A Constant Student

Since I kicked off classes last week, I’ve really started getting back into the student-mindset. Despite being out of school for close to 6 years at this point, I found that certain patterns came back as soon as I started reviewing the first syllabus. Almost like a muscle memory.

I did the same thing I used to do in undergrad – mark deadlines on the calendar, build a study plan for each week, go through my checklist of materials to make sure I had everything. I started reading some of the articles and textbook chapters, taking notes and jotting down thoughts where I agreed or disagreed with the conclusions. There’s something refreshing about the expectation of forming an opinion as a student, while the professional world is so much more about achieving harmonious consensus.

I found that this attitude also spilled over into my recent rides with Francis.

Last weekend I had spent a few hours on school-work in the morning, and then took a break to go get some air and work with the Frankfurter. And you would have thought he was a cart horse. Plodding along with zero intention of moving faster than a slow shuffle.

img_0805
Walking is HARD moving is HARD I just want TREATS

My usual instinct in those situations is to push. It’s time to work, so I need him moving. Sometimes this is exactly what he needs! But I started thinking about some of the articles I had read about conditioning work, some of the conversations I had with some professionals I admire, and some of the patterns that I’ve noticed with Frankie’s work ethic.

And I decided to let him do his cart-horse shuffle for a solid 10 minutes. On the buckle, wandering the ring, no instruction beyond simply moving his body in a way that he felt comfortable. And then we started trotting a little. Still on a loose rein, still making big loops, maybe a few shallow serpentines to help him start bending through his body. Then a few easy walk-trot transitions to help him start listening. Slowly slowly starting to pick up a light contact as he started focusing in on me and the work.

img_0827
Not trying to go too hard too fast, just letting the muscles warm up

By the time I hopped off, I had a forward fresh horse who had just given me some of the best trot-canter transitions I had ever gotten out of him. Balanced, stepping under, lifted through his back. Absolutely lovely.

And then this past weekend, we had a lesson with AT (who you all know absolutely kicks my butt). She opted to let us warm ourselves up while she observed, just intermittently calling out when she wanted us to do something different. While I do love my guided warmups, it felt really good to tune into what Frankie needed and just focus on that in the moment – tons of figures off the rail, lots of transitions within gaits, slowly picking up the contact and asking for more engagement.

I joked with AT that I probably work harder when I know she’s watching my own work than I do when she’s telling me what to do, since I don’t want her to think I’m slacking. It was really encouraging though, I do tend to be pretty reliant on my trainers and this was a great reminder that I do know what we need to work on and I can work on it independently. I’m glad that’s a skillset my trainers encourage, rather than wanting me to always depend on them for everything.

img_0813
My favorite activity is making matching faces

Frankie was obedient if a bit heavy in our flat work. Several years later he does still think that carrying his own body around is some sort of bogus hard work, but as he gains some fitness back it’s improving. But you know what gets rid of the heaviness and revs the engine more than anything else?

Jumping. It was hysterical – I had a lazy horse who was giving me pretty good work but was requiring a TON of effort on my part, and then we pointed him at a crossrail and all of a sudden we had gas in the tank. It was our first time jumping in the outdoor this season, and he was SO happy to stretch out his stride a bit. I could even feel him think about porpoising a bit! He didn’t because he’s Francis, but I definitely could sense him considering it. I ain’t mad, he was having fun and feeling good.

Our coursework that day was just lovely. He gave me everything I asked for, and for the most part I was had the wherewithal to ask for what I needed. His tendency was to stretch his stride out to monster proportions in the bigger ring, but to his credit he did soften and come back to a more useful canter as soon as I asked. It used to take a long time to make that adjustment and nowadays he brings it under much more quickly. We were able to put some of the jumps up (not huge, but bigger than we’ve jumped in a while) and it just felt effortless.

img_0817
Literally how is he such an angel, this horse is the most amazing creature

It does feel that lately I’ve turned a bit of a corner in my ability to think on course. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I know my horse so well now, that he’s so educated, that I needed the mental break for a few months, or a combination of all of these. But I’m feeling much more able to make a plan for my ride and then execute where necessary, while still adjusting in the moment to give Frankie what he needs. I don’t think there’s a super visible change, but it’s this subtle change in my own perceptions of what we’re doing.

At the end of the day, I’m excited to learn new things and pursue my degree, but I think I’m most excited to be back in the mindset of a student and apply that mindset to everything else in my life.

Our 2019 Season

You know what they say about best laid plans?

Literally the day after I told y’all that I was planning to do the jumpers at Upperville, and about a week after I told you that Upperville is my favorite event of the year, they released the prize list.

And they’ve opted to not include the Low Ch/AA Jumper division this year.

Welp.

Basically what this means is that if I want to compete at Upperville, my options are to (A) compete Monday-Wednesday in the schooling open classes at 1.0m or (B) leg back up to the 1.10-1.15m to do the Highs.

