Upperville: The Recap

Phew. Moved into the new apartment, had my first day at the new job, and now I need to tell you more about Upperville.

I had some pretty high hopes going into Upperville- not of the ribbon variety, but more just reeeeally wanting to go lay down some good rides in our division. I combined that drive for success with barely riding for two weeks prior to competing. Because that’s always how to get better at things, right? Completely wing it.

Except you forget the part where Francis is literally a unicorn pegasus hearts and flowers kind of horse that is way better to me than I deserve. Srsly.

Overall I was thrilled with our rounds- despite my lack of saddle time I think I made decent decisions and stuck to the plan, and Frankie was just so on top of things that he made up for any of my deficiencies.

On to the details.

I arrived on Saturday to the oh-so-familiar sight of Francis conserving his energy for the upcoming competition:

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Too tired to close his mouth.

Someone commented that the stalls seemed small and I just pulled this pic out and said: “17.1 horse. Stalls are fine.”

But I left him to his beauty sleep and went to learn my course with my trainer. By the time we got back to get ready for warmup he had roused himself (luckily, I had a BEAST of a time getting him up at Culpeper) and we were able to go get our muscles moving.

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The rule is that I’m responsible for listening to our trainer, and Frankie is responsible for finding the nearest camera to make cute faces at. (PC: A. Frye)

Weirdly enough, I’m almost more proud of our warmups than I am of our actual rounds. It’s always taken me a little while to get my head in the game and ask Frankie for some real work, but this time we set right to it and were making better choices much more quickly. I consider that a big step forward for us. And of course, he met this dedication with his own hard work:

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I swear he doesn’t even look like the same horse as last year. (PC: A. Frye)

We didn’t need a ton of time to get us going and it was pretty hot, so we opted to head into the ring without too much of a delay. Course here:

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I liked this course a lot!

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His first time in this ring, keeping an eye on things. (PC: A. Frye)
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Specifically, keeping an eye on the camera because he is a diva (PC: A. Frye)
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UGH MAHM FINE WE WILL GO JUMPS (PC: A. Frye)

We came up to jump 1 off a shorter turn on the right lead- we like to collect through the turn and then bounce up instead of taking a longer runway approach.

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And it paid off with this lovely effort. In love with those perfectly even back feet!

We stumbled a bit off 2 but recovered in time for 3, and just continued on to 4. The bending into the combo walked a little short and I ended up holding a bit too much- it was uphill and away from the gate so it didn’t ride as short as I anticipated. But Francis was a bro and powered out the one stride totally fine.

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Please ignore everything about me in the Superman position and focus on the cute horsie NOTHING TO SEE HERE EXCEPT MY HORSE (told you he’s better to me than I deserve) (PC: A. Frye)

6 to 7 was fine and all was clear, so we continued on to the speed phase.

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Aw buddy be cuter (PC: A. Frye)

I let him get up on 8 too much and knocked a rail, and then we knocked one of the rails in the combo, got a bit of a flyer out over 11, and then 12 to 13 was decent.

Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Did my horse listen like a champ and give me what I asked for every step of the way? Also absolutely. His first time in the ring, tons of activity, and he stayed tuned in to me the whole time. Even better- after going through the timers and finishing, he tried to veer left and pull me towards jump 3. He wanted to go jump more. While we were out of the ribbons, I finished in the top 50% of the class and with a happy horse who was loving his job. I consider that a definite show success!

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We also got to go cool down with these views, so not too shabby.

On to Sunday!

Sunday was brutally hot. Like, it sucked. You know how when it’s that hot out you don’t want to eat because nothing is refreshing enough and your body is just too hot? Yeah. I did choke some fuel down, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.

But Frankie continued his eternal streak of being a Very Good Boy.

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Including mugging for the camera while getting tacked up.

I was a little nervous for our Sunday round- our first 1.15m class together, and Upperville does not set the heights forgivingly. This was going to be a true test at height, and I knew there would definitely be a triple combo in there somewhere. I was right:

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While more challenging, I thought this was a really fair test. There were a few options for the bold to make some intense inside turns, the time allowed was tight, but it wasn’t trappy anywhere. If you rode a good pace and made efficient turns, you could safely ride this competitively.

We again chose to make a short turn on the right lead to jump 1 (passing in front of jump 3). 2 to 3 was a standard 5 strides- I saw some horses struggle to get out in 5 if they didn’t jump in correctly, but I liked our jump 2 and Frankie carried his standard stride to take us out just a leeetle bit long.

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Cute jump 2! (PC: G. Mohan)

End jump at 4 was fine, 5 was ok- it was a skinny and a very upright vertical so a lot of horses knocked that one. We got a bit close on it, but Frankie was scrappy and got his feets out of the way. I needed to hold more left leg and get straighter into the combo, but we ended up to a good takeoff spot and made it through unscathed. We flew a bit into 7 which made 8 really tight- Frankie earned his oats by getting clear over that, because that was a tough spot for him.

