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.
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.
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.
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.
Y’all are awesome, and I’m grateful for you every day. Cheers to this wonderful, weird, crazy amazing blogging community!
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.
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.
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.
Social– living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation.
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 ❤
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.
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.
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.
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).
Very not blonde
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Most equestrians quote fall as their favorite season to ride. Are you one of those that does? Or maybe not; what is your favorite season to ride, if so?
Yes! So much yes! October in Virginia is my idea of paradise. Low humidity, beautiful breezes, cool but not freezing, and lovely views out over the neighborhood. The horses all start getting their dark winter coats and there’s enough crispness in the air to give them an extra pep in their step. Spring is nice too, but the pollen gets absolutely everywhere, and out of loyalty to Manfriend and his awful allergies I hate spring in a show of solidarity. Summer is too hot and humid and winter is the actual worst. Fall all the way forever.
Do you clip your horse in the fall? Or maybe you wait a little longer?
Ugh. Yes. Francis got super fuzzy super early this season, and the nights are starting to cool down while the days still get up into the high 70s. I’d consider his workload moderately heavy at the moment, so clipping him has helped keep him comfortable as I ask him to sweat.
Have any costume riding events in October on/near/around Halloween? What will your horse be dressed as? What about yourself? What would you dress as if money/time were absolutely no issue?
We have an in-house show coming up that I’m angling to do a costume class for! Though I will admit that I haven’t put any thought into what Frankie would be. If money/time was no object, I would love to either turn him into the Millennium Falcon so I could be Han Solo, or turn him into the USS Enterprise so I could be Captain James T. Kirk. I have a thing for scrappy belligerent space captains, clearly (so another option could be to turn him into Serenity and I could be Mal…).
Is your horse afraid of any autumn colors? Or maybe has a certain quirk that appears only in the autumn?
Hahahaha no. Frankie has not yet found something that he’s afraid of. And “quirks” are not really a thing that he does. I swear, he and Manfriend are tied for first place in the Most Emotionally Stable Creature Award. Which is a fantastic thing because I am a roller coaster of a human being.
Pumpkin spice. It’s everywhere right now. Find any natural pumpkin [squash] spice-esque recipes for your horse?
I am the meanest ever no-treat mom. Tons and tons of pats and scratches and praise, but no treats for the big guy.
We’re getting to the end of the calendar year, any final few “big-bang” shows to look forward to?
Zone Finals! We have two classes on Saturday (the WIHS qualifier) and two classes on Sunday (actual Zone 3 Finals). I am super super excited for both days. We’ll get to see some of the friends we made at Team finals and I like how the schedule works- two classes a day is our sweet spot, and only two days in a row means I’ll still have a nice fresh horse on Sunday. They also build up the heights for each class which is a nice progression: 1.05-1.10m and 1.10-1.15m on day one, then 1.15m on day two. While we haven’t prepared for this as rigorously as we did for Team finals in August, I think a little mental refresher was great for both of us. Frankie feels fit, is going great, and I’m beyond excited to end our season with a bang!
Winter is coming. What are you doing to winterize your trailer/rig/car?
No trailer, so nothing on that front! And my car is a 4WD Jeep, so I don’t do anything differently with it in the winter. I do know that I’ll need a new car sooner rather than later, but I’m hoping my trusty vehicle will last through one more winter before I have to bite that expensive bullet.
Do you have any autumn traditions you/your horse follow?
More trail rides on the weekends! It’s just too hot to enjoy this in the summer. Even if I’ve already put in a good workout, I like to go for a walk around the neighborhood to cool out- as long as sunlight allows.
October in many places marks the beginning of deer hunting season. Does this affect your riding at all? Do you wear blaze orange or modify your schedule to accommodate the season?
Our barn is in a residential neighborhood, so I don’t worry about this too much. I do hear more gunshots (this is Virginia, after all) but never nearby. I also usually take my trail rides in the early afternoons on the weekends, which is not prime hunting hours.
What are you most looking forward to goal-wise as the final months of the calendar year approach?
Oh boy. I don’t even know- there’s a few things in the works that would be AWESOME if they happened, but I don’t want to jinx it by getting ahead of myself. At the end of the day, I’m just psyched to keep having fun with my favorite horse on the planet, building our fitness, and honing our skills. We’ll be picking right back up in February to kick off our new season!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden? Short answer: not very young or green. I love me a well-schooled horse. I’ve hopped on a couple fairly green-broke 4y.o.s for short rides, but nothing substantial. Mad respect for those who regularly ride greenies, I have a hard enough time figuring out how to not ruin my packer.
