Piedmont Jumper Classic 2020

Phew, I’m so relieved that the cat is finally out of the bag. Do you know how hard it is for me to keep my own secrets?? I’m the opposite of a private person.

But now that I can actually share what happened, I want to capture this show as a record for me to look back on. And it was a blast!

In classic Francis fashion, I received this pic from my trainer roughly 20 minutes after he got off the trailer. Show naps are best naps in Frankie’s book.

You may remember that the plan was for me to go in the 1.10m High classes since Frankie was going so well and we were getting back into shape post-grad school. And I will say, we did continue schooling around that height even after I found out I was expecting – I trust this horse with my life and honestly feel safer on him than my own two feet.

However, as we started pushing a little bit harder it became apparent that Frankie was having a bit of an identity crisis. Several times a week I hopped on and told him to fire up into Spicy Jumper Mode(TM), and several times a week his kid hopped on and they worked on mellowing out into 2’6″ hunter mode. He is excellent at both of these jobs. But I think it was a bit too much for his brain to try and switch back and forth on a day-to-day basis. I was left feeling like I was kicking and holding nothing, and he was getting fast with the kid.

After some frustrating rides where I just couldn’t get the right pace to make the bigger jumps feel comfortable, we decided to keep the height feeling very comfortable and not try to make Frankie be two things at once. We talked about what my goals were for this show (have a lot of fun) and for the rest of the season (I knew due to scheduling this would likely be my last show for a long time) and ultimately we opted to actually go in for the lowest classes they offered: the 0.80m.

Real mature Francis, making faces at your friend

I am honestly so glad we made this decision. I knew this was a height Frankie could quite literally walk over, at a venue we’ve been to many times, and I could point-and-shoot the entire thing. There was no stress and no nerves, just bopping around the ring enjoying my perfect packer in a setting where he strutted out of the ring feeling majorly confident about himself.

Not to mention the stunning views over the hills as I got to watch the bigger classes run.

It was a far cry from the turn and burn that got us Champion in the Lows last year, and an even further departure from the original plan to go in the Highs, but it set us up for a wonderful relaxing experience before I took a break from showing. We had several clear rounds for pretty blue ribbons, my husband got to come out and cheer us on one morning, we went for walks around the pretty showgrounds, and Francis was happy as a clam to play packer pony.

Love of my life ❤

Of course, I’m already itching to get back in the show ring with the Frankfurter. Counting down until I can take Francisco in the jumpers in the morning and stick him in leadline in the afternoon!

Sea Legs: Engage

It’s been a fantastic week! I got to jump around a horse that was not Frankie for the first time in years, Frankie and I put the jumps up a bit in a lesson, and we made it back in the show ring for the first time since February!

I’ve told you all about sweet Meeko, who is an absolute star that belongs to my good friend at the barn. She’s been super generous about letting me pop on for a hack, and this week I was lucky enough to take him in a lesson. I gotta tell you – as much fun as flatting him is, jumping him is just next level. He is a metronome and beautifully forward; I could keep a light seat and just guide the track, and he took care of the rest.

Honestly I have video of us jumping but I’m too lazy to upload it, so just take my word for it.

And then for the first time in at least 18 months, Francisco and I popped over a solid 3’6″ish jump! He’d been packing me around so perfectly at 3’3″ that we decided to do some grid work and let us both see how putting them up a bit felt. It was nice to be able to focus just on the motion and not think about track/distances/etc.

Honestly? It felt really good. I definitely need some more strength in my core to hold myself in place, I need to work on my angles, I need to step deeper in my lower leg, all sorts of things I need to polish to be proficient at that height. But I feel really confident that I can pull that together.

Even better was how Frankie felt. We assumed that he would be surprised when the last jump went up – previously it was set to around 2’6″ while we worked on other things, and suddenly it was somewhere between 3’6″ and 3’9″. I kicked him into the grid expecting him to hesitate or lurch or have some sort of reaction to seeing a much larger obstacle waiting for him.

What do I ever doubt him? Homeboy popped over it without blinking. You would’ve thought he’s been schooling that height regularly. He was uber casual about it, cantered away the exact same, and didn’t act like anything had changed. All our hard work on strength and adjustability clearly made him feel confident (as a side note, I truly believe he feels stronger and fitter and overall better than he did when we were actually competing at that height, so I’m not surprised that he felt so good over it).

It was just 2 jumps, but it was enough of a test to know that it’s still in there and he still feels good about that job. And while I don’t have video of our trips through the grid with no hands and no stirrups (#SaintFrancis), I do have video of our trips through at height! Head on over to my Instagram to hear me yell “Yes!!!” after surviving. Lots to work on for me, but thrilled with Francisco.

