Goodbye and Hello

It’s kinda a season of exciting but bittersweet news over in our corner of the world.

Firstly, our beloved Assistant Trainer has decided to move on to new adventures after 6(!) years with our barn. She’ll still be around ad hoc when we need her and she’s certainly not disappearing into the ether, just not as our end-all-be-all barn manager anymore. We’re all thrilled for her new venture and it is a very positive parting, but we’re all also very brokenhearted to lose her. Her attention to detail and her horsemanship are far and away the best I’ve ever encountered. Having her knowledge and eyes on the horses has been reassuring in the extreme. She knows just when to push and ask for more and when to give a break, she takes her time developing new skills with endless patience, and never takes shortcuts when it comes to the horses’ well-being. I’m sure we will find a wonderful new barn manager/trainer, but I’ll honestly be satisfied if they are even half as good as AT has been. With all her talent and attentiveness and tenacity, I can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish!

She built Frankie’s fitness and confidence to the point where he happily tackled heights far greater than I ever anticipated. Her guidance helped him become the athlete he is today, and her training has helped me try to keep up with that athleticism. Forever grateful.

The other bittersweet piece of news is that one of the horses in the barn colicked the other day. He ended up needing surgery, but it went well and he’s recovering (thank goodness). Of course, this means he’ll be rehabbing for a good long time and is out for the rest of the season. Major bummer for all parties involved.

However, the silver lining here is that his teenage owner is a fan of the jumper ring, and her mom is trying to figure out a plan that means she still gets to show while her horse is rehabbing, without having to buy or full lease a second horse.

I think you can guess who is coming to the rescue here: Francis.

“Will rescue for scratchies”

We’ve set up an excellent partial lease situation that means this kiddo is still getting to train and show on a confidence-boosting horse, and I get (a) reassurance that he’s getting loved on when I can’t be there and (b) help with some of his bills. I wasn’t actively looking for someone to share Frankie with, but I’m happy with how well this works out for all of us.

There’s also a certain sense of circling back around: having a flexible partial lease on Addy opened up a lot of doors for me and helped me grow in ways I never would have been able to otherwise. It feels kinda karmic to now be on the other side, able to share my own horse with someone in need of more saddle time.

So there you have it. We’re bidding a fond farewell-for-now to one of the very biggest influences on my riding, and we’re giving a warm welcome to the newest member of the Official Frankie Fan Club.

Change can be intimidating, but I’m eager to see where it takes us over the next few months!

As long as we’re together, it’ll all be great ❤

Back To Basics

We’re gonna keep rolling with the lesson reviews, because I keep rolling with the lessons.

And folks, this was a good one.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to give huge props to my esteemed Daddoo, who very patiently and enthusiastically listens to me minutely describe every stride of every lesson, which helps me organize my thoughts before blogging. Without my dear father, these recaps would not be what they are and I would be lost in a sea of sadness. Dramatic? Maybe. I get it from my Dad.

Anywho, last night we had a lesson with my awesome Assistant Trainer (I’ve sung her praises in past posts and will continue to do so here). Not only is she a genuinely cool person in real life, but she has such a knack for coaching.

We spent a looong time on our flatwork last night with a focus on suppleness and control. We did a lot of transitions from counter-bend to correct bend at the trot, large circles to small circles, serpentines, changing directions, and maintaining the power in the sitting trot. Beastly was a little behind my leg at some points and I had to leg her up, but she responded reeeeally well to the counter-bending exercises we did; she was much softer and willing to be led once we loosened up like that. AT wanted us focusing hard on using our outside aids- she said that we want to set the track and bend using our inside leg and hand, but the outside aids need to be present and strong to maintain the balance and create a place for the horse to move into. She was constantly reminding us to keep that feel on the outside rein no matter what we were doing.

Moving up into canter work, we did a fun exercise where we changed seats. After establishing a comfortable working canter she had us stand in our stirrups for a while-  focusing on getting our heels far down and keeping our leg stable- then drop a little bit into a half seat- where we moved our hands low and wide so we couldn’t rely on them for balance and instead had to engage our cores- and then drop further into a more upright and deep “equitation” seat- keeping our legs long and engaged, and our shoulders back.

In all of this there was a focus on straightness- we wanted a gentle bend around the corners but we wanted a perfectly straight track down the long side. She also emphasized keeping our leg on, and said that collecting in a gait takes 100x more leg than extending should because you have to be there to support that collection.

