Trick or trick

Not a lot of treats lately, just a big trick.

We’re still here, still getting a handle on Frankie’s Lyme. Treatment looks like this:

A dose of doxy every day to address the Lyme
A dose of omeprazole every day, to address the havoc doxy causes on the gut
A gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc
Another gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc
Free range alfalfa, TO ALSO ADDRESS THE GUT HAVOC

I may be a bit paranoid and going over the top, but this horse has never been ulcer-prone and I’ll be damned if I solve one problem only to cause another. He’s had healthy-looking poops and no signs of an ouchie tummy, so I’m taking this as a success.

My favorite is that you can see where he’s been breathing and just blowing the shavings out of the way. They had to pile the shavings around him because he didn’t wake up while they cleaned his stall. He adores the whole staff at the new barn.

Pro tip: we were able to have our vet compound the omeprazole through the in-house pharmacy, which is saving us some money. Gastrogard and Ulcergard are so FRIGGIN EXPENSIVE.

Our progress is a bit of a mixed bag. Frankie went out and won his speed class for his kid last weekend (she was completely caught off guard at Francis in Full Jumper Mode but was a good sport and clung on for dear life). The vet was thrilled that just a few weeks after being so visibly sore, he felt good enough to go for gold in a big competitive class at 0.95m. I took him in the ring the next day and ended up scratching – he was a good boy but had that same laggy-ness as before. Our vet said she wasn’t surprised or discouraged by this – with Lyme it’s not uncommon for them to get fatigued more than usual.

Even though we ended up scratching, it was a fantastic day: I got to wear my shmancy sparkly coat, I got to see some of my best friends I haven’t seen in a while, and Francis gave a very happy girl a pony ride. She cried when I tried to hand her off to her father. We have a horse girl in the making.

We opted to run a full titer to see what levels we’re working with, and the results came back kinda borderline. It’s not quite acute, not quite chronic. This tells us that the symptoms I noticed over the summer likely were Lyme, and not heat like we originally thought. I’m kicking myself for not realizing this sooner (Frankie usually handles the heat extremely well so I should’ve known it was out of character), but all we can do is work off the information we have. We’re extending the doxy by another month with hopes that being aggressive will get us where we need to be.

We have some other options for treatment if the doxy isn’t working, but so far our vet is really happy with his progress and thinks we’ll be good to go. We talked about when/why we’ll try other options and we’re not at that point.

Worst case is that his case has already gone chronic, and we’ll always have to manage flares. Best case is that we’re getting at it hard now and we’ll be able to knock it out. Obviously I’m hoping for the latter, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. My plans for Frankie don’t really change either way: enjoying him at the level he wants to work, and making sure he enjoys his job. If we can get back to having the fastest times in the Low Adults, that would be awesome. If he says he only wants to do that sometimes, or we should stick with 1-day shows, or he wants to do a lower height, that’s awesome too. If he does have flares in the future, I now know exactly what that feels like and we can treat it ASAP.

His weekly solarium sessions mean he gets a nice warm relaxing nap while the fitness center staff loves on him. These are all of his favorite things.

We always have a quiet winter since I’m a big weenie and hate showing in the cold, so we have plenty of time to treat and re-test, treat and re-test as needed.

Biggest shout outs to my vet, who has been in close contact checking in and giving updates, my trainer for being flexible day-to-day as we react to what Frankie’s workload needs to be in the moment, and to our barn staff who have been simply amazing at helping coordinate everything – as soon as I said I needed to extend the treatment, they reached out to the vet staff to make sure we didn’t run out. The support system we have is amazing and gives me so much confidence that no matter what happens, we’ll be in great hands and able to continue having fun together ❤

Good(ish) News

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write:

I’m very happy to share that Frankie tested positive for Lyme.

Am I happy that Frankie is anything less than 100% healthy? Absolutely not. I hate that he’s been hurting. Am I relieved beyond belief that (1) we have answers (2) we have a super solid treatment plan and (3) my gut instinct was right? Very very much so.

As I mentioned in my last post, we were able to get on the vet’s schedule within a matter of days. She started off with a basic physical exam to check for soreness, with nothing coming up as a problem. Frankie actually seemed to love his unofficial massage and was nice and relaxed.

During this exam, I shared my five paragraph essay of collected symptoms I had noticed. I wish I was exaggerating, but when it comes to this horse I do not play. Other people have been on Frankie recently, but none have the 6+ years of history and knowledge of what his “normal” looks like so I don’t know that anyone else would have noticed some of the more subtle changes.

By the end of my soliloquy, the vet said this sounded like it could potentially be a tick borne illness.

She asked if I wanted to continue with a lameness eval, and I said that I’d rather just do the blood draw for the quick 10 min test – if that came back negative we could continue trying other things.

Him after his vet appointment, being an absolute mooch for snuggles and scratches

While waiting for the results of the blood test, we did do a quick jog/lunge and Francis was noticeably head bobbing lame. Apparently his little massage caused something to flare up and the poor guy was very ouchie. Right around when we saw that, we also saw that the test came back with a faint positive.

Frankie is immediately starting a course of antibiotics, with some heavy GI support from multiple sources so he doesn’t get a tummy ache. He’s getting some high-buoyancy sessions on the water treadmill to give his joints a break, and will be in light work until this flare resolves.

