WEC 2019 vs. 2018 Comparison

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.

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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.

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As the resident tall girl, I was in charge of hanging all the ribbons throughout the week. This is my aesthetic.

 

 

 

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.

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She was also a VERY sweet girl with some of the best ground manners I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Her only little quirk is that she’d get spooky walking back from the ring. All business on the way there to warm up, but she knew when she was done and started giving everything the hairy eyeball. Funny mare.

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.

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Clear schooling round meant a blue ribbon, and Big Lady knew she earned that for me.

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.

IalsoboughtbeautifulbreechesIhaveaproblemit’sfinethingsarefine

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World’s most supportive husband right here

Next up I’ll write about some of our rides, and do a bit more cohesive recap of how the week went!

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WEC Take 2

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.

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Honestly a solid 85% of my decisions are based on FOMO with this crew

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.

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This face represents how I feel about driving to Ohio voluntarily twice in a row (no offense to my Ohio peeps but I have an irrational antipathy to your state)

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.

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Must be a horse that I can teach the course to by showing him the course diagram as such

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.

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He literally did the pleasure classes 2 weeks after Lake Placid, he’s not exactly difficult to figure out

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!

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It’s a good thing he gets a vacation because he gets SO INCREDIBLY STRESSED at shows. Clearly.

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 ❤

Three Ring Francis

The Big Guy had his field trip last week! He and one of our lovely junior riders went out and competed in all three rings: they did the 0.85m and 0.95m jumpers, the 3′ equitation classes, and the 3′ children’s hunter division. CHECK THE CUTENESS:

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A REAL LIFE TAIL BRAID
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Nah it’s cool I’m not crying or anything
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When did he learn to jump so cute?!

I’m not comfortable sharing pics of a minor without their/their parent’s consent and I’m too lazy to edit more emoji faces into the pictures, but rest assured that I have lots and lots of pics of the Frankfurter being adorable.

Apparently he had a few rails in the hunter classes, because natural fill is a real snoozefest. But the videos I saw were really lovely- she rode him beautifully, very steady and consistent. And the two of them got 3rd in one of their 0.95m jumper classes- this maaaay have actually been her first foray into the jumper ring. So happy that Frankie could share his awesomeness ❤ Trainer said he was “wonderful” so I’m just bursting with pride at that.

Also never fear, I got plenty of nap pics of him. He certainly wasn’t worked up that I wasn’t there.

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Screenshot from a video of one of the girls snuggin’ on him. Tough life, dude.

I felt a bit like a parent who had a kid away at summer camp- it was odd to not go to the barn at all after work. I don’t plan to make a habit of that, but it was nice to have a break to catch up on things!

And getting to catch up on things while Frankie got to go play with a talented rider, in some new rings, under the trusted supervision of my trainers? It doesn’t get much better.

I can’t wait to go out and love on my 3-ring creature! A break was nice, but I miss my giant four-legged buddy.

Frankie’s Future

As I start to think about my own future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means for Frankie’s future and how best to ensure that it’s a happy and safe one.

Because while I’m optimistic that Frankie will be able to cart me around 1.20m, I think that will be about as far as I’m willing to push him. Could he have scope for the 1.25m? Maybe. I know he would try his heart out. But as the jumps go up the courses also get more technical, and I want to be very conscious to not overface him with something that will knock his confidence. He’ll be 12 this year and I want him to have a long and sound career, so we may start backing him off height-wise after this season depending on how things go and how he feels. I’m not committing to that yet, but it’s something we’re constantly monitoring and considering.

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This was set to somewhere between 1.15-1.20m and clearly he wasn’t maxed out. So who knows how high he’ll end up taking me!

At the same time, I do want to compete in the AOs, hopefully up to the 1.30-1.40m height. Not tomorrow, but eventually. Which most likely means means a second horse. I cannot afford two horses. All of which means Frankie will need to earn his own keep.

Selling him is not my first choice (or second or third or fourth…)- he’s absolutely worth his weight in gold and eventually I want to teach my kids how to ride on his steady safe back (FAR IN THE FUTURE SO FAR IN THE FUTURE). He’s such an incredibly special horse and I don’t plan on letting go of him unless it was to a situation where I knew his life would be better than the one I can provide for him.

But leasing him out is on the table- ideally to a tall junior or ammy in the barn who is looking for a safe fun ride in the jumper ring. I’d prefer in-barn just so I could see him and know that he would still be under my trainer’s excellent care, but we do have some trusted contacts in the area that would be options. Trainer and I have discussed this possibility moving forward, and we had an interesting conversation on what type of person would do best with him.

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Darn this kid for getting her own horse, she’s SO GOOD with Frankie and he adores her. Think I can convince her mom to lease a second horse??

She commented that he’s not so good for a nervous rider. I was a little surprised by that, since he’s so so so steady and safe- all things nervous riders are usually reassured by. But she reminded me that Frankie is definitely a kick ride. He’s happy to gallop up to the big fences- but only if you tell him to. If someone is nervous and starts picking at his face, he is more than happy to oblige by coasting to a slower rhythm, at which point he physically can’t make it over the bigger jumps. I can hold his face all I want to package him up, but only if I’m backing it up with a crapton of leg to maintain the power in his stride, and it is definitely a workout. He does best with someone whose first instinct at all times is to KICK JUST KEEP KICKING. He is the epitome of the phrase “the right answer is ALWAYS more leg.”

So if someone wanted to do the Highs with him, it would have to be someone who has strong legs and isn’t a puller. Not because he gets offended by pulling, but because he thinks slowing down is great and would love the excuse. Even at 1m where he’s now super comfortable, he does best with a foot constantly on the gas pedal. He’s never been the type of horse to pull you to the jump.

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This effort was a result of me heartily utilizing some mondo spurs and squeezing until I couldn’t feel my legs. Time to wake up, Francis.

On the flip side, we could probably stick anyone on him to do the lower level jumpers/3′ equitation. Homeboy can hop those fences from a standstill, so it don’t matter if you pull. He’ll pack around the smaller jumps no matter what his rider is doing (ask me how I know, womp womp). So he could potentially be a great match for someone wanting an intro to the jumper ring, even if they are a nervous picker.

These aren’t decisions we have to make right now, as I plan to enjoy the heck out of this show season with him. As always, we’ll keep an eye on him to see what he’s telling us he wants to do, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Things have a way of changing, no matter what the best laid plans may be. Our number one priority at all times is making sure we have a healthy happy Francis! I just love the snot out of this horse.

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Sweetest orange snoot!