After getting my butt kicked around the ring on the flat, we warmed up by trotting a small crossrail. My job was to create straightness and balance to the jump without rushing and without anticipating with my shoulders, and this went well. We then moved on to some more exercises with the following setup:


Our first exercise was to trot in to B, turn right and halt in front of E. Getting a halt after a jump is a pretty Herculean effort on Beastly. so AT showed us that instead of just bracing in the stirrups and waterskiing, she wanted me to sit deep, engage my core, and keep my leg on to support that halt. We definitely halted closer to the wall than I wanted, but AT was much happier with our second attempt! She reminded me that on a horse like Addy who tends to get rolling, I have to commit early to any changes in pace so that I have plenty of time to achieve them.

Our next exercise was the bending line from D to E. This was set so that if we came in conservatively and bowed the track it could be a four stride, or a more direct three stride. Hmmm, I wonder what we got?? I was able to get super conservative in with a nice small bouncy canter, but wasn’t able to recover fast enough to get the small strides again for the four. At one point I had set the Unicorn up for a really nice short distance in out of a small canter and she ducked out- AT told me that I had made the right move and that was definitely the right decision, Addy just didn’t want to do it because it was hard. We circled around and made Addy put in the effort from the base. This jump was like 2′ tall, she had no excuse not to.

Next! We went up the diagonal at F and hard right turn to roll back over G on the wall. I was pretty nervous because this closely resembled the Turn of Doom we had such trouble with a while ago, but determined to leg on and make it happen. Our first attempt wasn’t exactly pretty, but we did make it happen! The next time through AT had me slice the jump a little from right-to-left to create more of a space to turn in, sit super deep in the saddle, and use my outside leg HARD to get that turn. And we did it!

After working on all of these things individually, we pieced it together into the following course: A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Canter up the outside crossrail, down the in of the outside line, turn right to come over the plank, down the bending line, up the diagonal stone and rollback over the red out.

This rode really great! We got a little gappy to the crossrail which was totally unnecessary, but got nice and quiet to the black vertical. We could’ve used our space better in the rollback to the quarter line, but this worked out well regardless. The bending line was our best yet- a liiiittle bit more and I think we could’ve fit the four in. The rollback went beautifully- I even cantered in to the diagonal jump and we STILL got the turn without too much fuss (AT had let me trot in before to guarantee a quieter in).

This was such a cool lesson because it was really focused on the basics. None of the jumps were higher than 2’3″ (I’d be surprised if they were even that big) but the exercises we were doing were intended to make our horses more rideable. We worked on our equitation and giving our horses the support they need on the flat and over fences, and we built up our course bit by bit so we could master each section. I was definitely exhausted both mentally and physically after this lesson!

AT had a really good point- we want to get Addy “rideable” enough so that we don’t have to put the Pelham in when we jump. She is not a professional’s horse, she is an amateur’s horse. Her owner did not buy her to go win the Modified Adults at A shows, she got her because she enjoys riding her. My goal should be to get her relaxed and comfortable with jumping instead of hot and excited.

The short version: counter bending and bending, changing seats, leg on, master each piece of the course. Basically, be a better rider.

Here, have a selfie of us recovering after our ride:


What basics have you been working on lately?


Hello Dear Reader!

I promise, I’m back. Going back over every single post from the last 2 weeks seemed a little daunting, so I’m going to do the classy thing and pretend I was never gone. Rest assured that I read them all and felt your pain, joys, and ridiculous moments.

Today’s post is about the sin of pride. And anyone who has ever spent time around horses already knows where I’m going with this because of the whole horses-eat-your-ego-for-breakfast thing. Don’t spoil it for the readers who think horses are magical unicorns that poop rainbows.

Addy and I have been totally on fire lately: having awesome lessons, doing well in shows, rockin’ the new height without blinking, being Awesome with a capital A. I can even get that collected bouncy canter on command now, and my nerves haven’t made me puke yet! I must be a Very Good Rider.

In this case, it wasn’t even Addy that knocked me down a peg. It was that glorious Assistant Trainer of mine. I’m saying glorious through gritted teeth as I massage my thigh muscles and hope they’ll continue to hold me upright for just a little while longer. I’m saying glorious as I look up the maximum dosage info on the Advil bottle. I’m saying glorious as I wonder whether I should move back to the Short Stirrup classes for a while.

Here’s what happened:

I went to the barn for one of my “homework” rides after work yesterday. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, I was pretty tired from it being Monday (do I need another reason??), and Addy has been super chill lately so I figured we would do a quick flat school and leave it at that.

