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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m finally playing catch-up and covering our most recent show (it’s only about a month later, it’s fine it’s all fine).
I was mostly excited for this show because it meant a chance to go in all 3 rings: we had two AA hunter classes and an adult medal planned for Friday, then the Low Adults over in the jumper ring on Saturday. I know it’s laughable to put us in the hunters, but he sure looks cute all braided up, and it was my only chance to get in the indoor before our medal class ran.
While we’ve done a couple derbies this year, this was actually our first time in a regular AA hunter class. Is he a good enough mover to pin? Not even close. Was he the ACTUAL CUTEST BOPPING AROUND ON A SOFT REIN AND FINDING HIS OWN SPOTS?? Yes. Yes he was. Like, catch us in the hunter ring because that was so much fun and he was literally the cutest creature to ever exist. I basically got up in my halfseat, grabbed mane, and let him do his diagonal-outside-diagonal-outside thing. He was like a happy lil rocking horse, entirely point and shoot and adorable. I died. I think both of us wish that he was a better mover because it was so low-stress and enjoyable for both of us.
I’m ultimately very glad we went in the two AA classes, because our adult medal ended up not running. There were 5 in it and then at the very last minute 2 scratched and they needed at least 4 to fill. We found out about this as we were trotting around the warmup getting ready, but we at least were near the cool photo op area!
Overall it was a fun foray into a ring that we don’t usually go into. I do this whole showing thing for fun so I’m never bothered by the lack of ribbons if my horse was a good boy and did his job – which, yeah. It’s Francis. He’s always a good boy and always does his job. It’s literally always fun.
Saturday was our triumphant return to the jumper ring for the Adult Lows, with one speed class and one jumpoff class.
Keeping up our streak of only ever winning speed classes, Frankie laid down an incredible pace to snag the blue! In a weird way, I almost knew we were going to before we even got to the first jump – I literally said to him under my breath, “let’s go win this” as we approached. He felt so locked on and focused, and I know that if I match his focus he can absolutely set the pace. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – speed is definitely my favorite format!
We had a good long break before our jumpoff class, so the big guy got to go rest for a bit. I’ll say that class was definitely weaker – I thought I tipped a rail at 5b, so I decided to go for broke and leave out strides to be the fastest 4 faulter. Which then led to me ACTUALLY tipping a rail. It was A plan, it probably wasn’t the BEST plan. On the bright side, the mistakes that I made were very intentional. It wasn’t that I lost control or didn’t know what I was doing, it’s that I made the wrong call and my horse listened to me. I still see this as progress! My trainer noted that this so-so round was still more accurate and deliberate than my best rounds were not that long ago and I’ll absolutely take that as a win.
Despite our rail in the jumpoff, our win in the speed was enough for us to get the reserve champion ribbon! So far Francis has managed a tricolor in both division outings we’ve done this year.
This was a nice relaxed show for us, where we got to go have a great time playing around together. I’m feeling really great about our step down to the 1.0m classes – it has taken all nerves away about the height, Frankie is extremely confident, I’m not as worried about getting in his way, and it’s allowing us to be competitive without having to be perfect. I’m an amateur, this is supposed to be fun!
We’re now on a showing hiatus so I can save my pennies for Ocala, but I’m already very eager to get back in the ring with me big sweet boy. It’ll be a whole new set of competitors and big classes and I know we’re going to have a fantastic time.
We came, we saw, we jumped! After much of a spring and summer spent dabbling in the other rings, we spent our whole weekend chasing time and rails.
The short version in case you’re in a rush: I am proud almost to the point of tears with the Frankfurter. He was beyond professional in a big ring and packed my rusty butt around the Lows with those cheerful ears hunting down the jumps, including some delightful inside turns. Best Boy Francis is very much Best Boy and he earned us the ribbons to prove it.
For those of you not in the area, this show is held on the same showgrounds as Upperville and Loudoun Benefit, but only on the jumper side. The way the schedule ran meant all my classes went in the main ring over there – which you may remember as the class Frankie and I were in for our very first classes together as a team a few years ago. Despite returning to Upperville/Loudoun for several years since then, I’ve been in other rings. So this was actually the first time we’ve back in that giant ring since that very first show! Talk about a walk down memory lane.
Originally the plan was to go in and do a 0.90m as a warmup on Friday, see how that felt, then plan on doing the Low classes later that day and throughout the weekend.
Fate is funny though. Just like that first show back in 2016, the schedule got moved around fairly last minute so that the 0.90m ended up running in a different ring AFTER the Lows had already gone. So much like 2016, we ended up going straight into the Lows and saying “cool cool cool this is probably fine.” The parallels with that show really were kinda comical.