Which brings us to our Saturday show. There is a fantastic show series literally 10 minutes from the barn that has a super extensive prize list, gorgeous rings, and is run beautifully all for a great price. We shipped in for the afternoon to do the open 1m schooling jumpers and figured we would pick 2 out of the 3 classes to get back in the ring.

Spoiler: he was the cutest pony face to ever go around any ring ever. PC – Mosaic Photography

After a quick warmup to make sure we were listening (we were) and awake (we were), we headed in for our jumpoff round. It definitely took a couple jumps for Frankie to realize where he was; you can hear him tap a couple jumps in the first half, and I felt like I was kicking the crap out of him. I think he’s spent so much time slowing down for his lease kid that he genuinely didn’t think he was supposed to open back up. A quick tap with the whip and I could almost see it click in his head. All of a sudden I had my Francisco back and he carried me around beautifully, listening like a pro and helping me out. He won us that class out of 5 or 6 entries!

We opted to not do the power and speed class (I have a deep hatred of that format honestly, it is my least favorite by far) and went in for a speed round, which was the exact same course minus a jumpoff. We didn’t change it up too much except for making one turn a bit more efficient and leaving a stride out in one line. I needed him to help me out when I didn’t quite set him up right to a couple jumps in there, but luckily he was back in Jumper Mode(TM) and was more than happy to take care of me. Francisco ended up winning this smaller class as well out of 3.

I certainly can’t be unhappy with 2 blues for 2 trips, and I certainly couldn’t be more thrilled with how happy, forgiving, and straight up fun Frankie felt. He helped me out in places, he listened and let me help him in places, and I felt 100% confident at every point. The height felt completely doable and (dare I say it) even low to us, so I’m hoping we’ll get to work on polishing up and getting over some bigger fences. Onwards and upwards with the best horse in the whole world!

And of course, this goober will continue to get endless pats and ear rubs no matter what he’s doing. PC – Mosaic Photography

Ocala 2020: The Beast

Pardon the delay in sharing the rest of my Ocala experience – life has been a bit bonkers lately and the blog has taken a bit of a backseat as I try to sort some things out. All good things that I’m excited to share, just want them a bit more settled first!

But let’s get back to our Southern Sojourn.

I don’t want to dissect every single ride in detail, so I’m going to do what I did in my last post and just kinda share overarching thoughts and patterns that I noticed during our two weeks down there.

img_3735
Big pattern: the cutest possible ears to exist on the planet

First off, Frankie felt fit. I already talked about how we carefully and successfully managed his energy throughout our time there, but this only worked because I had a really fit and happy horse. His joints felt good, his muscling felt good, his saddle fit well, and he had the conditioning to hold up to the workload. After literal years of trying to find the right balance for him, this is what I’d consider our greatest success of the past few months – pushing hard enough without overdoing it.

img_3850
When we enter the ring and I get this sass face and this prancy trot, I know we’re in for a good time with an energetic horse

On the equitation side of things, we’re getting there. Considering this was only our third (I think?) time tackling the adult medals, we’re making solid progress. My main job is to remember to drop him a bit when he wants to speed up. When I relax my body like that and allow him to soften in turn, he is really a lovely ride that allows me to stay very quiet up top. It’s a very different feel from the jumper ring where I want him fired up and dragging me a bit, so I’m extra proud of him for being able to switch back and forth like that. We ended up having some strong rounds, and even managed a 5th out of 21 for one class with some truly top notch horse and rider pairs in there. There was a definite sense of satisfaction to know how far my Francis has come in his training and to be able to hold our own against those superbly polished pairs.

83641385-19cd-42a5-84fc-db52a87bc43f
I myself could use some polish, but ISN’T HE THE CUTEST REAL LIFE EQ HORSE?!

 

During this whole show, Francis felt SMART. You all know that I rarely use that word when it comes to my lovable Dingus Man. Kind and forgiving, he is. A genius, he is not. He’s been very good at his job in the jumper ring for quite a while, but this is the first show where I felt like I had a truly very intelligent animal under me. This was also the first show that my trainer gave her full blessing to take the riskiest inside-iest turns possible. We used to go for the more conservative inside turns, aiming for efficient and smooth.

img_3867
Or we can do casual and cranky honestly either one is fine

This time we aimed for the bonkers turns where you look and say, “there’s no way that can work.” At one point I was going the opposite direction of my next jump, directly next to it. Within 3 strides we had already turned and jumped. We made slices, we cut through the ring, we wasted no strides going around where we could squeeze through instead. And Francis was absolutely brilliant about all of it. He was catty, he was tuned into me every step of the way, he was maneuverable and eager to do it. My job was to not fall off the side when he made those turns. He simply felt downright smart about every single course. (I have videos to share, I just gotta upload them first!)

