Definition: Green

I had an interesting conversation with my trainer at the show last weekend. It was about Frankie (obviously) and whether or not he counts as “green.” After all, this was his first time in the show ring. And the answer we came up with? Eeehhhhhh kinda-sorta-maybe-in-certain-ways-but-not-really.

On the one hand: my horse is broke. Super duper very broke. Broke on the flat, broke over fences, broke in the ring, broke on the trail, broke broke broke. He ate up the dressage training he got at Phyllis’ barn and whoever taught him to jump did it right- he jumps the jump every single time.

He knows his lateral work, he knows his lead changes (even if he doesn’t offer them up, he will give them when asked), he knows how to move forward on a contact. He doesn’t get anxious about new venues, loud noises, or poor riding.

He knows how to gallop up to a fence without tuning me out, and he knows how to rate his stride and adjust in a line. He does all this in a basic snaffle, and my rolly spurs and crop are more for decoration than anything else at this point.

This is turning into another bragfest about my horse and it’s not meant to be- I just want to clarify that I’m not trying to pretend that my horse is a project. So we have a bunch of big checkmarks in the NOT GREEN section.

But he did have some greenie moments at the show. Not surprising- it was his first show. And it was a different job than he’s been trained to do in a couple ways.

Exhibit A: combos. Again, he will jump the jumps. But how often do you see a one-stride out in a hunt field? He’s used to having a bit of a recovery stride after a fence and definitely needed my support to press through more powerfully. These got better throughout the show as I figured out how to set him up better, and by the end he was starting to carry me through more instead of waiting for me to carry him. Practice will make perfect.

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Actually legging through the combo = more power out and jumping more cleanly.

 

Exhibit B: pace. Big long lopey gallop? He will maintain that all day. In terms of speed, he’s actually right on the mark. But we’re not looking for a big long low canter- we’re looking for something powerful and energetic with fire behind it. He will happily rev up the RPMs into that jumper-y gait, but that is not his default setting. I have to explicitly ask for that. You may have noticed that in my last two rounds I went into the ring and immediately asked him to stretch out and gallop a bit across the ring- this was to get him tuned up to that tempo and get him pumped up for our round. When we did that before asking him to balance into a rate-able canter, he carried a much more lively pace around the course.

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This was a turn that rode nicely for us. Because we had power and not just speed.

Exhibit C: overjumping. This translated to a lot of hang-time in the air, almost stalling out over the jumps. He likes to gallop at the fences and take the gap (like a hunter), but jumps cleaner when I rock back to the base- and rocking back to the base is hard work for him! Once I figured out how to keep my leg on more strongly across the jump this improved, but he’s still learning to embrace the jumper chip.

lb_pinkoxer
I had gotten to a decent spot to this jump, but he kinda popped over it like a deer. Why? Because look at just how useless my leg is right there.Doing literally nothing to help him out.

Exhibit D: llama jumping. I’ve heard people say, “Frankie could be a great hunter!” And I get why they say that- he has a lovely ground-covering canter and a super level head. But have you seen my horse jump?? He looks like an idiot. I love my boy to the moon and back and he is perfect in my eyes, but cute pictures of him jumping are few and far between because he jumps like an idiot. This isn’t actually a green-ness thing, I just wanted to let you know that he does, in fact, have flaws. Pretty sure he’ll start jumping cuter when we jack the jumps up to a height that actually intrigues him. Or, you know, he’ll keep flailing over the jumps. Like a dork.

Back to Exhibits A-C. I wouldn’t label any of these as “problem areas,” just areas for us to build more and better experiences in. Frankie was not offering any bad behavior at all in these areas, he simply wasn’t offering any behavior at all. How could he? These were new concepts to him. He was very much waiting for my input around each course. It’s my job to clearly instruct him on what he needs to be doing and when, where, how he needs to do it. Basically, Potato Brain needs to go away and I need to be very present with my leg around every course.

Need to press through a combo that’s set long? LEG ON

Need to package our stride into something that’s got hella impulsion? LEG ON

Need to get to the base and then power across a big oxer? LEG ON

It’s almost like better riding leads to a better, more educational and supported experience for the horse. I knew I was paying my trainer for something.

