Gold Star Clinic Questionnaire

As promised, here are the questions from the application I had to fill out for the Gold Star Clinic! I didn’t include my answers, but I did include some thoughts on the questions, format, etc. in italics below. Let me know your thoughts!

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  • At what age did you start riding?
  • At what age did you start jumping?
  • Is your family involved in the horse industry?
  • Have you participated in any other disciplines? Check as follows: Hunter, Jumper, Equitation
  • How many years did you compete in the Hunters?
  • Do you feel your Hunter experience helped you develop as a Jumper rider? Please explain.
  • How many years did you compete in Equitation?
  • Do you feel your Equitation experience helped you develop as a Jumper rider? Please explain.

Pretty basic stuff so far. 

  • Did you compete in the Talent Search competitions?
  • Have you competed in any Equitation Finals? If so, in which did you compete and at what age(s) and year(s)? Did you place?
  • At what age did you start riding in Jumper competitions?
  • Have you competed in the National Junior Jumper Championship and Prix de States competition? If so, at what age(s) and what year(s)? Did you place?
  • Have you competed in the North American Children’s, Junior or Young Rider Championships? If so, at what age(s), level, and in what year(s)? Did you place?
  • It is important to know how you felt about the experience of competing at the Junior Jumper Championship/Prix de States and the NAChJYRC. Please write about that experience and how it did or did not impact your riding career.
  • It is important to know how you felt about the experience of competing at the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. Please write about that experience and how it did or did not impact your riding career.

Clearly this above section was aimed at people who had a fairly prolific career as a junior or are currently juniors. I had to put N/A for pretty much all of these except the last question about Team Finals.

  • When you started your riding career, did your parents feel that they had enough information about the sport to make informed decisions on competitions, trainers and horse selection? Please explain.

Again, this is clearly aimed at junior riders. Also I competed mostly locally and at small rated shows at the 2’6″ level as a kid, so my parents didn’t really need any info. 

  • Have you ever taken dressage lessons? If so, did you find it beneficial and why?
  • Do you have a young horse between the ages of 3 and 7 that you are working with?
  • Do you know and follow top breeding bloodlines?
  • Do you have an interest in your horse breeding and development? If so, please explain how it is important for your future and the future of the industry.
  • Have you had any education on conformation, lameness, feeds and nutrition, shoeing, health and welfare of the horse? If so, was it helpful information and do you use the education you received? Please explain.

I found this section interesting- looking for diverse knowledge bases. I thought some of the yes/no type questions should have prompted more explanation (which I provided unprompted because I like to say stuff).

  • Physical fitness is a key component to top athlete performances, please describe your personal fitness program. Well that’s kinda a leading question, dontcha think? 
  • Have you ever participated in a clinic or the USHJA Emerging Athlete Program? If so, who was the clinician, did you feel it was beneficial and why? This was a tough question to answer- no I did not do the EAP, but yes I have clinicked. It wasn’t a USHJA registered clinic though, so does that count? I ended up mentioning it, but I think this should (1) be separated into two questions and (2) clarified.
  • Have you ever been a working student or have you been an apprentice for anyone other than your current trainer? If so, who did you work for and at what age? What did you learn from the experience? Well yeah, as a kid. Which wasn’t THAT long ago, so I think it should count.
  • Do you use visualization techniques when competing? This was just a checkbox yes or no, but I would’ve loved a chance to write more about this.

 

  • What do you feel are your riding weakness and strengths? Please explain.
  • What are your immediate goals? Please be specific.
  • What are your long term goals? Please be specific and explain how you intend to reach those goals.
  • In what way do you think that the USHJA/USEF can help you to reach your goals? Lemme suck up to you real quick.
  • Do you intend to become a professional or are you already a professional? This application was for a junior/amateur program, so not sure why there was an option to say that you are currently a professional.
  • Please list your goals for the current competition year. Be sure to include your tentative schedule for both yourself and your horse(s) (i.e. Zone Jumper Team Championships, NAJYRC, Prix des States, Equitation Finals, Nations Cups, and international competitions, as well as any preparation for these targets). This was another section that felt tough for me to answer as a working amateur, because the honest response is “it depends on whether or not I get a good year-end bonus and how much time off my boss approves before she gets fed up with me missing meetings to go compete.” I have plenty of goals, but my budget requires me to be flexible on those and pass up on things I’d otherwise like to do. Most of these big shows listed are specifically for junior riders (which I am not) or for those competing at very high heights (which I am also not). Team Finals is pretty much the only nationally recognized program for ammies at the 1.15m level.

