Our first show is in the books! Before I dive into a detailed day-by-day recap, let me just share a few overall thoughts:
It takes a village. I had two incredible trainers, a team of barn hands helping me get where I needed to be with Frankie when we needed to be there, a great show team to cheer each other on, the best show mom and show godmom, and countless other people that offered encouragement and support throughout the weekend. Thank you doesn’t quite cut it for these amazing people, but I’ll say it anyways: thank you.
I’ve been on the verge of tears for several days now. Don’t be worried, they’re happy tears! I’m just overwhelmed at just how amazing my boy is. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than my Francis, and I love him more and more every day. He’s everything I could’ve hoped for and more.
On to the recap!
After just baaaarely making it until noon at the office, I sped over to the showgrounds to check in with my pony and see what the plan was. Trainer had ridden him the previous day when he arrived and said he was a perfect gentleman- there was no need for her to hop on again. We had a mini-lesson in first the jumper warm-up ring, then the Salem hunter warm-up ring, then the hunter 2 warm-up ring. Basically we tried to go where the ring was most clear to give the competitors right of way. We didn’t jack the jumps up too big, just popped over and did a few exercises with rollbacks, slices, blah blah blah. Francis was a dream! Despite tractors dragging rings, water trucks, ponies going up his butt, and the general hubbub of shows, he didn’t blink an eye or take a single wrong step. He got a nice bath and a walk before being put away.
First competition day! We had signed up for the open 0.90m class early in the day to get our feet wet, and then the open 1.0m class to test the waters before our official division at that height. It was an excellent plan.
You know what they say about best laid plans?
Yeah. They moved the 0.80m and 0.90m classes to a separate ring in order to keep things moving- a fantastic idea. But that meant that my 1.0m class ran before my 0.90m class. Because gradually moving up SOUNDED TOO TAME.
So Frankie’s and my very first class together at our very first show was also at a new height in the GP ring. And it was the Hot Mess Express. Like, someone build a bronze bust of Francis because he deserves a shrine in his honor. Let me back it up.
We walked the course with my trainer and the jumps looked HUGE. Like, OMG WTF LOL. I saw them measuring the jumps and you know what that means- they were at max height. Deep breaths. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never actually done a FULL course at that height. Or that he’s never shown before. Or that this is our first show. Or that maybe I should be doing Short Stirrup instead.
Definitely the attitude you want to go in with, right?
The first jump came up beautifully, and I let out this deep breath and said hooray! This is so easy! I don’t actually have to do anything! Frankie totally got this!
And I abandoned my pony to his own devices.
And this is where he earns that bronze statuette- he went around that course and tried his very best to cart my butt around despite ZERO input from the lady upstairs. It never crossed his mind to stop, even when he really should have. I would not have blamed him.
This pic right here?
There’s a reason he’s jumping 2′ above the rails. It’s because the first time we attempted that jump (it was part of a combo), I basically crashed him through it. And he was like HELL NO THAT SUCKED LET’S NOT TOUCH ANY RAILS and finished up the course pretending it was 1.20m. Because he is too pure for this world and wants so badly to do a good job.
I came out of that ring to a puzzled look from my trainer asking what the hell that was. Vacant was the word we came up with. My trainer kinda lit the fire then and I’m grateful- one of the many reasons I ride with her is because she doesn’t sugarcoat bad rides. My mommy and daddy can pat me on the back and tell me “good job,” but my trainer is there to help me improve. Her criticism was constructive and we came up with a plan for our next round.
Next was the 0.90m. This was just to be a confidence-builder after the Scrambled Egg Breakfast Special that went on earlier. We both took a breather before it ran, and when we walked it we decided that I was going to aim for time-faults. Because let’s be real- Frankie doesn’t get time faults. I’m pretty sure we could trot the whole course and still make time allowed. This was more of a mental technique to slow myself down and BE DELIBERATE. As in, actually make choices on course and adjust as different things happen instead of playing elevator music and saying YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN YOUNG ONE to my horse.
This did go better. We had one rail and the combo was still a bit messy (homeboy trotted out because HE IS TOO PURE FOR THIS WORLD) but overall it was an improvement, and that was what we were going for. When we debriefed afterwards, we agreed that combos have to be our focus moving forward- he likely hasn’t had a ton of exposure to them and I had just given him two crappy experiences through them. We need to teach him that we love combos and want to jump them strongly and power through.
So day 1 was a bit of a mess, but it ended on a better note than it started. Which is the goal!
First day of our division- the 1.0m Low Adult Jumpers. This was better!
I took Frankie for a short hack in the morning to get his muscles stretched out and let him check out the day. He was lovely again- a little sluggish at first, but he woke right up and gave me some excellent flat work in a very busy ring.
We then had a little break before walking the course. We brought a bunch of the kiddos to teach them how to accurately walk striding, so we had one of the biggest contingents in the ring.
Then it was time to go back to the barn and get tacked up!
When we were officially warming up for our class, it still took longer than it should have for me to get my head in the game and RIDE. I was still kinda letting him pick the spot and didn’t leg across the jump. It’s not that the distances were bad, I just wasn’t helping my horse out. Again. After my trainer yelling out, “MANAGE THE POTATO,” I got my ass in gear and rode my horse. Yes, she literally said that. She knows that I call it potato-brain when I mess up. New favorite phrase: manage the potato.
But we went into the ring after a couple good jumps in the warmup. Overall? This still wasn’t a perfect course by any stretch of the imagination. We had some bad spots. BUT. We got the bad spots because I was riding to the bad spots.
Wait, what? Why are we pleased about this?
Because it means that I was RIDING! Yes, I was riding poorly, but at least I was doing something. The height was less intimidating than the day before, I knew that I needed to give my horse more oomph off the ground, and while a rail kept us out of the jumpoff, I was thrilled that we managed to fix a bunch of the mistakes from the previous day.
Frankie got tons of hugs and kisses and scratches and a nice bath.
I got to see Jen from A Year in the Saddle take her girl Cally in the side-saddle classes!
Dudes, go watch side saddle sometime. It’s so intense. It’s even better when you can cheer someone on and they exclaim, “OH MY GOD WE DID IT” after jumping the line. Have I mentioned lately how much I love horse bloggers??
And since this is already a monster post, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a recap on the rest weekend!