img_3863
His eyes may be closed but his heart is already turning left

Along with the smarts was some really lovely adjustability. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those riders with a naturally perfect eye, but our hard work on quality of canter, adjustability of stride, and judgement to the base has definitely paid off. There were certainly “oops” moments here and there but far fewer than there used to be. I know a bit more about what to ask for, Frankie knows a lot more about how to respond, and it led to some of the best courses we’ve ridden to date. Of the rails we pulled on course I can confidently say that there was only one that was a true omg-I-biffed-it rail. The rest were just unlucky rubs where we weren’t quite careful enough. And as a whole there were fewer rails than there used to be. At some point I need a shirt that says #fastest4faulters because every time we had a rail, we ended up being the fastest time on the clock. We’re putting the pieces together of taking those risks while still going clean and seeing a ton of progress!

img_3757
DO YOU SEE THIS ANIMAL AND HOW PERFECT HE IS

As a truly wonderful feather in our cap, Frankie carried me clear and fast in our Classic the second week to an astounding 2nd out of a combined Child/Adult field of 37. We managed to hold the lead until the very last rider, who put down an INCREDIBLE jumpoff and 100% deserved the win. That big red ribbon was the best possible finish to our bootcamp.

img_3868
The button braids. The bonnet. the happy ears. All of it.

This whole show felt like a really lovely assembly of so many of the lessons we’ve learned over the years. We set ourselves up for success, we took risks that paid off, we went in the ring trying to win and not just make it around, and the ribbons reflected the ride.

We had the type of consistency I’ve been hoping to accomplish for a while now. At the end of Week 2, my trainer and I even said that we kinda wished I had moved back up to the Highs that week. Frankie clearly was feeling funky fresh and we had the accuracy.

img_3851
The height. It did not pose a challenge for him (even with a spider monkey on his back).

So coming off such a successful show we’ve decided to dabble in that division again this season! We’ll do a step up at a smaller nearby show that tends to set a bit soft, and we’ll hit the 1.10-1.15m ring again at Upperville. I honestly did not have plans to step back up this year (or ever, really) and I’m still delightedly surprised at how good my horse is feeling these days. I fully expected to need to slow things down as he moves into his teenage years; he’s always been tough to keep fit. But whatever we’re doing is clearly working well for him so we may as well keep flying!

Much like my trip down to Ocala in 2016, this trip down to Florida turned out to be a game changer. Cheers to my fifth show season with the Frankfurter and cheers to always being amazed by this horse.

img_3755
Sweaty, dirty, and full of love always for my perfect boy

Ocala 2020: Managing the Energy

Man, I don’t even know where to start with our trip down to Florida. It was such a long time (felt like it at least), so busy balancing riding, working, homework, and other stuff, and had a ton of stuff that I’d love to share. This is going to be several posts, so I beg your patience as I try to organize my rambling thoughts.

img_3856
I need to start an album of pics like this where we both look so magically photogenic

First I’d like to talk about some of the things that we learned/did differently based on what we’ve learned before.

The first is what happened on our first Thursday, which was our first competition day. Frankie had been there and had explored the showgrounds since Monday, but it was definitely much more crowded and busy on Thursday. I got to the warmup ring with a VERY tense horse under me. I couldn’t blame him in the least – there are 17 rings there, many loudspeakers, buzzers, gold carts, mopeds, TONS of activity all around. Lots to look at. I opted to do a short flat warmup and then take a solid 10-15 minutes to simply walk around the warmup ring. That did the trick and after a few big sighs we were able to have a much more focused and productive warmup. That’s something I learned a while ago: Frankie is usually pretty relaxed, but sometimes he just needs a moment to take a breath. After that he was certainly interested in all the activity, but in a curious way and not a WHAT THE HECK IS ALL THIS MA way.

img_3907
This is leaving that warmup ring. Ears alert but no longer doing his best Anxiety Llama(TM) impersonation. 

The other is a new learning! A little context: usually we only do one round with Frankie per day. I know that seems like very little for the amount that I pay to show, but with the height and the jumper divisions I’ve found that one round hits the sweet spot for us to keep him feeling fresh and ready. But I had two eq medals both Fridays. Not a big deal when it’s an open card and I can just pop in and out of the ring for multiple rounds in a row. But that becomes difficult when the woman running the gate fed the order sheet to her dog and decided smiling and shrugging was the answer to all questions. That means that all of a sudden we have a dreaded gap between our rounds.

