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.
While I had my Trainer or AT hop on Frankie with some regularity (if not frequency) during the first few years of owning him, 2018 was the first year that I set aside a larger portion of our budget for a more regimented schedule of training rides. Frankie spent pretty much all of our show season in his 2x/week program of pro rides in addition to his rides with me.
As a training tool for competition, these rides were absolutely invaluable. My lessons always built on the exercises that Frankie had worked on that week, so there was a ton of consistency and continuity in our work. The extra saddle time helped his fitness immensely, and the correctness of the work made sure the right muscles were developing appropriately. It was a very sympathetic program, but rigorous nonetheless. And while Frankie likes to pretend that he’s a lazy slug that hates work, he actually thrived in such a busy program- both physically and mentally.
But as we kick off 2019, I’m not in the midst of show season, I’m not planning on having a particularly busy or competitive show season in the next few months- but I still have Frankie in a 2x/week program.
And I still love it just as much, albeit for slightly different reasons.
For one, there’s the continued benefit to Frankie. His training rides are tailored to exactly what he needs to work on- not any other horse, not his rider. Just him. While he’s always been a confident horse, I’ve found that these sessions have made that confidence absolutely skyrocket as he’s been set up for success and praised for trying. He’s kept fit, he’s kept limber, he’s kept educated.
But there’s also several enormous benefits to me.
The first and most obvious benefit is when I’m in the saddle. A fit and well-educated horse is a million times easier and (in my book) more fun to ride. Especially Frankie, who tunes into me much more easily when he’s in consistent moderate-heavy work. So as I’m getting back into shape and gaining my strength back, having his help makes it much easier and more enjoyable. Basically I only have to worry about myself since I know he’s got this on lock.
The other benefit is when I’m out of the saddle- namely, that I actually feel that I can take days out of the saddle. As much as I love being at the barn and want to be there all the time, I have other responsibilities to take care of (that I ignored for like 3 years straight womp womp). It used to be that I’d try to cram everything in after the barn and would have to stay up super late, or I’d just push everything to the weekend when I had a bit more time. But now I feel like I can take a day to go home after work and take care of things without feeling guilty about not seeing Frankie. He’s still getting worked, he’s still progressing. It’s allowing me to find a different balance in my life without sacrificing Frankie’s quality of workload.
Basically instead of trying to be an ammy that trains like a pro, these pro rides let me be an ammy that trains like an ammy. Some days I’m a pretty good ammy, some days I’m a pretty floppy ammy, some days I’m an absentee ammy, some days I’m a competitive ammy. I work hard, I cross train, I spend most of my time obsessing about my horse and his care and his work and his health and his schedule and all things Francis-related. But it’s really really refreshing to give myself permission to spend time on other things every once in a while without feeling like I’m trading away my progress in the saddle.
I’m still figuring out what my new normal is as a newlywed, and I’m so grateful to have the help of wonderful people and a great program at the barn to help me as I adjust.
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.
Loving this idea from Karen at Patently Bay! All us ammies have our own schedules and it’s so fun to peer over the fence to see what we’re all up to.
Here’s how things usually go for me:
5pm: change into riding boots. I usually just wear my breeches to work because they’re so much more comfortable than jeans to me at this point and I SWEAR EQUESTRIAN CHIC IS TOTALLY TRENDY RIGHT NOW. So my changing is pretty much just my shoes.
5:05pm: Get in the car and call my mom. She is wise. Sit in a little bit of traffic, but make it there in ~20 minutes.
5:30pm: Make the rounds. Check the lesson board to see who’s riding that day, pet some ponies, say hi to the cats, help as jump crew for lessons if needed, just chill and decompress.
6:35ish: Fetch Frankie from his field. I like him to be outside as much as possible, so I’ll wait until the last possible moment to bring him in. Usually he just stands there and waits for me to go get him, but last week he trotted up to me and I almost cried.
6:40pm: Groom and tack up. I don’t groom TOO intensely before riding, just picking feet, curry, soft brush. Everything else waits until after we get sweaty and gross. Tack is basic: open front boots go on first (for the simple reason that if I wait to put them on, I will forget and he will go sans boot. Not the end of the world, but homeboy kicks his own legs sometimes and I feel better having some protection on him), then saddle, then I get my helmet/gloves/crop, then bridle. Nothing fancy and it’s the same day-to-day.
7:00pm: Hop on! If we’re lessoning we’ll do about 20-30 min of flatwork before jumping, but otherwise we focus on flatwork. Sometimes I’ll drag out poles to work through to mix things up. Usually sharing the ring with at least one other person.
8:00-8:10pm: Hop off. Run up stirrups, loosen the girth, undo his noseband, pick his feet, and clean up any poops before leaving the ring. Usually end up standing in the ring chatting with people for a while before ACTUALLY leaving the ring.
8:15pm: Eventually make it back to the barn. Depending on how sweaty he got, we’ll (a) curry the crap out of him, (b) sponge off the saddle area and any sweaty areas, or (c) hose off his whole sweaty body. He gets some Heal Quick/Healthy Hair from the Herbal Horse put on his various scrapes, and then some Shine Bright coat conditioner. Can you tell I’m a fan? Francis smells so purdy after this.
8:45pm: Fly spray and turnout. Big Man is on night turnout so he gets to go right back out when I’m done. More often than not, he sticks around for smooches at the gate, takes a good long drink of water, and then heads off for a good roll. And more often than not, I stand there watching him roll around like a dork and take snapchat videos of it. It’s never not funny.
8:50pm: Clean tack, put away all gear, sweep the aisles, clip up crossties. Basically taking care of everything that ISN’T Frankie. Also chat with Trainer, other ammies, the cats, etc.
9-9:15pm: Hit the road. Hope that manfriend is coming over and bringing food. Call Dad to gush over how great my pony is and give him the low-down on what we worked on.
9:45pm: Make it home, shower, eat whatever is easiest to grab, and fall asleep before doing any of the laundry I’ve been needing to do for weeks now.
This happens pretty much every day during the week except Tuesdays! Those are super busy lesson days at the barn so I skip the craziness and let that be Frankie’s day off. So far it works great! I’m lucky enough to have some great ammies to hang out with at the barn and be social, so some nights I’ll stay later. It’s not hard convincing me to stay at the barn 😉