Lake Placid 2018: The Riding

Here’s the quick and dirty version for those of you in a rush: I rode poorly overall but did have one round I was happy with. Frankie was the bestest beast on the planet (obviously) no matter what his pilot was doing. It was stunningly gorgeous and while it was challenging and a bit overwhelming, it was a wonderful show and I would recommend it to anyone.

For the sake of not hitting you with a 3k word post, I’ll split this out into 2-3 different topics.

I’ll start with the actual riding!

Frankie went in for a schooling round with my Trainer on Tuesday (while I was driving up) to let him get in the ring and see the place. Because we all know that the big guy really needs time to look around. Hah. When I arrived and asked if he was settling in ok, both Trainer and AT just looked at me and said, “Olivia, when does he not??” The angst. He does not has it. I got to see the video of him going around and he looked fine. A bit unfocused perhaps, but nothing crazy or worrisome. AT always does such a great job of using those rounds as a real schooling opportunity.

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THE SCENERY THO

I was able to lesson in one of the schooling rings on Wednesday where we did mostly flatwork and a few small jumps. Frankie felt AMAZING. Super obedient, bendy, and giving me everything I asked for. Our lateral work feels like it has come SO so so far- haunches-in/out and shoulder-in/out was much more prompt and less of a wiggly wrestling match. We iz learning gud. We cooled out by going on a trail ride down to the river, which may be one of my favorite parts of this show. All the fancy ponies were so happy to go out in nature and relax! Frankie seemed content to lead the way, snorting happily the whole time.

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We had matching big bay geldings

Then Thursday was the first class of our division, a jumpoff round that they turned into a straight speed round due to weather (wet. It was wet.).

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Waiting our turn in the rain, bein super cute.
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Reppin’ the gang while we waited for the course walk.

It was a fairly straightforward course. That I rode like a potato. I got SUPER long to the first oxer, which told Frankie that I had no idea what I was doing, and I never quite got him balanced underneath me after that. We smashed our way through the two-stride. I did the last line with one stirrup. “We made it out alive” is about the best I can say about it.

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Honestly the last two jumps were the two best jumps because I was in survival mode. I told Trainer to just start sending me in without stirrups, I ride a MILLION TIMES BETTER.

So yeah. Disappointing because it was like I completely forgot how to ride. Frankie was a trooper, but he should not have had to put up with that. Extra pats for pony.

On to Friday. Where the nerves showed up because I thought Frankie would justifiably be like UM NO to everything. Not sure why I thought that because he has literally never shown that inclination, but I was super sure that he hated me. I’m not saying it was logical.

I was holding it together ok until I was partially tacked up. And then I had to wait a few minutes before bridling and heading to the ring. And fun fact about me is that the waiting is what makes me more nervous than anything. So when Trainer said to hold off for 5 minutes, I stood up, walked out of the tent, and puked.

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL, SELF.

30 seconds later I got on the horse and had a really great warmup and then a round that I was quite happy with. One rail in the speed phase of the power and speed put us just out of the ribbons but it was definitely redemption from Thursday.

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The jumps were big, the spreads were wide, and Frankie absolutely flew. 

Our combos were accurate, we made decisions, I tipped a bit with my shoulders a few times but it worked out ok because my horse is a prince, and it was definitely the confidence boost I needed.

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Lots of pics of me on Frankie with one hand on my leg. Weather was nicer on Friday!

We were completely done by 10am (I was the first class in the ring with a 7:30a start), so I spent the rest of the day doing touristy stuff with my momma (I’ll share that stuff in another post!).

On to Saturday.

Ah, Saturday.

So my class on Saturday was the last of the day in the big grass Grand Prix field, going around 5p. Meaning I had all day to work myself up.

And work myself up I certainly did. I basically had a meltdown about how I was not capable of doing this, I was panicked about going on the grass, EVERYTHING IS BAD FOREVER AND I AM TERRIBLE. I haven’t had an attack of nerves like that since I was a kid. It was ridiculous and frankly embarrassing. I’m only telling you this because y’all are my people and it would feel dishonest to say that everything was sunshine and rainbows and I am a beacon of emotional fortitude. I ain’t.

After much urging, I called Trainer to basically word vomit that I am a potato rider who can’t do anything right. And she is the actual best. She reaffirmed her confidence in both my and my horse’s abilities, she wanted us to go have fun, and basically reminded me that I am not terrible and everything is not bad.

There should be a special award for trainers of ridiculous ammies. She deserves one for literally being my sports therapist.

So by the time I got to the barn I was still nervous, but in a much better place. I was gonna go out there and ride my beloved animal who probably has more experience going on grass than most of the other horses there (hello foxhunting and eventing careers), and we were gonna have a blast. The mimosa I had during the course walk helped too.

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Peep me last in line.

So between my Trainer talking me off the ledge, AT making me laugh ’til I forgot I was nervous, and the healing powers of champagne, I was actually excited to go Do The Thing.

We headed to the warmup and were doing rather well- Frankie was right there with me giving me everything I asked for.

And then I tipped my shoulders at a jump that I really should not have tipped my shoulders at (sound familiar? From Thursday?) and toppled right off the side. And took off Frankie’s entire bridle as I went. Womp womp.

Continuing his bid for sainthood, Frankie just stood there looking perplexed as someone said LOOSE HORSE and people helped me up. I’m 100% fine, just a little sore on my shoulder where I rolled. We quickly got his bridle back on and put me back in the saddle.

But at that point I started riding REALLY defensively. I took a few more jumps to confirm that we could still do it, and then opted to scratch. At that height, on a new footing, with all the hoopla around it, I needed to be able to help my horse out and I was not at all in a place where I was confident in my abilities to do that.

So that was definitely disappointing. I got myself into the right mental zone just in time to bungle it up before even stepping foot in the ring.

But on the flip side, I tried. I had spent the morning panicking, but I still got on the horse and I tried. And after I fell off I got BACK on the horse and kept trying. So while it didn’t go according to plan, I’m going to take that as a victory.