But no matter how similar, there were a few big major difference from that first show. Instead of it being the first 1.0m class for both of us, we now have several years under our belt competing even higher. Our confidence over this height is rock solid, our skill set over this height is solid, and nowadays Frankie really is a schoolmaster dream to pilot around the jumper ring. I know I say this all the time, but he’s just so. dang. good. at his job and it makes taking him around a downright pleasure.
Our first round on Friday was a mix – we ended up with 3 rails, but I’m actually extremely happy with the ride. Frankie was accurate, forward, and responsive. I don’t think either of us did anything really *wrong* to have those rails, I simply think he wasn’t expecting to have to do a full round at that height. It’s been a little while. Considering how long it’s been since we’ve gone around the jumper ring (6+ months) and how long it’s been since he’s had to compete over 3′ (14ish months), I was thrilled with how well he remembered the game.
Saturday was a speed round. In case you didn’t know, speed rounds are my FAVORITE OMG I LOVE THEM. It’s just you and the course, being as efficient and aggressive as possible to get. it. done. No phases, no separate jumpoffs. Just one round to go kill it.
And kill it we did. Francis was a STAR. He galloped up when I asked, he sat down when I needed him to, he helped me out when I gave a bit of an override, I helped him out when he needed some support to rebalance into a shorter line. He landed asking to turn and locked onto every jump. It was fantastic. We went early in the class to set the pace and held onto the lead for the blue ribbon.
Sunday was our stakes class with a jumpoff, which ended up getting combined with the Low Children’s. Frankie is always a bit tired on Sundays and needs a bit more support so my plan always accounts for that a bit. A surprising number of people that day were going clear in the first round but getting time faults, so I knew we couldn’t take our time at all. We certainly had to take turns helping each other out over such a long course but ultimately Frankie did pull out a clear round within time allowed!
Our jumpoff came up pretty fantastically – I swung way wider on a rollback than I had planned which ate up some unnecessary strides (around 0:32 in the video below), but we did a pretty killer inside turn (0:40ish) and a super fun slice (0:47ish) that I don’t think many people ended up doing.
Double clear and a speedy jumpoff were enough to clinch us 3rd behind two children, which also earned us champion in the division for the weekend!
In a nutshell: Frankie was perfect, we had a total blast, and he is incredibly good at his job. I’m also very glad that we chose the division that we did – sticking with the 1m classes right now means that we can go in and build confidence while trying some of those tougher turns without overfacing ourselves. While I’d love to eventually get back into the bigger classes, this was 100% the right choice for where we are right now.
To close out, I’d like to share with you my new favorite photo ever taken of all time:
And an obligatory nap pic:
Cheers to a fantastic weekend of fun and jumps with the bestest horse to ever exist!
Frankie and I went out and dabbled in the eq/hunter rings again! Short version: tons of fun, continuously learning how to adjust to this new way of going, and Frankie was literal perfection.
Are you at all surprised by that last bit??
Anywho, we opted to stick in just the derby/eq rings again for this show since it worked so well last time. I think with some practice, Frankie will be able to more easily transition between the jumper ring and the others, but for now it’s super helpful for both of us to “drill” a bit to really figure out what we need to do.
He shipped into the showgrounds on Tuesday with a whole bunch of other ponies, by all reports settled in like a gentleman (aka naps. Immediate naps). Our barn had 11 or 12 horses at this show, so we staggered shipping in over the course of a few days! Kinda crazy, I think pretty much everyone that shows went to this particular one. A much bigger group than we usually have, and it was fantastic!
I opted to have Trainer take Francis around one of the 3′ hunter divisions (sans U/S) on Wednesday, just so he could see the big ring and get the measure of it. I would do it myself if I didn’t have this pesky office job getting in the way, but I wanted him to go around that ring before the derby on Saturday. He absolutely LOVES my trainer – it’s seriously adorable – and was a very sweet boy for her. With 50+ in the class there’s zero chance that my mobile sewing machine would place against actual hunter types, but I’m always pleased when he shows his consistency and good nature. I do really think we could do well in the AA or AO hunters, where manners and suitability are considered!
He then got a light day on Thursday – no competing, just stretching his legs a bit.
Friday I was FINALLY able to get away from work, and got to do our Ariat Adult Medal class! First thing in the morning, bright and early. Trainer did hop on him for a quick hack early in the morning – the temp had dropped down to the low 50s overnight and she wanted to make sure he was feeling mannerly. In her words: “I forgot it was Frankie. He’s obviously fine.”
I have video of this class from two different angles, funny enough! I’ll include them both here, along with the course map.
