Have I made it clear enough lately that I’m obsessed with my horse? I want to make sure you all know this. It’s extremely important.
I’m coming off my third lesson since getting back in the swing of things and it’s going AMAZINGLY. After managing to hang on over a simple 2’6″ course two weeks ago, I joined one of the bigger lessons and managed to grab mane over some more difficult 3’3″/1m courses. I was certainly sore the next day, but it actually went really smoothly and the height didn’t feel like a question mark at all. Francis started out with a much smaller stride than I’m used to so I had to get after him to open up, but once he realized he could gallop a bit he was lovely and adjustable and forward to the base.
I hopped back on for another lesson this past Sunday and I am just glowing about it. We kept the courses fairly simple – the ends of the ring were a bit deep from some recent rain – but the jumps were up around 1m and there were some useful questions about striding (long five away from home to a short four towards home was a great test of adjustability). And it all rode So. Stinkin’. Well. I felt like I could see the spot I wanted for every jump and then actually ride to that spot. This is a revelation.
I always assumed that I just didn’t have a naturally good eye. This has always been one of my absolute biggest weaknesses and I have worked super hard over the years to build that skill set. Plot twist: trying to see a distance was never the problem. I actually have a decent eye. It was the adjustability and responsiveness that were missing to actually get us to the spot I saw. Now that we have that I feel like we have so many more options open to us. Frankie definitely still wants me to tell him where I want him, but he is so much faster to say “yes ma’am” and allow me to place him.
So now that we’re comfortably coursing at 1m again, we’re jacking the jumps up some more to test the waters at 1.10m-1.15m. We have a grid lesson planned for later this week to (1) give me a chance to re-acclimate to the motion of the bigger jumps without thinking about a course and (2) use some placement poles to encourage Frankie to jump a bit straighter over his body. I’m hoping that will come back to us pretty quickly; it’s been 2+ years since we’ve competed higher than 1m but we’ve built a TON of strength and ability in the meantime.
We also have our show coming up this Saturday to knock the rust off around the 1m. It’s less than 10 minutes away from the barn and we’re popping in a couple open jumper classes in the afternoon, and I think it’s going to be a perfect way to see how we’re feeling before finalizing our plans for Piedmont.
I also did a bad thing and bought these. My trainer is amusedly resigned. I told her to blame Holly.
At this point I’ve owned Francis for over four years, and it has honestly been a total blast the whole time. Each incremental piece of progress has been a joy to tease out and refine, finding confidence together has built a true partnership, and even the inevitable setbacks haven’t seemed so bad when I have such a good-natured beast to go try again with. I often reflect on our time together and it makes me feel a lot of feelings: excitement about the adventures we’ve gone on/are yet to go on, awe at how much further we’ve gone than I ever hoped for, comfort in how well we know each other, joy in his own happiness in his work.
One of the strongest emotions I feel about our journey together is pride. I am incredibly proud of Frankie every darn day for his work ethic, for his kind response to hardship, for his ability to do his job. He is a very different horse than I brought home and the work we have put in together over the years has led to a strong and confident athlete who knows (and likes!) his job.
For the first two years, that improvement was primarily on me. Under the guidance of my trainer, I was really the only one who ever sat on him. No training rides or professional attention beyond our weekly lessons. With a lot of hard work and sweat, we successfully made it up to the 1.15m height together. We all know that the lion’s share of the hard work there was Francisco going out there and trying his heart out for me despite my many mistakes, but I was also very proud of myself for growing to that point.
After that, I enlisted some help. I signed Frankie up for pro rides as part of his regular schedule to see how that might help him. And help him it did – I’ve mentioned many times that building this into our program did wonders for both of us. While the jumps didn’t go higher for us, our timing and abilities and awareness grew exponentially more quickly. I’m extremely grateful that I’ve had the opportunity and ability to take advantage of this type of program; I’m very conscious that it’s not an option for many.
I don’t have any less pride in this part of the journey. I’m just as proud of Frankie for learning and gaining confidence around the bigger tracks, even though I wasn’t the only one helping him get there. And I’m just as proud of myself for showing up and learning how to give my horse the ride he needs to feel good about his job as he gained these skills.