I was surprised but happy to learn that movement actually helps with the treatment, so he won’t be getting any extended time off unless he tells us he needs it. My trainer, half leaser, and I are all on the same page of listening to him each day – if he feels great we can do a bit more, or if he needs a slow day then that’s what he’ll get. The vet had absolutely no concerns about him maintaining his current schedule as long as we’re attentive, and we are all definitely very invested in keeping him happy and healthy!

The vet is confident that we caught this early and that there’s no reason the treatment shouldn’t be successful at alleviating all symptoms. The sluggishness, the stickiness, the hesitation to move out (along with some other smaller things my paranoid horse mom brain noticed) are all explained by this diagnosis and should all start clearing up within weeks.

While finding out my perfect boy is sick isn’t ideal, we have a lot to be grateful for: my lease kid is just the sweetest and is so committed to making sure Frankie feels his best. My vet listened to my concerns, shared her thoughts, and gave me options. My trainer trusted my judgement and supported my decisions (and it was great having her there for the exam because she’s literally Frankie’s emotional support person I swear). My barn friends have listened to me absolutely spiral about needing to retire Frankie in his prime if we didn’t find an answer.

Most of all, as always, I’m grateful for Frankie. That he told me something was wrong and still kept me safe until I heard him clearly. I wish I caught on even sooner, but I’m glad we figured it out before it got too bad.

So to reiterate how I started this post, I’m happy to share that Frankie has Lyme because it means that we can fix it, and soon he’ll be feeling back to his wonderful self!

And he can continue to take the best naps in the world

So that was weird

Piedmont Jumper 2022 is over, and I gotta say, it was a weird weekend.

It started off well – Frankie arrived at the showgrounds on Thursday, had a nice schooling ride with my trainer, and was tucked away happily waiting for me the next day.

He took his usual show nap, so things were going very normally

I arrived on Friday with my tiny child in tow, ready to win everything. I was nervous about bringing Lina and not having my husband there to help wrangle her, but it all worked out wonderfully. The combination of (1) a super easy-going baby that’s content to hang out and (2) truly generous and amazing barnmates who stepped in when I needed a hand meant that balancing Lina and Frankie went better than expected!

Did I get us matching coats? Yes. Of course I did.

We had our usual short and sweet warmup that went well, and walked in the ring for our Low Adult class. Our first fence was a little sticky but nothing awful, and the next couple jumps came up fine. Then there was a bending 5 stride to a 1 stride, I got him there on the half step, and he stopped.

I’m not mad about the stop itself – Frankie only ever stops when it’s going to be an unsafe choice, and I trust his judgement here. We circled, reapproached, and made it right through no problem.

But I am not particularly thrilled about WHY we got there on a half stride. It was a very easy bending line that walked in a perfect five. It was towards the in gate and his stall. It was down a slight hill. It was bending left, and he likes to fade left. And he’s a big horse. All of this means that he should’ve absolutely eaten that line up and I should’ve needed to help balance him. Instead, at stride 3-4 I realized that we were nowhere close to where we needed to be, and I could not get the length of stride to close that gap.

You can see the line from 5 to 6a.

This was a red flag for me.

We were able to complete the course with no other major bobbles, and I walked out to my trainer saying that she’s glad I recovered and continued to ride strongly, and that I made solid choices. I agreed with her, and immediately asked that we schedule a vet appointment.

She asked why – other than an understandable stop, our course looked fine. I told her that despite a good pace and being on track for solid spots, two strides out from every jump I had to really squeeze him up. That kind of “lag” is extremely unusual for Frankie – he’s never spooked at a jump and he’s not the type to ask questions. The combination of short-stridedness and that hesitation before takeoff was to me a blaring alarm that something doesn’t feel right.

The plan we came up with was to drop down to the 0.85m class the next day. We figured one of two things would happen: either (1) he would feel better, telling us that the height was the problem or (2) he would still feel sticky, telling us that there’s discomfort going on. We had a plan either way.

Small girl was my coolout partner – she was so excited to put on her “hat” and ride her “bubba.” There are not many horses I would trust to walk out of the jumper ring and immediately give a baby a pony ride at a bustling show, but Frankie is too perfect for words.

At this point, I’m hoping for the former but do think it’s the latter. I felt these same issues in Tryon – but I blamed it on the crazy high temps and the fact that he was carrying some extra weight. But the weather is colder and he’s more fit now, so it’s something else going on. It could be something as simple as needing to adjust our warmup to give him more time to limber up, it could be that we need to re-adjust saddle fit (again), it could be that we need to increase/change the types of maintenance that we provide. Those are all easy enough to fix, so we’ll start there. I have a Plan A, Plan B, all the way through Plan M or N depending on what he needs from us.

Despite our best laid plans, I did wake up Saturday feeling sick as a dog and had to scratch the rest of the weekend. Womp womp. His kiddo was able to get him out to stretch his legs and said he felt great, so at least he wasn’t cooped up in the rain all weekend.

Obligatory Maggie content because she 100% knows when I don’t feel well and is completely glued to my side.

