Loudoun Benefit 2019

Frankie and I went out and dabbled in the eq/hunter rings again! Short version: tons of fun, continuously learning how to adjust to this new way of going, and Frankie was literal perfection.

Are you at all surprised by that last bit??

Anywho, we opted to stick in just the derby/eq rings again for this show since it worked so well last time. I think with some practice, Frankie will be able to more easily transition between the jumper ring and the others, but for now it’s super helpful for both of us to “drill” a bit to really figure out what we need to do.

He shipped into the showgrounds on Tuesday with a whole bunch of other ponies, by all reports settled in like a gentleman (aka naps. Immediate naps). Our barn had 11 or 12 horses at this show, so we staggered shipping in over the course of a few days! Kinda crazy, I think pretty much everyone that shows went to this particular one. A much bigger group than we usually have, and it was fantastic!

I opted to have Trainer take Francis around one of the 3′ hunter divisions (sans U/S) on Wednesday, just so he could see the big ring and get the measure of it. I would do it myself if I didn’t have this pesky office job getting in the way, but I wanted him to go around that ring before the derby on Saturday. He absolutely LOVES my trainer – it’s seriously adorable – and was a very sweet boy for her. With 50+ in the class there’s zero chance that my mobile sewing machine would place against actual hunter types, but I’m always pleased when he shows his consistency and good nature. I do really think we could do well in the AA or AO hunters, where manners and suitability are considered!

He then got a light day on Thursday – no competing, just stretching his legs a bit.

Friday I was FINALLY able to get away from work, and got to do our Ariat Adult Medal class! First thing in the morning, bright and early. Trainer did hop on him for a quick hack early in the morning – the temp had dropped down to the low 50s overnight and she wanted to make sure he was feeling mannerly. In her words: “I forgot it was Frankie. He’s obviously fine.”

I have video of this class from two different angles, funny enough! I’ll include them both here, along with the course map.

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Overall thoughts: I literally rode him to nothing at that first jump. I was just happily sitting up there and did. zero. things.

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FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL WE’RE GOIN FOR THE LONG ONE. 

Then I majorly overcorrected and chased him to jump 2. Because clearly that’s the right move. But after that I was really happy with the rest of the course! I didn’t get him straight enough after jump 4, so we had a bit of an unbalanced late change (and you can see me wrestling with him a little bit as he goes WEEEEEE and stops paying attention). But overall he was responsive, polite, and handled himself really well in such a big ring.

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Look at how happy he is. Just look at him.
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Ignore my questionable position here and just admire the scenery and cute horse.

It was pretty cool being done by 8:30am, and I got to spend the rest of the day cheering on my barnmates, loving on Frankie, and enjoying the gorgeousness of these showgrounds.

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This is God’s country

Then Saturday was kinda hysterical in its timing. The Jr/Am derby started at 7:30a in the main hunter ring, and I was third in the order. Then the VHSA Flat class started at 8a in Hunter 2, followed immediately by the VHSA medal class. This meant going from one ring to another very quickly, including a costume change for both me (getting rid of shad and stock tie and donning my hunt coat) and Francis (taking off his martingale and adding his boots). This led to a pretty hysterical revolving door of show coats, martingales, and boots. But we figured it all out!

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It’s really a shame that Frankie gets so keyed up before we go in the ring. You can just see it in his expression.

Lucky me – I have video of our derby trip too!

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Thoughts on this: I really need to get my act together when the first jump is a long approach oxer away from home, apparently. But honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how he went around. He was super adjustable, flowed well, carried a nice steady rhythm without needing too much from me, and was a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

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Does he have the tightest form? No way. Does he have the sweetest expression? For sure.
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Seriously I know he’s basically cantering over this but his little ears and little nose are just the cutest I’ve ever seen.

I was extremely pleased with our base score of 72, with the two high options giving us a score of 74. We held on to a top 12 spot for much longer than I thought we would before the cutoff for the handy rose above a 74! With almost 60 in the class, there were some truly gorgeous rounds that got some very high scores. Overall, I’m delighted. We’re never going to be truly competitive in that ring with Frankie’s movement and his lack of desire to try very hard at that height, but we sure are having fun learning how to show ourselves off to best advantage.

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Took the high option here, and Francisco was not particularly bothered

We then did our costume change and headed over for our equitation on the flat class! Nothing too crazy here – they had us sit the trot for a while, and show a lengthening at the trot (we may have broken into a canter for a stride going to the right oops). I definitely need to polish myself back up, but was able to snag an 8th place and a ribbon! Ain’t mad about that.

