Tryon Strategizing

As we get ready for our trip down south, we’ve been very carefully considering what the best options would be in terms of what classes we’ll do.

My original plan was just to pick one class every day at 0.90m or 1m and putter around and have fun. After Loudoun went so well, I figured we’d stick in the 1m since the height feels comfy for both of us.

But Loudoun really did go so well. Really well.

The ribbons are not the only proof of a great show but I ain’t mad about them

So I figured, why not go for it. Let’s do the full division and see if we can aim for a tricolor. It is super rare for someone to beat us on time (Francois is FAST), so if I can just help him keep those rails up, I think we have a solid shot at some good placings.

The only downside to this is that the Tryon schedule runs the Low Adult division with 2 classes on Saturday and 2 classes on Sunday. If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know that we are a One Class A Day Team. We get ready, we lay it down, we call it a day. So doing TWO in a day is definitely going to be an adjustment for both of us.

Like the time we did two equitation classes and he threw a massive tantrum (which in Frankie world means refusing to give me a lead change and ignoring all requests to change his stride even minimally. He really showed me.)

Physically, I’m not concerned. Frankie is in incredible shape fitness-wise and certainly has the stamina, and this height is very comfortable for him. I’ve been working out as well to help make sure my own strength and stamina is there to help him out as needed. In the spirit of being conservative, we’re going to stick with a short lesson on Wednesday, one warmup round at either 0.9m/1m on Thursday, a light hack Friday, then the division on the weekend. We were originally going to compete Friday, but I’d rather give him a light day so he can rest up and feel fresh going into the weekend. As always, we go for quality over quantity with our show schedules.

Mentally, we’re trying to prepare Francis for the possibility that he might have to *gasp* go back to work after a break. My lessons have involved me doing 80-90% of my lesson, then leaving the ring and acting like we’re done for the day. Then going back in and doing one more course. Just to get him used to the idea that done right now doesn’t necessarily mean done for the day. He’s been known to get cranky when he thinks he deserves a break. Thankfully he’s been a good egg about this, if a bit confused (side note – a good egg but confused is actually pretty representative of his day-to-day life). We’ll keep up this mental game so it should hopefully not be a huge surprise when we ask that of him at the show.

“Not that I mind, but why is there a second smaller human up there”

On the non-horse side, I’ve been hard at work building out an itinerary since this is also our summer family vacation! I think I’ve got a nice little menu of outdoor activities for the nice days, indoor activities if we need to beat the heat/rain, and restaurants to check out. If you have must-sees, definitely let me know! Lina is a super fun little traveler buddy, and we’re psyched for our longest trip to-date with her.

She is very very tall, and very very cute

I’ve got a solid packing list built out for us too (I may or may not have a standing spreadsheet that auto-updates quantities depending on length of stay and average temperature…), and have picked up a few new things – water shoes, an electric scooter (more on this later!!! It’s awesome!!!), and rocket ship shaped pins to hold my number on my saddle pad. You know, the essentials.

They’re guaranteed to make us faster, I’m 100% sure of it

The only thing left on my list is a pair or two of breeches – I used to have a glorious assortment, but I very much do not fit into that size anymore and have to build up a new collection. Anyone getting rid of size 28/30 show-quality breeches (tan or white, or a conservative dark color I can school in), I will happily send you money and take them off your hands! I’m cheap and dislike buying new, and I’d rather send money to friends.

T-11 days til liftoff!

Final Ocala Prep

We’re in the final stretches of prepping for Ocala!!!!

To get Frankie super ready to go, we’ve been amping up the duration and intensity of both my rides and his training rides. I continue to be the world’s biggest fan of training rides – they remind him how to be shmancy and he is just a delight to ride when he’s all tuned up like that. We spent so long encouraging and teaching him how to use those muscles and I’m still giddy about how much more educated he is now. I never want to hop off these days.

We haven’t trained either of us how to take nice pictures but that’s ok we’re good at other things

We also went ahead got a bulk order of Ulcergard for the ponies. My friend found a great price and we all jumped on it. Frankie will get a heavier dose for his travel days and then smaller amounts every day that he’s there. I hate how expensive this stuff is but you know what’s even more expensive? Treating ulcers. I’ll happily spend a little on the front end to keep his tummy feeling good.

