WIHS Regional/Zone 3 Finals

Our 2017 season is officially over! I’m pretty bummed, because I do think we get better and better with every round out there, and I’m already itching to go keep building. But we’ll just have to keep training at home and prepping for 2018.

Overall I think this was a fantastic last show of the season- there were high points, there were low points, there was redemption. And through it all, we got to go back and keep working to fix our mistakes and take some risks and build on our training. What more can you ask for??

I’ll start with Day 1, where we had a regular class and then a classic.

Frankie came off the trailer feeling sassy, and gave me a nice little skitter moment in the warmup. He didn’t actually want to spook, and once I put my leg on and took a contact he settled right down to work. It was a nice quick warmup with some great fences, and then we went in the class!

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First course!

We angled jump 1 a little left to right so Frankie knew we were turning right afterwards. This set us up for a nice tight turn to roll back over 2. We galloped up out of the corner for the two-stride, then had to rock back a little for six strides out over 4- I needed to rock back a little harder a little earlier in the line, but we fit it in ok. Then we angled 5 a little right to left to set us up for an inside turn to the one-stride on the rail- we got in a little tight and had to power out over the vertical. Then we went inside the plants to get to 7 and galloped out the bending line, last bending line from 9 to 10, then I went inside the plants for a nice tight turn to the last vertical that I cut off in the pic oopsie daisy.

By the grace of Francis, we went clear and fast and left the ring as class leaders. We had a few sticky spots here and there were I didn’t rock him back or get his attention enough, but he was a POWERHOUSE. We took every available inside option and he sat his butt down for those turns as if he’s always done that. My sweet sweet Range Rover of a horse has turned sporty!!! We ended up getting edged out by less than 2 seconds (by an ex-Grand Prix horse) to take second place in the class out of 14 competitors!

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Cheesin’ hard!

We had about 90 minutes to relax and cool down before our classic, course here:

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I felt like it was pretty soft as far as classic courses go- no S-turns or end jumps, no triple combo. It was full of big sweeping turns and related distances. Basically it looked like a sped up hunter course to be completely honest.

The first half of this course was meh- I had too much pace going for lines 1-2 and 3-4. The two stride went well again and I rocked him back harder this time for the six strides out, so that felt a ton better. We had an even easier turn to the one-stride and I thought we hit a much better flow through it this time, and bending 9-10 was lovely. Unfortunately the “meh” part of the course was enough to keep us out of the ribbons despite the stellar last half, but I was still really happy with Frankie! He worked hard throughout the entire course and was listening like a pro.

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He was not amused by his mother’s constant need for selfies.

We got him home and unloaded by mid-afternoon, and he got to go outside and play with his buddies overnight. We had an early day on Sunday! I met Trainer there at 7:30a to give us time to walk the course and discuss plan of attack before my ring’s 8am start.

Our warmup for the first class was lovely- he was soft, adjustable, quiet, willing, absolutely delightful.

Note to self: this is not what we want. Soft and quiet Francis equals a low RPM Francis equals a bad time for all when the jumps are big.

Here’s our first course for the Welcome class:

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I won’t walk you through our whole plan of attack, because we didn’t make it past jump 3A. Jumps 1 and 2 came up fantastically- 1 was a nice ramped oxer and we went direct to 2 in a forward six strides. Then we came up out of the corner and….stalled. We barely made it over 3A and then I simply did not help my horse in any way and he was like WTF lady there is no way I am making it over that oxer and he was totally right. So we circled around, reapproached, and I made exactly the same mistake. And at that point he was also like AHA I DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS WE HAVE DECIDED THIS IS EXCELLENT FAREWELL. And just kinda petered to a stop while I did nothing about it except jump ahead and end up sitting in front of the saddle while he stood there looking pleased with himself for getting to be done after three jumps.

Oops.

We had about an hour before the next class, and we decided that it was time to get Frankie a little mad. Because when he’s mad, he’s focused and fast and powerful and starts charging the jumps.  And while ideally I wouldn’t be using Zone Finals as a schooling round, my first priority was to go back in there and give him a good experience through the combo so that we both could build confidence in our abilities. That was Goal #1 and everything else came secondary to that.

So I went in for my next warmup and practiced using my stick behind my leg over the jumps. Not hard enough to actually hurt him obviously, but enough to get his attention. Enough to kinda annoy him and get him really focused hard on jumping. We got some GREAT super fiery jumps out of him in the warmup, and went into the ring first for our last class of the weekend.

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Very similar in a lot of ways. 1 to 2 was an inviting bending seven strides. 3 to 4 was the same direct six, that came up even nicer this time since we were already rolling. Then I got in the back seat, bridged my reins, and gave Frankie a good smack out of the corner. And whatdya know- that combo rode beautifully, even with the jumps jacked up to the full 1.15m. It was a nice easy 4 strides out over 6. I then cut off the end of the ring to get to the two-stride on the wall, which looked FREAKIN’ HUGE MAN HOLY CRAP (I almost peed my pants looking at that oxer while walking the course), but Frankie just flew through it. There was a bending 7 strides out over the skinny jump…which we maybe put 5 strides in. I told you, Frankie was F-L-Y-I-N-G.  I then proceeded to mangle our last line ha ha el oh el.

With a time allowed of 76 seconds, do you know what we clocked in at?

56 seconds.

THAT IS SO STUPID FAST. Like, clearly stupid because he hit some rails and I’d rather we didn’t do that. But say what you will about our abilities. We do. Not. Get. Time. Faults.

While this round probably looked like a bit of a hot mess from the outside, I was actually thrilled with it for a couple reasons:

  1. We went back and made the combo work. That ended up being the best part of our course. We got to prove to each other that we could, in fact, go make it happen powerfully.
  2. Historically, the second course of the day and the second day of competition is tough for us. We both start losing steam. We made plenty of mistakes in this round, but losing steam was not one of them.
  3. Overall we made new mistakes. Getting both of us to operate at that higher RPM has been a huge long journey, full of inconsistencies. Even though we still hit some rails, we hit them for different reasons than we have in the past. I can live with making different mistakes instead of repeating the same ones over and over.

