Stoicism, Thy Name is Francis

Emma was talking about how Princess Charlie likes to scare his mom, and it got me thinking about Frankie and how he handles the ouchies.

Because despite both being cute bay geldings, Frankie could not be further on the other end of the spectrum here: Frankie don’t give a shit. (Dad if you’re reading this I know you don’t like it when I swear but I will make it up to you somehow, probably with gratuitous flattery, you handsome talented smartest best dad in the world)

But seriously. Francis is one stoic dude. Sprung shoe? Not noticeable under saddle. Lost shoe? We kept it light, but still not noticeable under saddle. Scrapes up and down his leg from playing too hard? Threw some ointment on it and he was perfectly sound with no heat. Chomping bite mark-shaped lump on his neck? Yep, he’s fine. Weather changes and location changes and stressful situations? He seeks out the water bucket and chills. In the almost year that I’ve had him(!!!!) he hasn’t taken a single ouchie step or had a minute where he felt anything less than healthy (omg please don’t jinx this I’m knocking on every wood surface within reach).

This works out really well, because homeboy LOVES to play with his buddies outside. His favorite game in the world is Wild Island Stallion. To the point where we bought him a muzzle because STOP DESTROYING EVERYONE’S BLANKETS YA DINGUS. But all that playtime means he comes in with a new bump or scrape pretty much every day.

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A split second before squealies and bities

If these bumps and scrapes seemed to bother Frankie at all, I would probably look intoΒ  changing his turnout situation. But Francis is SO happy to be outside with his buddies and clearly doesn’t much care about his battle wounds. He does fine when the weather forces him to be stuck in his stall, but he’s noticeably happier when he’s had his romping time outside.

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68F in February means bath time for the Big Man

In my mind, Frankie is like an overgrown 5 year old boy. Super friendly and wants to play with the kids at recess, but doesn’t realize that he’s so big and is playing too rough. But like he’s a happy kid so when he scrapes his knee he just gets back up and says IT’S ALL OK EVERYTHING IS FINE and keeps playing. And wants to get into everything. And puts everything in his mouth. And isn’t very smart. But listens to the teacher really well. And he def won’t get into an Ivy League college but he’ll probs get recruited to play football at a good school so that’s ok. I have a whole persona for him in my head, it’s a fun one.

So maybe it’s not that Frankie is that stoic, he’s just not smart enough to realize that things hurt. It’s one of the reasons that my trainer and I discuss preventative maintenance fairly regularly to keep an eye on things: by the time Frankie actually shows us he’s hurting, he’ll likely already be in a decent amount of discomfort. So we want to really stay on top of things BEFORE he displays any ouchie behavior.

Is your horse more of an ouch-mom-this-hurts-cannot-horse-today type, or more of a rub-some-dirt-in-it-let’s-go type?

EDIT: Between writing this post and actually posting it, Frankie’s leg has gotten fat from a scrape he got while playing outside. He’s totally sound and we’re treating aggressively so it doesn’t get worse, but seriously this is what I get for talking about how sturdy my horse is. Horses, man. They’ll humble you real quick.

Make That Booty Werk

Oh man, guys. We are asking Francis to work his butt a little harder and it’s really really fun. It’s so noticeable how much these different exercises are encouraging him to use his body better and I’m pretty giddy about riding him and feeling him get better and better.

I headed to the barn on Monday planning on a pretty decent flatwork session, but didn’t have a big plan for what we would work on- my go-to right now is transitions since ours need sharpening for sure. But Assistant Trainer was there and set up a bunch of ground poles, so pole-day it was!

Plus side of Francis: poles do not bother him at all (I mean honestly, nothing bothers him let’s be real here), so I never worry about him trying to back off or speed through poles.

Minus side of Francis: poles do not bother him at all, so he’s not awfully concerned about keeping track of his feet.