If that all sounds like a rollercoaster, it’s because it absolutely was. I had nerves rear their ugly head in a major way that hasn’t happened in almost 15 years, I didn’t ride to the best (or even the medium) of my abilities, I had my second tumble off Francis. It was definitely not how I hoped to go in the ring for such a major show.

But I also pushed through the nerves to give it a go, learned a lot about what kind of warmup we need to go in and do well, and I got to ride the best horse on the planet. No matter how all-over-the-place I was, Frankie was my constant the entire time. He really is an incredible animal.

So at the end of the day, I feel like one majorly lucky girl.

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Next up: more about the area, the showgrounds as a whole, and getting to spend time with my momma!

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Upperville 2018

Upperville 2018 is a wrap! It was definitely a rollercoaster of a show- long days and good moments and pilot-error moments and all that good stuff. Spoiler alert: Frankie could not have been better. He was professional to the extreme, and packed me around with incredible consistency and kindness.

So let’s jump into it! (Strap in, because this is a MONSTER post)

On Wednesday, Frankenbean trailered in with Trainer and AT to get some more miles in the 1.20m. While I would’ve loved to be there, I sadly had to be at work and missed his round. Fortunately I was able to get a full report card from Trainer that evening!

Her thoughts, in no particular order: overall, thumbs up. He looked much less surprised by the height and settled into it much more quickly than his first outing. She’s very happy with the increase in his fitness and recommends we continue the program we have him in (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). He was able to handle a range of distances with much more power and agility- he did have one rail on course, but it was from a perfect spot, he was just a little careless over it. The close and long spots he rode cleanly. There was a four stride set a little short and he kinda blew through the half-halt until stride 3, so working on responsiveness is (as always) something for us to focus on. He finished middle of the pack (26th) in a class of 59, against much more experienced horses, and didn’t look like a newbie- he looked like he belonged there.

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It’s a crappy blurry screenshot, but Sir Francis was totally unfazed by the big jumps!

I got to watch the video and I absolutely agree, he looked rather nonchalant about the whole thing. Trainer did recommend that AT take him in at least one more time to solidify him at this height before I take over, which I’m entirely on board with. It gives him more positive miles, and it gives me a little more time to make sure I’m totally tuned into giving him a good ride.

Francis got to go home and relax outside, and I gave him a short flat ride on Thursday to stretch out before our weekend together.

Friday. Was. Long. I was up by 4:30a, at the barn by 5:15a, on the showgrounds by 6:45a. And I didn’t show until 4:30p-ish. At one point I slumped over a folding table and napped for a solid hour. It was great cheering on my barnmates and seeing AT take our OTTB in the 1.25m 6yo class (he seriously gets better and better every time out, whoever buys him is gonna be one lucky rider), but I’ll admit that I was pretty exhausted by the time I hopped on.

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Francis also did some shavings-snorkeling while we waited

We got to the warmup ring and my eye was…uncharacteristically long. Like, a mile long. This used to be my default, but I thought we had conquered that instinct a long time ago. AT worked with me to get to the base, but for whatever reason I just struggled seeing anything but an awful gap.

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Friday’s course

Our first fence on course was a big wide oxer on a long approach away from home (I have opinions about that being the first question in the first class- from a course design standpoint, I think that would be more appropriate on a Saturday or Sunday once we’ve had the chance to get a sense of the ring), and instead of trusting the rhythm and my horse’s brokeness, I straight up gunned him at it. For no reason. And he very understandably said NOPE WE DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE. I reapproached and FINALLY asked for the short one. And homeboy was perfection- a little sticky off the ground because he was like wtf is going on up there lady, but he carried on without holding a grudge. I was still a little frazzled going into the line 2-3, but by 4 I felt mostly recovered and was very happy with the rest of our course. As if I needed more proof- I have a super broke horse that will perform exactly as well as I allow. Overall disappointed in myself for giving him a mediocre ride, but still very proud of how he handled it and moved on without question.

I didn’t get home until 9p that night after trailering back and getting Frankie settled in and my tack cleaned, and I fell asleep before I even finished lying down in bed haha. Luckily, we didn’t have to leave the barn until 11a the next day so I got to sleep in!

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He still went down for a nap as soon as we arrived. And had opinions about being woken up.

The sleep definitely helped (both of us). I had one or two flyers in the warmup that Trainer swiftly put the kibosh on, and we went in for our II.2.b (immediate jumpoff) round.

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Saturday’s course

If we’re friends on Facebook, you already saw the video I posted of this round (and if we’re not, why aren’t we?!). Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it yet:

Short version: Francis. Was. A. Star. Jump 2 to 3 walked in a bending 7 but we did a more direct and forward 6, I got a little up on 5a but he powered out the 2 stride, 8 to 9 walked in a balanced 6 and I didn’t steady enough so we got a VERY flowing 5. So certainly not even close to perfect, but Frankie was forward and eager and listening and obedient and all those good things. And we went clear so we got to jump off! In case it’s hard to see on the diagram, the jumpoff was 9-6-7-8-10a-10b-11. All very standard- we had a rail at 8 where I asked for the close spot and he just nicked it slightly, then we stayed inside 1 and 6 to set up a more efficient turn up to the combo, and then we left out a stride over 11 to gallop out in 6 instead of the 7 we had put in the first round.

I was dripping with sweat but happy as a clam. It was redemption from Friday for sure. I felt like I was making better decisions and Francis was responding beautifully.

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Powerful and muscley and shiny and amazing and omg I love him so much

I also got to see Jen and Cally go in the sidesaddle! Is there anything better than meeting up with blog friends?? Both of them performed wonderfully- you can tell how hard they’ve been working, and Cally was such a queen. Jen even let me hop on for a quick WTC in the sidesaddle! New goal: do sidesaddle on Francis. It was such a weird sensation, but super fun to try something new. Maybe we’ll be in the ring together next year for the sidesaddle classes 😉 Enjoy seeing a short clip of Cally being very tolerant with me!