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Verdict? We already knew that Frankie isn’t a green horse, especially compared to those of you with actual baby greenies. But I’m really excited to have these little things to work on together- I feel like it’s forcing me to step up my game so I can start giving back to him a little.

What do you consider “green?”

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Countdown to Loudoun Benefit

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG it’s almost here. Our very first outing as a team. Our first time off property as a team. Maybe his first time staying on-site for a week-long show (not sure about this one). My first time taking my OWN horse to a big show since I was 14.

Can you tell I’m excited?

ocala_stall setup

I figured now is as good a time as any to fill you in on our preparation and what the game plan is for the show itself. Here goes:

Prep

Homeboy is getting his fuzzies clipped- muzzle, ears, and fetlocks- and his mane pulled. I try to maintain his mane at a non-ragamuffin state, but our working student will be adding some actual polish there. He has literally tufts coming out of his ears, the fetlocks of a clydesdale, and generally looks a bit homeless. A very shiny homeless pony. I’m excited to see what he looks like all prettied up.

Feet are done. Dear sweet dinosaur pulled a shoe earlier this week, but the farrier was able to come out the very next day to tack it back on and he’s A-OK.

Saddle is re-paneled! The rep came and got it yesterday and it should be waiting at the barn for me today when I go after work. The rep assured me that if it doesn’t fit Frankie perfectly then they’ll go re-adjust it for no additional fee, but I’m really hoping that the first time’s the charm here. My half-pad is great and all, but I want Frankie’s back to be as happy as possible.

Bathtime next Monday. He will be arriving on the showgrounds either Tuesday or Wednesday, so he will be getting his first full bath from me earlier in the week. Yes, you read that right. I’ve had my horse for three months now and I’ve never given him a bath. I’m a big fan of currying the crap out of him ’til he shines and using some Herbal Horse coat conditioner to keep his skin and coat healthy. I haven’t saved up for the bathing supplies that I want yet, and the stuff I have access to seems like it strips out the natural oils. In fact now that I’m thinking about it I may stick to just washing his legs. We like those natural oils. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not my horse gets a bath (RIVETING STUFF OLIVIA, THANKS FOR THE UPDATES).

Tack will get a deep cleaning and conditioning and trunk will be packed with the essentials. The showgrounds are close enough to home that I can pretty easily swing by the barn and grab anything I’ve forgotten, but I’d rather not forget things (Seriously Olivia do you think anyone WANTS to forget things?). I’ll pack my Pelham just in case, but I’m planning to ride Frankie in the same bit he’s always worn with me- a plain full cheek snaffle.

Note on tack: we’re pretty minimalist with the Tank. He’ll go in his regular snaffle bridle and my saddle, an AP pad, half-pad if needed depending on saddle fit, and open front boots/polos as Assistant Trainer decides. No breastplate, martingale, or gadgets. We stay very consistent with his tack from day to day and I don’t want to introduce any new variables right as we’re adjusting to show life.

Game Plan

If Frankie arrives on site Tuesday, he will get a training ride from Trainer or Assistant Trainer that day. Since I’ll be taking time off later in the week, I won’t be able to get to the showgrounds in time after work to ride him, so he’ll get some professional attention.

Wednesday

On Wednesday I’ll be leaving work early and heading over to the show for a lesson on Frankie the Tankie. There aren’t really any classes I need to be in that day and we want to ease both myself and Francis into the show atmosphere, so we’ll plan to just school around under the guidance of my trainer. Trainer said that she’s prepared to take him in a class if we think he needs the extra schooling, but we don’t think he will. Homeboy is pretty chill and I’m comfortable prepping him myself unless something truly dramatic happens.
Outfit: who cares we’re just schooling. Probs break out my brown boots and watch the traditionalists gasp for air.

Thursday

Thursday we will go in the 0.90m jumpers (Table II). This height is super familiar for me and barely a blip on Frankie’s radar, so it should be a good way for us to get our feet wet. We’ll play it by ear to see if I want to give the 1.00m a try also. I think this will depend a lot on how the 0.90m rides, the weather, how long we’d have to wait, that type of thing. Both are halfway through the order on the prize list so it won’t be an ungodly early morning.
Outfit: Green/tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, navy/white belt.