So we ended up sitting there for 10, 15 minutes waiting for our next turn in the ring. And it was dinner time. So by the time I finally go back in the ring, Francis is D O N E with all of this GARBAGE it’s time to EAT why am I even HERE. I asked for a bit more pace, he said “NOPE SLOWIN WAY DOWN.” I asked him to steady back a bit, he said “NAH GOTTA GO FAST.” We missed A WHOLE ENTIRE LEAD CHANGE. FOR NO REASON. It was the biggest pettiest little temper tantrum that my angel boy has ever pulled, and it was hysterical. I’ll be the first to say that mistakes on course are pretty much always caused by me, but this was certifiably just Frankie giving a hard NOPE to doing a second round. Bless his heart, his little rebellions are too funny.

img_3785
99% sure he knows when I’m mocking him and makes grouchy faces just to play along

So the following week when we knew we’d have a small break in between classes, here’s what I did: I hopped off, loosened his girth, hand-walked him in circles to keep him entertained, played with him a bit, then hopped on and did a quick WTC to tune him back in directly before heading into the ring. Worked like a charm and I had a soft happy horse under me for both rounds.

Frankie was also able to go play in the paddock almost every day, often with his buddy Vinnie. It’s certainly not as big as he’s used to, but it very noticeably helped keep him feeling fresh. I do think getting to go out with Vinnie helped too; Francis is such a social animal and thrives when he gets to hang out with buddies.

img_3908
WOW SHOW LIFE IS SO STRESSFUL FOR THESE GUYS THEY REALLY SEEM TO HATE THIS

Between regular turnout, ice boots after every round, a massage between the two weeks, and very judicious jumping, we had a fresh and happy horse all the way through. Managing his energy levels has always been tough for us to ensure that he doesn’t hit Sunday totally exhausted and honestly I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found what works. He works very hard for me so it feels good to be able to support that better!

I think I’ll leave it off here for now, and save talking about the rides themselves for the next post. In case you’re new here, spoiler alert: Francisco was beyond incredible and blew my expectations out of the water with every single round.

img_3854
I’m honestly just along for the ride

Sunshine and Rainbows

I’m back north and back on reliable wifi after our little Florida vacation!!!

I have tons and tons to share with you about our two weeks down in the sun and am working on several big posts, but for now I wanted to share a few pictures of our trip.

img_3849
Going in for our first round the first week on my v v spicy pony. As always, entering the ring grinning like a fool because of how much fun I have with the Frankfurter. PC – K. Borden

img_3869
And leaving the ring after our last round the second week, happily accepting all forms of love and appreciation as his due. PC – K. Borden

img_3802
Having to stand to wear his ice boots was TORTURE how could I just LEAVE HIM THERE it was so BORING and TERRIBLE

img_3792
He had a bear of a time spitting out all those shavings when we woke him up to go work.

img_3781
Shmancy equitation pony being a total angel boy!!!

img_3725
Both of us were very happy to have some sunshine.

I can’t wait to tell you more about the show – it far exceeded my expectations, my horse was even more incredible than I could have hoped for, and I’m going to be riding this high for a while.

Ocala 2020 Prep

We’re just about a month out from our trek down south to Florida for a blessed two weeks in the warmth! I’m getting crazy excited to spend that time with Frankie down there (not least because he can finally get a bath omg he REEKS). I remember feeling really burnt out after two weeks of showing at WEC, but I’m feeling confident that the better weather and a lighter schedule will alleviate that. We are very much there to have a good time.

IMG_2202.jpg
We will be able to take naps OUTSIDE as well as inside

In the spirit of the final countdown to departure, I figured I would share a few things I’m bringing, a few ways we’re preparing, and just talk about it more a bit.

The first exciting thing that I’m bringing is a portable hotspot. My parents gifted me their previously-unused MiFi hotspot to bring down and I’m super grateful for it. I’ll have guaranteed wifi to do my work and school assignments on the showgrounds or wherever else I find myself. I’m able to do most of my communicating and social media via phone, but have you ever tried writing an essay or creating a slide deck like that? It ain’t fun.

The second exciting thing I’m bringing down is my giant cooler. I’ll be able to keep that stocked with ice to hold Frankie’s ice boots (along with some wine and hummus for yours truly). Especially for such a long show, I want to have all tools on hand to keep Frankie feeling good about it.

As you may guess, a giant cooler doesn’t really fit in my plane luggage. I will be making the drive down south. All 12 hours of it. Not really my idea of a great time, but the price of a roundtrip plane ticket plus rental car blew my budget out of the water. It looks like I’ll make the trip down solo, but I’ll be caravan-ing back up with a friend so we can at least take breaks together. She offered to just make the whole trip together in the same car, but with my work schedule and homework I really need the flexibility of my own vehicle. This is probably the part I’m least excited by – I HATE roadtrips with a fiery passion. The plan is to hit the road around 5am so I can be there in time for dinner, and then we’ll break the trip back north into 2 days to arrive home on Monday. Ugh.

