As this new chapter starts for me, I’m happy to say that a new chapter is starting for Francisco as well.
In a wonderful turn of events, Frankie has a new kid to love on him for the next year! Starting next week, he will be fully leased out to one of the juniors that rides with my trainer, and is already happily embracing his job as a confidence-boosting packer (though we all know that’s really always been his job).
I’m certainly having a lot of emotions about this: relief that he is remaining in-barn under my trainer’s watchful care, happiness that he’ll get to do a job he really enjoys at a level he finds straightforward, pride that he’s such a good boy that can make this kid happy, excitement to see their growth together, gratitude for the people that worked together to find such a perfect situation to keep Frankie nearby. But also regret that I won’t be the one holding the reins for the next year, and sadness that I’ll be cheering him on from the sidelines instead of waiting for the buzzer go off from his back.
But that’s all part of the different chapters, and I can acknowledge the bittersweetness while still embracing this new chapter. This truly is an ideal setup for us for the next year: it takes a financial burden off me and my husband while we adjust to a new lifestyle, while still keeping Frankie where I can stop by and see him whenever I’d like. I’ll still get to groom him and give him tons of smooches, will still get to bring my baby out to meet him as soon as we’re out of the hospital (too soon? nah), and will still feel good knowing that he’s going to be receiving the same wonderful care he’s been thriving under for the past five years.
I’ve always promised Frankie to make the best decisions I possibly can for his care and I’m confident that he’s going to have a wonderful year making this kiddo very happy! He’s more than earned an easy retirement with me when the time comes, but we have many years and many adventures yet before that happens. In the meantime, I am especially grateful that my trainer and whole barn family love Frankie and want to keep him around as much as I do.
With Frankie officially handed off and me officially out of the saddle, I’m not sure what this blog will look like in the coming months. I certainly plan to keep up with all of you, and hope to share pieces of the adventure. I’ll probably be more active on my other social media in the meantime though, so feel free to connect with me on Instagram at @hellomylivia!
While I never take Frankie as a whole for granted (I’m extremely grateful every dang day for this horse), I realized recently that there are quite a few aspects of his behavior/personality that I do take for granted. These are things I can’t imagine having to handle differently, because they’re just life for us.
He likes to be groomed. He’s extremely happy with literally any type of brush I use on him, leans into the curry comb, picks his feet up for me before being asked, and genuinely enjoys the attention and feeling of being groomed. He’s not particularly sensitive, and is not at all picky about any part of the process. In fact, he’s noticeably much happier when I take extra time to groom him. It’s clearly one of his (several) love languages.
He walks pleasantly on a lead rope. In over 3 years of owning him and taking him to various hectic places, I have never once needed a chain to get his attention or give me some leverage. I’ve used the same plain cotton lead since day one, and it’s pretty much always loose. He is very polite whether we’re walking around the farm, walking onto any size trailer, around a busy showgrounds, or anywhere else.
Speaking of which, he walks on and off the trailer with no fuss. He’s been on 2-horse trailers, 4-horse trailers that he had to back into, commercial semi shippers. Even when there’s commotion around him due to other horses protesting the trailer, or showgrounds packing up, or airplanes flying low overhead, he ambles right on and starts munching hay.
And then once he’s on and off the trailer he’s an easy traveler. Even after a long trailer ride, he hops right off to get a drink of water and roll. He eats well, he drinks well, and he’s generally very happy to go for a walk and explore. He’s always very interested in his new surroundings but very rarely (if ever) anxious about them.
He will bend over backwards to make sure I’m safe. This struck me especially recently, when I went to bring a horse in from a field and she very clearly projected her intention to kick me every time I got near her with a halter. Not fun. Frankie has never once expressed any body language with even a whisper of aggression, and he has even deliberately placed himself between me and other horses that were playing rambunctiously. He’s a big horse so I handle myself with care around him, but I 100% trust that his intentions are good.
On a related note, his intentions in general are good. Sure, he likes to try new evasions to get out of work. But when something doesn’t quite go perfectly I know it’s because (a) I’m not asking correctly or (b) he’s not sure how to use his body in that way or (c) this is hard work for him and he’s building strength. Trusting his intentions means that we give each other some grace and I think really helps him thrive and feel proud of himself (oh jeez this is gonna be a whole other post about this one topic).
