Positively Therapeutic

I’m starting to feel human again, and it comes down to two things that happened this weekend:

  1. I painted my fingers and toes a happy bright color
  2. I rode for the first time in a week and a half

It was amazing. Instead of a bulky lump of a dry-skinned icicle, I’m a happy human! I even put mascara on this morning and that’s a rarity. This return of myself was so necessary.

I’ve dealt with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for quite a few years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to handle it. But this year something changed, and instead of being gloomy and tired all the time as I usually am in the winter, it’s been more about the anxiety. As in, hyperventilating while brushing my teeth because everything is overwhelming and can I please just never get out of bed? Anyways. This isn’t a post about that (though I’m thinking I’ll write that soon), just a little background on my mental state these days.

Last week was super tough and I don’t think my pulse slowed below 100 bpm. I was so keyed up about everything- I thought I was doing really poorly at work, finding a parking spot at the grocery store was impossible, doing household chores seemed exhausting and pointless, I felt really sick (though it wasn’t the flu, strep, or mono. I’m thinking it was all in my head), and I didn’t get to ride at all.

I made a decision: I’m not going to let the cold get me down. I want to feel like myself again. I told manfriend, and he was enthusiastically on board.

So Saturday morning, I went to work on myself: I used a face mask, I actually shaved my legs, I used body lotion, I painted my toes and I painted my fingers, and generally pampered myself. All while manfriend made us bacon-chocolate chip waffles with bourbon maple syrup (yes, I know I’m totally spoiled, and yes, I promise to share the recipe very soon. They were ridiculously good).

They’re so bright and happy!

Never underestimate the good feelings that can come from a little bit of paint on your extremities. Every time I look down I get that sweet pop of color and it instantly boosts my mood, and I just feel more put together. I’m not obsessive about having my nails done at all times but I can’t deny that it adds a certain polish (pun intended)! If you remember, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to stop biting my nails, so that was another boost- I’m sticking to that way better than I thought I would!

Moving on.

I got to ride. Thank you Lord, I got to ride.

I’ve said before that riding is my therapy and this has never been more true than it was yesterday.

It was like I walked into the barn and a switch flipped in my brain. I had been nervous about hopping on because Addy has had a break from riding and very little turnout lately. But I walked in there, breathed deep, patted some soft noses, and instantly relaxed. I like to think Addy was happy to see me because I was absolutely thrilled to see her.

I decided to lunge her for a bit just to see how she was feeling- I wanted to warm her up in case she was stiff from stall rest, and I wanted to let her get out excess energy if she had that going on. She humored me for a few circles in each direction before coming in to me and telling me to hop on.

I know, terrible groundwork manners, but you try resisting that sweet face!

She was a rockstar. Not even a hint of sass, responsive to my aids, not caring about the snow falling off the roof. Have I mentioned how much I adore this mare? She walks out of her stall after a week of nothing and goes around perfectly.

It wasn’t a long ride since we’re both a little out of shape but it did the trick. She was happy to be working again and I was ecstatic to be back on her.

I swear she was happy too, just disappointed that the phone wasn’t a carrot.

The combo of feeling pretty again and spending time with my girl had a ripple effect across my whole weekend. I met up with friends at a super cool bar near my house, I did a tasting at a local winery with other friends, and I got coffee with Owner Lady (a.k.a. we had a meeting of Addy’s Fan Club). Just last weekend all of this would have overwhelmed me, but my change in attitude made it more than just manageable, it made it incredible.

This weekend, painting my nails and getting horse time was my therapy.

How do you pep yourself up when the cold and dark has you down? What’s your “unconventional” therapy?

FOO Blog Hop: A Day in the Life

I’m so excited that Tracy from Fly on Over started this blog hop- all us working ammies share so many things, but we each come at it a little differently. So here’s a typical day:

6:50am – Alarm goes off. Wake up, browse Facebook, check Instagram, see what e-mails have shown up, squeal over a cute video of a baby otter


7:09am – Realize that I’ve been squealing over that otter for way too long and am running late. Again. Dash into the shower, get dressed, and throw together some burritos for lunch (because that’s all I eat).