We then had our VHSA adult medal class, which was super fun. Frankie gave me all the cool inside turns, sat down and waited to the base for me, and didn’t even mind when I took him on a track that meant I had to duck under the branches of a tree. He was definitely getting tired at this point though, and I had to really kick hard for the lead changes. I think I should get bonus points for literally carrying him through those because homeboy was not offering them up in the least.

I thought it was a solid, workmanlike trip but nothing stellar. I was very surprised to be called back to test in 4th (this class has the option to test the top 4)! The test was pretty simple: canter directly to an outside single, rollback to an oxer, rollback to a trot fence, rollback to a long approach oxer towards home, then show the sitting trot to the in-gate.

I am a noodle brain and completely forgot the sit trot to the gate, but other than that it was a great test! I think if I had remembered that dang trot, we may even have moved up. But considering this was my first time having to test in a solid 12 years, I’m really very happy with it.

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Very proud of our ribbon!

I then got to spend the rest of the day cheering on friends and relaxing again. It was lovely.

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I wanted to take his braids out, he wanted to nap. We compromised and did both at the same time. He kept trying to lay his head on my legs for snugs.

Thoughts on the show as a whole: I own a unicorn. He truly is incredible. I also think that with some practice and polish on my part, we’re going to be really strong competitors in the adult equitation. Trainer agreed, and mentioned that Frankie looks super handy and capable in that ring, and it’s something that he can excel at with the lifestyle he’s leading right now. He’s obviously fantastic in the jumper ring, but that does require us to keep him more conditioned and fired up, which is something that I don’t really have the capacity for right now. He’s really fitting into the equitation very naturally, and it’s a ring that’s very familiar to me as well.

I don’t know when our next show will be – I’m travelling a lot in July and August – but I think we’ve found a solid groove to work in.

As always, feeling so grateful for an amazing barn family, an amazing group of horses, incredibly supportive and encouraging trainers, and for my darling Francis. Every day gets better and better with him

 

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He is beauty, he is grace
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BUT WHAT EVEN IS THIS LLAMA FACE

 

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25 More: Hop

L kicked this off with some questions she found on Tumblr, Amanda chimed in, and y’all know I can never resist these things.

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

I stop in and see Francis! I’m usually still holding my keys and gear, but I head straight for his stall to say hello and trades scratches. If he’s outside, I’ll wander the barn a bit first to say hi to any friends that are there.

2. Is there a breed that you would never own?

It kills me to say this, but any pony breed. I deeply love ponies, but at almost 5’10” it would be pretty impractical. We’ll see if any future spawn wants a pony though, because I am entirely on board with living vicariously through them.

3. Describe your last ride?

Our lesson this week, where we practiced being hunterific and handy. Frankie was wonderfully responsive, rateable, and had great energy. He’s pretty sure that slowing down like this is his favorite thing.

4. Have any irrational riding fears?

My one big one is riding outside the ring any faster than a walk. It’s completely irrational – I ride the actual safest calmest horse on the planet – but there you have it. I enjoy walking around the neighborhood, but the idea of picking up a trot gives me the cold sweats.

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After our TERRIFYING hill set in the pasture where he was deeply content to not move very quickly, while I myself was spooking at the wind.

5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?

When I was younger, there was an ancient lesson horse named Alfie where I learned to ride. He was the slowest kick ride to ever exist, and was pretty much the only horse that didn’t make my neurotic self break down in tears. He was a wonderful big chestnut old man ❤

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?

Totally! I’m still enjoying the heck of out Francisco, but that’ll likely be in his future. He’s a pretty darn perfect 3′ packer that can easily do higher with a solid ride, can cross into any ring (as long as you’re not trying to win the hack), and is super chill and easy to handle/ride. He’s going to be a great teacher for a tall kid/adult re-rider.

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?

I won’t turn down a good mare! I tend to click more with geldings since they usually forgive my transgressions a bit more quickly, but I adored Addy and her quick-thinking nature.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?

These days, around 3-4x per week. At our peak it was 5-6x pretty consistently, but adding classes into the mix has required me to adjust my schedule. Luckily he gets pro attention a couple times a week, so he’s still shiny and happy!

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?

Hop on bareback in a halter and mosey about the property watching lessons and drinking wine. I do this on Fridays sometimes when I’ve had a rough week, and basically use Francis as a mobile couch while I hang out with friends and watch some of our talented juniors work. Bless the ammy friendly horse.

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We do this regularly and it is therapeutic

10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?

