Tryon 2022: The Beast Post

So I lied before: I’m going to post the enormous three-book series I originally wrote out. If you make it through the whole thing, I feel like I should send you some kind of reward.

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We survived the heat that is July in North Carolina!

The short version: it was hot. But it was fun.

The longer version: where do I start! I suppose at the outset of the trip.

We opted to drive down in two cars so we could have some flexibility while I was showing and Nicholas had the child, and it also meant I could wildly overpack all her toys. Note to self: super unnecessary and annoying. It was about a 7 hour trip without breaks, but we took a couple to let Lina stretch her little legs and get out of the carseat. Other than a little whining 6 hours in (to be fair, I also was in a whining mood by that point), she was a total trooper for the trip!! I wish I had parenting tips to share, but I really think I just have a super easy going child. We got settled into our AirBnb without a fuss.

Side note: the house we rented was at the top of a mountain. I’m not exaggerating. The road up to it was TERRIFYING. It took me 4 days to stop clutching the arm rest every time we went up or down the steep switchbacks, and I never truly got used to it.

Our house was actually HIGHER than this overlook. Gorgeous, but single-lane roads with no guard rails over a ravine gave me several heart palpitations

I opted to take Tuesday as a family day, so Francisco got a training ride on the derby field where he had to practice going in straight lines which is SUPER HARD. Meanwhile, the three of us did some hiking, dipped our toes in the water, took a nice nap, and ate the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even like BBQ and this stuff was life-changing.

Wednesday was lesson day! We were able to go in the morning before the heat got too bad, and had a nice little lesson in the covered arena. Nothing crazy, just some canter pole exercises for lengthening and collecting, and popping over a jump a few times to make sure we remember how. We do.

I felt ready for our 0.9m class the next day; the only wrinkle in my plan was that my trainer asked me to be fully dressed in show clothes rather than the schooling outfit I was planning on wearing. I’m much more limited in my show outfit options than I used to be, so it was time for a detour to the tack store to boost my collection!

I started out well-behaved, I promised. Grabbed a comfy pair of tan RJ breeches, a show shirt, and the midnight blue RJ mesh coat. All was right with the world. And then I opened my fat mouth. It wasn’t that bad to start: “do you have anything budget-friendly so I can have another coat on hand?” The salesperson happily showed me several reasonably-priced options. And then because I’m dumb, I said, “eh, these are all pretty boring. Got anything in fun colors?”

The salesperson’s face lit up like the fourth of July, she made a beeline to the other side of the store, and brought out the most gorgeous plum-burgundy show coat that I’ve ever seen in my life. The dang thing had sparkle trim. And then I saw the Equiline logo and said nope don’t let me try it on because I don’t want to pay for it and then next thing I knew I was staring at the mirror falling in love. And then somehow I ended up trying on a Samshield shirt with sparkles that matched perfectly.

Honestly my husband is used to this kind of stuff by now

I mean. How could I not. Right???

The next day was my warmup class in the 0.9m, which went well!

A clear round meant a pretty blue ribbon for Francis. I definitely let him stay underpowered and added the strides most places, but it was a useful gauge for me to know what horse I had under me. I felt prepared for the rest of the week. We had a quiet afternoon back at the house where Lina and I both took a much needed nap.

I opted to give Frankie the day off on Friday so that he’d get a break heading into a hot weekend with a bunch of classes, and just hacked him out on the derby field again so he could stretch his legs. He seemed happy and relaxed to work! After a quick lunch break where we introduced Lina to the joys of sushi, we stoppedbythetackstoresoIcouldgetthematchingwhitesformynewcoat then headed out to explore Hendersonville. Lina loved the little aquarium, we did some fun non-horsey shopping, we made friends at a wine bar, found some treasures at a consignment store (Nick is now hooked on antiquing), and had some really incredible German food. It was a great balance of horses and family time!

Saturday kicked off our division, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Thankfully, they ran both my classes open card, so I was able to go in pretty much back-to-back. I also managed to wedge in second in the order, so I was completely done for the day before 7:45a. Going that early meant there was decent glare in the ring which contributed to a rail, but I maintain it was worth it entirely. The rail in each class kept us out of the ribbons in a huge class, but I’m comforted by knowing that we had the fastest times in each class. If I can get out of Frankie’s way, he’ll win for me!

After a quiet afternoon, we headed back to the showgrounds for Saturday Night Lights. We didn’t stay that long, but I can tell you that the class was brutal – the first clear round didn’t come until 13 deep in the order. Rails were falling left and right, and even with an adjusted time allowed there were time faults. Lina got to ride the carousel, we watched the mechanical bronc fail to unseat all the teenagers, and we snuck into the VIP area where our friends had a table. I would’ve loved to stay longer, but tiny bodies and extreme heat don’t mix well, so we headed out to get her to bed in the AC.

