What’s New, Francis?

I anticipated some sluggishness from Frankie for a little bit due to the increased training workload, but homeboy has been a star!

I’ve been conquering my fear of trail rides at least 1-2x a week lately, and he is one happy camper. We can have golf carts zoom up our butt (our barn is in a golf course community, so they’re a pretty common sight), bunnies hurl themselves across our path, helicopters flying overhead, and he keeps bopping around on the buckle barely flicking an ear. I’ve been making a point to seek out hills to do trot sets on, and he is just as relaxed as he is at the walk. This is nothing new for him and he’s demonstrated his steadiness on trails before, but getting out there more consistently has been great for my own confidence outside the ring- you all know that I’m a huge baby in unconfined spaces.

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You can definitely tell from his ears just how hot and electric he is.Β 

In our lesson two weeks ago, it was unbearably hot. Absolutely brutal. But like the unicorn he is, Frankie went around the ring and didn’t put a foot wrong. He needed a little more support from me to get that energetic canter we’re always searching for, but we were able to focus on straightness through his body to get some really nice efforts. Considering I saw a lot of other horses exhibiting some tantrum behavior that day due to the heat (I can’t even blame them), it was that much sweeter to have Frankie going so consistently. As usual, I found my pace somewhere in the middle of my course- I need to get that off the bat instead of taking 2-3 jumps to manufacture it. It’s another case of Frankie giving meΒ exactly what I ask for and not an inch more or less. When I ask, I receive. It’s about time I get my head out of my butt and ask already.

He’s also been rising to the occasion in our flatwork sessions. I’ve been making a point to ask for more consistent contact with plenty of stretch breaks, instead of the other way around. I’ve been throwing in more counter-canter to help develop some better balance and feel around our turns, which has been going quite well. I’m working on asking more deliberately for my leads and helping him re-balance using my seat instead of my hands. We’ve also been trying to include lots of downwards transitions- he’s very prompt with his upwards transitions (as long as he’s in front of my leg HAH), but likes to dive on his forehand into his downwards. I’m focusing on keeping his weight rocked back so that we can move forwards into the downwards, instead of him pulling me forward out of the tack. This has a ways to go to be really consistent, but I’m confident we’ll get there.

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Unrelated but I just love all the different things I have up on my walls. Yes, that small one is a print of Paul Revere on a velociraptor. And no, I’m not sorry for having 3023498 books by my bed.

This week Frankie was absolutely 100% My Little Pony. It was a bit of a rough week for a couple reasons (Manfriend is a cop now and scary situations come with the territory- he’s totally fine but I’m still a bit shaken) and I was feeling a little emotionally raw. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing, but I swear Frankie could tell. He was SUPER snuggly and affectionate on the ground and was such an ultimate packer in my lesson. Β Of course he’s always sweet and a good boy, but this was some next level love. It really felt like he was checking in with me every few minutes to make sure I was doing ok. We’ll get back to training harder shortly, but I’m grateful that we had a day of horse therapy where I was able to rely entirely on my horse and trust that he would take care of me.

In non-riding related Frankie news, I finally bit the bullet and put him on a Smartpak. His hooves aren’t in great shape due to the crap weather this year- he’s been in glue-ons and pads up front for a few cycles now and has basically a prosthetic reconstructed hoof on his right front (LOL BYE MONEY)- so he’s starting a hoof supplement. I figured as long as I’m tossing stuff in his feed we may as well toss in a joint supplement too- I’m not completely sold on the effectiveness, but it can’t hurt and at this point I’m willing to throw every tool in the toolbox at him. If it supports his joints even marginally, that’s worth it to me. When I made the mistake of complaining, “but he used to be so low maintenance!” to AT, she not-so-gently reminded me that we get to do a lot of cool stuff we couldn’t do before, and that comes with increased care. Touche.

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We could not do this last year.

The short version of all of this is that we’re working hard and having fun doing it. I’m feeling confident that we’re setting ourselves up for success for our show at the end of August and beyond!

Now Hack It Out (now hack it out)

You’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head.

Just a brief update today on our show prep!

One of the lovely ammies at the barn suggested a trail ride this weekend, and I eagerly jumped up and down with my hand in the air and yelled PICK ME PICK ME. Turns out it wasn’t a contest, just an open invitation. But I got to go on the trail ride so who’s the real winner here?

Anywho.