So my role in this partnership as we trotted through was to keep my leg on to generate the impulsion, and then keep a steady hand for balance. The following pattern was set up in the ring, along with a few single poles on the diagonal that I didn’t include, so sue me:

feb_canter-poles

The poles along the long side were a simple exercise: forward and straight. The poles in the corner made it so you could stay out and put a few more steps in between the two, or stay closer in and push for fewer steps. We alternated a couple times between the two, trying to find the right balance of pressing up while keeping a consistent rhythm.

canter_poles
OH DEAR GOD FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL

And then it was time to canter the poles! We started with 3 in a row set to bounce them, then added more and more until we were bouncing through all six in a row. The corner exercise remained, where we could either put one full stride between the two, or stay in and bounce them around the turn.

So I don’t know about you guys, but I have a weird anxious energy about ground pole exercises. I would 100% rather put the jumps up to any height instead of having to canter poles on the ground. Luckily Frankie does not share this anxiety, and was really really good throughout these exercises in both directions.

I did have to take a bit firmer contact so that he didn’t try to get flat through the bounces- they were set a little shorter than he would’ve liked, which was FANTASTIC for sitting him down on his butt to push. And that corner exercise forced him to pay attention to where his hind feet were doing as he pushed out of the turn. It definitely helped force a little of that “explode out of the turn” feeling we’re always trying to develop.

After working through this a couple times each direction, I could feel Frankie pick himself up and soften onto my hand. It was a very very cool feeling to have that elastic energy under me to play with.

Then on Tuesday we had our lesson! Fairly basic warmup on the flat, then we did some more canter poles, set on the quarter line as a one stride-bounce-one stride exercise. We needed a lot more power from behind to have the energy for this- Trainer played Flight of the Bumblebees for me as I went through as a reminder to get that canter more active. In other news, I now demand a soundtrack for every exercise.

Trainer then slowly built up each element of the gymnastic until it looked like this:

feb_gymnastic

Placing pole, crossrail, one stride, crossrail bounce, one stride, oxer out.

The rule was trot in then press out. This was tough for Frankie! As a not-super-fiery kinda dude, he really didn’t want to work hard through this, especially when the jumps were little. We had to play around with our pace coming in- I wanted to help him out by pressing forward in, but then he inevitably put in a canter step before takeoff. I had to be very conscious to get a nice short powerful trot in and then SQUEEZE through the rest of the exercise to get him going.

We then added a halt after the oxer, with the goal being to halt in a straight line. This took three tries! Frankie really was NOT expecting to have to stop so soon after opening up for that oxer. The goal with this was to be able to go from a short powerful trot, to bigger powerful canter, back to a halt very quickly: pushing the range of adjustability that we’re looking for. We love that Frankie is not a sensitive horse for so many reasons, but we do want him sensitive enough to react to my adjustments more quickly than he currently does.

This exercise actually went much more smoothly once the last oxer went up in height, forcing Frankie to pay attention. Once he realized he could go big jumpiez he perked right up and carried me through the grid with less work on my part.

And the last time through the grid felt SO good. I didn’t have to work to push him through because he had great up-and-down- energy to adjust himself. And that last oxer, OMG. He picked his back up and used his neck and rounded up and over the jump, and really jumped up to me instead of me having to presspresspress across it. I wish I had a pic of that jump because it honestly felt like one of the best efforts he’s ever given me. You should’ve seen the big fat grin on my face πŸ˜€

It was also cool to feel him develop that same elasticity over the course of the lesson- he really picked his poll up and sought the contact, and started asking me for forward instead of the other way around. I honestly think he likes his job a lot- he’s kinda a slug on the flat and when the jumps are little, but when we raise the expectations he starts getting excited about his work. Gawd he’s so cool.

As previously mentioned, the barn heads down to Florida this weekend! Luckily, Trainer has found someone to come in and teach lessons while she is gone- it’s been a long time since I trained with someone else, so I’m excited to see what new perspectives he’ll have for us. And of course, I’m excited to share with you.

Other random exciting news: Trainer is expanding the outdoor ring even more than she had originally planned, and the footing has been ordered. It looks like Memorial Day is the target completion date for the whole project and I am SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED. It’ll be totally amazeballs to have a nice big ring to set some nice big jumps in πŸ˜‰ I’ll have to start taking some progress pics so you can see the transformation.