Sunday was our last day! We had a speed class and then our classic round. Most importantly, it was the day I got to wear my new outfit. We all know the priorities here. Our speed class went early in the day, and it was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing catastrophic. Frankie was starting to slow down a bit in the heat at the end of the week, and who could blame him. I still had a blast and he still was an angel.

After a break that made me seriously contemplate scratching the classic so I could remove myself from the pits of Hades that was the showgrounds, we went in for our classic round. The first line was set on a pretty open step and I was definitely not helping Frankie accomplish that, and he very politely and reasonably declined to make the monstrous move I asked him to make to jump 2. He then politely and reasonably permitted me to try again, and gave me a lovely rest of the course. Bless his heart for not holding a grudge and giving me the chance to try again. It was very much a case of pilot error and Frankie being smart enough to make the decision to keep us both safe, and I can’t be mad about that!

We rounded out our week by stuffing our faces with pasta and taking a long nap. The car ride home on Monday was a mirror of the previous week – Lina and I both had some Emotions(TM) around hour 6, but we made it home in good shape and no worse for wear.

A few overarching thoughts:

On Lina: she is the coolest kid and we are so lucky. We took her to probably 10-15 different restaurants over the course of the week, and she was such a bro about it. Ate everything, sat happily, smiled and waved at everyone nearby. She handled the constant car rides, the heat, the change of scenery all with her usual toothy smiles. Obviously I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s just the coolest little buddy.

On Nicholas: he continues to be the best husband ever. I would not in a million years have been able to do this without him being SuperDad and holding down the fort with the small one. He hates the heat, he’s allergic to horses, he had to handle 5:30a wakeup times when Lina wouldn’t settle as I left, but he was unwaveringly supportive and wonderful. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my husband, but he’s just the coolest guy.

On Frankie: oh boy. Where do I start. I felt confident every single time I walked into that ring. I smiled real big every time I walked out of it. He is total perfection, my angel boy, the best horse I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. He took care of me and made the whole thing so stinkin fun. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my horse, but he’s just the coolest bubba.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for joining this self-indulgent monster of a post ❤

Tryon 2022

I have a monster post sitting in my drafts folder, with a breakdown of the whole week. But I just keep sitting here staring at it feeling zero desire to post a full-blown novel. Like, I wrote the post and it still took me 20 minutes to read through.

So instead, I’d like to share some of my favorite pictures from the week:

We did some super cool hikes early in the week before the weather got blazing hot. Peanut was the best adventure buddy!
My husband resignedly watching me fall in love with the most expensive coat in the store
Baby’s first Grand Prix! It was Nick’s first too, and he loved seeing the excitement of the crowd and learning about why we all gasped through the triple combo.
My little good luck charm ❤ She was such a trooper, so much fun, and Nick was total SuperDad.
You’ve all heard me say how much I adore my trainer, and it still holds true – she cheered for the success I found each day even when that meant I was out of the ribbons, pushed me to “stop being lame” (her words) when I complained about the heat, totally enabled the burgundy coat, and she loves Frankie almost as much as I do. Very very grateful for her.
Yes, I got the coat. No, I have no regrets.
Oh Francis. How are you so perfect.
Angel boy always posing

I’m so so so glad that I signed up for private photography with Natalie Suto. I got a zillion pictures I LOVE, including all the fun candids that really capture the spirit of things. Completely totally worth it, I can’t stop staring.

Overall, it was a fabulous trip. Lots of fun family time, we stayed at a beautiful mountain cabin, we ate yummy food and Lina loved being in restaurants, I smiled every single time I walked in the ring, and I smiled every single time I walked out.

I could not have done this without my husband being the most supportive incredible partner and father, my daughter being the world’s coolest baby, my trainer meeting me where I am right now, my barnmates and their families loving on me and my family, just everyone being the extra hands and hearts to get us in the ring feeling confident.

And as always, I could not have done this without the world’s best horse. He takes care of me better than I deserve, he makes it all fun, and I love him with my whole heart.

Can’t wait for the next outing together!

Loudoun Benefit 2022

Folks, we did it. We made it back in the show ring after 22 months.

It. Was. Awesome.

Truly, I was beyond thrilled to be back out there with the Frankfurter. The short version is that we got right back into it like no time had passed. There were no nerves, I wasn’t as rusty as I thought, and that muscle memory kicked right back in. And obviously Francisco was perfection incarnate.

We opted to take the conservative route and start off with a single 0.90m class on Friday. The original plan was to start with that, then do a 1m Low Adult class if it went well, but I had to get home to baby girl so we opted to stick with the one.

Here was our course. I biffed jump 8 and had to add a stride out over 9, but other than that it flowed really nicely. Basically a hunter course, right?