IMG_0091
At least this time I’ll be making the trip in a car that has functional brakes AND windshield wipers! Remember when I drove through the mountains to Lake Placid without either hahahahahahait’sfineilived

Luckily, I’m able to split my hotel room with said friend and her daughter! She had a zillion points she was able to use so my hotel expenses are WAY WAY lower than I had worried they’d be. There’s a 24hr gym, a pool, a business center, complimentary breakfast, and (most importantly) a bar, all about 20 minutes from the show. I plan on making full use of all these amenities. It’s tough to share a smallish hotel room with 2 other people for 2 full weeks but I’m hopeful that we’ll manage.

For Frankie, there’s not a ton of prep work to take care of. He’ll need another full clip in the coming weeks to get him looking show-ready and I’ll need to scrub my tack. But for anything else? He’s feeling pretty darn good. I’d like to make a concerted effort to make sure he’s getting worked consistently to get his fitness a titch better, and I’m sure my trainer will have us work on some stuff in our lessons, but he’s at the point now where I’m confident taking him wherever and knowing he’ll be happy to go around. The only thing left on my to-do list is to stock up on Ulcergard – he is probably the least anxious, least ulcer-prone horse I know, but I refuse to take chances on such a long trip.

img_2570
For whatever reason, the dude seems to super enjoy getting on the trailer. I’m not mad about it.

We’ve set up the commercial shipper for the ponies to head down – it looks like we’re bringing 4 or 5 with us and leasing a couple ponies for the kids down there. Frankie did well with the commercial shipper up to Lake Placid so I’m not super concerned about that. He’ll also arrive on Sunday or Monday, and Trainer will have the chance to get him out a bit before I arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. We all chipped in for a paddock so he will get his beloved turnout every day that weather permits. I’m hoping that he can share with one of the other geldings to get double time, but we’ll see how that works out. I’m just glad he’s getting any turnout, it makes such an enormous difference in keeping him feeling fresh!

Budget-wise I’m trying to pre-pay as much as possible. Our stalls and splits are already paid for and I’ve put in several deposits to my trainer. My goal is to take care of as much as possible ahead of time so I’m not scrambling on the back end – this isn’t a trivial expense, so I’m continually grateful to my husband for being entirely on board with my going. I’d ideally like to open up a little room in the budget for some shopping – y’all know I can’t resist the vendors at these things. I do have an actual useful wishlist, so hopefully I don’t get sucked into getting something ridiculous that I don’t need.

img_0295
Not that I EVER fall victim to my own love of pants

At this point, this ain’t our first rodeo. I’d love to write about the secret tips and tricks, but I don’t think I have any – it’s all kinda old news at this point! That being said, let me know if you have any questions or comments or anything about prepping/attending one of these, clearly I love to talk about it!

T-36 days to sunshine and nonstop ponies.

ocala_ribbon
I WANT. TO WEAR. SHORT SLEEVES. PLEASE.

Our 2019 Show Season

It’s a bit early to do a full yearly recap, but I’d love to do a brief review of what 2019 looked like in the show ring!

February: WEC, OH

 

img_0257
Loved this sweet mare!

I opted to leave Francis at home for the week, and leased an amazing mare to do the Low Adult Jumpers with. She was a great teacher and it was a fun and satisfying re-entry to the show ring after a 7 month(!) break. I really enjoyed the chance to learn from a horse that was so been-there-done-that and it was nice to stretch myself to adapt to a very different type of ride.

Results: clean schooling rounds, 5th in our jumpoff round and 2nd in the speed with a 3rd in our classic.

March: Showplace Spring Festival, MD

img_0746
Big Man earned some pretty colors ❤

I got back in the ring with my favorite boy! We shipped in and did a couple 0.90m classes to knock some rust off and Frankie turned out to have no rust at all. This was a low key and fun outing to build confidence for the rest of our season.

Results: 3rd in our speed round and 7th in our jumpoff round.

May: Blue Rock Classic, PA

 

img_1193
First time in the medals since I was a kid, and Frankie acted like he does it every day!

For the first time ever, we didn’t do a single jumper class at a show! This was our first foray into the adult medals (including tests) and we even tried our hand at our first hunter derby. We were certainly more competitive in the eq than in the derby, and it was a BLAST trying some new things with the Frankfurter.

Results: 4th in the Ariat, 3rd in the Dover Adult Medal, 6th in the MHSA Adult Medal, and tons of fun in the USHJA National Hunter Derby.