Addy forgot that she’s been chill lately and had a lovely time speed-trotting around the ring while simultaneously peeking at all the Big Scary Rails along the walls that she’s seen literally every day for the last few months. But no big deal, we warmed up walking and trotting around decently despite the ants in her pants. I trust her enough to know that getting a little speedy and looky is about as “bad” as she gets, and I trust my own skills enough to hold me on for whatever she throws at me. I was using a different saddle than normal which made me feel extremely insecure in my leg, but whateva. It was a simple flat hack, I had the strength the hold my leg in place for at least the 30 minutes I was planning on riding. All in all, having a fine time with the DragonMare.

Then we started cantering around, and I began playing with changes of pace- extending and collecting at different places. That’s when AT (Assistant Trainer) looked around as her lesson left the ring, and called out “I want you to hold that outside rein more strongly around the corners.”

And so it began.

Now, we’ve been trying that whole counter-bending thing with great success lately, so I wasn’t surprised to hear this. It really did help Addy straighten out instead of digging through the corners, and our circles were much more balanced. AT then had me canter a very small circle while holding that outside rein strong and HOLY MOLY LEG 4 DAYS. It was lightyears more balanced and controlled than any circle we’ve done, but it took So. Much. Leg. My reins were actually doing what they were supposed to do and acting as straightening aids, and my legs were what moved her around that track. Our goal was to move her shoulders over instead of bending. A.K.A. learning how to do the tight turns that I’ll see in the jumper ring.

“But Olivia,” you chime in innocently, with a gentle twinkle in your eyes, “That all sounds great! What bruised your ego about such a valuable learning experience??”

To which I say, jeez man let me finish, I’m getting there.

AT then looked consideringly at the quarter-line set up and told me to go through it a couple times “so she has a chance to see it.” Um, ok. I could tell she had an idea in her head that went farrrr beyond the quarter-line. We popped through that a couple times in three nice strides with no problems- it was set to 2’6″-2’9″ish so nothing of note there.

Keep in mind that Addy was still full of beans. Still no big deal and very manageable.


AT said to me “Olivia, I want you to jump in the first jump, then roll back right to the rail. Do it in front of these standards, don’t go around.” I made some sort of noise about wtf is this and she made some sort of noise about I didn’t ask for your opinion I told you to do this and then I made some sort of noise that sounded kinda like “ok.”

Attempt 1: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 2: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 3: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 7: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 8: Set up some ground poles as a guide. Approach the jump. WHAT ARE THESE POLES I CANNOT JUMP.

Time to take a break. At this point I was getting extremely anxious and tense, which led to me getting very stiff in the saddle. Poor Addy had absolutely no clue what I was asking her to do, and could feel me getting more and more anxious. So she assumed there was something to be anxious about. Nothing naughty, but there was certainly a fire under her at this point.

AT put the jump down to a crossrail and set up a few more ground poles to guide our track. Told us to very calmly trot in and make the turn that way.

Yeah, nope. We were still so super keyed up and that wasn’t gonna work.

So we took it a step further and put it down to a ground pole. Addy still bunny-hopped over it a couple times and I’m pretty sure I was still holding my breath, but we just went in circles over it until both of us relaxed and realized there was nothing to worry about. We focused on where I was placing her feet and her shoulders at the walk.

And we ended on that good note. Because even though last week our good note was nailing a full 3′ course with rollbacks, yesterday’s good note was steering correctly at the walk over a ground pole. Like I said. The sin of pride.

We have some super intense homework: lateral work. Like, metric crap-tons of lateral work. At the walk. Leg-yields and turns on the forehand to really get her sensitive to my leg and train my leg to ask appropriately. Do that until we have it nailed at the walk. Then we can try it trotting. Eventually we’ll apply that to our jumping and make those tight turns. We need to step back to those basics for a bit so that we can put the building blocks together strongly.

Some homework just for me: breathe in and breathe out. Treat every jump as a schooling opportunity with no pressure. Remember that each new trip through is a new opportunity. Believe that I can do what I set my mind to and commit.

After that physical and mental torture, I think you can all guess what I did. I asked if I could have a private flat lesson sometime soon. I think there’s something wrong with my brain.

Any tips for working on our lateral movements? How do you approach these super tight jumper turns? Any ideas for strengthening my legs? I have lots of requests for your help and opinions this week 🙂