Do you have any go-to groundpole exercises?

A Look Back on Ocala

One year ago this week, I was down in Florida competing at HITS Ocala. It’s so bizarre- it feels like I was just down there last month, but it also feels like a completely different lifetime. Things were so different just one short year ago!

ocala_yellow
For example, my leg did this a year ago!
Before heading down to Ocala: I had shipped in to one rated show (HITS Culpeper) but had never done an “away” show with my trainer. I was half-leasing Addy and had taken her in a few jumper classes, but mostly did the local 3′ hunters with her. I had daydreamed about competing on the A circuit, but was pretty sure I didn’t have the budget to make it there.

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Wistfully gazing at the GP ring at Culpeper
And then I got to compete for a week. And learn. OH BOY DID I LEARN.

poppy_090m
Learned to check for saddle slippage
I learned about how my barn runs things at these big shows. They’ve done it so often that it’s a well-oiled machine and I just had to listen to where I should be and when. I learned what I would be responsible for (clean tack and appropriate apparel) and what would be taken care as part of the fee I was paying (pretty much everything else). I had never experienced the “full care” package at shows and let me tell you- I love taking care of everything myself at home, but knowing your horse is clean and ready for you when you need him after your course walk is such a wonderful luxury.

ocala_poppy
Masterful side-eye
I learned what the warmup protocol is when we have 2 trainers, 7 riders, and 4 rings to be in all at roughly the same time. How to prep my horse to make the most of the time I have with my trainer, what to wait for her to do with us, what to expect from our warmup before heading into the show ring. I also learned that apparently my trainer knows every single person at every single horse show, and guaranteed she’s already radio-ed the ingate about the trainer conflict. And that she is a master of switching from pony kid to eq junior to pro in the hunters to ammy jumper and back again at a moment’s notice.

ocala_eq
Switching from the jumpers to the eq and back again
I learned about the jumper ring. Holy crap, did I learn about the jumper ring. Each course walk was eye opening as I slowly figured out that fast and clear don’t just happen- there’s such a science and an art to it. The jump materials, the direction of the lines, the angle of the ring, during which part of the course each element comes up, the location of the in-gate, so many different factors came up as something to consider on course. At this point, I honestly couldn’t handle thinking about a lot of these independently- just making it around the course with the jumps in the right order was my main goal. But knowing that there was such a strategy to it made me hungry to learn more.

ocala_red
However I did not learn to not lean on my horse’s neck

I learned about what type of ride I prefer. I got to ride two amazing, very different horses during the week- one who has since gone on to success in the hunter ring, and one who was an absolute firecracker. I got to briefly sit on several other horses to see which ones I liked best, and much to my surprise it was the firecrackers. My previously wimpy self was delighted.

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This one is now a hunter
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This was one zippy little mare
 

I learned about the horse show routine: waking up early, taking naps in the grooming stall when I could, hitchhiking on passing golf carts, hurry up and wait, get in line to add/scratch as early as possible, hurry up and wait some more, cheering for our other riders, going for a quick gallop on the track after our class is over because why not?!, getting the BIG margarita with dinner, helping zip up those mega tight tall boots, carrying a crop the entire time because guaranteed someone’s gonna need it, working through nerves, celebrating the good parts, figuring out how to fix the bad parts, watching the Grand Prix riders, exploring the beautiful barns.

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Hurrying up and waiting…and waiting…
ocala_golfcart
Catching rides on every passing golf cart
While chatting with some of the ladies down there, they joked that I would have my own horse in no time. I smiled and responded, “Man, I wish. I just don’t think the budget is there. Maybe someday!”

They must’ve seen something in my eyes that I didn’t- by the time I left the ring for my last class, it was already cemented in my mind. I needed to chase this feeling, and that meant I needed a horse to chase it on. Frankie joined the family a little over a month later.