And then Sunday. I have mixed feelings about Sunday. Not about Frankie obviously- he was a little more tired but was really nicely balanced and lovely to ride. But there was kinda a lot going on for me mentally.

For one- upset stomach. Like really really not comfortable, regretting ever eating any food, could not talk about food or smell it or anything. Part of that I think was from eating something that disagreed with me.

But the other part was definitely nerves. Which was kinda new for me. I’ve gotten jittery anxious energy before, but I rarely get full-on nervous. I don’t like it. 0/10 would not recommend.

Luckily I have a trainer who knows me extremely well and knows how to work me through it. When we were watching some rounds go in the Children’s before my class, she went, “Hmm. The jumps look like they’re set lower than yesterday.” Since she is the Alpha and Omega to me at shows, I immediately believed her and felt better because the jumps totally looked lower! Looking back- I have my doubts. I think they were set pretty normally. But she knew that I needed some reassurance that it was well within our skill set. By the time I hopped on, I was feeling a lot better and ready to go.

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Trotting into the ring looking like a hunka chunka beefcake omg
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Sunday’s course

Ok so funny story. I was pretty concerned about the turn from 2 to 3. That’s super early on course for a combo, away from the in gate, and historically we struggle more turning left. Repeat after me: OLIVIA STOP LIVING IN THE PAST. I was so concerned with that left turn, in fact, that I continued turning left after 3a and missed 3b altogether. Frankie was a little confused at the track but totally game for it! Legit just straight up bad steering hahaha. Circled back and made it through just fine, and was quite happy with the rest of the course. I was especially happy with the combo 10abc- we haven’t done a triple since Team Finals last August, but we got in powerfully and he pressed out wonderfully.

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FLY BIG MAN FLY

So overall: some really great moments, some struggles to work through, but I could not be any more grateful for my horse. We nailed every combo (when I actually steered) which is something I so badly wanted to improve upon. We went and made different mistakes. And every single time we walked in the ring, I had complete faith that Frankie would be there with me every step of the way. We’ve spent so much time and effort getting him up to speed- now it’s time to get myself up to his level!

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The most amazing horse in the world ❤

 

Show Recap: Blue Rock Classic

I have so many alternate titles for this show recap:

“Prioritize Your Protein: I Don’t Want to Look at Steak for Quite Some Time”

“Step Up: Not the Dance Movie, Just Trying to Match My Horse’s Skill Level”

“Rain Dances: For the Love of God Stop Doing Them, We’ve Had Enough”

etc.

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Baby thoroughbred just wants snuggles alllll the time. 

But at the end of the day, here’s your basic recap: Frankie was a freakin’ rockstar. You can stop reading now if you were just on the edge of your seat wondering if he would be a good boy. I know it’s a rarity.

I’m not going to go in chronological order for this post because I don’t feel like it, so here’s what happened:

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DragonPony went in the ring rarin’ to go every time. Smart boy knows what the buzzer means now!

Big Guy packed me around the Highs like a pro, as per usual. I will say, the first day I had a bit of a tough time. In the past, Frankie has landed off the jumps a little unbalanced and a little strung out. It’s always taken me a few strides to get my bearings and get him back under me, and our half-halts didn’t go very far- I’ve had to kinda adjust my track to suit the stride length and not the other way around.

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Unrelated he’s just the sweetest most handsome creature.

The fun thing about doing multiple training rides per week and private lessons is that he is now much more fit and broke and holy moly we actually have a fantastic half-halt now. Nowadays he lands balanced and immediately asks me what he should do next. So on that first day I rode him like 2017 Francis needed- a little “louder” with my aids and a little less trusting of my seat, and giving him room where I didn’t need to (or should have). He was a good boy, but was a little peeved at me- he was jumping out of his SKIN and I wasn’t really rewarding that effort.

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Did he clear it tho
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I left the ring with the words, “holy crap I don’t even deserve you, you are a prince.”

So the next day my trainer sent me in with the phrase, “we have beautiful hands.” I rewarded more over the jumps, I trusted his balance, I supported with my leg more without nagging. And lo and behold: we had a lovely course, with a very happy horse.

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Those ears though. I know he loves food and scritches more than anything else, but he does seem to really enjoy his job ❤
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Until I get used to his new style of actually working hard over the jumps, I’m exaggerating my release. Better than punishing him for all that effort!
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And when I ask for the long one, he’s still happy to deliver. Best boy.

Classic day was similar- I’m still learning how to press all the buttons on my crazy-amazing broke horse, he was a little more tired, but overall thrilled with how we went around. I felt like I actually had a brain in my head- when jump 1 came up a little sticky, I actually made a move to help him get set up for jump 2 instead of saying OH CRAP FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL like I would’ve in the past. Our sticky moments were less sticky and happened less often, he was less tired and felt fitter than has on Sundays past, and our good moments are getting better and better and more consistent. And of all places, we had a rail over the liverpool. I mean, I’m glad he doesn’t care what he’s jumping, but maybe care a little bit?!

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And we got to compete with one of our barnmates, which was super wicked fun. We agreed that we were definitely the most obsessed with our horses of anyone on the showgrounds. Probably because we had the best horses, and that’s scientific fact.

So there’s our recap of the Highs. Trainer is very happy with his continuing development, we are both continuing to grow and learn, we’re excited to keep improving, and we had a total blast in the ring together. I swear, he is the most fun horse to ride.

But here’s something else that’s super cool: I have a 1.20m horse.

That’s right, the Big Man made it around his first ever 1.20m course with AT!! Both of them worked so so hard and it was absolutely incredible to watch. AT reported that he was a little surprised and definitely needed some help from her to get to the right spot- he can’t handle a joke at that height at this point. But he was game for it and went and played the game, which is all I was hoping for in his first time out. We’ll powwow later to see what our plan should be moving forward, but I am beyond thrilled with how he did.

