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.

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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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Where in the world is Olivia?

Friends, it’s been a crazy few weeks. Some crazy good, some crazy bad, and some just plain crazy.

I’ll start with the horse stuff, because why else would you be here? 😉

Addy and I had a couple really horrendous lessons in a row where it felt like we were not on the same page at all, and she was just nope-ing around the ring. Refusing little jumps she had seen 1000x, getting super strong, and generally being a sassypants. Nothing at all dangerous, just not our usual badass selves.

After a couple reminders to her mediocre rider that a) I’m allowed and encouraged to actually keep my leg on b) staring at the jump is counterproductive unless I want my horse to stop and stare at it too and c) sometimes breathing helps you not be a potato, we finally had a great lesson the other week! We ended up doing a 3’ course (see thecluelessbutcuriousrider for details on it!) and ended with the cutest knees-to-chin oxer ever. I felt like I had my happy pony back! Of course, pony was happy the whole time, it was her bumbling driver getting all bamboozled.

And then some sad stuff happened. My grandmother, my amazing Yia-yia, passed away about two weeks ago. She had been sick for quite a while and it wasn’t a huge surprise, but we’re definitely feeling her loss. I was able to catch a flight home two days later and spend time with family; exactly what we all needed. It was a bitter reason to get everyone together, but I have no doubt that my grandmother would’ve smiled to see all her (12!) grandkids sharing memories and being together.

I could talk for days about what an amazing woman she was- strong and beautiful and so incredibly devoted to her family and friends. I could talk for days about how she taught us to swim, let us make up our own recipes in the kitchen, snuggled us to sleep, and her contagious laughter. I’m incredibly lucky to have all these memories.

But I’m now back in VA and back to work and back at the barn, which is a blessing and a curse. Because as I’ve alluded to several times now, I got a promotion over the summer. It doesn’t change much about my responsibilities or reporting structure- it just means I have a little more authority. And with great authority comes great workload. Or something like that, right?

I’m being overdramatic here, of course. I get to work on interesting assignments with awesome intelligent people so it isn’t all bad by any measure. There may have been a week or two where I was booked for 3 or 4 different projects that added up to 60-70 hours per week, but those are not the norm. However, the new norm is staying late on non-barn days to ensure I can leave on time when I do have a lesson to get to. I’m also leading more projects- meaning that my deadlines now fall under my responsibility of getting done in time. Checking blogs and my email during work breaks have had to fall by the wayside as those breaks have gotten shorter and almost disappeared.

I don’t want you to think I’m grouping this under the “crazy bad” category- simply “crazy.” I’m genuinely enjoying all the new tasks I get to be responsible for- I even get to present at a conference my company is hosting next week!- and have been adjusting to the new workload. It’s not as bad as engineering school, so I just have to gear back up a little bit.

Thankfully, I got to ride my pony Monday for the first time since before my grandmother passed. 10 days may not be super long to some people, but it felt like forever away from my girl! Her owner did ride while I was away so she got to play a couple times, but I like to think she was happy to have me back on board. We popped over a couple tiny jumps since she was feeling so relaxed and happy, and homegirl loved it! Waited to the base, jumped carefully, landed fairly balanced, and was hunting down the next jump. I couldn’t even get her to walk to cool down- she kept laser-locking onto jumps and trying to trot over them. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to have that reminder that Addy genuinely loves her job.

Fun side fact: I talked with one of my trainers about the difficulty with refusals we’ve been having lately, and she responded with a version of, “well yeah Olivia, that’s what green horses do.” Wait, what? Addy isn’t green, is she? Apparently greener than I thought! Her owner didn’t jump super consistently with her and mostly focused on building her flatwork (which is so funny because while she has tons of fancy buttons, Addy much prefers jumping), so she only has maybe 2 consistent years of jumping, most of which has been 2’6” and under. Knowing that these bobbles are “greenie moments” actually makes me feel a lot better about them. I can work with greenie moments. It also makes me even prouder of my wonder-pony for giving me everything I ask for!

So I’d like to apologize for my muteness the last couple of weeks, and apologize in advance for the next couple weeks. I told myself when I started this blog that it would be purely for enjoyment and I would not allow it to become a source of stress. I’m still reading and loving all your updates and I’m still loving having this platform, but we all know that sometimes life happens. I’m going to update as I can and hopefully connect with some of you as I can, but know that even if I’m not super active I’m still thinking of you and rooting you on from VA!