 

  • Provide a written recommendation from a show jumping professional/trainer.
  • Write a short essay describing your equestrian goals and future plans. 1 page maximum. Let me tell you, it was HARD to get this down to 1 page. As evidenced by the posts on this blog, I can talk for days about my plans and goals and my path forward. Thousands and thousands of words.
  • Submit any additional information you wish to have considered by the selectors. Like…anything? Anything at all? 

USHJA Zone 3/4 Jumper Team Championships: Part 2

Moving on to the weekend part of the weekend.

jtc_sat_napkiss
Moar naps.

Saturday was team day. Importantly, the outfit was white pants and the Kastel sunshirt they gave us with Zone 3 printed on the front. I’m in love with this sunshirt.

Let me tell you, Saturday was EVENTFUL. I was slated to go in first for my team as the second anchor (I was just as surprised as you are) so we walked the course as early as possible and then started warming up while they were dragging and watering.

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Walking into the warmup ring

And it was the worst warmup we’ve ever had.

We had the pace. My eye was there. And Frankie was just sticking over the jumps. If I hadn’t had a team depending on me, I would’ve scratched. And then Frankie threw a shoe about 30 seconds before I was due in the ring.

This required a wonderful coordination of effort from the warmup ring steward finding the shoe and radio-ing the in-gate to let them know what was going on, the woman running the in-gate moving me down in the order, the on-site farrier tacking the shoe back on, and Trainer pulling me aside for a kick in the seat.

To paraphrase: “stop riding like crap, you’re better than this. It’s a good thing we get a reset button right now. Get your head in the game.”

And then she told me something that I didn’t realize I needed to hear. She said, “Olivia, you have every right to be here. You qualified just like everyone else. You have just as much of a shot of going in there and laying down a clear round.”

I didn’t realize that I was feeling that Imposter Syndrome until she said that. Somehow she was able to read that in me and knew just what to say to get me motivated. She truly is an incredible coach.

So we went back to the warmup ring and had one of the best warmups we’ve ever had. No joke.

And Frankie threw the shoe again.

But by this point I was the last one to go in the ring, they were waiting on me to close the class, and my team needed me.

So we went in with three shoes.

jtc_sat_enter ring
At this point all I could do was laugh and say what the hell let’s give it a go.

And proceeded to lay down the fastest trip in the class with zero rails. Double clear.

jtc_sat_course
It was the same round both trips. Not much to say about it- another tough but fair one that I think played to Frankie’s strengths.

To say that I was ecstatic about this would be a gross understatement. I was shaking with emotion as we left that ring.

jtc_sat_clearround
Shortly before I collapsed on his neck from sheer joy

And if you know me at all, you know that I needed a place to channel that emotion. So when one of my teammates (who is a total fixture on my circuit and wins everything and rides SO FREAKIN’ WELL and I love watching her at every show) came up to congratulate me on my round, I went straight in for the hug and literally said these words: “I LOOK UP TO YOU SO MUCH I LOVE WATCHING YOU RIDE YOU’RE SUCH AN INSPIRATION.”

Because I have ZERO chill.

God bless her she patted me on the back and handled the shaking psycho hanging on her neck very graciously. At this point Frankie had been whisked away to the farrier before we had to go back in for our second round.

And to anyone who says that sportsmanship is dead in the horse world, I’d like to invite you to come to Zone Finals. Because when word got around that my horse had lost a shoe, someone FROM ANOTHER TEAM immediately offered us a set of bell boots. The warmup ring steward gave us good juju. The woman running the in-gate gave us good juju. Everyone was helping out and pitching in and I wish every person who complains about poor horsemanship could’ve been there to see all of these people offering a helping hand without hesitation or agenda. I will never forget that sense of community and shared purpose.