June: Loudoun Benefit, VA

img_1406
THE BRAIDS. THE FAKE TAIL. THE GIANT EARS. I LOVE ALL OF IT.

Continuing our streak of new things, we played in the medal/derby rings again at this show. It was a great chance to finesse our equitation rounds and Francisco showed up and excelled at that type of precision. We also took the high options in the derby for a score that I was really proud of.

Results: 8th in the VHSA eq on the flat, 4th in the VHSA Adult Medal, and lots of fun again in the derby.

September: Piedmont Jumper Classic, VA

img_2459
Literal heart eyes for my most handsome creature

Returning to those same showgrounds after a little summer break, we stepped back into the jumper ring for a full weekend of the Low Adults. He was forward, eager to the jumps, landed turning, and was simply beyond professional. We have fun in the other rings, but Frankie clearly knows the job superbly well in the jumper ring.

Results: 7th in our jumpoff round, 1st in our speed, and 3rd in our stakes for division champion.

October: WIHS Regional, MD

img_2731
This guy makes literally everything fun

Frankie and I tried out the AA hunter division for the first time! We certainly don’t have the movement to excel in that ring (I mean, no horse can be good at EVERYTHING) but Frankie was a winner in my heart with his sweet attitude and gentleness. The next day we zipped back over to the jumper ring, where we put the pedal to the metal for some great rounds. It was a perfect way to end the year with versatility and challenge.

Results: king of my heart in the AA 18-35 Hunter O/F classes, 6th in our jumpoff class, 1st in our speed for division reserve champion.

I can’t believe that this show year was so full! I fully expected to have to cut way back on showing when I went back to school in the spring. I’m beyond grateful for my support system that made this all possible – my trainers who kept Frankie fit and ready to go every when I couldn’t get out as often, my husband who took care of things at home when I was away, my classmates that put up with conference calls from hotel lobbies, my boss who gave me the flexibility to work from the barn when needed. It hasn’t always been easy balancing it all and I’m so fortunate to have this kind of help along the way.

Cheers to a fantastic and full 2019 season, and cheers to all that’s next with my Very Bestest Boy!

Washington Regional 2019

I’m finally playing catch-up and covering our most recent show (it’s only about a month later, it’s fine it’s all fine).

img_2684
Cutest pony on the planet!

I was mostly excited for this show because it meant a chance to go in all 3 rings: we had two AA hunter classes and an adult medal planned for Friday, then the Low Adults over in the jumper ring on Saturday. I know it’s laughable to put us in the hunters, but he sure looks cute all braided up, and it was my only chance to get in the indoor before our medal class ran.

img_2700
Fun fact, he stood here licking the wall literally all day. Hours on end. He is a very speshul boy.

While we’ve done a couple derbies this year, this was actually our first time in a regular AA hunter class. Is he a good enough mover to pin? Not even close. Was he the ACTUAL CUTEST BOPPING AROUND ON A SOFT REIN AND FINDING HIS OWN SPOTS?? Yes. Yes he was. Like, catch us in the hunter ring because that was so much fun and he was literally the cutest creature to ever exist. I basically got up in my halfseat, grabbed mane, and let him do his diagonal-outside-diagonal-outside thing. He was like a happy lil rocking horse, entirely point and shoot and adorable. I died. I think both of us wish that he was a better mover because it was so low-stress and enjoyable for both of us.

I’m ultimately very glad we went in the two AA classes, because our adult medal ended up not running. There were 5 in it and then at the very last minute 2 scratched and they needed at least 4 to fill. We found out about this as we were trotting around the warmup getting ready, but we at least were near the cool photo op area!

img_2695
Drama llama not amused by being woken up from his nap to go work.

Overall it was a fun foray into a ring that we don’t usually go into. I do this whole showing thing for fun so I’m never bothered by the lack of ribbons if my horse was a good boy and did his job – which, yeah. It’s Francis. He’s always a good boy and always does his job. It’s literally always fun.

Saturday was our triumphant return to the jumper ring for the Adult Lows, with one speed class and one jumpoff class.

img_2713
Pretty basic speed round, it felt pretty hunterific to me. Lots of big bendings and the only real inside turns were from 6 to 7 and 7 to 8a.

img_2957
Those little back feetsies

Keeping up our streak of only ever winning speed classes, Frankie laid down an incredible pace to snag the blue! In a weird way, I almost knew we were going to before we even got to the first jump – I literally said to him under my breath, “let’s go win this” as we approached. He felt so locked on and focused, and I know that if I match his focus he can absolutely set the pace. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – speed is definitely my favorite format!

img_2714
Similar lines, this course felt even more basic than the speed round. Jumpoff didn’t have any wild turns either.

img_2958
Oh my gosh you angel boy just be cuter with those lil ears

We had a good long break before our jumpoff class, so the big guy got to go rest for a bit. I’ll say that class was definitely weaker – I thought I tipped a rail at 5b, so I decided to go for broke and leave out strides to be the fastest 4 faulter. Which then led to me ACTUALLY tipping a rail. It was A plan, it probably wasn’t the BEST plan. On the bright side, the mistakes that I made were very intentional. It wasn’t that I lost control or didn’t know what I was doing, it’s that I made the wrong call and my horse listened to me. I still see this as progress! My trainer noted that this so-so round was still more accurate and deliberate than my best rounds were not that long ago and I’ll absolutely take that as a win.