Overall, I think I take for granted what an easy horse he is. I never have to consider how he may act or feel on any given day – he has his ups and downs like anyone, but they never affect how he is to handle or how safe he is to ride. I never have to say no to anything because I don’t think he can handle the atmosphere/travel/challenge. He doesn’t require anything special to be happy (though he does really love his massages). I love that I can just show up and trust that he’ll be my trusty steed.
Your turn! What do you take for granted about your mount?
You all know Frankie’s stats by now: he’s a dark bay 17.1 Oldenburg x TB gelding that is turning 14 this spring. Easy stuff that we all know.
Except I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’ve suspected for a while (and continue to suspect) that one of those stats is wrong.
I don’t think Frankie is about to turn 14. I think he’s about to turn 15.
Hear me out here – I bought him in spring 2016, where they told me he was 10. I was like great cool he is 10 years old in 2016 which means he was born in 2006 end of story. Got him signed up with USEF with that info and we all continued on our merry way.
But I then found a sale ad for him from the previous autumn, also listing him as a 10yo. And I do think that one was accurate.
So what I think happened: he was 10 when they had him at the consignment barn, but turned 11 sometime that spring (forever annoyed that I’ve never been able to learn more about his birthday or younger years). Which would mean that he was actually born in 2005, which means that in a few months I will have a 15yo horse.
This matters exactly 0% to me – his muscling and his coat look more amazing than ever (seriously, he is SO FREAKIN’ SHINY), he’s sound as a bell and healthy, and he truly looks better with every passing year. I suspect (and hope) he’s going to be the type that I can enjoy at varying levels well into his late 20s. Whether he’s 15 or 14 doesn’t change anything in terms of what we’re doing, because what we’re doing is clearly working for him.
But apparently I don’t even know how old my horse is, and for that I get to wear a dunce cap.
Y’all, I’ve been riding my horse more often and for longer times lately and IT FEELS AMAZING. He’s giving me lovely work, he’s jumping out of his skin and firing off the ground beautifully, and he’s straight up happy. I’ve told you so many times that the big dude thrives in a fuller training regimen and the proof is so clear – his already playful and curious nature is absolutely next level these days.
I need to remember how to hold my position more tightly when the jumps go back up a bit, but the Frankfurter is simply excellent at his job
We’ve been incorporating more conditioning rides and as it turns out – Francis is totally faking being a chunk. I mean, physically he’s obviously rockin’ that Dad Bod. But endurance-wise? Barely sweating, not even puffing. Jokes on him, that just means we’re making these sets longer and more difficult. Seriously Francis, now I don’t believe you when you say you’re exhausted after trotting two laps.
Making the point to ride more frequently and with more focus is also straight up making me a better person in all areas of my life. I know it was the right call to take a small step back from riding for the wedding and for school, but now that I have a better handle on things I definitely prefer getting back into my previous 5-6x a week schedule. It forces me to be more disciplined and productive with my time and I’m simply a better student, employee, wife, daughter, friend, etc. when I’m getting my full horse fix. I suspect a lot of you know the feeling.
As you may have seen in pictures, I also got myself a new helmet during the IHAD weekend sales! And this whole thing is actually where the title of this post comes in. As you may or may not remember, I got a new helmet about a year ago – I went to Dover, tried on a bunch, and was informed that nothing really fit my head except the CO that I ultimately ended up buying. I was super bummed because I had really liked a Samshield I had tried on previously, but we all know that helmet fit is paramount and that was basically the only thing they had in stock that truly fit my head. The rep there sadly informed me that the Samshields just didn’t fit my head as well.
You know what I wish she had said instead, that would’ve been more accurate? “The Samshields THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE IN STOCK don’t fit you as well.” That sentence would have been accurate.