Frankie showed me this weekend that when I show up to work, he can face off with the best of them. That we don’t have to play it safe anymore- the tight turns and risky gallops are never where we have rails. We have rails when I get complacent and try to play it safe. We both thrive under a little pressure to go Get It Done.

It’s been a truly incredible progression throughout the 2017 season as we’ve both gained our sea legs, so to speak. We both know our jobs SO much better in the ring and our partnership keeps getting stronger and stronger.

I know I keep saying this, but every time I think Frankie has hit a new high, he goes out there and gets even more amazing. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect partner to chase my dreams with. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have a horse like him.

Cheers to an amazing 2017 season full of growth and learning, and I already can’t wait for our 2018 season together!

PS- the pro pics should be online today or tomorrow, and I’m hoping there will be some good ones for me to buy. I didn’t have anyone to grab media this weekend, so fingers crossed we get some photo evidence of Frankie’s awesomeness!

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The Rollercoaster Show

Alternate title: How Stupid of an Injury Can You Get?

I’ll allay your fears off the bat: no one has any lasting damage, and nothing was even remotely related to Francis. Homeboy was uninvolved in my tomfoolery and continues to be his awesome amazing wonderful self.

This was probably the most relaxed show I’ve done in a long time. The numbers were EXTREMELY low so the showgrounds were crazy quiet, we weren’t trying to qualify or get points or anything, and it seemed super low key.

Friday was just a schooling day for us- we went in to do a ticketed warmup in one of the rings to try and find our eq pace. Which was hard. My trainer kept telling us to slow down, even when it felt like I was going backwards! I needed to get us into a nice rhythm and then leave my horse alone, instead of letting my electric seat take over and build a gallop. No gallop needed. But overall it was a great schooling session where we got to jump some fill (which we haven’t done in a good long time) and get my eye adjusted to the different pace. When we got the right pace, Frankie was able to jump up nice and square every single time.

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How is my horse so handsome all the time? How?

 

Saturday was our first eq day! Due to ring changes and schedule shifts, our very first class was a 3′ Eq Classic in the GP. On the one hand, a nice familiar ring with jumper-style jumps to ease us in. On the other hand, Frankie definitely knows that this ring means zoomies. It was an…interesting round. I came out of the ring and yelled DOUBLE CLEAR to my trainer, which is apparently not what we are supposed to go for in the eq. It was an odd combination of zooming around, yet not really making the striding anywhere. I think for me, it was tough to adjust my eye to the smaller jumps. Overall though Frankie was obedient and wanted to please (as always) and we ended up getting a nice big pretty yellow ribbon for our efforts.

Then we had two trips for the 18-35 Adult Eq division in the big Hunter 1 ring. We hadn’t gotten to school in there and I’ve never shown in there before, so I was excited to give it a try! The courses themselves were a little disappointing- they were the exact same as the hunter rounds, so no opportunity to show off any handiness. The most “exciting” it got was a two-stride across the diagonal.

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Literally no effort went into the eq courses

I was really really happy with Frankie in both trips. Neither trip was beautifully polished, and definitely had a lot of room for improvement, but Frankie was thinking hard and trying to figure out what I was asking. We’ve spent so long telling him that the show ring means GOING NOW MUST RUN and this time I was telling him the opposite. He definitely thought he was supposed to turn and burn around some of those corners and kept checking with me to make sure he was doing the right thing. My big thing to remember was softening at him- when I dropped him a little bit, he responded by relaxing and coming back to a more appropriate pace.

I could also feel him jumping SUPER cute- I didn’t end up buying it, but the photographer got a really adorable one of him over one of the oxers. I know he doesn’t actually need to try at 3′, so I’m proud of him for still putting in some effort! He makes my job so much easier when he jumps like that. His motion is so much easier to follow, the timing is much easier to allow to happen naturally, overall I feel like I’m able to show off my eq a little bit more.

Despite the little bobbles for us to work on, we took first in both classes! Full disclosure: we were the only entry in the second class. I told you the numbers were crazy low. But there were four entries in the first class! I may or may not have hugged the announcer when he told me (I really should stop hugging strangers at horse shows).

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We’ve got the blues!

I couldn’t be prouder of Frankie for going into a new ring, in a new discipline, with new jumps and new courses, and trusting me enough to listen and think so hard. He always has so much try and this was no different- I could really feel him trying to figure out what I wanted. He got lots of pats and scratches as I took out his braids.

Sunday dawned cool and breezy as I loaded my gear into the car for our final day of showing. And stick with me folks, because this is where I get dumb.

A little context: I have a Jeep Liberty. And the trunk of the Liberty opens in two pieces, as such:

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In this picture, the car is nice and clean and not a decrepit old trash heap like mine is. So the top part opens all the way automatically. But in my decrepit old trash heap, it does not actually open all the way. It opens to about forehead height.

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My professional reenactment diagram

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

While swinging my gear into the car, I smashed my head into the glass so. Dang. Hard.

I made it about 45 minutes before the pressure-headache-feels-like-a-hangover-slight-dizziness set in. I chugged water, took some Advil, and waited for it to subside. And it didn’t.

And that is the story of how I slammed my head into my car so hard that I ended up scratching my classes and having my boyfriend and his brother drive 90 minutes to come pick me up and drive me home.

OMG.

Was I being overcautious? Probably. I’m pretty sure I could’ve made it around another couple trips- especially with such a trustworthy steed. But I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to any sort of head injury, no matter how IDIOTICALLY they may have occurred. Part of me is saying that I was being way overly unnecessarily careful about the whole thing, and the other part of me is saying that I made the right call by scratching. Ugh.

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MAHM WUT R U DOIN Y R U SWAYING

Further earning his Sweetest Horse Ever award, Frankie stood calmly with his head down so I could take his braids out without using the step ladder. I swear he always seems to know when I’m feeling unsteady and is extra careful with me at those times. Such a total lovebug.