Friday

Friday we’ll do the Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II2B). The Ariat medal is running that morning first thing and I’m really tempted….but I’m not sure if we’re polished enough yet. Also braiding and show coats and formality…. The Low Adults run almost last in the order so we’ll have all day to chill and see how things go.
Outfit: Navy/tan TS breeches, white polo/show shirt, navy/white belt. Unless we do the eq, in which case we’ll dress up like real people.

ocala_navy outfit
As such (I’m on the left)
ocala_eq outfit_2
Or like dis if it’s eq day

 

Saturday

Saturday will be the same- Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II.2.1). This should go about mid-day. Then maybe the Small Pony Hunter. I’m kidding. But I wish I wasn’t. Ponies!!!!
Outfit: Tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, burgundy belt

morven_oxer
Dis. But with short sleeves.

Sunday

Sunday will be our big classic day, the $1,500 Low Children/Adult Jumper Classic (Table II2B). We’re the first class in the ring that day so we’ll be there bright and early and have the rest of the day to get things squared away and relax.
Outfit: White TS breeches, white show shirt, green coat, burgundy belt

ocala_classic outfit
Outfit like dis

So there you have it! All of this is subject to change (except the outfits, I’m pretty firm on those), but that’s what our plan is for now. We’re not planning to longe or do any special prep (though we’re prepared to if necessary) and we’ll take the week as slowly as we need to so that Frankie and I have a positive, confidence building first time out.

Because moving up in height at an A rated show which just so happens to be your first show with your new horse who hasn’t really done the H/J thing is a totally normal reasonable thing to do.

Extra bonus: my Momma and my Nouna (godmother) are flying down Thursday night so they can cheer me on and be my horse show moms for the weekend!!!! It’ll be my mom’s first time meeting her grandpony and her first time seeing me show in about 10 years and I couldn’t be more excited.

Anyone gonna be in the northern VA area next week? Always looking for a blogger meetup!!

Chapter 6: Our First Rated Show at HITS Culpeper

Hello beautiful people.

I would apologize deeply for my radio silence (yet again) by exclaiming that I’ve been sick as a dog, crazy busy at work, and just plain lazy, but you don’t need to hear that. (I’m feeling much better despite the lingering cough, work is still busy but I’m learning how to manage it, and I gave myself a kick in the ass to get movin’.)

You’re here to hear about our first rated show! And if you’re not, then too bad because that’s what I’m talking about today. Get with it.

I had my lesson last Wednesday thinking very positive thoughts: it didn’t matter that I was sick and exhausted and couldn’t take a full deep breath! My pony would take care of me! It’s fine that I accidentally took the drowsiness-inducing meds before hopping on! Beastly is a saint!

I’m formally removing my petition to have the Big White Unicorn canonized. Not that she was bad, but she is definitely the type of horse to get her confidence and gumption from her rider. When said rider is flopping around barely conscious and alternately flapping the reins/pulling at her face? Yeah, she’s not going over any of those jumps.

I’m surprised I didn’t fall off, because she ducked out HARD so many times. A couple were dirty stops where she was being lazy, but the majority was me not sticking to me guns. We eventually ended on a good note, but that was probably our worst ride to date.

I was feeling SUPER not ready to show on Friday. All my trainer could tell me was that “you have to have a bad dress rehearsal before the real thing.” Somehow that didn’t seem super comforting.

But Thursday I had a great school where I basically rode Addy in circles til she was sleepy, gave her a nice bath, prepped everything, and went to bed at 9pm.

Friday was show day! Up at 4am and at the barn by 4:45am. Beastly had naturally slept in her poop, so we got to re-do the bath from Thursday. She then got to run around the indoor for a while to get the beans out of her system (thank goodness, she was tearing around in there like crazy). She loaded on the trailer like she does it every day, and we were off! I actually really need to get a video of her loading, she turns herself around and backs right into the narrow slot like one of those self-parking cars. She’s such a champ.

Once there, we got checked in at the show office, used the permanent bathrooms (not porta-potties! So classy!), and went to walk the course. Bonus side of long legs: course walking is my normal stride, not big goofy steps. The course was really cool- none of the turns were that crazy, some cool combos, and nothing was too spooky.

hits_culpeper

The power phase started up the diagonal oxer, right turn down the single and continue out the gate, up the two-stride, down the diagonal line in 5, up the one-stride to six out. Then if you were clear the speed phase started, and it continued to the end oxer, rollback over the blue waves, left to go quarter-line bending out over the gold, rollback again over the blue waves, then hard right to end over the same jump as the power phase.