Because back in June, I stopped by one of my favorite show vendors to peruse their ever-lovely merchandise. I admired the Samshields yet again but informed the rep there that sadly my head was not destined for such breathability. She then proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes pulling out not only different SIZES of liner, but different SHAPES. Because newsflash guys, Samshield makes liners for both round and oval heads. And it turns out that yes, Samshield does have an option that fits me perfectly and safely and is extremely comfortable (and yes, I have basically a child-sized head). I didn’t pull the trigger and buy it on the spot because I was in the midst of paying for the show – but with truly amazing service, the rep wrote down all the info I needed to be able to order it myself when I was ready.
After a VERY intense week of lessons/pro rides/conditioning rides, we did have a much-needed toodling day to stretch our muscles and recover. I love my mobile couch so much.
So fast forward to now, I went ahead and ordered it from their site. They put in the customer service and effort so they 100% deserved that sale. And I now have a helmet that fits perfectly, helps with the sweaty head, makes me feel super fancy, AND I can swap out different sized liners so I can actually safely wear my hair either up or down. This is LIFE CHANGING to no longer get a blinding headache when I need to wear my hair up in the eq ring.
So the moral of the story is that when working with a salesperson, it would be good if that salesperson is not only knowledgeable in what you’re talking about, but is willing to, I don’t know, PULL OUT ANOTHER SIZE WHEN ONE DOESN’T FIT.
And in a quick mishmash of other updates: Frankie’s leg wound is healing great with no complications, we’re psyched for our show this upcoming weekend, and I finally bought brunette hairnets (I haven’t been blonde in many years). All good stuff.
You all know that there is nothing I love more than gushing about how much I adore my Francisco. He is truly the light of my life and I need everyone to know it. Constantly. I’m even happier when I can get people out to the barn to bask in the presence of the Sweet Sleepy Boy.
For my non-horse friends and family, there has been a pattern of some surprise when they come out and see how I handle Frankie. Apparently they often have certain expectations based on my unceasing verbal adoration. I’m not sure what those expectations are, but I imagine gazing adoringly and softly cooing sweet nothings feature prominently. Reality, however, is quite different. More than once, I’ve had someone tell me:
“Olivia, you’re kinda a mean mom.”
And you know what? They are totally right. I am kinda a mean mom.
I don’t feed Frankie any treats, I never let him rub his head on me, I give regular “course corrections” in the form of a smack when he’s not focused or behaving. I’m (surprisingly to them) strict with Frankie.
But here’s the thing. Francis is a very large horse. Francis also loves treats more than anything in the world, and forgets that he’s big when he thinks he might get one. His excitement about the treat trumps the lessons he knows about respecting personal space. This is absolutely something we could fix with groundwork and practice, but I don’t see a need. The Treat Fairy will sometimes leave him something in his bucket, and I praise verbally instead. He is an enormous fan of verbal praise, so the lack of treats does not ruin his life (I promise).
And no, I don’t let him rub his face on me when untacking. You know what he likes to rub his face on? Fenceposts. And the younger horse in his herd that he sometimes likes to pick on. You know what I do not want my horse to see me as? An inanimate object or as lower in the dynamic of our own little herd. Not exactly the precedent I want to set in terms of who is the leader here.
And yeah, I’ll give him a slap or a poke and a bit of a growl when he moves into my personal space. He’s the one that has to move his feet out of my way, not the other way around. Again – you know who moves their feet for Frankie? That younger gelding. Again – I’m not particularly willing to be low man on the totem pole here.
Frankie gets plenty of face scratches – but only when I offer them to him, and he happily accepts. He gets to go for nice long walks and get nice long grooming sessions – respectfully holding still when asked, and only coming into my personal space when invited. Every time that he offers the right behavior (which is almost all the time), he is praised with scratches and pats and a hearty “good boy!”
With all my strictness, do you know what I end up with? A horse who has clear boundaries, who respects those boundaries to keep us both safe even in tough situations (like his Very Bad Day recently), who can relax because he never has to guess how he should act. There is consistency around it – he doesn’t get away with something one day, and then punished for it the next. By being a fair and consistent leader for my horse, I’m allowing him to be a contented follower.
