Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Clearly a sucker for a blog hop, and Amanda so kindly provided one! Let’s dive right in.

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

Team sports are super not my thing. Never have been. I went to like one soccer practice as a kid and hated it and never went back. I really don’t like having my success hang on other people. And I also don’t like things that require catching or throwing. Reeeally not my forte. That left things like swimming, ballet, and horseback riding- all of which I did extensively as a kid. For whatever unknown reason, the horse stuff got into my blood and I never recovered!

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?

Casual lessons until I was around 11, when I half-leased a 20yo Morgan to do some local short stirrup shows with (he was the best!). Got my own horse Star when I was 13, and did all the 2’6″ mini medals and pre-children’s hunter divisions I could. As I started wrapping up high school and got more focused on college prep and AP courses, we sold him to teach someone else the ropes (side note, he’s now happily retired down in Florida getting as much love as he could ever want).

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

Ooh tough one. There was this GORGEOUS 18.1h hunter I tried as a kid once that was just amazing. But ultimately he did end up having soundness issues, and I’m no longer into the whole hunter thing. So it’s a good thing we passed on him.

What disciplines have you participated in?

Hunter, equitation, jumper all the way! I took a few lessons at an eventing barn and went to summer camp with an eventing focus as a kid, but I’ve been pretty firmly ensconced in the HJ world most of my life. Played polo 3-4 times and really enjoyed it but was TERRIBLE at ever hitting the ball.

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Sometimes I pretend to be eventer-y

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

Pretty happy in jumperland! I’d like to take some formal dressage lessons with the Frankfurter sometime, and I’ve already mentioned I think it would be fun to do a little HT with him. I’ve been weirdly adjacent to the eventing world for a while so it would be fun to participate.

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

Nope! Both horses I’ve owned were bought through a pretty traditional route where my trainer found me horses to try and I picked based on that.

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

Oh man I LOVED me some quarter horses. My dream horse was a chestnut quarter horse that I would keep in the field behind my house and ride to school.

If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

Probably the Czech Republic right now. They have some incredible young stock that they’re breeding and bringing in from around Europe, so the access to super nice horseflesh is there. I also fell in love with Prague when I went a million years ago and would love to go back.

Do you have any horse-related regrets?

Nothing major. I might do some small things differently, but overall I’m happy with the path that I’ve taken.

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While I don’t have regrets, Francis clearly has a few that led him to the life of ammy packer

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

There’s plenty I’d love to clinic with regularly as check-ins, but I wouldn’t want to switch full time to a different trainer. Joe Fargis is a big one I’d love to work with, and he’s in my area so hopefully at some point I may actually be able to trailer in for a lesson. I’d love to have a session with Beezie where she’s on the horse and just narrates everything she’s feeling and doing.

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

I don’t know that I really have one! There are plenty of shows I’d love to do with Frankie (Vermont, WIHS, etc.) but none of them are do-or-die, more “wow that would be cool if we can.” I think it would be fun to do the charity challenge down at WEF, but that’s mostly because I love any excuse to dress up in costume and perform in front of an audience.

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STICK ME IN A TUTU AND JACK THE JUMPS UP

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

To be completely honest, probably not. While I love love love just spending time around the horses and find a great deal of peace in it, I get so much joy from being in the saddle. I think it would be hard for me to be around horses knowing that it wasn’t an option to ride. I would definitely retain ownership of Frankie because he’s stuck with me forever, but I’d probably lease him out so he could stay in work.

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

If we’re going full fantasy, I’d love to make it to the Regional GP level, which is 1.40m. Go to all the big shows up and down the east coast, winter in Wellington, and have a shot at some real prize money. I could even cross over into the High AOs if I wanted.

More realistically but still a not-quite-within-reach dream, I’d like to be competitive in the Low AOs. Consistently fast and clean at 1.25m.

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

Francis, hands down. He’s always always always a very good boy, but he definitely challenges me as a rider. He works only as hard as I do, and insists that I ask correctly. The combination of his patience as I get things wrong and his willingness to offer amazing work when I get it right is one of the greatest gifts in my life. Aaaand here come the emotions.

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He has also taught me the extreme importance of constant snugs

If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

More money. This is really my only limiting factor- I have the flexibility in my schedule to put in the time, I have the desire, I have access to a fantastic health care team to support the work, and I have access to top notch training. More money would mean more training and more shows, which is what I’d want to do.

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

Right now the two big ones I can think of are Vermont and WIHS. I was just at WIHS over the weekend and it’s such a uniquely interesting venue, and I’ve heard so many amazing things about Vermont over the years. Trainer said that Vermont may be our big summer show this coming year, so I may be able to knock that one off the list sooner rather than later! Old Salem Farm may be another one- those pics are absolutely stunning.

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

I’m lucky enough that I’ve gotten to spectate world class riders several times, either down in Ocala, here at Upperville, or at WIHS! These tend to be less crowded venues than something like WEG or the Olympics, but still world class athletes. Best of both worlds in my book. I hate crowds.

