Lesson #2 with the Big Man

You know what’s a great feeling?? Every time I sit on my horse, I am more and more sure I made the right choice. Of course I already knew that- it was too much money to spend on a horse I was unsure of- but with every ride, I’m more and more certain that he was supposed to come into my life.

That’s not to say that everything is magically perfect all the time and he farts rainbows. I still make lots of mistakes, and his farts smell like normal horse farts.

But he’s FUN. And he’s SAFE. And he’s TRUSTWORTHY. Since the day he stepped on the property, he has done his job happily without any fuss. I haven’t had to worry about him at all- I can focus on my riding and know that as long as I’m holding up my end of the bargain, he’ll hold up his.

Our lesson last night was full of fun little things to test us- but we’ll get to that in just a moment. We’ll start with our warmup.

Really his flatwork is where his lack of polish becomes apparent. He’s nice and quiet and willing to work, but he clearly hasn’t been asked for much in this department. He requires a lot of support around the corners to encourage the bend, he finds collection an interesting concept, and his lateral work is a little dull. None of this is misbehavior or evasion: he simply has not been asked to any of these things with any consistency. We’ve already established better balance around the corners and I’m learning how to push him up into the bridle which gets him to soften through the ends of the ring. I’m trying to incorporate a little lateral work with every ride, and I’m also working on that a bit in-hand too. He has a very firm grasp of “leg means go, hand means stop,” and I want to refine that a bit more so that we can make that “different combinations of leg and hand mean go/stop/collect/extend/turn/move over/etc.” Any suggestions for exercises to work on these things?

Then the fun part! Last week my big bad habit was leaning with my shoulders before the jump,so I was very focused on staying straight and tall to the jump and allowing him to jump up to me. I think this definitely improved! He has a fairly flat jump which makes it easier to hold my position, so I’m able to focus on one thing at a time without getting jarred out of place.

But of course, we fix one thing and I start making another mistake. But at least it’s a new mistake and not the same one! Last night my trouble was with getting the right power to the jump. After riding Addy for a year, I’m used to trying to collect and package to the base of the jump. Basically take her big stride and make her wait to the base. And this is not how to get the best ride out of Frankie. I had a couple really weak jumps before going back and realizing that if I boot him up into my hand, we can gallop up a bit to the jump and he’ll give me a spectacular effort. He has a lovely rhythmic canter and doesn’t race at the jumps at all, so I don’t have to worry about holding him to the base, I can allow. When I did that, everything flowed up out of stride and it was great!

What were the fun little things we did?

  • A one-stride to a one-stride combination. You all know how much I love combos. That would have been fun enough in itself. But just to make it even more fun and because we ran out of flower boxes, the last vertical was super bootleg. We had one flower box, one traffic cone, the mounting block ,and Trainer’s jacket all under the rail. A couple horses peeked at it a little but Frankie couldn’t care less πŸ™‚
  • A canter in-trot out four stride. IMPOSSIBLE. Poor Frankie had NO idea what on earth I was trying to ask for there. But seriously, put the jumps up and then try to ask for a trot jump out of a four stride line. And when you figure out how to do it, share your secrets. We got it eventually, but it was UGLY as all get out.
  • Rollback! Swedish oxer, hard right turn to big vertical. This was the combo where it helped IMMENSELY to leg up out of the turn and keep my outside aids strong. No more holdingholdingholding to get the turns, now it’s time to strengthen my legs, push my hands forward, and get moving!

I’ve also got a lovely level of soreness going on today from our no-stirrup work. I’m getting stronger at this! Luckily Frankie has a nice bouncy trot that helps me post, and a gloriously smooth canter that helps me sit. Thanks for the help, bro.

Short version? I absolutely love this horse. There are things for me to work on to encourage his best effort, but even when I clomp around doing nothing to help him, he is willing to cart my butt around. The definition of ammy-friendly. I have a feeling we’re just going to get better and better together!

And we’re officially saving up for our first show! End of June is the goal to step in the jumper ring. Honestly I’d love to go out and show this weekend, but mama’s gotta save some $$$ first.

Here’s where I need your help: Frankie does not have a show name. They just called him “Frankie” and that’s not gonna fly with me. Let me harness all your creativity to help me come up with a name for me to register him with!!

PS- pardon my lack of pictures. My officially videographer/photographer is out at drill for two weeks and I’ve been too focused on loving my boy to remember to take pics. We’ll have some soon!

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Frankie Updates!

It’s still kinda hard to believe that I own a horse. And not only that I own a horse, but that I own THIS horse. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve him- did I stop Jesus from tripping over a tree root in a previous life, maybe?- but I’m not gonna question it too much.

He’s been home with us for almost a week now and has settled in like he’s been here forever. He goes out with a group of geldings that he gets along with wonderfully, we’ve ridden in the indoor, outdoor, and all over the property, we’ve spent time in both barns, and he has handled it all with the same relaxed curiosity I noticed in him when we first met.

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His main question seems to be “Is this a thing I can eat?”

I have to thank whoever owned him before me- this horse has been loved. He has not felt tense or anxious at all in any of the situations we’ve been in over the last few days. He certainly takes a look at new things, but has shown a remarkable trust in me and has done every single thing I’ve asked him to without hesitation.

Frankie_crossties_kisses
Including the endless selfies. This is the face of a horse that is humoring me.

He’s quite different from Addy so I’m definitely still adjusting to his style of ride! He’s been very patient with me as I work some new muscles and figure out how to rate his stride properly. He’s shown that he’s willing to wait to the base as long as I’m not leaning up his neck (bad habit confession), and with every ride I get a better feel for his pace! He’s tolerant enough to handle my ammy mistakes, but when I manage to get my life in order and ride properly he gives me WONDERFUL work. Basically the best combo: he’ll jump the jump no matter what, but if I give him a good ride he’ll give me a great ride.

Handling him on the ground has been super easy too. He LOVES being loved on! He’ll stand in the crossties for hours if it means he’s getting attention. He does tend to get a bit mouthy when he thinks I have treats- he hasn’t tried to take a nibble yet, but he does get a little pushy. Now he only gets treats when he’s NOT mooching. Other than that (very) minor thing, he’s a perfect gentleman to lead, tack up, groom, and spend time with!

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Do you even see how shiny he is?!?!?!

I’ve also managed to finish up my shopping list- all we’re waiting on now is my order from Riding Warehouse to come in! I have a few bills to pay off, but it looks like the river of cash is slowly adjusting to our basic monthly expenses. Which still gives me a bit of a panic attack, but at least it’s not, you know, BUYING A HORSE. The only thing left to figure out is saddle fit. My beautiful saddle that I’m in love with and fits me perfectly does NOT fit Frankie well. I’ll be talking to the saddle rep to see if this is something we can adjust, or if I may need to trade in for a new saddle. For now, I’ve got a shimmed half-pad to keep his back comfy.

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We’ve got another lesson on Wednesday and I can’t wait to share how it goes! In the meantime, you can check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) for videos and pics of Frankie being handsome!

PS- In a funny full-circle twist of fate, Frankie is wearing my old gelding’s halter. I was going to swap out the nameplate, but it’s kinda a nice homage to the bay gelding that taught me as a junior. My new bay gelding doesn’t seem to mind too much.