Lesson Recap: The Sweet Spot

We managed to squeeze a lesson in on Wednesday before Frankie shipped down to Culpeper and it was great!

We kept the flatwork pretty short and to the point- it was stupid hot out and there was a thunderstorm threatening to break right overhead. Frankie was definitely lazy to start off- meaning that he reeeeally wanted me to carry him around the ring instead of carrying himself- but to his credit, he showed up to work and put in some effort as we got going.

Then we did our super fun warmup exercise of Trot Every Jump In The Ring All At Once. Four horses. Tiny indoor. A tad chaotic. But really good practice for the warmup ring at shows! Frankie woke right up when he realized it was almost time for zoomies, so we had to go back and actually TROT THE JUMP NO CANTER NOT YET a couple times.

And then it was too hot to do a 2’6″ warmup course like we usually do so Trainer just jacked a bunch of them up to 3’ish (I think? We all know I’m the actual worst at figuring out how big jumps are. They’ll look really big at the time but then I’ll review videos and be like huh that’s actually kinda small. Who knows).


First course: long approach down to the box at A, up the oxer, down the single diagonal, up the outside, down the quarter line. Super straightforward. Lots of single, unrelated distances which is really where Frankie and I shine. I’ll sometimes push through the distance to the base, but we can pretty consistently see the spot from a long approach. It’s those darn lines that I have trouble with- do I ask him to package more? Open up? One then the other- no definitely not that. We also experimented with taking the inside turn (turning before E and C) to come to A, which was plenty of room to maneuver.

And then we got fun! Coming off the left lead to rollback over A, immediately turn right and rollback over the oxer at B, up the quarter line, down C to F in a broken four, up the outside at D.

That S-turn to start actually went surprisingly well. I don’t know why I’m surprised- my horse is pretty darn good at his job- but it was pleasant. Not particularly pretty, but serviceable. The quarter line to the bending four was where we had to go back and try again. The quarter line was a forward three away from home and came up nicely every time. But then I had to rock him back and get in close to the red vertical because the broken four was TIGHT. We had another smaller horse do it in 3. Trainer and I decided that we needed to school the add though, because Francis jumps much better and more cleanly from that tighter spot.

This took a couple times through to really correct. I needed to land off the red and IMMEDIATELY sit deep and package that stride. A.k.a. I really needed to use that auto-release so I could land with a feel on his mouth. The last time through felt really good- I was able to leg him up to the base of the out instead of holding all the way through.

The single vertical on the outside was fine. Because singles are my jam.

Takeaways: the spot I get Francis to VERY much affects how he jumps. He is not like Addy, who tucked neatly and jumped a 10 every time. Frankie needs to get a little deep (but not too deep) to the base, and needs a lot of support from my leg in order to get a good clean effort. Some examples here:

Still hanging his legs, but much less “pop”-y when we don’t get buried at the base
Same jump. Same height. Different distances. Different breed of animal: alpaca vs. horse.

And then just because I think he’s really cute:


Here’s the compilation of our coursework from this week:

Looking at this, I see a couple things: I need to work on my release. I’m just not happy with that at all. I also need to wait with my shoulders and stop trying to jump for Frankie. Let him jump up to me. In fact, I’m picking apart most of my eq and have lots of homework for myself.

But I’m also very happy with the improvements I see: I’m able to get a good quality canter more quickly that has better energy. I’m able to get clean lead changes in both directions, even if I have to ask pretty firmly. Frankie is able to power up and over the jumps even from awkward distances, because he has great muscle and athleticism. The awkward distances are less frequent and less awkward than they used to be.

So overall I’m happy with our progress. We still have a ways to go to suit my perfectionist tendencies, but we are on our way!

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll likely already be done with my first trip- we decided to add a 0.90m class first thing (8am gross) to let Frankie stretch his legs and see what energy level we’re working with. Later today I’ll be doing the first class of the Low division- hopefully I can rope a barn rat into filming both trips. Can’t wait to report back on To Be Frank’s second outing!

How much does your distance to a fence affect how your horse jumps? Are they more like Addy (affects it relatively mildly) or more like Frankie (affects it dramatically)?

Ermagerd I’m Alive!!

Hi everyone!! I miss you all tons.