A lot has changed from when I headed down to Ocala. I’ve gotten to show at the A rated shows, and have plans to do even more this year. I’ll be on the A circuit just like I dreamed. I’ve moved from the 0.80m/0.90m classes to the 1.0m classes to the 1.10m classes with near-future plans to dabble in the 1.15m. I get to help show other riders the ropes at shows instead of needing constant direction. I have less money, less social life, more muscle, more joy than at this time last year. My pristine, never-worn white breeches are now dirty and stained from use, and I’m still so excited every time I put them on.

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All these show clothes are now filthy and worn
It’s no exaggeration to say that my week in Ocala last year was completely life changing. I’m certain that I wouldn’t have bought a horse if it hadn’t been for that experience, which means I wouldn’t have competed where I have, which means I would’ve missed out on some of the greatest times I’ve ever had.

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#proud
It didn’t fit into my goals to go down this year- trying to qualify for champs means quantity of shows takes priority- nor did it fit into my budget- turns out buying a horse DESTROYED MY SAVINGS- but you can bet I’m already saving up to go to Florida again next year, this time with my own amazing steed in tow.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep hustling so that the next trip down there can be just as incredible as the first.

My Horse, the Guru

Frankie obviously has taught me so much about riding since I brought him home. But he’s also taught me a lot about how I want to move through life. Here are just a few of the life lessons my sweetΒ  boy has taught me.

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Even though Mom hasn’t fed me a cookie in six months, today might be the day she gives me a cookie.

Hope springs eternal with this horse. Past patterns be damned, that’s in the past! Today is a new day and there is always ALWAYS the possibility of good things. I strive to live my life with this kind of optimism.

I’m happy to go anywhere you ask, but I’d like it better if I could lead the way instead of having to follow slow walkers.

He will cross water, canter around hay fields, and traverse any terrain on the buckle as long as he gets to be the leader of the pack. He simply loathes having to stop and wait. He’s my reminder to fearlessly trailblaze in my own life. To not hold myself back and instead be confident as I make my own strides forward.

I know we crashed through this jump last time but I’m gonna go ahead and try again for you.

No matter how badly I mess up, he always always gives me another chance to make it right. He teaches me to let go of grudges and move forward- there’s no point holding onto negative energy.

You haven’t given me a thorough grooming in a few days. So don’t expect me to look cheerful.

Sweet boy loves getting loved on. And he always reinforces the importance of nurturing my relationships. Of spending the time and effort to connect and take care of each other.

Lateral work is hard. The instant you take your leg off I’m just gonna do my own thing.

Leg on = hard work. Leg off = making stuff up as he goes. He’s my constant teacher that I get back what I put into my work, and giving up means missing out on some amazing results.

I LOVE playing Wild Island Stallion with my friends, but Mom is nearby so I’ll keep all four feet on the ground and make sure no one else gets too close.

As soon as he sees me coming, he stops romping and turns back into my gentle giant. He understands the value of being careful with your loved ones and making sure your actions match your intentions of keeping them safe and happy.

Who’s that sitting in the corner? I should go say hi. She looks nice. Maybe I get scratchies?

Francis LOVES strangers, and his favorite game at shows is to pose for photos with non-horse people. He never fails to go with ears perked to every new person to see if they might be a new friend. He’s my inspiration to approach new people with that same sense of curiosity and hope that they just may be a friend I haven’t made yet.

Oooh that’s the itchy spot. I should start grooming my human to see if she has any itchy spots too.

When I hit just the right spot on his neck, Frankie stretches out and starts nosing at my hip. He is so selfless in his thanks- he’s happy to receive some scratchies and returns the favor without hesitation. That’s the sense of gratitude and generosity I want to have for all the happy events in my life, big or small.

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And all this without even realizing it. Turns out my big goofy gelding is smarter than a lot of people.

What has your horse taught you about life lately?

Kick Ride or Nah?

I had totally forgotten about this, but someone recently reminded me that Frankie was used in a few ammy lessons while I was out of town a few months back. And I only just found out that the person riding him in one of these lessons struggled over some of the jumps.