We were out for a solid hour on trails by the barn that I had NO idea existed. Like zero clue. Big hills, through the woods, across hay fields, it was stunningly gorgeous. I would’ve taken some more pictures, but I am a trail riding weenie and don’t like letting go of the reins when I don’t have walls holding me in.

But in all seriousness, Francis was his usual lovely self- he poked around on the buckle the whole time with his usual sweet curiosity. He thought the deer leaping out were super cool, he dolphin-leapt up some bigass hills and then came right back to me, and loped around a hay field with his buddy Moose. We were both sweaty and tired by the end of our ride and I think it was EXACTLY what we needed. A good workout that was a great mental refresher!

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Frankie LOVES his best buddy Moose. They’re turnout buddies and inseparable. They also had matching hats. I am also scared of the sun and will cover up from head to toe in 90 degree weather.

He got some TLC afterwards and lots of grazing time. My saddle came back and he seems SUPER happy with it- he offered up some great engagement over his back with very little urging from me (I basically picked up a light contact and he rounded and stepped under). I’m hoping this means he’s happy with the saddle fit, but we have the rep coming out before the show to watch us go and confirm.

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Mister Piggy wanted to eat 5ever

I spent time polishing up my boots and prepping some gear, and then today will be the final preparations: all tack will get deep cleaned, I’ll pack up and lock my trunk so it’s ready to be loaded on the trailer, and Francis will get his own deep cleaning. He’ll probably roll in the mud tonight, but I at least have to say I tried.

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Because your boots aren’t REALLY polished until you’ve tried to set them on fire.

More updates as events warrant!

Fancy Pony

Remember that part where I said that Frankie is a little lacking in polish on the flat?

I TAKE IT BACK. I TAKE IT ALL BACK.

Chapter 1: Seriously OliviaΒ  that doesn’t count as fancy, that’s a pretty normal thing

Francis and I went for a trail ride with some buddies a few weekends ago, and it was just as fun as I anticipated. Frankie the Tankie was clearly having a blast getting to play outside, and it was cool to be on a horse that I could boot up to a gallop and then have him come right back with minimal pressure on his plain snaffle. I wasn’t really that surprised- one of his selling points in his ad was that he goes XC in a snaffle.

Here’s where the fancy comes in: Frankie has a SUPER active walk. Like, the vet commented when we were vetting him that he’s never seen a horse with so much movement in his walk. And he’s a tall guy. So when we’re all walking along on this trail ride, he naturally pulls ahead. And when we want to stand and wait for everyone to catch up, that’s no fun BECAUSE STANDING IS BORING I DON’T WANNA DO IT MAHHHHMMMM.

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Everything the light touches is Franklin’s.

Being the mean mom that I am, I made him stand quietly. Once he gave me a few moments of stillness, I decided to reward him by giving him a job that required some use of his brain while we waited for the rest of the crew. LATERAL WORK SEEMS FUN LET’S DO THAT.

And I think my horse has a future as a reiner. Turns on the haunches, on the forehand, leg yields, he was FEELING it. All based almost entirely on leg. So now he’s just armed me with the knowledge that he can totally give me tighter turns if I balance and ask properly. Muahahaha.

Summary of Chapter 1: my horse has way better lateral buttons installed than I realized.

Chapter 2: Seriously Olivia this is so ridiculously basic how are you just getting this now

The following Monday was spent on flatwork, and I had a mission in mind to figure out that whole “working on a contact” thing. You know, that thing that I definitely should have been figuring out looong before now. Go ahead and judge me, I promise you I’m judging myself more.

But better late than never! I entered the order of Inside Leg to Outside Rein and dedicated myself to feeling the contact and putting the puzzle pieces together. Here’s what I came up with: inside leg pushing into the outside hand + balancing and softening with the inside hand and maintaining straightness with the outside leg + relaxed and swinging seat + engaged but not tense core + relaxed jaw + a sacrifice to the moon goddess + Venus aligning with Pluto = uphill, round through the back, freely moving, on the contact Franklin.

Sound familiar to LITERALLY EVERYONE???

Clearly I figured this out and now we work perfectly on a contact and I do all of those things all the time. Obviously.

HAH.

What actually happened was that I got a much better feel for how to position myself to encourage that type of movement in Frankie, and we spent roughly 30 minutes at the walk while I practiced maintaining that feel. As an overcooked baked potato of a rider, I often lost that feel. But every so often it would click into place and I could feel the Tank soften right onto the bit, step under himself, and engage his back.

