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!
And they’ve opted to not include the Low Ch/AA Jumper division this year.
Basically what this means is that if I want to compete at Upperville, my options are to (A) compete Monday-Wednesday in the schooling open classes at 1.0m or (B) leg back up to the 1.10-1.15m to do the Highs.
As much as I’d love to say that we can leg back up, I’m not sure that’s realistic for us right now. Classes are starting next week and I’m sure that will impact my ability to ride super often, and that height is challenging enough for us that we need to be at our peak to be successful. Frankie is wonderful at picking up the slack for me when I need it, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask him to pick up quite so much slack.
And competing earlier in the week is much harder for my working schedule than it is to take a long weekend. I can usually rearrange my schedule to minimize PTO hours when I take a Friday off, but there’s no such flexibility on other days. I’m intentionally hoarding vacation days for our honeymoon in August(!!), so this is a tough option.
So for all my love of Upperville, it’s looking like it’s not in the cards for us this year. I know they were looking for ways to streamline the schedule, but I am bummed they chose to do it by eliminating the division I was hoping to compete in.
What this means for our show schedule is that we’ll do Blue Rock at Swan Lake in May, then do Loudoun Benefit in June. Not sure if we’ll stick with the jumpers, or maybe throw a derby or some eq classes in there for funsies.
After that? It’s gonna be reeeeal quiet on the show front for us. July is hot enough that I don’t particularly like showing in VA then (and summer term means I can’t jet off to Lake Placid again sadly), I’ll be gone on our honeymoon during the bigger shows in August, and then we’re already into the fall.
Ah well. Such is life.
I’m excited for classes to start and figure out what that means for my riding schedule, my social schedule, my sleep schedule. It may mean fewer shows than I’d prefer, but I knew there would be tradeoffs when I decided to go back to school. I’ll still get to enjoy my favorite horse and I know he’ll be happy and ready for whatever adventures present when the time is right!
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.
Phew. Last show of the season is in the books. And I can’t tell you how depressed I am to say “last show of the season” because y’all know that shows are my actual favorite things on the planet.
For realz. Rain and mud and early wakeup times and porta-potties and no sleep and sweat and all that included. A bad day at a horse show is still better in my book than just about any other day. I love the competitive spirit, I love the camaraderie with my barn, I love the people I meet there. I would show every single weekend if I had a) the money and b) a string of horses to rotate through.
Anywho, on to the actual show recap instead of just moaning about “but I wannnnaaaaaa.”
Frankie headed to the show on Thursday morning and got a short training ride- Trainer said “he was perfect.” Obviously. And then she sent me this adorable picture of him settling into his stall:
Friday morning dawned wet. I won’t say raining because there were no actual droplets, but it was misting all. Day. Long. The air was wet. Paper was shredding. The ground was soggy. It was gross.
I showed up at the show around 8am Friday morning to get myself settled in and learn my 0.90m course, as follows:
I did like this course- the only turn that came up quickly was the rollback from 9 to 10 in the speed phase. Despite a bit of sloppiness on my part, we went double clear! The footing was a sloppy soupy mess full of puddles which was backing a lot of horses off- the times were slower and more people seemed to be going clean than usual. My guess is that a lot of horses were like EW GROSS PUDDLES MUST FLY but Frankie was more like, “All footing is good footing, friend,” and continued on his merry way.
This was definitely a warmup class though- I didn’t ride actively enough and Frankie had to bail me out on several occasions. My trainer was shouting across the ring, “LEFT LEG MORE,” and “IT MAKES ME NERVOUS WHEN YOU RIDE LIKE THIS,” and other fun little slogans. Honestly I love that the jumper ring allows this, her voice on course is often the kick in the pants I need.
Frankie got a decent break back in his stall to dry out (JK LOL no one was ever dry) before our first Low class, here:
This rode much better, mostly because I actually showed up and rode instead of just steering. The format of this round was if you went clear first round, you take a breather and then continue on to the jumpoff. I went clear and came back to a walk and just stared at my trainer while she signaled “YES STAY IN THE RING YOU HAVE A JUMPOFF.” Cut me some slack, I’m still learning the difference between the stay-in-the-ring buzzer and the leave-immediately buzzer. They seem similar to me.
Anywho, another jumpoff with good time. I did get a little lost and didn’t make the prettiest turn to 3 in the jumpoff which gave us a rail, but overall I was muuuuch happier with this course than the 0.90m. It just felt a little cleaner and more organized.
Frankie got to relax after this while I cheered on our other riders and attempted to get some of the mud off my tack, my boots, my helmet, my eyebrows, and every other crevice. You read that right- there were mud splatters on my helmet. It was as gross and icky feeling as you imagine.
