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.
A week or two ago I mentioned that I asked my trainer for a quote to attend WEC again in February.
And if you all know me at all, you know that my willpower hovers between “non-existent” and “will disappear with any passing breeze.” So clearly once I ask for a quote it’s all over from there.
But I knew that I definitely didn’t want to compete for two weeks again. Last year it became way more of an endurance test than actual fun, and I’m all about having fun in 2019. But for Frankie to go, he needed to be there the full two weeks my barn is attending- they’re not able to trailer back and forth due to the distance.
So with all that in mind, I came up with a couple different scenarios:
Scenario 1: bring Frankie, and commute out for both weekends. It’s a long drive but not a terribly difficult one, and it would be possible for me to drive out Wednesday night, school Thursday, compete Fri-Sun, then drive home. Then I wouldn’t be staying full time and I’d get to have my own horse, but it meant paying for a full two weeks for Frankie, and extra gas/hotel costs for me.
Scenario 2: lease a horse there. Then I could just go for one week no problem, not have to trailer out a horse, and could spend the shipping money on a lease fee instead. The obvious risk here is that I’d end up with a horse that I didn’t really like, but I’m fairly easy to get along with and my trainer has a proven record of finding me great horses quickly.
Scenario 3: See if we can find a leaser for Francis for the second week. In-barn, so that he could stay under my trainer’s watchful care. This would mean I could have my own horse, only have to pay for one week of care, and have a lease fee to help cover some of those costs. This would rely on Trainer having a client who was A) looking for a lease and B) comfortable and able to ride the Frankenbean.
I eliminated Scenario 1 pretty much off the bat. It was by far the most expensive option, and I hate being in the car any longer than I have to. I also don’t know that I’d want to compete for two weekends in a row- I’m a tired whiny baby and need my recovery time.
So knowing that I only wanted 1 week, my decision hinged on finding a leaser for Frankie. But we really did’t have the biggest pool of people going to Ohio, and while Frankie is a good boy, he also takes a rider who is willing to kick. When we weren’t able to find a solid in-house lease option for him, we decided to leave him at home for a brief vacation and find me a lease horse!
While of course I always want Frankie there, I’m super excited about this- I’ll get to test my skills on a new mount and try some classes I might not otherwise try, and it takes all pressure off my performance. Seriously if anything is less than perfect you know I’ll be using the excuse “oh this is only my 3rd ride on him.” I am not above that, I am petty and obnoxious.
The specifics of what classes I’ll be signing up for remain to be seen, but my hotel is booked for WEC 9 and I’ll be comin’ in hot. If you’re even remotely in the area, let me know! Mystery Horse and I would love to hang ❤
Now that my brain is no longer on a constant loop of GET ME OUT OF OHIO, I wanted to give my thoughts on WEC as a show venue overall.
In case you’re in a rush and want to get the gist of it right away (because yes this turned into a gigantic post): I give this place an enthusiastic thumbs up. If you’re on the fence about competing there, I would definitely recommend giving it a go.
That being said, it is not perfect (what place is?). So I’m going to break down the parts I loved and the parts where I think there’s still room for improvement.
Course design. There was a good mix of track questions and technical questions that felt appropriate for the different levels. Schooling classes were soft early in the week to give you a chance to get around and see the jumps. They were deliberate about designing courses to be able to pre-load in most cases, to keep the schedule moving efficiently.
The jumps. An excellent variety of colors and designs, well-maintained. The hunter jumps looked like a jungle- the fill was gorgeous. The ring crews worked tirelessly to quickly re-set jumps whenever needed.
Footing. Soft but not too deep, dragged and watered often, and treated with a dust-controller. They were very careful and attentive to the footing in all rings- warmups included. The warmup ring (at least for the jumpers) was dragged every time the main arena was dragged. Makes sense to me! The ring crew again worked extremely hard to clear manure between rounds, rake out takeoff/landing areas between drags, and make sure every competitor had the same access to a clear, well-maintained track.
The class schedule. They ruthlessly cut classes with low counts- if it does not fill, it does not run. This helps them keep the schedule on track and finish up by a reasonable hour- the Sanctuary was done by 4-5p most days, sometimes earlier.
Order of go. By the time I left each night, I knew where in the order I was for the following day. Adds always went at the top of the order. They were flexible enough if you needed to move (due to trainer conflicts mostly), but it was great being able to know a ballpark of when I should be getting ready.
Stall size. Frankie was able to stretch out and take his naps. ‘Nuff said.