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Jump 1 was very soft, jump 2 was a surprise, and by jump 3 (this one) he seemed to be getting it.
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NO SCOPE NO HOPE

My sweet boy officially made it around a 1.20m course without looking or feeling overfaced, and I am bursting with pride. This was never on our radar for him when we bought him- his willingness to go out there and try makes my heart so absolutely full.

As usual, Frankie gets an A+ for handling the horse show life. He ground-tied politely at the wash rack despite many distractions, he came out of his stall happily for every ride, and settled right into work despite the icky weather and sloppy footing. We’ve come to expect excellent behavior from him, but I’m still grateful every time that he handles travel and competition life so well.

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He really doesn’t stress about being in new places.

I’ll try to upload some of our videos to YouTube soon so I can share. Frankie will get today off and a few light days to work out any soreness and give him a break, but then we’re back to it and prepping for Upperville in early June!

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More adventures with the Frankfurter!

Show Recap: WEC 9

So we last left off on Monday, when the ponies got the day off and I got some work done. I was in high spirits coming off a really successful first week- not every round was perfect, but I felt like we were learning a TON together and that’s always my goal.

Then we hit week 2.

It turns out that the first week of a horse show is fun. Duh. We already knew that. It turns out that the second week of a horse show is not about having fun. It is about sheer mental and physical endurance to do the damn thing.

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Never get sick of seeing our names up there in lights tho

But I’ll back up to the beginning of the week to walk us through.

Tuesday I hopped on for a short lesson in the jumper ring, where we popped over a few low fences. The windows were all open to let the beautiful breeze in, and we had a great ride practicing getting our forward canter to the base (that will always be a skill I have to practice). We didn’t want to tire him out, so after a few successful efforts we called it a day and I hopped back on my computer to continue working.

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Took regular hand-walking breaks to get outside and let him graze when the weather was nice

Wednesday we signed up for two schooling classes, the Low at 1m, and the Medium at 1.07-1.10m. Course here:

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The Low trip was, as my trainer so eloquently put it, “a little potato-y.” Like, not awful. We went clear for a blue ribbon. Just underpowered. We only went clear because Frankie can walk over 1m. I had gotten him on a bit of a half-step to the combo at 6ab and we lurched through a bit, so I knew I wanted to correct that track from 5. We went back into the warmup and I fired him up a bit before going back in for the Mediums with the same course.

And jumps 1-5 came up a TON better. He was firing harder and I was riding harder to help him out. And I went ahead and corrected my track to 6ab. I corrected it so far, in fact, that I got him to a different half-step. He politely tried and then politely came back down to earth when he realized he couldn’t make it, but I was JUMPING THAT DANG COMBO DAMMIT and went ahead without him.

Womp womp.

On the plus side, I get full points for taking all the poles down with me. Right? That’s how that works? Poor Francis seemed very confused to see me down there- I’ve never popped off him before- but true to his nature, he waited patiently for me to hop to my feet.

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Nice. Hopping.

I got right back on and we popped over a fence in the warmup ring, just so we could both end the day on a positive note. I knew I didn’t have any real damage- just some stiffness from bracing, and a positively glorious bruise on my hip (it’s still developing and shifting colors!).

So on Thursday I went ahead and said I DON’T WANNA JUMP. I was stiff and sore and limping and had zero desire to hang on over a course. AT took Francis in the Low Schooling instead so he could get a pro tuneup, and I hopped on later in the day to flat around- turns out that the movement from riding really did help loosen me up and work out a lot of the kinks. Riding: good for what ails you.

 

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“You are a mystical healer” PC Tracy

You know what else is good for what ails you? The onsite chiro at WEC. Dude is a wizard. I went into his tent for 40 minutes and emerged sans limp and with waaaay less stiffness. I really loved his philosophies on body work (basically he’s a terrible businessman because he doesn’t try to upsell unnecessary sessions but he’s an actual good human) and he knew that the main goal was to get comfortably back in the saddle. I made everyone in the barn go see him and they loved him too.

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We went to the 1.35m Welcome that night as a team and enjoyed our wine. Best barn family a girl could ask for.

 

So then we got to Friday, which was the start of the division! At this point, I was seriously considering dropping down to the Lows for the weekend. We know that language has power, so I’m simply going to say it this way- there is an huge opportunity for me to improve my ride up to and through combos. I worried that I was going to continue making similar mistakes at the bigger height and put Francis in an unfair spot.

But, the show must go on. I hopped on Friday for our power/speed class, and in full honesty: this was the first time I have ever gone into the show ring on Frankie feeling nervous. I’ve had anxious energy before, but this time I was straight up nervous.

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Trainer knows how to break up my tension though. We have a tradition- the last thing she always says as I go in the ring is “go have fun,” and I always respond with “I always do.” Those little routines make me so happy.

Thankfully I have the best big beast in the world, and as soon as we cleared jump 1 I came back to myself and realized we know what we’re doing out there.

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I was actually quite happy with how this rode. The line up 4-5 particularly felt really bouncy and strong, and Frankie rocked back nicely for me.

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And he entered the ring looking like a BAMF

And then I turned a little too early to 8ab because I was freaking out about riding up to another combo, which meant that I sliced 8A left-to-right and Francis continued on a straight line that did not include 8B hahahahahahaha I’m actually still laughing at this. I got confused on the re-approach and just left the ring making faces and giggling at my idiocy.

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Aw bubba so sweet with your anxiety-ridden mother who has hangups about turning left

So sure we didn’t actually officially complete the course, but I felt like I got a lot of my mojo back. Frankie clearly wasn’t holding any grudges, he just expected me to steer. Which apparently was not a realistic expectation for him to have.

On to Saturday! Despite feeling a lot more confident after my round the previous day, I was 110% done with competing. I had zero desire to go in the ring. I was cool with riding, but had NO competitive edge. At all. For the first time ever, I went to my trainer and said, “I don’t want to show today.” And she responded with, “you don’t have a choice.”

I was at the physical, mental, and emotional level of dealing poorly with literally everything at that point, so I called Fiance in tears about how badly I didn’t want to go in the ring. And then I wiped my face, went back to the barn, tacked up, and went in the ring. Because at that point it was about proving to myself and my trainer that I had the grit to go do the job.