By the time I got online for work Monday morning, I already had a text confirming that the vet would be taking a look at Frankie on Wednesday to see what additional support he might need from us to feel his best. One of the many perks of boarding with my vet is that we never have to wait long for an appointment!

I have to say here just how much I appreciate my trainer. Instead of saying “it looked fine to me” or “maybe you were just nervous,” she immediately joined me in problem solving mode to see what we could try. She trusted that after 6+ years, I know this horse inside and outside and backwards and forwards. She listened to my concerns and then got us on the vet’s schedule within a day. I’ve worked with plenty of people that would’ve dismissed my concerns, so having her on board so quickly was a total relief.

So yeah. It was a weird weekend.

On the plus side: I gained a lot of confidence in just doing the darn thing even with a toddler along for the ride. Lina had a total blast watching all the ponies. We did make it around. Frankie was a very good boy and as always, tried hard for me.

Does having a baby with me require more planning and coordination? Yes absolutely. Did I love having her there and did it feel great to unite my two favorite roles in life (mom and rider)? Yes even more absolutely.

On the not-so-plus side: To be petty, my absolute least favorite local show photographer was the official photog for this show, guaranteeing that I didn’t get a shot. If you’re in the Nova area, you know who I’m talking about. More importantly, despite making it around and the fact that Frankie is not showing overt signs of lameness, my gut is telling my that there’s something bothering him. My job, as it always has been, is to make sure he is happy and healthy in his work and I’m ready to start turning over whatever stones we need to so he can feel his best. He doesn’t owe me a thing, so he’ll get whatever he needs.

Very blurry screengrab from the video with my angel boy ❤

Settling In

We’ve now been at the new barn for a little over a month, and it’s going great!

I opted to have the saddle fitter come out and check on Frankie (we adjusted his half pad situation and he seems to be feeling good) and got his hocks injected (he told me he was due right when I marked on the calendar to check, so at least we’re predictable). He’s feeling super strong and comfortable and bouncy after those adjustments, so we’re starting off on a good foot.

Bein’ real cute while my little buddy supervises our lesson. She happily sat there for the full hour, periodically babbling out instructions.

Much to his chagrin, we did have to cut his grain. His new field has a lot more lush grass than he’s used to, and the big man had an expanding waistline we had to get under control. We also picked up a half-leaser who rides him a couple times a week, so between the two of us and the training ride and fitness session, he’s in much more consistent work! He always feels his best in relatively heavy work, and sure enough he’s just feeling better and better. We’re being careful as he ramps up his fitness level, but so far he’s just taking a few extra naps.

This is the field of amateur-friendly teenage packer geldings, and it’s great. No drama. Frankie eats all day (as you can see from the wild dad-bod he’s rockin’ here). We found bot fly eggs in his mane, so clearly he’s comfortably napping out there. Shade trees if it gets warm. A nice shedrow if it gets wet. Great stuff.

I’ve gotten back in the lesson rotation, and am super enjoying the big ring. Frankie rides very differently in bigger spaces – I think having the visual room to stretch out makes him feel like he can physically stretch out – and I’m enjoying that feel too.

I’ve also been hacking out a little bit, trying to put my brave pants on. I’m able to access all the turnout fields since the horses are currently on overnight turnout and Frankie has loved getting to explore! I still need to figure out where the official hacking trail is, but I’m having plenty of fun playing cowgirl in the meantime.

Our half-leaser is an absolutely delightful teen who watches Lina for me on the weekends so I can ride. Lina adores her. Frankie adores her. She adores Lina. She adores Frankie. I adore them all. Her parents are nice normal non-crazy people. It’s an A+ situation all around.

I’ve been really thrilled with the staff at the new place. The barn manager is wonderfully communicative and tells me regularly that she loves my horse, so clearly she has great taste and we love her. The folks taking care of the property are so fast at responding to requests and are great around the ponies. The staff at the fitness center gives report cards every Friday so I know how it went. They’re coordinating with my trainer, my vet, and my farrier so I feel super taken care of.

If you didn’t see the video of this I posted on Instagram, I am begging you to reach out and have me send it to you. It is peak comedy. Francis did NOT want to go to the gym. I think we can all relate.

With an increasingly busy job and an increasingly busy almost-toddler in the mix, I am incredibly grateful for this level of care. It means that I’m able to come out my 3x a week knowing my horse is healthy, happy, fit, ready to work, and anything I need to schedule will be done within a week.

We have our sights set on doing the Low Adults at Piedmont at the end of the month, which is my absolute favorite show of the year. It’s the same gorgeous showgrounds as Upperville/Loudoun Benefit, but more pleasant cooler weather and much quieter since it’s a jumper-only show. My husband is working that weekend so Lina will be my little tag-along, but she’s turning into a total barn kid! I don’t really have anything else on the show calendar this year, so I’m excited to get out there one more time before the weather cools off.

She now happily refers to every horse as Bubba (including pictures of horses, her beloved rocking horse, and zebras). She wears her helmet constantly around the house, especially when she practices on her rocking horse. She reaches for Frankie to hop on with me. I won’t force her into riding if she doesn’t enjoy it, but so far I’m loving that she’s having so much fun with it! And loving that my most perfect Francisco is so gentle and careful with her ❤

New Digs!

