Loudoun Benefit: Part 2

So we’ve covered the weekdays, now let’s dive into the weekend.

Saturday

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Dressed and feeling funky fresh
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.

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My mom was totally cool with the horse poop everywhere. Despite a >10 year hiatus, she was the best show mom ever!!
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.

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Warmup oxers ain’t no thang to Frank the Tank
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.

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But this out of a combo was much stronger than in the past, so we accomplished our goal of creating a good experience through a combo

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And I actually steered over the jumps instead of flapping my reins and hoping he’d interpret it as “turn right here.” LAWLZ at the 12 faults on the board by jump 8.

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And we did get some super cute jumps.
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.

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Well, I was beaming once I caught my breath. Promise.
We even had D’Arcy from thecluelessbutcuriousrider and Courtney from An Equestrian Life there to watch and love on Frankie! I mean, I’m sure that’s not the ONLY reason they were there. But that’s what I’m going with.

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Francis casually mooching for treats from the Horse Blogger Contingent

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And from the Family Contingent
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.

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mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem

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Endless smooches for my best boy.
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.

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.

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Paparazzi shot of me doing my hairnet magic. I blame my hunter roots for my obsession with perfect hair. It is a destination that eludes me, but I will continue to strive.
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.

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Francis continued his streak of saying, “eh no problem.”

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Even when the height went up a bit
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???

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All smiles as we left the ring

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Biggest hugs for show pony
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!

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Olivia, you ride a strong horse.

Lesson recap time!

Since the Beast has been making a habit of dragging me around over fences in our last couple lessons, I decided to pop the Pelham in for our lesson yesterday. Ain’t no way I was dealing with that crap any more.

We had a nice warmup WTC, lots of no stirrup work (ow) and lots of work on extending and collecting our canters. I focused on sitting deep in my saddle and squeezing her up into the bridle to attempt to get her to soften into the collection. Definitely a work in progress, but being able to engage that curb rein when she got strong helped a lot. I also made a point of making Addy wait until I gave her the cue to canter. Picking up my reins, changing direction, going around a corner: none of these are cues to canter. She’s gotten much better at waiting instead of anticipating, so I’m going to have to stay consistent with that.

On to jumping! We trotted over a crossrail a couple times and this went surprisingly well- she didn’t try to launch over it, just trotted nicely to the base and cantered away. Very civilized. Then we started building up a course:

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Our first was: A-B-C-D-E. Up the stone wall, down the other stone wall/oxer, up the quarter line, and down the oxer. Lots of long approaches!

I was pretty happy with this- Beastly got a little strong in places and took some flyers, but overall was fairly responsive. The quarter line was set to a long 3/short 4, so I just let her open her stride a bit more and carry me for the 3.

We played around with different combos of that for a while, and then gave this course a try: H-F-G-B-C-D-G-B-A. Pink outside vertical towards home, up the outside line in 4, down the stone wall, up the quarter line, down the outside line in 4, up the other stone wall.

Honestly I’m 99% sure we had another course in there somewhere but I already forget so we’ll focus on this. Our first attempt at the first jump was a launcher from downtown because Unicorn got super psyched about it, so we came around and started again. She still got psyched, but we got to a much more reasonable distance. We had to hold a bit going up the outside line because it was set for a short-ish 4, but it wasn’t so bad going away from home. We got nice and close coming down the stone wall, made a nice turn to the quarter line, and recovered our canter nicely around the short end coming to the outside line. This was really tough to fit the 4 in because we were heading towards home, and took a couple tries for me to get it without resorting to the pulley rein, but we got there. Then we got nice and close to the base going up the other stone wall too.

Phew! Overall, I was super happy with this course. It definitely had some sticky moments, but I felt like I was calling the shots instead of climbing up Addy’s neck and hoping she wouldn’t take a flyer. I’ve been really bad about tipping my upper body forward and getting light in the saddle lately. This works in the hunters. This works for lots of horses. This does NOT work on a big ol’ draft cross who gets REALLY excited about jumping. I made a point to sit up, sit deep, keep my leg on, and close my hand to make her wait to the base. Thrusting my hips a little forward and using my core as an anchor made a world of difference in getting Addy’s attention: I finally felt like she was cantering under me and ready to go where I asked instead of carrying me around and occasionally checking to see if I was doin’ OK up there.

My trainer seemed happy with how I rode this too- she liked the quality of our canter between jumps, and was super happy that we waited to the base instead of leaving the stride out. That’s exactly what we want for the jumpers! Pretty Girl has a huge step, so I never want to be that team galloping around trying to make time. We don’t need to do that. If I can get Beastly packaged up under me, we can be efficient with our turns and careful with our jumps. The time will take care of itself if I give my girl a good ride. It was also pretty gratifying because my trainer said to me, “Olivia, you ride a STRONG horse. She will drag you around if you let her. You didn’t let her in that course, and even though it wasn’t perfect, you made the best decisions you could make based on what you had to work with.” I’m still cheesin’ about that one. Addy definitely has been challenging me a lot lately, but I’m so excited that I’ve been able to keep up and continue progressing. I definitely feel like a much stronger rider than I was a couple months ago.

In other exciting news, Beastly and I are going to our first ever rated show!! I’m pretty sure it’ll be her first ever rated show, and my first in roughly 10 years. We’ll be trailering in to HITS Culpeper for one day and doing two jumper classes- level 0 and level 1 (0.8m and 0.9m). I was a little disappointed because I so badly wanted to do the Low Adults (1m) but Trainer made a very good point- this is Addy’s first rated show, and we want to create a good experience for her and not overwhelm her. Does she have the scope for 1m? Absolutely. But there’s going to be so much going on, we’d rather keep the jumps a little lower and have this be a confidence booster for her. We have all the time in the world to move up. I’m glad my trainer reminded me of this, because my tendency is to kinda rush into things. It’s hard to remember that my pretty pony is VERY green when it comes to shows! Anyways, I’d love any advice that y’all have for surviving the jumper ring at HITS.

In even MORE exciting news, I have a brand new pair of Pipers thanks to Allison from Pony’tude!!! They’re in such a cool (discontinued) color and I’m always thrilled to add to my collection. I’ve got a big Smartpak post coming up soon where I talk about all the gear I’ve gotten recently, so keep an eye out for that!

I’ve got another lesson this afternoon, so get pumped for yet another lesson recap tomorrow. Get into it. It’ll be awesome.