Our chiro/acupuncture guy came out this week, so Francis got himself an adjustment. I opted not to do the acupuncture this time since I didn’t really see noticeable results the last few times, but he does seem to really enjoy his chiro. Anything to help him feel his best down there! My husband was recently musing that he never expected to be in a serious conversation about the pros vs cons of equine acupuncture, but here he is. It also turns out that our favorite braider will be down south, and she’s also the person that does Frankie’s massages. So he’ll get a nice refresh between weeks 1 and 2!


I was originally hoping to stock up on some show clothes before heading down (despite my obsession with pretty things, I really don’t end up actually purchasing clothes all that often) but ended up deciding to save my pennies. Of course as soon as I said that, a good friend ended up selling me a bunch of breeches for a ridiculously fantastic price, including 2 pairs that are show ready. Between those and the laundry facilities at the hotel I should be able to clean up as often as needed. I already mentioned that I’m hoping for a buffer in my budget to allow at least a little shopping while there.

There’s something else exciting potentially in the works for while I’m down there, but I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. I promise to share once things are finalized! (And before you ask, no I will not be buying/leasing another horse, I really like spending my money on my own darling spoiled boy).

I’m also actually getting excited for the drive down! My mom decided to fly in to the closest airport and we’re splitting the drive into a couple days before she flies back home from Jacksonville. So I’ll get to Ocala Wednesday afternoon, not completely hating my life and having had a super awesome roadtrip with my momma.

She is so small, and yet, so powerful

I have a pretty solid packing list and a final few things to do before heading down. I’ve got my cooler for his ice boots, my wifi hotspot device, a few other random things I’m trying to remember. My spring term for school starts the Monday that I hit the road so it’s going to be a balancing act fitting work, school, and ponies into my days. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ocala 2020 Prep

We’re just about a month out from our trek down south to Florida for a blessed two weeks in the warmth! I’m getting crazy excited to spend that time with Frankie down there (not least because he can finally get a bath omg he REEKS). I remember feeling really burnt out after two weeks of showing at WEC, but I’m feeling confident that the better weather and a lighter schedule will alleviate that. We are very much there to have a good time.

We will be able to take naps OUTSIDE as well as inside

In the spirit of the final countdown to departure, I figured I would share a few things I’m bringing, a few ways we’re preparing, and just talk about it more a bit.

The first exciting thing that I’m bringing is a portable hotspot. My parents gifted me their previously-unused MiFi hotspot to bring down and I’m super grateful for it. I’ll have guaranteed wifi to do my work and school assignments on the showgrounds or wherever else I find myself. I’m able to do most of my communicating and social media via phone, but have you ever tried writing an essay or creating a slide deck like that? It ain’t fun.

The second exciting thing I’m bringing down is my giant cooler. I’ll be able to keep that stocked with ice to hold Frankie’s ice boots (along with some wine and hummus for yours truly). Especially for such a long show, I want to have all tools on hand to keep Frankie feeling good about it.

As you may guess, a giant cooler doesn’t really fit in my plane luggage. I will be making the drive down south. All 12 hours of it. Not really my idea of a great time, but the price of a roundtrip plane ticket plus rental car blew my budget out of the water. It looks like I’ll make the trip down solo, but I’ll be caravan-ing back up with a friend so we can at least take breaks together. She offered to just make the whole trip together in the same car, but with my work schedule and homework I really need the flexibility of my own vehicle. This is probably the part I’m least excited by – I HATE roadtrips with a fiery passion. The plan is to hit the road around 5am so I can be there in time for dinner, and then we’ll break the trip back north into 2 days to arrive home on Monday. Ugh.

At least this time I’ll be making the trip in a car that has functional brakes AND windshield wipers! Remember when I drove through the mountains to Lake Placid without either hahahahahahait’sfineilived

Luckily, I’m able to split my hotel room with said friend and her daughter! She had a zillion points she was able to use so my hotel expenses are WAY WAY lower than I had worried they’d be. There’s a 24hr gym, a pool, a business center, complimentary breakfast, and (most importantly) a bar, all about 20 minutes from the show. I plan on making full use of all these amenities. It’s tough to share a smallish hotel room with 2 other people for 2 full weeks but I’m hopeful that we’ll manage.

