Loudoun Benefit: Part 2

So we’ve covered the weekdays, now let’s dive into the weekend.

Saturday

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Dressed and feeling funky fresh
We opted not to hack Frankie around that morning- he clearly didn’t need the extra exercise to calm him down, and we wanted him a little “fresh” for our speed round later.

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My mom was totally cool with the horse poop everywhere. Despite a >10 year hiatus, she was the best show mom ever!!
Our warmup was much better and closer to what we were looking for: moving up to the close spot and pressing up and over instead of dropping him to the base.

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Warmup oxers ain’t no thang to Frank the Tank
With a good warmup under our belt, we headed into the ring…and proceeded to read Braille around the whole course. Three rails down. Frankie is usually allergic to fences so I always know that any rails down are rider error- in this case, I didn’t rock him back enough. I managed to get the RPMs up where the needed to be and was much more intentional about riding the plan we had walked, but I let him get a little fast and flat in places.

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But this out of a combo was much stronger than in the past, so we accomplished our goal of creating a good experience through a combo

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And I actually steered over the jumps instead of flapping my reins and hoping he’d interpret it as “turn right here.” LAWLZ at the 12 faults on the board by jump 8.

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And we did get some super cute jumps.
So yeah- three rails isn’t great. But it was a more confidently, strongly ridden course on a horse that felt more “jumper-y” than he had on previous days. I was beaming as I left the ring! You can see Saturday’s post for the video of this round.

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Well, I was beaming once I caught my breath. Promise.
We even had D’Arcy from thecluelessbutcuriousrider and Courtney from An Equestrian Life there to watch and love on Frankie! I mean, I’m sure that’s not the ONLY reason they were there. But that’s what I’m going with.

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Francis casually mooching for treats from the Horse Blogger Contingent

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And from the Family Contingent
One of the many many many things I love about this horse? I can go gallop around a jumper course, and a few short minutes later I can mosey around with him on a long lead after a bath. Homeboy is chill with all of it.

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mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem

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Endless smooches for my best boy.
We watched some cute pony hunters go as I attempted to explain the purpose of a fake tail to my godmother, cheered on our junior rider in the Maclay, and headed out to get some shuteye before an early morning- our classic was running first thing on Sunday.

Sunday

Classic day! And sadly, the last day of the show. Boo.

Since our classic was the first class of the day at 8am and we were 9th in the order, we knew we wanted to walk the course around 7:30 to give us plenty of time to tack up and warm up. I was up before 6. Do not like.

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Paparazzi shot of me doing my hairnet magic. I blame my hunter roots for my obsession with perfect hair. It is a destination that eludes me, but I will continue to strive.
In the true nature of horse shows where something has to go wrong at some point, I lost a glove (we later found it at the hotel, so it wasn’t completely gone, just not available to me at the time). And in the true nature of a fantastic show mom, my momma ran to the first open tack trailer and snagged me a new pair, then jogged them out to the warmup ring. Because she’s an awesome show mom like that.

This was another great warmup- we galloped up to the jumps and got moving quickly. It was one of our shorter warmups because of that; we didn’t need more time to get our butts in gear because our butts already were in gear.

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Francis continued his streak of saying, “eh no problem.”

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Even when the height went up a bit
And I’ll just show you our round here:

Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I overrode that first bending line so that he had to pop up and over, I let him get flat out of the one-stride so we knocked the rail on the way out of the four stride, and that last bending line we got a little up on it.

But this was our best round yet. The jumps looked downright teensy, the turns came up, we were straighter to the jumps, we rode the plan, and we had SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, does he look super shiny and buff and adorable, or am I just biased???

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All smiles as we left the ring

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Biggest hugs for show pony
My boy is a real show pony. We threw him in the deep end: our first show together, at a new-to-me height, which just so happened to be AA rated and a week long. This could have blown up in our faces if Frankie didn’t like being a show horse.

But every step he took and every sweet smooch he gave was pure Francis. He went around a gigantic new ring at a bigger height, with tons of chaos and noise and distractions in a simple snaffle. We have tons to work on and practice and improve- no doubt about it. We came away from this show without a single piece of satin.

I couldn’t care less. My goal was to create a positive experience for my horse and make it around at 1m, and by the end of the show I can confidently say that I accomplished both. So we had a couple rails. Big deal. We can work on that. We have the attitude and now we have more know-how.

To Be Frank is just getting started, and it’s onwards and upwards from here!

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Loudoun Benefit: Part 1

Our first show is in the books! Before I dive into a detailed day-by-day recap, let me just share a few overall thoughts:

It takes a village. I had two incredible trainers, a team of barn hands helping me get where I needed to be with Frankie when we needed to be there, a great show team to cheer each other on, the best show mom and show godmom, and countless other people that offered encouragement and support throughout the weekend. Thank you doesn’t quite cut it for these amazing people, but I’ll say it anyways: thank you.

I’ve been on the verge of tears for several days now. Don’t be worried, they’re happy tears! I’m just overwhelmed at just how amazing my boy is. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than my Francis, and I love him more and more every day. He’s everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

On to the recap!

Wednesday

After just baaaarely making it until noon at the office, I sped over to the showgrounds to check in with my pony and see what the plan was. Trainer had ridden him the previous day when he arrived and said he was a perfect gentleman- there was no need for her to hop on again. We had a mini-lesson in first the jumper warm-up ring, then the Salem hunter warm-up ring, then the hunter 2 warm-up ring. Basically we tried to go where the ring was most clear to give the competitors right of way. We didn’t jack the jumps up too big, just popped over and did a few exercises with rollbacks, slices, blah blah blah. Francis was a dream! Despite tractors dragging rings, water trucks, ponies going up his butt, and the general hubbub of shows, he didn’t blink an eye or take a single wrong step. He got a nice bath and a walk before being put away.