Of course my first reaction was to worry that my horse had done something bad (which would be very out of character), so I started apologizing to her. Luckily, she quickly reassured me that he didn’t offer any misbehavior, she was just caught by surprise. I’ll paraphrase what she said here:

“From when I’ve seen you riding, I expected Frankie to be a really forward ride to the jumps. So when we got to a crossrail and he lurched over it from a crawl, I was totally caught off guard and got unbalanced. I didn’t expect him to need so much leg to the jump.” To which my trainer responded, “Any of that energy is entirely rider-generated, he doesn’t really think to go anywhere.”

First off, I totally can’t blame her for struggling. Frankie lurches something awful over the smaller jumps and it can be really hard to stay with the motion. It’s much much much easier to go with him over the bigger jumps as he puts more effort in.

We also had one of our Pony Moms up on Frankie for a quick ride recently- he was PERFECT for her and I’m def gonna be pressuring her into doing some pleasure classes with him next fall because seriously #adorable. Trainer saw her riding and smiling about Frankie being so good, and laughed, “He’s lazy, right?”

So it got me thinking. I usually think of Frankie as a fairly forward ride- he’s got a nice open stride and I never have to kick to keep him going, even if he isn’t hot or “up” by any stretch of the imagination (HAH!).

But. We do like to find a spot to get a gallop going before our first fence. And we focus a lot on sitting back and driving up out of the corners.Β  And he does require a lot of support from my leg to remind him that he needs to put some effort in. He’s a tattletale when it comes to effort: he will always go to the jump, but the quality of his effort directly correlates to the amount of work his rider is doing. Balanced, clear aids + strong leg = shmancy powerful Francis. Weak/nonexistent aids + no leg = strung out, lurchy Francis. It’s very easy to tell when I’m not supporting him like I need to.

jump_lurch
Exhibit A: Not a crappy spot. But I took my leg off so it was a crappy jump.
jump_better
Exhibit B: Tight distance with a swap off- crappy spot. But a little leg made him press across the jump better- not a crappy jump.

So I wouldn’t really call him a “kick ride” ORΒ  a “woah ride.” I’d call him a “leg ride.” As long as my leg is on and present, we can ask for forward and receive it. And the more fit he gets and the stronger my leg is able to be, the more “spice” we are getting to the jumps- I’m starting to feel him really lock on and carry me up to it. This is pretty much my ideal ride at this point in my riding career- having a blast galloping up to the jumps while feeling very safe knowing that Frankie will always coast to a stop when asked. He’s truly a confidence booster and teacher in the best possible way.

What’s your favorite kind of ride?

Big Stretches

You know that post-show hangover? Yeah, that was Monday for me. So tired. So sore. Ded.

But then Tuesday dawned with that most wondrous of feelings: Second Day Sore. SDS. I was a decrepit little hobbit around the office all day, and I know my lesson that afternoon would be dicey.

Luckily, the the no-stirrup work and gymnastics we did actually stretched me out and helped my muscles recover that much faster- score!

Our private lessons have come to an end due to scheduling conflicts, so I’m getting back into the zone of semi-privates once more. Our flatwork was nothing crazy- lots of extensions and collections within gaits, making sure we got a prompt response to my cues and were controlling that shoulder around our turns (both his AND mine).

Frankie felt really great! Forward, working over his back as he warmed up, balanced. I think the rest day and the slightly warmer temperatures put him in his happy place because he was really a pleasure to ride (I mean….he always is….but yeah he was great).

We kept the exercises fairly straightforward for the jumping phase. For a while we just worked through a simple grid: trot in crossrail-one stride-vertical-one stride-oxer. It never got very high and it was more to allow me to focus on my own position through the exercise. Then we did a little gymnastic-y type course:

jan31_gymnastic

So gymnastic up the long side, cut across the middle, up the bending line red to skinny in a straightforward 4, down the one stride combo, then up the oxer to barrel bending out in 4 or 5.

My goal through the gymnastic was to stay still with my shoulders, keep my leg on while staying in a light seat, and focus on straightness through my entire body all the way through. Over the middle jump 2, we sliced it a little bit and then tried to hug jump 1A to give us plenty of space to make the turn to 3. The 4 stride was very steady- neither forward nor holding- and Frankie locked onto the skinny early on so no problems there. We had to cowboy up out of the corner a bit for the one stride, then balance around for the last bending line. The first two times we galloped out in four strides, then went back and shaped and held for the five.