On to Saturday! Still damp but that maddening mist had died down some. Manfriend and his momma came out to see what this whole show thing is all about and it was SO AWESOME to have them there. Neither of them had ever been to a big show like HITS so getting to explain how everything works was super fun. Frankie was soaking up the extra attention from Manfriend’s mom like a sponge- he has a new best friend.
We just did one class on Saturday, seen here:
I needed to look sooner from 2 to 3, and then look sooner around the turn to 4ab. Overall I just needed to look sooner for my turns. This was another really fun one though. The striding came up pretty well and there were lots of options to make up time. We decided to slice jump 12 and go inside to jump 13 instead of going around 7 and that definitely paid off- we went clean all the way around and when we left the ring, we were class leaders! Two others ended up beating our time which edged us down to 3rd, but holy moly! Just goes to show you that Trainer is right- we don’t have to be the fastest horse in the ring to make good time, we just have to be efficient with our turns and come up with a strategy to make up time. Getting a primary color ribbon felt HUGE.
Then Sunday- finally a leeeettle bit less wet. The schedule was a little weird- they had a power and speed class for the Lows, a speed class, and then the Low classic. I really don’t like doing more than 2 classes in a single day with Frankie, so I knew I had to make a choice. I DEFINITELY wanted to do the classic (my whites are lucky, I swear), so I opted to skip the speed class. We are not super speedy anyways.
So first was our power and speed:
I really liked how all the distances were set here- you really had a lot of options from 4-5, 9-10, and 12-13 depending on how you rode in. The turn to the combo 6ab on the end required you to really get straight out of the corner, but Frankie was quite happy to scoot on through. That turn around to 11 came up decently, but I didn’t support enough with my leg which gave us a rail. Overall- not bad! This got us 7th.
And then Classic time. AKA my favorite time. I don’t know why I love classics so much, but I think the added pressure and the pretty whites have something to do with it. We had a pretty brief warmup for this- our warmups tend to get a little bit shorter on Sunday since Frankie is more tired and we’re already mentally in it. I’ll still flat the same amount, but we’ll only do a couple jumps to get our pace.
Here’s our classic course:
Very similar lines and turns to our power and speed earlier in the day. The format was II.2.a, meaning we would do our course and then leave the ring, and they would call back anyone who went clear to do the jumpoff. And whatdya know, we went clear! The turn around to 5 came up even nicer than before and I was able to power across. Overall I felt like I overrode this course a bit, but that’s what Frankie needed. Our energy level always needs to be at 100%, but that isn’t always 50%-50%. By the time Sunday rolls around, I need to pick up some slack and create some of that energy. So yes it was a little aggressively overridden, but that was the right choice for the horse I had under me. Trainer said he had his little ears perked up the whole time and looked like he was having fun. We love it!
So then I went back in for my jumpoff- I got a little sloppy in the turn from 2 to 3 which cost a rail, but the rest came up really nicely and we were able to gallop out of stride out over 13 at the end.
Honestly I was so thrilled with Frankie- he felt fit, energetic, he was rarin’ to go when he heard the buzzer, came right back to a trot on the buckle to leave the ring, and was generally such a pleasure to ride. And my super awesome pony was fast enough to get us 3rd!!!
I was actually tearing up. My hope is always to go out there and give my horse a good ride, so to get a big fancy ribbon for that was such sweet icing on the cake.
Overall thoughts: this past month of training was fantastic. Frankie consistently used his body better over the jumps, jumped cleaner, and felt more fit and energetic. And I felt more fit and active up top too. I would love to keep Frankie in training if I could afford it- definitely will be doing this as a tune-up when we start next season.
One show goal I had was to make it to every jumpoff. I don’t like setting goals like “get 3 blue ribbons” because that depends on other people, and I can’t control that. But making it to every jumpoff was something that my horse and I could work on, and was definitely a stretch goal. We didn’t make it to any our first show, and we only made it to one last time. But we met my goal: we made it to every single jumpoff. This was our real victory- the ribbons are WONDERFUL and I’m so proud of them, but this concrete measure of improvement is what I’m the most proud of.
My trainer told me later that it really looked like I knew what I was doing in there. I joked that I’m faking it better and better, but it did feel like I knew what I was doing. Six months and three shows later, I can very proudly say that Frankie and I are real competitors in our division.
And in case you didn’t get this from the EVERYTHING I SAID, Francis was an absolute prince. Easy to handle, a pleasure to ride, consistent, calm, and straight up fun. He earned himself lots of rolling in the mud and a day to rest.
Today is our first private lesson as we move into winter training mode, and I can’t WAIT to share our adventures as we buckle down and prepare for our big move-up next year. It’s gonna be great.