For Frankie, there’s not a ton of prep work to take care of. He’ll need another full clip in the coming weeks to get him looking show-ready and I’ll need to scrub my tack. But for anything else? He’s feeling pretty darn good. I’d like to make a concerted effort to make sure he’s getting worked consistently to get his fitness a titch better, and I’m sure my trainer will have us work on some stuff in our lessons, but he’s at the point now where I’m confident taking him wherever and knowing he’ll be happy to go around. The only thing left on my to-do list is to stock up on Ulcergard – he is probably the least anxious, least ulcer-prone horse I know, but I refuse to take chances on such a long trip.

For whatever reason, the dude seems to super enjoy getting on the trailer. I’m not mad about it.

We’ve set up the commercial shipper for the ponies to head down – it looks like we’re bringing 4 or 5 with us and leasing a couple ponies for the kids down there. Frankie did well with the commercial shipper up to Lake Placid so I’m not super concerned about that. He’ll also arrive on Sunday or Monday, and Trainer will have the chance to get him out a bit before I arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. We all chipped in for a paddock so he will get his beloved turnout every day that weather permits. I’m hoping that he can share with one of the other geldings to get double time, but we’ll see how that works out. I’m just glad he’s getting any turnout, it makes such an enormous difference in keeping him feeling fresh!

Budget-wise I’m trying to pre-pay as much as possible. Our stalls and splits are already paid for and I’ve put in several deposits to my trainer. My goal is to take care of as much as possible ahead of time so I’m not scrambling on the back end – this isn’t a trivial expense, so I’m continually grateful to my husband for being entirely on board with my going. I’d ideally like to open up a little room in the budget for some shopping – y’all know I can’t resist the vendors at these things. I do have an actual useful wishlist, so hopefully I don’t get sucked into getting something ridiculous that I don’t need.

Not that I EVER fall victim to my own love of pants

At this point, this ain’t our first rodeo. I’d love to write about the secret tips and tricks, but I don’t think I have any – it’s all kinda old news at this point! That being said, let me know if you have any questions or comments or anything about prepping/attending one of these, clearly I love to talk about it!

T-36 days to sunshine and nonstop ponies.


Our WEC Schedule: As Told by GIFS

I’ve talked a lot about how we’re preparing for WEC, but I haven’t really talked about what WEC will actually look like. So here’s a rambling timeline of what’s happening when and how and where and why and who and all that fun stuff.

get ready

This weekend: get a few final rides in, clean EVERYTHING, and pack my trunk. Give Francis an extra solid grooming and make sure the Treat Fairy leaves some snacks for him to find.

What I look like to Frankie when I leave carrots in his bucket. Treat Fairy FTW.

Monday: Trainer, AT, and the horses hit the road bright and early. Or really, dark and early. It’ll be an 8-9 hr ride and they’re planning on getting there by mid afternoon so they can ride all the ponies- they’ll need some stretching of the legs after a long day in the trailers. I’ll still be in VA, going to work and making final preparations.

Francis after getting out of the trailer

Tuesday: Trainers will get the horses more settled and our stalls set up. Another pro ride for Francis. I will again, still be in VA and working and packing.

Me at work Tues

Wednesday: Travel day for me, which means a vacation day from work! I’ll hop in the car for the 7-8hr ride out west. I’m hoping to hit the road early enough that I can be there in time for an afternoon hack/lesson with the Beast. Tentative plan is to stay on an air mattress in a friend’s cabin (a series of rooming options fell through all at once, so I’m kinda scavenging beds at this point. Luckily I have the best barn fam to help me out!).

air mattress.gif
I have plans with the barn children

Thursday: I’m working part time (probs about 4 hours), so I’ll need to time this around my ride(s). Potentially doing a warmup class to get us in the ring before our division starts. This day will be a combination of doing my job, riding my horse, and keeping in touch with my wedding vendors.

What Thursday will look like

Friday: I preemptively took a full vacation day from work so I can focus on riding. This will be the first day of my division- we’re doing the Highs. Just one class this day. I’ll spend the time that I’m not riding helping our other riders and hanging out! Probs also doing wedding stuff too honestly.

Time to go ride the horse for realz

Saturday: Two classes for the Highs. This will just be a horsey day with no work or wedding stuff. I have no doubt I’ll stay busy enough with the pony.

The plan is to enter the ring with both of us feeling this confident every time. No invading Russia.