All of this is a self-indulgent and rambling way to say that I really don’t think there’s a single way of training that makes one a “good horseperson.” There is so much to be excited about when working hard with less support, and there is so much to be excited about when working hard with more support. There are opportunities to learn and grow no matter how we do it.
As long as we end up with happy, healthy horses at the end of the day, we’re on the right journey.
Francis and I survived our first lesson back together! I haven’t done a lesson since June, and I haven’t survived a full hour (albeit group) lesson since probably March-ish. My whole body is sore now and my legs were definitely getting shaky by the end, but it was sooo well worth it.
I have to say, credit for this lesson going so well lies squarely with my trainer and our pro rider. My muscle memory was there strongly enough that I could ask Frankie for what I wanted, but lack of stamina meant I lacked the oomph to back up the ask for very long. It’s thanks to the consistent solid rides he’s been getting that he was willing to maintain what he was doing until I got my act together to tell him differently. It’s really amazing to feel that and contrast it with how reliant he was on his rider not so long ago. I love that he’s confident enough in his job and fit and comfortable enough in his body to offer up the right answers so readily. Even his collections didn’t require as much holding together as usual.
In all fairness, he is also VERY good at reading the room and is often a much easier ride for less experienced riders. We’ll see if he reverts back to some more “testing” behavior as I get my strength back and up the ante.
Another thing I’m grateful to our pro rider for is her work on his trot jumps. His trot jumps have historically been ATROCIOUS. Like, three people have fallen off him over trot jumps. PR (Pro Rider) decided to tackle this head on with him, and I got back in the saddle to find that my horse now has a delightfully smooth and easy trot jump. Literal point and shoot, no boundy canter step or stutter step or lurch. Just easy approach, power across, landing forward. It is witchcraft.
Most excitingly, we jumped our first full course in a very long time! It even included a bending line and a one-stride combo. Frankie was absolutely delightful: forward to the base, sat down and waited when I asked, easy lead changes when he needed them, and light in the bridle. I was super happy with that course not just because it rode well, but because it was a huge reassurance that while my strength is still lacking, my eye is still there and I still know how to make choices. I was most worried that my balance and technical abilities would be super rusty (and to be fair, they’re not as polished as they used to be) but I’m feeling much more confident that as I gain my strength back it’ll all come together pretty quickly.
It’s lessons like these that make me truly grateful for the program that I’ve had Frankie in for the last few years. While I would definitely prefer to be a more hands-on owner and do all his rides myself, work and life and stuff has made it so that I rely on a whole team of people to keep Frankie fit and happy. It’s thanks to this whole team that I was able to hop on and jump around despite my own time off. They make the whole horse ownership thing not only possible for me at this stage of life, but fun for me no matter what is going on.
After such a promising re-entry to jumping around at 2’6″, the obvious choice was to plan for a nearby ship-in show in a few weeks at 1m. While this may seem a bit fast to put the jumps back up, Frankie is feeling fabulous and my strength is coming back more quickly than expected. He’s old hat at 1m so I’m not super concerned. Based on how that goes, we will decide what the plan is for Piedmont at the end of September: either 1m feels super easy and we will go for the 1.10-1.15m Highs at Piedmont, or it feels decent and we decide to stick in the 1m Lows at Piedmont. I’m happy either way!
Thrilled to be back in the zone and back sharing the ups and downs with all of you ❤
I’m now in week two of the official “Get More Better At Riding Again” unofficial bootcamp, and I’m loving it!! I had gotten kinda used to my 1-2x a week schedule for the last year+ and I don’t think I realized just how much my barn time makes everything better. Getting to log off the computer and immediately head to the barn is an amazing feeling, especially since my barn commute is 100x better from our new place than it was from my office.
Frankie is on his way down to Lexington for the show with his leaser, which means it is the Meeko show for the week. We had our second hack together last night and I definitely feel like I’m getting to know him better; where he wants more support from me, where I need to dictate a bit, and where he needs me to back off and let him do his thing. He’s very similar to Frankie in that he likes a lot of support from the leg, but his gaits feel so different and he’s more responsive off my aids. It’s really fun getting to know him, he’s safe and fun and I’m so grateful I get to hop on!
