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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been sitting on some big news: Frankie and I have a new home!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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 ❤
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In the usual way of things, we have a change of plans for our summer show schedule!
Instead of heading north to Michigan to enjoy GLEF for two weeks, we’re instead heading down to Tryon for a week. My trainer called recently to ask if I was dead-set on Michigan, and I believe my words were: “I literally don’t care where we end up as long as I get to show.”
I’m a high maintenance client in most ways, but I am supremely not picky about where I get to hop over colorful sticks for exorbitant amounts of money.
While GLEF is staying on my bucket list, I’m super majorly excited to head down to Tryon! You may remember that we almost made the trip down a couple years ago (holy crap it was already five years ago), so I’m super super excited to finally get there. I’m especially excited that my husband was able to take some time off work for us to turn it into a little family vacation. The super-cute AirBnB is booked and we’re excited to make the trip! The house I picked has a fenced in yard and is pet friendly, but I’m not convinced we should be subjecting our polar bear to July in North Carolina. She’ll likely stay up north, either at Grandma and Grandpa’s air conditioned house, or at her own air-conditioned home with a house sitter.
I’m feeling really good about being ready to go show. We’ve slowly started putting a few jumps up and it’s going well – I definitely have to grab mane and cling on when I ask for shorter turns and Frankie delivers, but he’s smart enough to stay under me. He’s on schedule to get his usual injections this week, we’ll likely sign up for a massage after Loudoun, and the combo of training rides and fitness center visits is fantastic for his overall feeling under saddle. In short: he feels absolutely lovely, and is just as fun as ever. I simply adore him.
Right now I’m riding him in his snaffle since I don’t quite trust my balance with the leverage of the elevator I like him best in. It’s not the end of the world if we stick with this, but I’m hoping to get strong and balanced enough to get back in the elevator for the show ring since he does get a bit know-it-all-ish when he hears the buzzer go off. To be fair, he does know quite a bit. We’ll play it by ear; he’s also a lot more broke and smart than the last time we showed in a snaffle, so I’m not overly concerned about it – we’ve shown at a lot higher height, with way fewer miles under our belt, and it was fine.
We’re excited to be heading into our summer show season, and will keep you all updated!!
With several lessons under our belt, I’m excited that things are (slowly) starting to come back together for us.
The good news is that the muscle memory is definitely there, and emerges more and more with every ride. The not so good news is that I often don’t have the strength or stamina to enact said muscle memory. But we’re tackling things methodically and it’s getting better every time I get in the saddle.
Both trainers have been really great about balancing my lack of fitness while still knocking the rust off by focusing on tightening up my position and giving straightforward exercises. I’ve been able to tackle some basic bending lines, some fun serpentines, we’re slowly starting to put the jumps back up, and I’ve been grinning ear to ear the whole time. Thankfully the height is the easiest part of things, since Francisco has a very easy jump to stay with. I’m eager to get less potato-ish so we can start putting the pieces together with technical + height – my eye is still basically there (as much as it ever was, which is not great but at least it’s something) and I like riding on a more open step to a little height.
One thing I’m particularly grateful for is how fit Frankie is. He came out of the winter having gained a little weight, which I see as a win as he enters his mid-late teens. I’d much rather have him pack on a few pounds than lose any in the cold weather. He feels powerful, forward, eager to do his job, and with his usual good nature he is being very patient and careful with me (literally during one of the serpentine exercises he changed direction to stay under me when I wobbled around a turn. The horse is a saint.). All of the work over the past 6 years has really changed him – it’s crazy how correct muscling has literally made his conformation look different (better).
His fitness is fantastic for me as I get back to it. It means he has his own motor so I can focus on a supportive still leg rather than constantly squeezing (the OGs from 2016-2017 know how much pony kicking we used to do), it means he’s very comfortable and powerful enough to jump from a variety of spots when I don’t adjust as quickly as I should, it means he’s happy to collect and add the stride when it’s clear I have no idea what I’m doing. He’s so well educated that he’s easily tattling on me when I ask for something versus when I do nothing. He really came out of his lease even better than he went into it.
