Riding Update

Hey Friends!

I have been super MIA (life has been very hectic), but I thought it was time for a short update and an accompanying promise* to update my blog more!

Pluto has been doing great! We’ve been showing, and he’s been really pulling his weight. Also, his birthday was last week and he turned 10 (where did the time go?!)!

Such a party animal

I–on the other hand–had been feeling a bit out of sync at shows. We were putting in nice trips, but we were definitely not as smooth or consistent as we usually are. Then I got a bit anxious that we weren’t performing at our best (even at home), and I started doing this thing where I would see a distance and make a desperate change to make it happen, which was not cute.

Last week, I had a lesson, and Katie literally said “knock it off,” and somehow I did. I told my mom that I felt like I just snapped out of it. We showed this weekend, and we were back to normal (Video below)! YAY!

We have two shows in the coming weeks and then our next show is in flux, as they changed one of the shows on the schedule (and I’m not always what you might call “flexible”).

I’ve also been spending a lot of time working on our podcast, Amateur Hour. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you already listen, but if not, I definitely encourage you to check it out. I’m a smidge biased, but I think it’s really good and very funny!

XOXO
Gossip Girl
Claire

*There’s a very real chance this promise will be broken…

Valentine’s Day Poems

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I truly cannot find words to describe how much I love Pluto and how thankful I am for him. But Kelly from Hunky Hanoverian inspired me to try, so for your viewing pleasure, here are poems I just wrote for Pluto!

An Ode to Pluto
Pluto is my favorite horse
(He and AC too of course)
He is big, beautiful, and grey
Loves eating carrots, grain, and hay
He always takes good care of me
Even when a distance I do not see
I’m thankful for this sweetest boy
Every day with him is such a joy

 

A Pluto Limerick-ish Poem
There once was a horse name of Pluto
He had four and not two toe(s)
He was sweet and so kind
No better horse you will find
I’d rather have him than a chateau

 

A guest submission from Taylor (The East Coast Equestrian):
Pluto the pony (but really a horse)
Is the best at jumping a hunter course
He’s big, beautiful and dapple grey
And the best part of every day

 

A guest submission from Connie (Connie in Colorado)
Unicorns sometimes come in shades of grey
This one is not red, or green, or blue
When he jumps, he moves in such a way
That you know he’s a unicorn through and through.

 

A guest submission from Byron (my dad/ Byron Taylor Studio)
I have a horse,
His shade is gray.
I like to ride him every day.
He’s big, of course,
he eats his hay.
Now I have nothing more to say.

Very Short Riding Update

As you may remember, Pluto had been taking a break and we’d been doing only flatwork for about a month. We added small jumps (a crossrail in-and-out in one lesson and an 18″ line in the next ) two weeks ago, but last week it was snowy and 10° so the horses only got handwalked for the week. We were able to hack and do poles over the weekend.

It was 70° yesterday (because it’s normal to have a 60° change in temperature in just a couple days and not a worrisome symptom of climate change), and I have a riding lesson today. The break has been really great for Pluto, and he feels so good! He’s really enjoying all of the stretching work.

This was kind of a rambling update, so here’s a cute picture of Pluto for your time:

Finding Distances

Pluto is taking a little winter break and spent the last month just flatting. Last week, we added some small jumps back in and worked on being smooth and light over the jumps, which got me thinking about distances. I thought it would be interesting to write about my struggles (and strategies (?)) for finding distances, because I still miss a lot and am definitely not an authority. So here is one person’s ideas in their quest to miss their distances less.

Lady, it is too cold for this tomfoolery!

If you know me in real life or follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I am the chocolate chip queen! I am so talented at chipping that sometimes it will look like the distance is there to everyone, but Pluto and I will find a way to put in that tiny step.

When I’m riding, I often get so consumed with finding my distances that I ride backward and can’t find any jumps. I either chip, pull to add a step, or take desperate fliers. Thinking about my spots completely sabotages my ability to find a distance.

So what do I do?

I still chip a lot. This is definitely one of my biggest ongoing struggles and will possibly always be hard for me. I am a perfectionist, and being a perfectionist as a rider just sets me up for failure.

However, the Katies tell me the same thing every lesson, and I have found that it is completely true: when I concentrate on my medium-speed, good quality canter, it gives me options, so I can make a variety of distances work. We may not always get to the perfect spot, but we have the balance and pace to get a better jump even if we’re a little off.

I love to do exercises to sharpen my eye. The Katies set up exercises with rails and small jumps–often in turns or where we change the striding–that really help to sharpen my eye. The other things I like to do are canter flower boxes and poles on the ground, although I am mostly still working on my good canter when I do them. Anne Kursinski has a great progressive counting exercise that I like to do and I definitely recommend.

Distances become such a “thing” for me, which is silly, because of the 2 minutes used for jumping a course, only 16-24 seconds are in the air. Flatwork is what makes all the difference in my riding.

Refilling my Cup

I wrote this post for Herd of Zebras, which is a brand that I absolutely love! You should definitely check them out.

