WEC 2019 vs. 2018 Comparison

Not getting into the actual show recap quite yet, I just want to talk about how different this year felt compared to last year. I’ve been to plenty of shows over multiple years (HITS, Upperville), but having to travel out this far is a different ballgame. There were some nice changes in the facility as some construction has completed (the vendor area is stunning), but it felt like I hadn’t even left. Like, it was creepy. It’s been a full year. But even though it felt like I had never left, this week was completely different from last year’s outing. Completely 100% different.

For one, I stayed on my own offsite in a hotel, not on the grounds. While it was still only 10 minutes away, it meant that I did all my work in my hotel room instead of working from the barn. Much more separation than before. It also gave more separation to heading back and forth from the show – I didn’t feel like I was on the grounds 24/7 like last time, which was a nice change. Having my own room also gave me much more alone time in the evenings, which this outgoing introvert thrives on.

We were also in a completely different barn! Last year we were in M, and this year we were in A. Check the map below and you can see that they literally could not be further apart.

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It was lovely though, we got our own spacious aisle and even turnout!! This was my one big gripe last year, that the ponies didn’t have any time to go play and stretch their legs. We had to rotate them through so it wasn’t a full day like they get at home, but a huge huge huge improvement over none at all. I think it really helped them stay fresh. (Interesting side note – we were the only ones using turnout. I found that absolutely wild)

I also showed up suuuuper early in the week and was the only client there for a solid 3 days. I opted to drive out on President’s Day since my office was closed, so I could work remotely Tues-Wed and then take Thurs-Fri off completely. It meant a few extra nights in a hotel, but was totally worth the savings on vacation time. It was super leisurely for those few days: I did my work during the day, then headed over to the barn to lesson, clean tack, hang out with my trainer and AT. No stress no fuss.ย  It’s not often that I get to be the only client and I obviously adore my barn fam, but there was something really chill about having such an open schedule for the first few days.

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As the resident tall girl, I was in charge of hanging all the ribbons throughout the week. This is my aesthetic.

 

 

 

Of course probably the biggest difference is that I was riding a different horse. I haven’t shown another horse since before I bought Frankie back in 2016! I leased a gorgeous mare named Belle, a 17yo Selle Francais who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and leads tours. No joke, this mare is the ultimate definition of a packer. She self-adjusted, aimed herself at the jumps, found her own spots, maintained her own forward (and hoo boy was she a rocket), and was generally self-sufficient with very little needed from me.

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She was also a VERY sweet girl with some of the best ground manners I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Her only little quirk is that she’d get spooky walking back from the ring. All business on the way there to warm up, but she knew when she was done and started giving everything the hairy eyeball. Funny mare.

I’ll be honest, riding something like this kinda opened my eyes to how hard I need to work with Francis. Obviously he’s still my favorite ride and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do have to be giving him constant input. Constant. Belle did not require input beyond pointing her at the jumps and encouraging her to fit the last stride in, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve completely dropped the reins and she still would’ve found her way around the course.

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Clear schooling round meant a blue ribbon, and Big Lady knew she earned that for me.

So another big difference was that the pressure was off. I did some 0.85m classes as a warmup to get to know each other, then stuck in the Lows for my division. No pressure to do any big jumps. As long as I released, Belle jumped a 10 from any spot. And it wasn’t my horse. I had nothing to prove. She wasn’t even a sales horse, where I might’ve felt pressure to show well to help her resume. Her entire job is to take people like me and give them a safe and enjoyable ride in the jumper ring.

While I certainly missed my big bay beast, he was very happy back at home – fully recovered from his heel grab – and I was thrilled the get the chance to learn how to adjust my ride to something so completely different.

Overall it was a much more relaxing trip than last year, and I had a much more enjoyable time. So much so that I was sad to leave on Sunday! I know that doing another week would’ve been too much (contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes learn from experience), but it was hard to pull myself away to head back to reality.

IalsoboughtbeautifulbreechesIhaveaproblemit’sfinethingsarefine

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World’s most supportive husband right here

Next up I’ll write about some of our rides, and do a bit more cohesive recap of how the week went!

Nicely Played, Francis.

Those of you that connect with me on IG/FB already know, but Francis has actually been taking a little vacation.

He came in last week with a missing shoe (no big deal), but as I took a closer look and he got progressively more upset about me taking a closer look, it was clear that there was a solid heel grab in play there.