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McLain was literally in the next ring over at Upperville

Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

I did quit horses, for 7 years. Every once in a while I think about all the things I could be doing if I didn’t have the horse- vacations, nicer clothes, things like that- but none of those things are any fun when you’re miserable. And I get pretty miserable when I don’t get to ride.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

The lack of information flow. New research about horse welfare takes a long time to trickle out to everyone, shady characters are able to keep shady deeds under wraps, rules aren’t always clear, there’s a million different ways that poor information flow hurts the sport and hurts the horses.

Oh yeah, and make it all cheaper.

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Does buying a horse count?? Because that was super dumb and worked out fanastically hahaha.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

That I’m going to have to compromise my horse-related goals for other things as I get married and start a family. Right now I’m able to throw myself pretty much 100% into advancing, and while I know and am ok with that changing, not knowing how it will change does cause some anxiety. Luckily I’ve been able to talk about that with WBF (World’s Best Fiance) and he understands, so there’s a big comfort in knowing that we’re on the same team and we’ll figure it out as we go.

What horse-related book impacted you the most?

Misty of Chincoteague! I read and re-read that until the pages fell out.

What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

I probably value forgiveness the most. I mess up regularly, and it’s tough when the horse holds a grudge. I think a horse that can handle a mistake and keep trucking is a very special creature. I really dislike a horse that doesn’t want to do the job. Slow I can deal with. Needing help and support I can deal with. But I want my mount to show up to work and at least meet me halfway.

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Please don’t hate me when I climb up your neck and shove you at the jump. Please keep going.

What do you love most about your discipline?

The strategy and nuance of it. A really good jumper course tests you in a million subtle ways- from the jump materials (is a light lower panel pulling your horse’s attention down?), to the grading of the ring (even a slight downhill builds momentum), to the striding (the tricky ones will put a tight line to a flowing line or vice versa just to test you), to your bravery (your horse has never seen these jumps and has to trust), to your conditioning (ever seen a chunky upper level jumper?), to your versatility (you need really solid flatwork to be able to manipulate the stride and track properly), to your scrappiness (when shit hits the fan, you’d better be able to throw out the pretty and kick on), to a thousand other things I’m not thinking of right now. It’s a test of skills both physical and mental. Also I like big colorful sticks go fast fast nice fun good.

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

In the next few weeks, getting our fitness back is the number one priority and that’s going to be a sore couple weeks for both of us. Once we’re both legged back up, I need to work on understanding my adjustability better. I know we have it in spades, but I’m working hard to be more precise on exactly where I’m asking Frankie to be. Having that type of precision and control of his stride lets us power off the ground more consistently, which lets us put the jumps up higher safely. Pretty much everything I’d ultimately like to accomplish with him ties back to that understanding of my horse’s ability to adjust and speed to react to those adjustments.

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It’s time to get back to beefcake status, not dad-bod-with-a-beer-gut status
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Blog Hop: A Redo

Genny over at A Gift Horse posted a really interesting question the other day- if you could get a redo with horses, what would you change?

Hard one, right??

In my mind, I break out my horse experience into two completely separate blocks: pre-college, and post-college (roughly, though I was out of the saddle for closer to 7 years in total). There is a complete lack of continuity to those parts of my riding experience, so I’m going to think about them separately as well.

Let’s start with pre-college.

I have one big regret here, which was my absolute sky-high anxiety around riding. I had everything in the world going for me- a young healthy body, naturally good equitation, access to incredible trainers, my own super fancy horse, regular rides on other horses being offered, PARENTS THAT PAID FOR EVERYTHING, and more. Everything. I had everything. With all that, I should’ve progressed so much more quickly and accomplished so much more. I should’ve had a true junior career.

But I didn’t. Because I was scared. For no reason at all.

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Certain things don’t change- I’ve always loved giving ear rubs to handsome beefy bay geldings (also peep the early-2000s era jeans/half chaps/GPA combo)

So if I could have a redo, I’d want to overcome that. Realistically I’m not sure how- I was an absolute basket case who couldn’t get out of my own head, and I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently. It’s not really a regret in the sense of “oh I wish I could do XYZ instead of ABC,” but more like “wow I wish I wasn’t like that as a person for all those years.”

I’m also tempted to say that I regret taking 7 years off. Imagine how far along I’d be if I had an additional 7 years under my belt?!

But I really needed those 7 years to focus on my education, grow up a bit and get out of my own head, and build a life that can support riding. So I don’t actually want a redo on that. I’m very certain that it was the right thing at the time and I would probably make the same decision over again, no matter how much it stank to be away from ponies.

Which brings us to the Current Era, which includes lessons to half lease on DragonMare to FrancisTown.