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Flyer to 7 but he still real cute (PC: G. Mohan)

And then my horse started running out of steam. Due to scheduling confusion and the heat we had done a longer warmup than we strictly needed, and this was a long course. But true to self, he still went about his job like a pro and carried me through the triple combo without touching a rail. We galloped up 10-11 and took a well earned breather.

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Yeah he totally looks tired, doesn’t he? (PC: G. Mohan)

Despite the heat and both of us starting to flag, we had gone clear and within time! They buzzed us for our jumpoff almost immediately.

Again, 1 was fine. I didn’t get him back quickly enough to make the turn I wanted to 3, so we went a bit wide. 13 to 14 was a basic bending line, not much to say there. Then I am so proud of Frankie- we took a tighter turn and sliced across the oxer at 10 and he didn’t even blink. We made it around through the one-stride no problem again, and just has one jump left. Away from the gate. The course designers absolutely did this on purpose- both of us tired and hot and ready to be done, and I didn’t get his attention back on me and we biffed the last one. Womp womp. Just goes to show- do not relax until you are through those last timers.

But we again managed to finish in the top 50% of a big class, even if we were out of the ribbons. And we again finished with a horse that was tired, but a horse that had his ears up and made his way back to the barn with a spring in his step.

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And the height? Not even a thing. Frankie charged fearlessly ahead to every jump on course.

So yeah. My goal of going to Upperville and having some good rides was 100% successful in my book. Nowhere near perfect, but we’re further along that path than we used to be. And if you didn’t have a crush on Frankie before this, I hope you do now because he deserves all the love in the world from everyone. I count my lucky stars every day to have this goofy wonderful gelding in my life.

We now have our sights set on Zones in August! Our new outdoor is complete (post to come once I get pics I’m satisfied with) and full of fun jumps for us to practice with, and Frankie has never felt better.

It’s looking like we’ll do that in August, and then wrap up our season at Culpeper Finals end of September- we’ll plan to do the Modified A/O division at 1.15m, and I’m going to beg and plead and work really hard to convince my trainer that we should probably try a 1.20m class. We’ll revisit as we get closer depending on Frankie’s fitness, my own fitness, and how our training is going, but that’s a tentative stretch goal. We’ll focus on smoothing out the rough edges at 1.15m first, I GUESS.

Hope to get some more updates out to you soon!

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Bear With Me!

I’m in the midst of a move right now (technically homeless for a few days, but a barn friend is graciously putting a roof over my head and feeding me wine, so it’s all good) meaning I don’t have access to my computer for a bit- I’m writing this on my phone right now. 

But my Upperville recap will be the first thing on the docket when I once again have a keyboard, never fear. 

Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING. No ribbons in a super competitive division of about 35 horses, but rounds that felt good, that I’m proud of. Frankie was the best he’s ever been (which is saying something, we all know he’s always great) and was absolutely worth his weight in gold. Sailed through our first 1.15m like it was nothing even with my ammy mistakes, and tried to pull me to jumps even when our courses were over. I know you’re all probably getting sick of reading this, but wow. This horse is so far beyond anything I could’ve hoped for in a million years, and I am so grateful to get the chance to go out and have fun with him. I may be biased, but pretty sure I have the best horse in the world. Love my Francis!!!

Ok I got a bit carried away, but here are a few pics to tide you over until I can put a real post together. 

Mother ran you past a distance to a 1.10m oxer? No problem for a FrancisBeast!
Somehow he always knows where the camera is…
Our first jump in the ring at Upperville, and he galloped right up like a champ
The traditional horse show nap. At least he knows how to relax.
This is the same horse that used to hang his legs and heave over a jump. Doesn’t look like the same horse, but it is.

Thank you so much Abby, Glendon, Manfriend, Manfriend’s Momma, and everyone else who snapped some great pics this weekend!

Can’t wait to share more details with y’all. 

Moving On: June Edition

I’ve kinda roundabout hinted at some exciting news to share, and I finally have the green light to make it public:

I have a new job!

After four great years with my current company, I decided it was time to move on to a different industry. I’ll have more of a business and strategy focus in my new role- I think it’ll be really challenging but equally rewarding. And don’t worry, I already asked about flex time for horse shows (literally mentioned horse shows in my first interview) and they assured me that they’re on board with show season. They already realize where the true priorities lie.

I’m lucky that everyone at my current company has been really supportive and encouraging about this move. I’ll definitely miss seeing my amazing coworkers every day, but so many of them have become like family to me at this point and I know we’ll still spend time together outside of work hours.