I’ve been sitting on some big news: Frankie and I have a new home!

Hi pls feed me

If you’re confused because you’ve seen me tell you over and over how much I love my trainer, I’ll cut the suspense early – we’re still with her. Her lesson program has just grown so immensely over the last few years that she’s expanded into a second facility! I’m lucky enough to be one of the early movers.

And if you’ve been following along, this facility is actually one I’ve mentioned before – it’s where Frankie has been going to use the treadmill! And funny enough – I’m like 70% sure I actually competed at a show here with Addy many many years ago. Our vet bought the property last year and has poured a TON of time and effort into renovating and building up the facility, and it’s turned into a really incredible place.

A few of the amenities I’m really excited about:

  • Group turnout in a super lovely rolling grass field. Frankie goes out with two other teenagers and it’s been the least dramatic herd intro ever. They’re all just happy to hang out with buddies and eat.
  • On the days he’s not able to go outside due to weather, he automatically gets thrown on the hot walker for an hour. I’m thrilled that he’ll still be able to get out of his stall and stretch his legs every day, no matter what.
  • Access to the fitness center! He gets to keep up his water treadmill workouts; I’ve been super happy with how this supports his fitness and stamina and I’m also happy I don’t have to pay for shipping to get to it any longer.
He gets swim practice every Friday!
  • Vet on site. One of the vets in the practice we use is on site every Wednesday, which means we never have to wait long for anything. And they’re the vets we already know and love, who already know and love Frankie. (We also get to keep our incredibly awesome farrier)
  • A massive beautiful indoor. They’re getting ready to install some Big Ass Fans, which will only make it even nicer. It’s watered and dragged at least twice a week and it’s just so PRETTY. We’re in the barn attached to the indoor, so we don’t even have to get wet when weather hits!
  • An all-weather outdoor. It’s not quite done yet but should be soon, and there’s a really awesome drainage system that essentially ensures it will never flood. Dr. Jay explained the science behind it and it’s super interesting and nerdy. I’ll see if I can track him down for another explanation I can share with y’all.
  • Lots of hackout trails. I’m a huge weenie about hacking out, but I’m pretty sure Frankie will love it.
  • Nice big stalls. Frankie’s naps have just been upgraded for full stretch-out-ability. He’s on a corner too, which I love from a ventilation standpoint. He’s right across from the entrance to the indoor, and I know Mr. Social is going to love getting to greet everyone that walks by.
Francisco’s corner offer
  • Climate controlled tack room and bathroom. This will make it a lot easier for me to bring Lina out on days it’s super hot or cold – I’ll have somewhere to keep her comfortable while I’m riding. The Clairvaux crew gets our own space so there’s still a sense of community for us. It comes with a fridge/freezer, lots of storage, laundry, and a little lounge that’s currently housing some new barn kitties. I’m excited to see how the space evolves.
Got my spot all set up 🙂 We’re planning to do a painting party, and make a few other improvements, but it’s already a nice space.
  • A really responsive and communicative staff. In the week we’ve been there, I’ve already gotten several updates and texts on what Frankie is up to and how he’s doing. I love hearing from them!!
The barn manager mentioned that she thought he had escaped, then looked down and realized he was passed out. So clearly the daily naps continue uninterrupted.

Dr. Jay has really put a ton of thought into every aspect of the facility (from the footing in the rings, to something as simple as making the bay doors to the fitness center open silently so the noise doesn’t bother the horses).

It’s an extra 10-15 minutes in the car each way, but so far it’s definitely worth the extra drive. I’m feeling extremely fortunate that I get to keep working with my trainer that I trust, I get to keep Frankie under her watchful eyes and in her program that has been so good for him, and I now get access to such great amenities.

As a housewarming gift for Frankie, I’ve ordered a new nameplate and some brushes/bathing supplies, and I’m happy to see him settling in like he’s been there forever.

Cheers to Frankie’s new address!

Tryon 2022: The Beast Post

So I lied before: I’m going to post the enormous three-book series I originally wrote out. If you make it through the whole thing, I feel like I should send you some kind of reward.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We survived the heat that is July in North Carolina!

The short version: it was hot. But it was fun.

The longer version: where do I start! I suppose at the outset of the trip.

We opted to drive down in two cars so we could have some flexibility while I was showing and Nicholas had the child, and it also meant I could wildly overpack all her toys. Note to self: super unnecessary and annoying. It was about a 7 hour trip without breaks, but we took a couple to let Lina stretch her little legs and get out of the carseat. Other than a little whining 6 hours in (to be fair, I also was in a whining mood by that point), she was a total trooper for the trip!! I wish I had parenting tips to share, but I really think I just have a super easy going child. We got settled into our AirBnb without a fuss.

Side note: the house we rented was at the top of a mountain. I’m not exaggerating. The road up to it was TERRIFYING. It took me 4 days to stop clutching the arm rest every time we went up or down the steep switchbacks, and I never truly got used to it.