As I mentioned previously, I’m currently a bit of a weekend warrior (plus one weekday), so obviously I’m not able to keep up this fitness level on my own. I also very very much want to keep up this fitness level, both for the help it gives me and for the obvious reason that Frankie is healthier for it. The core of this remain his 2x a week pro rides that he’s been getting for years. The trainer I ride with on Mondays now is actually the person who has been giving him these rides for roughly 2-2.5 years now, and it definitely helps our lessons that she knows him so well. She’s the one who installed a really nice trot jump on him and has very patiently focused on correct, adjustable, educated work. She has also said that he’s the only horse that would tempt her to try the jumpers and that he’s good as gold, so clearly she has great taste.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve also added weekly trips to the Equine Fitness Center for the Frankfurter to get his sweat on! I’m really eager to see how this helps with his fitness, his muscling, and overall way of going. It’s under the supervision of our usual vet who has been fantastic for us, and I’m hoping it’s a solid complement to our regimen of training, preventative maintenance, and conditioning. He’s been twice now, and got the following report card the first time:
Scary equipment he’s never seen? No problem, walk right on. A wash stall, the same as any wash stall he’s been in a HUNDRED times? NOPE NOPE NOPE. Chilling in a nice paddock with hay and water within sight of his buddies? NO WAY NO WAY. Apparently on his second visit they just had him go first so he always had a buddy within sight and he was fine. Why is every person and animal in my family so extroverted that it becomes a problem for other people.
It really is a full time gig trying to ensure that this horse becomes immortal. Worth it.
Overall, I’m beyond thrilled with how things are going. I love this big smelly beast with my whole heart, and getting to bop around with him makes me so so so happy. I’m excited to get off property and do some competing this summer!
And we’ve really gotten back into it with a bang: I was able to sneak a private lesson on Saturday morning, made a quick jaunt to the barn for a short hack on Sunday, and had my first group lesson in almost two years on Monday evening.
Oh. My. Gosh. Ow. My muscles. I’m making old man noises every time I sit down. Or stand up. Or walk. Or move in any way.
Saturday was a bit chaotic: I was heading to my in-laws directly from the barn, so I had the dog in the trunk, the baby in the carseat, my saddle and stroller in the backseat next to her, and all our overnight gear piled in the front. While we don’t need as much equipment as we did when she was younger, it is tough to travel light with a bebe. Nick was at work, so it was interesting getting everyone and everything wrangled solo. But with much goodwill and patience from Maggie and Lina we got to the barn pretty much on time! I was able to pop Maggie in Frankie’s stall while I rode (which she LOATHED), and my trainer’s daughter kept an eye on Lina and entertained her (which she LOVED).
We kept things fairly simple: some light flat work, a little sitting trot to test the muscles out, some lengthenings and shortenings to get Frankie feeling good. A couple crossrails, some little lines, then a short course to play over some jumps. Nothing over 2’6″, it was all such chump change for Francis. He felt simply incredible. I’ve been so grateful to hop on friends’ horses, but nothing compares to my perfect Frankfurter. He’s in fantastic shape, he looks like a million bucks, he was happy and forward and adjustable and ready to cover up all my mistake. I got stuck on the add step a little while I tried to figure out my eye, but overall I felt like things were starting to come back and every time got a little better. It was a perfect low-key confidence boost of a lesson to officially kick things back off.
Sunday was a treat – since it was Easter, I wasn’t planning on riding. But then Lina went down for her nap, my in-laws offered to keep her entertained if she woke up, and I was able to dash out for a quick ride. It was so fun! Very short and sweet – maybe 15 minutes, trying to work out some of the soreness from the day before – but the weather was perfect and Francisco was his usual happy self. This was also my first time going to the barn without Lina since she was born. As much as I love bringing her along, I gotta say that it was a luxury to have my whole focus on Frankie and take my time grooming him without worrying about her.
And then my first group lesson on Monday! Nick took Lina and Maggie home while I split off to head to the barn, which was also a first for us. I thought I might make it home for bedtime, but we figured she’d be ok with her daddy even if I wasn’t there.
This was also my first lesson with one of the other trainers working out of our facility – I’ve only really worked with my barn owner/trainer and her former assistant trainer. I really liked her! She was sympathetic to my complete lack of muscle tone, but still gave solid technical feedback. I’ll be riding with her every other week and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It was also great to ride with some of the other ammies that I haven’t gotten to spend time with in a while. I love having my barn social time back ❤
And because she is a very excellent little girl, Lina went down easy and bedtime was not a problem. I’m super relieved to know that getting to the barn during the week is going to be manageable!
Riding three days in a row may have been the most painful thing I’ve done to myself in a long time, but I don’t regret it for a minute. I’ve been absolutely floating with happiness at getting this time with my boy. I felt like we settled right back into our little routines and interactions, he’s still my goofy lovable creature, he’s still my heart. I’ll be hobbling around happily, constantly glancing at the calendar to see when I get to ride next.
PS – I’m on a bit of a hunt for show clothes if anyone is looking to offload. My body is a completely different size and shape than it was pre-baby, and while I expect things will shift more as I get back in the saddle, I don’t want to pressure myself into getting back completely in my old clothes. If anyone has a show coat in a size similar to a Grand Prix 12 or 14, show shirts in a S or M, or tan mid-rise breeches in a 28 or 30, hit me up!