And I don’t think I’d redo a single thing. Maybe be a little more frugal over certain things so I could stress less about money during show season. Maybe get Frankie his SI injection a little earlier last year so he wouldn’t get sore. But really these were learning opportunities and I took something away from each.

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I’d buy Francis again a million times over, I’d choose my trainer out of the many in my area every time, I’d use a similar progression to get Frankie and I up to speed. Maybe some people could have progressed more quickly, but what we’ve done has built an incredibly solid base and a happy healthy safe horse. We’ve taken a few calculated risks to push our boundaries, but we’ve built a partnership that can weather those risks.

It certainly hasn’t been a perfect process and I’ve certainly made mistakes. Ultimately, I think I’d go back and make those same mistakes if it brought me to where I am now.

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PC- Liz

Behind the Stall Door with: To Be Frank

If you haven’t yet, y’all need to go see Tracy’s ADORABLE kickoff to this super fun hop. Of course I can’t resist, so here’s my own version featuring the Beast.

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Who is this handsome beast when he’s at home? PC- Liz Stout Photography

When we showed up to ask ammy Olivia Carr about the famous To Be Frank (aka “Frankie”), she was only too happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that we had a remarkably difficult time fitting a word in edgewise. A partnership since early 2016, Carr clearly adores her current partner, and he stoically tolerates her constant face hugs right back.

You all know this 2006 Oldenburg x TB gelding as a star in the adult jumper ring, but we got the inside scoop on just what makes this big bay behemoth such a character around the barn. Let’s go behind the stall door to find out more!

Francisco was a late bloomer

“As best I can tell, someone spotted him eating from a round bale in a field of cows when he was about 6. He bounced around a bit getting some basic brokeness, but wasn’t in any sort of program until shortly before we found him,” recounted Olivia. That late start didn’t hold him back- he spent time in the foxhunting field as well as trying some lower-level eventing before finding his niche in the jumper ring.

Not a dog guy…but he won’t tell you that

“Frankfurter tries to drag me over to every dog he sees,” laughed Olivia, “and then he remembers he doesn’t actually like them and makes cranky faces. I’m waiting for the day that he remembers he’s not into dogs, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Cats? Totally different story. As we were speaking, Frankenbean was snuffling happily into the face of a purring barn cat.

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Enjoying his time on the farm with owner Olivia and soon-to-be-step-father Nicholas. PC- K. Borden

One of the laziest jumpers in Zone 3

When we asked about Franklin’s blinding speed on course, Olivia quickly set the record straight. “Oh no, he is definitely not a spicy horse. Not at all. No way.”  Despite ribbons in speed classes and jump-offs, and once famously coming in 20 full seconds under the time allowed, this apparently does not come naturally to the leggy bay.

“Whenever people hop on him, they’re always really surprised at how much leg he takes to get moving,” confessed Olivia. “Any sort of urgency or pace comes from me, and he just knows the job well enough now to go along with it.”

No scope no hope

While originally purchased to be a 1.10m horse, the sky is the limit for Francis. He’s taken his ammy owner up to 1.15m thus far, but has been successful in the 1.20m show ring with a professional in the irons. “We were hoping to try the Low AO division in 2018, but planning a wedding put those plans on hold,” explained Olivia. “Luckily he’s sound and healthy, so there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t give it a go in 2019. We’ve schooled higher than that at home so I don’t anticipate it being a problem- he hasn’t had to work hard at any height we’ve asked of him yet!”

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He’s certainly not having trouble at the 1.15m height, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for this talented creature! PC- Hoof Print Images

Leave the ears alone

Despite his love of ear rubs and ear scratches, there is one thing The Big Guy does not like- getting his ears clipped. He is, to quote Olivia, “a real asshole about it.”

Taller than he looks

We were surprised by how big Franz is up close, but we’re not alone. “I think because I’m 5’10” it makes Franco look smaller than he actually is, just proportionally,” mused Olivia, “because every time someone meets him, they comment on how much taller he is than they expected.” Take it from us- he’s every inch of 17.1 with a presence to match.

A snugglebug at heart

When we asked Olivia to name her favorite thing about Frankie, she didn’t hesitate. “The constant snugs. He’s always always coming in to rest his head on my shoulder, or beg for ear rubs, or give kisses. He’s incredibly affectionate and playful, I can’t get enough.”

Sure enough, we got the same treatment as soon as we were in range!

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A wonderful partnership between a crazy girl and her lovely horse. PC- Tracy

 

Blog Hop: The Horse You Bought

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a blog hop, so I just had to jump in on this one from Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses after seeing L’s post.

We all know that Frankie has grown and progressed a TON from when I bought him. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and talk about it some more.

Bought: end of March, 2016

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Doin’ some jomps in our trial ride
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His Coggins pic, looking mighty cute

Here’s what his ad said when I bought him:

“He is Eventing at the Novice level and has the ability for much more. This kind natured horse is quiet and easy going, with good movement and a super jump. He goes XC quietly in a snaffle and will jump whatever you point him at. He is also a good Foxhunter. A competitive horse suitable for an amateur.”

