Why Jumpers?

whybats.gif
BECAUSE THE JUMPERS FRIGHTEN ME

Nah all kidding aside, I was ruminating on this the other day. Frankie and I have played in the equitation, I grew up exclusively doing the hunters/eq, we’ve toodled around baby XC, Frankie has done eventing and hunters and pleasure classes with other riders. I’ve even mentioned that I hope to take him in a hunter derby at some point.

So with all that time spent in other rings, why do I keep our main focus on the jumper ring? It’s not a question of ability – we’ve both been perfectly happy and capable in other disciplines. And it isn’t a question of access – I’m in comfortable driving distance of high-level barns of practically every English discipline. Even my own beloved trainer has a strong record in all three H/J/E (she’s even a hunter R judge).

Circumstances have not forced us into the jumper ring. It is by no means a default, and by no means an accident. In simple terms, I focus us in the jumper ring because I love it there.

img_5476
PC – ESI Photography

In my world, training for and competing in the jumper ring combines all of my favorite parts from each discipline and turns them into something even greater than the sum of its parts. There is the precision flatwork of dressage, there is the speed and thrill of eventing, there is the careful effective position of equitation, there is knowing how to bring out the best in my horse from the hunters. And it takes all of these parts and gives back a sport that is pure strategy and focus and fun.

IMG_0672
PC – USHJA

I love the focus on results above all else, but that the results reward the process. Sure, you’re not being judged on your position – but try to go clear on the Frankfurter without a supportive leg and balanced body. See how that works out. And you’re not being judged on your horse’s steadiness of pace or bascule – but try to beat the time and leave the oxers up without a good jump and adjustable stride. At the end of the day though, when the rubber meets the road you have to be willing to dig in and throw out the pretty to make it work.

jtc_fri_stars2
PC – K. Borden

I love the strategy of it. How it’s a thinking ride with every single stride. Once that buzzer sounds, there’s no time to be nervous or notice anything else, because a good course demands your attention. It’s all about playing to your horse’s strengths to set them up to succeed through the entire course, with each component building on the next. How you need to ride the plan, but above all else ride the horse you have under you in that moment.

img_3502
PC – Hoof Print Images

I love the people. The Zone 3 Adult Jumper riders are all fantastic, and getting to see them and catch up at shows is a treat. We cheer each other on, we wave hello in the warmups, we take pictures for each other. The show crews in our area are wonderful people, ready to say congratulations on a good round and answer my many questions. The warmup rings tend to be surprisingly civilized since most people have done this before and behave accordingly. For all the horror stories I’ve heard of snobbery at the big shows, I’ve never failed to have someone smile back and say thank you when I tell them how pretty their horse is (which I do constantly because I really really really like ponies).

jtc_sat_podium

Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years with Frankie, I love it even more because of how professional and eager he is to do this job. How he starts asking me to move out when he hears the buzzer. How he lands already looking for the next fence, even after we’ve passed through the timers. How he struts back to the gate after a good round with his ears up, proudly knowing he’s done a great job. How I know I can trust him to be right there with me every step of the way.

img_3479
PC – K. Borden

It’s not about the speed – we’ve made amazing times not by galloping, but by being deliberate and efficient with our turns. It’s not about the height – I’ve had just as much fun at 0.80m as I have at 1.15m. It’s the power and precision and exhilaration of working with my partner to pull together all our skills to perform.

I’m excited to keep trying new things with the Frankfurter and find great joy in expanding our horizons, but my heart will always be in the jumper ring on the back of my favorite big bay.

Advertisements

WEC 2019: The Rides

I’ll be honest with all y’all, I had a hard time sitting down to write this post. Not for any emotional reason – like I said earlier, I had a total blast and was super happy with my rounds, learned a ton, etc. But as this blog has grown and evolved, I’ve moved away from a round-by-round analysis as my own mindset and training philosophies have changed. I find it much more useful to consider a show as a whole and look for patterns, rather than fully dissecting what went right or wrong in each round. That worked fantastically for me for a long time and I’m glad I did it, but times and perspectives change.

That being said, I do want to share some of the course diagrams with you, talk about what I found good and bad in there, talk about some of those patterns that I noticed throughout the week, and a bit about the competition itself.