Sunday: Classic day! Another pony-centric day.

white pants

Monday: Frankie will get the day off from riding, but I’ll likely end up taking him for a walk or something so he can stretch his legs. I’ll be working full time remotely, so it’ll probably look something like working 7-11a, pony time from 11a-1p, working 1-5p (then obvi more pony time). We’ll see how the timing ends up working out.

back to work
Oh right that thing that pays the bills

Tuesday-Wednesday: Still working full time, but I’ll throw some hacks/lessons in on Francis. As long as I get 8ish hours of work in I’m golden. Def also wedding stuff too. At some point during these two days my barn bestie will be arriving and I can crash in her hotel room for the rest of week 2.

Preemptively congratulating myself for working, riding, staying hydrated, and planning a wedding from Ohio

Thursday: working part time again, maybe another warmup class.

get in the game
Get back in it!

Fri-Sun: same as week 1.

groundhog day
Second verse, same as the first

We’ll see what the timing looks like on Sunday- if we’re done early enough, I’ll hit the road to get home that night. If it’s getting late, I’ll just wait and head home on Monday.

Either way, Imma be dead.

We’ll also play it by ear during week 2 when it comes to classes. Right now we’re just planning on doing the Highs each week, but we may decide to do an adult eq class at some point, or have AT take Frankie over a bigger track to get some miles. I’m not too worried about it.

not worried.gif



I’ll try to remember to blog as I go, but you can check my Instagram (@hellomylivia) for live updates on my story. I’m on there an inappropriate amount. Damn millennials and their phones.

millennial out


Gurl You Fancy

You all know that as part of our prep for WEC, we’ve got Francis in bootcamp: 6 days on, 1 day off, with one of those rides coming from AT. I’m also upping the intensity of my own rides, we’re doing lots of stretches, and overall just turning up the heat a bit for the ol’ Frankfurter.

I don’t know which of these things is the cause, or if it’s (probably) the combination, but Frankie feels the best he’s ever felt. Obviously he’s always been an excellent beast and works very hard and is the bestest pony in the whole universe. But the last couple weeks, he feels downright¬†fancy.

Mahm y r u so surprised I is a shmancy llama

I’ve been riding just in my basic snaffle- no gag, no special mouthpiece, nada. But he’s been so much lighter in my hand, carrying himself across the ground. Collecting his stride at the canter usually takes some pretty “loud” seat and leg aids, with a strong feel of the bridle to keep him under himself. I almost had a heart attack the other day- I sat back a little, half-halted lightly with my seat, and BAM OUR STRIDE WAS MAGICALLY 2′ SHORTER.


OK so this is a new sensation. Maybe I’m finally learning how to ride?

haha hyena
hahahahaha yeah ok sure that’s definitely it


I decided to test him a little bit by asking for a rather small circle on the left lead- as you may know, we are not ambiturners. Those left turns have always been a little more unbalanced and he has struggled to give me the bend in that direction.


I swear, I had such a light steady touch on the reins because he was feeling so strong over his back and up into the bridle, I was just there on the other end of the contact feeling like I was pushing instead of pulling. And it was amazing. I extended and collected at all gaits in both directions so I could explore this new button and it worked every single time.

You all know that I have fun with Frankie during every ride- even the frustrating days where I feel like I can’t ride to save my life have their moments of redemption or progress (or Francis making cute faces which makes everything better). But it’s a whole new level to literally feel his progress- I’ve been giggling like a little girl throughout my rides.

jtc_sat_enter ring
The giggling isn’t exactly new either I guess. SORRY FOR BEING SO HAPPY.

I have some time set up with AT next weekend for me to watch her ride and talk me through how she works with Frankie, and then I’m going to hop on so she can coach me through replicating that ride. We’re also going to try again with the elevator- that’s what she rides him in and thinks we’ll have a lot of success once we adjust to it. I’ll definitely be glad for some 1-on-1 coaching to sort that out. I’m such a visual learner so I know this session will be MAJORLY helpful in pinpointing specific things I can do differently to encourage the best work out of Francis.

I’m supremely grateful that AT suggested that we work together on this- her rides on Frankie have always been very noticeably good for his fitness and responsiveness, so building the capabilities to do that more on my own is fantastic. She isn’t just hopping on and off to do her scheduled ride and leaving it at that, she’s thinking ahead to sharing that knowledge and equipping me with those tools. I know some people prefer not to use pro rides, but mine come with so many perks for my own riding!

