Phew. Last show of the season is in the books. And I can’t tell you how depressed I am to say “last show of the season” because y’all know that shows are my actual favorite things on the planet.
For realz. Rain and mud and early wakeup times and porta-potties and no sleep and sweat and all that included. A bad day at a horse show is still better in my book than just about any other day. I love the competitive spirit, I love the camaraderie with my barn, I love the people I meet there. I would show every single weekend if I had a) the money and b) a string of horses to rotate through.
Anywho, on to the actual show recap instead of just moaning about “but I wannnnaaaaaa.”
Frankie headed to the show on Thursday morning and got a short training ride- Trainer said “he was perfect.” Obviously. And then she sent me this adorable picture of him settling into his stall:
Friday morning dawned wet. I won’t say raining because there were no actual droplets, but it was misting all. Day. Long. The air was wet. Paper was shredding. The ground was soggy. It was gross.
I showed up at the show around 8am Friday morning to get myself settled in and learn my 0.90m course, as follows:
I did like this course- the only turn that came up quickly was the rollback from 9 to 10 in the speed phase. Despite a bit of sloppiness on my part, we went double clear! The footing was a sloppy soupy mess full of puddles which was backing a lot of horses off- the times were slower and more people seemed to be going clean than usual. My guess is that a lot of horses were like EW GROSS PUDDLES MUST FLY but Frankie was more like, “All footing is good footing, friend,” and continued on his merry way.
This was definitely a warmup class though- I didn’t ride actively enough and Frankie had to bail me out on several occasions. My trainer was shouting across the ring, “LEFT LEG MORE,” and “IT MAKES ME NERVOUS WHEN YOU RIDE LIKE THIS,” and other fun little slogans. Honestly I love that the jumper ring allows this, her voice on course is often the kick in the pants I need.
Frankie got a decent break back in his stall to dry out (JK LOL no one was ever dry) before our first Low class, here:
This rode much better, mostly because I actually showed up and rode instead of just steering. The format of this round was if you went clear first round, you take a breather and then continue on to the jumpoff. I went clear and came back to a walk and just stared at my trainer while she signaled “YES STAY IN THE RING YOU HAVE A JUMPOFF.” Cut me some slack, I’m still learning the difference between the stay-in-the-ring buzzer and the leave-immediately buzzer. They seem similar to me.
Anywho, another jumpoff with good time. I did get a little lost and didn’t make the prettiest turn to 3 in the jumpoff which gave us a rail, but overall I was muuuuch happier with this course than the 0.90m. It just felt a little cleaner and more organized.
Frankie got to relax after this while I cheered on our other riders and attempted to get some of the mud off my tack, my boots, my helmet, my eyebrows, and every other crevice. You read that right- there were mud splatters on my helmet. It was as gross and icky feeling as you imagine.
On to Saturday! Still damp but that maddening mist had died down some. Manfriend and his momma came out to see what this whole show thing is all about and it was SO AWESOME to have them there. Neither of them had ever been to a big show like HITS so getting to explain how everything works was super fun. Frankie was soaking up the extra attention from Manfriend’s mom like a sponge- he has a new best friend.
We just did one class on Saturday, seen here:
I needed to look sooner from 2 to 3, and then look sooner around the turn to 4ab. Overall I just needed to look sooner for my turns. This was another really fun one though. The striding came up pretty well and there were lots of options to make up time. We decided to slice jump 12 and go inside to jump 13 instead of going around 7 and that definitely paid off- we went clean all the way around and when we left the ring, we were class leaders! Two others ended up beating our time which edged us down to 3rd, but holy moly! Just goes to show you that Trainer is right- we don’t have to be the fastest horse in the ring to make good time, we just have to be efficient with our turns and come up with a strategy to make up time. Getting a primary color ribbon felt HUGE.
Then Sunday- finally a leeeettle bit less wet. The schedule was a little weird- they had a power and speed class for the Lows, a speed class, and then the Low classic. I really don’t like doing more than 2 classes in a single day with Frankie, so I knew I had to make a choice. I DEFINITELY wanted to do the classic (my whites are lucky, I swear), so I opted to skip the speed class. We are not super speedy anyways.
So first was our power and speed:
I really liked how all the distances were set here- you really had a lot of options from 4-5, 9-10, and 12-13 depending on how you rode in. The turn to the combo 6ab on the end required you to really get straight out of the corner, but Frankie was quite happy to scoot on through. That turn around to 11 came up decently, but I didn’t support enough with my leg which gave us a rail. Overall- not bad! This got us 7th.
And then Classic time. AKA my favorite time. I don’t know why I love classics so much, but I think the added pressure and the pretty whites have something to do with it. We had a pretty brief warmup for this- our warmups tend to get a little bit shorter on Sunday since Frankie is more tired and we’re already mentally in it. I’ll still flat the same amount, but we’ll only do a couple jumps to get our pace.
Here’s our classic course:
Very similar lines and turns to our power and speed earlier in the day. The format was II.2.a, meaning we would do our course and then leave the ring, and they would call back anyone who went clear to do the jumpoff. And whatdya know, we went clear! The turn around to 5 came up even nicer than before and I was able to power across. Overall I felt like I overrode this course a bit, but that’s what Frankie needed. Our energy level always needs to be at 100%, but that isn’t always 50%-50%. By the time Sunday rolls around, I need to pick up some slack and create some of that energy. So yes it was a little aggressively overridden, but that was the right choice for the horse I had under me. Trainer said he had his little ears perked up the whole time and looked like he was having fun. We love it!
So then I went back in for my jumpoff- I got a little sloppy in the turn from 2 to 3 which cost a rail, but the rest came up really nicely and we were able to gallop out of stride out over 13 at the end.
Honestly I was so thrilled with Frankie- he felt fit, energetic, he was rarin’ to go when he heard the buzzer, came right back to a trot on the buckle to leave the ring, and was generally such a pleasure to ride. And my super awesome pony was fast enough to get us 3rd!!!
I was actually tearing up. My hope is always to go out there and give my horse a good ride, so to get a big fancy ribbon for that was such sweet icing on the cake.
Overall thoughts: this past month of training was fantastic. Frankie consistently used his body better over the jumps, jumped cleaner, and felt more fit and energetic. And I felt more fit and active up top too. I would love to keep Frankie in training if I could afford it- definitely will be doing this as a tune-up when we start next season.
One show goal I had was to make it to every jumpoff. I don’t like setting goals like “get 3 blue ribbons” because that depends on other people, and I can’t control that. But making it to every jumpoff was something that my horse and I could work on, and was definitely a stretch goal. We didn’t make it to any our first show, and we only made it to one last time. But we met my goal: we made it to every single jumpoff. This was our real victory- the ribbons are WONDERFUL and I’m so proud of them, but this concrete measure of improvement is what I’m the most proud of.
My trainer told me later that it really looked like I knew what I was doing in there. I joked that I’m faking it better and better, but it did feel like I knew what I was doing. Six months and three shows later, I can very proudly say that Frankie and I are real competitors in our division.
And in case you didn’t get this from the EVERYTHING I SAID, Francis was an absolute prince. Easy to handle, a pleasure to ride, consistent, calm, and straight up fun. He earned himself lots of rolling in the mud and a day to rest.
Today is our first private lesson as we move into winter training mode, and I can’t WAIT to share our adventures as we buckle down and prepare for our big move-up next year. It’s gonna be great.