Long story short: I’ve been dealing with some health problems over the last few weeks, but am doing MUCH better. So get pumped to see hellomylivia showing up on your feeds because I’m back, baby.

And what better way to return than to give you a classic lesson review? Rhetorical question. There is no better way.

So when we left you we just had an amazingly awesome adventure cross country schooling, and I was gushing about how much better things have been going now that we adjusted her feed.

I also tried riding tackless. Hilarity ensued.

The good times continue to roll.

We’ve been doing lots of no-stirrup work because my trainer is a masochist believes strongly in No-Stirrup November, and canter work has been focused on softening. Once she realizes that we’re going to canter (and presumably jump), Addy gets very excited and doesn’t tolerate my leg very well- not that she misbehaves or anything. She just moves sideways. And jigs. And puts her head in the air like a giraffe. And does her absolute darndest to avoid all my aids so she can just freakin’ run already.

To correct this, we’ve been doing a couple things:

  1. Walk work is hard work. Walk work is not just waiting until we can go faster. Over bending, changing the bend, leg yields, shoulder-fore, anything to break up that forward momentum and encourage Addy to soften to my aids. It’s interesting- she’s so responsive when she’s keyed up and gives me beautiful lateral work if I can convince her to remain walking.
  2. Short ends of the ring are an opportunity to create more bend and soften her jaw. Locking at the end of the rein is not where we want her.
  3. If I’m not getting a response by asking nicely, start asking not so nicely. Otherwise I’m just dulling her to my aids.

This is definitely a work in progress but I can definitely see the progress happening! I could absolutely let her lope around on a loose rein and she would be very content to take me, but that’s not what the goal. Our goal is adjustability. Taking it back to basics and asking her to respect my aids even when it means she has to work her muscles harder.

Now that she has a princess crown on her butt she thinks she runs the show.

Then time to jump! After warming up over a crossrail a couple times (which went well despite Beastly trying to drag me to them), we started putting together different exercises.



We began by doing the broken line C-D. This was a steady 5 strides when we trotted in, and I really had to bow our track wide to fit that in.

Next was going up the green box and rolling back over the brick wall A-B. Once I remembered to steer with my legs and not just my hands the turn to the brick went well.

Then course time! It was A-B-C-D-E-F-G: up the green box, rollback over the brick, up the broken line in four, back down the outside vertical, and up the diagonal line in three.

Fun fact: I sang Row Row Row Your Boat, Happy Birthday, and Oh Canada while on course. “Why were you singing?” you ask. “Olivia, you sound like a goose fart on a foggy night, your own father said so,” you exclaim.

The only thing better than singing on horseback? Drinking wine on horseback. Outside. With a friend.

Dear Reader, I agree. My singing voice is atrocious and I pity anyone in the vicinity when I start grooving. BUT. My main enemy on course is tension. Tense rider = tense horse = DragonMare going 203948398 mph. Relaxed rider = relaxed horse = hit every distance because we’re actually communicating.

So yeah. I sang to force myself to breathe.

And whatdya know, it worked! I was able to plan out my ride and follow through with that plan because I wasn’t starving myself of oxygen. Go figure.

Overall I was really happy with this lesson! I feel like we’re getting to work on more of the subtleties of riding instead of having to wrestle around a course.

A few exciting updates: this Friday a saddle rep is coming out the the barn to measure me/talk to me/whatever saddle reps do, and she’s going to help me find a saddle! I’ve been riding in a borrowed saddle for a year now and it’s very comfortable, but the woman who owns it is 5’2″. I’m just shy of 5’10”. And most of that is leg. You do the math. I’m really really excited to look at saddles and find one that I don’t have to fight against to get the right position!

And then this weekend is clinic time! Unfortunately Kip Rosenthal is sick and can’t make it to VA, but we’ve got Paul Matthews teaching our sessions and Dr. Ann Reilly giving the talk on sports psychology (if that name looks familiar, it’s because she literally wrote a book about sports psychology for equestrians). I’m in the 3′ section with some fantastic horse-rider pairs and I’m so excited to learn!

I also managed to take a shower, slap some paint on my face, and convince manfriend to take ridiculous pictures with me at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. In case you were wondering about non-horse shenanigans.

In the works blog-wise: a stocking-stuffer guide for the horse-crazy peeps in your life, a clinic recap, and show updates (spoiler alert: it involves spending a week in Ocala).