Two Years of Francis

Somehow our two year mark snuck up on me. Can you believe it? Two years with this big beautiful amazing steed.

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ESI Photography

In some ways it feels like I just got him yesterday- I can still so distinctly remember every moment of our trial ride and how it felt to sit on him for the first time.

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But in other ways, it feels like he’s always been part of the family.

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PC- Tracy

We’ve come a long long way together. Both of us were jumper-ring-greenies when I got him, and we’ve learned the ropes together as we’ve grown.

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PC- Courtney

Through every success and setback, move-up and misstep, Frankie has been there with me to remind me why I love this sport.

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PC- K. Borden

He has pushed me to become a better rider and a better horsewoman. He’s been the reason I’ve sought more education, gotten involved in my sport at different levels, met incredible people. His own work ethic has inspired mine.

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PC- Tracy

He’s been there for some of the most amazing moments of my life.

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PC- K. Borden

He’s been a warm and comforting source of love when I’m down.

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We’ve learned, sometimes at different speeds, sometimes with one of us outpacing the other- but always working together patiently to catch up. His athleticism is so beyond what I could’ve dreamed or hoped for and he is the reason my dreams keep growing.

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PC- A. Anderson

 

We are both so very far from perfect, but I can’t imagine a more perfect horse for me.

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PC- K. Borden

Cheers to two years with the best horse a girl could ask for. I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.

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What This Blog Means to Me

Both Emma and Jessica have posted recently about what blogging means to them (along with a bunch of people I’m sorry for not linking I promise I read them!!!). I really enjoyed both posts (and the new blogs I found because of them!), but had no plans to chime in.

But I’m a certified content stealer, and recently spent some time going through the archives as we approach 2 years with Frankie. And I had a lot of emotions about it. A LOT. Y’all know I get sappy REAL easy.

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Baby Olivia back when we kicked this shindig off in January 2015

 

Many of you have been here since the beginning of this blog 3 years ago. I had just gotten into the saddle after a multi-year hiatus from all things horses, was half-leasing the DragonMare, and was getting ready for my first show in 10 years.

Getting to share that journey back into the show ring was incredible. All of a sudden I had this community where I could dissect every nitty-gritty stride of a lesson, talk endlessly about grooming my horse, acknowledge my nerves and shortcomings in competition- and not once did anyone say, “enough is enough, can you talk about anything besides horses??” There was this whole world of people to cheer our successes, commiserate and comfort our setbacks, and who I could talk with about ponies nonstop.

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You guys have been here for it all!

In a huge way, discovering the blogging community developed my growing commitment to riding so much more quickly than it otherwise would have. You all were here to say, “we totally understand that this makes your soul happy. Go for it.” (I’m blaming y’all enablers for making me go broke, btw).

This blog has evolved a lot over the years- when I started, it was mainly lesson/show reviews. It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ve slowly moved away from that- when is the last time we saw a dedicated lesson review?? We still do show recaps, but the rest of my posts are now more big-picture about mine and Frankie’s path, and thoughts about the industry that I spend more and more of my time in.

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We’ve talked a ton about developing Frankie into the rockstar powerhouse he is today

This blog has chronicled every step of my journey, from a half-leaser in the 2’6″ local hunters, to chasing AO jumper dreams at the big shows with my very own unicorn. If you had told me when I started this blog that we would be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I still can’t really believe how fortunate I am to be able to do this.

So what does blogging mean to me? A whole heck of a lot. It’s been a diary to track my progress in lessons, shows, and other training opportunities- and somewhere for me to review for encouragement when I feel like the progress isn’t happening as fast as I’d like. It’s been a forum to connect with knowledgeable, supportive, incredible horsewomen. It’s been the way that I’ve met some of my closest friends. It’s been a way to ask for advice. It’s been a place for me to organize my scattered thoughts.

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And share the hundreds of Francis nap pics I take

Y’all are awesome, and I’m grateful for you every day. Cheers to this wonderful, weird, crazy amazing blogging community!

Thoroughbred Francis

What do you get when you have the chiropractor out to make your horse feel good, but then they get stuck in their stall for two days because of the snow?

You get a Francis who is acting like a bona fide TB. No more WB. Just TB.