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Addy’s mom rode him for me over the weekend while I was out of town, and got some GORGEOUS work from him.

It. Was. Magical. I have a whooooole new understanding of what makes you DQs tick. Don’t get me wrong, I would go totally nuts if I couldn’t hop colorful sticks regularly, but I have a newfound appreciation for the obsession with getting every little piece into place because HOLY GUACAMOLE my horse felt fancy.

In true Olivia fashion, I texted my friend after that ride saying the following: “And every so often he would just soften and round and it was like HOLY CRAP TEACH US TO PIAFFE BECAUSE WE ARE FANCY DRESSAGE RIDERS. Canter half-passes are up next.” That is a direct transcript, caps and all.

Summary of Chapter 2: my horse has crazy fantastic flat buttons when I figure out how to press them, and I learned how to walk properly some of the time, maybe.

Chapter 3: Seriously Olivia do you want a gold star just for doing what you’re supposed to do?

I mean, yes? I would love gold stars for everything.

Right now I’m going to talk about quality of the canter and how I’ve been struggling a bit to nail that sweet spot with Francis. He has a RIDICULOUSLY comfortable canter to sit to, but a big long stride, so it can be very deceptive. I’ll be bopping along all comfortable and my trainer will be like “OLIVIA WHY ARE YOU GALLOPING ALL OVER MY RING CAN YOU PLEASE NOT” and it’s like ohhhh my bad totally didn’t realize.

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Big ol’ gallopy stride. Complete with tiny little jockey stirrups.

But I also want to make sure I have lots of power in the stride. So what I’ve been working on is compressing his stride a bit by keeping my legs wrapped around him and shifting my seat to change the stride length, and picking my hands up out of my lap to recycle that energy back to his hind end.

STARTING TO CLICK INTO PLACE

When I do these things, I get this amazing uphill powerful canter that is SO adjustable. Like, we did the pony strides in a line, then went back and did the galloping horse strides. And they both rode smoothly because we were able to rate his stride. I’m kinda spazzing out about this because while the BeastMare has many amazing qualities, we struggled a lot with adjustability. So to have a horse that will literally give me any stride length I ask for as long as I sit up and keep my leg on? This is new. And amazing.

So now I need to remember that feeling so I can get it off the bat, not 30 minutes into our lesson. As my trainer reminded me, we don’t get one or two or three practice courses in the jumpers. We get a couple singles in the warmup ring and then it’s showtime. I need to be able to push up into that energetic elastic stride from the get-go. Frankie is broke to death- he’ll give it to me immediately if I ask. I just need to remember to ask.

Summary of Chapter 3: Sometimes I can actively ride my horse instead of galloping around with a big fat grin on my face.

Overall thoughts: If I give Frankie clear and correct instructions, he will immediately and happily give me some gloriously gorgeous work. Turns out the only one who needs polish is me!

In Which We Leave the Ring and Survive

My dear readers. For those of you who have followed along for a while now, you may have gathered that I’m a bit of a ring princess. For the newer folks: I’m a ring princess. I LOVE hearing about XC adventures and think foxhunting sounds exciting, but really have never felt any desire to leave the confines of an arena. Considering I often use the wall to stop RollerCoaster McHappyPants, I really like having that wall there to help me.

But I was talked into joining the barn for an old fashioned paper chase this weekend! For those of you who don’t know what a paper chase is (like me), it was a 3-5 mile hack along a course through fields/woods/wilderness, with optional logs and coops to jump. The group I was in elected to do the Jumping II division- a 3 mile course with some logs to pop over.

This. Was. Amazing. I won’t say that my fear of riding outside the ring is gone, but Fun and Happy and Excitement are jumping up and down yelling, “Again! Again!” and I think Fear has gotten trampled in the process.

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Addy thinks it was no big deal. Don’t let this face fool you, Beastly was the happiest horse on the property.

Much of my nervousness came from the fact that Addy has never done anything like this before. We’ve done a couple little trail rides near the barn and cantered across a field or two, but never anything near cows, with a group of riders, through woods, or anything like that. I know that Beastly is a very sane and calm mount. I know that she has never once offered a spook or a bolt in the year that I’ve been on her. But I was still a little wary of how she would handle this.