We ended up getting a super cheap rail in the two stride (I literally didn’t even feel him tap it) and I needed to help him out a bit in the crazy heat, but overall it went great! I left the ring beaming from ear to ear, feeling super confident in our ride. And the height felt like absolutely nothing to him. I immediately got online and scratched the rest of the 0.90m classes for the weekend so I could move back into the Lows!

I got to see friends who I haven’t seen in ages and ages, and it was the best. My social little heart was so happy.
Blurry screenshot from our warmup, but I want to make it very clear that I could not stop smiling the entire time. Riding this horse is more fun than anything.

Thankfully, Saturday was MUCH cooler than Friday (65F instead of 95F). Even better, Nick and Lina came out to hang! I was a little nervous about keeping Lina entertained so we packed a hundred toys and snacks and tents and just a ton of gear, and she needed none of it. I did my course walk with her strapped to my chest, she hung out in her stroller, she walked around the rings, she said hi to every person within eyesight and pet all the ponies. She smiled up at me from her stroller as we walked back to the barn together after my round. The whole thing was just really really really lovely to share with her. I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s also just super cool and awesome. Big fan.

Fam 🙂

But moving on to the exciting part: our actual round! It was a speed class (our favoritest of favorite formats) and everything walked really nicely. I ended up screaming at people in the warmup ring to STOP CIRCLING IN FRONT OF THE JUMPS, but I popped over a few and got out of there ASAP.

The plan was to go in and get around. Make conservative turns, get nice and straight, just take our time and have fun. It was a pretty big class (35 riders) and my goal was simply to get my sea legs back at the 1m height.

It ended up being a great course! I got a little close to 5 and had to gallop out over 6, I let Frankie drift through my right side heading up to 10a-b and he needed to put an extra stride to make it out (sorry bubba!!), so I decided to sit back and add out over 11. But these mistakes didn’t feel like “holy crap we haven’t done this in two years” mistakes, they felt like “I am an amateur and sometimes forget I have two legs” mistakes. The normal kind I’ve always made. And because Francois is an angel baby, he managed to go clean.

And fast. Despite making wide turns from 4 to 5, 6 to 7a-b, and 9 to 10a-b, this kid earned us 3rd place out of 35. I was laughing that if I had known we stood a chance at a ribbon, I would’ve made those turns neater! Literally the only thing holding him back was me.

In case anyone was wondering if the height would be a problem. It was not.

I’m obviously proud of that ribbon, but moreso I am downright giddy at how much fun we had out there. Frankie was game, he was honest, we took turns helping each other out, he was simply a joy (as always). Literally the best boy in the world.

Another blurry screenshot of me smiling at Lina as I came off the last jump.
We then spent the afternoon out on the river, where Lina tried to jump in the water the whole time. Blessings to the person who put an oh-shit handle on baby life jackets.

The original class listing showed the Sunday classic as a speed round, which I found surprising but delightful (again, we LOVE speed rounds). Much to my chagrin, they changed it on Saturday night to a more traditional II2.b jumpoff round.

The Low Adult classic was the first in the ring starting at 7:30, so I was up and out the door mega early. It was the first time in Lina’s life that I wasn’t there when she woke up. This isn’t relevant to the story, I just had some emotions about it (Lina was perfectly happy with her daddy, so the emotions were only on my end).

I was 6th in the order, which I loved. It meant I had time to walk my course, head back to the barn and toss my helmet on, and immediately go warm up. I don’t like to sit around and wait – put me in, coach.

Another bonus of going early is that the warmup ring wasn’t crazy yet. Thank goodness.
Smiling while walking up to the in gate. All the smiles.
Here’s the course! Mostly straightforward. 6 to 7 walked weird for me every time – I kept getting 7.5 strides no matter what I did. I saw people doing everything from 7 to 9. I ended up putting in 8 since I got a bit close to the oxer at 6, but it was def tight and I had to kick out. Other than that, everything lined up really nicely.

I had my Sunday Frankie – a little more tired, and needing to maintain a nice forward gallop since sitting back and collecting is harder at that energy level. He’s definitely a much better Sunday horse than he used to be, but I don’t blame him for starting to slow down after a big weekend!

We had a rail just barely tip at jump 2, but the rest went lovely. He absolutely LAUNCHED over the oxer at 5, we got a bit close to the in at 7a and had to kick out, 8 up to 9 rode in a lovely 6 strides, and then I totally just let him drift all over the place at 10a-b so we got a bit strung out and chipped over 11. But much like the day before, I was thrilled at how game and how smart he was. It definitely felt like a course where we took turns helping each other out, which is always my goal.

Debriefing after our round, pointing to the jumps I liked the best 🙂

In true Francisco fashion, even with those 4 jumping faults he was fast enough to earn us a pretty lime green 11th place ribbon out of a field of 28. I was delighted that they placed through 12th, and even more delighted to be in that group. It was a lovely way to wrap up the weekend.