And you know what? That was entirely accurate. Honest, quiet, sweet, and athletic. A genuinely good egg. In short- exactly what I was looking for!

However, he was inexperienced in several ways. He was started quite late (as a 6yo) and had done relatively little until he was 8 or 9. By the time I bought him, he had roughly 12-18 months of consistent training. He was nicely broke and very willing, but didn’t really know how to use his body to best effect (especially over fences). While I think his late start is certainly good for his long-term soundness, I think it took him as long as it did to figure out his jumping form because he came to it so late. Luckily he was big enough and naturally powerful enough to step into the 1m jumper ring pretty quickly.

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HOW DO LEGS GO IN AIR HUH?

Which he was also brand new to. His first show with us was a week-long A rated show where he was stalled the whole time, at a height that was new to both of us. Bit of a trial by fire. For the first full year or so, he would land off of every jump and stall a bit- he didn’t ever think to continue on to another fence unless explicitly told to. I had to override to everything since he didn’t have the know-how to maintain a powerful collected stride. It made combos tricky since those were also brand new to him.

In a nutshell- he was a forgiving, fun, inexperienced horse who had lots of ability and lots to learn to be able to use it.

Fast forward to 2018.

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The most handsome angel
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Show pro, anywhere we go (sick flow)
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Happy boy totally knows the drill now when we walk in the ring

To say he’s a different horse than I bought two years ago couldn’t be more true. He’s (clearly) figured out his body over the jumps, and we haven’t found the upper limits of his scope yet. He says yes to all of it with that same happy face. We went from struggle-bussing over 1m, to easily doing the 1.15m with me and 1.20m with a pro in the irons. He’s learned how to stay powerful and collected so we have lots of options on course, he lands looking for the next jump, and he knows that the start bell means it’s time for zoomies. He’s an absolute professional in the jumper ring. He’s extremely well-broke on the flat with lots of buttons, and we can throw him in any ring and know that he’ll go around. He’s that fancy horse I could never afford, and I’m so proud and grateful that we put in the work and time to bring out that hidden potential.

He’s also a little less forgiving now that the jumps are bigger. He expects me to carry my weight and give him a good ride, or at least not an actively awful one. Now that we know how to rate our stride, he gets (justifiably) mad when I try to gun him at a jump. Sorry bro, old habits die hard. He does also prefer an active ride still- making the wrong decision is still much better in his book than making no decision. Of course, we all prefer the right decision. Working on it.

What’s the same? The rest. The sweetness, the kindness in his eye, his quiet confidence. That’s what drew me to him within the first 5 minutes of seeing him, and that’s what draws me to him now.

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PC- Tracy

He’s still the horse that thrives on attention, loves to come in for smooches, struts when he knows he did good, and that I can trust around children. That went XC schooling on a loopy rein, giving a lead to all the newbies. That happily stands for an hour of groomies when his mom is too tired to ride. That can have a week off, and then walk out of his stall foot-perfect.

When I bought him, my tentative plan was to use him as a step-up horse- spend a couple years moving up until we reached as far as he could go, then sell him and use those funds to bring in a new mount.

Um, yeah. No.

I’m open to leasing him out down the road, but homeboy is not for sale.

So that’s another big difference: the horse I bought was not intended to be a forever horse.

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When I’m so nervous I could puke, and he just quietly comes in for snugs as I’m tacking up…yeah buddy. You can stay as long as you like.

He’s enjoying his vacation season (he’s pretty sure that Mom getting married is the BEST THING EVAR OMG LIFE IS SO EASY), but I’m beyond excited to get back in the saddle and explore new adventures with him. He may be different from the horse I bought, but in all the right ways. I would buy him again a thousand times over.

What This Blog Means to Me

Both Emma and Jessica have posted recently about what blogging means to them (along with a bunch of people I’m sorry for not linking I promise I read them!!!). I really enjoyed both posts (and the new blogs I found because of them!), but had no plans to chime in.

But I’m a certified content stealer, and recently spent some time going through the archives as we approach 2 years with Frankie. And I had a lot of emotions about it. A LOT. Y’all know I get sappy REAL easy.

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Baby Olivia back when we kicked this shindig off in January 2015

 

Many of you have been here since the beginning of this blog 3 years ago. I had just gotten into the saddle after a multi-year hiatus from all things horses, was half-leasing the DragonMare, and was getting ready for my first show in 10 years.

Getting to share that journey back into the show ring was incredible. All of a sudden I had this community where I could dissect every nitty-gritty stride of a lesson, talk endlessly about grooming my horse, acknowledge my nerves and shortcomings in competition- and not once did anyone say, “enough is enough, can you talk about anything besides horses??” There was this whole world of people to cheer our successes, commiserate and comfort our setbacks, and who I could talk with about ponies nonstop.