This is a tough one – basically anything that would make it difficult/dangerous for a horse to jump safely. Frankie is pretty over at the knee and while it hasn’t posed problems, I would definitely correct it if I could.

11. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?

Eh I’m honestly not that self-conscious of a person. I would love to have a more stable lower leg, I’d love to address my asymmetry better, I’ve gotten in the bad habit of hunching my shoulders, my eye for a distance comes and goes. But those are just skills I want to work on, not things that make me feel self-conscious.

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

Partially? I do need to include more no-stirrup work to get back into shape. But I don’t track my times or anything like that.

13. What is your grooming routine?

Pick feet, curry all over, brush mane and pick shavings/debris out of tail, soft brush all over twice. The longer I take, the happier Frankie is. I’m saving up for a nice brush set, so I think this will expand when I have the full set!

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?

Come inside for breakfast, lay down for a long mid-morning nap, wake up and eat some hay, get groomed, go to work, more groomings/bathtime, and then go outside overnight to play with friends and eat more hay. It’s a good life.

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Must nap. All the time.

15. Favorite season for riding?

Either fall or mid spring. The air is crisp and clear, we can ride outside without broiling in the sun, Frankie’s coat gets super dark and beautiful as it changes.

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Fall in Virginia is just heaven on earth

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?

Oooh this is a tough one. I love love love having our indoor so that we can ride in all weather year-round, but we do get a little stir-crazy after being stuck in there all winter. Can I opt for a covered ring to get the best of both worlds?!

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?

This may seem silly, but their setups at the big shows. The way they take these stall fronts and turn them into completely new areas is totally mindblowing.

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?

Antares. I love it.

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?

Just 3 – one light, one medium, one heavy. He’s blanketed in various combinations as weather demands from late fall through early spring (we just packed ours up to be cleaned and stored last week). I also have a wool cooler and a fleece quarter sheet that I use in the winter.

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?

Literally all treats are favorite treats, which is why he gets very few and in moderation. My trainers will often give him a mint/carrot when he leaves the show ring, and he has yet to say no to any of them. He loves being scratched right at the base of his ears/his forehead, he always really leans into that.

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I gave him a treat the other day and proceeded to have this up in my business. Adorable, yes, but OMG GET OUT OF MY FACE YOU GIGANTIC GOLDEN RETRIEVER.

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?

I just sat here and thought for a while and I really don’t have one haha. The care is wonderful, the training is thorough, the people are lovely. I very much enjoy my time there and can’t think of anything I would change. If anything, make it closer to home. One the weekends/off hours it’s only 30-35 minutes from my house and the office, but I do spend about an hour getting there after work during rush hour.

22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?

Pulled manes for sure, but I do sometimes do a quick neaten-up with scissors at the very end. I don’t usually pull too short since we don’t braid for the jumper ring, but I have a feeling we’ll being keeping it more ready for braids these days.

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?

Definitely a buck, but I’d really prefer neither thankyouverymuch.

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?

Was super spooky. Even if they don’t bolt or do anything too naughty, I really don’t like riding something that I have to coax along like that. It makes me really keyed up and nervous and I ain’t about that.

25. Favorite facial marking?

Frankie has a little double swirl right in the middle of his forehead and I think it’s the most precious thing in the world. It’s a perfect spot for scratches and smooches.

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The sweetest bestest spot for scritches

That Summer Ammy Life

Frankie and I are living the ammy life hardcore these days, yo.

Twice a week, AT hops on and reminds Francis that he knows how to do fancy things. A couple other times a week, his mother hops on and does her best to uninstall all fancy things by letting him toodle.

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He’s extra happy to see me these days because he knows it entails little to no effort

Every so often my schedule actually allows a lesson and I lean entirely on Frankie’s willingness to cart me around with very little input. Bless his education because heaven knows I’m not helping him out that much these days.

We’re going to shows and doing the 3′ where Frankie can jump from literally any distances without having to work at it. Thankfully. And we’re spending time in rings that don’t require us too move too fast because we’re both hot and lazy and out of shape.

It could not be more of a contrast to where we were last year: conditioning intensely, schooling 1.20m+, firing on all cylinders. It looks a lot more like grazing in the sun, walking around the pastures and calling it a “hill set,” and getting pictures from my barn friends of Frankie enjoying his naps when I’m stuck doing schoolwork.

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A lot of views of this chonkasaurus

I love that he can fire up and be my fancy prancy show pony, but I’m eternally grateful for my steady-Eddie, easy-going, happy-to-chill bud. He is the ultimate ammy packer and we’re having a wonderfully relaxing and fun summer so far.

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With plenty of naps.