Loving on him while he rested up in his ice boots.

I could not feel better about this past weekend. It was fun, I felt confident walking in the ring, it was FUN, I got to hang out with so many friends, I had a BLAST, Frankie took incredible care of me, it was SO FREAKIN FUN. The ribbons were a lovely cherry on top.

Showing definitely looked different for me than it used to: I had to head out soon after my rounds to get home to Lina/let her nap, instead of lingering all day. I had to lean on our awesome groom to help get me tacked/untacked/where I needed to be on time, while I often like to do more of Frankie’s aftercare myself. I had to sneak in quick visits with friends when I was able, instead of staying to watch all their rounds. It was an adjustment. It took a lot of help from a lot of people, both in the barn and out of the barn. I’m incredibly grateful for all that help, and that I got to experience such a great weekend of being Lina’s mom AND Frankie’s partner. Those are two of my favorite roles I play in this life, and having them coexist so closely feels so good.

I’m already counting down the days to Tryon so we can get back out there!

Cheers to the bestest Flying Frankfurter. My heart ❤

Piedmont Jumper Classic 2020

Phew, I’m so relieved that the cat is finally out of the bag. Do you know how hard it is for me to keep my own secrets?? I’m the opposite of a private person.

But now that I can actually share what happened, I want to capture this show as a record for me to look back on. And it was a blast!

In classic Francis fashion, I received this pic from my trainer roughly 20 minutes after he got off the trailer. Show naps are best naps in Frankie’s book.

You may remember that the plan was for me to go in the 1.10m High classes since Frankie was going so well and we were getting back into shape post-grad school. And I will say, we did continue schooling around that height even after I found out I was expecting – I trust this horse with my life and honestly feel safer on him than my own two feet.

However, as we started pushing a little bit harder it became apparent that Frankie was having a bit of an identity crisis. Several times a week I hopped on and told him to fire up into Spicy Jumper Mode(TM), and several times a week his kid hopped on and they worked on mellowing out into 2’6″ hunter mode. He is excellent at both of these jobs. But I think it was a bit too much for his brain to try and switch back and forth on a day-to-day basis. I was left feeling like I was kicking and holding nothing, and he was getting fast with the kid.

After some frustrating rides where I just couldn’t get the right pace to make the bigger jumps feel comfortable, we decided to keep the height feeling very comfortable and not try to make Frankie be two things at once. We talked about what my goals were for this show (have a lot of fun) and for the rest of the season (I knew due to scheduling this would likely be my last show for a long time) and ultimately we opted to actually go in for the lowest classes they offered: the 0.80m.

Real mature Francis, making faces at your friend

I am honestly so glad we made this decision. I knew this was a height Frankie could quite literally walk over, at a venue we’ve been to many times, and I could point-and-shoot the entire thing. There was no stress and no nerves, just bopping around the ring enjoying my perfect packer in a setting where he strutted out of the ring feeling majorly confident about himself.

Not to mention the stunning views over the hills as I got to watch the bigger classes run.

It was a far cry from the turn and burn that got us Champion in the Lows last year, and an even further departure from the original plan to go in the Highs, but it set us up for a wonderful relaxing experience before I took a break from showing. We had several clear rounds for pretty blue ribbons, my husband got to come out and cheer us on one morning, we went for walks around the pretty showgrounds, and Francis was happy as a clam to play packer pony.

Love of my life ❤

Of course, I’m already itching to get back in the show ring with the Frankfurter. Counting down until I can take Francisco in the jumpers in the morning and stick him in leadline in the afternoon!

Sea Legs: Engage

It’s been a fantastic week! I got to jump around a horse that was not Frankie for the first time in years, Frankie and I put the jumps up a bit in a lesson, and we made it back in the show ring for the first time since February!

I’ve told you all about sweet Meeko, who is an absolute star that belongs to my good friend at the barn. She’s been super generous about letting me pop on for a hack, and this week I was lucky enough to take him in a lesson. I gotta tell you – as much fun as flatting him is, jumping him is just next level. He is a metronome and beautifully forward; I could keep a light seat and just guide the track, and he took care of the rest.

Honestly I have video of us jumping but I’m too lazy to upload it, so just take my word for it.

And then for the first time in at least 18 months, Francisco and I popped over a solid 3’6″ish jump! He’d been packing me around so perfectly at 3’3″ that we decided to do some grid work and let us both see how putting them up a bit felt. It was nice to be able to focus just on the motion and not think about track/distances/etc.

Honestly? It felt really good. I definitely need some more strength in my core to hold myself in place, I need to work on my angles, I need to step deeper in my lower leg, all sorts of things I need to polish to be proficient at that height. But I feel really confident that I can pull that together.

