Ch-ch-ch-changes

Some very exciting changes going on in my little corner of the universe!

First off- there was a bit of a re-org at work. Nothing dramatic and my job title didn’t change, but the focus of my work is shifting a bit to more organizational effectiveness and process streamlining. I. Am. Thrilled. It’s a much better fit for my experience, skills, and interests, and my new manager and I have already worked together multiple times to great success. I think this new little department of ours is going to be super helpful for the company as a whole, and it’s going to be superduperamazingfantastic for my own career growth.

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#professional

Also work related- my flex schedule was approved! One of my all-time favorite perks of my job is that they’re very willing to be flexible with my schedule (remember when I worked remotely from Ohio for 2 weeks so I could compete without using vacation time?). As long as the work gets done when it needs to be and I attend any meetings that require my presence, no one is too fussy about the specific hours and where I am. But even better than that is a formalized flex schedule! Starting next week, I’ll be in the office Mon-Thurs 7:30a-5p with a 30 min lunch break, WFH Friday morning for 4 hours, and then I have every Friday afternoon off. Entirely.

What does one do with a free Friday afternoon? One heads to the barn.

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DUHH

One of the big reasons I wanted to work on a flex schedule was to fit in a private lesson somewhere. Currently I’m really only available for a 7p lesson, or maaaaaybe 6p if I can rush out the door. You know who else is only available at 6p or 7p? Every single other person. So all lessons at those times have by necessity been group lessons. I knew that if I wanted to get an hour all to myself, I’d have to come up with a way to get to the barn at a different time. Which I now have every week!

Don’t get me wrong- my group lessons have been great. I love learning from watching other riders go, and hearing my trainer explain things in different ways to different learners has been enormously helpful. But I’m also now at the point where I’m hoping to get Frankie feeling great at 1.20m+, and there are few other riders at the barn with that ambition (at least in the near term). I think some individual attention will really help push us to the next level and get us focusing on tackling the skill sets we need to master. Our last spate of private lessons was totally transformative for us and I’m excited to keep transforming!

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Last time we did private lessons, it started out like this. I fully anticipate that I will be cursing this decision and become incredibly sore, but it’s gonna be awesome I swear.

This timing works out perfectly with Frankie’s maintenance- by the time next Friday rolls around, he will be ready to get back into full work after his series of SI and hock injections. He’ll be full of bouncy juice, has been adjusted by the chiro, has better saddle fit, is rocking his carrot stretches, and I just got him a shiny new BoT pad (in navy, duhhh). Because why not do everything we can while we’re at it, right? I have a feeling he’s going to be feeling fantastic, and I’m going to have to grab a lot more mane!

I also got his new 3-ring in and have been using a borrowed figure-8 to great success. I think we’ve really found a great balance of giving him something soft enough to move forward onto, while still giving me a clear enough line of communication to get his attention.

We had a lesson in it last night and I fell in love with my horse all over again. He was hunting down the jumps, had fire in his step but was tuned into me the whole time, and was straight up FUN. He’ll get a few more days off after his hock injections today and I seriously can’t wait. If he’s already going around so amazingly beforehand, I can only imagine how incredible he’ll be once everything is totally 100%.

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He seriously felt like this last night, he was springy as all getout

I also got to sit down with my trainer to talk about our show season coming up, and how best to prepare. Right now the tentative plan is to have AT hop on 2x a week leading up to Blue Rock in May, and then have her take him in a few 1.20m classes to see how he likes it. I’ll stick in the 1.10m Highs for now. We’ll plan on attending Upperville in early June (my favorite show of the year!) where I’ll do the 1.10m/1.15m Highs and she may take him in a 1.20m schooling round, and then late June at Lake Placid I’ll just take him in the 1.15m Highs. If all is going well at that point and we’re all comfortable with the moveup, I’ll take over the ride in the 1.20m Low AOs in August or September. It’s all very tentative and subject to change at any minute, but I’m very happy with this plan. We’re in no rush, so I’d rather Frankie build a lot of confidence and know-how at that height before his amateur mother steps in. As always, we’ll be paying very very close attention to see how he likes that job to make sure we’re not pushing him too much. Even if it doesn’t materialize the way we’re planning, the fact that my trainer has faith in us and Frankie’s abilities means the world to me.

It also turns out that I’m no longer busy during Team Finals (we’re only doing Lake Placid for one week instead of two) and I have enough points to qualify….so I may be looking at the finances to see if we could go from Lake Placid down to Tryon first week of July. I don’t have to decide for a while and it may end up being too much for the Frankfurter, but cool to have the option!

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EVERY SHOW JUST TAKE MY MONEY HERE YOU GO

Things are feeling really good right now. Exciting career changes, exciting progression in our training, and an exciting summer coming up. It’s all a little crazy but it’s the best kind of crazy.