7:35am – Hop in the car and immediately call Dad to share our commute time. Ask other drivers where they got their creative interpretation of traffic rules and receive wisdom from my father.

8:00am – Get to work, turn on EVERY SINGLE LAMP in my office, put lunch in the fridge, get water, check e-mails, slowly start remembering where I left off yesterday.

10:30am – Wonder if 4 bags of M&Ms in two hours is too much. Take a walk around the office to get away from screen glare and bug pregnant coworkers about what they’re naming their kid. Try to convince them that “Leonardo” is a great option, and no it doesn’t matter that they’re not Italian.

12pm – Break for lunch! Bring my book to read but end up leaving it on the table while I chat with coworkers. Soundly abuse the manager who planned a lunch meeting with our buddy. Scavenge cookies off someone.

12:45pm – Go through blog posts and chuckle at everyone’s antics. Go through my own and cringe at the writing style. Attempt to edit some sentences to make them more entertaining. Give up in a fit of pique.

2:30pm – Realize that there’s way more to get done today than I realized and buckle down hard.

5:00pm- Get changed into barn clothes and spend a few minutes explaining to straggling coworkers that yes, I am going to the barn today, and no, I have not washed this coat in weeks, so yes, that odor is coming directly from me.

5:30ishpm- Call my momma on the way to the barn to catch up on the state of things up north and receive mom wisdom. Get to the barn and wonder why I got here so early. Waste gas so I can keep the heat on for just a little while longer.

Stare forlornly at the snow-buried outdoor.

5:45pm – Get Addy on the crossties and start the transfer of hair from her body to mine. Wonder if I’ll ever be warm again and conclude that it’s not likely.

Snuggle up to this little bugger because she’s so darn sweet. And warm.

6:00pm – Hop on! Either lesson or hack depending on the day, almost always sharing the ring; mostly cool juniors with stupidly nice horses so it inspires me to get Addy moving nicely. Nothing like that competitive spirit to get you going.

7:00pm – Hop right back off and start exclaiming that I can’t feel my toes OR thumbs. Shiver my way through putting Addy and her tack away, then hop in the car with the heat blasting. Call manfriend to inform him that I likely won’t make it through the night, so he should say his goodbyes now. He tells me to drive safely and he’ll see me in a few. I ask him why he doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

8:15pm – Stagger in to my apartment after stopping for gas, going to the grocery store, picking up more shampoo, and generally doing every other errand I’ve been putting off. Try to get things put away before it can stink up the house. Fail spectacularly and thank the heavens for an understanding roommate.

8:45pm – Eat another burrito. Because seriously- I don’t eat anything else these days. Manfriend watches me eat since he had dinner at a reasonable hour. I can see the admiration in his eyes as my dirty-fingernailed hands shove the burrito into my mouth- a vision of grace and beauty.

9:00pm – Ponder if today is the day that I give in to the pile of laundry that’s begging to be done. Decide it isn’t and debate with manfriend whether Criminal Minds or Parks and Rec is a better Netflix choice.

10:30pm – Figure that it’s late enough that no one can make fun of me for going to bed, so put my ultra-sultry retainer in and snuggle into my amazingly comfy sheets. Set my alarm for 6:50am the next day, telling myself that tomorrow I’ll squeal over that otter just a little less.

This is just on riding days. On non-riding days it usually goes (1)wake up (2) work (3) get home directly after work and wonder what non-horse people do all day (4) go hang out with manfriend’s mom for funsies (5) go to bed even earlier than usual hoping that the next day is a horsey day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Dusty Troxels, Internet Fame, and Horse Show Plans

This past weekend was chock full of awesomeness on the horse front! After a bit of a roller coaster last week, I’m so excited to share the awesomeness with you.