Even better was how Frankie felt. We assumed that he would be surprised when the last jump went up – previously it was set to around 2’6″ while we worked on other things, and suddenly it was somewhere between 3’6″ and 3’9″. I kicked him into the grid expecting him to hesitate or lurch or have some sort of reaction to seeing a much larger obstacle waiting for him.

What do I ever doubt him? Homeboy popped over it without blinking. You would’ve thought he’s been schooling that height regularly. He was uber casual about it, cantered away the exact same, and didn’t act like anything had changed. All our hard work on strength and adjustability clearly made him feel confident (as a side note, I truly believe he feels stronger and fitter and overall better than he did when we were actually competing at that height, so I’m not surprised that he felt so good over it).

It was just 2 jumps, but it was enough of a test to know that it’s still in there and he still feels good about that job. And while I don’t have video of our trips through the grid with no hands and no stirrups (#SaintFrancis), I do have video of our trips through at height! Head on over to my Instagram to hear me yell “Yes!!!” after surviving. Lots to work on for me, but thrilled with Francisco.

Which brings us to our Saturday show. There is a fantastic show series literally 10 minutes from the barn that has a super extensive prize list, gorgeous rings, and is run beautifully all for a great price. We shipped in for the afternoon to do the open 1m schooling jumpers and figured we would pick 2 out of the 3 classes to get back in the ring.

Spoiler: he was the cutest pony face to ever go around any ring ever. PC – Mosaic Photography

After a quick warmup to make sure we were listening (we were) and awake (we were), we headed in for our jumpoff round. It definitely took a couple jumps for Frankie to realize where he was; you can hear him tap a couple jumps in the first half, and I felt like I was kicking the crap out of him. I think he’s spent so much time slowing down for his lease kid that he genuinely didn’t think he was supposed to open back up. A quick tap with the whip and I could almost see it click in his head. All of a sudden I had my Francisco back and he carried me around beautifully, listening like a pro and helping me out. He won us that class out of 5 or 6 entries!

We opted to not do the power and speed class (I have a deep hatred of that format honestly, it is my least favorite by far) and went in for a speed round, which was the exact same course minus a jumpoff. We didn’t change it up too much except for making one turn a bit more efficient and leaving a stride out in one line. I needed him to help me out when I didn’t quite set him up right to a couple jumps in there, but luckily he was back in Jumper Mode(TM) and was more than happy to take care of me. Francisco ended up winning this smaller class as well out of 3.

I certainly can’t be unhappy with 2 blues for 2 trips, and I certainly couldn’t be more thrilled with how happy, forgiving, and straight up fun Frankie felt. He helped me out in places, he listened and let me help him in places, and I felt 100% confident at every point. The height felt completely doable and (dare I say it) even low to us, so I’m hoping we’ll get to work on polishing up and getting over some bigger fences. Onwards and upwards with the best horse in the whole world!

And of course, this goober will continue to get endless pats and ear rubs no matter what he’s doing. PC – Mosaic Photography

Ocala 2020: The Beast

Pardon the delay in sharing the rest of my Ocala experience – life has been a bit bonkers lately and the blog has taken a bit of a backseat as I try to sort some things out. All good things that I’m excited to share, just want them a bit more settled first!

But let’s get back to our Southern Sojourn.

I don’t want to dissect every single ride in detail, so I’m going to do what I did in my last post and just kinda share overarching thoughts and patterns that I noticed during our two weeks down there.

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Big pattern: the cutest possible ears to exist on the planet

First off, Frankie felt fit. I already talked about how we carefully and successfully managed his energy throughout our time there, but this only worked because I had a really fit and happy horse. His joints felt good, his muscling felt good, his saddle fit well, and he had the conditioning to hold up to the workload. After literal years of trying to find the right balance for him, this is what I’d consider our greatest success of the past few months – pushing hard enough without overdoing it.

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When we enter the ring and I get this sass face and this prancy trot, I know we’re in for a good time with an energetic horse

On the equitation side of things, we’re getting there. Considering this was only our third (I think?) time tackling the adult medals, we’re making solid progress. My main job is to remember to drop him a bit when he wants to speed up. When I relax my body like that and allow him to soften in turn, he is really a lovely ride that allows me to stay very quiet up top. It’s a very different feel from the jumper ring where I want him fired up and dragging me a bit, so I’m extra proud of him for being able to switch back and forth like that. We ended up having some strong rounds, and even managed a 5th out of 21 for one class with some truly top notch horse and rider pairs in there. There was a definite sense of satisfaction to know how far my Francis has come in his training and to be able to hold our own against those superbly polished pairs.

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I myself could use some polish, but ISN’T HE THE CUTEST REAL LIFE EQ HORSE?!

 

During this whole show, Francis felt SMART. You all know that I rarely use that word when it comes to my lovable Dingus Man. Kind and forgiving, he is. A genius, he is not. He’s been very good at his job in the jumper ring for quite a while, but this is the first show where I felt like I had a truly very intelligent animal under me. This was also the first show that my trainer gave her full blessing to take the riskiest inside-iest turns possible. We used to go for the more conservative inside turns, aiming for efficient and smooth.