Overall nothing crazy! The jumps stayed low and none of the striding was tricky. Much more focus on my own equitation and playing with our tracks to see how different tracks affect our overall course. It was honestly pretty relaxing! Happy horse, straightforward exercises, stretching my tired muscles and his.

We’ll have one more lesson next week before the barn heads down to Florida, then we’ll be on a mini-vacation. Trainer mentioned that she maaaaay get someone to come teach while she’s gone, so we’ll see if our flatwork sessions will have a lesson thrown in there. As much as I wish I could go down the Florida with them, it will be nice to have a quieter ring to work in- it’s tough to do as much lateral work and pole work as I’d like with all the lesson kids sharing the indoor this time of year.

The outdoor ring is currently under expansion and should be GORGEOUS with brand new footing later in the spring- I really can’t wait for the weather to turn so we can ride outside more!!! Also so I can consistently feel my toes and not feel like a marshmallow in 10,000 layers. But also to ride outside.

McDonogh Video!

Here’s a video of our second round + jumpoff:

I realize that my turns are hella huge- remember yesterday when I said my reins kept slipping? This round was for sure the worst, they were basically there for decoration more so than any actual use. It’s too zoomed out to see the floppage too much, but you can take my word for it.

Yay for happy pony going jumpiez!!

 

 

McDonogh Winter Classic

We survived our first outing in our new division! And not just survived, but had a total blast doing it. Francis is a prince. Here’s the rundown.

It was about 90 minutes to trailer there and then we had a wait before it was time to warm up, so Frankie came off the trailer looking a bit like a fire-breathing dragon. When I hopped on, he actually gave me the worst behavior he’s ever given me: put his head between his knees and dolphin leapt about a little. I nervously said to Trainer, “Frankie is kinda acting up right now,” to which she responded, “So? Go do something about it.”

……Right. I can actually ride my horse. I had forgotten that fun little fact for a hot second. I put my leg on and asked for some bend and forward and TADA no more shenanigans. I mean, he had been standing on a trailer for a couple hours, he came off in a strange place that was super breezy and loud with lots of strange horses, it was pretty frigid. The fact that he didn’t try to play MORE is cause for celebration.

The rest of our warmup went really really well- Frankie had fantastic forward energy and carried us up to the base of every jump super strongly. Then it was time for our first class in the 1.10m!!!!

So I looked in the ring and said oh good, once they reset the jumps we’ll be good to go. Except as we all know, I am the WORST at judging jump height. The jumps were already reset. So a big fat shoutout to Trainer for making us jump bigger jumps at home, because these looked totally manageable and not at all intimidating.

Here’s the diagram for our first course (sorry it’s blurry! I added in the numbers to hopefully help):

mcdonogh_speed2.png

So single oxer away, down the outside line in 5, across the middle, rollback, up the diagonal line in 5, one-stride, bending out in 6 strides.

Overall thoughts on the course: pretty hunterific! No really tricky questions- if you sliced 4 a little right-to-left, it set you up to go inside 3 and have plenty of room to roll back to 5. 6 to 7 was a forward five strides, but it was later in the course so there was plenty of time to get the motor going. The one-stride was very forgiving, and then just balancing down for the six strides out.

Francis. Felt. Amazing. Ears perked, forward, locking onto the jumps and galloping up to them, and he just felt like he was having fun around the course. The lines rode really nicely- we got in a little tight to the combo but legged through just fine and balanced out. Was it perfect? No way. But my horse felt like a rockstar and I felt like I rode it much more strongly than I usually ride. Sadly no video of this round so you’ll have to take my word for it. Double clear and a good pace got us 3rd out of 14ish in this class!!!