The dizziness wore off within a few hours and I’m now just nursing a bit of a headache and some wounded pride. If nothing else, it makes a pretty funny story (especially when I act out the field neuro exam Manfriend gave me upon my father’s instructions). Luckily Manfriend had a sense of humor about the whole thing and reassured me that next time I should just ask him to come to the show, there’s no need to bash my head in to convince him. Har har har.

I guess I was overdue for a klutzy moment.

Please make me feel better and share your most ridiculous injuries that kept you from riding/showing. I can’t be alone in this!

USHJA Zone 3/4 Jumper Team Championships: Part 2

Moving on to the weekend part of the weekend.

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Moar naps.

Saturday was team day. Importantly, the outfit was white pants and the Kastel sunshirt they gave us with Zone 3 printed on the front. I’m in love with this sunshirt.

Let me tell you, Saturday was EVENTFUL. I was slated to go in first for my team as the second anchor (I was just as surprised as you are) so we walked the course as early as possible and then started warming up while they were dragging and watering.

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Walking into the warmup ring

And it was the worst warmup we’ve ever had.

We had the pace. My eye was there. And Frankie was just sticking over the jumps. If I hadn’t had a team depending on me, I would’ve scratched. And then Frankie threw a shoe about 30 seconds before I was due in the ring.

This required a wonderful coordination of effort from the warmup ring steward finding the shoe and radio-ing the in-gate to let them know what was going on, the woman running the in-gate moving me down in the order, the on-site farrier tacking the shoe back on, and Trainer pulling me aside for a kick in the seat.

To paraphrase: “stop riding like crap, you’re better than this. It’s a good thing we get a reset button right now. Get your head in the game.”

And then she told me something that I didn’t realize I needed to hear. She said, “Olivia, you have every right to be here. You qualified just like everyone else. You have just as much of a shot of going in there and laying down a clear round.”

I didn’t realize that I was feeling that Imposter Syndrome until she said that. Somehow she was able to read that in me and knew just what to say to get me motivated. She truly is an incredible coach.

So we went back to the warmup ring and had one of the best warmups we’ve ever had. No joke.

And Frankie threw the shoe again.

But by this point I was the last one to go in the ring, they were waiting on me to close the class, and my team needed me.

So we went in with three shoes.

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At this point all I could do was laugh and say what the hell let’s give it a go.

And proceeded to lay down the fastest trip in the class with zero rails. Double clear.

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It was the same round both trips. Not much to say about it- another tough but fair one that I think played to Frankie’s strengths.

To say that I was ecstatic about this would be a gross understatement. I was shaking with emotion as we left that ring.

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Shortly before I collapsed on his neck from sheer joy

And if you know me at all, you know that I needed a place to channel that emotion. So when one of my teammates (who is a total fixture on my circuit and wins everything and rides SO FREAKIN’ WELL and I love watching her at every show) came up to congratulate me on my round, I went straight in for the hug and literally said these words: “I LOOK UP TO YOU SO MUCH I LOVE WATCHING YOU RIDE YOU’RE SUCH AN INSPIRATION.”

Because I have ZERO chill.

God bless her she patted me on the back and handled the shaking psycho hanging on her neck very graciously. At this point Frankie had been whisked away to the farrier before we had to go back in for our second round.

And to anyone who says that sportsmanship is dead in the horse world, I’d like to invite you to come to Zone Finals. Because when word got around that my horse had lost a shoe, someone FROM ANOTHER TEAM immediately offered us a set of bell boots. The warmup ring steward gave us good juju. The woman running the in-gate gave us good juju. Everyone was helping out and pitching in and I wish every person who complains about poor horsemanship could’ve been there to see all of these people offering a helping hand without hesitation or agenda. I will never forget that sense of community and shared purpose.

But it does turn out that the shoe was unlucky, because we went in for our second round and dropped three rails. Womp womp. This meant that I was the drop score for our team for the second round. But at least I actively contributed in the first round! I actually liked my second round a lot better- it flowed more smoothly and I had a more rideable horse. One of the rails was definitely my fault, but the other two were just Frankie being sloppy with his hind end. I’m sure by this point he was tired.

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Happy Francis!
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I CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS SWEET HORSE

Even so, our team scores left us tied for first with Team 3. Meaning it came down to a jumpoff.

Ho. Lee. Crap. SO EXCITING.

Team 3’s chosen rider went in there and laid down a super crazy fast clear jumpoff. Then our rider went in there and laid down an equally crazy fast jumpoff- she was faster by 0.05 seconds. But then- ever so gently- we heard the faintest *poof* of the last rail hitting the ground. The entire in-gate area erupted in screams and cheers and congratulations. Team 4 took the silver!

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I’m up there losing my mind and Frankie is just waiting for naptime again.
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“Mahm is this ribbon eatable?”

The ribbon ceremony was absolutely incredible. They played the Olympics theme song over the speakers, they took a thousand official pictures, they sent us off for a victory gallop, they put medals around our necks up on the podium, they took a thousand more official pictures. Oh man.

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I had never met any of these women before this day. Didn’t matter. Team hugs.
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Absolutely punch drunk laughing at nothing in total hysterics
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Aw yiss
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As the token tall girl, I always stand in the back
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Cheesin’ HARD

It was a dream come true. And true to form, Francis handled all the hooplah as if he’d been there a million times. Flapping ribbons? Horses running up his butt in the victory gallop? Loudspeakers and music and flags and flashes? Ain’t no thang for the Frankfurter. He very placidly cantered a lap and then happily went back to his stall. What a pro.

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He was very happy to go for a walk later in the afternoon to stretch his legs. We were required to have his number on him every time he left his stall.

I’d like to give a shoutout here to my adopted barn moms- they took a thousand pictures (all the good ones here are from my barn moms) and cheered and supported and one of them literally cried watching me in the victory gallop. I felt so surrounded by love. I’ve got the best barn family in the world.