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Or we can do casual and cranky honestly either one is fine

This time we aimed for the bonkers turns where you look and say, “there’s no way that can work.” At one point I was going the opposite direction of my next jump, directly next to it. Within 3 strides we had already turned and jumped. We made slices, we cut through the ring, we wasted no strides going around where we could squeeze through instead. And Francis was absolutely brilliant about all of it. He was catty, he was tuned into me every step of the way, he was maneuverable and eager to do it. My job was to not fall off the side when he made those turns. He simply felt downright smart about every single course. (I have videos to share, I just gotta upload them first!)

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His eyes may be closed but his heart is already turning left

Along with the smarts was some really lovely adjustability. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those riders with a naturally perfect eye, but our hard work on quality of canter, adjustability of stride, and judgement to the base has definitely paid off. There were certainly “oops” moments here and there but far fewer than there used to be. I know a bit more about what to ask for, Frankie knows a lot more about how to respond, and it led to some of the best courses we’ve ridden to date. Of the rails we pulled on course I can confidently say that there was only one that was a true omg-I-biffed-it rail. The rest were just unlucky rubs where we weren’t quite careful enough. And as a whole there were fewer rails than there used to be. At some point I need a shirt that says #fastest4faulters because every time we had a rail, we ended up being the fastest time on the clock. We’re putting the pieces together of taking those risks while still going clean and seeing a ton of progress!

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DO YOU SEE THIS ANIMAL AND HOW PERFECT HE IS

As a truly wonderful feather in our cap, Frankie carried me clear and fast in our Classic the second week to an astounding 2nd out of a combined Child/Adult field of 37. We managed to hold the lead until the very last rider, who put down an INCREDIBLE jumpoff and 100% deserved the win. That big red ribbon was the best possible finish to our bootcamp.

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The button braids. The bonnet. the happy ears. All of it.

This whole show felt like a really lovely assembly of so many of the lessons we’ve learned over the years. We set ourselves up for success, we took risks that paid off, we went in the ring trying to win and not just make it around, and the ribbons reflected the ride.

We had the type of consistency I’ve been hoping to accomplish for a while now. At the end of Week 2, my trainer and I even said that we kinda wished I had moved back up to the Highs that week. Frankie clearly was feeling funky fresh and we had the accuracy.

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The height. It did not pose a challenge for him (even with a spider monkey on his back).

So coming off such a successful show we’ve decided to dabble in that division again this season! We’ll do a step up at a smaller nearby show that tends to set a bit soft, and we’ll hit the 1.10-1.15m ring again at Upperville. I honestly did not have plans to step back up this year (or ever, really) and I’m still delightedly surprised at how good my horse is feeling these days. I fully expected to need to slow things down as he moves into his teenage years; he’s always been tough to keep fit. But whatever we’re doing is clearly working well for him so we may as well keep flying!

Much like my trip down to Ocala in 2016, this trip down to Florida turned out to be a game changer. Cheers to my fifth show season with the Frankfurter and cheers to always being amazed by this horse.

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Sweaty, dirty, and full of love always for my perfect boy

Ocala 2020: Managing the Energy

Man, I don’t even know where to start with our trip down to Florida. It was such a long time (felt like it at least), so busy balancing riding, working, homework, and other stuff, and had a ton of stuff that I’d love to share. This is going to be several posts, so I beg your patience as I try to organize my rambling thoughts.

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I need to start an album of pics like this where we both look so magically photogenic

First I’d like to talk about some of the things that we learned/did differently based on what we’ve learned before.

The first is what happened on our first Thursday, which was our first competition day. Frankie had been there and had explored the showgrounds since Monday, but it was definitely much more crowded and busy on Thursday. I got to the warmup ring with a VERY tense horse under me. I couldn’t blame him in the least – there are 17 rings there, many loudspeakers, buzzers, gold carts, mopeds, TONS of activity all around. Lots to look at. I opted to do a short flat warmup and then take a solid 10-15 minutes to simply walk around the warmup ring. That did the trick and after a few big sighs we were able to have a much more focused and productive warmup. That’s something I learned a while ago: Frankie is usually pretty relaxed, but sometimes he just needs a moment to take a breath. After that he was certainly interested in all the activity, but in a curious way and not a WHAT THE HECK IS ALL THIS MA way.

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This is leaving that warmup ring. Ears alert but no longer doing his best Anxiety Llama(TM) impersonation. 