Now, I don’t mean OMG HE WAS CRAZY AND FAST. Because our barn is full to the gills of TBs and OTTBs, and exactly zero of them are crazy or fast. Including the babies right off the track. Also can you imagine Francis being crazy? Because I can’t (even his foolishness is not crazy).

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Nooo, I is never naughty

But he was very much in the mentality of YOU WANNA PULL I WILL PULL RIGHT BACK LADY. And it wasn’t malicious or cranky, he was just feeling really good and wanted to go do his thang.

He was a very good boy warming up, pushing from behind and quite responsive. A titch fast at the canter- our lengthenings felt a little more lengthy than usual, and our collections felt a little more bouncy than usual too- but he felt nice and bendy and bouncy. All good things.

He bounded over a crossrail a few times to warm up, then we switched directions, and he did his fun root-n-play move around our next course. Meaning I just kinda slipped my reins, kept my leg on, and gave extra big releases over the fences to reward his big effort. Useful to work through together? Yes. AIN’T NO FUN THO.

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“You’re not exactly a barrel of laughs all the time either, lady”

So the next course, I was determined to not pick a fight. I was not going to engage. I was going to stay super duper soft through my hands, keep a steady leg, and a light seat.

And all of a sudden, happy Francis was right there with me, cantering around so softly and turning left like a dang professional.

I got a head toss in the next course when I used too much hand.

And then as soon as I softened at him, he softened right back. Lovely little stride, stepping under, straight through his body. Absolutely delightful.

I think absolutely none of this is groundbreaking stuff for anyone, but it was certainly an adjustment in how I usually have to ride my horse. He’s always been a “more” type of horse- add more leg, take more feel, get in the driving seat. He’s such a chill dude that any urgency has to come from me. So getting to practice that softness without sacrificing the strength was a majorly useful exercise for both of us.

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THROW AWAY THE REINS. BUT NOT LIKE, ALL THE WAY. BUT A LOT OF THE WAY. NOT THAT MUCH. MAYBE MORE THO. IDK.

I’m really happy with how he feels after getting adjusted- the chiro mentioned that he noticed some tightness in his back and pelvis, and he feels noticeably looser and more flexible under saddle now. We’re also working with our saddle fitter to get things 100% perfect on that front (we’re getting closer!), he’ll continue to get chiro semi-regularly, I may look into massage, and our vet is coming out in April to do a full exam and a lameness locator baseline evaluation. He’s going to compare these to his notes from Frankie’s pre-purchase to see what/if any changes have taken place, and we’ll decide from there what strategy we’ll pursue moving forward.

So we’re coming at this wellness thing from several angles, and I’m really excited about it. I want to make sure he’s feeling 100% in every way before asking him to jump into a busy show season, and my trainers are completely on board with that. They’ve agreed that the outcomes of all these measures will determine what our show season looks like- Frankie will tell us what kind of workload he can comfortably support.

On that note, I am incredibly grateful for the team of people that works to keep Frankie feeling his best. My trainers could be making more money off of me by pushing me to compete, but they always put Frankie’s health and happiness above everything else. They’re not just fantastic coaches and trainers, but excellent role models for good horsemanship. Our vet cares so deeply about the horses, and has never tried to throw unnecessary treatments at us. Our farrier is just straight up ridiculously competent. There’s this whole crew of amazingly knowledgeable people working in concert to make sure the horses aren’t just sound, but happy and healthy and enjoying their work.

It looks like our next show is penciled in for the end of May, so I’m excited to spend the next couple months honing in hard on Frankie’s well-being. Add in some hacks around the neighborhood once it warms up, and I think we will have a majorly strong, flexible, happy, goofy, fancy show horse on our hands.

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And the cutest show horse. Always the cutest.

Loving the Loaf

On our last trip up north, Fiance and I met with the priest to talk about our wedding. I’ve known my priest since I was born so I’m very comfortable with him, but the Big Guy has only met him a few times when he’s come to visit my family. So we all just wanted to get together and get to know each other and talk about what the dealio is.

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Marriage will likely include me telling him how to climb trees (you gotta hook the hands)

This wasn’t a formal marriage class or counseling or anything like that, but Father Andrew did have us tell him what we like most about each other. That one was easy. And very sweet. I live for compliments.