T-9 days to blast off and I. Can’t. Wait.

WEC Bootcamp

It’s bootcamp time for me and Francis!

With only 5 weeks left until we ship out to Ohio, we are officially ramping up for our 2018 show season. Here’s how we’re preparing:

Francis got a fresh clip. Despite getting a very handsome clip in November (which lasted him all season last year), he immediately got stupid fuzzy again and needed another haircut to be able to work without sweating his butt off. AT did a fantastic job, and once I pull his mane he’s going to look super official legit shmancy show pony.

OMG Frankie the day before I bought him. I put this here bc I wanted a pic of him clipped, but he looks so different now!

Training rides! AT will hop on once a week for a tune up until we leave. Honestly, we’ll probs just continue this all season since Frankie so clearly benefits from regular skillful rides. We can bump up to 2x later if we want, but I don’t think that’s super necessary at this point.

I’m on 5x a week to give Frankie a total of 6 days on, 1 day off (one lesson with me, one training ride, and four flatwork/relaxing hack sessions with me). That’s what we did for show season last year, and he really thrives in a steady routine like that. He’s had a very quiet couple of months in this off season, so we need to steadily ramp his fitness back up- though I will say, that his energy has been great and he’s been feeling nice and fresh. I think that mental and physical break was great for him.

Naht fresh. Want naps. Moar food.

For me, lots of no stirrup work. Both on my own and in lessons- Trainer has said that she wants me doing coursework sans stirrups every time I jump. I’m pretty comfortable doing courses up to 1-1.10m-ish without stirrups, but I’ll need to get a little stronger before I’m confident putting the jumps up to full height. I’m hoping to get to the point where I can stay with Frankie more easily when he cracks his back over the big ones.

I may or may not be allowed to use my hands

Monitoring health- for both of us. I’ve definitely lost some tone over the holidays due to lots of tasty food and drinks and riding less consistently. I’m back on the healthy eating train, strength building train, and consistent riding train- see above. Frankie is currently feeling good, but we’ll be carefully monitoring him (as always) to see if he’ll need any extra support from us as we raise the jumps. Likely we’ll do another SI injection in May, but for now he’s feeling peachy.

Of course, I have to travel all next week for work and will be missing out on bootcamp. Womp womp. I have my favorite barn rat working Frankie for me, AT will do her ride on him, and I’ll be hitting the hotel gym to keep up, so hopefully we can hit the ground running when I return.

Let’s get back to this! Only bigger! (There’s totally room for another rail there, right?)

So excited to get back out there with the World’s Bestest Pony Ever!!!

Anchoring the Team

I found out who my teammates are for Finals this weekend!

And um. They’re like really, REALLY good.

The way it works is that they match the top point rider with the lowest (who is qualified), second highest with second lowest, etc. Seeing as I squeaked in riiiiight over the minimum required to qualify (mama can’t afford no more shows, sorry), I’m matched with the two top point riders in my zone and one other with lower points. But the girl with lower points is actually a beast too. I may or may not have stalked all of them on Instagram and found their show results on USEF.

You guys. They are all seriously so much better than I am it isn’t even funny.

I’m not saying this in a self-deprecating “I suck!” kind of way. I mean this entirely in a “holy crap this is so awesome I get to ride with some total badasses” kind of way. They all have way more mileage in the division, some really freakin’ cool horses, and I know I’m going to learn TONS from them.

Except Frankie will be leading the class in posing for the camera. (PC: A. Frye)

Don’t get me wrong- Frankie and I are planning to show up and lay down some powerful trips. I’m not just happy to be there, I want to be there and be competitive- and we’re in a much stronger place to do that than we ever have been. Frankie is fit and spicy and raring to go (and by spicy I mean he swished his tail once over a jump this weekend WATCH OUT WILD MAN but yeah that’s sassy for him). We’re not going to be phoning this one in.

But I’m also realistic about our abilities compared to the other pairs- we’re not going to be anchoring the team with my blisteringly fast times. So I have to come up with other ways to anchor the team.

I am going to be The. Most. Enthusiastic. Teammate you have EVER heard of. I am going to cheer all our rounds like a crazy person, dress our horses up in war paint (single-handedly if I have to), bring the wine, drink the wine for our underage teammates, all of it. If everyone on my team doesn’t feel like a powerful amazing woman at all times, I am not doing my job.