The other is a new learning! A little context: usually we only do one round with Frankie per day. I know that seems like very little for the amount that I pay to show, but with the height and the jumper divisions I’ve found that one round hits the sweet spot for us to keep him feeling fresh and ready. But I had two eq medals both Fridays. Not a big deal when it’s an open card and I can just pop in and out of the ring for multiple rounds in a row. But that becomes difficult when the woman running the gate fed the order sheet to her dog and decided smiling and shrugging was the answer to all questions. That means that all of a sudden we have a dreaded gap between our rounds.

So we ended up sitting there for 10, 15 minutes waiting for our next turn in the ring. And it was dinner time. So by the time I finally go back in the ring, Francis is D O N E with all of this GARBAGE it’s time to EAT why am I even HERE. I asked for a bit more pace, he said “NOPE SLOWIN WAY DOWN.” I asked him to steady back a bit, he said “NAH GOTTA GO FAST.” We missed A WHOLE ENTIRE LEAD CHANGE. FOR NO REASON. It was the biggest pettiest little temper tantrum that my angel boy has ever pulled, and it was hysterical. I’ll be the first to say that mistakes on course are pretty much always caused by me, but this was certifiably just Frankie giving a hard NOPE to doing a second round. Bless his heart, his little rebellions are too funny.

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99% sure he knows when I’m mocking him and makes grouchy faces just to play along

So the following week when we knew we’d have a small break in between classes, here’s what I did: I hopped off, loosened his girth, hand-walked him in circles to keep him entertained, played with him a bit, then hopped on and did a quick WTC to tune him back in directly before heading into the ring. Worked like a charm and I had a soft happy horse under me for both rounds.

Frankie was also able to go play in the paddock almost every day, often with his buddy Vinnie. It’s certainly not as big as he’s used to, but it very noticeably helped keep him feeling fresh. I do think getting to go out with Vinnie helped too; Francis is such a social animal and thrives when he gets to hang out with buddies.

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WOW SHOW LIFE IS SO STRESSFUL FOR THESE GUYS THEY REALLY SEEM TO HATE THIS

Between regular turnout, ice boots after every round, a massage between the two weeks, and very judicious jumping, we had a fresh and happy horse all the way through. Managing his energy levels has always been tough for us to ensure that he doesn’t hit Sunday totally exhausted and honestly I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found what works. He works very hard for me so it feels good to be able to support that better!

I think I’ll leave it off here for now, and save talking about the rides themselves for the next post. In case you’re new here, spoiler alert: Francisco was beyond incredible and blew my expectations out of the water with every single round.

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I’m honestly just along for the ride

Sunshine and Rainbows

I’m back north and back on reliable wifi after our little Florida vacation!!!

I have tons and tons to share with you about our two weeks down in the sun and am working on several big posts, but for now I wanted to share a few pictures of our trip.

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Going in for our first round the first week on my v v spicy pony. As always, entering the ring grinning like a fool because of how much fun I have with the Frankfurter. PC – K. Borden

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And leaving the ring after our last round the second week, happily accepting all forms of love and appreciation as his due. PC – K. Borden

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Having to stand to wear his ice boots was TORTURE how could I just LEAVE HIM THERE it was so BORING and TERRIBLE

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He had a bear of a time spitting out all those shavings when we woke him up to go work.

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Shmancy equitation pony being a total angel boy!!!

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Both of us were very happy to have some sunshine.

I can’t wait to tell you more about the show – it far exceeded my expectations, my horse was even more incredible than I could have hoped for, and I’m going to be riding this high for a while.

Final Ocala Prep

We’re in the final stretches of prepping for Ocala!!!!

To get Frankie super ready to go, we’ve been amping up the duration and intensity of both my rides and his training rides. I continue to be the world’s biggest fan of training rides – they remind him how to be shmancy and he is just a delight to ride when he’s all tuned up like that. We spent so long encouraging and teaching him how to use those muscles and I’m still giddy about how much more educated he is now. I never want to hop off these days.

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We haven’t trained either of us how to take nice pictures but that’s ok we’re good at other things

We also went ahead got a bulk order of Ulcergard for the ponies. My friend found a great price and we all jumped on it. Frankie will get a heavier dose for his travel days and then smaller amounts every day that he’s there. I hate how expensive this stuff is but you know what’s even more expensive? Treating ulcers. I’ll happily spend a little on the front end to keep his tummy feeling good.

Our chiro/acupuncture guy came out this week, so Francis got himself an adjustment. I opted not to do the acupuncture this time since I didn’t really see noticeable results the last few times, but he does seem to really enjoy his chiro. Anything to help him feel his best down there! My husband was recently musing that he never expected to be in a serious conversation about the pros vs cons of equine acupuncture, but here he is. It also turns out that our favorite braider will be down south, and she’s also the person that does Frankie’s massages. So he’ll get a nice refresh between weeks 1 and 2!

