With only 5 weeks left until we ship out to Ohio, we are officially ramping up for our 2018 show season. Here’s how we’re preparing:
Francis got a fresh clip. Despite getting a very handsome clip in November (which lasted him all season last year), he immediately got stupid fuzzy again and needed another haircut to be able to work without sweating his butt off. AT did a fantastic job, and once I pull his mane he’s going to look super official legit shmancy show pony.
Training rides! AT will hop on once a week for a tune up until we leave. Honestly, we’ll probs just continue this all season since Frankie so clearly benefits from regular skillful rides. We can bump up to 2x later if we want, but I don’t think that’s super necessary at this point.
I’m on 5x a week to give Frankie a total of 6 days on, 1 day off (one lesson with me, one training ride, and four flatwork/relaxing hack sessions with me). That’s what we did for show season last year, and he really thrives in a steady routine like that. He’s had a very quiet couple of months in this off season, so we need to steadily ramp his fitness back up- though I will say, that his energy has been great and he’s been feeling nice and fresh. I think that mental and physical break was great for him.
For me, lots of no stirrup work. Both on my own and in lessons- Trainer has said that she wants me doing coursework sans stirrups every time I jump. I’m pretty comfortable doing courses up to 1-1.10m-ish without stirrups, but I’ll need to get a little stronger before I’m confident putting the jumps up to full height. I’m hoping to get to the point where I can stay with Frankie more easily when he cracks his back over the big ones.
Monitoring health- for both of us. I’ve definitely lost some tone over the holidays due to lots of tasty food and drinks and riding less consistently. I’m back on the healthy eating train, strength building train, and consistent riding train- see above. Frankie is currently feeling good, but we’ll be carefully monitoring him (as always) to see if he’ll need any extra support from us as we raise the jumps. Likely we’ll do another SI injection in May, but for now he’s feeling peachy.
Of course, I have to travel all next week for work and will be missing out on bootcamp. Womp womp. I have my favorite barn rat working Frankie for me, AT will do her ride on him, and I’ll be hitting the hotel gym to keep up, so hopefully we can hit the ground running when I return.
So excited to get back out there with the World’s Bestest Pony Ever!!!
Our first show of the new USEF year is coming up this weekend! It’ll be a lot of firsts for us: our first indoor show, our first time trailering in to a rated show, our first time in the 1.10m division, our first winter show with my trainer.
Up until now, I’ve managed to only show in the warmer spring and summer weather because I used to be a smart woman. Alas, my brain fell out when I bought a horse and I transformed into a big dummy that will say yes to any horse show.
A lot of the prep for this show is the same as the summer shows: cleaning and conditioning all tack, loading the trailer/packing my trunk, polishing my boots, reciting prayers to the god of good distances. You know, the usual stuff. But we do have a few things that are a bit different:
Frankie got a haircut. Homeboy got clipped! Originally we were going to do a blanket clip, but when I lost my everloving mind decided that showing in December would be fun, we went ahead and shaved him all over. I was told he was well-behaved for the torture that is body clipping and he looks SO HANDSOME OMG. So shiny and sleek and pretty!!! I worried that the extra cold air might make him a little *spicy* but let’s be real here. It’s Frankie. His version of spicy is picking up the canter when I ask him to trot, then coming back to trot when he realizes that’s what he supposed to do. Not exactly Secretariat. His tail is in good shape and his mane is neatly pulled, so he officially looks like a fancy shmancy show pony.
Bridle Break-In 101. The birthday fairy sent me (aka Frankie) a BEAUTIFUL new show bridle off my wishlist, then I spent way too long gazing at it lovingly and left the breaking-in part until this weekend. It has been scrubbed, dunked in oil overnight, and tenderly massaged for a few days- I’ll be riding in it every day this week to get it softer. Any tips for getting the reins to soften up faster? I hesitate to oil them because, you know, grip. And yes- I know I should make the switch to rubber reins. But that’s a solution for a later time. In hindsight, I could have planned this better.