Availability of wash stalls. They were EVERYWHERE and all had warm/hot water. It was so quick and easy to hose Frankie down after every round.
Wifi. A few weak patches here and there as I moved through the facility, but it was strong in the barn and by the ring. I was able to log in and work remotely without a problem, and more importantly, I was able to keep up with my social media!
Activities. Most every evening had something: a welcome stake, a chicken dinner by the ring, an exhibitor pizza party. The junior cadet program every Saturday is a chance for the junior riders to do a mini-clinic on different aspects of horsemanship, and there’s the chance for them to win $250-500 off their show bill just for attending. They clearly want this to be a fun experience, not just a competition.
The rider’s lounge. A nice quiet space away from the hustle and bustle, with free coffee/snacks, couches, and a table to eat lunch.
The vendors. Not just your usuals like Antares and FarmVet, but a chiropractor, day spa (haircuts and mani-pedis!), food truck, and knick knacks. The gift shop had lots of great items as well. Plenty of really fantastic shopping!
The music. There was a constant loop of classic rock in the Sanctuary, and they played Africa by Toto a solid 8-10x a day. It’s hard to walk a course when you’re jamming so hard, but we made it work.
The price. I only had to pay $75 per week for Frankies stall (!!!). They strictly patrol the horse stalls vs tack stalls (horse stalls are cheaper) and I think that additional flexibility would help their ability to be a center of leasing/ horse trials/ etc., but I was thrilled with the low cost. Also thrilled that all my division classes were money classes- every time I won a ribbon, I knocked a little bit off my show bill. Every drop counts! I paid WAY less per week for a full 4-5 days of competition than I have for 3 days at HITS Culpeper.
The personnel. Everyone was polite, friendly, and pleasant to work with. Happy to answer questions (no matter how stupid, and no matter how often I asked) or point me in the right direction. From the gate check, to the ring crew, to the hay and water truck guys, everyone had a smile and was eager to help us out.
The cabins. I was able to stay in one of the onsite cabins with friends the entire time, and loved it. Good wifi, strong shower pressure, washer/dryer inside, and comfortable beds. And a 90 second walk to get to Francis in the mornings. I have a few suggestions to turn these from fantastic to AMAZEBALLS, but those are just picky things. They’re already wonderful.
The drive. It was a relatively straightforward 7.5-8hr drive door to door. A few scary spots going through the mountains of WVa and Pennsylvania, but manageable. Much closer than Florida.
The Less Good
Lack of turnout. This is my only real gripe- the rest are softer. We had some really beautiful days where I know Frankie would have benefited hugely from a few hours to move around and graze himself, but he had to settle for a few hand walks when I wasn’t busy with work. I’ve heard rumors that adding turnout is in the future plans, so this will be huge!
Lack of outdoor rings. There are plenty in the works so I know this won’t be a problem for long- construction appears to be moving quickly on these. Right now there is only one main (huge) outdoor, so in the gorgeous weather on Tuesday we all went out for a hack. But there were some yahoos on lunge lines, kids literally galloping their ponies around, and when my steady unflappable tank of a horse started flagging his tail and wheeling, I skedaddled from that anarchy faster than you can say “children are a blessing.” It will be nice to spread out more when the weather is warm.
Spotty wifi. I couldn’t log on to the internet in the rider’s lounge. This would have been the perfect place to set up a little workstation at the table, but I just couldn’t get to my emails here. I think this is a chance to cater really well to their working ammies- the better ability I have to work remotely, the longer I can stay and compete (and therefor the more money I am willing to pay them).
The food. I loved that we had multiple options- the food truck had great smoothies and breakfast sandwiches, and the grill had lunch/dinner options as well as a full bar (and you could eat overlooking the pony ring, squee!). But the food was eh. Not awful, but eh. If I’m going ahead and suggesting everything that would be perfect, I would want a little stand that had some quick grab stuff- fruit and protein bars, things like that. Fast snacks to power up before your ride.
Low ceilings in places. I don’t mean the barns- Frankie had more than enough headspace. But when walking to/from the rings while mounted, I often had to duck below girders along the path. Not a huge deal at all- I admittedly have a gigantic animal and am tall myself, and it was never a problem, but I’m trying to be honest about all potential shortfalls.
Low counts in the higher divisions. Most days, the Medium and High Jr/AOs were cancelled, and even the Lows had very low counts. They even cancelled the Low Jr/AO Classic our second week due to low entries. I’m hoping to eventually move up to the AOs, so it’s a little disheartening to know that the offerings are a bit scarce for the upper levels. Hoping this will change as more people start attending.