We then had a decent break before our next class, which was II2b (immediate jumpoff). After sitting for a bit we decided to trot around and jump another jump or two to get us moving again before going back in the ring for this course:

mcdonogh_jumpoff

A lot of the same lines as the previous course, just in a different order. The jumpoff was a little tricky: to get from 2 to 4a we went between jumps 3 and 6 (Frankie was v v confused by this) and I think a better option would’ve been to go to the left of 6 to shave off some time. I saw others do this and they’re the ones that beat our time.Even with that, double clear and good pace got us 5th in this round!

Fun side note: my gloves had ZERO grip for some reason. I’ve ridden in these gloves plenty of times without a problem, but this weekend I had practically zero purchase on my reins. Usually that wouldn’t be a problem, but when Francis wakes up and gets into fiery jumper mode, he pulls the reins right out of my hands. I have video of this round and once I’m able to share it you’ll see- I really had to cowboy around and flap a bit for steering. Thank goodness Trainer has had me strengthening my legs so I could mostly steer that way.

Then we had another decent break before our classic, with this course:

mcdonogh_classic

Again, not a ton of new questions. Our first oxer on this course was our best jump all day- Frankie used himself beautifully over it! But by this point I had been on for close to 2 hours and both Frankie and I were cold and pretty exhausted. I had also decided to take off my gloves and ended up choking up on my reins- overcorrecting from my inability to hold my reins in previous rounds. Predictably, we ran into trouble in the combo.

You know what you should do when your horse is tired and you’re headed into a triple combo? Because I can tell you right now what you SHOULDN’T do. You should not make your reins super duper short, hold his face, add in the previous line, then kick up into a strung out gallop, then lean with your shoulders while still holding his face. Because that leads to a Francis trying very hard to do his job but simply not being able to due to rider interference.

We reapproached the combo and I did literally the exact same thing: death grip on the face and leaning. So Frankie basically coasted to a stop and said, “Nope. No more for me, thank you.” And honestly, I couldn’t blame him. At this height, with depleted energy levels, I needed to be there SO MUCH MORE for him and I really wasn’t. Asking him to cart me around with no help was unfair. It wasn’t a dirty stop, it was a I-can’t-do-this-alone stop. This meant it was time to retire from the ring, and while I was disappointed that we didn’t make it around the course, it was definitely for the best. Frankie always ALWAYS jumps the jumps, so when he says “I can’t” that is something that I want to pay very close attention to.

Overall thoughts on the show: a really confidence-boosting wonderful first outing in our new division! The height was not intimidating at all, Frankie jumped two double-clear rounds really powerfully, and we had tons and tons of fun getting out there and galloping around the course. Our 3rd and 5th place got us 5 points towards the 20 we need to qualify for our Zone championship too- score!

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That sweet face!!!! His, not mine. Obviously. Homeboy loves trying to eat his ribbons ❀

I was really proud of how Frankie handled the whole trip. Not surprised because naturally he’s always a total bro, but very proud. We had no problem getting on and off the trailer, no spooky moments, and once he let out the minor silly beans during our warmup he was super workmanlike and marched around like a pro. Of course he was a good boy last season, but it feels like our hard work over the last few months has really paid off in improving Frankie’s fitness, the way he uses his body, and building some of that jumper “fire” in him. He has just come such a long way and has turned into a wonderful competitive partner in the show ring. UGH EMOTIONS. Seriously so incredibly grateful to have a horse that is such a pleasure to work with and learn from.

My barn is headed to Ocala for a few weeks in February (BRB sobbing that I can’t join this year) so I won’t get to go show again until March, but I’m already itching to get back out there. I’m crazy excited for our season in the High Adults with the bestest pony in the whole world.

Not Dead Yet!

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Even though my body has been trying hard to killΒ  me- I was out of work almost every day this week with a KILLER sinus infection. Currently taking 4 different types of pills every day (most of them multiple times a day) and FINALLY I’m on the mend. After spending most of the week watching roughly forty million episodes of Forensic Files it’s really nice to get out of the house.

iamadetective
Pretty sure I could solve any murder cases now tho

I’m super behind on responding to comments and I gotta be honest- my energy levels and breathing ability are telling me to just give up and start from scratch. So just know that I’ve read and appreciated all of your comments lately.