So yes. I am strict with my horse and I can kinda be a mean mom. But I also have a horse that I can hand off to a child and know he will be careful and polite. That almost never spooks, because he has faith that I’ll take care of things for him. And at the end of the day, I have a horse that is relaxed and happy because he knows and likes his role in our dynamic.
I’ll take the Mean Mom moniker happily if it keeps Frankie as wonderfully content as he is.
You know that running joke about how horses know when we enter a show, and immediately maim themselves?
REAL FUNNY JOKE, RIGHT????
I was very excited to have a friend offer to take some pics/video of my lesson over the weekend – other than shows, I literally have no evidence that I’ve jumped my horse since 2018. I swear that I have. I’m an extremely visual learner, so the prospect of that video made me absolutely giddy.
Until I pulled Frankie out to tack him up and noticed a not insignificant amount of blood on his hind leg. Followed that trail up to a decent looking laceration on the inside of his leg, about midway down his cannon bone. I brought him over to AT to get her opinion, we poked and scrubbed it with some iodine to get a better view, jogged him (sound, but a little ouchie most likely from the aforementioned poking), and she texted a pic to our vet to get her thoughts.
Sure enough, she said it looked like it needed stitches to stay closed. Our vets are also the actual best, and she was at the barn roughly 15 minutes later to take care of it. She made short order of giving Frankie some night night juice and getting the wound cleaned and stitched.
Frankie came out of the sedative remarkably quickly (I think mostly fueled by anger since I had pulled his hay) and is recovering well so far. He’s on stall rest for a few days so he doesn’t play too hard and rip it back open, but I have permission to hand walk and graze him for as long as I want – he’s sound and walking is totally fine as long as he’s not being goofy (and homeboy is never goofy on the lead because Angel Boy).
Honestly the timing isn’t the worst on this. Our vet is coming out later this week to inject Frankie’s SI anyways, so she’ll be able to check on his leg and make sure everything is going alright with the healing process. Hopefully by the time he’s ready to go back to work post-injection, his leg will be in good enough shape that we can get him out to stretch. Right now he’s getting a vacation from work, all the naps he wants, and gets to go for walkies. He’s not having a bad time.
I don’t think this should affect our show at the end of the month at all, as long as he heals as expected. If it turns out that he loses a ton of fitness this week and we have a tough time toning him up then I’m fine with dropping down a level, but I really think we’ll have plenty of time to get back into the swing of things.
I am flawless and have never made any mistakes or done anything wrong in my life, so it seems appropriate that I share with you my secrets of doing everything perfectly while maintaining clear skin and an amazing sleep schedule.
My first tip is to make sure you’re eating super healthy. Definitely don’t skip breakfast because you slept in an extra 15 minutes, definitely don’t skip lunch because you worked through it (again), and definitely don’t just eat a ridiculous amount of buttered noodles when you get home at 9:30pm. Snacking on candy throughout the day is right out, and taking a multivitamin can really only cover for so many sins. You’ll want to plan out nicely portioned and packaged organic balanced meals with planned healthy snacks. Gotta fuel your body with the nutrients you need!
The next tip is to set aside blocks of time throughout the week for your different activities! If Mondays are set aside for schoolwork, focus on that to get it done. There is no possible way that the only day your case study group can meet is on Tuesday so you have to miss your lesson. Not even a thing that happens. It’s all about setting up your schedule in advance because you have complete control over these things!
Protect your weekends. With work and school during the week, your weekends are your time to catch up on errands, see friends, and spend quality time at the barn. You probably don’t have any trips scheduled ever, and it’s unlikely that you have weddings to attend in the near future. You definitely are always at home and available to catch up on things.
Most importantly, make time to ride consistently. How can you get better (or even maintain) if you’re not getting consistent saddle time?! You need to spend time on your own improvement and keep your horse in shape!
I mean, when you’re out of town on those RARE trips, I guess the barn rat can hop on to keep your horse moving.
And when that case study needs to get done and the group can only meet on lesson day, I suppose he can get a training ride instead.
And when your immune system just shuts down from exhaustion and you can’t stop coughing, maybe he can be used in a lesson.