Overall thoughts: I literally rode him to nothing at that first jump. I was just happily sitting up there and did. zero. things.
Then I majorly overcorrected and chased him to jump 2. Because clearly that’s the right move. But after that I was really happy with the rest of the course! I didn’t get him straight enough after jump 4, so we had a bit of an unbalanced late change (and you can see me wrestling with him a little bit as he goes WEEEEEE and stops paying attention). But overall he was responsive, polite, and handled himself really well in such a big ring.
It was pretty cool being done by 8:30am, and I got to spend the rest of the day cheering on my barnmates, loving on Frankie, and enjoying the gorgeousness of these showgrounds.
Then Saturday was kinda hysterical in its timing. The Jr/Am derby started at 7:30a in the main hunter ring, and I was third in the order. Then the VHSA Flat class started at 8a in Hunter 2, followed immediately by the VHSA medal class. This meant going from one ring to another very quickly, including a costume change for both me (getting rid of shad and stock tie and donning my hunt coat) and Francis (taking off his martingale and adding his boots). This led to a pretty hysterical revolving door of show coats, martingales, and boots. But we figured it all out!
Lucky me – I have video of our derby trip too!
Thoughts on this: I really need to get my act together when the first jump is a long approach oxer away from home, apparently. But honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how he went around. He was super adjustable, flowed well, carried a nice steady rhythm without needing too much from me, and was a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
I was extremely pleased with our base score of 72, with the two high options giving us a score of 74. We held on to a top 12 spot for much longer than I thought we would before the cutoff for the handy rose above a 74! With almost 60 in the class, there were some truly gorgeous rounds that got some very high scores. Overall, I’m delighted. We’re never going to be truly competitive in that ring with Frankie’s movement and his lack of desire to try very hard at that height, but we sure are having fun learning how to show ourselves off to best advantage.
We then did our costume change and headed over for our equitation on the flat class! Nothing too crazy here – they had us sit the trot for a while, and show a lengthening at the trot (we may have broken into a canter for a stride going to the right oops). I definitely need to polish myself back up, but was able to snag an 8th place and a ribbon! Ain’t mad about that.
We then had our VHSA adult medal class, which was super fun. Frankie gave me all the cool inside turns, sat down and waited to the base for me, and didn’t even mind when I took him on a track that meant I had to duck under the branches of a tree. He was definitely getting tired at this point though, and I had to really kick hard for the lead changes. I think I should get bonus points for literally carrying him through those because homeboy was not offering them up in the least.
I thought it was a solid, workmanlike trip but nothing stellar. I was very surprised to be called back to test in 4th (this class has the option to test the top 4)! The test was pretty simple: canter directly to an outside single, rollback to an oxer, rollback to a trot fence, rollback to a long approach oxer towards home, then show the sitting trot to the in-gate.
I am a noodle brain and completely forgot the sit trot to the gate, but other than that it was a great test! I think if I had remembered that dang trot, we may even have moved up. But considering this was my first time having to test in a solid 12 years, I’m really very happy with it.
I then got to spend the rest of the day cheering on friends and relaxing again. It was lovely.
Thoughts on the show as a whole: I own a unicorn. He truly is incredible. I also think that with some practice and polish on my part, we’re going to be really strong competitors in the adult equitation. Trainer agreed, and mentioned that Frankie looks super handy and capable in that ring, and it’s something that he can excel at with the lifestyle he’s leading right now. He’s obviously fantastic in the jumper ring, but that does require us to keep him more conditioned and fired up, which is something that I don’t really have the capacity for right now. He’s really fitting into the equitation very naturally, and it’s a ring that’s very familiar to me as well.
I don’t know when our next show will be – I’m travelling a lot in July and August – but I think we’ve found a solid groove to work in.
As always, feeling so grateful for an amazing barn family, an amazing group of horses, incredibly supportive and encouraging trainers, and for my darling Francis. Every day gets better and better with him
Apologies for the week delay on this post! In a nutshell – I got home from the show Sunday evening, left first thing on Monday morning for a staff retreat in Maryland, got back home from that Wednesday evening, spent Thursday after work finishing all my schoolwork for this term, then promptly got sick with a killer cold on Friday and spent 90% of my long weekend either in bed or on the couch.
It’s been a busy week.
But I can’t leave you hanging forever, because I seriously had SO MUCH FUN at this show! If you’re connected with me on Facebook or Insta then you’ve already seen some of the adorable pictures that came out of it.
The high-level recap: we ended up doing the hunter derby and Adult Medals, Francis was mildly bemused at first that it wasn’t time for zoomies, but by the end was absolutely delighting in his new job.