Of course being my usual dramatic self, I immediately made plans for Frankie’s retirement. In my defense, he was acting like that leg had been chopped off and his expression of long-suffering patience had a very studied air. Luckily my trainer took a look, smacked Frankie for being rude, and pronounced it essentially a really bad hangnail.

Not so dramatic after all.

But while it’s not that dramatic, Homeboy was still off for a little over a week as he healed. It’s been a lot of hand walking to keep him moving, plenty of epsom salt soaks to keep it clean, and lots of vetwrap and poultice pads to make sure no grit or germs get in there. He’s totally sound to tack walk and was at about 95% to flat around last night. Nothing visible but he felt just baaaarely NQR to me – could be the heel grab, could be stiffness from being stuck inside for a week in the cold. Either way he desperately needed some movement and the flatting helped his mood immensely. I’m not worried, we’re in no rush to get back to 100% and the wound itself is healing up just fine.

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He’s been standing like an angel for his warm soaks, as long as I let him lick my hand for the full 15-20 minutes. A small price to pay to keep him happy.

This is actually a huge novelty, since this was the first time he’s needed more than 12 hours off to heal from anything. For a horse, he’s generally pretty sturdy.

Now that he’s not nearly as ouchie on it and I can stop pitying him, I’ve actually enjoyed this time to play together and relax! I caught some lessons on the school horses so I still got a workout in, and we did nice long 30-40 minute hand walks together. It’s also been a great chance for me to practice some basic first aid skills (like, extremely basic). His auntie even brought him a stall toy to keep him entertained in his confinement (the combination of awful mud and theย  placement of the cut makes turnout unfortunately no good for now) and while we all find the banging noises annoying, he seems to really like his giant plastic apple.

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He’s been making plenty of sand angels on our walks to make sure he gets to stretch and address the itchies. Literally as soon as we walk in the ring, down he goes.

He’ll get to stay in light work while I’m in Ohio next week (I swear his timing is uncanny, how do horses always know?!), but fingers crossed he’ll be healed up and ready to get back to full work when I return!

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And after every sand angel, he stays laying down for a little bit surveying the ring. Apparently he doesn’t like to be rushed.

Kicking Off the New Era

Building on the new-car-news, I have more non-horse related news! It’s been quietly in the works for a bit now, but I’ve been keeping it on the DL as I’ve figured things out.

Basically, I was so relieved by being done with wedding planning that I almost immediately started looking for something else to fill my time. Because I’m garbage like that.

I considered a couple things:

  • I could get back into the 6x/week training schedule with Francis that’s worked well in the past. But I’m honestly feeling really good about the slightly lighter schedule that I have while keeping him in training with AT. I don’t have huge competitive goals this year, so I’m happy with this different balance of barn time for a little bit to re-set.
  • I could throw myself into my workouts more devotedly. But I also already do them consistently and as much as I like feeling healthy, I have approximately zero desire for it to be a “thing” in my life besides serving a basic purpose.
  • I could throw myself into keeping a really beautiful home for myself and my husband. But we live in a small 2 bedroom condo that takes very little effort to keep tidy and clean, so there’s not actually that much to do.
  • I could start cooking meals more often hahahahahaha yeah right nope.

And as I was considering and discarding each of these options, I got an email from a listserve I had signed up to on a whim 6 months ago: “Do you want to meet with an admissions rep for X school in your area?”

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How I stared at this email 6 times a day for several days

I was about to send it to the trash without responding, but I paused and thought about it. And thought about it the next day. And brought it up to my husband. And then brought it up to my boss which lead to one of the most amazing professional mentorship conversations I’ve ever had.

So after ALL that, I finally responded that yes, I’d like to meet with this rep. I knew next to nothing about the program, I had done zero things necessary to apply to ANY program (let alone this one), but I decided to go for it.

And in the intervening 8 days until that meeting, I had researched 50+ other programs, attended two info sessions in person, talked to 10+ admissions reps, and applied to one. Oops.

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SHUT UP AND HELP ME WRITE MY ESSAY

The more I researched, the more I knew what questions I wanted to ask and what was important to me. By the time I got to that originally scheduled meeting that kicked this whole thing off, I had already realized that program was not a good fit. But it seemed rude to cancel.