Screw it, guys. I’m getting floppier by the day, relying on my entire barn fam to keep Frankie fit and in work, and taking it one day at a time.
To all my fellow ammies juggling all that life brings, I salute you.
A la Amanda, I asked Instagram for questions, and here is the result! I may have to do this again, because it was super fun for me to see the questions that came in.
Tell us about your first ride on a horse that you remember!
I started taking lessons when I was 6 years old, so my very first ride is lost in the sands of memory. But I do distinctly remember going on a short “trail ride” through one of the paddocks on a little pony, and sliding right down his neck when he stopped to grab a snack! I remember him standing there patiently while I giggled like crazy laying there on the ground, and I remember getting back on and hearing my instructor say “lean back!” Kinda funny that the first ride I can remember is also my first tumble, but it clearly didn’t stop me from falling in love with ponies.
What are your long term goals for Frankie, or possibly a second horse? (Related question: when will Frankie get a brother? I got this question multiple times haha)
I’ll break this down into two parts!
My long term goals for Frankie are a little up in the air right now. Originally he was going to be my High Adult horse, and then last year we had our eyes set on the Low AOs. That didn’t end up happening since I shifted a lot of my focus to wedding planning, and now that I’m taking classes it’s not looking likely that I’ll do that this year either. Realistically by the time I’m done with my degree and ready to recommit to a stricter training program, Frankie will be 14 or 15 and that move-up to the AOs may not be in his best interest. If he’s feeling great and seems comfortable pushing, then we’ll absolutely go for it! I certainly don’t want to rule it out – he’s sound and healthy and there’s no reason to think that he won’t be sound and healthy for a good long time. If he tells us he’d rather keep the jumps a little lower, I’m perfectly happy to do whatever level he feels best at. Once he tells us that he needs an easier job with less intense training, I’ll may find him a lease situation for a junior or ammy rider that wants a safe packer-type to learn the ropes on. At this point I don’t know when that would be, I’m in zero rush and hope to enjoy him for a good while longer before he steps down to something like that. He won’t be for sale at any point though – I need him around to do leadline with any future kiddos.
As to a second horse, that’s something I’d potentially like to look into in the future. It’s definitely not in my near-term plans due to the expense that I put towards maintaining and competing with Frankie. I’d much rather be able to spoil him rotten with everything he could need or want than spread myself too thin and not be able to provide top level care for both horses. Once I’m done competing with Frankie and we find him a situation where he pays his own bills a bit, it would be really nice to bring another horse into the family. Hopefully by then I’ll have progressed enough in my career to handle that financially, but I won’t get a second horse unless I can guarantee quality care for both creatures. That being said, life has a way of laughing at the best laid plans! I have a feeling my life will look very different in 5, 10, 15 years and I don’t want to jinx myself by placing all my hopes in one basket (pardon the mixed metaphor).
Do you have any fears when you ride? What are the biggest ones and how do you cope?
I wouldn’t say that I have a ton of fear (usually), but I definitely have my own anxieties sometimes! I was an EXTREMELY fearful kid, and spent all of my junior years basically afraid of my own shadow. If I was a horse, I would have been the spookiest most ulcer-prone creature in the barn. Luckily as an adult I seem to have outgrown most of that.
These days, pretty much all of my nerves center around waiting. As long as I’m tacking up, warming up, walking a course, doing SOMETHING (either at home or at shows), I can stay mentally focused enough that I don’t notice any nerves. It’s having to wait – being in the barn but being too early to tack up, or standing around watching my trainer raise the jumps – that I can feel some butterflies in my tummy.
The best way I’ve found to combat this is to keep myself busy with other things – visualize my course, walk some patterns with Frankie while we wait, things like that. I’ve never been nervous on Frankie once we actually get moving, so my tools for managing nerves all center around keeping myself mentally in the zone until I have both feet in the stirrups and am actively engaged in our work. I also frequently remind myself that I have a horse that I can trust to take me through fire, and that my trainer would never put me in an unsafe situation. That trust takes me a long way.
What practical factors went into your decision to buy vs. continue leasing?