How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden? Late 20s-ish. He was a school horse at the barn I rode at in middle school and was mostly retired, but they let me ride him because I was too nervous to ride anything else. Womp womp. We do have a 34yo pony at my current barn that is still in better shape than me or Frankie, and we’re pretty sure he’s going to last forever.
Were you scared of horses when you first started riding? Ummmmm, kinda? It was this weird juxtaposition of wanting to be near horses during every second of every day, and also freaking out hardcore whenever they did anything besides stand there without moving. I was a conflicted, neurotic, terrible child.
Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider? These days, I’d definitely say confident! I have a lot more trust in my own abilities than I used to, so I believe that I can safely accomplish whatever my trainer sets for me. I still have my nervous moments, but I’ve gotten pretty good at taking a deep breath and giving myself a pep-talk.
Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses? When they don’t listen. If I tell you to stand over somewhere, it’s for your safety. If I tell you not to walk in that area, it’s for your safety. If I ask you to put something away, it’s for your safety. If I tell you not to feed my horse, SERIOUSLY DO NOT FEED MY HORSE HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF I SNUCK YOUR TODDLER CANDY BARS THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS LIKE RESPECT MY AUTHORITY AS HIS MOTHER. But seriously- if you don’t know what you’re doing around horses, please follow my instructions promptly so we can avoid you getting kicked or stepped on.
A time you’ve been scared for your life? (horse related) Like every day from the ages of 11-15. Seriously I was a neurotic little ball of anxious energy. Nothing truly bad every actually happened though! The times I’ve fallen off haven’t even been when something crazy happened. I always fall off when my horse trips at the walk, or canters a crossrail or something dumb like that. I once got caught in a stampede of 25 ponies getting loose and making a break for their paddock, but that was more adorable than anything else.
Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened? Eeesh, just the once. I was in a flat class with roughly 75 people- we were literally 3 deep on the rail, and it was a tiny warmup ring with no fence around it. Instead of splitting the class to canter, they just had us all go at once. Three deep. Quite understandably, my horse said “eff this, I’m out” and took off towards the middle of the ring crow-hopping. I landed flat on my back in the dead center of the ring with the wind knocked outta me. Everyone stopped and people rushed over to check on me to see if I needed an ambulance, but the only thing hurt was my pride. My horse had even stopped immediately and was waiting patiently for me to get up and feed him. It was just embarrassing more than anything else.
What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride? Anything gaited! Paso Fino, Tennessee Walker, something like that. I’ve ridden an Icelandic pony and that was pretty cool. I live in a world of TBs and warmbloods (and the occasional draft-cross), so something totally different would be fun.
Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden? This is a tough one- I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to horses, in that OMG PONIES I LOVE THEM ALL. And my trainers/friends know me well enough that no one has ever asked me to hop on something spooky or truly obnoxious- I will nope out of that with zero hesitation. I’ve hopped on a couple horses and then almost immediately hopped back off for that reason.
The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had? This is another tough one. Even if I come out of the ring feeling frustrated, I try really hard to re-frame it in my mind as an opportunity to learn and get better. So ultimately those rides end up going in the “positive experience” memory bank. I’ve had rides with Addy where it felt like everything we had ever worked on just flew out the window and our brains fell out of our skulls- but it was just kinda like, “eh, you win some you lose some.”
What do you consider “jumping high” for yourself? At this point, probably around 3’6″ish. But that’s a pretty manageable height for us and we do it fairly regularly, so it’s not a scary height, just on the bigger end of what we’ve done so far. We’re also gonna get used to it reeeeal fast since that’s our division next year haha.
What are your short term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? In the short term, my goal is to move up and have a successful season in the 1.10m High Adult Jumpers. Ideally “successful” will mean qualifying for the regional finals, but I’ll be happy if I can give my horse a good experience at that height and have fun. I definitely think this is within reach! When spring rolls around, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running in our new division.
Long term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? Hmm this one is harder. Ideally I’d love to make it to the 1.20m level, but that’s not a deep burning desire in my heart. We’ll see how our 1.10m season goes and then make new goals from there based on how Frankie feels and what we think a good progression would be for us.