First I’ll kick off by talking about Tuesday and Wednesday, where I didn’t show but I did hop on for a brief lesson with Belle. We were able to go into the Sanctuary (the big jumper ring) both days to string together a few jumps instead of being stuck on a single in the warmup ring, but no full courses either day. Basically my thoughts are that I don’t particularly like flatting this horse. There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s not trying to do anything bad, but it wasn’t fun and interesting in the way it is with Frankie. She had a very VERY clear attitude that it was a necessary evil to get out of the way. But once we started jumping? Big fat grin on my face. She was a BLAST. Much much more forward than I’m used to and much harder to pull up off the last fence, but she locked on and carried me every step. I felt much more confident about heading into the show ring with her on Thursday.

IMG_0243
My first schooling class at 0.80m on Thursday
IMG_0244
And my second schooling class on Thursday at 1.0m

Notice how similar they are? Honestly these are both basically hunter courses with some combos and an end jump thrown in: bending, outside, bending, outside. Not a ton of places for inside turns which is fine, they were just schooling rounds to get used to the ring and each other. Clear in the first round and a single rail in the second where I didn’t quite give a generous enough release. I noticed that we had a pretty strong right drift, which is interesting to me since Frankie has such a strong left drift.

This was also my first full round jumping 1.0m since probably August or September, since Frankie and I haven’t jumped at height in a good long time! I definitely got a bit fetal in places when she jumped hard, but by the end I was feeling much more confident about the height and it wasn’t an issue again.

IMG_0255
Schooling class at 1.0m on Friday before our division started

This was another really soft course in my eyes. There really isn’t that much to say, it’s another glorified hunter course. I had to sit back pretty hard in the lines to help her fit it in, but she went clear for another blue ribbon round.

IMG_0256
Our first Low division class!

I was hoping that the division courses might be a little more intense, but I didn’t really get my wish. I had one rail at 10a that I’m actually not at all mad about – she was trying to blow through my hand and leave a stride out to the combo (UM NO MA’AM) and I had to check her pretty hard to get her back under me. Checking her earlier would’ve saved the rail, but I’m glad we at least got the job done and rode the striding. That rail was enough to bump us to 5th out of I think 8th. I’m thrilled that we weren’t last considering how rusty I was!

I forgot to take a picture of the course for our speed round on Saturday, but I have something better: video! Monica came for a visit and was there to see us go in the ring. Funnily enough, this was probably the round that I was least happy with all week. Still happy with it in many parts, but there were several sticky moments where Belle 100% bailed me out of trouble.

She was definitely the most tired in this round out of the entire week, and I didn’t adjust my riding enough to that. You can see that 2 was an OHCRAP moment, we left one out for a launcher at 6, and it was a bit of a wrestle to fit in the stride to the last jump. Other than that, there were some great moments! You can definitely see that right drift, and me doing approximately zero to correct it. Womp. Overall her majesty did manage to take us clear and fast, and she earned us a second place in this round. Queen Mare is a Queen.

Also this was my first show with my hair in a braid and I hate how it looks swinging around so BRB going to chop it all off.

IMG_0301

Which brings us to classic day! I was expecting a tired pony again, but certainly did not get it. I think only doing one class on Saturday was just enough of a break for her.

IMG_0305
Classic round from Sunday

Everything rode in a 7 here. Legit every related track you see was a 7 stride (except 3-4 which was 8. But that I rode in a 7). I was super bummed to have a rail at fence 1 – I think I just didn’t help get her eyes on it quickly enough, because it was a good spot and she jumped well out of stride. Other than that, this course rode wonderfully and was our best one of the week. I was able to rate her stride to get just the jumps I wanted, I controlled the right drift at least a little, and our turns were super efficient.

Luckily, tons of other people got rails in this class too (I mean, luckily for me, not for them). Only two people made it to the jump off and we were the fastest 4-faulters, which earned us a big pretty yellow ribbon!

IMG_0319
It’s the one directly over her left ear. My friend took some shmancy ribbon pics with us, I’ll share when I get them!

I’m beyond thrilled with all of these placings. I was able to knock the rust off after over 7 months out of the show ring, navigate at 1.0m on a strange horse with some solid rounds, and felt confident and positive all week long.