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By the time we went in the ring, I had my game face back on.

Here’s our speed round:

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You guys, I cowboyed around this course. I literally one-handed it through 4AB because I had one hand behind my leg with the crop. Our turn from 6 to 7 to 8 actually rode quite nicely, he balanced and turned well for me. 8 to 9AB walked in a fairly direct bending 6, and I shaped HARD for an 8 in there because I wanted us to get super straight in. No more drive-bys for me! As I told my trainer when I came out of the ring, “I didn’t care if we had any problems anywhere else, but I REFUSED to have an issue with any of the combos.” Mission completed.

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Hahahahaha so many faults on the scoreboard

It was an ugly course, and I was really proud of it. I rode the crap outta my horse around there, because he was tired and not really helping me out and I had to pick him up and carry him with me over those jumps. Despite a 12 fault score, other people had an even worse day (I saw at least 4 people fall off at 4A) and we snuck a 7th place in this class. I am glad we got a ribbon, because it did feel like an accomplishment despite the messy bits.

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And there were several rather nice bits like this. 

Saturday night at dinner, we may have all started chanting “ONE MORE DAY” to get us through it. All of us were fried, including the horses. And the dogs.

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Caught him napping every single day, because he knows how to treat himself.

So we finally reached the last day. Sunday. Classic Day. Everything was loaded on the trailer except Francis, because we were the last riders from our barn to go in the ring. It was time to wrap this up. Course here:

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You guys. I could not be prouder of Frankie. He jumped his heart out over this whole course. He was clearly exhausted- and usually when he’s tired like that, he kinda mentally checks out. Not that he’s bad or anything, just that he phones it in and doesn’t want to go play. Not so this time. He was right there with me every step of the way saying “I’m tired but I’ll give it a go for you.” It was such a wonderful show of partnership from him.

The first bending was just a little underpowered, but I woke him up out of the corner and 3 to 4AB came up really nicely. Bending 5 to 6 was a shaped 6 strides to 4 strides out over 7, and I needed to wait with my shoulders a bit to help him fit that 4 in more easily. I continued straight for a few strides after 7 to help us square up the turn to 8, then galloped him up to it. I knew that he would have trouble with the short one given how tired he was, so I tried to get him to a bit of a gap to give him a break. Bending up to 9AB he just needed a quick tap to get his attention, then I let him open up to 10 and galloped him home over 11.

We had a bunch of rails. But I felt like I actually made decisions that were right for the horse I had under me, and he responded by giving me every single thing I asked for. The poor guy was tired, and I can’t fault him for that- I don’t think those rails would have fallen in week 1.

I don’t have any pics from our second classic, but Tracy took some WONDERFUL ones when she came last week!!!

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Frankie. Over there. I’m going to need you to handle that line. 
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Jump 1 was REAL cute
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I don’t know what I love more- my trainer’s look of defeated concern, my look of giddy panic, or Frankie’s halfhearted “why are you doing this to me” face
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I sent this to trainer and she asked what part of the course it was from, to which I responded “judging by your face, it was right before shit hit the fan.”
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IT’S A SHAME HE HAS TO WORK SO HARD OVER THE HEIGHT.

We snapped a few quick pictures, cooled Francis out, stuck him on the trailer, and I got in the car for the 8 hour journey home.

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Francis smiling with his ribbons
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Biggest boy so excited to go home!

The End.

Nah you know I can’t wrap it up that abruptly. I need more closure than that. But I will save my thoughts on WEC as a venue for another post- the good, the bad, the smelly. Let me know if you have any specific questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them as well!

Right now I’m feeling burned out- physically, mentally, emotionally. It was a LOT. But I also feel stronger, more knowledgeable, proud, and like I’m actually learning how to ride. I know that last bit sounds a little silly, but it’s true. Frankie has spent so long taking care of me, and I finally feel like I’m learning how to take care of him more when he needs it. Our partnership keeps growing and growing and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

Francis got a much-deserved break on Monday and Tuesday, and I’ll be headed out for a light hack after work to stretch those muscles. He’s back to all-day turnout with his buddies, and we’ll be having the vet out soon to give him a full exam. He’s healthy and sound, but we just asked for a lot of hard work from him and we’re going to continue having a busy season- I want us to be extremely proactive in managing his health and fitness as we keep moving and moving up (spoiler alert Homeboy is probs doing the 1.20m with AT next time out WUTTUP).

A few thank yous to wrap us up:

A huge thank you to Tracy and Monica for coming out to see us, and Tracy for snapping pics!! Getting to turn an online friendship into a real-life thing was amazeballs.

Buddy Fianci, for listening to me complain about being at a horse show for too long and not pointing out the obvious that this is literally the dumbest thing to ever complain about. And for being mega supportive in cheering us on from afar. And for being cute. And I just like him a lot is all.

Big big big thank you to my boss and my CEO for giving the thumbs up for me to work remotely while I was competing. I never-in-a-million-years thought that competing for 2 weeks would be a possibility at this point in my career, and their enthusiastic permission to chase my dreams means the world to me.

Hugest thank yous to my trainers and the people who helped us get to the ring every day. They were endlessly supportive and encouraging (even when I was a lumpy crabcake) and none of this would be possible without their tireless devotion to the horses. I’m so grateful that Frankie gets such attentive and knowledgeable care, inside the ring and out.

And as always, Frankie. What can I say? He is the horse of a lifetime. I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have him in my life. From leaping huge obstacles together to taking quiet walks, getting to spend all day every day with him was the greatest gift. He is an incredible creature and I couldn’t love him more.

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PC Tracy

WEC 8

We made it through our first week of WEC! As I write this, it’s Monday morning- the ponies have the day off, but I’m sitting in our barn area answering emails and catching up on work. I can hear the horses munching their hay, I can see Frankie poking his nose out at me to say hello every so often, and I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.