We just did a short lesson on Thursday in one of the hunter rings to let Frankie know he could open up his step. We kept it fairly short and sweet since he was jumping so well and flowing so nicely. We’ve worked so so hard to tell him to collect and fire more up-and-down, and I think it was refreshing for him to be told to move more across the ground like that. It was definitely useful to play with his stride to figure out where to place him. In the jumper ring I always have to shorten him up since we’re galloping, but his natural stride length was actually spot on in the lines for the hunter ring. I just needed to keep my leg on to help him balance, rate him a bit towards home, and encourage him to keep a steady pace and he took care of the rest.
Then Friday was derby day!! We did go in to do a 2’6″ schooling round first thing in the morning, just so he could get a chance to see the ring. I’m never worried about him spooking, but I figured with a big class like the derby with a lot of commotion, I’d rather do everything I can to set him up for success.
As you can imagine, he was downright adorable in the 2’6″. I don’t think he’s ever actually shown that low, and he was probably thinking that his blessed retirement was upon him.
Unfortunately for him, he’s still young and healthy and while I’m happy to step down to the 3′ for now, I’m not quite ready to step all the way back down. Sorry dude. Because it was time to get braided and primped and shiny and shad-ed up for the derby!!
As an extra special treat, I actually have video from the derby! So I’ll keep my comments brief.
And thanks to my favoritest barn mom/photographer/bestie/wine sharer/snarkfest, we have some pictures to share from derby day too!!
Brief comments: first jump was a little sticky as I figured out my striding, and definite wobbles here and there while I figured out what horse I had underneath me and Frankie figured out that there was not actually a time to beat. An unlucky rail where he simply didn’t bother to pick his feet up all the way so our score was appropriately low, but overall I’m tickled with our first attempt. I learned a ton about how to adjust my ride and I think next time we’ll do even better!
The next day, we were up bright and early to do our two adult equitation medals (I think it was the Dover and the MHSA if I remember correctly?). Sadly no media from those two trips, but I was very very happy with both of them. In the first we got called back in to test on the flat, and were able to move up from fourth to third! We got a shmancy medal for that one. The second trip was overall more balanced and a better showing, but we did have a little weak spot into the two-stride that bumped us down to fifth. Entirely fair, we were up against some strong competition! We were able to do some really cool inside turns with our track that I think showed us both off to best effect.
I had originally planned on doing the Low Adults over in the jumper ring that afternoon, but I definitely had a tired horse under me. Neither of us are in the best physical condition, the temperature was quickly rising, and so I opted to scratch our jumper class (knowing that it meant we would not be eligible for the classic the next day). While a bummer to miss the classic, it definitely felt like the right choice to make sure Frankie wasn’t getting overworked.
This meant that the next day we just had our Ariat Adult Medal first thing in the morning! Lucky us – one of our barnmates woke up early too so they could come video and cheer us on. And also lucky us – Austen was there too!!
And lucky us, they got to witness me LOSE MY MIND ENTIRELY OH MY LANTA.
OK so you know how I go to horse shows pretty regularly? Like, not as often as some, but more often than many. I’ve done this before. I know the drill. I can get myself and my horse to the ring looking good and on time. No big deal.
EXCEPT APPARENTLY IT IS A BIG DEAL AND I CAN DO NONE OF THESE THINGS BECAUSE I LITERALLY FORGOT TO PUT MY NUMBER ON. AND THEN WHEN THEY SAID WHATEVER JUST GO IN THE RING AND TELL US YOUR NUMBER, I TOLD THEM THE WRONG ONE.
This was caught on video that will certainly be turned into a reaction gif sometime soon. Just wow. Why am I like this.
Anyways, we did go in and put in a pretty decent trip actually.
Again, not perfect, but I think it showed steady improvement day over day. They had everyone back in to flat (AT WHICH POINT I DID HAVE A NUMBER ON) and I pulled a sixth here. I do think our flatwork should have bumped us up a place or two (there was a decent amount of crowhopping and swapped leads among our competitors), but I’m just happy they let me continue despite my absolute ammy potato brain!
I’ll close out by saying that I think it worked out for the best that we stuck in the eq ring instead of going back and forth to the jumpers. Frankie is a great learner with repetition, and maintaining the same expectations for his pace and rhythm over the course of the weekend 100% helped it *click* for him. By the last day, he very noticeably understood the game much better and I was able to sit and equitate instead of having to manage him.
I’ll also add that I think the equitation/medals is a really bright spot for Frankie and I. The courses are interesting enough to keep him focused and attentive, the jumps are low enough that he doesn’t have to work too hard, and the striding is very suited to his natural way of going.