But it does turn out that the shoe was unlucky, because we went in for our second round and dropped three rails. Womp womp. This meant that I was the drop score for our team for the second round. But at least I actively contributed in the first round! I actually liked my second round a lot better- it flowed more smoothly and I had a more rideable horse. One of the rails was definitely my fault, but the other two were just Frankie being sloppy with his hind end. I’m sure by this point he was tired.

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Happy Francis!
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I CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS SWEET HORSE

Even so, our team scores left us tied for first with Team 3. Meaning it came down to a jumpoff.

Ho. Lee. Crap. SO EXCITING.

Team 3’s chosen rider went in there and laid down a super crazy fast clear jumpoff. Then our rider went in there and laid down an equally crazy fast jumpoff- she was faster by 0.05 seconds. But then- ever so gently- we heard the faintest *poof* of the last rail hitting the ground. The entire in-gate area erupted in screams and cheers and congratulations. Team 4 took the silver!

jtc_sat_omg
I’m up there losing my mind and Frankie is just waiting for naptime again.
jtc_sat_sash
“Mahm is this ribbon eatable?”

The ribbon ceremony was absolutely incredible. They played the Olympics theme song over the speakers, they took a thousand official pictures, they sent us off for a victory gallop, they put medals around our necks up on the podium, they took a thousand more official pictures. Oh man.

jtc_sat_hug
I had never met any of these women before this day. Didn’t matter. Team hugs.
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Absolutely punch drunk laughing at nothing in total hysterics
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Aw yiss
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As the token tall girl, I always stand in the back
jtc_sat_podium2
Cheesin’ HARD

It was a dream come true. And true to form, Francis handled all the hooplah as if he’d been there a million times. Flapping ribbons? Horses running up his butt in the victory gallop? Loudspeakers and music and flags and flashes? Ain’t no thang for the Frankfurter. He very placidly cantered a lap and then happily went back to his stall. What a pro.

jtc_sat_walk
He was very happy to go for a walk later in the afternoon to stretch his legs. We were required to have his number on him every time he left his stall.

I’d like to give a shoutout here to my adopted barn moms- they took a thousand pictures (all the good ones here are from my barn moms) and cheered and supported and one of them literally cried watching me in the victory gallop. I felt so surrounded by love. I’ve got the best barn family in the world.

And it would be remiss of me to not mention the help I got with Frankie- our team made sure that he was shiny and groomed and tacked up whenever I needed him and worked their butts off to coordinate that around 7 other riders. They are rockstars who worked bazillion hour days without complaint the whole time.

I’ll wrap up Sunday quickly, since it was a bit anticlimactic.

jtc_sun_course
Lot of related distances

I thought this was a fairly straightforward course for the most part, but the triple at 10ABC was the true weed-out spot. A to B was set SUPER long as a one stride. I got nervous when I walked it- Frankie has a big step, but as mentioned previously he does back off in combos. I think this was the big test of those who could go in there and lay it down perfectly, versus those who didn’t quite have it all together.

At this point in our career, we are the latter. It wasn’t a terrible course but it wasn’t our best either, and we did have to mad scramble out of the triple. Overall I’m proud of Frankie’s effort here and he listened really well. It had been a long weekend and I know he was tired, but he was definitely more fit than he has been in the past and was able to give me more powerful efforts. My big mistake in this course was that I rode the plan too strongly. I should’ve adjusted as we went through instead of trying to stick to a plan that clearly wasn’t working for the horse I had under me. My new mantra: ride the horse, not the course.

Between our 6 faults on Friday, 12 faults on Saturday, and then some additional faults on Sunday (I think 8 due to 2 rails?), we were out of the ribbons for the individual final. But one of my teammates from Saturday took home the Individual Gold! And despite squeaking in there with minimum points, we didn’t end up in dead last.

By that point, we were ready to go home.

jtc_sun_home
Frankie was very happy to snuggle with his mama and relax outside.

What a weekend. I couldn’t be happier with how Frankie performed- we asked him for a lot of hard rounds at bigger heights with more difficult questions, and he took it all in like a total champ. It was certainly a physical stretch for us to have a full weekend of long courses and big jumps, but it was also a mental stretch. We had to deal with some snags and exhaustion and figure out how to keep trucking. It raised the bar for us in a whole bunch of different ways and I think we rose to the occasion.