There was zero reason for me to be worried. Addy LOVED this. Seriously loved it! She handled gates, climbing up rocky banks, big herds of cows, lots of horses all around her, all the commotion. When I asked her to trot she gave me the biggest springiest ground-covering trot you’ve ever seen, and when we decided to canter she gave me a light and easy lope. No heaviness or pulling in the least- she was content to take her time and enjoy the scenery. Cantering down the trail through the woods was amazing! We even went for a bit of a gallop across a field and she was such a happy camper to open up and run.

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BossMare was more than happy to lead the way. Check out that trot!

And the jumps! They were all tiny little 2′ logs but it was so fun! She didn’t hesitate at any of them for even a second. Even when a third jump popped up around a blind corner after a little line, she carried me right over it. I swear one of them even looked like a little ditch. She waited to the base every time and jumped carefully. For realz, she loved it!

While some of the other horses we were with got a little snorty and went on alert, Addy was relaxed the entire time. I had her on a loose rein even when were galloping and popping over jumps because she was being so easy going! I was so sad to canter over the finish line and I think Addy was too.

Our time ended up being just enough slower than the “optimum time” for our division and that kept us out of the ribbons. I can’t make myself care even a little bit. I’m glad we took our time and went at the pace we did- we took plenty of walk breaks when we hit rocky or muddy footing, when we weren’t sure of where to go, and to give the horses a breather after popping over jumps. It was the perfect pace for us.

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Go team go!

Anyone know of any more hunter paces in Virginia? I want to sign us up for one every weekend!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And What We’re Doing About It.

I know most of you must be familiar with the concept of your horse knowing your emotions before you do. Most people attribute it to horses being prey animals- they must be hyper-aware of their surroundings. I attribute it to voodoo magic. But whatever you attribute this to, horses always seem to be the mirror that shows us what’s actually going on.

For example: Addy has been refusing jumps in our last two lessons. Most are not dirty stops (though some absolutely are), but my jumping machine seems to have lost some of her hops. We can have a beautiful flowing course, and then she will come to a screeching halt at a simple 2’3″ vertical she’s jumped 2-3x a week for the last year.

I’ve never been the type to get overly worked up about a stop- I’ll give her a good thump in the sides as a big fat NOPE YOU DON’T GET TO ENJOY THIS, but I’m fine with making a circle and re-approaching. I’m not the rider who gets crazy frustrated and starts to cry about how my horse hates me. Instead, I’m more thinking “WTF is going on and what am I doing wrong.”

Key: what am *I* doing wrong. Not what darling pony is doing wrong. Me. Myself. I. Because even if I’m getting dirty stops, that’s something that I need to address. That’s a training opportunity.

So after ending our lesson on a decent note (I actually have lots of videos that I’ll be posting on Insta over the next couple days, shoutout to Manfriend for braving his allergies to get me more media!) I took a step back. I’ve been sick for a couple weeks. I’ve been out of town for several weekends. My riding routine has been disrupted and I’ve almost definitely lost some muscle mass from said disruption. Is it any wonder if my riding has suffered? My job has picked up a LOT lately. Is it any wonder that I’m coming to my lessons with a measure of stress and tension that wasn’t there before?

Addy is a horse that will work with me all day long and give me her whole heart, but she is not the type of horse to work for me. As frustrating as it is, she’s giving me the ride I need right now- reminding me that it’s OK to throw out the pretty equitation and get gutsy when need be.

But I also need to take a step back and realize what I’ve been asking her to do: even though I’ve been riding less so you’re not getting worked as consistently, and I’m tense and nervous and riding weakly, please cart my butt over that 3’3″ oxer. All my aids are screaming “I’m not sure about this,” but please go for it anyway.

Of course she’s not going to do it. Like I said last week, Precious Pony is not getting canonized any time soon, and it would certainly take some saintlike behavior to put up with that garbage.

But identifying this as a problem has actually made me feel tons better! Because now I have a trainer-approved plan to address it: build up our confidence. Her confidence in me, my confidence in her, and both of our confidence that we actually know what we’re doing.

So this involves building lots of positive experiences for both of us. Asking for things that she enjoys and excels at so that she gets tons of praise for succeeding. Taking the pressure off and enjoying each other’s company. Spending extra time grooming and bonding. Dropping my stirrups to get that muscle tone back. Basically psychological boot camp (with a little bit of physical boot camp too).

So when I rode Friday, she got to go on the buckle. I held a very light contact the entire time and just asked her to move freely without me hanging on her mouth. I didn’t ask her to collect or package or do anything too strenuous. Just stretch out and play together. Lo and behold, I got a gorgeous stretchy trot and a quiet, balanced canter. Bonus: I got a great lower body workout since I had basically thrown away the reins and was riding based on seat and leg.