And it would be remiss of me to not mention the help I got with Frankie- our team made sure that he was shiny and groomed and tacked up whenever I needed him and worked their butts off to coordinate that around 7 other riders. They are rockstars who worked bazillion hour days without complaint the whole time.

I’ll wrap up Sunday quickly, since it was a bit anticlimactic.

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Lot of related distances

I thought this was a fairly straightforward course for the most part, but the triple at 10ABC was the true weed-out spot. A to B was set SUPER long as a one stride. I got nervous when I walked it- Frankie has a big step, but as mentioned previously he does back off in combos. I think this was the big test of those who could go in there and lay it down perfectly, versus those who didn’t quite have it all together.

At this point in our career, we are the latter. It wasn’t a terrible course but it wasn’t our best either, and we did have to mad scramble out of the triple. Overall I’m proud of Frankie’s effort here and he listened really well. It had been a long weekend and I know he was tired, but he was definitely more fit than he has been in the past and was able to give me more powerful efforts. My big mistake in this course was that I rode the plan too strongly. I should’ve adjusted as we went through instead of trying to stick to a plan that clearly wasn’t working for the horse I had under me. My new mantra: ride the horse, not the course.

Between our 6 faults on Friday, 12 faults on Saturday, and then some additional faults on Sunday (I think 8 due to 2 rails?), we were out of the ribbons for the individual final. But one of my teammates from Saturday took home the Individual Gold! And despite squeaking in there with minimum points, we didn’t end up in dead last.

By that point, we were ready to go home.

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Frankie was very happy to snuggle with his mama and relax outside.

What a weekend. I couldn’t be happier with how Frankie performed- we asked him for a lot of hard rounds at bigger heights with more difficult questions, and he took it all in like a total champ. It was certainly a physical stretch for us to have a full weekend of long courses and big jumps, but it was also a mental stretch. We had to deal with some snags and exhaustion and figure out how to keep trucking. It raised the bar for us in a whole bunch of different ways and I think we rose to the occasion.

We aren’t yet at the top of the pack in our division, but every round we go out there and the pieces come together a little bit more. Every round that goes well is due a little more to skill and a little less to luck. We’re making different mistakes. We’re fitter, stronger, faster, tighter than we used to be.

As always, we have a long long way to go, but we’re a lot further than we used to be. My heart is full to bursting with love and gratitude for this horse who so patiently teaches me so much.

USHJA Zone 3/4 Jumper Team Championships: Part 1

This was such a monster of a weekend, I’m not sure how many posts it’ll take to feel like I’m doing it justice. At least 2. But I’m just gonna keep writing until I get everything down that I want to get down, and that’s gonna be a LOT. So strap in.

I’ll start with Thursday- the day before the show. I arrived around 7a to help set stalls up for the 8 horses we had joining for the weekend. Everyone chipped in and got things put away and we were done surprisingly quickly! Frankie naturally plopped down for a nap almost immediately.

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Next time I’ll bring him a snorkel so he doesn’t have to come up for air

We were required to be checked in by 10am- that’s when the USHJA people would be going around to make sure every Championship horse was on the premises where they were supposed to be. We had some excitement trying to find Frankie’s most recent vaccination papers, but luckily my Trainer is WAY more organized than I am and has a legit binder of everyone’s paperwork. We got his number hung on his stall with no further incident.

This was a pretty quiet day since I didn’t have any classes. We just had a brief lesson later in the day where we worked on some one-strides and tight rollback turns, all set fairly low so we wouldn’t tire Frankie out. He felt so awesome, really listening to my cues and slicing jumps like he’s been doing this his whole life.

Then my hotel tried to cancel my reservation because they were overbooked and didn’t even call me about it, so I had to channel my mother to get that sorted out. Long story short, I ended up with the room I booked after a lot of back and forth.

Frankie and I went for a couple walks later in the day to stretch his legs and let him see the show grounds, and you just know he was super spooky and nervous about it. HAH LOL. He mosied around on a loose lead and grazed and leaned in for scratchies. He’s gotten the hang of this whole “horse show” thing by now.

We ended the day with the official Zone 3 rider’s meeting with the Chef d’Equipes to talk about expectations for the weekend and receive our swag. I gotta be honest, it was super motivating to hear them talking about representing our Zone. I mean, I knew that’s what this was. But it kinda hit home to hear them talk about it. They gave us a brief demonstration of how to jog and went through our outfits for the weekend (you know how excited I get about outfits) and then released us.

On to Friday! And ohhhh man what a busy day.

We started with the jog first thing. Outfit for human was tan breeches, shiny shiny boots, navy polo with the USHJA logo on it, number tied around our backs, and hair up in a ponytail under our white Zone 3 hats. Outfit for horse was snaffle bridle and nothing else- no bonnet, boots, etc. Some people braided and they looked really nice. All of us groomed and primped and polished our ponies so they were super clean.

Y’all, jogging is hard. First we had to wait in line- stop/go/stop/go/stop/go as we slowly moved up, which is Frankie’s least favorite thing in the world. He’s happy to stop. He’s happy to go. He is NOT happy to wait around. Combine that with the sight of a gray mare in the distance, and I was flying a kite (Frankie is OBSESSED with gray mares). We were that embarrassing pair standing perpendicular/backwards/sideways to everyone else because he couldn’t take his eyes off that distant horse. Homeboy pooped like 14x in those 10 minutes.

And that was all before we even actually jogged.

Once we got to the front of the line, I had to start over because I asked him to jog too early (in my defense, they way they showed us the night before and they way they asked us to do it day of were slightly different). He may have run me over a bit. But I ran my little heart out to keep up with him and he passed easily. Not that I thought he wouldn’t pass, but having 2 vets and a bunch of USHJA officials staring at you is kinda nerve-wracking. I was very happy to go back and let Frankie cope with the loss of that distant gray mare while I went to the next rider’s meeting.