We have Loudoun Benefit coming up in a few weeks, and I’m excited to go do a similar mishmash with him! Love love love my happy, sweet, game, wonderful steed.
Guys, we went and competed for the first time SINCE LAST JUNE!!! This is by far the longest break Frankie’s had since he came home with me three years ago. While I’m glad we took a little break and I had a ton of fun with my lease mare in Ohio, I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear the buzzer go off with my very favorite horse in the world.
This was a nice soft re-entry to showing for us – we shipped in for the day so it wasn’t a huge long weekend of competing, and just signed up for some 0.90m and 1.0m classes. The plan was to go in for the 0.90m and see how we felt, and continue on to the 1.0m depending on how much energy we had in the tank and how good we were feeling in the ring.
I’ll be honest, I had to give myself a little kick in the seat for a moment. We’ve spent two solid seasons in the 1.10-1.15m classes, and at first I felt a bit silly stepping all the way back to 0.90m. I pretty quickly realized that was my own pride talking, and that emotion has no place in this sport. Neither of us is in peak condition, we’re both rusty in some skills, and this was our first outing of a new season. Keeping the jumps at a height that was very solidly in our comfort zone set us up for a low-stress, confidence-boosting outing. And I’m really glad we did that! It worked just as intended and let us both get out there without pushing unnecessarily hard.
We started off with our 0.90m classes, with our first speed round here:
And our second jumpoff round here:
We warmed up in the pouring rain and despite the weather and the activity, I could literally feel him sharpen up and focus. He very definitely knew he was at a show.
We also then walked in the ring and I almost fell off when he spooked at the starting buzzer. We all started cackling because he was just like WAIT WHAT TIME TO GO LET’S GET OUTTA HERE but is a notoriously bad spooker. As in, he’s very bad at spooking. He doesn’t really commit. The poor guy hasn’t heard a buzzer in nine months, but luckily it must’ve jogged his memory. Once I got my stirrups back he was asking me to go!
I won’t dissect my rounds too much, but I will say that they’re two of the best rounds I’ve ever had in the show ring. Frankie could not have been better: forward, hunting down the jumps, adjustable, jumping well, eager to work, and a downright pleasure to ride. Every single spot flowed up effortlessly because we had such a useful canter to adjust from around the entire course. He gave me every single thing I asked for and felt excited to go do his work.
Even missing one of the inside turns in our speed round got us 3rd (yay speedy Francis!), and an unlucky rail in our second round bumped us to 7th. I ain’t mad, he just got a little traily with his hind end at one jump and the rest of the round was picture perfect. I was beaming.
At that point, I knew that we could go in and beast the 1.0m classes but opted to scratch and be done for the day. He had just given me two beautiful rounds and showed no signs of being tired, so I wanted to keep this as fun and positive and rewarding as possible for him. I had somehow forgotten the way he struts when he’s proud of himself – he absolutely marched back to his stall visibly pleased with himself and being extra playful with me.
I’m absolutely on cloud nine from these rounds. I had very moderate expectations going in – I fully expected our first round to be a little sticky as we both remembered how to navigate. He’d been suuuuper lazy and sluggy the entire week prior, so I was ready to need to really kick him on.
Nope. Right out of the gate, he knew exactly what he was doing. He went around like he shows every single weekend.
Sometimes I think he must read this blog. Remember when I told you that my lease mare in Ohio made me realize how much work Frankie is? I feel like eating those words now. The input I was giving him was so much more subtle than it’s ever had to be, because he had it covered. Based on how sore I am today I know I must’ve been working hard in the moment, but it didn’t feel like work at the time. It felt like a really wonderful back-and-forth as we helped each other out around the course. I’m proud of the way I rode and adjusted to the horse I had under me so that we could support each other like that.
I’m also endlessly grateful that he’s such an easy traveler. We had a lot of difficulties getting another horse on the trailer in the morning, and Frankie handled the commotion around that without blinking. He walked right on and off the trailer, hung out in his stall drinking and eating, and marched right back on the trailer at the end of the day.
I may be projecting, but he seemed happy to get off property and go on a little adventure for the day. He was in full Happy Francis mode all day even in the rain, and just felt good.
Overall, a fantastic re-entry to the show ring with the actual best horse on the planet. I’m so glad we had the chance to get back out there together and have fun! Our tentative plan is to do Blue Rock mid-May, and I’m also planning to do Upperville in early June (duh, can’t miss Upperville). Depending on my school schedule and finances, I’d also love to do Loudoun Benefit the week after Upperville – my trainer and I discussed the possibility of doing the jumpers at Upperville, but then trying out some of the Adult Eq/Medals during LB. I’d love to explore some different types of classes with Frankie!