The photographer. This is the first show in a long time that I haven’t bought a pro pic. I still may after perusing, but I just don’t love a lot of them- always from the same angle, timing was often off, and lots of pics of me cantering around and not actually jumping. I liked that they offered a digital social media package (bc let’s be real, that’s why I want the pics), but I was overall unimpressed by the shots they took.
The location. As mentioned the drive wasn’t that bad, but it was driving to rural Ohio. There’s pretty much nothing inside a 30 minute drive- plenty of cute stuff outside that radius, but it was a hike. And inside that 30 minute radius was farmland, highways, and a distinct lack of good restaurants (with one or two exceptions). I’ve always lived in places with very high restaurant concentrations (RI, Ithaca, Nova) so I’m definitely spoiled in this way, and rural Ohio may as well have been a different planet to this East-Coaster! It made me that much more grateful that they hosted plenty of activities onsite.
You stick a couple hundred horses under one roof and crank the heat up, what do you think will happen? There were plenty of manure piles outside, fans running, and doors went open on nice days, but there’s no escaping the fact that horses are stinky creatures. All my gear came home with a distinct dust+urine aroma, and I’m still cycling through making sure everything is washed/disinfected.
There you have it! Like I said- overall, I give this place two enthusiastic thumbs up. My “negatives” are relatively minor, and the good parts vastly outweigh them.
Now let me know- do you have any specific questions that I haven’t answered yet? Let me know in the comments!
So we last left off on Monday, when the ponies got the day off and I got some work done. I was in high spirits coming off a really successful first week- not every round was perfect, but I felt like we were learning a TON together and that’s always my goal.
Then we hit week 2.
It turns out that the first week of a horse show is fun. Duh. We already knew that. It turns out that the second week of a horse show is not about having fun. It is about sheer mental and physical endurance to do the damn thing.
But I’ll back up to the beginning of the week to walk us through.
Tuesday I hopped on for a short lesson in the jumper ring, where we popped over a few low fences. The windows were all open to let the beautiful breeze in, and we had a great ride practicing getting our forward canter to the base (that will always be a skill I have to practice). We didn’t want to tire him out, so after a few successful efforts we called it a day and I hopped back on my computer to continue working.
Wednesday we signed up for two schooling classes, the Low at 1m, and the Medium at 1.07-1.10m. Course here:
The Low trip was, as my trainer so eloquently put it, “a little potato-y.” Like, not awful. We went clear for a blue ribbon. Just underpowered. We only went clear because Frankie can walk over 1m. I had gotten him on a bit of a half-step to the combo at 6ab and we lurched through a bit, so I knew I wanted to correct that track from 5. We went back into the warmup and I fired him up a bit before going back in for the Mediums with the same course.
And jumps 1-5 came up a TON better. He was firing harder and I was riding harder to help him out. And I went ahead and corrected my track to 6ab. I corrected it so far, in fact, that I got him to a different half-step. He politely tried and then politely came back down to earth when he realized he couldn’t make it, but I was JUMPING THAT DANG COMBO DAMMIT and went ahead without him.
On the plus side, I get full points for taking all the poles down with me. Right? That’s how that works? Poor Francis seemed very confused to see me down there- I’ve never popped off him before- but true to his nature, he waited patiently for me to hop to my feet.
I got right back on and we popped over a fence in the warmup ring, just so we could both end the day on a positive note. I knew I didn’t have any real damage- just some stiffness from bracing, and a positively glorious bruise on my hip (it’s still developing and shifting colors!).
So on Thursday I went ahead and said I DON’T WANNA JUMP. I was stiff and sore and limping and had zero desire to hang on over a course. AT took Francis in the Low Schooling instead so he could get a pro tuneup, and I hopped on later in the day to flat around- turns out that the movement from riding really did help loosen me up and work out a lot of the kinks. Riding: good for what ails you.
You know what else is good for what ails you? The onsite chiro at WEC. Dude is a wizard. I went into his tent for 40 minutes and emerged sans limp and with waaaay less stiffness. I really loved his philosophies on body work (basically he’s a terrible businessman because he doesn’t try to upsell unnecessary sessions but he’s an actual good human) and he knew that the main goal was to get comfortably back in the saddle. I made everyone in the barn go see him and they loved him too.
