We made it to our first show of the season! A few major takeaways before we dive into the detailed recap:
- Francis knows his job. Real well. I definitely needed to keep my leg on to channel the energy, but he pressed across the jumps nicely and was clearly having a blast out there.
- Our bit setup still needs some attention. The gag converter was great, but Francis absolutely tuned out the plain snaffle. Like, just parked on the end of the rein and hung there and dragged me. No bueno. Trainer and I are setting aside some time to play around with this more.
- This was a great “pulse check” for where we are right now! We’re a little rusty from being out of the ring since October, we’re better at some things than we used to be, we have some stuff to focus our attention on, and overall we’re making steady progress.
Now into more details!
The jumper ring didn’t start until 12:30 (which got pushed back to 1p), which means we didn’t have to leave the barn until 10a (it’s about a 90 min drive). I’m a huge fan of not-too-early show days fo sho. The horses all loaded on the trailer quickly and quietly, and I hopped in the truck with Trainer to make our way to Maryland.
We had one ammy taking her new horse to their first jumper show together- they got some great ribbons in the 0.80m classes and had SO MUCH FUN. Her gelding came from the same sale program as Frankie and clearly has a similar outlook on life: things are fun, I like jumping, I like my person, don’t worry I got you mom. Such a good egg, and his mama was having a blast out there. I think we have another jumper ring convert!
We also had one of our kids come with her little mare, and they totally rocked the 0.80m classes as well! They’ve come SUCH a long way together, I’m weirdly proud of this kid that isn’t mine. But she has such a great attitude and is a hard worker and the mare is the COOLEST little Connemara and I love seeing them go out there and improve every time. They even went in for their first ever .90m class and did SO well!!
Then Assistant Trainer took one of our OTTBs in for some schooling rounds at 1.0m and 1.10m. This little horse is AMAZING. He won 4th in the show hunters at RRP in 2016, but he is definitely blossoming into an incredible jumper. He’ll be doing the 6yo YJC jumpers this year with AT, and when they put him up for sale he’s gonna make an INCREDIBLE Jr/AO jumper for someone. The kid has springs in his feet, and has so much heart. I’ll keep you posted on him, because he’s gonna be one to watch.
Then it was our turn to go in the Highs! We just signed up for the first class- a II.2.b round- and the Classic- also a II.2.b. I opted out of the speed round- I don’t like to do more than 2 classes per day with Frankie, we’re not chasing points or anything, this was just a chance to knock some of the dust off and get back in the show ring.
It was rainy and wet ALL DAY and our classes were held outside, which meant slop. I was thrilled with our first warmup- we had one dolphin moment where Francis thought it would be fun to root and play, but I informed him that it wasn’t funny, booted him up into a hand gallop, and that was the end of that. Turns out the right answer really is more leg. He was so totally on it to all our warmup fences, super locked on and carrying me forward.
Here’s our first course:
If you’re thinking that this looks like a hunter course, I agree. It was outside line in 5, bending line in 7, outside in one to four, diagonal in five to two, single diagonal to finish.
Not a ton to say about this course- we had to rock back to fit the 5 in comfortably in the first line, we got up on 4 because I let our track from 3 get too direct, the one to the four was fine, the five to the two was fine, and turning to 9 was fine. Not always a perfect spot to every jump, but no disasters. Francis kinda tuned me out throughout a lot of it, but the course was simple enough that we still made it through clear. That won’t be the case for harder courses, hence the need to figure out a better bit setup.
We moved on to the jump off, which was just the first line, jump 3, rollback to the oxer, two-stride combo, and final jump. We decided to go inside the end jump to get to 3, which set us up to slice it a bit to get a nice tight inside turn to 6. Then we just kept rolling right to get to the combo, and turned hard to get back over 9.
Again- not perfect, but Francis was happy to make the tighter turns and it was fast enough to get us 2nd in a very competitive class! It’s really cool to know that even when we’re not at our best, Frankie has the pace and turns to be a strong competitor, and it motivates me even more to tighten up and get us really on it.
We had a bit of a break while the speed class ran, so I hopped off and walked him around so he could catch his breath. He was like a big puppy mooching for scritches, saying hi to passing ponies, lookin’ all cute. Sweet boy.
Frankie was listening better during our second warmup, which we kept fairly short and sweet. We focused on pushing up to the base to get a strong short distance, rather than giving up and letting him go for the long one. That’s another piece of homework for us- working really hard to build strength so that short one can always be powerful and pressing across. It isn’t about finding a perfect distance, it’s about giving him the tools to make any distance workable.
Here was our classic course:
The only change here was the first line, bending in 6. Then it went into the same lines as before: 5 to 2, outside in 5, bending diagonal in 7, outside 1 to 4.
I gave plenty of shape to the first 6 since it walked a tad short, and bending out gave us some more room to fit it in really well. I pressed up a little in the five to get to the base of 4A, which set him up to land a bit more compressed for the short 2- the vertical out had been changed to a plank, so we wanted him really up and down for that*. The outside 5 was harder to fit in since we were already rolling, but Francis obliged. I gave more shape to the bending 7 which made it flow much more nicely. Then we got a great moment of softness going into 9A, which made the one stride feel a lot more powerful, and I was able to compress for the 4 strides out.
* I need to write up some of the stuff I’ve been learning about course design and how different types of jumps invite different efforts. It’s so fascinating.
Our jumpoff was fun- I went more direct 1 to 2 to leave the stride out to put in 5, had a decently tight turn to 3, rollback to oxer, then other diagonal rollback to oxer. Very symmetrical. We need to work on our balance through those tighter turns, but Frankie was very tidy and they’re definitely getting better. I was a little nervous to ask for super tight turns in the sloppy footing, but it didn’t end up being a problem.
One thing that went better in this course was putting leg on- often when Frankie starts dragging, my instinct is to take my leg off the gas pedal. Which just leads to a strung out horse. I’m still not doing it 100% of the time, but there were definitely spots on course where I remembered to put my leg on when this happened and VOILA. We had a horse that lifted and came back under himself. It’s almost like riding with a strong supportive leg leads to clear communication with my horse. Who woulda thought.
We got a pretty pink ribbon for our efforts, and the prize money paid for most of my show bill! That’s a first for us, and something I could happily get used to.
Especially thinking back to where we were at this same show last year, I’m beyond thrilled with how far Frankie has come and how much we’ve learned together. We had a blast jumping over colorful sticks together and we get better with every outing. So excited for WEC in 15 short days!!!!
Also all my muscles hurt and I’m dying, but worth it. We gotsta get our butts in shape.
Before I sign off: my trainer has been blogging more often lately, and I need to share it with you. I tend to keep her name and our barn name relatively quiet, but I got her permission to share- I think you all will love it. Some of my recent favorites talk about overcoming fear and moving forward- not just in riding, but in life. Posts like these are the reason I call her my life coach and not just my riding trainer. She rules. I’m excited to hear what you think!