I’m nursing my horse show hangover but I already can’t wait for the next time. Three years in, and this horse still blows me away every time.
Y’all can’t keep me away from a fun blog hop just because I’m not an eventer! Out of the shows I’ve gotten to attend there is such a clear favorite in my mind that I just have to share.
If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you already know that I’m talking about Upperville. (And to a similar extent Loudoun Benefit, which is held on the same showgrounds the following week).
In my world, Upperville is basically an immovable holiday. I change flights, I take time off of work, I have my dude move me out of apartments for me, all for the sake of Upperville.
Of course I love it for a lot of the technical aspects: the footing is absolutely fantastic and meticulously maintained, the course design is always fair but challenging, and the staff is friendly and professional.
It also has old tent stalls with very few outlets, insanely chaotic warmup rings, and takes place during the heat of the Virginia summer.
I’ll never say that it’s perfect.
But there’s just something so special about it. By unspoken agreement, everyone pulls out all the stops for their aisle-fronts: gleaming wooden tack trunks, coordinating banners, fresh mulch, piles of flowers, wrought-iron fences, bubbling fountains (yes, really). The jumps are full of lush greenery in the hunter rings and beautiful shapes and colors in the jumper ring.
There are the side-saddle and hunt classes with so much tradition on display. The hunters are some of the most beautiful animals I’ve had the pleasure of seeing go around – and watching them along with the commentary of my trainer (a hunter R judge) turns it into a learning experience. The classic lime ices are perfect on a humid morning. I can ride a track in the same ring as McLain, on the very same day.
Add to this that Upperville is about 30 minutes from our home stable, and there’s definitely a sense of hometown pride to it. The rolling fields adjacent to the showgrounds are perfect for cooling out in view of the rolling hills.
And they make a perfect backdrop for photos.
Upperville isn’t my favorite because it’s objectively the best show. WEC has nicer stalls, Swan Lake has great footing too, McDonogh is super accessible, Culpeper has more step-up classes, Lake Placid has the most stunning vistas, Ocala has better weather. There’s been plenty to love at all of these shows and we’ve had great experiences at all of them.
For me, Upperville is different. It’s where Frankie and I tackled our first 1.15m class as a team, where he beat ML in a 1.20m class, and where I felt truly competitive for the first time despite being out of the ribbons.
Whenever non-horsey friends and family ask if they can come watch me ride, the only one I suggest they attend is Upperville. Other facilities host competitions. Upperville is truly a horse show that’s a blast for competitors and spectators alike.
My show season is very light this year due to classes starting up in the spring, but there’s no way Frankie and I could miss our 4th opportunity to get back on that showground.
I’ll be honest with all y’all, I had a hard time sitting down to write this post. Not for any emotional reason – like I said earlier, I had a total blast and was super happy with my rounds, learned a ton, etc. But as this blog has grown and evolved, I’ve moved away from a round-by-round analysis as my own mindset and training philosophies have changed. I find it much more useful to consider a show as a whole and look for patterns, rather than fully dissecting what went right or wrong in each round. That worked fantastically for me for a long time and I’m glad I did it, but times and perspectives change.
That being said, I do want to share some of the course diagrams with you, talk about what I found good and bad in there, talk about some of those patterns that I noticed throughout the week, and a bit about the competition itself.
First I’ll kick off by talking about Tuesday and Wednesday, where I didn’t show but I did hop on for a brief lesson with Belle. We were able to go into the Sanctuary (the big jumper ring) both days to string together a few jumps instead of being stuck on a single in the warmup ring, but no full courses either day. Basically my thoughts are that I don’t particularly like flatting this horse. There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s not trying to do anything bad, but it wasn’t fun and interesting in the way it is with Frankie. She had a very VERY clear attitude that it was a necessary evil to get out of the way. But once we started jumping? Big fat grin on my face. She was a BLAST. Much much more forward than I’m used to and much harder to pull up off the last fence, but she locked on and carried me every step. I felt much more confident about heading into the show ring with her on Thursday.
Notice how similar they are? Honestly these are both basically hunter courses with some combos and an end jump thrown in: bending, outside, bending, outside. Not a ton of places for inside turns which is fine, they were just schooling rounds to get used to the ring and each other. Clear in the first round and a single rail in the second where I didn’t quite give a generous enough release. I noticed that we had a pretty strong right drift, which is interesting to me since Frankie has such a strong left drift.