Our house was actually HIGHER than this overlook. Gorgeous, but single-lane roads with no guard rails over a ravine gave me several heart palpitations

I opted to take Tuesday as a family day, so Francisco got a training ride on the derby field where he had to practice going in straight lines which is SUPER HARD. Meanwhile, the three of us did some hiking, dipped our toes in the water, took a nice nap, and ate the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even like BBQ and this stuff was life-changing.

Wednesday was lesson day! We were able to go in the morning before the heat got too bad, and had a nice little lesson in the covered arena. Nothing crazy, just some canter pole exercises for lengthening and collecting, and popping over a jump a few times to make sure we remember how. We do.

I felt ready for our 0.9m class the next day; the only wrinkle in my plan was that my trainer asked me to be fully dressed in show clothes rather than the schooling outfit I was planning on wearing. I’m much more limited in my show outfit options than I used to be, so it was time for a detour to the tack store to boost my collection!

I started out well-behaved, I promised. Grabbed a comfy pair of tan RJ breeches, a show shirt, and the midnight blue RJ mesh coat. All was right with the world. And then I opened my fat mouth. It wasn’t that bad to start: “do you have anything budget-friendly so I can have another coat on hand?” The salesperson happily showed me several reasonably-priced options. And then because I’m dumb, I said, “eh, these are all pretty boring. Got anything in fun colors?”

The salesperson’s face lit up like the fourth of July, she made a beeline to the other side of the store, and brought out the most gorgeous plum-burgundy show coat that I’ve ever seen in my life. The dang thing had sparkle trim. And then I saw the Equiline logo and said nope don’t let me try it on because I don’t want to pay for it and then next thing I knew I was staring at the mirror falling in love. And then somehow I ended up trying on a Samshield shirt with sparkles that matched perfectly.

Honestly my husband is used to this kind of stuff by now

I mean. How could I not. Right???

The next day was my warmup class in the 0.9m, which went well!

A clear round meant a pretty blue ribbon for Francis. I definitely let him stay underpowered and added the strides most places, but it was a useful gauge for me to know what horse I had under me. I felt prepared for the rest of the week. We had a quiet afternoon back at the house where Lina and I both took a much needed nap.

I opted to give Frankie the day off on Friday so that he’d get a break heading into a hot weekend with a bunch of classes, and just hacked him out on the derby field again so he could stretch his legs. He seemed happy and relaxed to work! After a quick lunch break where we introduced Lina to the joys of sushi, we stoppedbythetackstoresoIcouldgetthematchingwhitesformynewcoat then headed out to explore Hendersonville. Lina loved the little aquarium, we did some fun non-horsey shopping, we made friends at a wine bar, found some treasures at a consignment store (Nick is now hooked on antiquing), and had some really incredible German food. It was a great balance of horses and family time!

Saturday kicked off our division, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Thankfully, they ran both my classes open card, so I was able to go in pretty much back-to-back. I also managed to wedge in second in the order, so I was completely done for the day before 7:45a. Going that early meant there was decent glare in the ring which contributed to a rail, but I maintain it was worth it entirely. The rail in each class kept us out of the ribbons in a huge class, but I’m comforted by knowing that we had the fastest times in each class. If I can get out of Frankie’s way, he’ll win for me!

After a quiet afternoon, we headed back to the showgrounds for Saturday Night Lights. We didn’t stay that long, but I can tell you that the class was brutal – the first clear round didn’t come until 13 deep in the order. Rails were falling left and right, and even with an adjusted time allowed there were time faults. Lina got to ride the carousel, we watched the mechanical bronc fail to unseat all the teenagers, and we snuck into the VIP area where our friends had a table. I would’ve loved to stay longer, but tiny bodies and extreme heat don’t mix well, so we headed out to get her to bed in the AC.

Sunday was our last day! We had a speed class and then our classic round. Most importantly, it was the day I got to wear my new outfit. We all know the priorities here. Our speed class went early in the day, and it was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing catastrophic. Frankie was starting to slow down a bit in the heat at the end of the week, and who could blame him. I still had a blast and he still was an angel.

After a break that made me seriously contemplate scratching the classic so I could remove myself from the pits of Hades that was the showgrounds, we went in for our classic round. The first line was set on a pretty open step and I was definitely not helping Frankie accomplish that, and he very politely and reasonably declined to make the monstrous move I asked him to make to jump 2. He then politely and reasonably permitted me to try again, and gave me a lovely rest of the course. Bless his heart for not holding a grudge and giving me the chance to try again. It was very much a case of pilot error and Frankie being smart enough to make the decision to keep us both safe, and I can’t be mad about that!

We rounded out our week by stuffing our faces with pasta and taking a long nap. The car ride home on Monday was a mirror of the previous week – Lina and I both had some Emotions(TM) around hour 6, but we made it home in good shape and no worse for wear.

A few overarching thoughts:

On Lina: she is the coolest kid and we are so lucky. We took her to probably 10-15 different restaurants over the course of the week, and she was such a bro about it. Ate everything, sat happily, smiled and waved at everyone nearby. She handled the constant car rides, the heat, the change of scenery all with her usual toothy smiles. Obviously I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s just the coolest little buddy.

On Nicholas: he continues to be the best husband ever. I would not in a million years have been able to do this without him being SuperDad and holding down the fort with the small one. He hates the heat, he’s allergic to horses, he had to handle 5:30a wakeup times when Lina wouldn’t settle as I left, but he was unwaveringly supportive and wonderful. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my husband, but he’s just the coolest guy.