This was the meeting where they drew the order for the first individual qualifier round that day, and announced our teams for Saturday- which ended up being different from the teams they had announced last week. I ended up on Team 4 with 3 other ladies from Zone 3. Side note- they provided breakfast and coffee for us every day under this tent, which was totally awesome of them.

We had the option of doing a training session on Friday before our Individual round, and Trainer and I decided that it would be a good idea. They gave us a course and 90 seconds in the ring to use however we wanted- some people went in and trotted around for 90 seconds, some jumped the whole course, some just jumped one fence, some did a totally different course. As long as you only jumped the flagged jumps, and in the correct direction, you could do whatever you wanted. I opted to school over the liverpool and go through a one-stride combo to get the gears working.

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Trainer and I discussing strategy ringside. Holding him because this weekend Francis decided that holding still is THE WORST. Check my awesome official polo.

I legged up to that liverpool and Frankie popped over it no problem. We’ve never encountered one in the show ring before, but I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t care. Homeboy never cares. We did circle around and go through to school that one-stride a couple times though. I needed him thinking FORWARD no matter what and he sometimes backs off when he sees all those poles. Not enough to stop, just enough to get kinda stuck. We ended on a good note. I actually bought an 8″x10″ photo of us from this training round- I look kinda like a barnacle clinging to Frankie, but he looks AMAZING. Seriously, like a million bucks. Trainer said that one is going on her gallery wall in the lounge #goalachieved.

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This is not the one where he looks like a million bucks, but he’s awful nonchalant about that liverpool. Good Francis.

After a break, it was time for our first individual qualifier round.

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A very reasonable course that asked challenging but fair questions

Overall- not bad. Two rails, which wasn’t great, but a fantastic time. It was faults converted, so those two rails just added 8 seconds to my time. Then we subtract the winner’s time so that the winner has a score of 0, and that left me with something like 6.15 faults. Meaning I actually went 2 seconds faster than the winner which is kinda cool. And the reason that we got such a great time is because we took every. single. inside. turn. (Funny enough, those turns aren’t where we had rails either).

You guys. We did every inside turn. This was a HUGE risk/stretch for us. We sometimes will pick one or two tighter turns to shave time, but the SS Frankenstein is not known for his turning radius. I was SO FREAKIN’ PROUD. We went inside Fence 9 to get from 4B to 5. We went inside 12 to get to 7. WE WENT INSIDE 4AB IN THE 3′ OF CLEAR SPACE TO GET TO 9. WE SLICED 11 LIKE A BADASS TO GO INSIDE 3 TO GET TO 12. Holy moly I wish I had a picture of 11. We were basically parallel to the jump and I asked Frankie to go for it and that sweet creature was just kinda like “this seems weird but whatever you say” and jumped it on the sharpest angle BY FAR I have ever asked him to jump anything.

Here are some pics of him being so excellent:

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In case you thought I had addressed my crookedness. No. I have not. He’s clearly super stressed about that liverpool down there.
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COULD HE BE ANY CUTER I SWEAR TO GOD

Especially once I heard that first rail go down, I asked Frankie to haul ass like a bat out of hell to get a good time. And that’s exactly what he did. Was it our smoothest, prettiest course ever? Absolutely not. We had to get scrappy in places. But we took risks we’ve never taken, we asked for a faster pace than I’ve ever asked for before, and my horse delivered. It was exactly the round we needed to set the tone for the weekend.

Stay tuned for the rest of the weekend!

Sneak Peek: Zone Jumper Finals

I’m still processing this weekend. There are a lot of emotions, a LOT of exhaustion, and more than a few blisters to doctor. This was a huge stretch for us both mentally and physically.

Until I manage to organize my thoughts at least semi-cohesively (and don’t worry, I have TONS to share), here’s a few pictures of me and my best boy having the time of our lives this weekend.

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Yes, I do enter the ring every time grinning like a fool
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Happy pony
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It’s too bad he spooks at these crazy jumps HAH
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Last in the ring, and we went clear all around with a blisteringly fast pace. SO MANY pats for pony.
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The incredibly talented ladies of Team 4
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Wearing this medal nonstop forever not sorry about it
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Manfriend being literally an enormous support.

Upperville: The Recap

Phew. Moved into the new apartment, had my first day at the new job, and now I need to tell you more about Upperville.

I had some pretty high hopes going into Upperville- not of the ribbon variety, but more just reeeeally wanting to go lay down some good rides in our division. I combined that drive for success with barely riding for two weeks prior to competing. Because that’s always how to get better at things, right? Completely wing it.

Except you forget the part where Francis is literally a unicorn pegasus hearts and flowers kind of horse that is way better to me than I deserve. Srsly.

Overall I was thrilled with our rounds- despite my lack of saddle time I think I made decent decisions and stuck to the plan, and Frankie was just so on top of things that he made up for any of my deficiencies.

On to the details.

I arrived on Saturday to the oh-so-familiar sight of Francis conserving his energy for the upcoming competition:

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Too tired to close his mouth.

Someone commented that the stalls seemed small and I just pulled this pic out and said: “17.1 horse. Stalls are fine.”

But I left him to his beauty sleep and went to learn my course with my trainer. By the time we got back to get ready for warmup he had roused himself (luckily, I had a BEAST of a time getting him up at Culpeper) and we were able to go get our muscles moving.

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The rule is that I’m responsible for listening to our trainer, and Frankie is responsible for finding the nearest camera to make cute faces at. (PC: A. Frye)

Weirdly enough, I’m almost more proud of our warmups than I am of our actual rounds. It’s always taken me a little while to get my head in the game and ask Frankie for some real work, but this time we set right to it and were making better choices much more quickly. I consider that a big step forward for us. And of course, he met this dedication with his own hard work:

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I swear he doesn’t even look like the same horse as last year. (PC: A. Frye)

We didn’t need a ton of time to get us going and it was pretty hot, so we opted to head into the ring without too much of a delay. Course here:

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I liked this course a lot!