  • Addy and I had a bareback day. This may sound super minor to most of you, but I haven’t had a “goof-off” day since I owned my own horse in high school. There just isn’t the time to do that when you’re lessoning once a week on a school horse. Getting to hop on and bump around the farm a bit was so relaxing and made me feel like a “real” horse person again! I rode in street clothes and a dusty old Troxel (the dead bug was removed from the helmet before I used it) and got absolutely covered in hair, but it was totally therapeutic.
  • I’m on the internet! I submitted a picture from a recent lesson to Judge My Ride and I got a really quick response from Rob Gage! He didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t expect- I know Addy has perfect form, I was pretty happy with my upper body, and my legs desperately need strengthening- but it was awesome to get that feedback from him. Check out my post on their website here, or see it on Pinterest! Having my picture in two places totally makes me internet famous, right??

  • We have scheduled our first horse show!!! We’ll be attending the LTD show at Morven Park in Leesburg, VA on February 21. The plan now is to do the 2’6″ Schooling Hunter division, but that’s still under discussion. It’s right down the road from our barn and a fairly small show, so I think it’ll be a perfect low-key low-pressure way to enter the show ring. A little nervous and a whole lot excited.

Lots of good things, but as always in the horse world, something had to go wonky. Owner Lady said that Addy was a bit of a nut on Saturday, so Sunday I showed up (crop in hand) ready to WORK. She clearly had excess energy and I was going to flatwork that right into the ground. I was ready to go, and I felt that I needed a grueling ride to get my mental focus back- so of course I went to pick out Addy’s feet to get her ready to rumble. And she was missing a shoe.

Argh! The farrier will be there this week so we won’t lose too much time, but I have a feeling that these days off are going to make her even more energetic. I did stay on Sunday and groom her for a solid hour, so I still got my horse therapy that day and Addy got her scratches and treats.

Not the best wrap-up to the weekend, but lots to look forward to! Wish me luck when I do get back on…

Who else has a post on Judge My Ride to share? When’s your first show of the season? Anyone heading to Morven Park on the 21st??

Double Whammy

Brace yourself for a long post today, Dear Reader, because I had two lessons this week! Twice the sweat, twice the fun, twice the muscle aches, twice the word count!

Let’s start off with Tuesday’s lesson: pretty standard up until the very last minute. Addy was feeling extremely peppy on the flat because (a) I was pretty tired and gross on Monday so she didn’t get much exercise and (b) turnout has been sporadic due to the crappy weather. Lots of circles to get her listening and stop her careening around like a freight train. Once we were thoroughly warmed up on the flat and cantering in place (she was very happy to woah, just didn’t want to stop cantering. She was doing a three beat walk, it was as ridiculous as it sounds) we started going over some ground poles. She jumped them like they were 2’6″ a couple times, then realized that trotting over them like a normal pony would be fine. This was close enough to jumping that it settled her down- like I mentioned last week, she always quiets down to do her job when we start jumping even if she’s a snorty beast on the flat. We slowly built up the course and ended up with this:


Trot in an extended two-stride then collected two-stride, change direction over the green, same trot-in double two-stride on the other side, then another change of direction over the other middle jump. We kept the jumps quite low since we were focused on adjustability more than anything else.

This all went as expected- Addy wasn’t thrilled about the collected parts, but sat back and listened well. She liked the turns over the middle and we measured our striding correctly around the whole course. She was responsive and balanced and lovely. Hooray! At the very end of the lesson, things were going so well that I asked Trainer if I could give the 2-stride exercise a try with the jumps up.

Let this be a lesson to myself: if everything is going well, CALL IT A DAY.

Trainer did in fact put the jumps up REAL big (I swear it looked 3’6″ but I’ve been informed it was just barely 3′) and said to go for it! I trotted in quite happily, got the nice two stride to the second jump, desperately half-halted to get the collected two to the monster jump at the end, prepared for take-off, aaaaaand she ducked off to the left. We tried again, with my left leg pushing hard and all my body language saying “don’t go left!” She went left. And then did it again.

Wait, what?! My angel pony, ducking out of a jump and being lazy because she doesn’t like to collect? Doing something wrong?! Say it isn’t so!