Planning for a long, cold day. We have a junior going in the first classes of the day (Big Eq), and then we’re waiting until literally the last division of the day for the High Adults. Meaning we’ll probs be there around 6am and I’ll be surprised if I’m showing before 3pm. I’m planning to hack Francis around when we get there so I can see the ring (because real talk Frankie doesn’t need to see the ring first. We all know who the neurotic one is in this relationship), then hand-walking him periodically throughout the day. Layers on layers on layers will be the name of the game. And then more layers.
In terms of riding, there’s no final prep work to be done. I will likely make mistakes on course but that’s OK. Our problem-solving skills have come a long way in the last few months and I’m confident that we can safely navigate the courses. Frankie is in great muscle, sound, fit, healthy, and getting more responsive with every ride. We’re ready for the move up!
Any tips for surviving winter shows without dying from frostbite?
We managed to squeeze a lesson in on Wednesday before Frankie shipped down to Culpeper and it was great!
We kept the flatwork pretty short and to the point- it was stupid hot out and there was a thunderstorm threatening to break right overhead. Frankie was definitely lazy to start off- meaning that he reeeeally wanted me to carry him around the ring instead of carrying himself- but to his credit, he showed up to work and put in some effort as we got going.
Then we did our super fun warmup exercise of Trot Every Jump In The Ring All At Once. Four horses. Tiny indoor. A tad chaotic. But really good practice for the warmup ring at shows! Frankie woke right up when he realized it was almost time for zoomies, so we had to go back and actually TROT THE JUMP NO CANTER NOT YET a couple times.
And then it was too hot to do a 2’6″ warmup course like we usually do so Trainer just jacked a bunch of them up to 3’ish (I think? We all know I’m the actual worst at figuring out how big jumps are. They’ll look really big at the time but then I’ll review videos and be like huh that’s actually kinda small. Who knows).
First course: long approach down to the box at A, up the oxer, down the single diagonal, up the outside, down the quarter line. Super straightforward. Lots of single, unrelated distances which is really where Frankie and I shine. I’ll sometimes push through the distance to the base, but we can pretty consistently see the spot from a long approach. It’s those darn lines that I have trouble with- do I ask him to package more? Open up? One then the other- no definitely not that. We also experimented with taking the inside turn (turning before E and C) to come to A, which was plenty of room to maneuver.
And then we got fun! Coming off the left lead to rollback over A, immediately turn right and rollback over the oxer at B, up the quarter line, down C to F in a broken four, up the outside at D.
That S-turn to start actually went surprisingly well. I don’t know why I’m surprised- my horse is pretty darn good at his job- but it was pleasant. Not particularly pretty, but serviceable. The quarter line to the bending four was where we had to go back and try again. The quarter line was a forward three away from home and came up nicely every time. But then I had to rock him back and get in close to the red vertical because the broken four was TIGHT. We had another smaller horse do it in 3. Trainer and I decided that we needed to school the add though, because Francis jumps much better and more cleanly from that tighter spot.
This took a couple times through to really correct. I needed to land off the red and IMMEDIATELY sit deep and package that stride. A.k.a. I really needed to use that auto-release so I could land with a feel on his mouth. The last time through felt really good- I was able to leg him up to the base of the out instead of holding all the way through.
The single vertical on the outside was fine. Because singles are my jam.
Takeaways: the spot I get Francis to VERY much affects how he jumps. He is not like Addy, who tucked neatly and jumped a 10 every time. Frankie needs to get a little deep (but not too deep) to the base, and needs a lot of support from my leg in order to get a good clean effort. Some examples here:
And then just because I think he’s really cute:
Here’s the compilation of our coursework from this week:
Looking at this, I see a couple things: I need to work on my release. I’m just not happy with that at all. I also need to wait with my shoulders and stop trying to jump for Frankie. Let him jump up to me. In fact, I’m picking apart most of my eq and have lots of homework for myself.