This was also my first full round jumping 1.0m since probably August or September, since Frankie and I haven’t jumped at height in a good long time! I definitely got a bit fetal in places when she jumped hard, but by the end I was feeling much more confident about the height and it wasn’t an issue again.
This was another really soft course in my eyes. There really isn’t that much to say, it’s another glorified hunter course. I had to sit back pretty hard in the lines to help her fit it in, but she went clear for another blue ribbon round.
I was hoping that the division courses might be a little more intense, but I didn’t really get my wish. I had one rail at 10a that I’m actually not at all mad about – she was trying to blow through my hand and leave a stride out to the combo (UM NO MA’AM) and I had to check her pretty hard to get her back under me. Checking her earlier would’ve saved the rail, but I’m glad we at least got the job done and rode the striding. That rail was enough to bump us to 5th out of I think 8th. I’m thrilled that we weren’t last considering how rusty I was!
I forgot to take a picture of the course for our speed round on Saturday, but I have something better: video! Monica came for a visit and was there to see us go in the ring. Funnily enough, this was probably the round that I was least happy with all week. Still happy with it in many parts, but there were several sticky moments where Belle 100% bailed me out of trouble.
She was definitely the most tired in this round out of the entire week, and I didn’t adjust my riding enough to that. You can see that 2 was an OHCRAP moment, we left one out for a launcher at 6, and it was a bit of a wrestle to fit in the stride to the last jump. Other than that, there were some great moments! You can definitely see that right drift, and me doing approximately zero to correct it. Womp. Overall her majesty did manage to take us clear and fast, and she earned us a second place in this round. Queen Mare is a Queen.
Also this was my first show with my hair in a braid and I hate how it looks swinging around so BRB going to chop it all off.
Which brings us to classic day! I was expecting a tired pony again, but certainly did not get it. I think only doing one class on Saturday was just enough of a break for her.
Everything rode in a 7 here. Legit every related track you see was a 7 stride (except 3-4 which was 8. But that I rode in a 7). I was super bummed to have a rail at fence 1 – I think I just didn’t help get her eyes on it quickly enough, because it was a good spot and she jumped well out of stride. Other than that, this course rode wonderfully and was our best one of the week. I was able to rate her stride to get just the jumps I wanted, I controlled the right drift at least a little, and our turns were super efficient.
Luckily, tons of other people got rails in this class too (I mean, luckily for me, not for them). Only two people made it to the jump off and we were the fastest 4-faulters, which earned us a big pretty yellow ribbon!
I’m beyond thrilled with all of these placings. I was able to knock the rust off after over 7 months out of the show ring, navigate at 1.0m on a strange horse with some solid rounds, and felt confident and positive all week long.
I’m so happy that we had Belle in the barn, not only for me but for her. She got to have turnout every day which is unusual for her, we got her a massage on Saturday, and she was fed and groomed and loved on with a lot of care and attention. Our barn has a reputation for returning our leases in better shape than we got them, and she 100% deserved that as well. She had to put up with a lot with a rusty ammy in the irons, so I’m glad she seemed to enjoy pampering that came along with it.
This was exactly the show that I needed to boost my confidence and make showing fun again after a season of some pretty intense burnout. I’m feeling great and ready to get back out there with my bestest boy to tackle some new adventures!
Not getting into the actual show recap quite yet, I just want to talk about how different this year felt compared to last year. I’ve been to plenty of shows over multiple years (HITS, Upperville), but having to travel out this far is a different ballgame. There were some nice changes in the facility as some construction has completed (the vendor area is stunning), but it felt like I hadn’t even left. Like, it was creepy. It’s been a full year. But even though it felt like I had never left, this week was completely different from last year’s outing. Completely 100% different.
For one, I stayed on my own offsite in a hotel, not on the grounds. While it was still only 10 minutes away, it meant that I did all my work in my hotel room instead of working from the barn. Much more separation than before. It also gave more separation to heading back and forth from the show – I didn’t feel like I was on the grounds 24/7 like last time, which was a nice change. Having my own room also gave me much more alone time in the evenings, which this outgoing introvert thrives on.
We were also in a completely different barn! Last year we were in M, and this year we were in A. Check the map below and you can see that they literally could not be further apart.
It was lovely though, we got our own spacious aisle and even turnout!! This was my one big gripe last year, that the ponies didn’t have any time to go play and stretch their legs. We had to rotate them through so it wasn’t a full day like they get at home, but a huge huge huge improvement over none at all. I think it really helped them stay fresh. (Interesting side note – we were the only ones using turnout. I found that absolutely wild)
I also showed up suuuuper early in the week and was the only client there for a solid 3 days. I opted to drive out on President’s Day since my office was closed, so I could work remotely Tues-Wed and then take Thurs-Fri off completely. It meant a few extra nights in a hotel, but was totally worth the savings on vacation time. It was super leisurely for those few days: I did my work during the day, then headed over to the barn to lesson, clean tack, hang out with my trainer and AT. No stress no fuss. It’s not often that I get to be the only client and I obviously adore my barn fam, but there was something really chill about having such an open schedule for the first few days.
