Piedmont Jumper 2022 is over, and I gotta say, it was a weird weekend.
It started off well – Frankie arrived at the showgrounds on Thursday, had a nice schooling ride with my trainer, and was tucked away happily waiting for me the next day.
I arrived on Friday with my tiny child in tow, ready to win everything. I was nervous about bringing Lina and not having my husband there to help wrangle her, but it all worked out wonderfully. The combination of (1) a super easy-going baby that’s content to hang out and (2) truly generous and amazing barnmates who stepped in when I needed a hand meant that balancing Lina and Frankie went better than expected!
We had our usual short and sweet warmup that went well, and walked in the ring for our Low Adult class. Our first fence was a little sticky but nothing awful, and the next couple jumps came up fine. Then there was a bending 5 stride to a 1 stride, I got him there on the half step, and he stopped.
I’m not mad about the stop itself – Frankie only ever stops when it’s going to be an unsafe choice, and I trust his judgement here. We circled, reapproached, and made it right through no problem.
But I am not particularly thrilled about WHY we got there on a half stride. It was a very easy bending line that walked in a perfect five. It was towards the in gate and his stall. It was down a slight hill. It was bending left, and he likes to fade left. And he’s a big horse. All of this means that he should’ve absolutely eaten that line up and I should’ve needed to help balance him. Instead, at stride 3-4 I realized that we were nowhere close to where we needed to be, and I could not get the length of stride to close that gap.
This was a red flag for me.
We were able to complete the course with no other major bobbles, and I walked out to my trainer saying that she’s glad I recovered and continued to ride strongly, and that I made solid choices. I agreed with her, and immediately asked that we schedule a vet appointment.
She asked why – other than an understandable stop, our course looked fine. I told her that despite a good pace and being on track for solid spots, two strides out from every jump I had to really squeeze him up. That kind of “lag” is extremely unusual for Frankie – he’s never spooked at a jump and he’s not the type to ask questions. The combination of short-stridedness and that hesitation before takeoff was to me a blaring alarm that something doesn’t feel right.
The plan we came up with was to drop down to the 0.85m class the next day. We figured one of two things would happen: either (1) he would feel better, telling us that the height was the problem or (2) he would still feel sticky, telling us that there’s discomfort going on. We had a plan either way.
At this point, I’m hoping for the former but do think it’s the latter. I felt these same issues in Tryon – but I blamed it on the crazy high temps and the fact that he was carrying some extra weight. But the weather is colder and he’s more fit now, so it’s something else going on. It could be something as simple as needing to adjust our warmup to give him more time to limber up, it could be that we need to re-adjust saddle fit (again), it could be that we need to increase/change the types of maintenance that we provide. Those are all easy enough to fix, so we’ll start there. I have a Plan A, Plan B, all the way through Plan M or N depending on what he needs from us.
Despite our best laid plans, I did wake up Saturday feeling sick as a dog and had to scratch the rest of the weekend. Womp womp. His kiddo was able to get him out to stretch his legs and said he felt great, so at least he wasn’t cooped up in the rain all weekend.
By the time I got online for work Monday morning, I already had a text confirming that the vet would be taking a look at Frankie on Wednesday to see what additional support he might need from us to feel his best. One of the many perks of boarding with my vet is that we never have to wait long for an appointment!
I have to say here just how much I appreciate my trainer. Instead of saying “it looked fine to me” or “maybe you were just nervous,” she immediately joined me in problem solving mode to see what we could try. She trusted that after 6+ years, I know this horse inside and outside and backwards and forwards. She listened to my concerns and then got us on the vet’s schedule within a day. I’ve worked with plenty of people that would’ve dismissed my concerns, so having her on board so quickly was a total relief.
So yeah. It was a weird weekend.
On the plus side: I gained a lot of confidence in just doing the darn thing even with a toddler along for the ride. Lina had a total blast watching all the ponies. We did make it around. Frankie was a very good boy and as always, tried hard for me.
On the not-so-plus side: To be petty, my absolute least favorite local show photographer was the official photog for this show, guaranteeing that I didn’t get a shot. If you’re in the Nova area, you know who I’m talking about. More importantly, despite making it around and the fact that Frankie is not showing overt signs of lameness, my gut is telling my that there’s something bothering him. My job, as it always has been, is to make sure he is happy and healthy in his work and I’m ready to start turning over whatever stones we need to so he can feel his best. He doesn’t owe me a thing, so he’ll get whatever he needs.