Prepping for My First Show as an Adult Ammy

My time back in The Ring is in exactly two weeks! So what have I been doing to prepare besides calculating how ounces of mimosa would perfectly calm my nerves for a 2'0 Hunter O/F class (I'm thinking ~6 oz.)? See below!

Shopping!

There are certain items one needs for a show (regardless of size) that are different from every day schooling. As much as I would love to wear my favorite olive breeches and riding vest that I'm never seen without, it's not show appropriate.

Luckily, I haven't had to do a ton of shopping for the show. Last December I noticed a gorgeous RJ Classics jacket on steep clearance and jumped on that...by adding it to my wishlist on SmartPak. My lovely MIL gifted it and a pair of tan breeches to me for Christmas. Btw, that was the sign that I was meant to return to the show ring this year.

I only had to make a few other important purchases:

  • Show Shirts
  • Laced reins
  • Treats

Dieting.

So those breeches I received for Christmas? Yeah, their sizing is not as forgiving as Tailored Sportsmans. They're just a little tight in the waist, which sucks because that is usually where I'm most slim. I've been back on keto for two weeks now, and will just have to keep eating bacon through the show. Though, I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy it's been to transition back to low carb!

Riding, riding, riding.

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I've been riding 3x week and... IT'S AMAZING. No wonder I was never really able to improve as a junior riding once a week. Not only being able to practice, but properly building to muscle to support the theories behind lessons has been great.

Squirrelling away all spare monies.

The best thing about cash budgeting is that you can physically move money out of your wallet and into your Top Secret Show Cash envelope. It's made it much easier for my to rein in (hehe) my spending in anticipation of horse show expenditures. Cheers to being a responsible adult!

Creating the Ultimate Riding Playlist.

So far, my super extra motivating awesome playlist consists of songs like:

  • Polaroid/Thunder/Believer, Imagine Dragons (okay many, many more I.D. songs)
  • I Lived, OneRepublic
  • Saltwater Gospel, Eli Young Band
  • Malibu Man, Dan Auerbach
  • Livin' the Dream, Drake White
  • Something Just Like This, Chainsmokers
  • Hall of Frame, The Script
  • Started from the Bottom, Drake (my husband makes fun of me for this SO MUCH)
  • Finish Line, Chance the Rapper

I can't list every song here, but you get the gist. Find songs that make you feel empowered and inspired, channel that feeling into your ride. You will be golden.

Selling the Show to Everyone.

I have always wanted that 'barn family' experience and I'm trying my hardest to cultivate it, if only for this one schooling show. Everyone I talk to is absolutely nagged to the point of exhaustion that they neeeeed to do at least one class! I will provide anything needed. I'm talking breakfast, post-ride champagne, coffee, donuts. And I'm happy to report a good majority of the adult ammies at the barn will be participating! #hype

Husbands at the Barn

Husbands at the Barn

I've been reserving Fridays that I have off for riding lessons and it's really been paying off - especially since my husband agreed to come with me! It's only every other Friday and he already has the day off (law school lyfe) so he's not too put out. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for him, he's been steadily improving on the picture and video taking front as shown below and has agreed to continue coming to document my progress. Plus, he actually seems to enjoy his time there, as opposed to his first time videoing but that probably had something to do with seeing the lesson check!

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Lesson Update 7.0 and News

My weekly lesson was last night and it’s another one of those head scratchers. The mare I’ve been raving about is out on trial (I think and I hope for just a lease) so I rode another horse. A small hunter gelding and it was a straight up work out. Like, my lungs hurt today because it was more cardio than anything.

We started with just popping over a small vertical and it escalated into us doing the whole hunter course set for the show there this weekend. It felt alright, a ton of effort compared to riding the mare. I actually had to like, leg to the jump and God forbid, keep him straight. #learningtoactuallyrideishard amiright? All good things, though, and I appreciate the different ride as I am there to learn.

My jumping position left something to be desired and I definitely felt like I was regressing into my always-jump-ahead habits, but the video doesn’t look too bad? Unfortunately, the video was from my trainer who sent it to me over text is too poor quality to post and I'm too embarrassed to ask her to email it to me. Hubby said he’ll *definitely* come next week to video on my camera so maybe I’ll post a course. I also got some Mini DV videos of my last show circa Summer 2007 dropped off at Costco to convert them to whatever relevant computer video file. Eventually I’ll post a little comparison video!

As far as news goes, I’ve decided to start riding two to three times a week. It will be a greater strain on our budget, but at this point I need/want to ride more in order to meet my desired progress. Plus, it’s an awesome workout and I need to build the muscle. I’m planning on purchasing a young warmblood around 2019 or 2020 and I need to improve significantly before I can do that safely and reasonably (as I'm currently barely keeping myself from falling off a push button lazy hunter).