Not a ton to report, so I’ll just give a quick rundown on what’s been going on in the magical land of pressure headaches:

We have discovered that in the case of the torn-up blankets, Frankie is the culprit. I have failed as a mother. My low-maintenance, angel of a horse is a blanket shredder *sob*. One of these bad boys is currently being shipped to my place so my fellow boarders don’t have to keep buying new blankets (sorry guys!!!).

4 T UMAX     PowerLook III    V1.5 [5]
Maybe Francis can be Bane for Halloween next year with this sucker
Assistant Trainer has been hopping on Frankie for me while I’ve been convalescing. Super duper grateful that she was able to make space in the rotation for an extra horse at very short notice, and very happy that he’s gotten some professional tuning up as we head into show season.

I spent some time scrubbing my tack HARD the other day and it was so beyond satisfying. I wipe down my tack regularly but this was a super intense cleaning. I also took the opportunity to switch out the nameplate on my saddle to one that, you know, has my own name on it (and by this I mean I hovered nearby while Assistant Trainer did it because she is actually the best). Womp womp. It only took over a year.

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I haven’t mentioned it lately, so friendly reminder that I am obsessed with my saddle in all ways. It is the light of my life.
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OH NO NOW YOU KNOW MY FULL NAME PLS DON’T USE THIS INFORMATION FOR EVIL

My brother and his wife came down for a visit recently and met the Frankfurter, and it was super fun getting to chill with them. My brother is way cooler than me in every way (unlike when he forced me to say this as a child, I actually mean it now) and his wife is even cooler than he is- combined, they are legit a mega awesome power couple.

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We look a lot alike. Especially when we both have luxurious long hair and matching bags under our eyes. He’s a beautiful woman.

Speaking of embarrassing pictures, this gem showed up in my memories on Facebook and I thought you might like a laugh. This was taken with a disposable camera at the sweet age of 13 during summer camp. I was clearly not a cute preteen, like, at ALL.

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Every time I look, I find something new to cringe at

I’ll be hopping on Frankie today to get my sea legs back, and we’re still planning on showing this Sunday! I am extremely eager to get out there and kick our show season off. I’ll need extra sustenance and rest to offset the sickness but GET AT ME.

And that concludes this episode of Random Stuff Happening Lately! More updates as events warrant.

❀

 

Lovin’ Through the Cold Months

I realized something recently. It was something I already knew, but recent events made it SO much more obvious. Here’s the scenario:

The weather is much colder, and Frankie is clipped. I worry about him getting cold while grooming, so I try to work around a cooler and move as quickly as possible so I can hop on and get his muscles warmed up. After riding, I brush him and get him snugged back in his blankets as quickly as possible.

Frankie becomes less affectionate and snuggly. He doesn’t do anything bad, but he isn’t his usual sweet self on the crossties and ignores me when I go into his stall.

So after a few days of this I pop a second cooler on, switch on the heat lamps, and groom him for a much longer time. After riding, I put his blankets back on but then take the time to brush his mane and tail, rub his ears, and polish his hooves.

Frankie tries to get in my pockets and has his ears up watching me the whole time. The next day I walk into his stall and he leaves his hay to come say hello and get scratches.

Um. WOW.

I hear you loud and clear, Francis. Message received. More quality grooming time moved up the priority ladder to “Crucial.” I’ve always known that Frankie loves himself some lovin’, but this really drove the point home that his mood and attitude towards work is SO so so tied to that time together.

I’ve made an effort to spend more time on the ground with Frankie over the past couple of weeks and it’s been noticeable how much happier he is to see me. Which totally makes my heart so happy! Even without giving him any treats, he mooches on me for scratches and ear rubs. He even returns the favor for me sometimes by using his nose to “groom” my shoulder or hip.

So this is my reminder to myself: no matter how caught up in training and competing I get, I need to make Frankie’s comfort and happiness a priority by making sure we spend plenty of time bonding together. Even when it’s cold out and all I want to do is go to my heated car. Frankie is worth braving the weather.

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Even when I’m wearing literally 5 layers and can barely move my body

How do you build in bonding time when the temperature gets low?