I’m also pushing the intensity of my rides more this week. Last week was dedicated solely to making it around the ring a couple times to start building up my sorely-lacking stamina. This week I’m trying to actually, you know, ride like I’m doing something. Tons of transitions and playing with some lateral work has my core VERY sore so I feel like I must be doing something semi-right. It’s making me super eager to get back into lessons when my trainer gets back from the show.
I’m also looking ahead to our (hopeful) next show in September. It’s about 30 minutes away and we’ll be shipping in and out, and traditionally it’s not a super crowded show, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can do it in a safe way. I’ll be hopping on at our trailer after only touching my own tack, and I won’t have to touch anything again until they hand me my big blue ribbons – putting that out into the universe now just in case. I already have a decent selection of masks that I wear when I leave the house (which is extremely rare other than going to the barn), but after seeing some posts here in blogland and on social media about the gaiters people were using, I went ahead and got myself one of those for showing:
I also may have bought myself a little graduation present because you know what, I was tired and stressed and wanted something nice. It’s a new show coat!! I managed to find this Equiline in my size for an absolute STEAL since it’s used, but it’s in perfect shape. Black with satin pockets and burgundy suede collar. At least I’ve stopped compulsively buying new breeches? That counts for something, right?
Anyway, I’m trying to get back in the rhythm of capturing the journey more often as I get back into the swing of things. Excited to share more with you as we start to figure things out again!
After 16 months of classwork, I am officially done with my MBA! It’s been a lot of work: I’ve taken at least two classes every term (and three this summer), all while working full time+, traveling to compete (in the Before Times), starting a new role at work, buying our first house and moving to a new state during lockdown, and navigating the chaos that is the world right now. I’m still waiting on the final confirmation of one class on my transcript, but the grades are in and I managed to finish out with As in all of my classes. It was definitely dicey in places and I wasn’t sure I’d make the grade I wanted, so I’m very pleased that I was able to finish strong and maintain that 4.0.
Not to be cheesy, but this whole school thing would have been impossible without the whole cast of characters in my support system. My barn friends, who have kept me entertained and kept an eye on Frankie for me, my trainer for keeping him fit and ready for the sporadic times I was able to show up (and even got us in the show ring way more often than I expected), my family and in-laws for sharing food and family and love, and of course my husband. He has dealt with more mental breakdowns, exhaustion, tears, absenteeism, and overall craziness than he should have had to in the first 18 months of marriage, and he’s done it all with his characteristic unflappable support. I don’t know what I would do without him.
To celebrate, I decided to take last week off entirely. I set up an away message at work, shut down my laptop, and turned off all notifications on my phone. I definitely have plenty to catch up on this week as I get back in the swing of things at work, but it was SO SO SO WORTH IT. And I think you know why: I spent literally every single day at the barn. Several hours. Every day. With my perfect boy. I feel like a different, better person.
What I also learned during this amazing week full of saddle time is that WOW MY STAMINA IS NEAR ZERO. By the end of the week I was comfortably trotting 6-10 laps and cantering 5-7. If that doesn’t sound like that much, you’d be right. It isn’t. I am just that out of shape. It’s frustrating because I have the muscle memory so my body knows what to do, I just don’t have the strength or tone to maintain anything for very long. I’m extra grateful that Frankie is fit and forward right now; I’m not sure I could handle trying to get both of us back up to speed.
The plan right now is to take this week to keep building my stamina on the flat and re-enter lessons next week, tentatively planning for a group jump lesson and a private flat lesson as time permits. We’re keeping the jumps low for 2-3 weeks to see how I survive and then I’ll move into another group jumping a bit bigger if we’re feeling comfortable. That will take us to the end of August, when I think we’ll have a better idea of how quickly I’ll be able to get fully back up to speed. While it seems crazy to think about now, I do still want to aim for the Highs at Piedmont at the end of September. I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out – we can always go be the defending champs in the Lows – but I don’t see the harm in setting my sights higher.