At this point it was clear that I was just reinforcing bad habits, but I reverted to my weeny-mode and was scared to use my crop too much. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever carried a crop with her and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Trainer lowered the last jump for us to drill through a few times, and then put it back up while we had the momentum. She had a rail on the left to funnel us in and was standing over there to encourage Addy to just jump the darn thing.

We jumped that thing so far over to the right I think we cleared the standard.

But we made it! It wasn’t pretty, but we made it over the jump! She got lots of pats and we celebrated that she jumped it even though she clearly didn’t want to.

It was not one of our finer moments. In fact, this was the most trouble I’ve ever had on her- the only times she’s ducked out in the past have been because I getting in her way or miscommunicating. This time she was ducking out simply because it was a little out of her comfort zone. Because of that this ended up being an extremely valuable lesson: she learned that she has to trust me to get her to the jump and then she has to follow through, and I learned that my seat is far more developed than I thought it was. I could’ve easily tumbled off the side at any of those duck-outs, but I was able to stay solidly in the tack and handle her shenanigans. I didn’t particularly want to handle those shenanigans, but I have the muscle tone to go with the muscle memory to do what I need to do now.

Moving on to Wednesday:

Manfriend came! He dutifully fulfilled his role as photographer/videographer extraordinaire, so definitely check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) ’cause I’m gonna be posting some highlights.

We warmed up with a decent amount of no-stirrup work (hence the soreness) and Addy was marginally less peppy. Still not thrilled about downwards transitions, but she had fewer ants in her pants than Tuesday so it was more civilized. The jumps were set up in the same configuration as Wednesday, so after warming up over some ground poles we got to it.

Trainer put the back jump up again and no duck-outs this time! It wasn’t quite as high as Tuesday so it was a little less intimidating for both of us, and she was more familiar with the combination this time around. All in all, she was a rockstar!

As we were wrapping up the lesson, we did try a slightly different course: jumps 5-6-7, serpentine over 4 to 8, then hairpin off the rail back over 1-2-3. I’ll wait here while you check out the diagram again. This one went so well! We had gotten the hang of the awkward striding in the combinations, and she’ll turn on a dime so all of those went well. I’m finally learning to sit nice and deep in the tack around those turns so I can help her balance, and she’s responding by pushing off more with her hind end. Better riding leads to better effort from the horse, who knew?!

Sadly manfriend had stepped out of the ring for a moment so he didn’t catch that last course on video. I though briefly about trying it again for the camera, but I learned my lesson on Tuesday: when there’s nothing to fix, don’t try to fix it. She was such a good girl for the entire lesson- even if she did still do that weird canter-walk hybrid from time to time- so she got to be done and get her carrots.

My angel pony came back to me. Confidence is back up and I can’t wait to get back on ASAP! For now though, I’m going to take some Advil and try to figure out how on earth I got so sore.

PS- Here’s a little highlights clip I put together! The jumps were nice and low so we could focus on other things, but look at how big she jumps them! I’ll be posting some stills on my Instagram so you can see how she tucks up and jumps so cute even over the little crossrails. I would love to get constructive criticism, so fire away!

(Apologies for the vertical filming, I know that makes for an awkward YouTube video. I swear it looks really cool on my phone)

How do you correct your horse when they duck out like that? What exercises do you use on the flat to work on your canter adjustability?

What’s in a (show) name?

Readers, I need your help.

Before we can go to any show, Addy’s owner and I have decided that she needs a new show name, and it’s gotta be a good one. You may be wondering why she needs a new one- what’s so wrong with what she has now? And to explain that properly, I need to give a bit of backstory on Addy and her owner.

Addy was bred to be a pony horse at the racetrack out in California, but somehow ended up in the jumping world with her current owner (we’ll call her Owner Lady). Addy got very little playtime due to the abysmal turnout situation there; going under saddle in the arena was the biggest space she had access to on any given day. Owner Lady quickly discovered that Addy is the type of horse that really values her outside time, because by all accounts she was a devil horse who would toss you as soon as she could. Between the poor turnout and her confidence issues, she would spook often and refuse any jump that was even vaguely scary.

Which brings us to her show name: No Remorse. Because she would show no remorse when she dumped Owner Lady on her butt.