We aren’t yet at the top of the pack in our division, but every round we go out there and the pieces come together a little bit more. Every round that goes well is due a little more to skill and a little less to luck. We’re making different mistakes. We’re fitter, stronger, faster, tighter than we used to be.

As always, we have a long long way to go, but we’re a lot further than we used to be. My heart is full to bursting with love and gratitude for this horse who so patiently teaches me so much.

USHJA Zone 3/4 Jumper Team Championships: Part 1

This was such a monster of a weekend, I’m not sure how many posts it’ll take to feel like I’m doing it justice. At least 2. But I’m just gonna keep writing until I get everything down that I want to get down, and that’s gonna be a LOT. So strap in.

I’ll start with Thursday- the day before the show. I arrived around 7a to help set stalls up for the 8 horses we had joining for the weekend. Everyone chipped in and got things put away and we were done surprisingly quickly! Frankie naturally plopped down for a nap almost immediately.

jtc_thurs_nap
Next time I’ll bring him a snorkel so he doesn’t have to come up for air

We were required to be checked in by 10am- that’s when the USHJA people would be going around to make sure every Championship horse was on the premises where they were supposed to be. We had some excitement trying to find Frankie’s most recent vaccination papers, but luckily my Trainer is WAY more organized than I am and has a legit binder of everyone’s paperwork. We got his number hung on his stall with no further incident.

This was a pretty quiet day since I didn’t have any classes. We just had a brief lesson later in the day where we worked on some one-strides and tight rollback turns, all set fairly low so we wouldn’t tire Frankie out. He felt so awesome, really listening to my cues and slicing jumps like he’s been doing this his whole life.

Then my hotel tried to cancel my reservation because they were overbooked and didn’t even call me about it, so I had to channel my mother to get that sorted out. Long story short, I ended up with the room I booked after a lot of back and forth.

Frankie and I went for a couple walks later in the day to stretch his legs and let him see the show grounds, and you just know he was super spooky and nervous about it. HAH LOL. He mosied around on a loose lead and grazed and leaned in for scratchies. He’s gotten the hang of this whole “horse show” thing by now.

We ended the day with the official Zone 3 rider’s meeting with the Chef d’Equipes to talk about expectations for the weekend and receive our swag. I gotta be honest, it was super motivating to hear them talking about representing our Zone. I mean, I knew that’s what this was. But it kinda hit home to hear them talk about it. They gave us a brief demonstration of how to jog and went through our outfits for the weekend (you know how excited I get about outfits) and then released us.

On to Friday! And ohhhh man what a busy day.

We started with the jog first thing. Outfit for human was tan breeches, shiny shiny boots, navy polo with the USHJA logo on it, number tied around our backs, and hair up in a ponytail under our white Zone 3 hats. Outfit for horse was snaffle bridle and nothing else- no bonnet, boots, etc. Some people braided and they looked really nice. All of us groomed and primped and polished our ponies so they were super clean.

Y’all, jogging is hard. First we had to wait in line- stop/go/stop/go/stop/go as we slowly moved up, which is Frankie’s least favorite thing in the world. He’s happy to stop. He’s happy to go. He is NOT happy to wait around. Combine that with the sight of a gray mare in the distance, and I was flying a kite (Frankie is OBSESSED with gray mares). We were that embarrassing pair standing perpendicular/backwards/sideways to everyone else because he couldn’t take his eyes off that distant horse. Homeboy pooped like 14x in those 10 minutes.

And that was all before we even actually jogged.

Once we got to the front of the line, I had to start over because I asked him to jog too early (in my defense, they way they showed us the night before and they way they asked us to do it day of were slightly different). He may have run me over a bit. But I ran my little heart out to keep up with him and he passed easily. Not that I thought he wouldn’t pass, but having 2 vets and a bunch of USHJA officials staring at you is kinda nerve-wracking. I was very happy to go back and let Frankie cope with the loss of that distant gray mare while I went to the next rider’s meeting.