Of course probably the biggest difference is that I was riding a different horse. I haven’t shown another horse since before I bought Frankie back in 2016! I leased a gorgeous mare named Belle, a 17yo Selle Francais who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and leads tours. No joke, this mare is the ultimate definition of a packer. She self-adjusted, aimed herself at the jumps, found her own spots, maintained her own forward (and hoo boy was she a rocket), and was generally self-sufficient with very little needed from me.
I’ll be honest, riding something like this kinda opened my eyes to how hard I need to work with Francis. Obviously he’s still my favorite ride and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do have to be giving him constant input. Constant. Belle did not require input beyond pointing her at the jumps and encouraging her to fit the last stride in, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve completely dropped the reins and she still would’ve found her way around the course.
So another big difference was that the pressure was off. I did some 0.85m classes as a warmup to get to know each other, then stuck in the Lows for my division. No pressure to do any big jumps. As long as I released, Belle jumped a 10 from any spot. And it wasn’t my horse. I had nothing to prove. She wasn’t even a sales horse, where I might’ve felt pressure to show well to help her resume. Her entire job is to take people like me and give them a safe and enjoyable ride in the jumper ring.
While I certainly missed my big bay beast, he was very happy back at home – fully recovered from his heel grab – and I was thrilled the get the chance to learn how to adjust my ride to something so completely different.
Overall it was a much more relaxing trip than last year, and I had a much more enjoyable time. So much so that I was sad to leave on Sunday! I know that doing another week would’ve been too much (contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes learn from experience), but it was hard to pull myself away to head back to reality.
A week or two ago I mentioned that I asked my trainer for a quote to attend WEC again in February.
And if you all know me at all, you know that my willpower hovers between “non-existent” and “will disappear with any passing breeze.” So clearly once I ask for a quote it’s all over from there.
But I knew that I definitely didn’t want to compete for two weeks again. Last year it became way more of an endurance test than actual fun, and I’m all about having fun in 2019. But for Frankie to go, he needed to be there the full two weeks my barn is attending- they’re not able to trailer back and forth due to the distance.
So with all that in mind, I came up with a couple different scenarios:
Scenario 1: bring Frankie, and commute out for both weekends. It’s a long drive but not a terribly difficult one, and it would be possible for me to drive out Wednesday night, school Thursday, compete Fri-Sun, then drive home. Then I wouldn’t be staying full time and I’d get to have my own horse, but it meant paying for a full two weeks for Frankie, and extra gas/hotel costs for me.
Scenario 2: lease a horse there. Then I could just go for one week no problem, not have to trailer out a horse, and could spend the shipping money on a lease fee instead. The obvious risk here is that I’d end up with a horse that I didn’t really like, but I’m fairly easy to get along with and my trainer has a proven record of finding me great horses quickly.
Scenario 3: See if we can find a leaser for Francis for the second week. In-barn, so that he could stay under my trainer’s watchful care. This would mean I could have my own horse, only have to pay for one week of care, and have a lease fee to help cover some of those costs. This would rely on Trainer having a client who was A) looking for a lease and B) comfortable and able to ride the Frankenbean.
I eliminated Scenario 1 pretty much off the bat. It was by far the most expensive option, and I hate being in the car any longer than I have to. I also don’t know that I’d want to compete for two weekends in a row- I’m a tired whiny baby and need my recovery time.
So knowing that I only wanted 1 week, my decision hinged on finding a leaser for Frankie. But we really did’t have the biggest pool of people going to Ohio, and while Frankie is a good boy, he also takes a rider who is willing to kick. When we weren’t able to find a solid in-house lease option for him, we decided to leave him at home for a brief vacation and find me a lease horse!
While of course I always want Frankie there, I’m super excited about this- I’ll get to test my skills on a new mount and try some classes I might not otherwise try, and it takes all pressure off my performance. Seriously if anything is less than perfect you know I’ll be using the excuse “oh this is only my 3rd ride on him.” I am not above that, I am petty and obnoxious.
The specifics of what classes I’ll be signing up for remain to be seen, but my hotel is booked for WEC 9 and I’ll be comin’ in hot. If you’re even remotely in the area, let me know! Mystery Horse and I would love to hang ❤