Big thank you to Manfriend for using my camera to sneak some super sweet shots of Francis and I at the show! The pro pics are nice and all, but it was awesome having my own paparazzi.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m on show hiatus for the winter. This time I actually mean it. Mama’s gotta eat and those show bills are starting to interfere with that.
I’ve got some plans for my somewhat-relaxed budget: gonna pay off some bills, build up some savings for
a new car next show season (why even lie to myself), and generally improve my financial health.
But all that’s boring! I wanna buy stuff! I’m building my list of what Frankie could use first and then what I could use and I’d love your help. I’ll outline generally what I’m looking for, and I hope that you’ll comment with any suggestions you have for any and all items.
A new bridle. Not looking for any bells and whistles- Frankie goes in a plain snaffle and has a very sweet face so we don’t like to distract from that. Looking for good quality and durability above all else and something that will look good in the show ring.
Saddle pads. I have 3 in rotation which works, but it would be nice to expand my collection. Looking for all-purpose style, don’t need anything fancy, customization would be a plus (makes it easier to sort through the laundry).
Schooling girth. Something cheap, durable, easy to clean.
Show cooler. I have a GORGEOUS wool cooler….that has my old trainer’s name on it. Womp womp. Would love to find something in barn colors (navy and red) that I could potentially get embroidered.
Quarter sheet. Self-explanatory; help keep homeboy’s bum warm in the depths of winter.
Brushes. We use the communal barn brushes with zero issues, but it would be lovely to get some just for my main man.
Show coat. I am in love with my hunter green one, but am feeling the need for a second- the smell starts to build by the second or third day of the show. Looking for something on the cheaper side that comes in long sizes, flexible on color.
Breeches. I am just obsessed and want all the breeches all the time. Looking for something that fits exactly like TS Trophy Hunters with a smaller price tag. And fun colors.
Belts. I have my two from Hunt Club that I LOVE LOVE LOVE, but always looking to expand the collection.
There you have it! Do you have an opinion or suggestions on any of these? Frankie (and I) thank you for your help in crafting our letter to Santa this year ❤
Francis and I had our first private lesson together with Trainer this week. I’ve been so excited for this- more individual attention means more progress. I knew it would be hard work, but figured that we’ve been rocking it lately and just came off a great show. How bad could it be?
Spoiler alert: SO HARD. SO FREAKIN’ HARD.
I should have known from the very first moment of the lesson. I had been trotting around to limber up a little when the clock chimed 6, the lesson officially began, and Trainer turned to me and said, “OK now drop your stirrups.”
Clearly we will be wasting NO time getting down to business.
At the trot we experimented with having my hands go super wide, which helped keep Frankie steadier in the contact. As I get stronger and he gets more familiar we can bring my hands closer together, but this was a really great exercise to use on different sized circles. I was not allowed to have lopsided hands- they had to remain the same distance from his neck. Circling required steady inside leg to encourage the bend, outside leg to get his body in line, outside rein to channel the energy, and inside rein to soften. No pulling or kicking, just steady pressure and squeezing that energy up in front of me.
We also did lots of extension-collection work insisting on a prompt response to my cues. The collected work was not allowed to be weak- he had to remain round and bouncy and energetic. And in the extended work he could not run around with his nose poking out and his balance over his front end. He had to be pushing up into the bridle. Holy half-halt core work Batman.
As we moved up into our canter work, we decided to try something new: the driving rein. I honestly didn’t even know what this was until quite recently, so I told my trainer she was lucky I googled this last month. Perfect timing. For those of you who may not know the difference, here it is:
It feels like you’re giving the reins a handshake.
Um. Wow. MAJOR DIFFERENCE. Trainer had me do this to break some muscle memory and build new habits and WOW. Our canter departs were cleaner, he rocked and rounded into my hand more softly, our circles were rounder, and I got the tightest circle out of him that we’ve ever gotten. He basically sat back and turned on a dime for me.
His increased fitness and training rides over the last month have a lot to do with this, but I think my balance and communication was that much more straightforward with the driving rein.
We did a lot of canter-trot-canter transitions all over the ring and managed to get the lead every time. I have a weird thing where I tend to block him picking up the right lead, but NOT WITH THE DRIVING REIN I DON’T. RIGHT LEAD EVERY TIME BISHES.
So basically I was feeling magical floaty unicorn hooray for the driving rein I love this forever. And also wheezing and panting but that’s not important to focus on.
After taking a brief walk break to wheeze a little less, we trotted a few small jumps to get our muscles moving and then it was time to weeeeeerk. THE MAGICAL FLOATY UNICORN FEELING DID NOT LAST OMG.
Our first exercise was bending oxer to oxer in a shaped but forward five strides. I was required to keep using the driving rein and auto-release over the jump.
Turns out that when I have no neck to press into, I do a couple really fun things: jump up over the pommel of my saddle, straighten my knee back like superman, my hands go all sorts of different directions, and I roach back into my saddle like a sack of flour.
You know, exactly how you’re supposed to look.
So yeah struggle bus right there. So what do you do when a certain exercise is giving you trouble? That’s right. You move on to another HARDER EXERCISE.
Turns out I not only suck at jumping, I suck at steering. Almost turned right after D before swerving to the left, and straight up did a flyby on G because I couldn’t get back act together to steer. ALL WRONG IT’S ALL SO WRONG. We went back and at least managed to steer a teensy bit.
So we decided to just glue it all together and do this: bending A to B in 5, roll back over C turning across the ring to D, turn left, go around everything, then long approach down to E.
Still messy, still gross, but it had some redeeming moments. The first bending line was still a freak show. But we got our mojo a bit more coming around to C and the rest at least had a decent flow.
So, yeah. We didn’t end this lesson with some crazy breakthrough or wild improvement. We have LOTS of homework and strength building to do. It was really humbling to go in there and basically mush through every exercise in such a mediocre way.
This is what’s going to make us better though! If we practice the way we’ve always practiced, we’ll perform the way we’ve always performed. It’s going to be really hard and probably frustrating at times. That’s OK. I don’t just ride for the easy days- I ride to be a better rider. This is what’s going to help make that happen.
From now until eternity, I am not allowed to touch Frankie’s neck while jumping. It’s driving rein and auto-release until I am told differently, which likely won’t be for at least several months. Time to lean in and embrace the sore abs.
What are your opinions on using a driving rein? Have you found it helpful to switch things up?
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.