In this picture you can really see the malicious glint in her eye as she tries to violently throw me off into the wall.
In this picture you can see the malicious glint in her eye as she tries to violently throw me off into the wall.

Owner Lady even warned our trainer- don’t put a beginner on her, and I’m so sorry if she acts up. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Addy here or here or here, you know that she doesn’t have a spook in her body and absolutely loves jumping! We can’t find anything that even remotely annoys her at all. We’re all demanding video evidence that she was ever crazy like Owner Lady says- she’s a totally different horse.

STOP TAKING OFF YOU WILD BEAST (fun fact- she actually dozed off while I was setting up trot poles for us.)
(fun fact- she actually dozed off while I was setting up trot poles for us.)

This is in huge part a testament to the amazing care here (check out Clairvaux’s website!). She gets feed that’s specifically tailored to her needs, a gigantic field to run around and play in every single day, and consistent work under saddle. Not to mention that by the look of her, rolling around in mud is a welcome change from dry California.

Whether it’s the superb care or that she’s simply matured, “No Remorse” just doesn’t fit her as a name anymore. My 12-year-old self is begging me to name her something like “In The Nude” or “A Moped” (can you imagine the announcer saying “number 14 on course is Olivia riding In The Nude? I’m giggling as I type); I think Owner Lady would prefer something a little less hilarious childish.

I told her that I would brainstorm some ideas but I need to cheat. Readers, help me out here!

How did you come up with your horse’s show name? Do you have any suggestions for Addy?

Hand-Gallop to the Finish

There’s no place like WEF. There’s no place like WEF. There’s no place like WEF.

Did it work?

Nope, still freezing our butts off here in VA. Addy must’ve thought I was extra cuddly because I was desperately trying to share her body heat. Turns out that trotting around while trying to hug your horse’s neck is “poor equitation” and you need to “actually sit up in your saddle.” Buzzkills.

Anyways, it was another fantastic lesson. I know I say this every time, but we genuinely have a blast every time. Even when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped, I always walk away feeling like we accomplished something and had fun. Hooray for fun pony!

We warmed up with pretty standard flatwork- there were four horses in the ring which required a little bit of power steering, but everyone was advanced enough that we avoided any collisions. A little two-point, a little no-stirrup work, and some practice with transitions within gaits (something we really need to work on).

One exercise that was a little different was a canter serpentine: three loops with simple changes in the middle of each loop to stay on the correct lead the entire time. This was great to get the horses supple and listening to cues for change of bend. Of course Addy, being her usual snowplow self, figured that we were cantering, we should stay cantering, counter-canter was just fine with her, simple changes are for losers. Those downwards transitions are always what get us. After a few tries she finally listened to my desperate half-halts and begrudgingly agreed to do her simple changes.

And then jumping! Are you guys ready for another sick diagram? Hope you are, ’cause you’re totally getting one.

I'm a very visual learner, these diagrams seem helpful. Imma keep doin' them.
Amanda over at The Poor Amateur’s Almanac is using awesome diagrams too, so there must be something to this.

So professional. What we had was a long approach to an outside vertical, then woah-ing to trot in the crossrail and out the bending line in a forward three, stay left over the coop, hard left over the pink vertical, then circle around to roll back over the yellow planks.

While this looks like a pretty simple course, it had a couple changes of pace that made it tricky. The long approach to the vertical made it easy to build up steam, but then the short end comes up quickly along with the trot jump. Lots of leg upon landing to make the forward three, then balancing through the turns to the coop and the pink vertical. Then the horse thinks they’re done, so leg on and balance through the roll back to the yellow plank which comes up very quickly off that turn.

This course was so much fun because despite a couple of tight turns, it really invited a big open stride. I mentioned last week that we both feel more comfortable with a bigger stride, and that was definitely the case over this course. Distances came up better, I felt more balanced, and I was better able to stay with her motion even when we got a bit long. It’s definitely a pattern from last week- my automatic release was so much easier when we’re carrying that pace.