But I’m also very happy with the improvements I see: I’m able to get a good quality canter more quickly that has better energy. I’m able to get clean lead changes in both directions, even if I have to ask pretty firmly. Frankie is able to power up and over the jumps even from awkward distances, because he has great muscle and athleticism. The awkward distances are less frequent and less awkward than they used to be.
So overall I’m happy with our progress. We still have a ways to go to suit my perfectionist tendencies, but we are on our way!
By the time you’re reading this, I’ll likely already be done with my first trip- we decided to add a 0.90m class first thing (8am gross) to let Frankie stretch his legs and see what energy level we’re working with. Later today I’ll be doing the first class of the Low division- hopefully I can rope a barn rat into filming both trips. Can’t wait to report back on To Be Frank’s second outing!
How much does your distance to a fence affect how your horse jumps? Are they more like Addy (affects it relatively mildly) or more like Frankie (affects it dramatically)?
OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG it’s almost here. Our very first outing as a team. Our first time off property as a team. Maybe his first time staying on-site for a week-long show (not sure about this one). My first time taking my OWN horse to a big show since I was 14.
Can you tell I’m excited?
I figured now is as good a time as any to fill you in on our preparation and what the game plan is for the show itself. Here goes:
Homeboy is getting his fuzzies clipped- muzzle, ears, and fetlocks- and his mane pulled. I try to maintain his mane at a non-ragamuffin state, but our working student will be adding some actual polish there. He has literally tufts coming out of his ears, the fetlocks of a clydesdale, and generally looks a bit homeless. A very shiny homeless pony. I’m excited to see what he looks like all prettied up.
Feet are done. Dear sweet dinosaur pulled a shoe earlier this week, but the farrier was able to come out the very next day to tack it back on and he’s A-OK.
Saddle is re-paneled! The rep came and got it yesterday and it should be waiting at the barn for me today when I go after work. The rep assured me that if it doesn’t fit Frankie perfectly then they’ll go re-adjust it for no additional fee, but I’m really hoping that the first time’s the charm here. My half-pad is great and all, but I want Frankie’s back to be as happy as possible.
Bathtime next Monday. He will be arriving on the showgrounds either Tuesday or Wednesday, so he will be getting his first full bath from me earlier in the week. Yes, you read that right. I’ve had my horse for three months now and I’ve never given him a bath. I’m a big fan of currying the crap out of him ’til he shines and using some Herbal Horse coat conditioner to keep his skin and coat healthy. I haven’t saved up for the bathing supplies that I want yet, and the stuff I have access to seems like it strips out the natural oils. In fact now that I’m thinking about it I may stick to just washing his legs. We like those natural oils. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not my horse gets a bath (RIVETING STUFF OLIVIA, THANKS FOR THE UPDATES).
Tack will get a deep cleaning and conditioning and trunk will be packed with the essentials. The showgrounds are close enough to home that I can pretty easily swing by the barn and grab anything I’ve forgotten, but I’d rather not forget things (Seriously Olivia do you think anyone WANTS to forget things?). I’ll pack my Pelham just in case, but I’m planning to ride Frankie in the same bit he’s always worn with me- a plain full cheek snaffle.
Note on tack: we’re pretty minimalist with the Tank. He’ll go in his regular snaffle bridle and my saddle, an AP pad, half-pad if needed depending on saddle fit, and open front boots/polos as Assistant Trainer decides. No breastplate, martingale, or gadgets. We stay very consistent with his tack from day to day and I don’t want to introduce any new variables right as we’re adjusting to show life.
If Frankie arrives on site Tuesday, he will get a training ride from Trainer or Assistant Trainer that day. Since I’ll be taking time off later in the week, I won’t be able to get to the showgrounds in time after work to ride him, so he’ll get some professional attention.
On Wednesday I’ll be leaving work early and heading over to the show for a lesson on Frankie the Tankie. There aren’t really any classes I need to be in that day and we want to ease both myself and Francis into the show atmosphere, so we’ll plan to just school around under the guidance of my trainer. Trainer said that she’s prepared to take him in a class if we think he needs the extra schooling, but we don’t think he will. Homeboy is pretty chill and I’m comfortable prepping him myself unless something truly dramatic happens. Outfit: who cares we’re just schooling. Probs break out my brown boots and watch the traditionalists gasp for air.