At least in theory. We had a great warmup, but I was still nervous going into our first class. My girl picked up on that, and we had a stop at the third fence and again at the in of the one stride. Not dirty stops, but I was staring at the jumps. So she said “OOH what’re we looking at?!” And stopped so she could see too. Womp womp. Note to self: we are not trying to get to the jump, we are trying to get over the jump. Stop staring at the jump.

So for the second round I grabbed a crop, they put spurs on me, and we changed the way I rode. We’re always holding her back and trying to keep the control, but we threw that out the window this time (to a certain extent…I still wanted control). The goal was to get the momentum going and have her carry me to the jumps so that stopping would just be too difficult. I was to let go of her face, guide with my legs, and let my horse do her goshdarn job.

And wouldn’t you know, when I got out of her way and encouraged her forward, my pony LOVES her job. She was thundering around with her ears pricked and I could feel her hunting down the next jump! We completed the power phase clear and continued straight on to the speed phase- we was one bobble at the first rollback where I didn’t set her up and she didn’t see the jump early enough so we had to circle and come back at it. We then finished off the rest of the course on a big huge step, which was crazy fun. I was beaming when I left the ring!

culpeper_friends
Still beaming like an idiot ten minutes later. No, the bay is not a pony. Addy is just a very big girl.

Even with our circle, we got around 48 seconds in the speed phase- the winner was around 41 seconds, so we weren’t that far off! I think if we hadn’t circled we would’ve been in the ribbons for sure.

I had the option to do one more class, but I called it a day after that. I was feeling great, Addy was feeling great, and I want her to associate these shows with getting to have fun doing what she loves best- jumping over colorful sticks. So we only did the 2’ and the 2’7”. Big step back in height, but huge step forward in learning how to communicate.

We then spent several hours hand grazing before she got to take a nap on the trailer, I did some shopping (bought a pair of breeches that I didn’t really need, but I reeeeally wanted them so close enough), and we watched AT totally beast the TB hunter division. I also spent way too much money getting one of the pro pics of us in the 2’ division. It was stupid expensive and the jump was super tiny, but I wanted a memento of our very first big show together. I’ll share it when it comes in!

culpeper_dreaming
Addy liked watching the Grand Prix ring. She told me she wants to do that next show.

All in all, it was an incredible day. The hustle and bustle of the showgrounds, the feeling of being in the big jumper ring, getting to hang out with my pony all day, and every single other thing about it was amazing. Would I have loved a ribbon? Obviously. I don’t pay all this money without some hope of recognition. But I wouldn’t trade a single part of that day because holy moly we learned SO MUCH.

A few takeaways:

  1. Let go of her face! Picking and picking and pulling is never the answer. Have enough feel to guide, but push her up into the bridle instead of pulling.
  2. Forward is good. It’s not what we look for in the hunter ring, but it will save our butts in the jumper ring. Let her turn into that snowplow and beast around the course. She’s naturally careful, stop worrying about that as much.
  3. Carry a stick and use it on the approach. Not necessarily hard, but just as a reminder that yes horse, you do have to go over this obstacle. She likes the reassurance that I’m up there and paying attention too.
  4. Get in the rumble seat. Forget that hunter half-seat. Forget that equitation perch. Get my ass in the saddle, sit up, sit deep, and drive. It’s ok to get left behind a little bit at this height- focus on getting the horse over the jump. This is not a horse that needs some minor steering, this is a horse that needs me to be in the driver’s seat during every stride.
  5. Deep breaths! Every so often I made a point to breathe and smile on course. It made a world of difference keeping me and the beast relaxed and having fun.

So there you have it. We survived our first rated show and LOVED every second of it. Addy didn’t blink an eye at all the craziness going on- loudspeakers, buzzers, 120398 horses up her butt in the warmup ring, tractors across the street, anything. Beast mare don’t care. Time to start saving my pennies so we can go to more!

culpeper_kisses
Forever kisses

PS- I’m super bummed that I have no videos of either of my rounds. I would’ve loved to look back and review how we did!