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I have wifi and an outlet, coffee and the smell of hay. Best. Workstation. Ever.

But let me back up to the start of the week! Frankie arrived here last Monday and according to Trainer, handled the travel like a champ and came off the trailer feeling dandy. Not bad for such a long ride. He got training rides Mon/Tues to get him going while I was impatiently waiting to depart.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon. It was certainly a long drive (with the several breaks I took, about 8 hours) but not too terribly difficult, and with my early 5:45am start I was here by early afternoon. I even got to hop on for a brief hack around the Sanctuary (the jumper ring) and pop over a few jumps in the warmup ring in a mini-lesson. Spoiler alert- Francis felt like a million bucks. We kept the jumps tiny and just focused on super straightness and power off the ground. I can feel it when we get it right, it’s just developing the feel to consistently get it every single time.

You guys, this place is HUGE. ENORMOUS. ALL INDOORS. On days like today where the weather is nice, they open up allll the doors to let the fresh air in, but when it’s cold they button us up and blast the heat- it snowed last week, and I was too warm wearing a light sweater inside that day.

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How are you so cute???

Our first day of competition was Thursday, where we had signed up for a Medium Schooling Jumper class at 1.07-1.10m to get us in the ring and feeling good. I don’t have a picture of the course diagram, but I do have something even better- I have video! Don’t get mad, but this is the only video I have of the entire week.

Overall I’m really pleased with this round! It was our first time in the ring and Francis was a consummate professional. I got popped out of the tack a few times and buried him to the base of at least one jump, but he was forward and fresh and had more than enough power to bail me out. Not perfect, but a fantastic start to the week. This was a blue/red round (clear rounds get a blue ribbon and the rest get a red) and despite some clonking of rails we managed to go clear- I ain’t mad about starting the week with a blue ribbon!

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OH MY GOD HORSE YOU ARE AN ANGEL

I spent the rest of Thursday getting work done, hand walking Frankie, cleaning tack, and generally soaking in the awesomeness that is getting to work remotely.

Friday was our first day of the division- we just had one II.2.b (immediate jumpoff) class for the Highs. Course here:

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Frankie warmed up fantastically, and jumps 1-4 came up smoothly and beautifully. Then I forgot literally everything I’ve ever learned and shoved him at the combo on a half-step. REAL SMART. Frankie very understandably declined to go into an in-an-out with an orangutan piloting. We circled around to re-approach, I shoved him at it just as badly but he is an excellent goober so he made it through somehow, I lost a stirrup, I shoved him at the next jump, and he was like OK THIS IS NOT WHAT WE HAVE PRACTICED. And then I left the ring apologizing to my horse.

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“Maybe you should apologize for taking me away from my 3rd nap of the day, lady”

I could not tell you why this happened. I mean I can clearly tell you what went wrong and how I could’ve fixed it, but I cannot figure out why I went full potato. I was feeling really frustrated with myself to be honest. I kinda wanted to go crawl in a hole and wallow a bit in my own inadequacy. Luckily, I work with a trainer who is a strong believer in ending on a good note- she arranged for me to go around one of the Low classes to get our confidence back. It wasn’t a perfect course, but it absolutely served its purpose of giving us our mojo back. Wise lady.

Saturday we were signed up for two classes- a speed class, and another jumpoff class. My plan was to go in for the speed class and see how it went, and then decide if we needed another round to school before the classic.

Here’s the speed course:

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Jump 1 towards home came up perfectly. I went between the oxer and vertical and then gave myself a few straight strides to 2. I kept him straight between my leg and hand into the combo, and was able to soften and kick a bit into it. We ended up leaving out a stride out over 4, but he was so balanced and responsive that I was able to do the turn inside 8 to get to 5. He fired over that oxer like you wouldn’t believe. I had to steady him a bit towards home down that diagonal line. Then I went around the oxer to give him a straightaway to the second combo, and he just flowed over that so beautifully. I had to sit him back to a short one over 8, then opened up before rocking back for the final line towards home. Double clear and fast.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this round was my best round I’ve ever put in at a show. It wasn’t picture perfect at every step, but I felt so dang in tune with my horse and effective. Every inside turn came up effortlessly for him, he rated back and forth off my seat super quickly, and was firing on all cylinders. This is the round that I would KILL to have video of.

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Happy snugs

We left the ring sitting in first, and held that lead to win the class. Our first blue ribbon as a team. There were tears. This felt like a ribbon that we had truly earned by being good, not just by being lucky or by having soft competition.

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omg

We decided to scratch the next class- we weren’t going to get any better schooling than that! I’m also a fan of saving Frankie’s legs where we can, there’s no need to tire him out unnecessarily.

Sunday was classic day, and also visitor day! We had Monica (formerly of the OTTB Eventer) and Tracy of the Printable Pony come to visit! It was sooo fantastic to get to connect in real life and introduce the Frankfurter. Blogger meetups are my fave!

Here’s our classic course:

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Jumps 1 to 2 felt good. I let him get a little fast and flat through the turn, so we lurched a bit over 3, but I was able to get him back for the combo (we did knock a rail on the way out). 5 to 6 was a bit of a mad scramble as I didn’t really half halt enough (also that oxer at 6 was so freakin’ huge I almost peed my pants when I walked the course), and we kinda barreled our way through 7ab. Again- I wasn’t supporting him enough. He was more tired than on previous days and that means he needs more support from me to maintain the bouncy canter we needed. Coming off the combo I put my leg on HARD and got him underneath me, and the last three jumps felt fantastic! Really bouncy and flowing well.

So not our best course, but nothing to be ashamed of either. We spent so long developing that “forward” button, now I’m trying to transition to better channeling that forward without killing the energy. It’s all part of the process! Like I told Monica and Tracy- I might not be the best rider out there, but I’m definitely having the most fun. Pretty sure I have the bestest horse out there too.

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Yasss frannndssss!!!!