On Frankie: oh boy. Where do I start. I felt confident every single time I walked into that ring. I smiled real big every time I walked out of it. He is total perfection, my angel boy, the best horse I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. He took care of me and made the whole thing so stinkin fun. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my horse, but he’s just the coolest bubba.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for joining this self-indulgent monster of a post ❤

Tryon 2022

I have a monster post sitting in my drafts folder, with a breakdown of the whole week. But I just keep sitting here staring at it feeling zero desire to post a full-blown novel. Like, I wrote the post and it still took me 20 minutes to read through.

So instead, I’d like to share some of my favorite pictures from the week:

We did some super cool hikes early in the week before the weather got blazing hot. Peanut was the best adventure buddy!
My husband resignedly watching me fall in love with the most expensive coat in the store
Baby’s first Grand Prix! It was Nick’s first too, and he loved seeing the excitement of the crowd and learning about why we all gasped through the triple combo.
My little good luck charm ❤ She was such a trooper, so much fun, and Nick was total SuperDad.
You’ve all heard me say how much I adore my trainer, and it still holds true – she cheered for the success I found each day even when that meant I was out of the ribbons, pushed me to “stop being lame” (her words) when I complained about the heat, totally enabled the burgundy coat, and she loves Frankie almost as much as I do. Very very grateful for her.
Yes, I got the coat. No, I have no regrets.
Oh Francis. How are you so perfect.
Angel boy always posing

I’m so so so glad that I signed up for private photography with Natalie Suto. I got a zillion pictures I LOVE, including all the fun candids that really capture the spirit of things. Completely totally worth it, I can’t stop staring.

Overall, it was a fabulous trip. Lots of fun family time, we stayed at a beautiful mountain cabin, we ate yummy food and Lina loved being in restaurants, I smiled every single time I walked in the ring, and I smiled every single time I walked out.

I could not have done this without my husband being the most supportive incredible partner and father, my daughter being the world’s coolest baby, my trainer meeting me where I am right now, my barnmates and their families loving on me and my family, just everyone being the extra hands and hearts to get us in the ring feeling confident.

And as always, I could not have done this without the world’s best horse. He takes care of me better than I deserve, he makes it all fun, and I love him with my whole heart.

Can’t wait for the next outing together!

Tryon Strategizing

As we get ready for our trip down south, we’ve been very carefully considering what the best options would be in terms of what classes we’ll do.

My original plan was just to pick one class every day at 0.90m or 1m and putter around and have fun. After Loudoun went so well, I figured we’d stick in the 1m since the height feels comfy for both of us.

But Loudoun really did go so well. Really well.

The ribbons are not the only proof of a great show but I ain’t mad about them

So I figured, why not go for it. Let’s do the full division and see if we can aim for a tricolor. It is super rare for someone to beat us on time (Francois is FAST), so if I can just help him keep those rails up, I think we have a solid shot at some good placings.

The only downside to this is that the Tryon schedule runs the Low Adult division with 2 classes on Saturday and 2 classes on Sunday. If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know that we are a One Class A Day Team. We get ready, we lay it down, we call it a day. So doing TWO in a day is definitely going to be an adjustment for both of us.

Like the time we did two equitation classes and he threw a massive tantrum (which in Frankie world means refusing to give me a lead change and ignoring all requests to change his stride even minimally. He really showed me.)

Physically, I’m not concerned. Frankie is in incredible shape fitness-wise and certainly has the stamina, and this height is very comfortable for him. I’ve been working out as well to help make sure my own strength and stamina is there to help him out as needed. In the spirit of being conservative, we’re going to stick with a short lesson on Wednesday, one warmup round at either 0.9m/1m on Thursday, a light hack Friday, then the division on the weekend. We were originally going to compete Friday, but I’d rather give him a light day so he can rest up and feel fresh going into the weekend. As always, we go for quality over quantity with our show schedules.

Mentally, we’re trying to prepare Francis for the possibility that he might have to *gasp* go back to work after a break. My lessons have involved me doing 80-90% of my lesson, then leaving the ring and acting like we’re done for the day. Then going back in and doing one more course. Just to get him used to the idea that done right now doesn’t necessarily mean done for the day. He’s been known to get cranky when he thinks he deserves a break. Thankfully he’s been a good egg about this, if a bit confused (side note – a good egg but confused is actually pretty representative of his day-to-day life). We’ll keep up this mental game so it should hopefully not be a huge surprise when we ask that of him at the show.

“Not that I mind, but why is there a second smaller human up there”

On the non-horse side, I’ve been hard at work building out an itinerary since this is also our summer family vacation! I think I’ve got a nice little menu of outdoor activities for the nice days, indoor activities if we need to beat the heat/rain, and restaurants to check out. If you have must-sees, definitely let me know! Lina is a super fun little traveler buddy, and we’re psyched for our longest trip to-date with her.

She is very very tall, and very very cute

I’ve got a solid packing list built out for us too (I may or may not have a standing spreadsheet that auto-updates quantities depending on length of stay and average temperature…), and have picked up a few new things – water shoes, an electric scooter (more on this later!!! It’s awesome!!!), and rocket ship shaped pins to hold my number on my saddle pad. You know, the essentials.