But then he asked us what we like least about each other.

Neither of us had anything to say because we are both perfect people and never get annoyed at each other.

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We both only ever smile gently at each other and laugh romantically at our tasteful jokes

HAHAHAHA RIGHT OK.

Nah of course we both had something to say. Not nasty, not dismissive, just “yo this drives me bonkers.” Neither of us was surprised by what the other said, because we have both said “yo this drives me bonkers” to each other before.

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My constant screeching was surprisingly not in the dislike column for him

Father Andrew then talked about how marriage is like a loaf of bread (I LOVE THE GREEKS EVERY METAPHOR IS FOOD RELATED). Some people like the crusty ends of the bread, some people like the soft middle, but with marriage you get the whole loaf. So it’s ok to not like certain parts of people. It doesn’t make either of you bad people or incompatible. As long as you love the loaf as a whole, you’re doing just fine.

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He is a very ergonomic loaf

I’ve been thinking about how this applies to horses (obviously, did you think this post was about my human relationship?!). Because lets be real here- Frankie is my glorious unicorn and I love him so so so much, but there are totally parts and pieces here and there that I don’t particularly like.

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And there are for sure things that I do that he is NOT SO FOND OF #sideeye

But even though those parts aren’t my favorite at times, I love that loaf like you wouldn’t believe. I couldn’t imagine a different loaf. He’s the exact correct loaf for me.

It means that when I’m frustrated because holy crap my left leg is about to fall off and you STILL WON’T MOVE OFF IT it’s ok. I can let that moment of frustration happen and move on. Just because we still have things to work on together doesn’t mean we have a bad partnership, it just means that we are both learning and growing together- and overall both really enjoying the process.

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And he still comes in for snugs all day erry day so I know we still cool

So tell me. What do you think of the loaf metaphor??

Engagement Photos!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled PonyProgramming to bring you engagement photos!

I’m beyond in love with all of them, and narrowing them down is HARD YO. Buddy Fianci and I had such a blast with our photographer and everything turned out even better than I could’ve hoped. For those of you in the New England area, I can’t say enough good things about Samantha Robshaw Photography. She was warm and funny and guided us when we didn’t know what to do, but let us be ourselves and just have fun with each other. Actually amazing.

But that’s enough of a prologue. Here are some of my favorite pics!!

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Real talk I was only barefoot because I couldn’t decide what shoes to wear
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Also it was so stupid windy. Like, tornado level windy.
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OH MY GAWD PUT US IN A MAGAZINE
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So. Windy.
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Also it was roughly 35F. I SUFFERED for these photos. There was much squawking and hopping in between the nice shots.
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Two words: worth it
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Awww he’s so giant and strong
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Comfy clothes made it moderately more bearable, but I still tried to sneak inside his coat at every chance.
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Don’t blame the photographer for this one, it was our idea. Prom pose, staring into middle distance. A true classic.
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Another classic. We were going for early-90s-Sears-photoshoot (how does he still look like a model doing this?!)
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COULD HE BE MORE HANDSOME?!
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The cute piggyback pics quickly morphed into him trying to Batista Bomb me.
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I knew he was about to pull something shady
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And I was right. Actually thought he was going to drop me in the water.
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My request to our photographer here: “So I want us to look like we’re climbing town hall, but casually. Not like we’re trying too hard.” I think she nailed it.
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I was so sick of staring into his stupid eyes.
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Like, so sick of it. If you look closely, you can see that one eye is crossed.
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She convinced me to pull myself together for a little while longer. UGH I GUESS IT LOOKS ADORABLE.
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Not pictured: both of us whispering a steady stream of trash-talking in each other’s ears
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“Quick look confused, but pretty about it”
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I’m smiling here because immediately before this shot, he whispered “I’m going to throw you in this pond”
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This was great because he pretended to drop me several times and I tensed up like you wouldn’t believe
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Again, don’t blame the photographer. She had to work with what she had.
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Turns out that our two defaults when we don’t know what to do are picking me up and smooching.
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We haven’t looked at each other since. We got our fill that day.
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Violently smashing our foreheads together
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“What if we lay on this log and stacked?”
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The behind-the-scenes of that photo
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Daring him to do pushups while precariously balanced on driftwood while I sit on top of him.