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His first time in this ring, keeping an eye on things. (PC: A. Frye)
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Specifically, keeping an eye on the camera because he is a diva (PC: A. Frye)
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UGH MAHM FINE WE WILL GO JUMPS (PC: A. Frye)

We came up to jump 1 off a shorter turn on the right lead- we like to collect through the turn and then bounce up instead of taking a longer runway approach.

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And it paid off with this lovely effort. In love with those perfectly even back feet!

We stumbled a bit off 2 but recovered in time for 3, and just continued on to 4. The bending into the combo walked a little short and I ended up holding a bit too much- it was uphill and away from the gate so it didn’t ride as short as I anticipated. But Francis was a bro and powered out the one stride totally fine.

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Please ignore everything about me in the Superman position and focus on the cute horsie NOTHING TO SEE HERE EXCEPT MY HORSE (told you he’s better to me than I deserve) (PC: A. Frye)

6 to 7 was fine and all was clear, so we continued on to the speed phase.

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Aw buddy be cuter (PC: A. Frye)

I let him get up on 8 too much and knocked a rail, and then we knocked one of the rails in the combo, got a bit of a flyer out over 11, and then 12 to 13 was decent.

Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Did my horse listen like a champ and give me what I asked for every step of the way? Also absolutely. His first time in the ring, tons of activity, and he stayed tuned in to me the whole time. Even better- after going through the timers and finishing, he tried to veer left and pull me towards jump 3. He wanted to go jump more. While we were out of the ribbons, I finished in the top 50% of the class and with a happy horse who was loving his job. I consider that a definite show success!

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We also got to go cool down with these views, so not too shabby.

On to Sunday!

Sunday was brutally hot. Like, it sucked. You know how when it’s that hot out you don’t want to eat because nothing is refreshing enough and your body is just too hot? Yeah. I did choke some fuel down, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.

But Frankie continued his eternal streak of being a Very Good Boy.

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Including mugging for the camera while getting tacked up.

I was a little nervous for our Sunday round- our first 1.15m class together, and Upperville does not set the heights forgivingly. This was going to be a true test at height, and I knew there would definitely be a triple combo in there somewhere. I was right:

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While more challenging, I thought this was a really fair test. There were a few options for the bold to make some intense inside turns, the time allowed was tight, but it wasn’t trappy anywhere. If you rode a good pace and made efficient turns, you could safely ride this competitively.

We again chose to make a short turn on the right lead to jump 1 (passing in front of jump 3). 2 to 3 was a standard 5 strides- I saw some horses struggle to get out in 5 if they didn’t jump in correctly, but I liked our jump 2 and Frankie carried his standard stride to take us out just a leeetle bit long.

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Cute jump 2! (PC: G. Mohan)

End jump at 4 was fine, 5 was ok- it was a skinny and a very upright vertical so a lot of horses knocked that one. We got a bit close on it, but Frankie was scrappy and got his feets out of the way. I needed to hold more left leg and get straighter into the combo, but we ended up to a good takeoff spot and made it through unscathed. We flew a bit into 7 which made 8 really tight- Frankie earned his oats by getting clear over that, because that was a tough spot for him.

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Flyer to 7 but he still real cute (PC: G. Mohan)

And then my horse started running out of steam. Due to scheduling confusion and the heat we had done a longer warmup than we strictly needed, and this was a long course. But true to self, he still went about his job like a pro and carried me through the triple combo without touching a rail. We galloped up 10-11 and took a well earned breather.

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Yeah he totally looks tired, doesn’t he? (PC: G. Mohan)

Despite the heat and both of us starting to flag, we had gone clear and within time! They buzzed us for our jumpoff almost immediately.

Again, 1 was fine. I didn’t get him back quickly enough to make the turn I wanted to 3, so we went a bit wide. 13 to 14 was a basic bending line, not much to say there. Then I am so proud of Frankie- we took a tighter turn and sliced across the oxer at 10 and he didn’t even blink. We made it around through the one-stride no problem again, and just has one jump left. Away from the gate. The course designers absolutely did this on purpose- both of us tired and hot and ready to be done, and I didn’t get his attention back on me and we biffed the last one. Womp womp. Just goes to show- do not relax until you are through those last timers.

But we again managed to finish in the top 50% of a big class, even if we were out of the ribbons. And we again finished with a horse that was tired, but a horse that had his ears up and made his way back to the barn with a spring in his step.

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And the height? Not even a thing. Frankie charged fearlessly ahead to every jump on course.

So yeah. My goal of going to Upperville and having some good rides was 100% successful in my book. Nowhere near perfect, but we’re further along that path than we used to be. And if you didn’t have a crush on Frankie before this, I hope you do now because he deserves all the love in the world from everyone. I count my lucky stars every day to have this goofy wonderful gelding in my life.

We now have our sights set on Zones in August! Our new outdoor is complete (post to come once I get pics I’m satisfied with) and full of fun jumps for us to practice with, and Frankie has never felt better.

It’s looking like we’ll do that in August, and then wrap up our season at Culpeper Finals end of September- we’ll plan to do the Modified A/O division at 1.15m, and I’m going to beg and plead and work really hard to convince my trainer that we should probably try a 1.20m class. We’ll revisit as we get closer depending on Frankie’s fitness, my own fitness, and how our training is going, but that’s a tentative stretch goal. We’ll focus on smoothing out the rough edges at 1.15m first, I GUESS.

Hope to get some more updates out to you soon!

Bear With Me!

I’m in the midst of a move right now (technically homeless for a few days, but a barn friend is graciously putting a roof over my head and feeding me wine, so it’s all good) meaning I don’t have access to my computer for a bit- I’m writing this on my phone right now. 

But my Upperville recap will be the first thing on the docket when I once again have a keyboard, never fear. 

Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING. No ribbons in a super competitive division of about 35 horses, but rounds that felt good, that I’m proud of. Frankie was the best he’s ever been (which is saying something, we all know he’s always great) and was absolutely worth his weight in gold. Sailed through our first 1.15m like it was nothing even with my ammy mistakes, and tried to pull me to jumps even when our courses were over. I know you’re all probably getting sick of reading this, but wow. This horse is so far beyond anything I could’ve hoped for in a million years, and I am so grateful to get the chance to go out and have fun with him. I may be biased, but pretty sure I have the best horse in the world. Love my Francis!!!

Ok I got a bit carried away, but here are a few pics to tide you over until I can put a real post together. 

Mother ran you past a distance to a 1.10m oxer? No problem for a FrancisBeast!
Somehow he always knows where the camera is…
Our first jump in the ring at Upperville, and he galloped right up like a champ
The traditional horse show nap. At least he knows how to relax.
This is the same horse that used to hang his legs and heave over a jump. Doesn’t look like the same horse, but it is.

Thank you so much Abby, Glendon, Manfriend, Manfriend’s Momma, and everyone else who snapped some great pics this weekend!

Can’t wait to share more details with y’all. 

HITS Video: First High Round

Things are a little hectic around here and I will have some cool news to share soon, but in the meantime enjoy this video of our first round in the Highs at HITS!

I clearly didn’t make all the right decisions here. I was so used to having to boot him up to the jumps that all of a sudden he was carrying me and WHOOPS GONNA CHIP TO EVERYTHING. I need to remember that Homeboy is more fit and more educated now and needs support, not squeezing.

This was our first true time competing at this height (like I said once before, McDonogh was set VERY forgivingly and likely not true to height) and I couldn’t be happier with how Francis did. He has to deal with his ammy mom making tons of mistakes but he does it all with his little ears perked up and just trucks around. Worth his weight in gold, this horse.

Our next outing will be Upperville- just for the weekend- where we will do the 1.10m/1.15m classes. Can’t wait!

HITS Culpeper: Commonwealth National 2017

Our first big show of the season is in the books! Strap in for a BEAST of a post guys, because I’ve got lots to say. Don’t worry, we also have lots of great pics thanks to the best show friends ever.

And holy crap guys, I have to put this out there straight off: Francis. Was. Amazing. Like, I can’t even express the amazing. This horse has come SO far in a year, is SO much more educated, and legit was perfection all weekend. I certainly have plenty to work on, but the horse is totally aces.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and you know that Francis is a real professional show pony now, we can get into the good stuff.

Francis shipped into the showgrounds on Thursday and got a training ride with a good report card- a storm was blowing in while Trainer was on him and he was apparently a little looky with all the wind and noise, but settled into work once she set the screws to him a bit. She let me know to show up bright and early the next day to kick things off.

On Friday we opted to do a warmup 1m class in the GP ring for a couple reasons: 1) To get us listening to each other before out 1.10m classes and 2) to let us get into the GP ring before our classic on Sunday. Not that Francis cares, but Trainer knows I like to get the lay of the land if at all possible.

Course here:

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Note the dampness because EVERYTHING WAS WET UGH

No hard questions here. The intent was to treat this as a schooling round- I didn’t want to go in there and gallop around. The footing was super soupy from the storms so my plan was to stay balanced and get some adjustability from Francis. I felt like he really delivered! We got a bit of a launcher at fence 5 when I asked too late for the move up, but the rest of the time we managed to get some pretty good, close distances. Especially at that height where Frankie doesn’t need to work too hard, we wanted him listening to the base- I had to wrestle him back a bit through that last line towards home, but he obliged and fit in that last stride. Overall it felt like a very competent schooling round with a few sticky spots but plenty of good spots, and that perfectly met our goal going into the ring. Even with a rail, it was good enough to get us 8th out of 20ish in an open class!

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I love the flags in the background here, we got the Grand Prix look!
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You guys. Francis is picking his knees up. OMG.
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Note the lake right behind us. Srsly so soupy.
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Jumping into the last line towards home. I had to sit down hard after this to ask him to fit the strides in that last line- he could see the in-gate and wanted to gallop home.

We then had quite a while before our first High Adult round went in Jumper 1, and Francis took full advantage of that break.

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“Oh. Hey.”
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You don’t even realize how long he was down there. HOURS. Pretty sure he was snoring.
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We thought he’d try to get up when we came in to bug him… Nope. He was very content to stay where he was and snuggle.

Sadly, we did eventually have to rouse him from his nap and pick the shavings out of his tail. He gave us plenty of sighs to let us know what a bother it was. But he had to go cart his Momma over some colorful sticks!

I was not nervous per say, but a little intimidated. Sure, we went in the Highs at 1.10m back in January, but I’m pretty convinced those jumps were set at a VERY forgiving height. So for me this felt like our first REAL time going out there at a true 1.10m in competition.

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Waiting our turn on the buckle like a true fiery jumper steed
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Slightly less damp by this point in the day.

But as soon as the buzzer rang, that apprehension flew out the window. Was it a perfect course? Absolutely not! But the height didn’t even seem like a factor- the sticky spots were due to my own mistakes and not due to any difficulty making it over that height.

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Oh but he real cute tho

We got a flyer to jump 1, which led to me letting him get a bit strung out and knocking fence 2. That meant that the line from 2 to 3 which had walked a little tight ended up being more of a push ride out. Then I got a bit up on 4a and had to kick out of the two-stride, but that set us up to gallop out of stride over 5. He jumped the snot out of this one, I splurged on the pro pic.

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Knees!
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The pro pic is basically a clearer, more zoomed in, better version of this crappy screenshot I grabbed. Of course I had to get the pic, look how cute he is!!

I needed more left leg to get a better track across 6, but bending out over 7 was nice and 8a-b rode fine. That five strides out over 9 was tough and ended up being an ugly jump honestly. The last line actually felt fantastic though- Frankie gave me this incredible moment of softness about 1 stride out from 10 and it set us up to rock back and fit the stride in over the last fence.