If you can’t tell, I’m really really really really excited. It’s going to be AMAZING.

What I lack in skill and decorum, I make up for in enthusiasm

This week’s schedule:

Monday: Frankie gets new shoes and fresh feets. It’s his day off to play with his buddies and rest. I’ll take the time to polish my boots, pack my bags in advance, and do any final prep to my own gear.
Tuesday: we have a lesson, and this will be our final jump school before the competition.
Wednesday: I’ll flat around and probably go for a little trail ride; all tack will get a deep cleaning; Frankie gets a bath and neatened up- bridle path, mane pulled, etc.
Thursday: we trailer over at an ungodly early hour- we have to be on site 24 hours before the jog Friday morning or something like that. We’ll have a lesson on-site to get us tuned in.
Friday: jog in the morning (we’ve been practicing) and rider’s meeting to make sure we all know what’s going on. First individual qualifier round (1.10m) in the afternoon after the regular classes have gone in the GP ring.
Saturday: team day! Two identical rounds at 1.15m in the GP ring, again in the afternoon. Frankie’s previous owner and trainer are both coming to see him!!
Sunday: individual final day at 1.15m. Only the top 20 riders at this point are invited to compete in this class, and I plan to be one of them.

It’s a pretty busy week ahead so you may not hear from me on the blog, but stay tuned for updates on my Instagram (@hellomylivia) and on my Facebook page (….also Hellomylivia)- I’ll be keeping up with these throughout the competition!

I can’t wait to tell you all about how much fun Frankie and I will have anchoring our team.

Daybreak Exercises

As part of ramping up to finals, I’m trying to hop in a few extra lessons. The more time I can get my trainer’s eyes on me, the better!

So last week Trainer asked if I wanted to sneak in a weekend lesson. I naturally said, “Of course! As long as it isn’t at 7am or anything crazy like that ha ha ha” you can see where this is going.

Yep. The only time we could fit in was 7am on Sunday.

Like a dutiful idiot, I set my alarm for 5:45am and was bringing Francis in from the field by 6:30 (he’s currently on overnight turnout). He seemed a little confused that he wasn’t immediately getting his breakfast, but was surprisingly snuggly as I was tacking up. Apparently Morning Francis is extra happy.

7am barn
I gotta say, the barn is stunning at the crack of dawn.

Despite the early hour, this ended up being a fantastic lesson! It was a private lesson because I was the only one dumb enough to go along with Trainer’s demonic schemes great ideas so we got to focus in on some specific exercises for Frankie.

One of these is bending/counter-bending along with haunches-in/out on a smallish circle. Moving his bum and asking him to bend through his  body gets him connecting so much more solidly to that outside rein. I think part of that connection comes from physically asking his body to step under and respond to the aids, but part of it is mental- it tells him that he is not a trail pony today and he needs to engage. Once we get that connection and engagement in our trot work, the impulsion and pace throughout our canter and coursework improves noticeably.

We also had a great canter pole exercise set up: simply three poles on the ground. They were walked at about 3 strides apart, but slightly different distances. We worked on adjusting our stride in there: 3 strides to 3 strides, 3 strides to 4 strides, 4 strides to 4 strides, 4 strides to 3 strides. So hard, especially with the different distances between them!

The 3-3 was decent- we had to stay balanced to shorten/lengthen a little based on where we were, but nothing crazy. And the 4-4 was ok too- we just came in a little bouncier and held that shorter stride. The 3-4 was definitely hard- we had to really open up for the 3, but immediately ask to shorten in the second half which meant he had to be super tuned into my aids. And the 4-3 was tough too- we wanted to super-collect in strides 1-2 so stride 4 could be powerful enough to set us up for the 3 strides out.

All of these variations tied in so well with what we’ve been working on lately. The biggest thing is that when we collect and bounce through a turn, it allows me to push to the base instead of pulling to the base. And then suddenly the skies open up and the angels sing and Frankie jumps out of his skin and we land balanced and the world is a better place. So I was glad we got to work on an exercise to a) improve my ability to ask for different stride lengths and b) improve Frankie’s sensitivity to those cues so that I get a reaction more quickly.

On to the jumping! Man, I hate trot jumps. I’m not very good at them. I trotted a few x-rails without stirrups last week and Trainer mentioned that I wasn’t very good at it (she said it with love), and I reminded her that I’m not very good at them with stirrups either. Womp womp. Once we managed to fling ourselves over a crossrail with moderate success we moved on to build up the exercise.