Clearly we had some fun with this. I can’t stop staring, it’s such a wonderful mix of gorgeous sweet moments while still having plenty of the fun goofy moments that are more “us.”

Now I’m even more excited for the wedding!!

Pony Finances

Let’s talk expenses! Not specifics, because that’s fairly private and incredibly region-dependent, but let’s talk about how we handle them. Mostly because I just made a big change in my approach to horse expenses, and I want to know if all y’all already do this and are like “dude obviously,” or if you’re going to tell me that this is super weird and definitely awful.

Let’s get into it.

There are a few very predictable expenses for Frankie every month:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides (if I opt for them that month)
  • Farrier (this isn’t quiiiiite every month, he’s on a 4-6 week cycle depending on time of year and how good/bad his feet are at the time. Still rather predictable tho.)
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Unlimited snugs are included for free in our monthly package

And then there are some that pop up regularly but not as consistently:

  • Vet care- both routine vaccinations/checkups, and more intense things like injections. Also who knows when everything could go sideways and he needs emergency vet care (knocking on wood SO INTENSELY HERE PLEASE STAY ROBUSTLY HEALTHY)
  • Frankie’s insurance- I pay in 3 lump payments throughout the year, but they’re not all the same
  • Shows- different venues have different fees, shipping costs more/less depending on how far the venue is, I compete more often in the summer, etc.
  • Gear- blankets break, saddles need re-fitting, my spurs need replacing, etc. This is the hardest to predict.
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Thank the good Lord above that I don’t have to pay for a 2-week horse show every month. PC- Tracy

So what these means is that in any given month, I only really have a solid handle on the “no less than” number in advance. It’ll be at least X amount, and likely much higher. I have historical data (yes, obviously Frankie has his own spreadsheet, duh) to plug in for shows/vet/insurance so I’m not totally in the dark, but it still makes consistent budgeting hard when expenses fluctuate so much.

Now that my Human Mate and I are combining forces, I decided it was time for a full audit of my spending habits to figure out what makes the most sense as I move from doing-everything-solo-all-the-time to sharing-a-home-and-a-life-with-a-person. Which brings me to my big change:

Frankie got his own debit card.

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“It’s about time I got paid”

He won’t get to use it himself (honestly his dexterity with small objects extends exclusively to eating them), but I now have a separate account exclusively for horse expenses. I’ve taken my total horse expenses over a full year, divided by 12, and added a cushion, and that amount will automatically be going into his account every month.

Some months I will need more than that average, some months I will need less, but over time it should even out to have a constant buffer.

This simplified my budget like you wouldn’t believe. It took my line items from this:

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To this:

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Literally cut the number in half.

This makes my monthly budget A MILLION TIMES more predictable. Obviously if something totally unexpected happens I’ll need to pull from my main account, but I purposefully made Frankie’s monthly budget higher than I usually need (except in months where we compete) to try and build up some “savings” specifically for him.

So talk to me, folks. Is this a total no-brainer thing that you did years ago? Or do you think giving Francis his own bank account is overkill?

My Fancy Horse

Someone told Francis that he was fancy, and he decided that fancy horses are supposed to be expensive. I was really aiming for that Cinderella-story-we’re-doing-Grand-Prix-on-a-$10-per-month-budget, but alas. It is not meant to be.

First of all, despite going almost 2 years with perfect saddle fit and getting a thumbs up on fit just a few months ago, we have abruptly reached the point of not fitting properly anymore (on the one hand I’m glad he’s so muscle-y, but on the other hand COME ON). Our saddle fitter came out to discuss options and none of them are free. So that’s cool.

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HOW MANY TIMES MUST I GET THIS CUSTOM FITTED TO YOU

Then, homeboy is getting heightened vet care. As mentioned, he’ll be getting a full workup soon to figure out what he needs to be comfortable performing at the higher levels. My guess is going to be at the very least another SI injection, with potentially some other injections as well. Farewell money.

