Ramping Up

I’m now in week two of the official “Get More Better At Riding Again” unofficial bootcamp, and I’m loving it!! I had gotten kinda used to my 1-2x a week schedule for the last year+ and I don’t think I realized just how much my barn time makes everything better. Getting to log off the computer and immediately head to the barn is an amazing feeling, especially since my barn commute is 100x better from our new place than it was from my office.

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In fact everything about our new place is a vast improvement, including the sunsets and our happy lil front porch. We’re out there almost every evening. In the gap between the houses you see here you can actually see the horse farm across the road, and we often hear them talkin to each other.

Frankie is on his way down to Lexington for the show with his leaser, which means it is the Meeko show for the week. We had our second hack together last night and I definitely feel like I’m getting to know him better; where he wants more support from me, where I need to dictate a bit, and where he needs me to back off and let him do his thing. He’s very similar to Frankie in that he likes a lot of support from the leg, but his gaits feel so different and he’s more responsive off my aids. It’s really fun getting to know him, he’s safe and fun and I’m so grateful I get to hop on!

I’m also pushing the intensity of my rides more this week. Last week was dedicated solely to making it around the ring a couple times to start building up my sorely-lacking stamina. This week I’m trying to actually, you know, ride like I’m doing something. Tons of transitions and playing with some lateral work has my core VERY sore so I feel like I must be doing something semi-right. It’s making me super eager to get back into lessons when my trainer gets back from the show.

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Unrelated I just wanted to show you that Maggie is a big weirdo. This isn’t a screenshot, she likes to fall asleep like this.

I’m also looking ahead to our (hopeful) next show in September. It’s about 30 minutes away and we’ll be shipping in and out, and traditionally it’s not a super crowded show, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can do it in a safe way. I’ll be hopping on at our trailer after only touching my own tack, and I won’t have to touch anything again until they hand me my big blue ribbons – putting that out into the universe now just in case. I already have a decent selection of masks that I wear when I leave the house (which is extremely rare other than going to the barn), but after seeing some posts here in blogland and on social media about the gaiters people were using, I went ahead and got myself one of those for showing:

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Bordered in navy, because obviously

I also may have bought myself a little graduation present because you know what, I was tired and stressed and wanted something nice. It’s a new show coat!! I managed to find this Equiline in my size for an absolute STEAL since it’s used, but it’s in perfect shape. Black with satin pockets and burgundy suede collar. At least I’ve stopped compulsively buying new breeches? That counts for something, right?

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The black is blacker and the collar is a deeper burgundy in person and it’s SO PRETTY I LOVE IT

Anyway, I’m trying to get back in the rhythm of capturing the journey more often as I get back into the swing of things. Excited to share more with you as we start to figure things out again!

Adding the Letters

After 16 months of classwork, I am officially done with my MBA! It’s been a lot of work: I’ve taken at least two classes every term (and three this summer), all while working full time+, traveling to compete (in the Before Times), starting a new role at work, buying our first house and moving to a new state during lockdown, and navigating the chaos that is the world right now. I’m still waiting on the final confirmation of one class on my transcript, but the grades are in and I managed to finish out with As in all of my classes. It was definitely dicey in places and I wasn’t sure I’d make the grade I wanted, so I’m very pleased that I was able to finish strong and maintain that 4.0.

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Taken directly after submitting my last assignment. Balloons and champagne courtesy of WBH (World’s Best Husband), world-weary gaze courtesy of Maggie

Not to be cheesy, but this whole school thing would have been impossible without the whole cast of characters in my support system. My barn friends, who have kept me entertained and kept an eye on Frankie for me, my trainer for keeping him fit and ready for the sporadic times I was able to show up (and even got us in the show ring way more often than I expected), my family and in-laws for sharing food and family and love, and of course my husband. He has dealt with more mental breakdowns, exhaustion, tears, absenteeism, and overall craziness than he should have had to in the first 18 months of marriage, and he’s done it all with his characteristic unflappable support. I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Maggie also doesn’t know what she would do without him. Girl is OBSESSED with her papa.