And I LOVED this exercise.

7am lesson


So a rollback left turn to the end jump, right turn long approach down to the ivy barrels, left up the corner tree jump, bend left up the brick wall, and right turn across the same end jump, turning left to finish. Jumps were big enough to force an effort from Francis without being intimidating.

The first time was….ok. We ended up getting a little chippy to the ivy barrels since I didn’t keep us straight and packaged, which meant that we got a late change through the turn and the tree jump was a bit unorganized. Brick wall was fine, but I overshot my turn to the end jump and Frankie (god bless him) had to scramble a bit to get to the jump.

I made a really nice mixture of mistakes here- sometimes I held too much to the base, sometimes I kicked too much to the long spot, sometimes I faded left, sometimes I drifted right. I’m non-discriminatory in my bad riding.

So we talked about how to fix it. The main image to keep in my head was keeping Frankie on the tracks- straight laterally and connected between my leg and hand. Keeping that image definitely helped me smooth out our track and get more straightness.

The end jump to ivy worked out great- I picked him up and got him off my left leg through the turn, which let me send him up to the base. Because we were straighter and more balanced, we got an early change and a nicer turn to the tree. Brick wall was good, then I sliced the end jump a little right to left instead of trying to line it up straight. That meant our track from brick to end was smoother, and it meant that Frankie knew he was turning left afterwards. It still wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than before!

While it was only 5 jumps and seems like a fairly simple exercise, this was a great test for us. We had to be able to manage tight turns and long approaches, upright verticals and wide fill, and pay attention to our basics- pace, straightness, and connection. Everything came up correctly when we had our basics covered. Funny how that works.

I would lesson again at 7am in a heartbeat! I didn’t realize how much I missed my private lessons.

I loved being doing by 8am too. I took my time cleaning my tack, went to Dunkin and grabbed coffee and doughnuts for the early bird crew, gave Frankie a super intense bath, and just had some bonding time with my horse. He so clearly thrives on that sort of attention and so do I.

Only two weeks until we’re on site for finals! Getting so excited.

Do you like to ride/lesson early in the mornings?

Chubby Bunny

Frankie’s mama may be a TB, but Francis is alllll warmblood in pretty much every way.

He is the epitome of the big dumb warmblood gelding ( I say this with love), he’s built a little thicker than many TBs, and he sheds out more on a warmblood schedule (literally still shedding). So while he’s technically only half Oldenburg, I definitely think he takes after that side of his breeding much more strongly.

Including the fact that his natural state is a little chunk-a-roony. Manfriend has gleefully taken to calling him “Ol’ Frankie Dad-Bod.” Francis has a great work ethic, is athletic, but he loses fitness practically overnight when he’s not in a pretty intense program.

OK fine there’s a bit of a belly there I admit it

His fitness has improved over time- but his job has gotten a lot harder too. As I’ve mentioned a few times now, fitness is our main focus in the lead-up to finals. So that people can stop calling my sweet boy names like “chubby bunny” and start being like “wow what a shredded ripped Hulk of a horse.”

He’s not obese or anything, and is probably slimmer than most show hunters, but still. He’s only 11, is jumping 1.15m with tentative hopes for higher, and he has a total dad bod. A DAD BOD.

The most flattering picture ever taken

With 6 weeks to go until finals, what are we doing to turn Francis from Andy Dwyer to Star Lord?

  • Training rides. AT will be hopping on 2x a week to put some pro rides on him. We wanted to hit a balance of still giving me plenty of saddle time, but often enough to let the pro rides build on each other. 2x a week it is.
  • A 6 on/1 off schedule. Frankie will be worked with varying levels of activity 6 days a week. We’ve worked this schedule with him before with good results, so we’re getting back into that stricter rotation. It’ll be 2 pro rides (which will vary in time/intensity based on his schedule for the week), 1 lesson, 1-2 days hill work/terrain hacks, 1-2 light days.
  • Hill work. As mentioned above, we’ll be incorporating more hill work in our schedules. Some days will be more dedicated to this- there’s a low-traffic road near the barn with a nice shoulder and gentle slope that’s just perfect for trot sets- and we’ll be searching out more hill terrain for cool-down walks after other rides. I haven’t taken enough advantage of the terrain we have nearby in the past and I’m excited to make use of it. I think this will also help us have a good balance with rides- while we’re upping the intensity, we’re also going to be doing more hacks and trail rides to let him get out of the ring and decompress.