So then we got to Friday, which was the start of the division! At this point, I was seriously considering dropping down to the Lows for the weekend. We know that language has power, so I’m simply going to say it this way- there is an huge opportunity for me to improve my ride up to and through combos. I worried that I was going to continue making similar mistakes at the bigger height and put Francis in an unfair spot.
But, the show must go on. I hopped on Friday for our power/speed class, and in full honesty: this was the first time I have ever gone into the show ring on Frankie feeling nervous. I’ve had anxious energy before, but this time I was straight up nervous.
Thankfully I have the best big beast in the world, and as soon as we cleared jump 1 I came back to myself and realized we know what we’re doing out there.
I was actually quite happy with how this rode. The line up 4-5 particularly felt really bouncy and strong, and Frankie rocked back nicely for me.
And then I turned a little too early to 8ab because I was freaking out about riding up to another combo, which meant that I sliced 8A left-to-right and Francis continued on a straight line that did not include 8B hahahahahahaha I’m actually still laughing at this. I got confused on the re-approach and just left the ring making faces and giggling at my idiocy.
So sure we didn’t actually officially complete the course, but I felt like I got a lot of my mojo back. Frankie clearly wasn’t holding any grudges, he just expected me to steer. Which apparently was not a realistic expectation for him to have.
On to Saturday! Despite feeling a lot more confident after my round the previous day, I was 110% done with competing. I had zero desire to go in the ring. I was cool with riding, but had NO competitive edge. At all. For the first time ever, I went to my trainer and said, “I don’t want to show today.” And she responded with, “you don’t have a choice.”
I was at the physical, mental, and emotional level of dealing poorly with literally everything at that point, so I called Fiance in tears about how badly I didn’t want to go in the ring. And then I wiped my face, went back to the barn, tacked up, and went in the ring. Because at that point it was about proving to myself and my trainer that I had the grit to go do the job.
Here’s our speed round:
You guys, I cowboyed around this course. I literally one-handed it through 4AB because I had one hand behind my leg with the crop. Our turn from 6 to 7 to 8 actually rode quite nicely, he balanced and turned well for me. 8 to 9AB walked in a fairly direct bending 6, and I shaped HARD for an 8 in there because I wanted us to get super straight in. No more drive-bys for me! As I told my trainer when I came out of the ring, “I didn’t care if we had any problems anywhere else, but I REFUSED to have an issue with any of the combos.” Mission completed.
It was an ugly course, and I was really proud of it. I rode the crap outta my horse around there, because he was tired and not really helping me out and I had to pick him up and carry him with me over those jumps. Despite a 12 fault score, other people had an even worse day (I saw at least 4 people fall off at 4A) and we snuck a 7th place in this class. I am glad we got a ribbon, because it did feel like an accomplishment despite the messy bits.
Saturday night at dinner, we may have all started chanting “ONE MORE DAY” to get us through it. All of us were fried, including the horses. And the dogs.
So we finally reached the last day. Sunday. Classic Day. Everything was loaded on the trailer except Francis, because we were the last riders from our barn to go in the ring. It was time to wrap this up. Course here:
You guys. I could not be prouder of Frankie. He jumped his heart out over this whole course. He was clearly exhausted- and usually when he’s tired like that, he kinda mentally checks out. Not that he’s bad or anything, just that he phones it in and doesn’t want to go play. Not so this time. He was right there with me every step of the way saying “I’m tired but I’ll give it a go for you.” It was such a wonderful show of partnership from him.
The first bending was just a little underpowered, but I woke him up out of the corner and 3 to 4AB came up really nicely. Bending 5 to 6 was a shaped 6 strides to 4 strides out over 7, and I needed to wait with my shoulders a bit to help him fit that 4 in more easily. I continued straight for a few strides after 7 to help us square up the turn to 8, then galloped him up to it. I knew that he would have trouble with the short one given how tired he was, so I tried to get him to a bit of a gap to give him a break. Bending up to 9AB he just needed a quick tap to get his attention, then I let him open up to 10 and galloped him home over 11.
We had a bunch of rails. But I felt like I actually made decisions that were right for the horse I had under me, and he responded by giving me every single thing I asked for. The poor guy was tired, and I can’t fault him for that- I don’t think those rails would have fallen in week 1.
I don’t have any pics from our second classic, but Tracy took some WONDERFUL ones when she came last week!!!
We snapped a few quick pictures, cooled Francis out, stuck him on the trailer, and I got in the car for the 8 hour journey home.