I’d say that the turning point for me was when I was able to crystallize my goals into something more tangible. I had been to a few local shows with my lease mare Addy (the DragonMare!), had the chance to tag along to a few bigger ones, and realized that my goal was to compete at some bigger rated shows and start jumping bigger jumps. Addy was AMAZING and taught me so so so so much, but she was not particularly suited to show life and we had about maxed out the height she was happy performing at.
Having come off of a lease, I was also looking for a situation where I could have more input into the care – not that I would have changed anything about Addy’s situation, but there were (reasonable) limitations on what I could do with her as a leaser that wouldn’t be in place as an owner.
From a budget standpoint, I knew that my budget would either get me a lease on a solid horse for a year, or be a purchasing budget for something that might need a little bit of development. I’m not aging out or chasing any time-specific goals, so I decided to purchase something I could work with and learn with over time, rather than having to end it after a year. I of course ended up with Frankie, which was the best possible outcome!
If you could ride any horse in the world (past, present, or fiction) who would it be?
This is such a hard one! The obvious answer is Frankie (duh) because he’s a total blast to ride, but I wouldn’t turn down the ride on Cortes C before his retirement. Of course I know so much of his excellence was due to his partnership with a great horsewoman, but he just looks so darn game. His balance and expression and the way he carried himself was incredible. I was happy to hear that they put his welfare first and retired him rather than risk injury, but it was sad to lose him as a player.
If you could train with anyone in the world EXCEPT your current trainer, who would it be?
Another tough one! Right now a trainer that I’m watching is Cian O’Connor. Among others, he coaches Lillie Keenan who is a total girl crush of mine, and his attention to detail and focus on mental coaching is intriguing. Closer to home, I’d love to trailer into ride with Joe Fargis. Several riders at my barn have taken lessons with him and said great things, and he really is one of the great names in our sport. I’d love to get the perspective of someone with such a lifetime of experience to impart.
If you could change one thing about this sport, what would it be?
I’ve said this once before, but it bears repeating: improved communication. I see people at high levels complaining about things that don’t affect 99% of regular people, and I see people just starting out in the sport complaining about things because they heard something untrue through the grapevine and took it as gospel. Being able to have an open dialogue across disciplines, across income brackets, across regions would help get people on the same page and focused on what matters most. Improved communication would help expose the truth where it needs to be exposed and shared, and create channels of improved safety across the sport. A lot of the specific issues I’d like to see addressed boil down to a mismatch in communication.
I was chatting with a friend over the weekend about what we like to spend our money on. I feel EXTREMELY fortunate to get to train and compete like we do, but I’m also not made of money and have had to very clearly prioritize what I spend my money on.
Of course this list has changed over time – when I first bought Frankie, getting him the tack/blankets/gear to be comfortable in a new home was priority numero uno. But if I’m considering a steady state of affairs, here’s how I prioritize Frankie’s bank account:
1.Vet/farrier care. This never gets delayed or cheaped out on. We have an amazing farrier and a fantastic vet, and we’ve built a level of trust that they’ll do what’s best without doing anything unnecessary. Trainer and AT coordinate schedules and have heavy feedback into Frankie’s care and they’ve kept him healthy and happy. It’s a fantastic healthcare team. Tied into this category are items that help keep him happy – I recently picked up some ice boots that I put on him after jumping.
2. Lessons. This will always always always be my number one priority once Frankie’s basic needs are met. This might be different if I worked with a different trainer, but I don’t need to tell you again how obsessed I am with mine. This consistent knowledgeable feedback is invaluable to me, and I’m grateful that we have the opportunity for it to be so frequent.
3. Training rides. When I first got Francis, these weren’t that high on the list. But after incorporating them into the rotation more often and seeing the benefits for him both in the on and off season, I’m a believer. The one-two punch of lessons and training rides accelerated our progress more than I thought was possible and opened my eyes to a whole new level of riding.
4. Shows. Ya’ll know ya girl here loves to compete. And y’all know I’ll happily sacrifice a chance at some ribbons to go to the big shows. I won’t cancel my lessons or training rides to be able to afford a show, but I’ll cancel just about anything else.