I’m also getting to diversify my riding a bit this week which I’m excited about! Frankie’s leaser is taking him to their first away show to do the equitation and some jumper classes, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes. In the meantime, my friend has very generously offered to let me flat her GORGEOUS horse Meeko so I don’t lose any opportunity to get in the saddle. He’s of similar unicorn status to Frankie with the added bonus of being an absolutely lovely mover. I’m excited to learn more about his buttons and practice on a different ride.
Moving forward Frankie still is in his half-lease situation, and I don’t plan on ending that any time soon. The kid is a super hard worker and the whole family has been wonderful to work with, and it’s been so satisfying to see them figure each other out. However, this does mean I’m only riding Frankie 3x a week which is definitely not enough to get me back in shape for the Highs. Feeling very grateful that between Meeko and some other options, I should be able to maintain a solid 5-6x/week schedule, and may even get to lesson on some of these other horses!
Frankie recently got a massage showing no major hot spots and got his regular SI injection and is feeling super fit and forward. I’m beyond excited to get back into training mode with my bestest boy ❤
Hi guys! Still here and still kicking, albeit weakly.
You haven’t heard from me in a while because I’m a little less than two weeks away from graduating from my MBA program and it’s been a BUSY summer. I’m taking three classes while still working full time and two of those are capstone courses, so I haven’t had much time to do anything besides work and …more work.
I knew it would be tough going for this final stretch, so I set myself up to power through: I told all my friends and family to ignore me for 7 weeks, I put Frankie into training and half-leased him out to a junior rider at the barn, and my momma has spent a few weeks here helping take care of the dog/house/everything I’m neglecting. It’s been pretty relentless and I’m eager to have some free time back in my schedule once I finish, but all this really has made it manageable. I’ll be finishing out strong instead of dragging myself to the end.
But enough about school, let’s talk about Francisco! In short: he is an angel, I am floppy. I’ve been on a very very very sporadic riding schedule since March, to the point where I get sore from trotting a few laps. It is humbling. Meanwhile, he’s still in training and getting ridden 6x a week and feels simply lovely. He and his kid have been doing some local hunter/eq classes and the judges seem to love him, much to my surprise. And the kid just adores him so he is thriving with the attention. The whole family has been so great, it’s a really nice set-up for all of us: the kid is getting to learn and grow on a safe horse, Frankie is getting loved on and adventures off property, and I have the peace of mind knowing that my creature is staying in work.
We also got a new pro at the barn who is taking some of the training rides and so far I’m thrilled with what she’s doing. She’s super patient with all the horses and rewards the try, which is definitely what helps Frankie feel confident in his work. She also took it upon herself to get Frankie good at trot jumps – something he has always been atrocious at. No joke, three people (including me womp womp) have fallen off him trying to trot a jump. It’s just awful. But no more! I popped over a few little jumps over the weekend and we officially have a real rideable nice trot jump installed. Nice to have that on my 14yo packer.
I am hoping to do some close-to-home shows this fall, with my sights set on Piedmont Jumper over in Upperville at the end of September. I love the showgrounds, it’s a relaxed schedule, and it’s an easy trailer ride from our barn so no need for stalls. I think it’ll be a great way to get back in the ring in a safe way. I am still holding out hope that we might be able to step back into the Highs at that point; Frankie honestly feels the best he’s ever felt in terms of fitness and conditioning. My trainer has said that if I can get myself in shape and up to speed, she sees no reason why the horse can’t go do the job.
So, you know. In two weeks I’ll be back at the barn and will be spending the month of August completely sore as I try to leg back up to 1.10m from 4 months out of training. Very casual. Wish us luck.
I’ll see you all in 11 days when I will officially have my MBA!
Frankie and I got to do our mock dressage show that I mentioned to you last time! We opted to do USDF First Level Test 3 and the ANRC Novice Flat Program. Our trainer was able to use some poles and cones to get a dressage court set up in our outdoor, she enlisted some barn kids as scribes, and set up camp at C. She has spent time in Germany working at a dressage facility and we spend a lot (A LOT A LOT) of time on our flatwork in her program, so I was excited to get to put things together into some full tests.