Along with moving jobs, I’m also moving houses! For those of you who have followed along for a while, you may remember that Roommate and I had to move suddenly due to our old apartment flooding last June. Well, a full year has passed and we opted not to renew our lease- cue Roommate taking charge (as usual) and making awesome things happen (as usual), and we will be inhabiting a much larger townhouse just 12 minutes away. We can’t wait for more space, more sunlight, more room for the dog to play, it’s going to be AMAZEBALLS.

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Derp dog just wants a comfy place to snooze

But here’s the extra fun part about moving: we don’t overlap at all with our current lease. In fact, we have to be out of our current place by a Tuesday and can’t move in until Friday. So really we have to move twice. Awesome.

June is shaping up to be wildly hectic:

Last day at new job on a Wednesday.
Two days in Richmond (Thurs-Fri) to celebrate Manfriend’s graduation.
Zooming back up north to Upperville for the weekend.
Moving out of our apartment (Monday) and couch surfing for the week.
Moving into our new townhouse (Friday).
Flying north to Rhody (Saturday) to visit family for a week.
Flying back to VA (Thursday) to celebrate Manfriend’s birthday (Friday).
Starting my new job at the end of June (Monday).

#PrayForMe #SleepWhenImDead #AlreadyExhausted

Luckily Francis continues to be an absolute rockstar despite my lack of consistent saddle time recently. We had a great lesson this week (that I need to write about because we had some fun breakthroughs) and we’re getting really excited for Upperville.

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Frankie’s instinct when I botch into the combo and have to boot out is to straight up levitate through because DAMMIT MOM STOP GUNKING UP THE WORKS. Yeah, we need a lesson recap to talk about this.

We’ve also had some time to chill together lately and enjoy the (rare) sunshine. Francis enjoys these relaxing hacks around the property and I love the break too!

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I will never be sick of this view.

The ring expansion is in the final stages, and Trainer shared some details for the final landscaping/fencing that I think will be incredibly cool. Once everything is final and I can snap some pics, I’d love to take you all on a virtual tour of our new outdoor.

So lots of things in the works for the month of June!! I’m so excited to share updates as we make some big life changes.

Balancing Time vs. Money

We were talking at the barn the other day about time vs. money when it comes to horses. Obviously, in an ideal world you’d have both: plenty of time to go ride whenever you wanted, and plenty of money to pay for horses/lessons/shows. No doubt that’s the ideal scenario if you want to rise through the levels.

I also think either extreme of trade-offs can work for this.

Have no time, but lots of money? Import that fancy warmblood, pay for full training, and grab mane. As long as you can make it out for semi-regular lessons and you have an forgiving horse, I think you can rise pretty high pretty quickly. I’m not going to comment on whether that’s fair or not because that’s a moot point.

Have no money, but lots of time? Working student positions, farm help, etc. Building those connections, learning the skills, showing that dedication opens doors. I’ve seen it happen more than once. It’s a lot more hard work and takes a lot longer, but can have amazing results.

For me, I think I’d choose the latter. Mostly because I just really really like spending time at the barn. Of course I wouldn’t complain about a fancy import, but I would rather be at the barn than the office- even if I couldn’t ride.

But I also think these are fairly unrealistic extremes. It’s not some linear spectrum. In my mind, it looks more like this:

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Professional image making skillz

So you’ve got the ones with no time or money, the ones with everything, the ones with the trade-offs, but then you have that middle area. Which is where most people I know are currently sitting (at least the ammies that I know). I know I’m square in that middle section myself.

The middle section is full of people with jobs that pay decently but not exorbitantly. Who have commitments to their careers and people they care about, but can take some flex hours or vacation time on occasion. The ones with a bit of time and a bit of money, but not a ton of either.

So how can you make that work when you don’t have either more time OR more money to contribute?

Short answer: I don’t really know. I don’t have any magic answers. I only know what has helped me thus far and what I plan to keep doing: making sure two phrases get used often.

“Thank you!” and “how can I help?”

My trainer, my assistant trainer, my farrier, my vet, my barn help, my barn friends, my barn friend’s moms, my manfriend, my barn dogs, my barn cats, my horse, my family, my roommate, my roommate’s boyfriend. They all help me out every single day. The least I can do is make sure they know how much I appreciate that help by overusing the phrase “thank you.”

And I may only get to the barn after work for a few hours each day, but I still want to learn and be involved. I like helping kids get tacked up, doing night check, being an extra hand at shows when I can, anything I can do to pitch in. If there’s a chance to do something with a pony, I want in and I’m going to repeat “how can I help?” until someone tells me to shut up and go home.

These aren’t going to *poof* make me rich or convince someone to adopt me as the sole heir to their secret fortune (though I’m open to that if anyone is interested, just saying), but I do think people notice that dedication. Certainly I’ve had some helping hands come out of the woodwork along the way.

So I’m going to keep on that route and keep showing up as often and as long as I can.

How do you balance the whole time vs. money conundrum?