Then just yesterday we went out on a long trail ride with friends. Even though she’s been on maybe 3 trail rides ever, she crossed bridges and trotted up steep hills and went through the woods and walked down neighborhood streets like she does this every day. It was just the reminder I needed that this horse is absolutely trustworthy. She wants to take care of me and she wants to do a good job.

It’s like Nicole explained in her post about the Trust Bank (which I legit refer to all the time because I love it so much)- if I want Addy to save my butt in tough situations, I need to make sure she knows that I will always always always do the same for her. Let her know that we get to have fun together including but not limited to jumping over colorful sticks. That I’m on board and leading and will set both of us up for success.

After all, two steps forward and one step back still counts as progress. I’m really excited about reaching a new level of understanding and communication with my Beastly Creature! I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.

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What have you done when you needed to take a step back to build the trust back up? Any ideas for fun activities we can do together?

Horse Bloggers Trail Ride Extravaganza Episode 2

The sky dawned clear blue with puffy white clouds on Sunday morning, with a warm sun and cool breeze. Birds were chirping, the air had a post-thunderstorm freshness to it, and I sprang out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Why? Because I got to meet up with Courtney from Vintage Virginia again!

This time we headed over to the Manassas Battlefield, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a fun outing. The ground was a little soggy from the unrelenting rainstorms of recent days, but we had miles of beautiful trails to traipse through and enjoy. I was slightly more confident that neither of us was a murderer this time, so menfolk were left behind (much to their chagrin).

I was super excited to hop back on Vinny after we had such a blast last time, while she seemed less excited to carry this giant female who slammed around on her back like a potato. I gleefully scrambled on and ignored her sighs of protest. Just to add insult to injury, I carried a heavy backpack to make me heavier and throw off my balance. Sorry horse. But your mom and I needed the champagne and various snacks tucked away in that satchel. No drinks left behind, it’s the law or something.

After Courtney and I were mounted- me on Vintage and her on baby Berry- we decided that maps are for fools and we would just pick a path (side note: I found the map tucked down my pants about 2 hours into our ride). Fortunately we managed to pick the bridle path. And thus began our trek!

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Beautiful Berry butt

We stayed nice and cool because most of the trail took us through the woods and we stayed in the shade. We had some nice trot/canter sets moving through here, but we tried to be careful of the mud patches we ran into with some frequency. Courtney regaled me with tales of equine orienteering (which sounds totally hardcore awesome), we talked about her upcoming show, and I complimented her horses soundly, calling Vinny “a good soul” roughly 12 times in as many minutes. All accompanied by pink champagne, because we are classy females. Champagne makes everything classy.

And then there were some logs near the path. Yes, I was in a dressage saddle. Yes, my stirrups were long. Yes, I asked Courtney if I could torture her horse a little further by popping over. Yes, she agreed. Yes, it was a hot mess. Yes, IT WAS AWESOME I LOVE CROSS COUNTRY OMG.

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HOORAY FOR LOG!!!
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MY JUMPING POSITION IS PERFECT EVEN WHEN I’M DUCKING BRANCHES RITE LOL
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WEEEEEEE

This little mare was so point-and-shoot at everything. Didn’t blink at all as I threaded her through trees to approach logs, popped over them, and always came right back to a walk upon landing. She should totally be an eventing pony!

After partially coming down from that high, we continued on our way. We made it to a water crossing that took some finesse- by finesse I mean Courtney dismounted, led Vintage into the stream, and chased Berry with a stick. They were both totally fine once they realized it was just water, but the approach was rather steep so I can understand their hesitation. Hooray for Courtney’s waterproof boots!

After this the trail did pass through some nice fields with a gentle uphill and we decided that was a perfect opportunity for a little gallop. WHICH WAS SO MUCH FUN!!!! I really appreciated that Vinny has a fantastic set of brakes on her, so we were able to come right back and calm down after racing Berry up the hill.

We looped back around after this, and I got confused and ran us into a tree.

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Vintage was indifferent to my sufferings.

Courtney thought this was hilarious and whooped with glee as she took a picture of me futilely trying to get free without further damage. I was still finding pieces of tree in my clothing when I returned home.