I do want to caveat that I have ridden my horse literally 3-4 times since early March, and each of these times have been short simple rides with very little hard work involved. My practice for these tests involved laying strips of paper on the ground in my empty spare bedroom and prancing around like a madwoman to memorize them. I’m not sure it’s possible to be less prepared that I was for this haha. But when you have a perfect Frankfurter, you go for it.
We kicked off with 1-3. I over-anticipated the first lengthening and we had a little upwards break, and my geometry DEFINITELY needs work. But overall? I felt like it rode great. Frankie stayed very in tune and interested in the work; I think the constant changes of direction/gait really worked to his strengths to keep him focused. I decided to sit the trot through most of it so I could use my seat more effectively and that was definitely the right call for Frankie – he tunes in SO much better when I have that extra aid solidly on. I got my sheet back and was pretty darn happy with my scores!
In both leg yields I didn’t quite make it to my mark. Frankie has really solid leg yields installed, so I can easily improve those movements by asking for a tad more oomph and watching my markers. I also need to be more careful with my turns: a few times I overshot, and it would work better for us to start our turns a hair sooner and then leg yield out as needed.
Our halts also need some work, this isn’t an area we’ve spent a lot of time on and I tend to let him rest a leg instead of holding his posture. In all areas of improvement, it comes down to me asking more accurately.
I think with some more attention to my track and some tuneups to make sure we’re getting prompt transitions, we could do pretty darn well! I will admit to you all that we did this in his usual elevator bit, which I know is not even remotely dressage legal. Now that I know that Frankie seemed to really enjoy the challenge of it, I’m determined to continue our search for a snaffle that he’s really happy in.
Our next test was the ANRC flat ride. Both of us had lost a little juice by this point and it lacked some of the zazz we had in the first ride. But I do have video of this one!
And here’s our score sheet:
The biggest oops here was the counter canter. We picked it up just fine, did great down the long side, and then OUTTA NOWHERE Francis gave me a lead change around the short end. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that we have literally never schooled changes on the flat. He has a solid counter-canter, but to be fair we haven’t schooled it in a while and MAN that dressage court is narrow. I can’t blame him for trying to catch his balance with me flopping around up there. He was NOT HAVING IT.
The other big UGH was the back. Again, my fault since we haven’t schooled this in some time. Some stronger points were our halt after the sitting trot (it was surprisingly square!), our serpentine where Frankie gave me some lovely smooth changes of bend, and our turn on the forehand. Despite our bad geometry at the leg yields in 1-3, he really does have lovely lateral buttons in there and I think that’s a great show-off point for him.
A big thing for me in both tests: I was floppy. The combination of not riding plus quarantine eating has not been kind to my muscle tone. I was sore for two days after this. Because I am WILDLY out of shape. Francis is the type of horse that relies a lot on his rider to help him hold his shape and balance and I certainly was not the most present for him in that regard.
But because this would not be a real hellomylivia blog post unless I ended this way: YOU GUYS FRANCIS WAS SO CUTE. He literally did a 1-3 test with zero practice and a supremely weak rider up top, and he did it ADORABLY. The two jumps in the ANRC test were the first two jumps I’ve done in over 2 months. And he packed me over perfectly. He was delightfully responsive, forward, eager to figure it out, and as always a total pleasure to ride. In case you’ve forgotten because I haven’t been posting a lot lately: he is total perfection in horse form and that is just scientific fact.
My heart definitely lies in the land of colorful sticks, but we had a total blast trying something new!! If I can (1) get myself back in shape so I can hold him together much more strongly and (2) find a snaffle that he wants to soften to, I’d love to take him out to try a dressage show sometime. He doesn’t have the flashiest gaits and I’m certainly not the strongest rider, but I think we could have a blast and do respectably at the lower levels. He thrives on learning new things and keeping it fresh, so who knows! Maybe my failed foxhunter turned lower level eventer turned pro jumper turned adult eq horse will also be my local dressage mount.
All of you that are thriving in lockdown, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS. I am going basically insane with such low human contact – my husband is totally rad, and our new neighbors are great to periodically stand 6′ away from, but guys. I am a hugger. I am a talker. I am a people person. Every time my husband goes to work and leaves me home alone I spiral a little further.