While she’s willing to collect and get more bouncy when I ask, big open strides are definitely Addy’s happy place. She feels more responsive when we’ve got a bit of speed going and I can feel her being super careful over the jumps. I know that we’re going to need to practice collecting to get more comfortable with those shorter strides, but this was a nice change of pace (pun absolutely intended).

We talked about the possibility of doing a jumper class in the spring (which is one of my New Year’s Resolutions, so booyah!) and confirmed that once that first show is under our belt we can move up to 3′. Trainer assigned our homework for the week: take our work on transitions to the next level. Shorten stride, lengthen stride, hand-gallop to halt, collected canter to extended trot, anything that will pose a challenge and get her attention, with a hard focus on getting our canter stride more adjustable. Addy and I may be very happy with a big stride, but there will inevitably be a turn or a test that requires a little more finesse.

Also some fantastic news- Owner Lady is out of town all next week, so Addy is all mine for a solid 9 days! Manfriend sure will be (not) surprised when I’m there 6 days out of 7. I’m not that much of a cruel taskmistress, she does get at least one day off.

There you have it- we got to gallop around and jump big, and the two of us once again had the most fun of anyone in the ring.

Not to mention she's the cutest creature on the planet!
Not to mention she’s the cutest creature on the planet!

Any tips for working on adjustability within the canter? How about our downwards transitions? What helps reinforce your half-halt?

Wordless Wednesday- Starlight Express

My first horse Star, a 16.2 Holsteiner gelding that took me from short stirrup to 2’6″ and was the best moose in the world. (circa 2005)


You’re letting us do what?!

Trainer and I had a talk about the best way for me to enter the show ring on Miss Addy, and I’ll admit that I was very surprised by the way the conversation went.

It started out very basic- we agreed that a smaller VHSA show nearby would be a better idea than a 3 day A show in Pennsylvania. Small and local were the keywords. We’ll find whatever 2’6″ adult classes that are offered, and see how we do.

"Get the jumps higher than 2'6" and then we can talk about me picking up my feet." -Addy
“Get the jumps higher than 2’6″ and then we can talk about me picking up my feet.” -Addy

That’s when it got interesting.

I jokingly said that I couldn’t wait to do the 3′ Adult Medals, and instead of laughing at me and telling me to slow my roll, trainer just looked at me and said we can absolutely do that.

Hold up… You’re telling me that I can move up? Even though I haven’t shown in 10 years? Have you thought this through? Have I thought this through? Party!

So while the plan is still to stick with 2’6″ for the first show and take it from there, I’ve already got my eye on those equitation medals. As long as we continue to do well in our lessons and that first show goes well, I can’t think of a good reason not to go for it!

Any tips for moving up to 3′ at the shows? When/why did you move up in height?

How I Budget in One Easy Step

One reaction I’ve gotten alarmingly often when I mention that I ride horses is, “Oh so you must be rich, right?”

Yeah, I wish. I’m comfortable enough, but that’s only because of careful budgeting. Let’s face it, I’m an early-twenties research analyst living in a place with an absurd cost of living.

I was a little hesitant to write this post, because let’s face it- budgets are boring. But some of my favorite blog posts out there have talked about budgets and financials, so I’m jumping in and joining the conversation anyways. Honestly, for me it all boils down to one question:

What do I have to give up to pay for this?

When I get that delicious Chipotle for lunch, that could be a drink at the bar with my friends. When I crank the heat up instead of putting a sweater on, that could be a new show shirt. You get the idea.

That’s how I keep my spending in check day-to-day, but I also try to prioritize my spending. I know that certain things are necessary and certain things are wants, and I try to keep those in balance as best I can. For example, riding breeches are needs. Twelve pairs of riding breeches are wants.

And that’s my super simple way of making sure my budget works for me each month: on a high level I make sure I’m paying for my highest priorities before spending on things that aren’t as important, and on a smaller level I justify each purchase with myself by asking what else I could be spending that money on.

If there was interest I was thinking about doing a series on more specific ways that I make my budget work for me as a professional twenty-something, let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that!

What’s your favorite trick to keep spending in check?