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You guys have been here for it all!

In a huge way, discovering the blogging community developed my growing commitment to riding so much more quickly than it otherwise would have. You all were here to say, “we totally understand that this makes your soul happy. Go for it.” (I’m blaming y’all enablers for making me go broke, btw).

This blog has evolved a lot over the years- when I started, it was mainly lesson/show reviews. It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ve slowly moved away from that- when is the last time we saw a dedicated lesson review?? We still do show recaps, but the rest of my posts are now more big-picture about mine and Frankie’s path, and thoughts about the industry that I spend more and more of my time in.

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We’ve talked a ton about developing Frankie into the rockstar powerhouse he is today

This blog has chronicled every step of my journey, from a half-leaser in the 2’6″ local hunters, to chasing AO jumper dreams at the big shows with my very own unicorn. If you had told me when I started this blog that we would be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I still can’t really believe how fortunate I am to be able to do this.

So what does blogging mean to me? A whole heck of a lot. It’s been a diary to track my progress in lessons, shows, and other training opportunities- and somewhere for me to review for encouragement when I feel like the progress isn’t happening as fast as I’d like. It’s been a forum to connect with knowledgeable, supportive, incredible horsewomen. It’s been the way that I’ve met some of my closest friends. It’s been a way to ask for advice. It’s been a place for me to organize my scattered thoughts.

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And share the hundreds of Francis nap pics I take

Y’all are awesome, and I’m grateful for you every day. Cheers to this wonderful, weird, crazy amazing blogging community!

Three Words

So I’m like a month late to this hop from 3Day Adventures with Horses, but it was too fun not to join in! I saw this when I was in Ohio and started thinking, and here’s what I’ve come up with for Francis.

Diligent– having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.

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Show him the jump, tell him what to do, and he will go do it. Period. PC- K. Borden

If you tell Frankie what the game is and explain the rules, he will go out there and play. If you raise the expectations, he will meet or exceed them. “Steady” implies slowness (and he actually has a motor now), and “responsive” implies reactivity to me, but I think diligent encapsulates his constant willingness to go out there and try. No matter what distractions may be going on and no matter what his job is in that moment- jumpers, cross country, hacking out, equitation, standing still on the crossties- he displays a clear and constant willingness to do the job correctly.

Confident– feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured.

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Things are peachy keen according to Francis. PC- A. Frye

He is pretty sure that he’s doing just fine. He doesn’t get flustered when I correct or reprimand him- he knows that he’s not a bad boy, so he just goes ahead and tries something else. He doesn’t glance at jumps, because he knows they won’t bite him. He doesn’t blink when the jumps go up, because he knows I wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t. He’s confident in himself and he’s confident in me- despite the times I mess him up.

Socialliving or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation.

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Always always wants snuggles and playtime. PC- Tracy

Frankie really thrives on companionship, whether that’s equine or human. He loves to play and trade scratches, LIVES for long groomings, and soaks up all attention he can get. He’s always a good boy, but he is noticeably happier and more relaxed when he’s had plenty of social interaction. This isn’t to say that he’s always super sweet to every horse- he can be a real asshole when he thinks someone is getting up in his grill- but he is curious and engaged and seeks out company. He’s a total bro.

So there’s my Francis in a nutshell! He’s a happy dude who takes pride in a job well done, and likes to kick back and relax with his buds.

….These may actually also be the word’s I’d use for Buddy Fianci. I guess I have a type? I love my boys ❤

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Tall, dark, and handsome. And happy. And fun. And athletic. And the similarities continue.

 

30 Things

I promise I’m working on a write-up of WEC 9, but this hop was too fun not to join in! I’m a perpetual oversharer so maybe you know a lot of this, but here’s a bunch of things about me that don’t relate to horses:

1. I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in biological engineering, concentrating in biomedical engineering. I always look at people a little funny when they say how much fun college was- I had plenty of good times and wouldn’t change a thing, but it was not what I would call “fun.” It was the best education I could ask for, but it was hard.

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With our favorite prof on graduation day

2. I don’t do cold. I grew up in New England, went to school in NY, and promptly moved down to Virginia to escape the cold. I did my time, I have no interest in being cold ever again. One snow per year is enough for me.

3. I am a full on Northern Virginia convert. I love love love living here so much. It’s stupidly expensive and the traffic sucks, but it is beautiful and diverse and exciting and amazing. Like, I understand that people want to live other places, but pretty sure Nova is the best possible place.

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I can get pictures like this, and also have any cuisine I want within 5 minutes.

4. Cheese. I love cheese. All I ever want is cheese. Good day? Celebrate with cheese. Bad day? Drown my sorrows in cheese. Buddy Fianci is the best at arranging cheese plates and it’s a huge reason why we need to lock this thing down legally forever. Kidding. But it does help.