Well, he leaves me home *almost* alone. After literally 1 day by myself in the new house, I told him that this was not sustainable and I needed a buddy.
Enter Frankie’s new little sister, Maggie!
She’s a 3(ish)yo Great Pyrenees that we found through a nearby shelter. The foster had gotten her started on a good track, but poor girl had been on the streets for a while and was extremely emaciated, had ear infections and skin infections and missing hair and kennel cough and all that jazz. But despite the coughing and itching and stress, she has been a sweet good-natured girl since day one.
A few medicated baths, lots of ear drops, and a LOT of groceries later, she’s looking better and better every day. The hair will take some time to fully come in, but shes gained about 20 pounds and has another 10ish to go before we can go to maintenance mode!
It’s been fun watching her personality emerge as she’s gotten her energy back. She’s definitely a little goblin that wants to play constantly, but she’s also incredibly sweet and social. The neighbor kids love coming to pet her and despite her size, she’s very gentle with them.
My plan is obviously to turn her into a barn dog so she can come along to shows! Sadly she’s a terrible guard dog – she loves EVERYONE and would guaranteed try to throw a party at our house while we’re gone if she could. We’ve been “practicing” leaving the house by just driving around for a while to get her used to being away from us for longer stretches (I will eventually have to go back to work someday I suppose) but she just curls up and sleeps til we get home.
But of course I have to provide you with a Frankfurter update while we’re at it: he is, as always, an angel. He’s been getting extra pro rides since I’ve cut back on lessons and is looking in great flesh with a lovely summer coat coming in. I’ve gone out a few times after hours during the week to love on him, and have snuck out a few weekend mornings for some quick flat rides. I had planned on staying away entirely, but at a certain point my mental health really needed some Francis time. Taking tons of precautions and being super careful, and it’s made a world of difference in my resilience and overall state of being.
In a stroke of genius way to keep us boarders entertained, my trainer is even hosting a mock dressage/flat test show soon! We’ll have ride times to ensure there aren’t too many people on the property and we’ll be using the outdoor, and I’m excited to try it out! We’re currently planning on doing USDF First Level Test 3 and the ANRC Novice Program Ride for the Flat Phase. I schooled through some of the movements over the weekend from 1-3 (at least as much as I could in a ring full of jumps!) and while the movements themselves feel solid I think the main challenge will be maintaining a steady connection through our transitions.
So my DQ and eventing friends: I’d love any suggestions you have! What should I know before we trot down centerline?
A little sliver of exciting news to share amidst the pandemonium: my wonderful husband and I have bought our first house!
We actually started the process back at the beginning of February – we weren’t planning on buying yet, but we wanted to start getting a feel for the area and tour some open houses. We ended up seeing this one on a whim and by the time we walked out we were sold. I spent much of my Ocala trip not just working and doing schoolwork, but negotiating a mortgage and getting things set up to make the purchase!
After some last minute hurdles that may have given me five heart attacks, we closed mid-March and moved in over the weekend. It currently looks like several bombs have gone off and scattered our belongings everywhere, but I’m totally in love with our new place.
Moving during a pandemic has provided a few unique challenges. Our washer and dryer will be delivered to the house, but they are not currently offering in-home installation. So getting those up the stairs and installed is going to take a while (I’m planning on going full Little House on the Prairie and washing stuff in the sink). Internet installation is delayed due to short staff, so I’m working off a hotspot until they can come out (fingers crossed within the next few days). We can’t go to Home Depot to get blinds and we can’t find the right drill bit to install curtain rods, so there’s very little privacy at the moment.
But you know what? Our new neighbors have been incredibly welcoming and I’m already in a group chat with them checking in with each other. The sense of community despite the times is a huge blessing. And we’re finding workarounds for these other snafus.
I’m so excited to keep settling in to our new little slice of almost heaven. If you need me, I’ll be gazing out the window.
PS because I know you’ll ask 😉 No, Frankie is not moving. One of my main criteria when house hunting was that we stayed within reasonable distance of our current barn where he could remain in excellent care. Especially now when I’m not seeing him, having that confidence in his care and regular updates is a huge weight off my mind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
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.