Oh yeah, and I’m planning a wedding. Coolcoolcoolcoolcoolcool.

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2017 Show Season Recap

Now that the 2017 USEF show season is officially over, let’s take a look back on the past year of competition to see how we did and how we progressed.

McDonogh Winter Classic

Our first outing of the year in January, and our first time competing in the Highs! This was ostensibly our first time doing the 1.10m classes, but I’ll eat my socks if these jumps were actually 1.10m. They looked maaaaybe 1.0m. So a soft entry into the Highs, which was probably a good thing.

I had zero connection due to constantly slipping reins, but we were able to make it around quickly enough to place well. I was still learning about finding my track and Frankie was still learning about how do turnz, but he was a good sport and we learned a lot. We ran into trouble at the triple combo in the classic which was likely due to that being the third class of a long cold day, and both of us losing energy. Overall, this was a positive first outing of the season despite the bobbles.

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HITS Commonwealth National

Our first real outing at a true 1.10m, but I felt much more confident than I had in January. We were able to go back and do a triple combo really strongly, and he handled the sloppy footing like a champ all weekend. Francis did his first 1.15m round with my trainer and won it. My main areas that needed improvement were letting him get fast and flat and not really doing much of anything about it. We weren’t to the point of doing the inside turns quite yet, but we had noticeable improvement and both of us started knowing what we were doing in the ring.

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Upperville

Oh Upperville. This was probably our best show of the year. I could’ve done a better job of keeping him between my leg and hand, and I didn’t ask hard enough to get the turns I wanted in places, but we went around some big tracks and it went much more smoothly than it had in the past. It was only 2 classes and we didn’t place, but I consider these two of our best rounds to date. For my own record of improvement, I was happy with our ability to go out cold and warm up concisely and correctly both days.

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Zone Jumper Finals: Part 1 and Part 2

By far the biggest and most intense competition experience I’ve ever had. It was so much more involved than any other show- there was a jog, there were rider’s meetings, there was the team aspect. And the courses were definitely bigger and harder than we’ve done before. I could tell that we were some of the less-schooled competitors there in terms of miles and experience, but we held our own and had a couple of strong rounds. We were able to make the inside turns everywhere we wanted to, we opened up our stride, and it was a great stretch of our abilities.

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HITS Culpeper Finals

Our foray out of the jumper ring and into the equitation! This was a great test of our ability to reel it in and do something a bit more polished. Was it expert-level? Absolutely not. Did we have to think very hard about what we were doing and change our ride accordingly? Absolutely. But I’m so pleased with how well Frankie was able to relax and give me a good effort in a new ring, over very different types of jumps. Despite the small class sizes, I’m proud of those ribbons.

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Zone Finals

Our last show of the season was a strangely appropriate mishmash of the entire season. We ran into trouble at a combo, just like in our first show- but we went back and fixed it strongly. I let him get fast and flast like our second show- but he has learned enough self-carriage to bounce up to the jumps. We used our warmup to school some skills, like Upperville. We used our inside-turn skills and eye to the bigger fences, like Team Finals. It felt like we were really able to apply what we had learned- not necessarily in having the best rides, but in being able to go out there and make stronger corrections more quickly. There were highs and lows, but I walked away proud of my horse and feeling like both of us have improved immensely since the beginning of our season. Getting a high ribbon in a competitive class was big icing on the cake.

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What’s next?

I’m excited for our 2018 season! It looks like it’ll be a year of quality over quantity on the show front- with some big hitters like WEC and Lake Placid on the agenda, I likely won’t have the budget or vacation time to do much else. I’m hoping to fit in some smaller one-days nearby to get points, make a showing at Upperville again, and see if I can try some new venues. It’ll depend a lot on the money situation (as usual!). We may also try to fit in a clinic or two, depending on who comes to town. I’m not going to commit to a division quite yet- I suspect we’ll want to spend most of our time in the Highs at 1.10-1.15m, but I do want to test our limits a bit in a 1.20m class if possible. We’ll see how Frankie and I are feeling as we get more into show season. I very very much want to continue growing and progressing up the levels, and I can’t wait to get to work!

Tentative Summer Show Schedule

OK gang, we have a tentative plan for the rest of show season.

I was originally planning on doing Loudoun Benefit, but then heard I might be travelling for work that week and also I have no money for a full week show in June hahahahahahelpmeplease. So Loudoun got crossed off the list.

And Upperville too- no full week show for me, and also Manfriend is graduating that Thursday so I’ll be cheering him on (woohoo so proud!!!).

