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 ❤

It’s ShowTime

I have two big things I wanted to share, so let’s start with the best one first!!

Our darling girl has officially made it to her first horse show. Evangeline went in for her first leadline class under the oaks at Upperville, and it was everything I was dreaming of from literally the day I found out I was pregnant.

Like. The cuteness. I cannot.

Y’all haven’t seen cute until you’ve seen a size 18M show coat. We did have to get a little creative: her bows simply attached to her helmet because she has such short hair, and her “paddock boots” are just toddler shoes with brown laces instead of the sparkly pink they came with, and her breeches are knee patch pants. But the show shirt and coat and helmet and garters are all genuine show clothes made in a tiny size!! And do you see that little itty bitty saddle?!

We were lucky enough to borrow the sweetest little pony mare who was beyond gentle and careful with Lina. My dad came down to be her other handler, and she was so happy to have her Colonel close by (in full Colonel dress, no less). Yes, all the grandkids call him Colonel. It’s hilarious. I also got to wear an absolutely enormous hat, so I’m very happy.

It was utter chaos. 10/10 would totally do again.
Also hilarious that they had full size numbers for the little kids. It was literally the size of her entire torso.

Overall, it was such a fun experience that I definitely hope to repeat next year. Lina has been carrying around her pretty rainbow ribbon ever since, she loved waving at her adoring fans lining the ring, she giggled when she pat her pony’s nose, it was simply heartwarming. I was hoping she’d have as much fun participating as I did preparing, and thankfully that was the case!

And now that Evangeline’s show debut has happened, we’re turning our attention towards my own re-debut! Francois and I will be competing at Loudoun Benefit this weekend, and I am vibrating with anticipation.

The OG readers may remember that Loudoun was our very first show together when I got him back in 2016. We’re both older and wiser (questionable) now, and it’ll be super fun for this to be our re-entry to the show world.

In the spirit of not being an entire idiot, we decided to do the 0.90m class on Friday to see where we’re at. Depending on how that feels, we’ll either stick in the 0.90m classes for the weekend or head into the 1m Low Adults for Saturday/Sunday. The only reason I super want to do the Lows is because both Sat/Sun are speed classes (and you all know I love a good speed class), but really I’ll be happy either way. We’ve got nothing to prove, nothing to qualify for, we’re just here for a good time.

We’ve been schooling some decent height in our last couple lessons and it has all felt beyond easy for Frankie, so I know he’ll be good to go for whatever height we end up doing. My eye isn’t as rusty as I thought and I’m feeling stronger every ride! Francisco literally feels the best he’s ever felt right now in terms of muscling and fitness and rideability – I was joking that we should throw him in the 1.10m classes at Tryon if he’s gonna make this all look so easy.

Bad photo. Good horse.

I’m joking. Probably.

But in all seriousness, I feel really really prepared and excited going into this show. A few friends expressed some gentle concern when I mentioned my plan to get back in the show ring so soon after getting back in the saddle, and I will fully admit that it was an aggressive timeline, but now that we’re here it feels extremely comfortable.

My trunk is packed, Francois heads over to the show tomorrow, and I can’t wait to share updates!

Loudoun Benefit 2019

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.

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Overall thoughts: I literally rode him to nothing at that first jump. I was just happily sitting up there and did. zero. things.

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FRANCIS TAKE THE WHEEL WE’RE GOIN FOR THE LONG ONE. 

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.

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Look at how happy he is. Just look at him.

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Ignore my questionable position here and just admire the scenery and cute horse.

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.

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This is God’s country

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!

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It’s really a shame that Frankie gets so keyed up before we go in the ring. You can just see it in his expression.

Lucky me – I have video of our derby trip too!

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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.

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Does he have the tightest form? No way. Does he have the sweetest expression? For sure.

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Seriously I know he’s basically cantering over this but his little ears and little nose are just the cutest I’ve ever seen.

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.

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Took the high option here, and Francisco was not particularly bothered

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.

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Very proud of our ribbon!

I then got to spend the rest of the day cheering on friends and relaxing again. It was lovely.

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I wanted to take his braids out, he wanted to nap. We compromised and did both at the same time. He kept trying to lay his head on my legs for snugs.

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

 

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He is beauty, he is grace

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BUT WHAT EVEN IS THIS LLAMA FACE