5. I love love love crossword puzzles. I do every one that I can get my hands on. Sometimes I struggle with TV or movie references since I don’t watch that much, but I can usually puzzle it out (ha) from the other clues.

6. Along the same lines, I love trivia games. I’m still in an online trivia group with my old coworkers and I play every day! I’m in a rivalry with my old CIO and send him snotty messages when I beat him. I think his ego needs it.

7. I have a really hard time doing just one thing, with few exceptions: reading an amazing book or riding my horse. Otherwise, I need to have music going, a crossword puzzle (see above), and three text conversations just to be able to watch a TV show.

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Probably the only time I’m ever completely focused (also I had to sneak more Francis in here somewhere)

8. My favorite genres to read are historical fiction and fantasy. I just really love reading about places and times and worlds that I can’t experience outside the book. The Wheel of Time series has been an incredibly huge presence in my life since I was young.

9. I dyed my hair all different colors when I was younger- every shade from platinum blonde to almost black, and even purple once. I was always a pretty conservative dresser and a good kid, so this was my way of branching out a bit. I’ve been my natural shade of mousy brunette for years now, but I still think of myself as blonde (I always use the blonde emojis).

10. I connect most with people over humor. You can be the nicest most interesting person in the world, but I’m not particularly interested in spending time together unless we can laugh. All my closest friends are sharp and witty and amazing people, and Buddy Fianci is hands down the funniest person I have ever met.

11. My heritage is 50% Greek from my mother, and 50% Scottish/Irish/English from my father. Basically, I have extremely pale olive-toned skin.

12. My mom and I traveled all over the world together just the two of us when I was younger- cruises, two trips to Italy, Mexico, etc. The most amazing trip was when I was in college, when we toured around Tuscany over spring break. I had just taken an Art History class, and she took me to see all the masterpieces in person. She’s the best travel buddy ever, and my best friend.

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Sunglasses twins.

13. My oldest brother is 10 years older, and he basically helped raise me. I went into engineering in large part because he went into engineering and I wanted to be just like him, and I lived with him and my sister-in-law for 6mo after graduating college. I’m incredibly close with both of them (I couldn’t be closer to my sister-in-law if we had actually shared a womb), and am godmother to their younger little girl!

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Living with them was the best ever

14. My other brother is 5 years older, and is so much cooler than all of us in every way. He is talented musically, artistically, financially, socially, and in any other area you can think of. He married an equally sparkling woman and between the two of them, they are probably the most-loved couple in RI. Not even exaggerating. Every single person that meets them loves them. I get it, they’re awesome.

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Totally candid normal picture, guys

15. To round out the immediate family, my dad is basically a superhuman. He’s a fetal surgeon, a professor at an Ivy League medical school, and a colonel in the Air National Guard, where he also serves as state air surgeon. He’s a true renaissance man- he loves history and reading poetry to us (and is an incredible reader), sails his boat all summer, and is beyond devoted to my mother. You can’t talk to him for 5 minutes without him mentioning how much he loves her. I talk to my father every single day, and he is the most supportive, encouraging, compassionate man on the planet.

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Best dad/person ever

16. I’m big into hydration. I drink tons and tons of water all day erry day. My Beloved Betrothed carries a Nalgene with him everywhere and I lovingly refer to him as my constant source of clean fresh drinking water.

17. I met my roommate on Craigslist several years ago, and now we are maids-of-honor in each other’s weddings. It was fate. We are polar opposites in every way, but that’s why it works (also she’s hilarious, see point #10).

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We’re gonna need to get a duplex because we need to live together forever

18. I don’t like icing, or plain sugary candies. Chocolate- yes. Sugar- no. I’ll scrape the icing off of cupcakes and cakes, and would much rather have some pie. We vetoed the wedding cake- we’re going with doughnuts instead (Dunkin 4 lyfe).

19. I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets. Everything goes in a spreadsheet. All wedding planning is in spreadsheets. All budgeting for my life is in spreadsheets (I made a baller daily tracker). Google Sheets runs my life.

20. I grew up doing alllll sorts of different activities- I did ballet on a pre-professional track into my teens (I quit to pursue riding more); played tennis recreationally; spent most summers out on the water at sailing camp; took piano, violin, flute, and trumpet lessons (I ended up on the trumpet and was first chair in high school); ice skated often; practiced with the swim team despite never being on the team; and obviously rode ponies.

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Also went to zoo camp because I was very cool.

21. I hate loud noises and countdowns. I can be totally zen, but if someone starts saying “ten…nine…” I will FLIP OUT. Dearest Fiance thinks this is hysterical and threatens me with countdowns on the regular.

22. I don’t cook. I used to try and pretend that I would, but I’ve stopped lying to myself. I can cook, I just don’t. Baking is my fun rainy day activity, but Fiance is for sure the chef of the household- he enjoys it and is really good at putting meals together. Thank goodness, because I am queen of the microwave.