The long and short of it is that within 2 weeks of seriously considering applying to schools, I had an application in. About 2 weeks later I had an acceptance letter. And in just about 2 months I’ll be kicking off the next phase of my education as I pursue my MBA!

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Dad if you’re reading this just know that I’m doing this at least partially to prove that I’m the superior child.

The closer it gets, the more excited I am. Getting my MBA has been in the back of my mind for a while now (as you may remember), and while it will require some sacrifices and changes, there won’t ever be a better time for me to do this.

For those of you worried about Francis, never fear. He’s obviously not going anywhere. Robust employee benefits mean that my financial situation remains unchanged, so my only consideration is time. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t ride at all, but realistically I know there’s no way to support a 5-6x/week schedule while also working full time AND going to school. He’s currently in a 2x/week with a pro and 3-4x/week with me program, and I’ll plan on sticking with that until I have a better handle on the workload. My trainer is on board and I know that we’ll adjust as needed to make sure he’s getting plenty of exercise and plenty of love!

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Fewer interrupted naptimes are fine with him.

This will mean fewer horse shows and the jumps will likely have to be lowered a few holes, but I’ll still get my saddle time and the knowledge that he’s healthy and happy in his beloved program. And yes, the flexibility and cost of the program factored into my choice very heavily for this reason. Can’t make any decisions without considering the bestest Frankenbean โค

I’m not sure how this blog will be affected by this new enormous piece of my life, but I’m excited to find out and bring you along for the journey!

A New Era

Guess who has a new ride! And no, Frankie hasn’t gotten a brother. It’s the kind with four wheels and a steering wheel.

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Introducing new red car! And no worries – I still have the best plates. Photo cred to WBH for the dramatic angle.

I’m so beyond excited to have this new-to-me car. But while it’s newly mine, it isn’t completely unfamiliar to me.

Rewind a few years. Before I bought Frankie, I had this tidy little savings account (because I was super boring and never did anything besides pay rent and buy groceries) and was planning to use it to buy a car. I did tons of research, asked tons of questions, and talked to my very wise father about it extensively.

Of course we all know this ended by me blowing my savings on a big bay behemoth instead of a vehicle.

But right around the same time, my dad called me to share the exciting news that he had just gotten a new car. Hooray! And he started describing it. When he finished, I asked why he had picked that car.

“Well, I did some research and talked to people and thought this was a good choice for what I need.”

UM NO FATHER ‘TWAS I THAT PLANTED THAT IDEA because he literally bought the exact car I described. Even in the color that I liked.

Naturally, I spent the next several years trying to convince him to sell me the car. I was not discouraged by failure, because my father also taught me tenacity. See, this whole thing is really his own fault.

Things kinda reached a head this past year when my beloved Jeep started needing more and more attention that I was pretty unwilling to invest in. I knew the inspection would be up in January (and that it would fail), and that I would need to get a new ride by mid-February.

Lo and behold, my parents decided that their car was actually a little too big for their needs, and they were going to be getting a different model.

We negotiated a price, we picked a day, and Nicholas took a one-way flight up to RI to drive it down to VA the same day. Yes, he does win Husband of the Year. And so we have a new big red Subaru.

That same day, the mechanic who saw the Jeep for the inspection (and failed it, obviously) made an offer. I accepted immediately and signed over the title. And yes, there were tears as I let go of my car of 10 years.

So while I spent 4 days and roughly 8 hours at the DMV trying to get all the paperwork sorted last week, it’s at least because I’m now driving a car with solid brakes and windshield wipers that work. I’m in love and really enjoying the Bluetooth connection to talk to my family and listen to podcasts.

But for all its quirks and constant need for repairs, that little Jeep carried me through everything. From the day he arrived in the driveway for my 17th birthday, he carried me to high school, college, boyfriends, breakups, road trips, moving to VA, 6 apartments down here, interviews, my first job, my second job, buying a horse, countless lessons, so many amazing shows, my first date with my now-husband in a blizzard, his proposal, our mini-honeymoon for my 27th birthday. As silly as it may seem, that car was a constant fixture in so many important moments of my life and occupies a large space in my memories. I’ve made countless phone calls to family members from that car, I’ve laughed with friends on our way to adventures, I’ve cried on my way home from bad days, I’ve napped in the backseat, I’ve sang along to the radio as loud as I could,

Cheers to Benjamin, the little red Jeep that helped me grow up. And cheers to the new big red car that will see me through the next exciting chapters!

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