Thursday we will go in the 0.90m jumpers (Table II). This height is super familiar for me and barely a blip on Frankie’s radar, so it should be a good way for us to get our feet wet. We’ll play it by ear to see if I want to give the 1.00m a try also. I think this will depend a lot on how the 0.90m rides, the weather, how long we’d have to wait, that type of thing. Both are halfway through the order on the prize list so it won’t be an ungodly early morning. Outfit: Green/tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, navy/white belt.
Friday we’ll do the Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II2B). The Ariat medal is running that morning first thing and I’m really tempted….but I’m not sure if we’re polished enough yet. Also braiding and show coats and formality…. The Low Adults run almost last in the order so we’ll have all day to chill and see how things go. Outfit: Navy/tan TS breeches, white polo/show shirt, navy/white belt. Unless we do the eq, in which case we’ll dress up like real people.
Saturday will be the same- Low Adult Jumper 1.00m (Table II.2.1). This should go about mid-day. Then maybe the Small Pony Hunter. I’m kidding. But I wish I wasn’t. Ponies!!!! Outfit: Tan TS breeches, navy Clairvaux polo, burgundy belt
Sunday will be our big classic day, the $1,500 Low Children/Adult Jumper Classic (Table II2B). We’re the first class in the ring that day so we’ll be there bright and early and have the rest of the day to get things squared away and relax. Outfit: White TS breeches, white show shirt, green coat, burgundy belt
So there you have it! All of this is subject to change (except the outfits, I’m pretty firm on those), but that’s what our plan is for now. We’re not planning to longe or do any special prep (though we’re prepared to if necessary) and we’ll take the week as slowly as we need to so that Frankie and I have a positive, confidence building first time out.
Because moving up in height at an A rated show which just so happens to be your first show with your new horse who hasn’t really done the H/J thing is a totally normal reasonable thing to do.
Extra bonus: my Momma and my Nouna (godmother) are flying down Thursday night so they can cheer me on and be my horse show moms for the weekend!!!! It’ll be my mom’s first time meeting her grandpony and her first time seeing me show in about 10 years and I couldn’t be more excited.
Anyone gonna be in the northern VA area next week? Always looking for a blogger meetup!!
We’re in the final stretch until showtime this weekend, people. My first show since I was a wee 15-year-old. Addy’s first ever hunter show. Her first time off property since she’s arrived. A lot of firsts. It’s going to be AWESOME.
Anywho, last night was a very very good lesson, but not the same *click* lesson that we had before. It was simply fantastic, not amazingly fantastic (but, I mean, still fantastic). The paddocks are a total muddy mess because of the snow thawing out and a bunch of rain lately, so she hasn’t gotten a lot of playtime lately- too much potential for injuries in the slippery mud.
Well, Pretty Girl loves her playtime. So I got there early and took her for a walk around the farm, hand grazed her, poked our heads into the other barn, and made sure she got plenty of fresh air. Which I’m sure she appreciated, but it didn’t make a whit of difference under saddle.
Go, pony, go! We usually walk around quite a bit when I first hop on and Addy likes that time to wander about and relax while I do some stretches. Not yesterday. She stood still like a princess for me to hop on, waited for me to settle in my stirrups and gather up the reins, then moved off at a nice little jog. We half-halted back to walk. Three strides later, off again at a jog. I got the message- it was time to move.
We had a good warmup with some no-stirrup work (slowly getting easier) and getting limbered up. Cantering to the left gave us a little headache though, and I’ll explain why: when Addy is relaxed and lazy, she will pick up either with lead no problem. Her left lead is actually her easier one. But for whatever reason, once she gets excited it becomes the sticky lead. So that’s going to be something to remember at the show- in the flat classes, move my outside leg back and ask hard for that left lead.