V. emotional about treats. Mostly: GIVE IT TO ME.

V. emotional about treats. Mostly: GIVE IT TO ME.

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Recent Lessons Overview

I've been wanting to do a little lesson log for a while now, and thought I would get down my experiences of past lessons while I have a week off from being sick. But of course I was too busy napping while I was sick to actually write anything, so I'm typing all of this up after returning home from my most recent lesson.

#views

#views

Lesson 1 - Intro

My first lesson primarily focused on the trainer kind of gauging where I was in my riding. We did walk, trot, canter and a six stride line a few times. The line was… ugly. I felt it. I saw it on trainer’s face. But hey, I stayed on! After having not jumped in about 7 years, I was just surprised that I was brave enough to actually do it.

It also really helped that I was riding a very lovely warmblood mare who is just very honest and has a great, predictable jump and pretty steady canter. Though, she does occasionally have an attitude problem and really tested me on my first ride. She can get very sticky in corners with an exit and at one point stopped and we had a little argument. I really don’t mind things like that, though. It’s important to be able to navigate all sort of ‘questions’ when riding and I appreciate being able to learn on such a quality horse without having them be push button. She is also very look-y which is fine as she hasn’t actually spooked with me, but again, it’s all good experience and she is very forgiving of my many mistakes otherwise. So we put up with each other.

Lesson 2 - Waterskiing

I rode another mare for my second lesson, a hot blooded jumper mare who has had a very prestigious career and is jumping lower because she’s coming back from an injury or attempted breeding, or both (can’t remember). Anyway, I was a little weak this lesson and pretty much didn’t have enough leg to keep this poor mare contained. Kind of waterskied the entire time and I really hope I didn’t tug on her mouth too much. Jumping on her was awesome though and my jumping position felt more secure than lesson one.

Lesson 3 - Rollback

I think this was the best lesson I’ve had so far. My jumping position felt amazing. I rode the mare from lesson one, and she was super. We mostly worked on a line down the center of the arena and did a rollback through the line to a Swedish oxer angled off the side of the second jump in the line. I think we went through the entire exercise three times and my position seriously had never felt better. Had to describe, but see figure below. My leg position felt so much better, actually strong enough to get my heel under myself instead of my good ol’ chair seat.

Lesson 4 - Gridwork

My grid work lesson was not the rainbows and butterflies that the rollback lesson one. I rode my favorite mare again and we did a little grid exercise: jump in, bounce to another jump and canter through the poles. Oof. The concept of not sitting up and popping the sweet mare in the mouth was hard to me to catch onto at first. Of course it never helps that my lessons are late at night when the barn owner checks on the grounds and stops to watch me FAIL. But it finally clicked our last time through the grid and I just stayed in my two to three-point throughout the exit poles of the grid and we ended on that good note.

Lesson 5 - WEAK

I had two weeks between my fourth and fifth lesson because I had a ridiculous summer flu and had to skip a week. Unfortunately, those two weeks were me going to work, coming home and lying in bed until I went to sleep, so all of my muscles that I worked so hard to earn pretty much atrophied.

My favorite mare had hives so I got to ride the beautiful Leo, who I’ve heard many good things about. He used to be a big eq horse until he decided he didn’t want to show anymore and so now he’s the world’s nicest lesson horse (and I really hope he’s still around when I can afford to lease!). He really is super sweet though, and cuddly in the cross ties. Of course, he’s huge and has the biggest (albeit nice) trot and I was strugglin’. Also legit could not even get him to canter I was so weak. We did a few jumps which were quite rough. He did refuse at one, but it was more like I didn’t have enough leg and he was drifting and as we got closer to the jump I just kind of stared at it and he was like, No, we’re not doing this, definitely not a dirty stop. Although the jumping could have gone better, I did really like Leo.

A woman at the barn was having her new horse delivered during my lesson which my trainer had to help with so we just kind of got to walk around on a loose rein and enjoy the evening and it was just a really gorgeous night. The woman waiting for her new horse was also super overjoyed and anxiously waiting at the gate for the trailer to arrive so she could film it and I was like, Go girl! That’s gonna be me!! It was really sweet.

Anyway, off to do my squats and crunches and get this booty back into riding shape!

The mare I've pretty much fallen in love with. Lightweight might've started playing the lottery to afford her.

The mare I've pretty much fallen in love with. Lightweight might've started playing the lottery to afford her.

Also, today's my husband's birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUB. Get ready for fancy, shmancy Chinese food and banana cream pie tonight but also for the next amazing 25 years spent with yours truly. And I'm sorry the best gift I've ever gotten you is late...

One Reason

One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.
— Rick Godwin.