But then my Trainer is the actual best person, and arranged for me to split a stall with someone so I can just show Saturday-Sunday at Upperville!!! We’ll do the 1.10m High class on Saturday and then the 1.15m High classic on Sunday.

Which, you guys. I am getting so mushy and emotional about. This venue was where Frankie and I competed together for the first time in June of last year, at the 0.90m and 1.0m level. And almost exactly one year later, we’re going back and we are going to totally rock that 1.15m class.

It’s not so much about the height, it’s about the confidence and partnership we’ve gained. To be able to go back to that same venue with new skills and abilities and feel that contrast. This was not even on the radar at this time last year. So yeah, I’m a squishy little ball of emotions about this right now. So unbelievably proud of my horse and grateful and UGHHHHHHH I’ll shut up about it. For now.

From there, we are tentatively looking at doing HITS in July where we will do the Highs and/or the Modified AOs (which is the 1.15m division there) and/or maybe the adult medals(?), and then it’ll be finals time in August! USEF has officially officially posted points to confirm all the sleuthing.

I’m thinking that we’ll wrap up our season at Culpeper finals- by then we will have done 3-4 out of the 6 weeks they host and maybe we’ll be in the running for circuit division points? Not going to chase that, but it would be pretty cool.

So we’ll round out our second season together that Sunday.

And I already have a plan. That Sunday, we will go do our 1.10m/1.15m class. Then the following weekend we will be finding a local show. And we will go do the pleasure division. It’s happening, guys. Trainer is already on board.

Modified AO jumper pony Sunday, pleasurific hack horse Saturday. It’s going to be perfect.

What are your summer plans??

Big Plans, People

And I’m not talking about Culpeper Finals (which will also be big and I’m so excited for as a wrap-up to our first show season together).

We’re talking about what’s next. As in, post show season.

A NEW FREAKIN’ SHOW SEASON IS WHAT.

Nah seriously though the new season may start on December 1, but Mama’s gotta eat so no shows this winter. We are officially on show hiatus after Culpeper Finals until the spring. But that doesn’t mean we can’t plan!

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I have no relevant media so enjoy these screenshots from my last lesson where Trainer had me jump without stirrups. And Frankie said MAHM TINY STEPS ARE HARD Y U DO DIS DO NOT WANT

Starting in October I’ll be taking private lessons. I learn SO SO SO much from my group lessons and getting to watch other talented riders is great, but Trainer and I think that 1-on-1 attention for a full hour is going to be some next level stuff. I’ll likely be adding another (group) lesson to the rotation also, so I’ll have two lessons a week- one group and one private.

The reasoning for this is that I’m not showing for several months, and then plan to step in the ring at a new height in the spring. With my budget I don’t have the luxury of several “get  back into it” shows, so we gotta be ready for our division when we arrive on the showgrounds in the spring. I’m gonna be working my tail off to make sure we not only don’t backtrack over the winter, but that we progress and the move-up is a no-brainer.

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LOL so glad my muscles survived the two week break and I was able to not look like Quasimodo PSYCH THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN

We’re also gonna start talking maintenance with the vet come spring. Frankie is a superbly healthy horse with very low miles, and I want to KEEP HIM HEALTHY. Now that he’s living the horse-show lifestyle with much more regular jumping, I don’t want to wait to address any problems that may arise. We’re gonna be proactive about his joint health- luckily I have a FANTASTIC vet who loves to talk shop and is big on the proactive vs. reactive side of veterinary care. He actually keeps his horse at my barn so I can bug him with questions all winter.

And then looking ahead to the actual show season. Do you remember back in May when I set some goals? And my pie-in-the-sky goal was to qualify for Zone 3 USHJA Adult Amateur Jumper Championships at some point eventually? Well yeah. We’re gonna go for it. Trainer and I are sitting down in the next few weeks to plan out my show schedule to maximize chances of qualifying. It may happen, it may not, but Frankie and I are gonna work our butts off to make it there. We had a kid do the Children’s Jumper version of it this year and she said it was SUPER fun (and that the ammy teams all brought wine, so I’m sold).

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OK we do have cute moments though. Also note to Francis- THIS IS WHY WE DO TEENY STEPS. YOU JUMP LESS LIKE A DRUNK ALPACA WHEN WE DO TEENY STEPS.

So there you have it! It feels like we’re transitioning from “riders who compete” to “Competitors” with a capital C. Francis and I are having a blast!

PS- THE STUPID LIVERPOOL WASN’T IN THE RING FOR MY LESSON. Ugh. I swear I’m gonna make sure they drag it back in there soon so I can jump it. It needs to happen. I have grabby hands. I want.

PPS- Trainer said that she could really use 5 of Franklin. Cue the warm fuzzy proud Mama moment. He’s such a wonderful unicorn, I still can’t believe I have my dream horse.