After enjoying another delicious serving of the bubbly, we decided to turn towards home. We really lucked out with the weather- pleasantly warm but not a scorcher. We made it back through the water without incident, I insisted on popping back over the logs a couple more times, and then we mosied along. We were starting to get a little saddle sore, so Vinny put up with me pretending to me a fancy sidesaddle lady.

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Sidesaddle, no stirrups. Coulda totally jumped 4′ like this.
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This is my fancy face ad fancy hand on hip. Deal with it.

Somehow we made it back to the trailer without Vintage losing her patience with my shenanigans. In total we were in the saddle for over 3 hours! A little sweaty but nice and cool, the horses seemed happy to be done.

In case you’re looking for video evidence of the flailing I considered XC jumping, check out my Instagram. It’s beautiful.

A thousand thank yous to Courtney again for letting me play with her awesome pony, for being a totally rad trail companion, and for being a super cool human being in general. I can’t wait to come play again soon!

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You are the hawk to my fish

Grids and Gallivanting

So much riding this week!

Sunday and Monday were homework days, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were both supposed to be lesson days (ended up just being Tuesday). Owner Lady is out of town this week and I’m leaving to visit home tonight, so Addy will get a nice rest for a few days.

In my homework rides I kept the focus on working hard, not working long. Some more trot poles, getting our sitting trot nice and powerful, and asking her to round to the bit a little more. Similar to last week, just reinforcing those lessons.

Tuesday’s lesson! There were just two of us in the ring (not my usual lesson buddy, but an adorable junior on her equally adorable greenie) so we got lots of attention. Plenty of no-stirrup work at the trot with big circles and lots of changes of rein. I was a little worried because the farrier had just been by and Addy’s left hind was slightly stocked up- which it does on occasion- but she didn’t take a single step wrong. Sturdy Girl is sturdy.

I focused really hard on pushing my inside leg to outside rein, and Addy responded by giving me that beautiful roundness and bend through her body. She’s started to build the muscles to carry herself in better balance, so I’m going to ask for that self-carriage more often. Her little nose sticking out is very cute, but I can get a much more sensitive response if I have her really tuned up on the bit. Also, medal classes.

Our canter work was nice and calm- I’ve started to have the tendency to collapse my right side a little no matter what direction I’m going, so I tried to sit up really straight and evenly. The consistent work lately meant that Pretty Pony was very happy to lope around and collect when asked. We even got some canter-trot transitions that weren’t super giraffe-like! She’s starting to realize that slowing down isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For jumping, we did gymnastics again (yay!!). Started off with a little one-stride, then built it to a one-stride-one-stride, then added a bounce at the end. The second one-stride was a little short so we had to woah slightly through, but that’s nothing new for us. Addy was great about staying nice and straight through the whole thing, and staying straight to the end afterwards. We kept the jumps fairly low for the greenie, and my assignment was to work on keeping my shoulders straight and tall.

I did go through without stirrups again, and then my sneaky trainer set the oxer close to 3′ for the next time I went through. So now I can say I jumped 3′ without stirrups! Addy got lots of pats for taking care of me and staying between me and the ground.

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Then she got a nice bath and mooched a ton of treats. Such a sweet little mooch.

We had a great conversation about bits also, and I’ll share what she told me. I told her that our first course at shows usually requires a lot of leg as she’s peeking at the new jumps, but after that I lose my brakes. It doesn’t feel dangerous, but any adjustability goes right out the window. I can’t do a darn thing about her stride so it doesn’t even matter if I see a distance. We agreed that a harsher bit wasn’t the answer, because we don’t want her backing off the bit at all. Instead we’re going to try a couple different types of leverage bits. That way things can continue as usual until I need the extra strength, and then I can engage the second rein and get her attention. We’re also going to give the figure-8 bridle a try and see how that changes how she responds.

On to Wednesday! (Yes I am pretty tired from riding 4 days in a row. Addy is still going strong like the beast that she is.) Our barn is at the Loudoun Benefit Show at the Upperville show grounds all week, and yesterday ended up being super long for them. Instead of a lesson, D’Arcy and I took the girls out for a little trail ride around one of the bridle paths nearby.

Yes, I voluntarily went on a trail ride!

This was a really fun mental break for us to get out of the ring and mosey about. She’s been giving me such a good effort during the last few days and I don’t want her to get stale at all. We trotted and cantered a little bit, but it was mostly walked around on a loose rein and enjoyed the breeze. I asked her to round up a bit at the walk a couple times to keep her muscles engaged and she gave that to me very softly.