Frankie has felt like a million bucks all week. I’ve loved working with the french-link elevator, and Frankie has been going fantastically in it. It’s soft enough that he wants to come over onto the bit, but I actually get a real reaction when I half-halt. We’re still learning, but I think it’s a great tool in our tool box.

You guys, he is a different horse than I brought home almost 2 years ago. He is such a patient teacher as I learn new ways of communicating with him, and he continues to give his all every time we raise the bar. He’s still willing to bail me out when I need it, but he is ready and able to give me such incredible work when I’m on my game. I feel like the luckiest girl on the planet to have this kind of partnership with this animal. EMOTIONS.

He’ll get today off, a light hack on Tuesday, a short lesson Wednesday, then we’ll back back at it on Thursday! I can’t wait to tell you how it goes.

McDonogh Winter Classic Video

It’s weirdly smushed, the quality is potato-like at best, but we have actual media of our classic round! One of the dads very kindly filmed us going in for our second round of the day.

A couple rough spots that I’d like to smooth out, but I think the pieces are coming together. I need to keep supporting with my leg across the jumps (and STOP JUMPING AHEAD YA DINGUS), and we need to figure out a bit setup that gives us a more nuanced connection. I was so happy with how Frankie pressed through the combos, how he balanced through the turns, and how dang easy the height felt to him. He basically cantered over the whole course. That definitely makes me feel more comfortable about trying to move up- 1.10m is clearly just a speed bump to him at this point. It’s me much more than him that’s causing any problems hahahahahaithurtsbecauseitstrue. He definitely gave me everything I asked for, so now I need to remember to ask the right things at the right time.

As always- it’s far from perfect, but it’s an encouraging step forward together! Love love love this big leggy goofy guy for packing my butt around.

Season Opener 2018

We made it to our first show of the season! A few major takeaways before we dive into the detailed recap:

  1. Francis knows his job. Real well. I definitely needed to keep my leg on to channel the energy, but he pressed across the jumps nicely and was clearly having a blast out there.
  2. Our bit setup still needs some attention. The gag converter was great, but Francis absolutely tuned out the plain snaffle. Like, just parked on the end of the rein and hung there and dragged me. No bueno. Trainer and I are setting aside some time to play around with this more.
  3. This was a great “pulse check” for where we are right now! We’re a little rusty from being out of the ring since October, we’re better at some things than we used to be, we have some stuff to focus our attention on, and overall we’re making steady progress.

Now into more details!

The jumper ring didn’t start until 12:30 (which got pushed back to 1p), which means we didn’t have to leave the barn until 10a (it’s about a 90 min drive). I’m a huge fan of not-too-early show days fo sho. The horses all loaded on the trailer quickly and quietly, and I hopped in the truck with Trainer to make our way to Maryland.

We had one ammy taking her new horse to their first jumper show together- they got some great ribbons in the 0.80m classes and had SO MUCH FUN. Her gelding came from the same sale program as Frankie and clearly has a similar outlook on life: things are fun, I like jumping, I like my person, don’t worry I got you mom. Such a good egg, and his mama was having a blast out there. I think we have another jumper ring convert!

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Trainer loving on this excellent egg

We also had one of our kids come with her little mare, and they totally rocked the 0.80m classes as well! They’ve come SUCH a long way together, I’m weirdly proud of this kid that isn’t mine. But she has such a great attitude and is a hard worker and the mare is the COOLEST little Connemara and I love seeing them go out there and improve every time. They even went in for their first ever .90m class and did SO well!!

Then Assistant Trainer took one of our OTTBs in for some schooling rounds at 1.0m and 1.10m. This little horse is AMAZING. He won 4th in the show hunters at RRP in 2016, but he is definitely blossoming into an incredible jumper. He’ll be doing the 6yo YJC jumpers this year with AT, and when they put him up for sale he’s gonna make an INCREDIBLE Jr/AO jumper for someone. The kid has springs in his feet, and has so much heart. I’ll keep you posted on him, because he’s gonna be one to watch.

Then it was our turn to go in the Highs! We just signed up for the first class- a II.2.b round- and the Classic- also a II.2.b. I opted out of the speed round- I don’t like to do more than 2 classes per day with Frankie, we’re not chasing points or anything, this was just a chance to knock some of the dust off and get back in the show ring.

It was rainy and wet ALL DAY and our classes were held outside, which meant slop. I was thrilled with our first warmup- we had one dolphin moment where Francis thought it would be fun to root and play, but I informed him that it wasn’t funny, booted him up into a hand gallop, and that was the end of that. Turns out the right answer really is more leg. He was so totally on it to all our warmup fences, super locked on and carrying me forward.

Here’s our first course:

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Hunterific

If you’re thinking that this looks like a hunter course, I agree. It was outside line in 5, bending line in 7, outside in one to four, diagonal in five to two, single diagonal to finish.

Not a ton to say about this course- we had to rock back to fit the 5 in comfortably in the first line, we got up on 4 because I let our track from 3 get too direct, the one to the four was fine, the five to the two was fine, and turning to 9 was fine. Not always a perfect spot to every jump, but no disasters. Francis kinda tuned me out throughout a lot of it, but the course was simple enough that we still made it through clear. That won’t be the case for harder courses, hence the need to figure out a better bit setup.

We moved on to the jump off, which was just the first line, jump 3, rollback to the oxer, two-stride combo, and final jump. We decided to go inside the end jump to get to 3, which set us up to slice it a bit to get a nice tight inside turn to 6. Then we just kept rolling right to get to the combo, and turned hard to get back over 9.

Again- not perfect, but Francis was happy to make the tighter turns and it was fast enough to get us 2nd in a very competitive class! It’s really cool to know that even when we’re not at our best, Frankie has the pace and turns to be a strong competitor, and it motivates me even more to tighten up and get us really on it.

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Yay Francis! Handling the mud and slop like a champ.

We had a bit of a break while the speed class ran, so I hopped off and walked him around so he could catch his breath. He was like a big puppy mooching for scritches, saying hi to passing ponies, lookin’ all cute. Sweet boy.