Thursday

First competition day! We had signed up for the open 0.90m class early in the day to get our feet wet, and then the open 1.0m class to test the waters before our official division at that height. It was an excellent plan.

You know what they say about best laid plans?

Yeah. They moved the 0.80m and 0.90m classes to a separate ring in order to keep things moving- a fantastic idea. But that meant that my 1.0m class ran before my 0.90m class. Because gradually moving up SOUNDED TOO TAME.

So Frankie’s and my very first class together at our very first show was also at a new height in the GP ring. And it was the Hot Mess Express. Like, someone build a bronze bust of Francis because he deserves a shrine in his honor. Let me back it up.

We walked the course with my trainer and the jumps looked HUGE. Like, OMG WTF LOL. I saw them measuring the jumps and you know what that means- they were at max height. Deep breaths. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never actually done a FULL course at that height. Or that he’s never shown before. Or that this is our first show. Or that maybe I should be doing Short Stirrup instead.

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Definitely the attitude you want to go in with, right?

WRONG.

The first jump came up beautifully, and I let out this deep breath and said hooray! This is so easy! I don’t actually have to do anything! Frankie totally got this!

And I abandoned my pony to his own devices.

And this is where he earns that bronze statuette- he went around that course and tried his very best to cart my butt around despite ZERO input from the lady upstairs. It never crossed his mind to stop, even when he really should have. I would not have blamed him.

This pic right here?

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There’s a reason he’s jumping 2′ above the rails. It’s because the first time we attempted that jump (it was part of a combo), I basically crashed him through it. And he was like HELL NO THAT SUCKED LET’S NOT TOUCH ANY RAILS and finished up the course pretending it was 1.20m. Because he is too pure for this world and wants so badly to do a good job.

I came out of that ring to a puzzled look from my trainer asking what the hell that was. Vacant was the word we came up with. My trainer kinda lit the fire then and I’m grateful- one of the many reasons I ride with her is because she doesn’t sugarcoat bad rides. My mommy and daddy can pat me on the back and tell me “good job,” but my trainer is there to help me improve. Her criticism was constructive and we came up with a plan for our next round.

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Cool part? Seeing our names up on the board together. Why is my name up there twice? Because I’m the owner AND rider. Call me sentimental, but it was HUGE to see our names up there.

Next was the 0.90m. This was just to be a confidence-builder after the Scrambled Egg Breakfast Special that went on earlier. We both took a breather before it ran, and when we walked it we decided that I was going to aim for time-faults. Because let’s be real- Frankie doesn’t get time faults. I’m pretty sure we could trot the whole course and still make time allowed. This was more of a mental technique to slow myself down and BE DELIBERATE. As in, actually make choices on course and adjust as different things happen instead of playing elevator music and saying YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN YOUNG ONE to my horse.

This did go better. We had one rail and the combo was still a bit messy (homeboy trotted out because HE IS TOO PURE FOR THIS WORLD) but overall it was an improvement, and that was what we were going for. When we debriefed afterwards, we agreed that combos have to be our focus moving forward- he likely hasn’t had a ton of exposure to them and I had just given him two crappy experiences through them. We need to teach him that we love combos and want to jump them strongly and power through.

So day 1 was a bit of a mess, but it ended on a better note than it started. Which is the goal!

Friday

First day of our division- the 1.0m Low Adult Jumpers. This was better!

I took Frankie for a short hack in the morning to get his muscles stretched out and let him check out the day. He was lovely again- a little sluggish at first, but he woke right up and gave me some excellent flat work in a very busy ring.

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My Momma came to town!!!! It was an adventure with some severe weather, but she made it…
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…and brought my Nouna, who couldn’t get enough of Frankie! Frankie picked up on this immediately and just ate up all the loving.

We then had a little break before walking the course. We brought a bunch of the kiddos to teach them how to accurately walk striding, so we had one of the biggest contingents in the ring.

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My mom thought the course walk was hilarious. She called it the “Zombie Walk” the whole weekend.

Then it was time to go back to the barn and get tacked up!

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You can tell by my face that I’m NOT nervous as I watch Frankie get tacked up. Totally not. In all honesty though, I always get keyed-up-anxious-energy before I hop on and then relax once we get moving. Francis is a very soothing presence.

When we were officially warming up for our class, it still took longer than it should have for me to get my head in the game and RIDE. I was still kinda letting him pick the spot and didn’t leg across the jump. It’s not that the distances were bad, I just wasn’t helping my horse out. Again. After my trainer yelling out, “MANAGE THE POTATO,” I got my ass in gear and rode my horse. Yes, she literally said that. She knows that I call it potato-brain when I mess up. New favorite phrase: manage the potato.

But we went into the ring after a couple good jumps in the warmup. Overall? This still wasn’t a perfect course by any stretch of the imagination. We had some bad spots. BUT. We got the bad spots because I was riding to the bad spots.

Wait, what? Why are we pleased about this?

Because it means that I was RIDING! Yes, I was riding poorly, but at least I was doing something. The height was less intimidating than the day before, I knew that I needed to give my horse more oomph off the ground, and while a rail kept us out of the jumpoff, I was thrilled that we managed to fix a bunch of the mistakes from the previous day.

Frankie got tons of hugs and kisses and scratches and a nice bath.

Bonus?

I got to see Jen from A Year in the Saddle take her girl Cally in the side-saddle classes!

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Which they obviously rocked!

Dudes, go watch side saddle sometime. It’s so intense. It’s even better when you can cheer someone on and they exclaim, “OH MY GOD WE DID IT” after jumping the line. Have I mentioned lately how much I love horse bloggers??

And since this is already a monster post, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a recap on the rest weekend!