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Legit our third date he came and cooked for me. Also OMG what a baby he was.

23. I was raised in the Greek Orthodox church and my faith is very much a strong part of my identity. Getting married in the Greek church is hugely important to me, and I’m so so so grateful that Fiance is on board with that (it’s gonna be My Big Fat Greek Wedding WHATSUP).

24. If money was no object, I would probably go into tutoring full time. I love working with all ages to develop problem-solving skills. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher- I don’t do groups like that- but working one-on-one with people to learn together is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.

25. I’m a very outgoing introvert. I LOVE meeting new people and will strike up conversations with just about anyone (especially at a horse show), but at the end of the day I recharge best with some quiet time at home.

26. While most people call me Olivia, the people close to me call me Liv, and my family calls me Livy. I was Livy to everyone growing up- teachers, friends, friends’ parents, etc., but really only my parents and siblings call me that anymore.

27. I wear sunscreen on my face every day. My Nana always drilled sun safety into us and I think of her every morning when I put my sunscreen on.

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Also grew up going to the beach at every opportunity, so my fair skin has always needed lots of protection.

28. I’m a huge list person- probably why I wanted to join in this blog hop so badly! It’s why I gravitate towards spreadsheets so much- I make lists to organize my thoughts for work, personal life, etc. It’s just how my brain works.

29. I’ve only ever had one car- my Jeep, Benjamin. I’ve had him since I was 17 and now at 125k+ miles, he’s trying to die and I won’t let him. I’ll be driving that Jeep until it falls apart, which hopefully won’t be for another couple of years.

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Benjamin was there for the world’s best proposal

30. I’m not a big jewelry person except for two pieces- my engagement ring (duh), and my class ring. I feel naked without them.

I’ve loved reading all of yours, hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me!

Blog Hop: Dealbreakers

It feels like a blog hop kinda week!

This one came from Amanda and Henry: what makes you not even want to hop on a horse?

I’m actually pretty picky about this. I’m fairly confident in my own “stick-a-bility” through shenanigans, but hey. I really don’t want to deal with that.

So things that I do not do:

  • Rearing. Obviously. I won’t touch that with a 9 foot pole.
  • Spooking. Of course every horse will have a spooky moment now and again, but if the horse spooks often enough to be described as “spooky,” then I do not want to be in that saddle. I really don’t like going in the ring and wondering if my horse will be offended by the flags/buzzer/wind/noise/commotion.
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I like ponies that can chill on a loose rein at shows
  • Bolting. I like a horse who thinks forward is the right answer, and I don’t mind a little gallop-fest after the fences. But I do NOT like when someone cuts my brake lines.
  • Stopping. Much like spooking, pretty much every horse will stop at some point. And sometimes it’s the safest choice if the fence is big and they can’t safely jump it. But if I’m riding well and my horse is healthy and sound and I’m asking a reasonable question, then I want my horse to jump the jump. I’ll still hop on a horse to flat around, but I don’t have the patience or desire to work with a horse that has a stopping problem- no matter what their potential is once they work through it.
  • Too much playtime. The occasional crowhop? Fine. Throwing an exuberant buck every once in a while after a big fence? Also fine. I have enough balance and strength to ride through this. But I don’t want this to be the norm. I’ll still hop on and deal with it if I have to, but I won’t spend money.
  • Bad work ethic. Listen, we all have lazy days. We all have days that we don’t want to show up and play the game. But I don’t want to try and convince a horse that hates his job that maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
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I like ponies that like their job

 

For me, there are a couple different layers. There are horses that I’ll flat, but I’m not interested in jumping. There are horses that I don’t even want to flat. Heck, there are horses that I don’t even want to go near. At the end of the day, I pay too much money for me to voluntarily feel unsafe on the regular.

Blog Hop: Change

We have a blog hop from Oh Gingersnap!

Have you at some point moved on to a different horse, trainer, stable, etc with the purpose of advancing your progress? What made you realize the time was right for a change? Or did you opt to adjust your goals in order to stay with what you know is working? How did either choice work out in the long run?

I haven’t done a blog hop in a long time, but I can definitely relate to this!

I had been half-leasing Addy for over a year, and she taught me SO SO much. She was my introduction to the jumper ring, moved me up to the 3′, and challenged me without scaring me. For a long time, she was exactly what I needed. I knew that eventually I wanted to move up beyond what she could do, but there wasn’t any urgency.

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Doing the 3′ local jumpers together

As you all remember, I then went to Ocala and got a taste of the show life and decided that I really wanted to pursue that path more intensely.

And Addy was not the horse for that path.

Could she have been? Maybe. Pretty Girl could physically jump a 1m track without issue. She was generally well behaved at shows, and likely would’ve gotten even better with more miles and a stronger ride.

But then it came down to two things: 1. she wasn’t particularly happy in the job of being a show horse and 2. her abilities and limitations were already known, and would’ve kicked into play fairly quickly at that point.

