flying north to Rhody (Saturday) to visit family for a week.
Flying back to VA (Thursday) to celebrate Manfriend’s birthday (Friday).
Starting my new job at the end of June (Monday).

#PrayForMe #SleepWhenImDead #AlreadyExhausted

Luckily Francis continues to be an absolute rockstar despite my lack of consistent saddle time recently. We had a great lesson this week (that I need to write about because we had some fun breakthroughs) and we’re getting really excited for Upperville.

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Frankie’s instinct when I botch into the combo and have to boot out is to straight up levitate through because DAMMIT MOM STOP GUNKING UP THE WORKS. Yeah, we need a lesson recap to talk about this.

We’ve also had some time to chill together lately and enjoy the (rare) sunshine. Francis enjoys these relaxing hacks around the property and I love the break too!

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I will never be sick of this view.

The ring expansion is in the final stages, and Trainer shared some details for the final landscaping/fencing that I think will be incredibly cool. Once everything is final and I can snap some pics, I’d love to take you all on a virtual tour of our new outdoor.

So lots of things in the works for the month of June!! I’m so excited to share updates as we make some big life changes.

Balancing Time vs. Money

We were talking at the barn the other day about time vs. money when it comes to horses. Obviously, in an ideal world you’d have both: plenty of time to go ride whenever you wanted, and plenty of money to pay for horses/lessons/shows. No doubt that’s the ideal scenario if you want to rise through the levels.

I also think either extreme of trade-offs can work for this.

Have no time, but lots of money? Import that fancy warmblood, pay for full training, and grab mane. As long as you can make it out for semi-regular lessons and you have an forgiving horse, I think you can rise pretty high pretty quickly. I’m not going to comment on whether that’s fair or not because that’s a moot point.

Have no money, but lots of time? Working student positions, farm help, etc. Building those connections, learning the skills, showing that dedication opens doors. I’ve seen it happen more than once. It’s a lot more hard work and takes a lot longer, but can have amazing results.

For me, I think I’d choose the latter. Mostly because I just really really like spending time at the barn. Of course I wouldn’t complain about a fancy import, but I would rather be at the barn than the office- even if I couldn’t ride.

But I also think these are fairly unrealistic extremes. It’s not some linear spectrum. In my mind, it looks more like this:

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Professional image making skillz

So you’ve got the ones with no time or money, the ones with everything, the ones with the trade-offs, but then you have that middle area. Which is where most people I know are currently sitting (at least the ammies that I know). I know I’m square in that middle section myself.

The middle section is full of people with jobs that pay decently but not exorbitantly. Who have commitments to their careers and people they care about, but can take some flex hours or vacation time on occasion. The ones with a bit of time and a bit of money, but not a ton of either.

So how can you make that work when you don’t have either more time OR more money to contribute?

Short answer: I don’t really know. I don’t have any magic answers. I only know what has helped me thus far and what I plan to keep doing: making sure two phrases get used often.

“Thank you!” and “how can I help?”

My trainer, my assistant trainer, my farrier, my vet, my barn help, my barn friends, my barn friend’s moms, my manfriend, my barn dogs, my barn cats, my horse, my family, my roommate, my roommate’s boyfriend. They all help me out every single day. The least I can do is make sure they know how much I appreciate that help by overusing the phrase “thank you.”

And I may only get to the barn after work for a few hours each day, but I still want to learn and be involved. I like helping kids get tacked up, doing night check, being an extra hand at shows when I can, anything I can do to pitch in. If there’s a chance to do something with a pony, I want in and I’m going to repeat “how can I help?” until someone tells me to shut up and go home.

These aren’t going to *poof* make me rich or convince someone to adopt me as the sole heir to their secret fortune (though I’m open to that if anyone is interested, just saying), but I do think people notice that dedication. Certainly I’ve had some helping hands come out of the woodwork along the way.

So I’m going to keep on that route and keep showing up as often and as long as I can.

How do you balance the whole time vs. money conundrum?