We opted not to hack Frankie around that morning- he clearly didn’t need the extra exercise to calm him down, and we wanted him a little “fresh” for our speed round later.
Our warmup was much better and closer to what we were looking for: moving up to the close spot and pressing up and over instead of dropping him to the base.
With a good warmup under our belt, we headed into the ring…and proceeded to read Braille around the whole course. Three rails down. Frankie is usually allergic to fences so I always know that any rails down are rider error- in this case, I didn’t rock him back enough. I managed to get the RPMs up where the needed to be and was much more intentional about riding the plan we had walked, but I let him get a little fast and flat in places.
So yeah- three rails isn’t great. But it was a more confidently, strongly ridden course on a horse that felt more “jumper-y” than he had on previous days. I was beaming as I left the ring! You can see Saturday’s post for the video of this round.
One of the many many many things I love about this horse? I can go gallop around a jumper course, and a few short minutes later I can mosey around with him on a long lead after a bath. Homeboy is chill with all of it.
We watched some cute pony hunters go as I attempted to explain the purpose of a fake tail to my godmother, cheered on our junior rider in the Maclay, and headed out to get some shuteye before an early morning- our classic was running first thing on Sunday.
Classic day! And sadly, the last day of the show. Boo.
Since our classic was the first class of the day at 8am and we were 9th in the order, we knew we wanted to walk the course around 7:30 to give us plenty of time to tack up and warm up. I was up before 6. Do not like.
In the true nature of horse shows where something has to go wrong at some point, I lost a glove (we later found it at the hotel, so it wasn’t completely gone, just not available to me at the time). And in the true nature of a fantastic show mom, my momma ran to the first open tack trailer and snagged me a new pair, then jogged them out to the warmup ring. Because she’s an awesome show mom like that.
This was another great warmup- we galloped up to the jumps and got moving quickly. It was one of our shorter warmups because of that; we didn’t need more time to get our butts in gear because our butts already were in gear.
And I’ll just show you our round here:
Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I overrode that first bending line so that he had to pop up and over, I let him get flat out of the one-stride so we knocked the rail on the way out of the four stride, and that last bending line we got a little up on it.
But this was our best round yet. The jumps looked downright teensy, the turns came up, we were straighter to the jumps, we rode the plan, and we had SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, does he look super shiny and buff and adorable, or am I just biased???
My boy is a real show pony. We threw him in the deep end: our first show together, at a new-to-me height, which just so happened to be AA rated and a week long. This could have blown up in our faces if Frankie didn’t like being a show horse.
But every step he took and every sweet smooch he gave was pure Francis. He went around a gigantic new ring at a bigger height, with tons of chaos and noise and distractions in a simple snaffle. We have tons to work on and practice and improve- no doubt about it. We came away from this show without a single piece of satin.
I couldn’t care less. My goal was to create a positive experience for my horse and make it around at 1m, and by the end of the show I can confidently say that I accomplished both. So we had a couple rails. Big deal. We can work on that. We have the attitude and now we have more know-how.
To Be Frank is just getting started, and it’s onwards and upwards from here!
Our first show is in the books! Before I dive into a detailed day-by-day recap, let me just share a few overall thoughts:
It takes a village. I had two incredible trainers, a team of barn hands helping me get where I needed to be with Frankie when we needed to be there, a great show team to cheer each other on, the best show mom and show godmom, and countless other people that offered encouragement and support throughout the weekend. Thank you doesn’t quite cut it for these amazing people, but I’ll say it anyways: thank you.
I’ve been on the verge of tears for several days now. Don’t be worried, they’re happy tears! I’m just overwhelmed at just how amazing my boy is. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than my Francis, and I love him more and more every day. He’s everything I could’ve hoped for and more.
On to the recap!
After just baaaarely making it until noon at the office, I sped over to the showgrounds to check in with my pony and see what the plan was. Trainer had ridden him the previous day when he arrived and said he was a perfect gentleman- there was no need for her to hop on again. We had a mini-lesson in first the jumper warm-up ring, then the Salem hunter warm-up ring, then the hunter 2 warm-up ring. Basically we tried to go where the ring was most clear to give the competitors right of way. We didn’t jack the jumps up too big, just popped over and did a few exercises with rollbacks, slices, blah blah blah. Francis was a dream! Despite tractors dragging rings, water trucks, ponies going up his butt, and the general hubbub of shows, he didn’t blink an eye or take a single wrong step. He got a nice bath and a walk before being put away.
First competition day! We had signed up for the open 0.90m class early in the day to get our feet wet, and then the open 1.0m class to test the waters before our official division at that height. It was an excellent plan.