To celebrate, I decided to take last week off entirely. I set up an away message at work, shut down my laptop, and turned off all notifications on my phone. I definitely have plenty to catch up on this week as I get back in the swing of things at work, but it was SO SO SO WORTH IT. And I think you know why: I spent literally every single day at the barn. Several hours. Every day. With my perfect boy. I feel like a different, better person.

What I also learned during this amazing week full of saddle time is that WOW MY STAMINA IS NEAR ZERO. By the end of the week I was comfortably trotting 6-10 laps and cantering 5-7. If that doesn’t sound like that much, you’d be right. It isn’t. I am just that out of shape. It’s frustrating because I have the muscle memory so my body knows what to do, I just don’t have the strength or tone to maintain anything for very long. I’m extra grateful that Frankie is fit and forward right now; I’m not sure I could handle trying to get both of us back up to speed.

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My favorite view through my favorite ears ❤

The plan right now is to take this week to keep building my stamina on the flat and re-enter lessons next week, tentatively planning for a group jump lesson and a private flat lesson as time permits. We’re keeping the jumps low for 2-3 weeks to see how I survive and then I’ll move into another group jumping a bit bigger if we’re feeling comfortable. That will take us to the end of August, when I think we’ll have a better idea of how quickly I’ll be able to get fully back up to speed. While it seems crazy to think about now, I do still want to aim for the Highs at Piedmont at the end of September. I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out – we can always go be the defending champs in the Lows – but I don’t see the harm in setting my sights higher.

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Remember when we used to jump this height because I do and he has such better body awareness now and I have better timing now and I’d REALLY LIKE ANOTHER GO AT IT

 

I’m also getting to diversify my riding a bit this week which I’m excited about! Frankie’s leaser is taking him to their first away show to do the equitation and some jumper classes, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes. In the meantime, my friend has very generously offered to let me flat her GORGEOUS horse Meeko so I don’t lose any opportunity to get in the saddle. He’s of similar unicorn status to Frankie with the added bonus of being an absolutely lovely mover. I’m excited to learn more about his buttons and practice on a different ride.

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v v v excited to learn how to manage and encourage his big floaty gaits

Moving forward Frankie still is in his half-lease situation, and I don’t plan on ending that any time soon. The kid is a super hard worker and the whole family has been wonderful to work with, and it’s been so satisfying to see them figure each other out. However, this does mean I’m only riding Frankie 3x a week which is definitely not enough to get me back in shape for the Highs. Feeling very grateful that between Meeko and some other options, I should be able to maintain a solid 5-6x/week schedule, and may even get to lesson on some of these other horses!

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Sweet Meeko!!

Frankie recently got a massage showing no major hot spots and got his regular SI injection and is feeling super fit and forward. I’m beyond excited to get back into training mode with my bestest boy ❤

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I promise he’s excited too.

Smartypants McRetainsWell

I’m officially all healed up from my tailbone injury and back in the saddle! I think taking a solid week or two of next-to-no activity was just what I needed to let the inflammation die down. Even with the holiday this week it looks like I’ll get a solid 4 rides in. That’s more than I’ve done in months!

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My Christmas present was being able to ride pain-free!

True to form, Francis has been an angel boy for me. I’m comically low on endurance, so he’s pretty thrilled about the frequent walk breaks as I gasp for air. I WOULDN’T BE SO OUT OF BREATH IF YOU’D JUST MOVE FORWARD MORE, HORSE. He’s a little confused and annoyed that after so long I’m asking him for correct work again and actually backing that up with some semblance of leg, but is begrudgingly delivering.

And luckily he remembers all the stuff we worked on over the summer. He thinks self-carriage is The Worst and would rather not, but I’m not having to hold his hand nearly as much as I did last spring. This is regular “would rather nap” and not “I literally have no clue what’s going on” like it used to be.