Despite our rail in the jumpoff, our win in the speed was enough for us to get the reserve champion ribbon! So far Francis has managed a tricolor in both division outings we’ve done this year.

img_2731
We even got a fancy little plate (which I think is cool) and a big bag of treats (which Frankie thinks is VERY cool)

This was a nice relaxed show for us, where we got to go have a great time playing around together. I’m feeling really great about our step down to the 1.0m classes – it has taken all nerves away about the height, Frankie is extremely confident, I’m not as worried about getting in his way, and it’s allowing us to be competitive without having to be perfect. I’m an amateur, this is supposed to be fun!

We’re now on a showing hiatus so I can save my pennies for Ocala, but I’m already very eager to get back in the ring with me big sweet boy. It’ll be a whole new set of competitors and big classes and I know we’re going to have a fantastic time.

img_2697
Even if he does make cranky faces when I wake him up from naptime.

Our Show Warmup

I realized that while I love giving you all a blow-by-blow of our shows, I tend to gloss over the way that we warm up for our rounds. Not that it’s particularly exciting, but every horse is a bit different and it seems that we all have slightly different approaches to the way we prepare to enter the ring.

 

The main title of our approach is: Conserve All Energy. That is really our goal behind all showing decisions, but it especially comes into play in the warmup ring.

What this means in practice is as short of a warmup as I can reasonably get away with, while still making sure my horse’s muscles are stretched and ready to go.

To go into a bit more detail, I tend to mount at our stall and use the walk to the warmup ring to set the tone of  “we move forward off the leg when it’s time to work.” By the time we get to the ring, I may do a lap or so at the walk depending on timing, but we get to work pretty quickly.

img_5843
Stretchies on a loose rein to get us goin’. PC – A. Frye

At this point it’s just about loosening up. I’ll do a couple laps each direction at the trot and then the canter to get the blood flowing and start really reinforcing the GO button. Light contact and a supportive leg to reassure him in a new environment but not asking for much yet.

Once we’re all on board with the forward motion, I’ll do a few lengthenings/shortenings within the gaits to tune him into my seat and make sure he’s fully paying attention. Maybe a few little shoulder-ins to help move his body a bit more. At this point I start picking up more of a feel as he starts lighting up a little.

And that’s my flat warmup. Short, simple, to the point. Francis is luckily well-behaved and attentive in busy rings, so we do not use this as a schooling opportunity – it is simply a warmup in the purest sense of the word: we warm up our muscles. We may throw in a few extra shoulder-ins on the rare occasion that he takes offense to a wheelbarrow by the rail, or we may do a few more transitions if he’s feeling antsy, but by and large I simply use this chance to make sure we’re paying attention to each other and are ready to jump. I very much want to save his energy for the jumping efforts.

Which we also try to limit before we go in. We’ll pop over a vertical a couple times, going up in height every time. We’ll then move to an oxer and do that 2-3 times. By that point we should be up to full competition height. We’ll then usually reset to a vertical and go up a bit over competition height to remind Frankie to pick up his feetsies. If there’s a particularly tough turn on course we’ll end practicing that turn – for example, if I know that there’s a point in my course where we have to land and immediately turn right, I’ll practice coming off a short approach and immediately turn. It sets the tone for him that he needs to be asking where we’re going at all times rather than assuming.

upp_sat_warmup
Always always, the emphasis is on forward and straight to the base to encourage a good effort. PC – A. Frye

That’s pretty much it. We limit our flatwork to what we need to prepare to jump, and we limit our jumps to get us up to height and ready to turn. I like to head over to the ring when I’m 1 or 2 out which gives us a brief break to walk and relax before picking up the reins and heading in.

cn_fri_waiting
I like to take this chance to let him relax and reset mentally so he feels fresh going into the ring.

That’s our warmup in a nutshell! It tends to be shorter than many others that I see, but over the years we’ve found that it works best for us. I have a fairly lazy horse, we often compete in the heat, and I like him to exit the show ring still feeling like he has plenty of gas in the tank.