You know what they say about best laid plans?
Yeah. They moved the 0.80m and 0.90m classes to a separate ring in order to keep things moving- a fantastic idea. But that meant that my 1.0m class ran before my 0.90m class. Because gradually moving up SOUNDED TOO TAME.
So Frankie’s and my very first class together at our very first show was also at a new height in the GP ring. And it was the Hot Mess Express. Like, someone build a bronze bust of Francis because he deserves a shrine in his honor. Let me back it up.
We walked the course with my trainer and the jumps looked HUGE. Like, OMG WTF LOL. I saw them measuring the jumps and you know what that means- they were at max height. Deep breaths. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never actually done a FULL course at that height. Or that he’s never shown before. Or that this is our first show. Or that maybe I should be doing Short Stirrup instead.
Definitely the attitude you want to go in with, right?
The first jump came up beautifully, and I let out this deep breath and said hooray! This is so easy! I don’t actually have to do anything! Frankie totally got this!
And I abandoned my pony to his own devices.
And this is where he earns that bronze statuette- he went around that course and tried his very best to cart my butt around despite ZERO input from the lady upstairs. It never crossed his mind to stop, even when he really should have. I would not have blamed him.
This pic right here?
There’s a reason he’s jumping 2′ above the rails. It’s because the first time we attempted that jump (it was part of a combo), I basically crashed him through it. And he was like HELL NO THAT SUCKED LET’S NOT TOUCH ANY RAILS and finished up the course pretending it was 1.20m. Because he is too pure for this world and wants so badly to do a good job.
I came out of that ring to a puzzled look from my trainer asking what the hell that was. Vacant was the word we came up with. My trainer kinda lit the fire then and I’m grateful- one of the many reasons I ride with her is because she doesn’t sugarcoat bad rides. My mommy and daddy can pat me on the back and tell me “good job,” but my trainer is there to help me improve. Her criticism was constructive and we came up with a plan for our next round.
Next was the 0.90m. This was just to be a confidence-builder after the Scrambled Egg Breakfast Special that went on earlier. We both took a breather before it ran, and when we walked it we decided that I was going to aim for time-faults. Because let’s be real- Frankie doesn’t get time faults. I’m pretty sure we could trot the whole course and still make time allowed. This was more of a mental technique to slow myself down and BE DELIBERATE. As in, actually make choices on course and adjust as different things happen instead of playing elevator music and saying YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN YOUNG ONE to my horse.
This did go better. We had one rail and the combo was still a bit messy (homeboy trotted out because HE IS TOO PURE FOR THIS WORLD) but overall it was an improvement, and that was what we were going for. When we debriefed afterwards, we agreed that combos have to be our focus moving forward- he likely hasn’t had a ton of exposure to them and I had just given him two crappy experiences through them. We need to teach him that we love combos and want to jump them strongly and power through.
So day 1 was a bit of a mess, but it ended on a better note than it started. Which is the goal!
First day of our division- the 1.0m Low Adult Jumpers. This was better!
I took Frankie for a short hack in the morning to get his muscles stretched out and let him check out the day. He was lovely again- a little sluggish at first, but he woke right up and gave me some excellent flat work in a very busy ring.
We then had a little break before walking the course. We brought a bunch of the kiddos to teach them how to accurately walk striding, so we had one of the biggest contingents in the ring.
Then it was time to go back to the barn and get tacked up!
When we were officially warming up for our class, it still took longer than it should have for me to get my head in the game and RIDE. I was still kinda letting him pick the spot and didn’t leg across the jump. It’s not that the distances were bad, I just wasn’t helping my horse out. Again. After my trainer yelling out, “MANAGE THE POTATO,” I got my ass in gear and rode my horse. Yes, she literally said that. She knows that I call it potato-brain when I mess up. New favorite phrase: manage the potato.
But we went into the ring after a couple good jumps in the warmup. Overall? This still wasn’t a perfect course by any stretch of the imagination. We had some bad spots. BUT. We got the bad spots because I was riding to the bad spots.
Wait, what? Why are we pleased about this?
Because it means that I was RIDING! Yes, I was riding poorly, but at least I was doing something. The height was less intimidating than the day before, I knew that I needed to give my horse more oomph off the ground, and while a rail kept us out of the jumpoff, I was thrilled that we managed to fix a bunch of the mistakes from the previous day.
Frankie got tons of hugs and kisses and scratches and a nice bath.
Dudes, go watch side saddle sometime. It’s so intense. It’s even better when you can cheer someone on and they exclaim, “OH MY GOD WE DID IT” after jumping the line. Have I mentioned lately how much I love horse bloggers??
And since this is already a monster post, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a recap on the rest weekend!