Frankie and I are living the ammy life hardcore these days, yo.
Twice a week, AT hops on and reminds Francis that he knows how to do fancy things. A couple other times a week, his mother hops on and does her best to uninstall all fancy things by letting him toodle.
Every so often my schedule actually allows a lesson and I lean entirely on Frankie’s willingness to cart me around with very little input. Bless his education because heaven knows I’m not helping him out that much these days.
We’re going to shows and doing the 3′ where Frankie can jump from literally any distances without having to work at it. Thankfully. And we’re spending time in rings that don’t require us too move too fast because we’re both hot and lazy and out of shape.
It could not be more of a contrast to where we were last year: conditioning intensely, schooling 1.20m+, firing on all cylinders. It looks a lot more like grazing in the sun, walking around the pastures and calling it a “hill set,” and getting pictures from my barn friends of Frankie enjoying his naps when I’m stuck doing schoolwork.
I love that he can fire up and be my fancy prancy show pony, but I’m eternally grateful for my steady-Eddie, easy-going, happy-to-chill bud. He is the ultimate ammy packer and we’re having a wonderfully relaxing and fun summer so far.
Ever since I’ve gotten back in the saddle as an adult, I’ve been super focused. Always looking for ways to go improve my skills, train harder, compete more successfully, raise the jumps. I’ve spent every spare moment at the barn trying to fit in more saddle time and I’ve spent every spare dollar (and more) fitting more shows into my schedule.
So taking a step back as we get close to the wedding is Weird for me with a capital W. I’ve cut back to riding 2-3x a week, and have a mix of pro rides and junior riders hopping on for the other 3-4x. I gave up my private lesson spot for one in a group lesson. The jumps haven’t gone over 3′ in a little while, and our rollbacks are decidedly hunterific these days. For the first time, I didn’t respond to our quarterly show schedule update email with an enthusiastic “sign me up for those 4!” For the first time, riding is my hobby and not my entire focus.
I don’t like it. No I do not. I miss my schedule and I miss my horse and I miss the sweat and the aches and the struggles and I’m itching to get back to it like you wouldn’t believe.
But at the same time, something had to give as we round the final stretch to the big day. I’m traveling north to Rhode Island for planning sessions increasingly often and even when I am in town, I have fittings and events and phone calls and all that fun stuff eating up my time and energy. Setting up a program for Frankie that requires less time from me was painful, but is also a relief to know that he’s getting loved on and groomed and worked just as often as his attention-hog heart desires. It takes away a lot of the guilt I was feeling about not being there as often as I’d like.
Frankie is feeling just fine about all of this. He’s been carting me around my lessons with his ears up and happy snorts (even if he does try to break wayyyy more often because #chunkaroo). He makes silly faces when I curry the itchy spot on his neck, he puts his face down for towel time behind his ears after every bath, and he’s always happy to see me when I’m there. He’s sound and healthy and with the help of my amazing barn family, he’ll be fit and ready for me to take the reins back after the wedding. I already have some ideas for fun new adventures next show season.
While I’m already eager to get back to a full training program with World’s Best Horse (TM), I’m going to enjoy this hobby season as a mental break from the pressures that I’ve put on myself and my steed for a while now. I’m going to view it as a reset for us to go back and work on some basics without an urgent timeline, a chance to share Frankie with some talented riders looking for saddle time, and a chance for me to explore a different type of balance in my life.
96 days until I can get that dang balance shifted back to the barn.
What? Just because I’m trying to enjoy the break doesn’t mean I’m not psyched to get back into it 😉
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:
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?
This past weekend, I took some time away from the barn to go to my college roommate’s wedding! All of us roommates are spread out across the country and almost never get to see each other and it was AMAZING to be together.
It was crazy fun to dress up considering I spend 97% of my time in jeans/breeches, hair in a ponytail, sans makeup. And the #BrideTribe was omg so much fun. Love these ladies.
So Frankie got some time away from his mother to hang out with the kid that rides him for me sometimes. He does love her.
But he must’ve heard me refer to him as “low maintenance” and decided to give me the finger: he pulled one of his front shoes off 3 times in quick succession, tore up his foot, and now needs glue-ons plus pads up front for a while so his hoof doesn’t fall off or something like that.
Thanks for the extra $$$ I need to spend, horse. First it’s injections and now it’s this. I THOUGHT HORSES WERE SUPPOSED TO BE EASY TO CARE FOR AND PREDICTABLE.
Nah though he’s fine. Totally sound and not ouchy, just an idiot in the paddock. We ran through some grids in our lesson the other day and he didn’t put a foot wrong. I’m grateful that my farrier is being proactive about making sure he’s got healthy tootsies.
In other exciting news, the ring expansion is proceeding and the end is in sight!
It’s even further along than this picture- there’s a border around the whole thing and the sand footing should be trucked in soon. There’s going to be enough space for a solid 6-stride line down the long side and we are SUPER excited! Bigger ring means bigger jumps, amiright??
Things are a little hectic right now and will be through June (roommate and I are moving apartments, Manfriend graduates, Upperville, heading home for a few days, etc.) but Francis continues to be my cheerful constant. Yet again, I’m grateful for his whole team that keeps him healthy and happy when his ammy mom can’t be there as consistently.
Still here, still kicking. As mentioned in my last post, things have been a little crazy busy lately and I’ve had to carefully manage my commitments. I was hoping that taking a step back from blogging would do the trick, but I was still having a lot of stress around the clock and something else had to give.
And sadly, that has been barn time. It’s the last thing I want to cut back on, but the only thing within my control at the moment. So Francis and I haven’t had a lesson in a few weeks, and I’ve only gone out to the barn mayyybe 2x/week. He’s had a few pro rides, I’m letting him be used in a few lessons, and I’m making it out when I can so he’s still getting ridden with some consistency.
But you know what? Life happens. Things will either calm down or I’ll learn to manage them better, and we can get back to our 5-6x/week training routine. This is part of being an adult ammy. Frankie absolutely doesn’t mind the relaxed training schedule, he’s probably thrilled!
And this is the part where I tell you just how grateful I am for my boy. Our rides lately have been chill WTC hacks- nothing advanced or difficult, just some equine therapy for yours truly. Francis has come out every single time with his sweet eye that I fell in love with the first time I saw him, happily bopped around with me, and soaked up my attention. It feels like he knows this is what I need right now. He’s been getting more and more powerful and “spicy” to the jumps lately (I use that term lightly, because Francis), so to feel him back himself off into My Little Pony really makes me emotional oh my gosh I’m tearing up as I write this because I love my horse so much.
We even celebrated our 1 year anniversary of him joining the family! We wore matching hats, shared a bag of apples, and enjoyed a nice relaxing ride together. I’ll have to post my rambling introspection on how we’ve both changed over the last year in another post- there’s just way too much to say there. Needless to say, it’s been the best year of my life and I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for anything.
Due to my lack of saddle time lately I decided to opt out of the show on 4/9 (competing at 1.10m after not jumping for a month seems…dicey), but I’m hoping to be back in the swing of things for the first week of Culpeper later in April! We’re planning on doing the High Adult division to lock in some more points, and tentatively (and I mean very tentatively) thinking of having either Trainer or Assistant Trainer take him in a 1.15m class to get some confidence-building miles at that height. I’d like him to navigate that height with a competent pilot up top before he has to jump that height AND deal with his mistake-prone mother. We school that height comfortably together at home, but we all know that shows are a whole different animal.
I’d love any advice you all may have on juggling different commitments as an ammy! Or if you don’t have any advice, I’d appreciate any good vibes you can send my way. Looking forward to making it out the other side of this craziness and getting back to my preferred craziness ❤