It was so funny, both of the mares really wanted to be in front. Addy is bigger than Gracie and naturally has a bigger step, so we tended to be walking faster, but then Gracie would come trotting up as if she was saying “wait for me!!” I’m glad that they’re horsey BFFs since it meant D’Arcy and I could ride right next to each other without worrying about the girls.

Sadly that was my last ride until next Wednesday. I’m flying home to RI tonight to go to my almost-sister’s bridal shower and bachelorette party, meet my beautiful niece, celebrate my brother’s birthday, and spend time with family. I’m ridiculously excited!

I’m hopefully going to finish up a post to share while I’m gone, but may be too distracted by pink fruity drinks and baby snuggles (not at the same time, obvi) to get that done. If that’s the case, I’ll touch base with you all next week! Hope you have an absolutely fantastic weekend!

What do you and your horse like to do for a mental break? Any thoughts on our bit experiments?

HBTRE (Horse Bloggers Trail Ride Extravaganza)

I hope all youz guyz had an absolutely fantastic long weekend! Or if you’re like manfriend and had to work yesterday, I hope you had an absolutely fantastic regular-length weekend! I was lucky enough to ride for three days in a row and it was AWESOME. And I will tell you why.

It is because two of those rides were on Addy, and she’s so awesome blah blah blah I love her so much etc. But the other was on another horse.

To be exact, on Courtney’s (from Vintage Virginia) horse. I’ll give you a minute to go check out her blog right now- she’s got really cute horses, does cool projects, and has a kickin’ sense of style. In short, she’s awesome.

You may remember that a couple weeks ago I mentioned that trail rides totally freak me out and I very much like to be contained by a fence. Courtney, being totally baller, invited me out to ride one of her ponies at a park nearby! We both brought our menfolk just in case one of us was the Craigslist killer, but luckily there were no murder shenanigans.

Let me just say that this girl has some fantastic horses. We went and played around in the ring for a while, with me riding her wonderful Appy Vintage and Courtney on her 6yo baby Berry. So cute! Vintage was such an old pro and handled me flopping around without flicking an ear. We popped over a crossrail a couple times, and even hopped over a vertical!

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Look at pony fly!

It was sooo weird to be on a horse that wasn’t Addy- I haven’t ridden any other horses since last September. Vinny doesn’t idle at a hand gallop and actually required me to use my leg for speed. But little pony had the smoothest canter! Seriously, it was like gliding around the ring. I fell in love with her almost immediately.

Then it was time for actual trail riding! Turns out that James Long Park has pretty extensive trails, and we took full advantage of them. (If you’re in the northern VA area I would definitely recommend heading out here, it was awesome!). This was one of Berry’s first outings this year and she handled it all so well. Vintage, being an amazing horse that I love, was an angel and took me through the woods and up and down hills without any problems.

It was super fun to get to chat with Courtney and bond over horses with a new friend! Since the horses were so well behaved, we were able to just relax and enjoy a beautiful day.

Once we emerged from the woods, we were on the opposite side of the park from where the trailer was parked. So we decided to give the horses a little canter stretch across the beautifully manicured flat grass. Turns out that the reason it was so flat and nicely manicured is because it was a soccer field and I think we weren’t really supposed to ride on it, buuuuuut come on people. Perfectly smooth ground. Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing.

The trailer was parked in a field so we decided to do a couple more laps running around before cooling out. Yeehaw! Little Appy had mad ups, she really kicked it into a higher gear! This coming from a trail-riding-weenie: this pony took such good care of me that I didn’t even get nervous running around in a field. It was awesome! It actually made me realize why people get so exhilarated on cross country. Berry seemed to have a blast running around too, and both horses wanted to keep going when we walked to cool them out.

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Vinny leading the way and Berry saying hi.
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Vinny looking like a little lady and Berry saying HAYYYY
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Both of us saying, “One more lap? Don’t mind if we do.”
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Vinny saying “WTF is this stupid chair seat you’re doing, get off my face and let me go run around a little more”
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Having a stupid amount of fun

Never fear, we did not forget about the menfolk. Turns out they’re both huge movie buffs that greatly enjoy guns, so I don’t even think they noticed when we left or came back. We both had to holler a couple times to get their attention.

Short version: I got to meet another horse blogger who I really admire, had an awesome time getting to know her and her girls, manfriend is pumped about a new friend, and it was an amazing time. Can’t wait to go play again soon πŸ™‚