How many barns have you been at in your riding career? Oh goodness. A lot. As a junior I took lessons at four different barns before getting my own horse, and then kept my horse at three different barns. So seven total as a kid. Then one in college, and one as adult. Nine total!
How many different trainers have you been with in your riding career? Two that matter. I took lessons as a kid at a couple different barns, but I started riding with my first “real” trainer in 6th or 7th grade and stayed with him until we sold my horse. We weren’t loyal to a specific barn, we were loyal to T. We went where he went. And then of course as an adult I’ve been with my trainer for two years now and you can’t make me leave her because she is wonderful and I love her.
Ever worked at a barn? What did you do? All through high school! The deal with my parents was that they would fund the horse and shows, but I had to work for it. At one point I was at the barn 5 days a week to care for ~30 horses- turnout, bringing horses in, feeding, hay, mucking stalls, cleaning water buckets, sweeping, etc. I would try to get that all done after school in time for a lesson on my horse, and maybe the chance to hop on another horse or two. I was also my trainer’s shadow for a while at another barn and was basically his gopher- I’d groom and tack up other client’s horses, exercise horses, set jumps, muck stalls, clean tack, anything that needed doing. I also spent a couple summers as a camp counselor at the best place on this planet and that was basically being full time barn staff PLUS full time babysitter to 40 girls ages 7-12. It. Was. Heaven.
Scariest thing that has happened at your barn? Um. Addy got loose once and munched on grass until we could catch her? The warmblood yearling jumped out of his paddock and ran into his stall? Honestly I can’t really think of anything. We had a horse colic really badly that had to be put down, but I count that as more sad than scary.
Have you ever given a lesson? What level was the rider? When I was a counselor, I helped out/led some of the beginner lessons of the up-down kids. I was also able to help out on occasion with the more advanced kids that were jumping full courses, and that was more fun. Less worry about them steering into each other.
What is your opinion on the accuracy of critiquing riders online? Mixed feelings. I do think that a lot of people have good intentions. And I don’t think that you have to be an Olympic level rider to recognize basic position faults. But at the same time, unless something is blatantly unsafe, I don’t think it’s appropriate to critique unless the rider has asked for that critique. If they’re asking for feedback, do it politely. If they’re not, then don’t do it at all. Also, people will usually post the screenshots that make them look the best, but that isn’t always accurate. If you look at my Instagram, you’d think I had decent eq all the time and Frankie was a male model. Only one of those is true. It’s really really hard to critique a still frame of such a dynamic sport because you’re missing SO MUCH of the picture.
What is the ideal height of a horse for you? 17hh or above. Preferably above. I can kiiiinda get away with a big-bodied 16.3, but that’s pushing it. Frankie is somewhere in the 17-17.1 range and medium-bodied, and he’s pretty much as small as I can go while still looking somewhat proportional. Of course, I rode a 16.1 mare down in Ocala in the jumpers and had a blast because no one cares about proportions in the jumpers, but I definitely prefer them big and bulky. The bigger the better.
I love me a good blog hop! Thanks L from Viva Carlos for giving us all some fun blog fodder.
What is your biggest source of caffeine that gets you through your day? (drink, not just brand)
So I’m a weirdo in that I’m pretty indifferent to caffeine. In fact during the winter I can’t have caffeine at all or else I won’t sleep for three days straight. Legit I can have half a cup of coffee at 8am on a Tuesday and I won’t sleep ’til 4:37am Friday. It’s bad. So during the winter I drink water and herbal tea and that’s about it.
During the summer I’ll grab a cup of coffee in the morning to be social and kinda settle into my day. French vanilla creamer is my jam, people who can take their coffee black frighten me.
Overall though I’m really more of a water drinker! I drink absurd amounts all day long. I don’t feel awake until I’ve had a solid 16 oz. Hydration is the key! If I don’t have to pee, I’m behind on my water.
2. Do you honestly think your trainer is the best for you?
Absolutely. She knows how hard to push me and when to give me a minute to decompress. She does a really fantastic job with her students- there’s a wide array of learning styles and it always impresses me how she manages to tailor her message.
For example: I completely botched my first course at Loudoun. She came down on me hard. She totally lit the fire under me. My friend was a little taken aback when she heard. BUT the reason she did that is because she knows how competitive I am and she knew how to motivate me to cut the crap and DO BETTER. And the next round I went in and did better, and she made sure I knew that she was pleased with the improvement.