Ambivalent ears

  • Raising the expectations. My “practice rides” with him often end up being fairly short, and I don’t make him do too much. Especially in the summer heat, my motivation to sweat even harder wanes a little. But enough of that crap. Francis knows how to carry himself on the contact. He knows how to collect with impulsion. He knows how to counter-canter and leg yield and shoulder-in. We won’t drill for the sake of drilling, but I will be asking for more out of our rides- he knows the right answers, I just need to be more insistent about asking the questions.
  • No stirrups. What, you thought Frankie was the only one who needs to get in shape?! I’ll be jumping on the fitness train and spending a lot more time without my stirrups. I’ll also be making more consistent use of the gym during my lunch breaks- with free access within walking distance, I have zero excuse not to go. I’m gonna need to get my own butt in gear to keep up with Frankie.

As always, we’re doing all of this in close contact with a whole team of professionals to make sure Frankie is getting the right nutrition, has healthy balanced feet, and is as healthy as…well, as healthy as a horse.

We ask an awful lot of him and finals will be a real test of that- three straight days of long championship courses. We owe it to him to give him every single tool that we possibly can, so he can perform his job comfortably without exhausting himself.

Like that one time he literally fell asleep every time I wasn’t actively asking him to move.

I’d also like Manfriend to stop calling him Frankie Dad-Bod, but I think he finds it too hilarious to ever stop saying it.


Show Prep: Winter Edition

Our first show of the new USEF year is coming up this weekend! It’ll be a lot of firsts for us: our first indoor show, our first time trailering in to a rated show, our first time in the 1.10m division, our first winter show with my trainer.

Up until now, I’ve managed to only show in the warmer spring and summer weather because I used to be a smart woman. Alas, my brain fell out when I bought a horse and I transformed into a big dummy that will say yes to any horse show.

A lot of the prep for this show is the same as the summer shows: cleaning and conditioning all tack, loading the trailer/packing my trunk, polishing my boots, reciting prayers to the god of good distances. You know, the usual stuff. But we do have a few things that are a bit different:

Frankie got a haircut. Homeboy got clipped! Originally we were going to do a blanket clip, but when I lost my everloving mind decided that showing in December would be fun, we went ahead and shaved him all over. I was told he was well-behaved for the torture that is body clipping and he looks SO HANDSOME OMG. So shiny and sleek and pretty!!! I worried that the extra cold air might make him a little *spicy* but let’s be real here. It’s Frankie. His version of spicy is picking up the canter when I ask him to trot, then coming back to trot when he realizes that’s what he supposed to do. Not exactly Secretariat. His tail is in good shape and his mane is neatly pulled, so he officially looks like a fancy shmancy show pony.

He literally looks exactly like this

Bridle Break-In 101. The birthday fairy sent me (aka Frankie) a BEAUTIFUL new show bridle off my wishlist, then I spent way too long gazing at it lovingly and left the breaking-in part until this weekend. It has been scrubbed, dunked in oil overnight, and tenderly massaged for a few days- I’ll be riding in it every day this week to get it softer. Any tips for getting the reins to soften up faster? I hesitate to oil them because, you know, grip. And yes- I know I should make the switch to rubber reins. But that’s a solution for a later time. In hindsight, I could have planned this better.


Planning for a long, cold day. We have a junior going in the first classes of the day (Big Eq), and then we’re waiting until literally the last division of the day for the High Adults. Meaning we’ll probs be there around 6am and I’ll be surprised if I’m showing before 3pm. I’m planning to hack Francis around when we get there so I can see the ring (because real talk Frankie doesn’t need to see the ring first. We all know who the neurotic one is in this relationship), then hand-walking him periodically throughout the day. Layers on layers on layers will be the name of the game. And then more layers.


In terms of riding, there’s no final prep work to be done. I will likely make mistakes on course but that’s OK. Our problem-solving skills have come a long way in the last few months and I’m confident that we can safely navigate the courses. Frankie is in great muscle, sound, fit, healthy, and getting more responsive with every ride. We’re ready for the move up!

Any tips for surviving winter shows without dying from frostbite?