Warm up over a little cross rail and some ground poles, then on to jumping! We didn’t do any huge courses yesterday but it was wonderfully happily symmetric. Here we go:
Up through the grid, turn at the end to go over the diagonal vertical, bending line to a cavaletti (speedbump), then around and up the diagonal oxer. It was the exact same in both directions, hence the repeat numbers. So it was either: grid, yellow plank, bottom cavaletti, white oxer, or: grid, pink vertical, top cavaletti, green oxer.
This was a pretty nice return to basics. I would jump grids every single lesson if they let me- they’re such a good training tool for both horse and rider! The striding was a little short for Addy in there, but let’s be honest. All striding is a little short for Addy. Once we realized that we should come in at a nice balanced trot she backed off and nailed it. She built a bit going down the vertical towards home in both directions, but balanced super well for the bending to the cavaletti! Then she rocked back and let me call the shots to the oxers.
Things that went really well in this lesson:
Pace around the course. Adding leg and packaging her up made her SO much more adjustable- when I saw a distance to the oxer I was able to push her up to it! We weren’t already fully extended, so my options were completely open. Her canter has improved so much now that I’m being stronger about supporting her with my leg and seat- we didn’t miss a single distance all night! (Which is super rare for me, I have a pretty rusty eye)
The oxers. They weren’t too big- somewhere between 2’9″ and 3′, but there was no fill. They were just rails set somewhere between 2’9″ and 3′ off the ground. Addy loves fill. Addy hates no fill. Addy jumped this without flinching. Addy is the best pony in the whole wide world.
The grid. Just because I love grids and Addy loves grids. We didn’t go up quite as high as we did on Monday, but that was fine. I still got to practice my automatic release and staying straight through the grid.
What we need to work on:
Mainly getting her relaxed into the canter. She only tends to get squirrelly about this when she hasn’t gone outside in a few days, which I totally get. If she gets full playtime then her leads are nice and even, she’ll pick them up easily, and she will stay very straight and bend around the turns. On days like yesterday, she REALLY wanted to run around so our canter transitions were messy and crooked. She bowed out through her shoulder around the turns and coming back to a trot was an interesting proposition that she rejected out of hand. I’m learning how to correct these behaviors, so we’ll just need to keep at it. But hopefully she’ll relax a bit once the ground hardens and she can horse around outside (get it??? Horse around??).
Canter-trot transitions. Man, these are the worst. We can canter-walk like a boss, and even our canter-halt is improving, even if we do need the length of a runway to accomplish it. But canter-trot transitions are the worst. She just wants to move back up into the canter so out comes the giraffe and we goose-step around the ring. Not particularly cute. Again, I’m learning how to correct this and it just needs time to sink in with her.
Any and all of our sticky spots yesterday came from the fact that Pretty Girl didn’t get to roll around in her favorite mud puddle, and all of those sticky spots manifested while we were warming up on the flat. Of course she was perfect once we started jumping. I think that’s the answer- we need to avoid U/S classes at all costs. The jumpers is looking like a better and better option for us! Because if you’re bad at something, avoid it. Right? No? Fine, we’ll keep working on our flatwork.
PSA- FLATWORK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.
Time to talk show prep.
I’m doing a half-day at work on Friday so I can get to the barn and get everything set up the way I want it to. I know, it’s a tiny local show 10 minutes down the road, but it’s been 8 years! If I want to set aside 6 hours to bathe my horse and clean my tack, then by golly I will set aside 6 hours. We’re also fitting in one more small lesson to get her moving and tired for the next day.
The plan on Friday is to get to the barn after lunch, hop on for a lesson, get any last minute pointers, bathe and groom Addy, clean ALL tack, and arrange everything so it’s ready to load in the trailer the next day. Theoretically on Saturday morning all I’ll have to do is load everything up on the trailer (including the squeaky clean horse) and head out. My paperwork is together and my show clothes are ready. We’re almost there!
What is something you never head to a show without? Do you have a certain show-prep routine? Any advice for this re-entry to the ring?