I’m also really really glad that we opted to bump up to 2x/week with AT as I get back into it. She’s definitely sharpening him back up so that when I’m on he’s able to respond quickly and correctly, and it’s certainly helping get him back in shape. It means that he sometimes gets ridden twice a day but he’ll live. I promise.

It’s funny, now that he’s back in a more intense program, he actually comes out more eager to work. He’s gone back to shoving his face in the bridle and putting his face at chest level for me to tack up. Legit he was mouthing around looking for the bit as I tacked up the other day. So he can fake the grumpies all he wants, he actually loves having a job to do.

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“hello mahm would like scritches pls”

The super fun part right now is that my muscle memory is definitely there. I know how to ride my horse to get good work out of him, and I know the timing I need to ask. You know what’s not there? The muscle strength. You know, a very minor consideration. Those things combined mean that I’m riding him pretty well since my body does it fairly automatically, and then the next day I wake up INCREDIBLY SORE.

It’s the best sore I’ve ever felt. I’m so incredibly happy to be back on board this creature and back in a training program.

So our short term steps forward: Mama needs to work out, hard. I already have my program chosen and will be kicking that off this weekend. Between that and returning to a 5-6x/week riding schedule I think the first month of the new year may be a bit achy. It’ll be fine.

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I even went for a jog. It was awful. I’ll probably do it again soon.

We’re also looking to restart the private and/or semi-private lessons- it turns out our other rider in my division is also free on Friday afternoons, so we may combine forces! We’ll play showing by ear, likely making an excursion in the Lows in January or early February depending on what’s available, timing of any injections, finances, etc. I don’t have any major competitive goals for this year besides enjoying ourselves, and will likely be trying to save money for more clinics and training opportunities.

A few things tentatively on the radar are trailering in for a lesson with Joe Fargis, potentially doing Team Finals again, signing up for when George comes to town in the fall, and Upperville. Because I can’t NOT go to Upperville. We’ll see what happens as we get back into shape!!

 

First Ride Back

You guys, I got to ride my horse for the first time in WEEKS. It may as well have been decades because HOLY MOLY did I miss this creature.

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Ignore the feral-length mane and LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS

The major ouchie I’ve been dealing with from falling down the stairs (which is seriously the stupidest way to get injured) is a bruised tailbone. For a day or two I was pretty worried that it might be cracked, but at this point I’m almost certain it’s just really badly bruised. Standing, sitting, and laying down are now fine, but bending over/picking things up off the ground does require some ginger movements (major MVP points to Frankfurter for holding his own feet up for me to pick). With that in mind, I wanted to ease back into the saddle pretty cautiously.

Frankie is also freshly clipped and it’s been frigid here, so I wanted to be sure I didn’t have SpicyFrancis under me. We only get 2-3 days a year of SpicyFrancis, and luckily this was not one of them. Big Man was an absolute perfect angel.

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Unamused by his crippled mother. Also so in love with his winter orange snoot.

The verdict so far: walking is completely fine. Posting trot causes a few twinges but nothing too bad. Half seat is uncomfortable, sitting trot is right out. Cantering is also pretty uncomfortable- half seat remains twingey, and sitting is still no bueno despite how smooth his stride is.

I’ve had a bad tailbone injury in the past that I rushed, and it haunted me for literally years. So I’m going to move forward with an abundance of caution here, and stick to walk/trot for a bit until I’m more healed. Overkill? Maybe. But I’d way rather take it slow and steady and let myself heal completely.

In the meantime, I could not be happier to be reunited with my best boy. I don’t think I realized just how much I missed him until I was back giving him scritches- I had tears in my eyes when I got to hug his neck and feel his nose on my shoulder. He’s so playful and curious and kind and funny and sweet and I often struggle to articulate just how much I adore being around him.

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The happiest to just share time with him

Slow and steady is just fine for now, as long as we’re together ❤