They’re guaranteed to make us faster, I’m 100% sure of it

The only thing left on my list is a pair or two of breeches – I used to have a glorious assortment, but I very much do not fit into that size anymore and have to build up a new collection. Anyone getting rid of size 28/30 show-quality breeches (tan or white, or a conservative dark color I can school in), I will happily send you money and take them off your hands! I’m cheap and dislike buying new, and I’d rather send money to friends.

T-11 days til liftoff!

Loudoun Benefit 2022

Folks, we did it. We made it back in the show ring after 22 months.

It. Was. Awesome.

Truly, I was beyond thrilled to be back out there with the Frankfurter. The short version is that we got right back into it like no time had passed. There were no nerves, I wasn’t as rusty as I thought, and that muscle memory kicked right back in. And obviously Francisco was perfection incarnate.

We opted to take the conservative route and start off with a single 0.90m class on Friday. The original plan was to start with that, then do a 1m Low Adult class if it went well, but I had to get home to baby girl so we opted to stick with the one.

Here was our course. I biffed jump 8 and had to add a stride out over 9, but other than that it flowed really nicely. Basically a hunter course, right?

We ended up getting a super cheap rail in the two stride (I literally didn’t even feel him tap it) and I needed to help him out a bit in the crazy heat, but overall it went great! I left the ring beaming from ear to ear, feeling super confident in our ride. And the height felt like absolutely nothing to him. I immediately got online and scratched the rest of the 0.90m classes for the weekend so I could move back into the Lows!

I got to see friends who I haven’t seen in ages and ages, and it was the best. My social little heart was so happy.
Blurry screenshot from our warmup, but I want to make it very clear that I could not stop smiling the entire time. Riding this horse is more fun than anything.

Thankfully, Saturday was MUCH cooler than Friday (65F instead of 95F). Even better, Nick and Lina came out to hang! I was a little nervous about keeping Lina entertained so we packed a hundred toys and snacks and tents and just a ton of gear, and she needed none of it. I did my course walk with her strapped to my chest, she hung out in her stroller, she walked around the rings, she said hi to every person within eyesight and pet all the ponies. She smiled up at me from her stroller as we walked back to the barn together after my round. The whole thing was just really really really lovely to share with her. I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s also just super cool and awesome. Big fan.

Fam 🙂

But moving on to the exciting part: our actual round! It was a speed class (our favoritest of favorite formats) and everything walked really nicely. I ended up screaming at people in the warmup ring to STOP CIRCLING IN FRONT OF THE JUMPS, but I popped over a few and got out of there ASAP.

The plan was to go in and get around. Make conservative turns, get nice and straight, just take our time and have fun. It was a pretty big class (35 riders) and my goal was simply to get my sea legs back at the 1m height.

It ended up being a great course! I got a little close to 5 and had to gallop out over 6, I let Frankie drift through my right side heading up to 10a-b and he needed to put an extra stride to make it out (sorry bubba!!), so I decided to sit back and add out over 11. But these mistakes didn’t feel like “holy crap we haven’t done this in two years” mistakes, they felt like “I am an amateur and sometimes forget I have two legs” mistakes. The normal kind I’ve always made. And because Francois is an angel baby, he managed to go clean.

And fast. Despite making wide turns from 4 to 5, 6 to 7a-b, and 9 to 10a-b, this kid earned us 3rd place out of 35. I was laughing that if I had known we stood a chance at a ribbon, I would’ve made those turns neater! Literally the only thing holding him back was me.

In case anyone was wondering if the height would be a problem. It was not.

I’m obviously proud of that ribbon, but moreso I am downright giddy at how much fun we had out there. Frankie was game, he was honest, we took turns helping each other out, he was simply a joy (as always). Literally the best boy in the world.

Another blurry screenshot of me smiling at Lina as I came off the last jump.
We then spent the afternoon out on the river, where Lina tried to jump in the water the whole time. Blessings to the person who put an oh-shit handle on baby life jackets.

The original class listing showed the Sunday classic as a speed round, which I found surprising but delightful (again, we LOVE speed rounds). Much to my chagrin, they changed it on Saturday night to a more traditional II2.b jumpoff round.

The Low Adult classic was the first in the ring starting at 7:30, so I was up and out the door mega early. It was the first time in Lina’s life that I wasn’t there when she woke up. This isn’t relevant to the story, I just had some emotions about it (Lina was perfectly happy with her daddy, so the emotions were only on my end).

I was 6th in the order, which I loved. It meant I had time to walk my course, head back to the barn and toss my helmet on, and immediately go warm up. I don’t like to sit around and wait – put me in, coach.

Another bonus of going early is that the warmup ring wasn’t crazy yet. Thank goodness.
Smiling while walking up to the in gate. All the smiles.
Here’s the course! Mostly straightforward. 6 to 7 walked weird for me every time – I kept getting 7.5 strides no matter what I did. I saw people doing everything from 7 to 9. I ended up putting in 8 since I got a bit close to the oxer at 6, but it was def tight and I had to kick out. Other than that, everything lined up really nicely.