Someone else botched their course that same day. Trainer gave them 10 minutes to decompress and then very calmly talked through the parts that they DID nail.
She really has the knack of knowing who needs the fire lit, and who needs the confidence boost. When to push for more and when to praise the improvement.
Of course she’s also immensely detail-oriented, endlessly patient with the horses, and an all-around technically excellent trainer which is what drew me to her in the first place. But I think her ability to coax out the best work from her riders is something really special and something that takes her coaching to the next level.
3. One token of advice from a fellow rider/trainer/horse person that you still remember to this day?
Gosh, literally everything Danny Emerson has ever said haha. He is so wise.
But also someone once told me that riding should be fun. And I think that really is what it always comes back to. So many of us tend to get wrapped up in our goals: improving our lower leg, getting more straightness and engagement from behind, jumping higher, moving up the levels, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, we need to remember that this is supposed to be FUN. The tough days where it feels like training isn’t going well and you and your horse will flail around forever need to be balanced with days where you can take a deep breath and just enjoy being on a horse. If there aren’t any of those “deep breath days,” something’s gotta give.
4. If riding meant costing your family so much money that they’d be basically on poverty line, or making your family terribly unhappy (if they were not supportive or understanding, etc.) would you still do it?
Yes. Call me selfish, call me short-sighted, call me whatever you want. Riding is a non-negotiable for me. Manfriend and my family understand this and have been wonderfully supportive. I’m not sure what I would do if I ran into that sort of resistance- I hope I never have to!
5. Would you ride while pregnant?
Depends on how I was feeling, the horse, the weather, the moon sign, all sorts of things. If I was feeling healthy and strong and it was a horse like Frankie who is a total steady-Eddie-packer type, then probably. But that’ll be something I play by ear and listen to my body about when the time comes (years in the future).
6. How do you tell when a horse likes someone/has bonded with them?
Depends on the horse! A horse like Frankie who is a total snugglebug likes literally everyone off the bat. Legit he’s the biggest flirt on the crossties, he wants to be besties with every living creature. There is not bonding process: as soon as you say hi you are bonded with him. You are his herd. He loves you.
Addy is a little more standoffish. The absolute sweetest girl and always with good manners, but she’ll kinda look at you sideways a bit if she doesn’t know you. Like, you’re cool, but don’t be acting all familiar when she ain’t know your story. I could tell I was good in her book when she would actively seek my company- come to the stall door, graze by my side, etc.
7. Are horses capable of loving?
Love is a strong word. I could talk for days on how we define love and what it means and doesn’t mean. In my mind, love is a uniquely human emotion.
But I do think that horses are capable of intense affection and attachment in their own way.
8. If you could have one horse from your past come back for 5 minutes, who would it be, why, and what would you do with them in those 5 minutes?
My boy Star! He was my gelding in high school and I was terrified of him. He was supposed to take me up to 3′ and I straight up was too scared to ever jump him over 2’6″. Looking back he was probably a bit too much horse for such a timid rider (let’s be honest, anything more than a 27yo pony was too much horse for me), but if I could go back now I think we could have a blast. He was super broke, super fancy, and all our adults used to show him in the adult medals and win every time. I miss him!
9. Should a trainer also be a friend, or should it be a student/teacher relationship?
I believe pretty strongly that for me, this needs to be a more business focused relationship. Other people may be able to make the friendship angle work, but I need my trainer to be my trainer first.
Of course I chit chat with my trainer, we share funny anecdotes when I’m taking walk breaks during my lessons, etc. I don’t mean to say that every single conversation is directly related to me and my horse, because it isn’t. But at the end of the day she is my trainer and barn owner first and foremost.
10. One piece of advice/training you were given by a trainer or mentor that you look back on now and view it as incorrect?
This is a tough one. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some reeeeally great trainers throughout my riding career. I’m also an intense know-it-all (just ask my boyfriend, I’m pretty insufferable), so if I don’t think someone is giving me good advice then I kinda “bye Felicia” them and ride off into the sunset.
I’ve always ridden with/worked with really classical instructors and barn managers too- my trainer as a junior was a really traditional equitation coach, I kept my horse at a dressage barn where good care was paramount, and I now board and ride with a trainer who is no muss, no fuss, just do things well. I’ve always been given pretty good advice from these sources.
Short answer: no, I have a ton of respect for the coaches and mentors I’ve had over the years and can’t think of any advice that doesn’t still hold true!