I’m so happy that we had Belle in the barn, not only for me but for her. She got to have turnout every day which is unusual for her, we got her a massage on Saturday, and she was fed and groomed and loved on with a lot of care and attention. Our barn has a reputation for returning our leases in better shape than we got them, and she 100% deserved that as well. She had to put up with a lot with a rusty ammy in the irons, so I’m glad she seemed to enjoy pampering that came along with it.

This was exactly the show that I needed to boost my confidence and make showing fun again after a season of some pretty intense burnout. I’m feeling great and ready to get back out there with my bestest boy to tackle some new adventures!

 

 

Sneak Peek

This is just a little snippet to tide you over until I have a chance to sit down and write!

This week has been a huge learning curve, and every round is better than the last. Frankie is a legit professional at being a show pony and has been perfect from day one! I’m slowly learning how to ride this bigger (to me) height more accurately- the pieces are definitely coming together. We still have our classic tomorrow morning to strut our stuff. Can we just show together forever??

https://youtu.be/S2CzRaMPGWQ

Here’s our speed round from today. If I had to come up with a headline, it would be:

Horse and Rider Test Fence Strength: Poles Fall to Ground in Despair

Can’t wait to fill you in fully!!!

Frankie Goals

We all love a good goal post, amiright??

football_goalpost
hahahahahahaha get it???

I wrote one of these up a month or two ago when we were still on the horse search, so most of them were pretty focused on myself. Basically: be a better rider. Of course these still hold! But now that Francis is in my life, we have some goals that are a little more specific to our partnership.

Well, I have some goals. His goal is to eat EVERYTHING.

  • Take some more private lessons. This of course depends on my trainer’s schedule, but once school lets out and the juniors can move their lessons around, she may have a semi-regular slot for me. I learn a ton in our group lessons and have no problem with them, but some super-targeted teaching every so often would likely help us progress even more quickly.
  • Make it to the High Adult Amateur Jumpers in the next few years. Ideally, next year, but we’ll see how things go. I looked at the prize lists for shows we usually go to and the High Adults are usually in the 1.10m-1.15m height range; seems pretty doable to me.
  • Have a successful show season at 1.0m/Low Adults this year. By this I don’t mean winning all blue ribbons- although I won’t complain if that happens. This means that I am confidently and comfortably able to ride a 1.0m course while giving Francis a positive experience in the show ring.
  • Compete in a horse trial. People from my barn tend to do a horse trial every fall as a fun way to shake things up, and I can’t even WAIT to take Frankie out!!!! He has tons of experience as a foxhunter and eventer so I have a feeling he’s going to be a blast.
  • Go on a hunter pace or two. Along the same lines- the more we can get out of the ring the better. Virginia in the fall is absolutely gorgeous. Last year I did a hunter pace in the division with a couple little logs, this year I want to do the one with all the coops!
  • Learn more first aid skills. I’m lucky enough to have a ridiculously awesome vet and an amazing set of trainers/BMs to help out with the major stuff, but I’d love to be more self-sufficient with the little things. I used to be very good at this stuff, but the knowledge has seeped out of my brain over the last 10 years of non-horse ownership.
  • Keep Frankie shiny. A minor goal? Maybe. But Francis showed up in my life gleaming like a mirror, and I want to keep him that way. He’s getting great nutrition and frequent, extensive grooming sessions, so I’m going to keep working to keep him shining.
  • Get WAY better at polo wraps. I used to be able to do these in my sleep. I was the QUEEN of all wraps- polo wraps, standing wraps, you name it I could do it. Fast forward a couple years and spend a year with an unbreakable DragonMare chiseled out of granite, and you lose your edge.

I’m leaving off on the show-ring eq goals for now. My budget is EXTREMELY tight when it comes to showing this year (and probably next to be honest) and I’m having to prioritize. I certainly enjoy the eq ring and hope to give it another go soon, but if I have to pick, you’ll find me in the jumper ring.

frankiesaysnope.JPG
Making really intimidating Brontosaurus faces at the competition

And now for my pie-in-the-sky goal: qualify for the Zone 3 USHJA Adult Amateur Jumper Championship. Not even necessarily compete in the championships, although that would be cool. It has both individual and team aspects that sound really interesting and I think it would be a HUGE learning experience. Basically the jumper version of a year-end medal finals. We’re nowhere near ready for this yet, but it’s a fun goal to work towards!