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PLZ I NEED ALL THE ATTENTION IN THE WORLD OR I WILL DIE

I was originally hoping to stock up on some show clothes before heading down (despite my obsession with pretty things, I really don’t end up actually purchasing clothes all that often) but ended up deciding to save my pennies. Of course as soon as I said that, a good friend ended up selling me a bunch of breeches for a ridiculously fantastic price, including 2 pairs that are show ready. Between those and the laundry facilities at the hotel I should be able to clean up as often as needed. I already mentioned that I’m hoping for a buffer in my budget to allow at least a little shopping while there.

There’s something else exciting potentially in the works for while I’m down there, but I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. I promise to share once things are finalized! (And before you ask, no I will not be buying/leasing another horse, I really like spending my money on my own darling spoiled boy).

I’m also actually getting excited for the drive down! My mom decided to fly in to the closest airport and we’re splitting the drive into a couple days before she flies back home from Jacksonville. So I’ll get to Ocala Wednesday afternoon, not completely hating my life and having had a super awesome roadtrip with my momma.

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She is so small, and yet, so powerful

I have a pretty solid packing list and a final few things to do before heading down. I’ve got my cooler for his ice boots, my wifi hotspot device, a few other random things I’m trying to remember. My spring term for school starts the Monday that I hit the road so it’s going to be a balancing act fitting work, school, and ponies into my days. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our 2019 Show Season

It’s a bit early to do a full yearly recap, but I’d love to do a brief review of what 2019 looked like in the show ring!

February: WEC, OH

 

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Loved this sweet mare!

I opted to leave Francis at home for the week, and leased an amazing mare to do the Low Adult Jumpers with. She was a great teacher and it was a fun and satisfying re-entry to the show ring after a 7 month(!) break. I really enjoyed the chance to learn from a horse that was so been-there-done-that and it was nice to stretch myself to adapt to a very different type of ride.

Results: clean schooling rounds, 5th in our jumpoff round and 2nd in the speed with a 3rd in our classic.

March: Showplace Spring Festival, MD

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Big Man earned some pretty colors ❤

I got back in the ring with my favorite boy! We shipped in and did a couple 0.90m classes to knock some rust off and Frankie turned out to have no rust at all. This was a low key and fun outing to build confidence for the rest of our season.

Results: 3rd in our speed round and 7th in our jumpoff round.

May: Blue Rock Classic, PA

 

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First time in the medals since I was a kid, and Frankie acted like he does it every day!

For the first time ever, we didn’t do a single jumper class at a show! This was our first foray into the adult medals (including tests) and we even tried our hand at our first hunter derby. We were certainly more competitive in the eq than in the derby, and it was a BLAST trying some new things with the Frankfurter.

Results: 4th in the Ariat, 3rd in the Dover Adult Medal, 6th in the MHSA Adult Medal, and tons of fun in the USHJA National Hunter Derby.

June: Loudoun Benefit, VA

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THE BRAIDS. THE FAKE TAIL. THE GIANT EARS. I LOVE ALL OF IT.

Continuing our streak of new things, we played in the medal/derby rings again at this show. It was a great chance to finesse our equitation rounds and Francisco showed up and excelled at that type of precision. We also took the high options in the derby for a score that I was really proud of.

Results: 8th in the VHSA eq on the flat, 4th in the VHSA Adult Medal, and lots of fun again in the derby.

September: Piedmont Jumper Classic, VA

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Literal heart eyes for my most handsome creature

Returning to those same showgrounds after a little summer break, we stepped back into the jumper ring for a full weekend of the Low Adults. He was forward, eager to the jumps, landed turning, and was simply beyond professional. We have fun in the other rings, but Frankie clearly knows the job superbly well in the jumper ring.

Results: 7th in our jumpoff round, 1st in our speed, and 3rd in our stakes for division champion.

October: WIHS Regional, MD

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This guy makes literally everything fun

Frankie and I tried out the AA hunter division for the first time! We certainly don’t have the movement to excel in that ring (I mean, no horse can be good at EVERYTHING) but Frankie was a winner in my heart with his sweet attitude and gentleness. The next day we zipped back over to the jumper ring, where we put the pedal to the metal for some great rounds. It was a perfect way to end the year with versatility and challenge.

Results: king of my heart in the AA 18-35 Hunter O/F classes, 6th in our jumpoff class, 1st in our speed for division reserve champion.

I can’t believe that this show year was so full! I fully expected to have to cut way back on showing when I went back to school in the spring. I’m beyond grateful for my support system that made this all possible – my trainers who kept Frankie fit and ready to go every when I couldn’t get out as often, my husband who took care of things at home when I was away, my classmates that put up with conference calls from hotel lobbies, my boss who gave me the flexibility to work from the barn when needed. It hasn’t always been easy balancing it all and I’m so fortunate to have this kind of help along the way.

Cheers to a fantastic and full 2019 season, and cheers to all that’s next with my Very Bestest Boy!