Turning on a Dime

Do you remember how last week we were working on that single quarter line? Well, this week was about as different as you can get.

Flatwork was pretty basic, really just to get the motors running. Addy had the day before off and no outdoor play time earlier that day (stupid snow), so we had no brakes. She wasn’t taking off or being fresh, she just reeeeeally really didn’t want to slow down. And despite my newfound courage, this was making me a little nervous about jumping. I figured if she was this heavy and fast on the flat, it would only get worse over fences.

Of course like the perfect girl that she is (I will never admit to her having any faults), as soon as she realized we were jumping she settled right down. I’m convinced she just loves her job and wants to show off a bit.

But now to the exciting part: the course Trainer set for us was the 2008 Maclay Medal 2nd round (see the original here). In a tiny indoor. She made a good point though- if I could make the turns in here, I could make them anywhere. Not even jumper classes will put in turns so tight. Here’s my oh-so-professional-made-in-Powerpoint diagram:

Could there BE more jumps in here??
Could there BE more jumps in here??

Yeah. I know. INSANE! But let’s walk through it. Fence 1 was a simple trot vertical with a hairpin turn to another small vertical, tight right turn to a forward bending four strides, quarter line in a forward three strides, diagonal oxer rollback to fences 8a and 8b in one stride, skinny brick wall with no standards with a tight turn to the center crossrail, rollback off the rail to a stone wall with no standards, and a galloping seven strides to the final vertical. Phew! I have to catch my breath just thinking about it.

I honestly thought this would be the day I fell off. Not because I thought Addy would misbehave, but because I figured I’d probably go flying off the side around one of those tight turns. But it actually went surprisingly well!

Trotting into the first jump set us up at a nice collected canter for the turn to that next vertical, which in turn set us up for an easy right turn to the bending line. We had to leg hard to get the four since we didn’t have a lot of momentum built up, but we re-balanced down the short end before re-legging up for the forward three. Collecting again for the diagonal oxer set us up for the tight turn to the in-and-out, but the striding was really comfortable for that pace. We got nice and slow and bouncy for the skinny brick knowing that Addy would likely over-jump it (it’s her least favorite jump), and we had a hard right over the middle. Landing on our left lead set us up for that rollback to the stone wall, and then we galloped on out of there.

I was very pleasantly surprised at our ability to navigate that course. For such a bulky big horse, Addy is super willing to make tight turns if I balance her correctly, and she’s so honest- the only times she’ll refuse are if I’m making her job too hard for her to do properly.

Things that went really well:

  • The forward lines. We’re always being told to “woah” down the lines, so getting to stretch open and use her big stride felt great. I felt like I was able to move with her more naturally and see my distances better when we carried that pace.
  • The in-and-out rode super nice out of that corner. It was a big stride but kept us in control for the next turn.
  • The skinny brick. It’s not that Addy dislikes it persay, she’s just never quite sure if it really counts as a jump if there’s no standards. But apparently she’s learning to love it, ’cause we only overjumped it a little and she never hesitated at it.
  • The final vertical. I loved that thing. The galloping seven was perfect there, and I could feel her jumping it so cute. For whatever reason, I felt really connected and put together over that jump every time.

Things that didn’t go as well:

  • The track from the skinny brick to the middle crossrail. I needed to add in another half-halt there to make that smoother. We made it over both jumps, but that’s about the best you can say about it.
  • The rollback over the standard-less stone wall. That was the worst! I’d keep my right leg on to encourage her around the tight corner, then forget to put my left leg back on to straighten her out. You can guess what happened- we sailed right by the left side. It took so many tries to get that right.

This was hugely different from what we worked on last week, and it was so much fun! I even got to practice my automatic release a bit, and it was a lot easier when we were carrying that pace. And the awesome advice I got in the comments last week definitely helped! None of the jumps were much higher than 2’9″, but it was a blast getting back to my equitation roots. Now that I know Addy can absolutely keep up with the tight turns it’s just making me more eager to move up to the adult medals with her.

What do you think of that course? Any tips for handling those tight turns more smoothly?