This was the meeting where they drew the order for the first individual qualifier round that day, and announced our teams for Saturday- which ended up being different from the teams they had announced last week. I ended up on Team 4 with 3 other ladies from Zone 3. Side note- they provided breakfast and coffee for us every day under this tent, which was totally awesome of them.

We had the option of doing a training session on Friday before our Individual round, and Trainer and I decided that it would be a good idea. They gave us a course and 90 seconds in the ring to use however we wanted- some people went in and trotted around for 90 seconds, some jumped the whole course, some just jumped one fence, some did a totally different course. As long as you only jumped the flagged jumps, and in the correct direction, you could do whatever you wanted. I opted to school over the liverpool and go through a one-stride combo to get the gears working.

jtc_fri_ringside
Trainer and I discussing strategy ringside. Holding him because this weekend Francis decided that holding still is THE WORST. Check my awesome official polo.

I legged up to that liverpool and Frankie popped over it no problem. We’ve never encountered one in the show ring before, but I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t care. Homeboy never cares. We did circle around and go through to school that one-stride a couple times though. I needed him thinking FORWARD no matter what and he sometimes backs off when he sees all those poles. Not enough to stop, just enough to get kinda stuck. We ended on a good note. I actually bought an 8″x10″ photo of us from this training round- I look kinda like a barnacle clinging to Frankie, but he looks AMAZING. Seriously, like a million bucks. Trainer said that one is going on her gallery wall in the lounge #goalachieved.

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This is not the one where he looks like a million bucks, but he’s awful nonchalant about that liverpool. Good Francis.

After a break, it was time for our first individual qualifier round.

jtc_fri_course
A very reasonable course that asked challenging but fair questions

Overall- not bad. Two rails, which wasn’t great, but a fantastic time. It was faults converted, so those two rails just added 8 seconds to my time. Then we subtract the winner’s time so that the winner has a score of 0, and that left me with something like 6.15 faults. Meaning I actually went 2 seconds faster than the winner which is kinda cool. And the reason that we got such a great time is because we took every. single. inside. turn. (Funny enough, those turns aren’t where we had rails either).

You guys. We did every inside turn. This was a HUGE risk/stretch for us. We sometimes will pick one or two tighter turns to shave time, but the SS Frankenstein is not known for his turning radius. I was SO FREAKIN’ PROUD. We went inside Fence 9 to get from 4B to 5. We went inside 12 to get to 7. WE WENT INSIDE 4AB IN THE 3′ OF CLEAR SPACE TO GET TO 9. WE SLICED 11 LIKE A BADASS TO GO INSIDE 3 TO GET TO 12. Holy moly I wish I had a picture of 11. We were basically parallel to the jump and I asked Frankie to go for it and that sweet creature was just kinda like “this seems weird but whatever you say” and jumped it on the sharpest angle BY FAR I have ever asked him to jump anything.

Here are some pics of him being so excellent:

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In case you thought I had addressed my crookedness. No. I have not. He’s clearly super stressed about that liverpool down there.
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COULD HE BE ANY CUTER I SWEAR TO GOD

Especially once I heard that first rail go down, I asked Frankie to haul ass like a bat out of hell to get a good time. And that’s exactly what he did. Was it our smoothest, prettiest course ever? Absolutely not. We had to get scrappy in places. But we took risks we’ve never taken, we asked for a faster pace than I’ve ever asked for before, and my horse delivered. It was exactly the round we needed to set the tone for the weekend.

Stay tuned for the rest of the weekend!

Sneak Peek: Zone Jumper Finals

I’m still processing this weekend. There are a lot of emotions, a LOT of exhaustion, and more than a few blisters to doctor. This was a huge stretch for us both mentally and physically.

Until I manage to organize my thoughts at least semi-cohesively (and don’t worry, I have TONS to share), here’s a few pictures of me and my best boy having the time of our lives this weekend.

enter ring
Yes, I do enter the ring every time grinning like a fool
antares jump
Happy pony
catsjump
It’s too bad he spooks at these crazy jumps HAH
clearround
Last in the ring, and we went clear all around with a blisteringly fast pace. SO MANY pats for pony.
team
The incredibly talented ladies of Team 4
medals
Wearing this medal nonstop forever not sorry about it
manfriend
Manfriend being literally an enormous support.

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.

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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.

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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.