Frankie was listening better during our second warmup, which we kept fairly short and sweet. We focused on pushing up to the base to get a strong short distance, rather than giving up and letting him go for the long one. That’s another piece of homework for us- working really hard to build strength so that short one can always be powerful and pressing across. It isn’t about finding a perfect distance, it’s about giving him the tools to make any distance workable.

Here was our classic course:

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Also hunterific

The only change here was the first line, bending in 6. Then it went into the same lines as before: 5 to 2, outside in 5, bending diagonal in 7, outside 1 to 4.

I gave plenty of shape to the first 6 since it walked a tad short, and bending out gave us some more room to fit it in really well. I pressed up a little in the five to get to the base of 4A, which set him up to land a bit more compressed for the short 2- the vertical out had been changed to a plank, so we wanted him really up and down for that*. The outside 5 was harder to fit in since we were already rolling, but Francis obliged. I gave more shape to the bending 7 which made it flow much more nicely. Then we got a great moment of softness going into 9A, which made the one stride feel a lot more powerful, and I was able to compress for the 4 strides out.

* I need to write up some of the stuff I’ve been learning about course design and how different types of jumps invite different efforts. It’s so fascinating.

Our jumpoff was fun- I went more direct 1 to 2 to leave the stride out to put in 5, had a decently tight turn to 3, rollback to oxer, then other diagonal rollback to oxer. Very symmetrical. We need to work on our balance through those tighter turns, but Frankie was very tidy and they’re definitely getting better. I was a little nervous to ask for super tight turns in the sloppy footing, but it didn’t end up being a problem.

One thing that went better in this course was putting leg on- often when Frankie starts dragging, my instinct is to take my leg off the gas pedal. Which just leads to a strung out horse. I’m still not doing it 100% of the time, but there were definitely spots on course where I remembered to put my leg on when this happened and VOILA. We had a horse that lifted and came back under himself. It’s almost like riding with a strong supportive leg leads to clear communication with my horse. Who woulda thought.

We got a pretty pink ribbon for our efforts, and the prize money paid for most of my show bill! That’s a first for us, and something I could happily get used to.

Especially thinking back to where we were at this same show last year, I’m beyond thrilled with how far Frankie has come and how much we’ve learned together. We had a blast jumping over colorful sticks together and we get better with every outing. So excited for WEC in 15 short days!!!!

Also all my muscles hurt and I’m dying, but worth it. We gotsta get our butts in shape.

Before I sign off: my trainer has been blogging more often lately, and I need to share it with you. I tend to keep her name and our barn name relatively quiet, but I got her permission to share- I think you all will love it. Some of my recent favorites talk about overcoming fear and moving forward- not just in riding, but in life. Posts like these are the reason I call her my life coach and not just my riding trainer. She rules. I’m excited to hear what you think!

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!

Planning Ahead to Move Up Someday: the Maybe Edition

Just to clarify up front: we are not moving up any time soon. We are in the midst of a lovely season in the Highs and are continuing to work out the kinks and polish it up.

Because let’s be honest, there is PLENTY to work on.

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For example, some day I’ll actually learn how to ride, maybe. PC: A. Frye

But I also like to have a bit of a longer view to what’s coming up, and sat down with my trainer to discuss what our plan is moving forward. The verdict: we have no real verdict, and I’m really excited about it.

What we do have is a series of options depending on how things go throughout the rest of the season. A couple of soft “maybes.”

One maybe: we get to the end of this season in the 1.10m-1.15m classes and decide we need another season in this division. Which would be fun! We could really focus hard on perfecting our rounds at that height, and there are plenty of fun classics and competitions at this height to keep us entertained.

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We can get plenty of cute pics in this division. And yes I’m still sharing this picture forever.

Another maybe: we get to the end of this season and feel really great and comfortable with how we’re going, and decide to try and move up. Which leads to another series of maybes.

In this case we work really hard over the winter to build fitness and accuracy, and very slowly start to try out a 1.20m class here and there- maybe putting my trainer in the irons at first to give him a better ride. Focusing on the ones offered early in the season and early in the week, where the courses are set more simply and forgivingly. And we pay very very close attention and make sure to work closely with our vet to make sure we’re not pushing further than Frankie wants to go- we know that being able to clear a few 1.20m fences does not equal the ability to navigate a full long course at a show. So this potentially leads us to a couple other maybes.

Maybe Frankie and I have built up enough fitness to do a soft entry into the 1.20m classes, and can give the Low A/O division a try. Which I think would be super cool.

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Seeing him fly like this over 1.15m is encouraging. PC: G. Mohan

Or maybe Frankie gives it a try and tells us that he’s not comfortable moving up more- which is also fine. Because that leads to another set of maybes.

Maybe at this point I decide to stay in the Highs with Frankie and come up with new goals within that height range- WIHS, other finals, etc. There are plenty of options!

Or maybe we decide to lease Frankie out to someone looking for a proven 1.15m packer, and use that lease fee to find me a 1.20m lease. Which would mean no A/O division for me, but there are other opportunities to give that height a try- the regional championships that I’m doing offer a 1.20m/1.25m section and they don’t require ownership to compete like they do in the A/Os.

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Have someone else deal with Sir Naps-a-Lot for a year

And because horses like to poop all over the best-laid plans, I am so sure that there are at least 100 other “maybes” that we haven’t even started to consider. Chances are high that we end up with the final option of “none of the above.”

So there you have it: we have no idea what we’re going to be doing long term, but we’re excited to find out. In the meantime we’re going to focus hard on fitness, get our eyes fixed on Regionals, and keep building our partnership for whatever the future might hold!

Ending note: I’m grateful to have a trainer who takes the time to talk about those longer-term goals with honesty and openness. And especially grateful that throughout our whole conversation, she made it abundantly clear that her #1 priority is Frankie’s health and longevity. In a sport where we so often hear about people pushing hard and fast at the expense of the horse, I’m proud to ride with someone who never compromises the horse for the show.

Do you like to plan out your maybes? 

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!