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Jump 10. When we get that softness to the base, wow. Just wow.

They did end up combining the Children and Adult sections so that rail was enough to keep us out of the ribbons in a class of 16. Honestly though, I was thrilled with Frankie and felt like this course was a really good representation of where we are together. (Be prepared to hear that again, it was kinda the theme of our weekend).

Saturday was super fun for me- I got to play owner! We had Assistant Trainer take Francis in the 1.15m class so he could get some confidence building miles at that height before he has to deal with the height AND his mother.

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Pretty hunter-ific in my opinion

It was a blast getting to see Frankie go with such a strong and competent rider. I do the best I can for him, but let’s be real. I’m no pro. Since I wasn’t actually on I don’t have much to say, so just enjoy these pics of Francis being a star:

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Waiting their turn AND LOOKING LIKE SUCH A HUNKY BEEFCAKE OMG
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First oxer on course, and Trainer mentioned he definitely felt a little surprised by the height
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He eventually figured it out
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Sweet back feetsies
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Someday my leg will be this strong and stable. Someday.

Some comments from AT when she came out of the ring: overall, she said Francis was a good boy and listened well to her. The close spot to the base still does not come naturally to him and he has to think hard about it, so she wants to work on his fitness to make that easier for him.

But you know who earned his first blue ribbon?

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Very proud Momma with the star steed and best AT evah. She may be tiny, but the woman has totally inhuman strength. She’s amazing.

I was supposed to have my High class after this, but I ended up scratching. It was freezing and raining and windy and while I would’ve been fine competing because Frankie don’t care ’bout none of that, it would not have been fun. So I played my Ammy card and said “nah not today.”

On to Sunday! We had our classic first thing in the morning, then a speed class to round out our weekend together.

Classic course here:

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Of course my eyes immediately went to 8abc. The elusive triple combo.

I really liked this course. It asked some harder questions than earlier in the weekend but nothing felt tricky or intimidating. There were plenty of options. The footing again was REALLY soupy so I didn’t want to turn-and-burn too much.

We ended up knocking a couple rails because, you know, me. But there were a couple parts to this course that I was thrilled with.

The first was 5ab to 6. We turned inside 13 to get there and only had one straight stride, but we were able to power through and then balance out over 6. It rode nicely.

Then I am just over the moon about the triple combo. 7 to 8a walked in a shaped bending 9 strides, but after watching some rounds Trainer and I decided that I would land and hold him straight and upright for 4 strides, then turn and send him forward for the final 4 to put 8 in there. That worked out PERFECTLY. We were able to come into the triple carrying a good pace to the base and there was no sticky point throughout- he carried us through like he had done it a million times.

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Coming out of the triple

Of course I was so excited about the triple that I stopped thinking and had a ridiculous distance to 9, but we recovered for the last line. Womp womp.

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Last jump was casual

Again- not a perfect course, but very representative of where we are as a team and a huge improvement from just a short while ago. When I have the presence of mind to ask, Frankie delivers every time. I just have to think a bit faster on course so I can time the ask better.

Francis had a 2 hour break before our speed round and obviously he lay down for a nap. And guys. He did NOT want to wake up. I was pushing him, poking him, pulling him, cajoling him, and he basically gave me the horse version of “Moooom 5 more minutes.” He just kept leaning into me for more scratches.

Clearly Homeboy was conserving his energy though, because he then went and gave me the speediest speed round he’s ever done.

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He obligingly stood for pictures before going in the ring

I don’t have any clear pics from this round, but I’ll tell you right now that it was pretty chippy because WOW Francis was galloping around. I have a video that I’ll share with you eventually but you’ll have to promise not to judge me.

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Imagine us jumping over this. We did the inside turn from 8b to 9 which worked great, but other than that pretty straightforward.

But that’s the great part about the jumpers- it doesn’t matter how pretty you are, as long as you get the job done. And Frankie was really excited to get the job done. Ears forward, galloping around, finding the fences. He heard that buzzer and said OK LET’S GO.

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And it paid off!

Not a bad way to round out our weekend.

Some overall thoughts to wrap up this monster post:

Frankie is simply so much more educated than he was last season. While he still likes a very active ride, he didn’t need constant instruction on where to place every foot. He was confident and willing to go forward and listen instead of needing constant reassurance and getting “stuck” in places. He heard the buzzer and moved out. He felt me sit and waited for my cue. He feels like a trained jumper horse now- not just a Very Good Boy who is happy enough to go in the jumpers. The transformation from a year ago is astounding to me. He is a completely different horse than we brought home and is constantly surprising us and delighting us with how trainable, athletic, and willing he is.

Trainer said that we first started out last season in the “hang on and pray” stage. Then we moved on to the less dangerous “find your pace” stage. She said we’ve now moved on past that to a point where we can have some fun with our courses. We can confidently make a plan, because we both have the fitness and knowledge and ability to stick to the plan. We can strategize how to make each course work best for us instead of just trying to make it around in one piece. We have a very long way to go and acres of improvement to make, but we have come such a long way in the past year.

You may notice that Frankie is picking up his knees in most of these pictures. If you’ve followed along with us for any amount of time, you know that Frankie generally jumps like a drunk alpaca. Somehow the combination of increased fitness, increased education, and jacking the jumps enough so he had to put a bit of effort in has led to a horse that actually jumps kinda cute! Go Francis!

In terms of behavior, I was so happy with Frankie. Is he a big dolt who needs a reminder to hold still sometimes? Absolutely. We will be working on that. In terms of his demeanor though, he was relaxed and happy and chill the whole weekend- as evidenced by his constant napping. He stood for baths, walked around quietly on the buckle before and after his rounds, and loaded on the trailer to go home without blinking an eye.

Really our partnership has grown so much. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to grow and learn with this incredible animal.

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The most accurate representation of the two of us that I’ve ever seen

PS- we should know soon if we have all the points we need to qualify, but we’re adding a 1-day show to the schedule in May just in case 😉