The first part: she didn’t really want to be a show horse. Don’t get me wrong, we went to plenty of shows together and she was a very very good girl. But those were all one-day affairs. Based on what I know about her (which is quite a lot), I think she would’ve been miserable staying in a stall for the week with limited turnout. She loved being a lesson horse, loved going off property for trail rides, and loved fooling around XC. That was her wheelhouse and she was darn good at it. Asking her to fit into a training program for a rated show campaign might have worked, but it wasn’t the job she really liked.

The second part: she jumped a 10 every time, but I wouldn’t really want to take her around a full competition course over about 1m. I had jumped bigger singles with her, but she started getting a little anxious when the jumps went up much more than that. She was the queen of 3′ and we were already doing that together- moving up with her wasn’t really likely to happen.

So with all the love in the world and with full appreciation for the DragonMare, we knew she wasn’t the right fit for me to pursue my goals. I was lucky enough to have a fairly informal/flexible lease with her owner and she was wonderfully willing to work with me.

And that’s when we started looking for Frankie! We wanted a horse that was safe and sane enough for me to ride at my current skill level, had the ability to move up a few levels so I wouldn’t outgrow him immediately, and could mentally and physically handle the rigors of a show career.

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Way more relaxed than Addy would be in a busy warmup ring (PC: A Frye)

And it’s definitely the best decision I ever made- for all of us. Addy didn’t have to deal with the stress of my expectations for her and got to enjoy her job of being an absolute rockstar lesson/local show pony, and I got to start chasing my goals with a horse who is better suited to the task.

Short version: yes, I changed horses so that I could advance my progress in a different direction. And yes, it worked out wonderfully. Change can be scary, but it can be a great thing too!

ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

Hopping on the blog hop wagon! Like Sarah from A Soft Spot for Stars, I’m in the wonderful state of Virginia. But while she is in the beautiful southwest part of the state, I am in Northern Virginia, aka NoVa. Which may as well be on the other side of the country- NoVa is it’s own beast.

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It’s basically “DC Lite”

It has rapidly turned into a very urban/suburban area over the last decade, with lots of people commuting into DC. And it is EXPENSIVE. Absolutely absurdly expensive. With all the expansion going on, you really have to head towards the western part of the county to find true horse country, which is about 40 minutes from my apartment (but only 20 min from work, score!).

Here are some costs, heavily caveated by the fact that I board at a barn that takes care of a lot of these things for me:

 

  • Trim- no idea, since Frankie is shod
  • Shoes-$180-$250 depending on type, special needs, etc.
  • Average monthly pasture board- not super common in my area
  • Average monthly stall board- $850-$1300 depending on which barn you go to, and often certain training services are thrown in there
  • Average cost of a month of full time training- $1400-$2000
  • Hay- absolutely no clue haha

Weather: Honestly I really like it- winters can be harsh but tend to be brief, and summers can  be scalding but I am secretly a reptile that thrives on sunlight. Autumn is by far my favorite- we usually have gloriously crisp but mild weather up into December.

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Yeah, fall views are my fav.

Riding demographic: This is hunter land. For sure. There’s actually a very active community of foxhunters in this area- Middleburg is basically a town devoted to foxhunting and the equestrian lifestyle. But the show hunters are also a huge thing around here. Along with that, jumpers and eq. I know there are also quite a few active eventers around here with some great venues nearby (Morven Park, anyone?), and I’ve seen quite a few dressage barns in the area. With all the suburban yuppies (myself included), English disciplines seem to be the most prevalent around here.

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Seriously Middleburg is basically Fantastyland for foxhunters

Other notes on the area: While it is expensive, this area is really AMAZING for accessibility to hunter/jumper shows. The VHSA hosts local shows in the area almost every weekend year round for both the hunters and jumpers, and there are so many venues hosting rated shows year round as well: HITS Culpeper, Upperville/Loudoun Benefit, McDonough, Swan Lake, Lexington, WIHS, and the Mid-Atlantic Eq Festival are just a few of the AMAZING shows within an easy drive of the barn. It’s also pretty easy to get to either Ocala or Lake Placid/Vermont for the seasonal shows. Seriously, if your goal is to compete on any H/J circuit from the locals to the AA, this is the place you want to be. In my mind, it’s totally worth the extra cost of living to have all these equestrian amenities so close by. And because there is such an extensive community of equestrians in the area, it’s really easy to shop around to find your favorite trainer, tack shop, vet, farrier, bridle trail at the state parks, hunter pace, etc. You want to clinic? We have actual Olympians from several disciplines just down the road. It’s all here.

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Loudoun Benefit, about 30 minutes from the barn

Frustrating things about my area: Nothing that I can think of (besides cost, because I am a broken record. A broke-en record. Hah.). It took me a while to adjust to living in this type of mega-suburb, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get all the conveniences of living in the city, with easy access to world class training and show facilities.