So this weekend I said my goodbyes to Mikey. I really didn't think I'd get so attached, but my experiences with him totally cemented my desire to have my own horse. I've never really had a horse bond to me much at all, as lesson horses are used to seeing different people all the time and don't often form hard bonds. But there really is nothing like walking through the barn and having a horse nicker hello to you. Making progress with horse's trust is so validating, just as having a dog or cat bond to you brings pride. Having an animal choose to be with you and be happy about it just brings a lot of joy.

But unfortunately, it got to the point with Mikey that I was afraid to ride him not only because I could fall off and no one would be around to witness it, but he's not 100%. That's all I'll say. I couldn't ride him and feel good about it when he has so many skin, hoof and soundness problems.

I tend really resist change and I rely on my routines so it'll be sad not going out and just hanging out with him. Again, though, I decided it's best to focus on my goals, and work slowly but surely in that direction. Love you Mikey. Hope you find health and happiness, bud.

Little Update

Wow, life has actually gotten busy. Or I've gotten lazier about social media, blogging, etc. but I thought I would stay committed to the twoh and give a little update. Yesterday, I celebrated a whole month at my big wig auditing job, woo! I haven't really done a whole lot else, other than realize that weekends are too damn short. I'm adjusting to the once a week lesson thing. It's not nearly as much time in the saddle as I'd like but I feel like I've already come so far since beginning lessons. I'm going to try to get my husband to come out and take pictures and video of a lesson soon, but I'm also kind of hoping to improve a little bit more before I'm documenting my terrible eq for all to see.

Most common conversations with my trainer:
"That looked awesome! You look so confident!" Yeah, faking it.
"Great lead change!" Yay! But I didn't ask for it...

 

I've also been busy taking care of my half lease, Mikey, who I can't ride because he's got so many damn ouchies. I really don't know a whole lot about equine first aid, but I don't think it's kind to ride if the horse is in pain. I'm pretty sure he's got some proud flesh developing around his bed sores.
And of course, Mikey's owner went out of town this weekend [and only thought to tell me the day before] so I'm stuck driving out to the barn every day to feed him and treat his ouchies.
And yesterday, I also got a nice little reminder that horses are strong and very large animals, and need to be treated as such. Mikey is super gentle, but as I was removing his vet wrap yesterday he gave the slightest flinch and knocked his knee on my face which I would guess is about equivalent to a human haphazardly punching me. Luckily he got my cheekbone and not my eye socket, but still... just a little reminder that horses can fuck you up at their slightest effort.
See the wounds in question below.

Lesson Barn Reviews

Barn 1

I think I took my first riding lesson ever at Barn 1 (when I was like 5) and I rode there on and off all the way up until 10 years ago. And damn, I forgot about the luxury.

All the horses, besides being fantastically expensive, are so friendly and well taken care of. I got to ride a really nice IHSA mare, and it's really unfair to compare her to Mikey, but she was a really nice horse just incredibly balanced, responded to all my aids even though I suck, put up with my lack of jumping ability. The lesson went pretty damn well and I even got to jump a tiny course, though I'm sure it wasn't pretty. Because there are so many horses there, they had like eight that I could possibly half lease. But the trainer that gave me my lesson didn't know any exact prices as they would all range based on the horse price. I'm pretty sure if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it. They do have a surprisingly cheap lesson package though, cheap being price per lesson, but you have to buy in bulk and use all the lessons in one month. I would love to ride at this barn as I like 1) luxury, the setting is great 2) fancy things, aka the horses and 3) lessons would mean that someone is always around when I'm riding, as opposed to leasing.

They also have pastures for horses which I'm thinking would be great for when I *eventually get my own horse, but that's probably thinking way too far ahead.

Barn 2

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I didn't think it would be so hard to choose a barn, but I'm pretty torn. I had a Saturday morning lesson and I forgot about the glory of being at a busy barn on a weekend morning. The trainer that I rode on and off with when I was young was the other trainer at the barn though and so that was pretty damn awkward. I rode a potential lease horse whose this gorgeous ex grand prix horse and was about 17.2, so a moose. And I have a feeling I won't get a better workout anywhere else, I've never felt so weak! He's a great jumper or eq horse, which is kind of exactly what I wanted to do. Puts up with rider mistakes when jumping, which is exactly what I need. I'm kinda smitten.

Also, the trainer at Barn 2 kicked my butt in the lesson and critiqued my eq so much, which I need! I'm totally confident in him helping me become a better rider, as opposed to other trainers who might just be interested in working with bringing along horses.

 

Because I am so torn, I'm going to bring my husband to a lesson at each barn to help me decide. I was going to try two more barns in the area but at this point I feel like it would cloud my judgment too much and I would end up making an emotional decision (but I probably am anyway).

Also, Mikey's SmartPak order arrived, so I'll be taking out his goodbye gifts tonight. Giving them to him early because he kind of needs them, poor thing. Pictures to follow.