I know warmups look very different for everyone, especially across disciplines – how do you approach warming up at shows?

Piedmont Jumper Classic 2019

We came, we saw, we jumped! After much of a spring and summer spent dabbling in the other rings, we spent our whole weekend chasing time and rails.

The short version in case you’re in a rush: I am proud almost to the point of tears with the Frankfurter. He was beyond professional in a big ring and packed my rusty butt around the Lows with those cheerful ears hunting down the jumps, including some delightful inside turns. Best Boy Francis is very much Best Boy and he earned us the ribbons to prove it.

For those of you not in the area, this show is held on the same showgrounds as Upperville and Loudoun Benefit, but only on the jumper side. The way the schedule ran meant all my classes went in the main ring over there – which you may remember as the class Frankie and I were in for our very first classes together as a team a few years ago. Despite returning to Upperville/Loudoun for several years since then, I’ve been in other rings. So this was actually the first time we’ve back in that giant ring since that very first show! Talk about a walk down memory lane.

name_board
A little throwback to 2016 when I first saw my name in lights when we marched in that ring. Emotions!

Originally the plan was to go in and do a 0.90m as a warmup on Friday, see how that felt, then plan on doing the Low classes later that day and throughout the weekend.

Fate is funny though. Just like that first show back in 2016, the schedule got moved around fairly last minute so that the 0.90m ended up running in a different ring AFTER the Lows had already gone. So much like 2016, we ended up going straight into the Lows and saying “cool cool cool this is probably fine.” The parallels with that show really were kinda comical.

But no matter how similar, there were a few big major difference from that first show. Instead of it being the first 1.0m class for both of us, we now have several years under our belt competing even higher. Our confidence over this height is rock solid, our skill set over this height is solid, and nowadays Frankie really is a schoolmaster dream to pilot around the jumper ring. I know I say this all the time, but he’s just so. dang. good. at his job and it makes taking him around a downright pleasure.

img_2460
Big smiles all around with this excellent creature

Our first round on Friday was a mix – we ended up with 3 rails, but I’m actually extremely happy with the ride. Frankie was accurate, forward, and responsive. I don’t think either of us did anything really *wrong* to have those rails, I simply think he wasn’t expecting to have to do a full round at that height. It’s been a little while. Considering how long it’s been since we’ve gone around the jumper ring (6+ months) and how long it’s been since he’s had to compete over 3′ (14ish months), I was thrilled with how well he remembered the game.

Saturday was a speed round. In case you didn’t know, speed rounds are my FAVORITE OMG I LOVE THEM. It’s just you and the course, being as efficient and aggressive as possible to get. it. done. No phases, no separate jumpoffs. Just one round to go kill it.

And kill it we did. Francis was a STAR. He galloped up when I asked, he sat down when I needed him to, he helped me out when I gave a bit of an override, I helped him out when he needed some support to rebalance into a shorter line. He landed asking to turn and locked onto every jump. It was fantastic. We went early in the class to set the pace and held onto the lead for the blue ribbon.

img_2459
Have you ever seen a more handsome hunk?!?!!?

img_2484
The most handomest derp in all the land

img_2457
Our awesome kiddo won her High Children’s jumper class earlier that day, so it was a fantastic day for the barn!

Sunday was our stakes class with a jumpoff, which ended up getting combined with the Low Children’s. Frankie is always a bit tired on Sundays and needs a bit more support so my plan always accounts for that a bit. A surprising number of people that day were going clear in the first round but getting time faults, so I knew we couldn’t take our time at all. We certainly had to take turns helping each other out over such a long course but ultimately Frankie did pull out a clear round within time allowed!

Our jumpoff came up pretty fantastically – I swung way wider on a rollback than I had planned which ate up some unnecessary strides (around 0:32 in the video below), but we did a pretty killer inside turn (0:40ish) and a super fun slice (0:47ish) that I don’t think many people ended up doing.

Double clear and a speedy jumpoff were enough to clinch us 3rd behind two children, which also earned us champion in the division for the weekend!

img_2480
Frankie: “Why did you pull me out of my stall for this?? I cannot eat this?? Mahm??”

In a nutshell: Frankie was perfect, we had a total blast, and he is incredibly good at his job. I’m also very glad that we chose the division that we did – sticking with the 1m classes right now means that we can go in and build confidence while trying some of those tougher turns without overfacing ourselves. While I’d love to eventually get back into the bigger classes, this was 100% the right choice for where we are right now.

To close out, I’d like to share with you my new favorite photo ever taken of all time:

img_2464
I….I have no words.

And an obligatory nap pic:

img_5667

Cheers to a fantastic weekend of fun and jumps with the bestest horse to ever exist!