The Game Plan, Part 1

People don’t tend to see me as a very… laissez faire person. My anxiety gets in the way of that. So do my depression and my social anxiety. Oh and let’s not forget the ADD! The biggest of eye rolls at you, brain chemistry. Sometimes my mood can be a little unpredictable. I go through phases of intense focus where I want to do my readings for the whole week of school, and then I quickly fluctuate to deep hibernation where even the very thought of showering makes me feel like I ran a 5k.

This is combated in a variety of ways. Medications, therapy, planning every minute of my day are all helpful tools in the tool belt of my sometimes-backward working mind. However, the biggest motivating factor for me specifically is staying goal oriented; working through the crap storm in order to achieve a goal I set for myself.

Spoiler - riding is no different. All of this is my round about way of saying a lot of people have asked about my goals for Joy, her future foal, Apple, school, etc. SO. Here’s your insight into the past year, 2017. Next, comes a three year plan, aren’t you excited? This will likely answer everyone’s questions and MORE! Hope you enjoy a look into my mind – it’s a chaotic, scary place. Good luck.

2017 was the year of goals. Debut the Pre St. George, move away from my apartment to horse property, breed Joy and manage her maiden pregnancy, get accepted to some law school, and unexpectedly, wedding plan. With some help from my family, I was able to move Joy to a boarding facility at the beginning of January so we could begin working with a trainer weekly (something we’ve never, ever done), and have access to all weather facilities. Erin had let me board Joy with Maria and Houdini for a majority of 2016, and in anticipation for the rest of the year, Apple took her place in pestering Erin for food 24/7.

January: Conditioning

  • Time to settle into our new home for the upcoming nine months and get both our rears into shape. With access to a gallop track, we started going out 3x a week for gallop sets before breakfast, light stretches later that same evening, and lots of hills. A trend we continued through April until the oppressive humidity began to drown us in sweat. I learned my legs were not as fit as I thought and that Joy reallllly likes to channel her racing TB side. Jumping would play a huge part in conditioning as well.

  • Went to a clinic with Alfredo Hernandez and played with piaffe/passage. He got bitten. I warned him. It was a fascinating experience, but I’m glad he was respectful of my boundaries with Joy.

February: Lessons

  • Despite our semi-success, Joy and I had never been in a lesson program. We began working with a great trainer who came to the barn once a week. He of course knew Joy as “that red mare who likes to buck,” but despite her reputation, he took us on. We got to know each other and slated a 4th level show for April.

  • All my law school applications went out. It was a nightmare. Glad that’s done forever.

  • Stallion picking up in the air. I was indecisive. A lot of my Google searched were about semen morphology and post-thaw motility. It was a weird month.

  • Got engaged???

March: Mare wellness & praying in the changes

  • More standard length days meant the normalizing of estrous cycles, aka heat cycles. The first step to breeding responsibly was to make sure we had a healthy oven to bake a bun in. Never have I ever been so happy to see her squat at a gelding. Off to the repro vet we went for a check up and she got a couple days off. Condition was coming along nicely. Mares, especially maidens, need to be a little more “fleshy” when trying to breed, and Joy was starting to look like a well-kept hunter!

  • Could not keep her shoes on, even with controlled turn out. It was a nightmare.

  • Entered for our final 4th level score. We had attempted 4-3 in the fall and somehow made it through with a 60% (how, I’ll never know), but now we decided for a low-key weekend of 4-1 both days. Mainly because we were having trouble counting changes… I was in very little control.

  • Decided on a stallion and placed an order!

April: Conquered 4th level

  • Saturday of our spring show went about as well as we hoped. There were some Joy moments where she spooked in corners she’d been through plenty of times. 65.27% was a great success, as we were still working out the kinks with extended trot and straightness in the “extra collected canter” circle. Came away 4th level high point for the day!

  • Sunday was less of success! A monsoon came through, knocking out the power in the arena lights, storming winds, and an eerie green light. While handled better than some horses, there were obvious errors because of tension and maybe my inability to see the letters. 61.2% for second place and one score more than needed towards our USDF silver.

  • I traveled to Los Angeles and Rolex so Joy got a few weeks off after this show. Light work and all fun stuff. You might remember my "taking some time off" post. Light work is better than inconistent work. Mainly we were waiting for her to cycle, which she did, and we missed ovulation by likely an hour. Back to work she went.