5. Tack. Thankfully Frankie pretty much has what he needs to be happy, but every once in a while I do pick something up. I recently nabbed a used Vespucci figure-8 that looks great on him, and also got a used Equifit BellyBand to protect his sensitive skin. I have a rolling wishlist that currently includes new stirrup irons, replacement standing+pillow wraps, and an embroidered BOT pad to show in. None of them are immediate needs, so I’ll either ask for them as gifts or wait til some room in the budget opens up (though the stirrup irons are fairly quickly approaching the necessary category).
6. Other gear and clothing. While I have a well-known obsession with pants, they do actually fall this far down on the list! Basically Frankie has to have everything he needs before I open up the budget for myself. Current wishlist includes a new Samshield show shirt to match my gorgeous Samshield whites, and a custom tack trunk cover so I can make my cheapo beloved Stanley trunk look super legit at shows. Again – not immediate needs, so these will either be gifts or wait until show season is over.
Board isn’t in there because it is a constant fact of life for us. I love our barn, the boarding fee is very reasonable for the quality of facilities and region, and I don’t plan on moving unless something truly catastrophic happens. It doesn’t factor into the priority list because it’s simply there.
And of course things pop up here and there and I don’t stop to think about the priority list. If Frankie’s saddle isn’t fitting and I need to pay to have that addressed, I don’t put it off. If I see a pretty pair of pants after drinking two glasses of wine, I buy them. I can always take shows off the schedule, but I can’t take Frankie’s happiness and my own enjoyment of the sport off the schedule.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, and I’m sure everyone’s order looks different! I’d love to hear what yours looks like and why.
Y’all can’t keep me away from a fun blog hop just because I’m not an eventer! Out of the shows I’ve gotten to attend there is such a clear favorite in my mind that I just have to share.
If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you already know that I’m talking about Upperville. (And to a similar extent Loudoun Benefit, which is held on the same showgrounds the following week).
In my world, Upperville is basically an immovable holiday. I change flights, I take time off of work, I have my dude move me out of apartments for me, all for the sake of Upperville.
Of course I love it for a lot of the technical aspects: the footing is absolutely fantastic and meticulously maintained, the course design is always fair but challenging, and the staff is friendly and professional.
It also has old tent stalls with very few outlets, insanely chaotic warmup rings, and takes place during the heat of the Virginia summer.
I’ll never say that it’s perfect.
But there’s just something so special about it. By unspoken agreement, everyone pulls out all the stops for their aisle-fronts: gleaming wooden tack trunks, coordinating banners, fresh mulch, piles of flowers, wrought-iron fences, bubbling fountains (yes, really). The jumps are full of lush greenery in the hunter rings and beautiful shapes and colors in the jumper ring.
There are the side-saddle and hunt classes with so much tradition on display. The hunters are some of the most beautiful animals I’ve had the pleasure of seeing go around – and watching them along with the commentary of my trainer (a hunter R judge) turns it into a learning experience. The classic lime ices are perfect on a humid morning. I can ride a track in the same ring as McLain, on the very same day.
Add to this that Upperville is about 30 minutes from our home stable, and there’s definitely a sense of hometown pride to it. The rolling fields adjacent to the showgrounds are perfect for cooling out in view of the rolling hills.
And they make a perfect backdrop for photos.
Upperville isn’t my favorite because it’s objectively the best show. WEC has nicer stalls, Swan Lake has great footing too, McDonogh is super accessible, Culpeper has more step-up classes, Lake Placid has the most stunning vistas, Ocala has better weather. There’s been plenty to love at all of these shows and we’ve had great experiences at all of them.
For me, Upperville is different. It’s where Frankie and I tackled our first 1.15m class as a team, where he beat ML in a 1.20m class, and where I felt truly competitive for the first time despite being out of the ribbons.
Whenever non-horsey friends and family ask if they can come watch me ride, the only one I suggest they attend is Upperville. Other facilities host competitions. Upperville is truly a horse show that’s a blast for competitors and spectators alike.
My show season is very light this year due to classes starting up in the spring, but there’s no way Frankie and I could miss our 4th opportunity to get back on that showground.