Nah you know I can’t wrap it up that abruptly. I need more closure than that. But I will save my thoughts on WEC as a venue for another post- the good, the bad, the smelly. Let me know if you have any specific questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them as well!
Right now I’m feeling burned out- physically, mentally, emotionally. It was a LOT. But I also feel stronger, more knowledgeable, proud, and like I’m actually learning how to ride. I know that last bit sounds a little silly, but it’s true. Frankie has spent so long taking care of me, and I finally feel like I’m learning how to take care of him more when he needs it. Our partnership keeps growing and growing and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
Francis got a much-deserved break on Monday and Tuesday, and I’ll be headed out for a light hack after work to stretch those muscles. He’s back to all-day turnout with his buddies, and we’ll be having the vet out soon to give him a full exam. He’s healthy and sound, but we just asked for a lot of hard work from him and we’re going to continue having a busy season- I want us to be extremely proactive in managing his health and fitness as we keep moving and moving up (spoiler alert Homeboy is probs doing the 1.20m with AT next time out WUTTUP).
A few thank yous to wrap us up:
A huge thank you to Tracy and Monica for coming out to see us, and Tracy for snapping pics!! Getting to turn an online friendship into a real-life thing was amazeballs.
Buddy Fianci, for listening to me complain about being at a horse show for too long and not pointing out the obvious that this is literally the dumbest thing to ever complain about. And for being mega supportive in cheering us on from afar. And for being cute. And I just like him a lot is all.
Big big big thank you to my boss and my CEO for giving the thumbs up for me to work remotely while I was competing. I never-in-a-million-years thought that competing for 2 weeks would be a possibility at this point in my career, and their enthusiastic permission to chase my dreams means the world to me.
Hugest thank yous to my trainers and the people who helped us get to the ring every day. They were endlessly supportive and encouraging (even when I was a lumpy crabcake) and none of this would be possible without their tireless devotion to the horses. I’m so grateful that Frankie gets such attentive and knowledgeable care, inside the ring and out.
And as always, Frankie. What can I say? He is the horse of a lifetime. I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have him in my life. From leaping huge obstacles together to taking quiet walks, getting to spend all day every day with him was the greatest gift. He is an incredible creature and I couldn’t love him more.
We made it through our first week of WEC! As I write this, it’s Monday morning- the ponies have the day off, but I’m sitting in our barn area answering emails and catching up on work. I can hear the horses munching their hay, I can see Frankie poking his nose out at me to say hello every so often, and I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.
But let me back up to the start of the week! Frankie arrived here last Monday and according to Trainer, handled the travel like a champ and came off the trailer feeling dandy. Not bad for such a long ride. He got training rides Mon/Tues to get him going while I was impatiently waiting to depart.
I arrived Wednesday afternoon. It was certainly a long drive (with the several breaks I took, about 8 hours) but not too terribly difficult, and with my early 5:45am start I was here by early afternoon. I even got to hop on for a brief hack around the Sanctuary (the jumper ring) and pop over a few jumps in the warmup ring in a mini-lesson. Spoiler alert- Francis felt like a million bucks. We kept the jumps tiny and just focused on super straightness and power off the ground. I can feel it when we get it right, it’s just developing the feel to consistently get it every single time.
You guys, this place is HUGE. ENORMOUS. ALL INDOORS. On days like today where the weather is nice, they open up allll the doors to let the fresh air in, but when it’s cold they button us up and blast the heat- it snowed last week, and I was too warm wearing a light sweater inside that day.
Our first day of competition was Thursday, where we had signed up for a Medium Schooling Jumper class at 1.07-1.10m to get us in the ring and feeling good. I don’t have a picture of the course diagram, but I do have something even better- I have video! Don’t get mad, but this is the only video I have of the entire week.
Overall I’m really pleased with this round! It was our first time in the ring and Francis was a consummate professional. I got popped out of the tack a few times and buried him to the base of at least one jump, but he was forward and fresh and had more than enough power to bail me out. Not perfect, but a fantastic start to the week. This was a blue/red round (clear rounds get a blue ribbon and the rest get a red) and despite some clonking of rails we managed to go clear- I ain’t mad about starting the week with a blue ribbon!
I spent the rest of Thursday getting work done, hand walking Frankie, cleaning tack, and generally soaking in the awesomeness that is getting to work remotely.