May: Half step heaven

  • Focused on strengthening J’s hind end for better and more consistent trot work. So many half step transitions to medium trot to collected trot to extended trot and back to half steps. In hand, under saddle, on the track, in the arena. Adjustability began to come and so did equal weight in the contact.

  • Three day stay at the vet to get bred! Supposed conception date is likely the 10th, but boy was she fighting to hold on to that follicle. 50mm before ovulation with drugs on board.

  • Was accepted into my law school on a scholarship and didn’t have to worry anymore that no one wanted me!

  • Light work to keep her comfortable and sane until we got confirmation on the 26th of a black dot! One of the hardest secrets I've kept from y'all. The most exciting thing that had ever happened once we got that ultrasound!

June: Pregnant PSG Prep

  • Signed away my life and entered into our first FEI show at PSG in July. My trainer had more confidence in us than I did, mainly because I was concerned I would vomit on centerline. My beautiful first set of tails came in and I was smitten. I bought a wedding dress and a shad belly within two weeks of each other. A serious grown up wake up call.

  • Heartbeat day came the day before my birthday and we saw baby Fbomb happily growing and beating away, double in size since the month before. We were cleared after the one-month mark to travel and show as long as we made sure to keep her properly vaccinated and comfortable.

  • Trot work was coming around. It was hot, sweaty, deeply unpleasant work for us both, but the results were beginning to show with Joy being able to hold a proper extended trot for a few more steps at a time and a newfound gear in collected trot.

July: We did it, sort of?

  • Learned some hard lessons about nerves – the first time I had been nervous is years - when cantering down centerline for our first FEI centerline. 58.1% on Saturday. There were obvious errors, including Joy suddenly forgetting about flying changes completely, so no 4x or 3x changes… But we made it through with good comments despite our greenness. I cried, disappointed for letting Joy down, but my Joy team helped prop me back up. I schooled Joy that evening and we had a delightful ride.

  • 62.7% on Sunday, even with no tempi changes! So much more successful, calm, and confident. It was a proud moment of wholeness. I thanked 2-month-old Fbomb for settling Joy’s temper enough to manage my nerves. Wearing a shadbelly was incredible! We came home, knowing our weak points even more.

  • Fiancé and I found a horsey property to rent and we moved!

August: Back to basics, literally

  • Another entry sent in for our last ditch attempt at PSG silver medal scores in September. Trainer broke down our weaknesses and we started putting in serious grunt work into consistent trot work and correct changes.

  • No more rails allowed, no flying changes. Only work straight over the back, softness and connection into the connection, rocking power from 50/50 front and back to 25/75. I even began riding without a saddle, trying to correct my seat. It worked! Single changes started coming cleanly, I was learning more about how to impact her body positively. The heat was brutal, but we tried so hard to keep working.

  • Started law school. So hard. Everything was overwhelming.

September: Silver ’17 success!

  • The week before our last show, changes started piece together. We could do a line of 3, all clean, but the count wasn’t correct. I was learning and Joy was working with my deficit. Trainer stressed training rides over show rides; so if I couldn’t get the count, get the changes clean. Trot work was solid!!

  • Baby bump started showing and I was noticing a change in her energy. It was tough to continue hard work when I know she was feeling preggo. I tried to be overly empathetic.

  • 62.7% with an actual rider error. I turned the wrong direction… oops. -2 for me. We were USDF silver medalists! Much more confidant, comfortable, and honest in our work. We even got the changes with count and clean!

  • Final ride before moving Joy and Apple home. 60.5%. With the medal in the bag, we went and rode for fun, which means I let Joy take a little too much control. I couldn’t help it. It was such a moment of fulfillment and happiness.

October-December: settling in and Joy

  • No expectations or work necessary. We rode for fun and to keep J fit for carrying Fbomb. Even Apple went back into work. Previcox is an amazing thing. We explored, grazed, went swimming in our creek, and enjoyed the hell out of the excitement that was ponies outside my bedroom window. Then finals came and wrecked my life routine away. And Joy became even more injury prone. However, we made it through! Happy New Year! Onward to 2018 and more planning!

Belly progress: June - December

(ground tying is a valuable skill for progress pictures!)

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