I had my Sunday Frankie – a little more tired, and needing to maintain a nice forward gallop since sitting back and collecting is harder at that energy level. He’s definitely a much better Sunday horse than he used to be, but I don’t blame him for starting to slow down after a big weekend!

We had a rail just barely tip at jump 2, but the rest went lovely. He absolutely LAUNCHED over the oxer at 5, we got a bit close to the in at 7a and had to kick out, 8 up to 9 rode in a lovely 6 strides, and then I totally just let him drift all over the place at 10a-b so we got a bit strung out and chipped over 11. But much like the day before, I was thrilled at how game and how smart he was. It definitely felt like a course where we took turns helping each other out, which is always my goal.

Debriefing after our round, pointing to the jumps I liked the best 🙂

In true Francisco fashion, even with those 4 jumping faults he was fast enough to earn us a pretty lime green 11th place ribbon out of a field of 28. I was delighted that they placed through 12th, and even more delighted to be in that group. It was a lovely way to wrap up the weekend.

Loving on him while he rested up in his ice boots.

I could not feel better about this past weekend. It was fun, I felt confident walking in the ring, it was FUN, I got to hang out with so many friends, I had a BLAST, Frankie took incredible care of me, it was SO FREAKIN FUN. The ribbons were a lovely cherry on top.

Showing definitely looked different for me than it used to: I had to head out soon after my rounds to get home to Lina/let her nap, instead of lingering all day. I had to lean on our awesome groom to help get me tacked/untacked/where I needed to be on time, while I often like to do more of Frankie’s aftercare myself. I had to sneak in quick visits with friends when I was able, instead of staying to watch all their rounds. It was an adjustment. It took a lot of help from a lot of people, both in the barn and out of the barn. I’m incredibly grateful for all that help, and that I got to experience such a great weekend of being Lina’s mom AND Frankie’s partner. Those are two of my favorite roles I play in this life, and having them coexist so closely feels so good.

I’m already counting down the days to Tryon so we can get back out there!

Cheers to the bestest Flying Frankfurter. My heart ❤

It’s ShowTime

I have two big things I wanted to share, so let’s start with the best one first!!

Our darling girl has officially made it to her first horse show. Evangeline went in for her first leadline class under the oaks at Upperville, and it was everything I was dreaming of from literally the day I found out I was pregnant.

Like. The cuteness. I cannot.

Y’all haven’t seen cute until you’ve seen a size 18M show coat. We did have to get a little creative: her bows simply attached to her helmet because she has such short hair, and her “paddock boots” are just toddler shoes with brown laces instead of the sparkly pink they came with, and her breeches are knee patch pants. But the show shirt and coat and helmet and garters are all genuine show clothes made in a tiny size!! And do you see that little itty bitty saddle?!

We were lucky enough to borrow the sweetest little pony mare who was beyond gentle and careful with Lina. My dad came down to be her other handler, and she was so happy to have her Colonel close by (in full Colonel dress, no less). Yes, all the grandkids call him Colonel. It’s hilarious. I also got to wear an absolutely enormous hat, so I’m very happy.

It was utter chaos. 10/10 would totally do again.
Also hilarious that they had full size numbers for the little kids. It was literally the size of her entire torso.

Overall, it was such a fun experience that I definitely hope to repeat next year. Lina has been carrying around her pretty rainbow ribbon ever since, she loved waving at her adoring fans lining the ring, she giggled when she pat her pony’s nose, it was simply heartwarming. I was hoping she’d have as much fun participating as I did preparing, and thankfully that was the case!

And now that Evangeline’s show debut has happened, we’re turning our attention towards my own re-debut! Francois and I will be competing at Loudoun Benefit this weekend, and I am vibrating with anticipation.

The OG readers may remember that Loudoun was our very first show together when I got him back in 2016. We’re both older and wiser (questionable) now, and it’ll be super fun for this to be our re-entry to the show world.

In the spirit of not being an entire idiot, we decided to do the 0.90m class on Friday to see where we’re at. Depending on how that feels, we’ll either stick in the 0.90m classes for the weekend or head into the 1m Low Adults for Saturday/Sunday. The only reason I super want to do the Lows is because both Sat/Sun are speed classes (and you all know I love a good speed class), but really I’ll be happy either way. We’ve got nothing to prove, nothing to qualify for, we’re just here for a good time.

We’ve been schooling some decent height in our last couple lessons and it has all felt beyond easy for Frankie, so I know he’ll be good to go for whatever height we end up doing. My eye isn’t as rusty as I thought and I’m feeling stronger every ride! Francisco literally feels the best he’s ever felt right now in terms of muscling and fitness and rideability – I was joking that we should throw him in the 1.10m classes at Tryon if he’s gonna make this all look so easy.

Bad photo. Good horse.

I’m joking. Probably.

But in all seriousness, I feel really really prepared and excited going into this show. A few friends expressed some gentle concern when I mentioned my plan to get back in the show ring so soon after getting back in the saddle, and I will fully admit that it was an aggressive timeline, but now that we’re here it feels extremely comfortable.

My trunk is packed, Francois heads over to the show tomorrow, and I can’t wait to share updates!