Friday was our first day of the division- we just had one II.2.b (immediate jumpoff) class for the Highs. Course here:
Frankie warmed up fantastically, and jumps 1-4 came up smoothly and beautifully. Then I forgot literally everything I’ve ever learned and shoved him at the combo on a half-step. REAL SMART. Frankie very understandably declined to go into an in-an-out with an orangutan piloting. We circled around to re-approach, I shoved him at it just as badly but he is an excellent goober so he made it through somehow, I lost a stirrup, I shoved him at the next jump, and he was like OK THIS IS NOT WHAT WE HAVE PRACTICED. And then I left the ring apologizing to my horse.
I could not tell you why this happened. I mean I can clearly tell you what went wrong and how I could’ve fixed it, but I cannot figure out why I went full potato. I was feeling really frustrated with myself to be honest. I kinda wanted to go crawl in a hole and wallow a bit in my own inadequacy. Luckily, I work with a trainer who is a strong believer in ending on a good note- she arranged for me to go around one of the Low classes to get our confidence back. It wasn’t a perfect course, but it absolutely served its purpose of giving us our mojo back. Wise lady.
Saturday we were signed up for two classes- a speed class, and another jumpoff class. My plan was to go in for the speed class and see how it went, and then decide if we needed another round to school before the classic.
Here’s the speed course:
Jump 1 towards home came up perfectly. I went between the oxer and vertical and then gave myself a few straight strides to 2. I kept him straight between my leg and hand into the combo, and was able to soften and kick a bit into it. We ended up leaving out a stride out over 4, but he was so balanced and responsive that I was able to do the turn inside 8 to get to 5. He fired over that oxer like you wouldn’t believe. I had to steady him a bit towards home down that diagonal line. Then I went around the oxer to give him a straightaway to the second combo, and he just flowed over that so beautifully. I had to sit him back to a short one over 8, then opened up before rocking back for the final line towards home. Double clear and fast.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this round was my best round I’ve ever put in at a show. It wasn’t picture perfect at every step, but I felt so dang in tune with my horse and effective. Every inside turn came up effortlessly for him, he rated back and forth off my seat super quickly, and was firing on all cylinders. This is the round that I would KILL to have video of.
We left the ring sitting in first, and held that lead to win the class. Our first blue ribbon as a team. There were tears. This felt like a ribbon that we had truly earned by being good, not just by being lucky or by having soft competition.
We decided to scratch the next class- we weren’t going to get any better schooling than that! I’m also a fan of saving Frankie’s legs where we can, there’s no need to tire him out unnecessarily.
Sunday was classic day, and also visitor day! We had Monica (formerly of the OTTB Eventer) and Tracy of the Printable Pony come to visit! It was sooo fantastic to get to connect in real life and introduce the Frankfurter. Blogger meetups are my fave!
Here’s our classic course:
Jumps 1 to 2 felt good. I let him get a little fast and flat through the turn, so we lurched a bit over 3, but I was able to get him back for the combo (we did knock a rail on the way out). 5 to 6 was a bit of a mad scramble as I didn’t really half halt enough (also that oxer at 6 was so freakin’ huge I almost peed my pants when I walked the course), and we kinda barreled our way through 7ab. Again- I wasn’t supporting him enough. He was more tired than on previous days and that means he needs more support from me to maintain the bouncy canter we needed. Coming off the combo I put my leg on HARD and got him underneath me, and the last three jumps felt fantastic! Really bouncy and flowing well.
So not our best course, but nothing to be ashamed of either. We spent so long developing that “forward” button, now I’m trying to transition to better channeling that forward without killing the energy. It’s all part of the process! Like I told Monica and Tracy- I might not be the best rider out there, but I’m definitely having the most fun. Pretty sure I have the bestest horse out there too.
Frankie has felt like a million bucks all week. I’ve loved working with the french-link elevator, and Frankie has been going fantastically in it. It’s soft enough that he wants to come over onto the bit, but I actually get a real reaction when I half-halt. We’re still learning, but I think it’s a great tool in our tool box.
You guys, he is a different horse than I brought home almost 2 years ago. He is such a patient teacher as I learn new ways of communicating with him, and he continues to give his all every time we raise the bar. He’s still willing to bail me out when I need it, but he is ready and able to give me such incredible work when I’m on my game. I feel like the luckiest girl on the planet to have this kind of partnership with this animal. EMOTIONS.
He’ll get today off, a light hack on Tuesday, a short lesson Wednesday, then we’ll back back at it on Thursday! I can’t wait to tell you how it goes.
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!!!