As much as I’d love to say that we can leg back up, I’m not sure that’s realistic for us right now. Classes are starting next week and I’m sure that will impact my ability to ride super often, and that height is challenging enough for us that we need to be at our peak to be successful. Frankie is wonderful at picking up the slack for me when I need it, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask him to pick up quite so much slack.

img_3480
The reason he made the height look so easy is because of the BOATLOADS OF TIME we spent training and conditioning. He’s pretty scopey on his own but definitely needs a partnership at that height (which I swear I can give him despite my sometimes-questionable equitation). PC- K. Borden

And competing earlier in the week is much harder for my working schedule than it is to take a long weekend. I can usually rearrange my schedule to minimize PTO hours when I take a Friday off, but there’s no such flexibility on other days. I’m intentionally hoarding vacation days for our honeymoon in August(!!), so this is a tough option.

regency-la-toc-map.jpg
We’re going to St. Lucia and to say I’m excited would be an understatement. PC – Sandals

So for all my love of Upperville, it’s looking like it’s not in the cards for us this year. I know they were looking for ways to streamline the schedule, but I am bummed they chose to do it by eliminating the division I was hoping to compete in.

What this means for our show schedule is that we’ll do Blue Rock at Swan Lake in May, then do Loudoun Benefit in June. Not sure if we’ll stick with the jumpers, or maybe throw a derby or some eq classes in there for funsies.

img_4200
In case you all forgot how cute Frankie looks as an eq horse. PC – K. Borden

 

After that? It’s gonna be reeeeal quiet on the show front for us. July is hot enough that I don’t particularly like showing in VA then (and summer term means I can’t jet off to Lake Placid again sadly), I’ll be gone on our honeymoon during the bigger shows in August, and then we’re already into the fall.

Ah well. Such is life.

I’m excited for classes to start and figure out what that means for my riding schedule, my social schedule, my sleep schedule. It may mean fewer shows than I’d prefer, but I knew there would be tradeoffs when I decided to go back to school. I’ll still get to enjoy my favorite horse and I know he’ll be happy and ready for whatever adventures present when the time is right!

Kicking Off the New Era

Building on the new-car-news, I have more non-horse related news! It’s been quietly in the works for a bit now, but I’ve been keeping it on the DL as I’ve figured things out.

Basically, I was so relieved by being done with wedding planning that I almost immediately started looking for something else to fill my time. Because I’m garbage like that.

I considered a couple things:

  • I could get back into the 6x/week training schedule with Francis that’s worked well in the past. But I’m honestly feeling really good about the slightly lighter schedule that I have while keeping him in training with AT. I don’t have huge competitive goals this year, so I’m happy with this different balance of barn time for a little bit to re-set.
  • I could throw myself into my workouts more devotedly. But I also already do them consistently and as much as I like feeling healthy, I have approximately zero desire for it to be a “thing” in my life besides serving a basic purpose.
  • I could throw myself into keeping a really beautiful home for myself and my husband. But we live in a small 2 bedroom condo that takes very little effort to keep tidy and clean, so there’s not actually that much to do.
  • I could start cooking meals more often hahahahahaha yeah right nope.

And as I was considering and discarding each of these options, I got an email from a listserve I had signed up to on a whim 6 months ago: “Do you want to meet with an admissions rep for X school in your area?”

skeptical
How I stared at this email 6 times a day for several days

I was about to send it to the trash without responding, but I paused and thought about it. And thought about it the next day. And brought it up to my husband. And then brought it up to my boss which lead to one of the most amazing professional mentorship conversations I’ve ever had.

So after ALL that, I finally responded that yes, I’d like to meet with this rep. I knew next to nothing about the program, I had done zero things necessary to apply to ANY program (let alone this one), but I decided to go for it.

And in the intervening 8 days until that meeting, I had researched 50+ other programs, attended two info sessions in person, talked to 10+ admissions reps, and applied to one. Oops.

move.gif
SHUT UP AND HELP ME WRITE MY ESSAY

The more I researched, the more I knew what questions I wanted to ask and what was important to me. By the time I got to that originally scheduled meeting that kicked this whole thing off, I had already realized that program was not a good fit. But it seemed rude to cancel.

The long and short of it is that within 2 weeks of seriously considering applying to schools, I had an application in. About 2 weeks later I had an acceptance letter. And in just about 2 months I’ll be kicking off the next phase of my education as I pursue my MBA!

backtoschool
Dad if you’re reading this just know that I’m doing this at least partially to prove that I’m the superior child.

The closer it gets, the more excited I am. Getting my MBA has been in the back of my mind for a while now (as you may remember), and while it will require some sacrifices and changes, there won’t ever be a better time for me to do this.

For those of you worried about Francis, never fear. He’s obviously not going anywhere. Robust employee benefits mean that my financial situation remains unchanged, so my only consideration is time. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t ride at all, but realistically I know there’s no way to support a 5-6x/week schedule while also working full time AND going to school. He’s currently in a 2x/week with a pro and 3-4x/week with me program, and I’ll plan on sticking with that until I have a better handle on the workload. My trainer is on board and I know that we’ll adjust as needed to make sure he’s getting plenty of exercise and plenty of love!

IMG_2202.jpg
Fewer interrupted naptimes are fine with him.

This will mean fewer horse shows and the jumps will likely have to be lowered a few holes, but I’ll still get my saddle time and the knowledge that he’s healthy and happy in his beloved program. And yes, the flexibility and cost of the program factored into my choice very heavily for this reason. Can’t make any decisions without considering the bestest Frankenbean โค

I’m not sure how this blog will be affected by this new enormous piece of my life, but I’m excited to find out and bring you along for the journey!