The summer of my final junior year before I went away for college, I was a working student for a trainer who I had only met a handful of times. The barn was much larger and fancier than the ones I had grown up riding at, and I just knew this was the herd that I wanted to be part of. I was thrilled about the opportunity to improve my riding so drastically and spend so much uninterrupted time with my junior hunter/ Big Eq horse, AC. The trainer was known to be harsh about weight and I was slightly heavier than what I would have preferred. However, my horse and I were completely in sync and a great team, so I left without hesitation to live and ride with complete strangers hundreds of miles from my home.

 

When I left, I saw myself as a very strong adult—I had turned 18 in March so I could vote and smoke if I wanted to (but I wasn’t actually interested in either). Looking back, I was just a kid and wasn’t equipped to handle the unending criticism about my riding, the constant tracking and commenting on my food and weight, and the hourly reminders to do extra exercise. In addition to the physical exhaustion from working so hard, I was emotionally exhausted and completed worn thin. I left that farm feeling worried that horses weren’t for me, since I couldn’t even handle what I was sure was a normal amount of criticism. If my confidence had been a cup, there would have been about one drop of water left in it (or Diet Coke, because I drank a lot of Diet Coke back then…). 

 

For the next four years, riding did not hold the same joy for me that it had. Even when I was elected captain of the Vassar College equestrian team, I felt unworthy to ride and self-conscious about my riding abilities. When I graduated from college, I again moved hundreds of miles from anyone I knew. I found a barn through my friend and showed up with my fairly untrained jumper, Bucky, to ride with my new trainer, Laura.

 

In my first lesson, Laura set up a line of poles on the ground and had me canter through them doing the strides, then adding, and then leaving a stride out. Aside from giving directions, the first thing she ever said to me was, “Ok, so you can ride.” It was the first drop of water in my cup in almost four years. 

 

I rode with Laura for about five years and no matter what I did, she always had a kind word or a joke. Even when I was riding horribly and she needed to give me a lot of constructive criticism (I remember a lesson where she said “sit down” to me every single stride of every course), she always found something positive to say (“You never sat down, but I liked how you never fell off either.”). Probably my all-time favorite memory of Laura was my first show with a new horse I was leasing. I was so nervous walking into the ring that I didn’t notice the rain had caused a small ditch to form. The horse jumped sideways to avoid it, and I almost fell off. Instead of yelling at me for not paying attention or berating me for being a passenger and not a rider, Laura began to laugh and said, “The buzzer hasn’t gone off, so if you fall off we can throw you back on.”

 

Little by little, Laura refilled my cup. I had confidence again, my riding improved tremendously, and, most importantly, I recaptured my love of riding. I am forever grateful that Laura was part of my herd and taught me about the type of person I should have been running with all along.

New Years Resolutions

I meant to write this post before 2019, but somehow it’s already 2019. I’m in such disbelief that I’m still writing 2018 on everything (although, to be fair, I tend to do that until around September…).

Here’s a pretty picture of Pluto for no reason

When I have any life transition, I try to become a person who snacks on carrots (and engages in similar behaviors). However, I’m in my early thirties and baby carrots still weirdly give me the hiccups, so I’ve finally given up on that. I’ve found I do better when I have clear goals, so I am better able to make a plan to meet them. I like to think of resolutions as behaviors you plan to modify in order to meet your goals. For 2019, my goals are:

  1. Get more consistent and confident in the show ring (consistently use my good canter and have soft hands)
  2. Qualify for a year end finals (hopefully at one or both of the Indoors show 🤞)
  3. Always be mentally present when I’m with my daughter (which has been my “goals”/ something I’ve been mindful of every day since she was born)
Side eye at the idea of me actually becoming a carrot person

To meet those goals, I made the following resolutions:

  1. Be healthier by drinking more water, going vegetarian/ eating only plant based meals 2 times a week, and going to the gym 2-3 times a week
  2. Be on my phone less
  3. Develop better mental skills for showing

Wish me luck that these resolutions won’t go the way of carrot snacks! Tell me about your resolutions in the comments

Lesson 1/5/19

I had my first lesson of 2019 yesterday, because we had been in NC at Great Wold Lodge! I had missed quite a few sessions at work for the holidays, so Friday I did some make ups and went out to hack Pluto in the evening. Turns out, bro hates getting ridden after dinner (which I’ve long suspected), because he was horrible!

On Saturday, I had an 8 am lesson that was so early that I had to leave my house in the dark. IN THE DARK! But, Pluto was great! We did basic flat work then jumped two jumps on a circle (both ways), which Pluto handled very well. We then did a course where we serpentined three jumps then did some hunter lines and a single, and I don’t know how many times I can say this before it gets totally redundant, but Pluto was great!

We followed that by doing a hunter course to prepare for the show next week. Pluto got a bit strong but was jumping great. We ended by halting and then softly cantering the four stride (not videoed). Before the lesson, I was on the fence about showing next weekend, but I was so happy with our lesson that I decided to do the show. As you know if you follow this blog, we’ve hardly jumped in a month, so wish us luck because we’ll need it!