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“FEED ME MORE JOINT JUICE PLS”

I’ve also mentioned massage/chiro. I’ve told Trainer to stick Francis on the list for the next time our person comes out. Fiance gleefully refers to the prospect of massage, chiro, and acupuncture as “Rubs, Cracks, and Pokes.” Plenty of rubs, cracks, and pokes are in Frankie’s future. He thinks I’m going to be the most ridiculous panhandler on the side of the road, with my sign saying, “My horse needs a massage, anything helps, God bless.” I mean, I’m considering it.

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“LADY I’VE EARNED THAT MASSAGE CARTING YOUR BUTT AROUND” PC- A. Frye

CONTINUING ON THE SPEND TRAIN, I switched back into the snaffle when we got back from WEC and oh dear Lord do I hate it. Absolutely loathe. Grabbing a bit identical to AT’s is high on the priority list, he went in that so beautifully.

Along those lines, a figure-8 bridle. That’s what he went in all WEC and I loved it. Hoping I can just get the noseband and not need a whole new bridle? Though at this point it’s kinda like WHATEVER I’LL JUST KEEP THROWING MONEY AT MY TACK.

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Really loved the bit/bridle combo here.

If you need me, I’ll just be frantically rearranging my budget spreadsheet to accommodate my Very Fancy Horse.

Such a Happy Francis

So obviously Francis was very well-behaved and wonderful during the full 2 weeks in Ohio. Not a foot out of place, polite and well-mannered, and working hard. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.

But as I mentioned in my last post, Francis is a very social beast. Very. And he didn’t get his group turnout while we were gone. Now that we’re back and he’s reunited with his buddies, he is SO HAPPY OMG SO HAPPY.

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MAHM THINGS ARE SO GOOD MAHM PC- Courtney

It’s funny- I can tell his mood so quickly just because I know my pony, but it’s subtle. Even when he’s cranky/tired, he’s polite. He never gets sassy or nippy or rude, he just kinda tunes out and gets a case of the “blahs.”

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Have you ever heard a horse snore? Come to our next show, and you totally can.

But Francis in a good mood is like a 5 year old little boy. When he’s happy, he’s like a sassy little pony stuffed into a giant 17.1hh body. He is playful and goofy and hilarious.

Our lesson this week had Happy Francis on full display: he was scratching my shoulder for me in exchange for the scratches I was giving him, during every break he would look back at me and rub his nose on my boots (begging for ear rubs), and he was snuffling at my clothes the entire time I was untacking.

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Hello yes I am good pls rub ears

Like any 5 year old little boy, that energy sometimes turns into poking and playing a little too far- at one point he tried to take a nibble of my boot while I was scratching his ears. I walloped him a good one because he knows better than to use teeth near me, and he proceeded to give me the middle finger around our next course because HOW DARE YOU I AM MUCH OFFENDED. Homeboy got over it by jump 3 tho. Because he was in SUCH A GOOD MOOD.

I tend to refer to Frankie as “my boy” or “my child,” but we really don’t have that type of relationship. I’d say he’s more like a little brother that I have custody of. At the end of the day, I’m in charge and he has to listen to what I’m saying. But we also love to play together. And sometimes there’s that exasperation of oh my GOSH Francis if you can’t be cool then you can’t hang out with me and my friends. Because he’s like the little brother who keeps poking*poking*poking to get attention.

But even when he’s got Pony Man Syndrome, I can’t help but laugh when he’s like that. His playfulness and joy is totally contagious. Even my trainer was chuckling at him the other day.

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GREETINGS I AM HERE FOR THE SCRITCHES

We will still have shows in our future that cut down on Frankie’s social time every so often, but it makes me happy beyond belief that he is so clearly content with his day-to-day life. A happy Francis makes one very happy Olivia.

Three Words

So I’m like a month late to this hop from 3Day Adventures with Horses, but it was too fun not to join in! I saw this when I was in Ohio and started thinking, and here’s what I’ve come up with for Francis.

Diligent– having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.

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Show him the jump, tell him what to do, and he will go do it. Period. PC- K. Borden

If you tell Frankie what the game is and explain the rules, he will go out there and play. If you raise the expectations, he will meet or exceed them. “Steady” implies slowness (and he actually has a motor now), and “responsive” implies reactivity to me, but I think diligent encapsulates his constant willingness to go out there and try. No matter what distractions may be going on and no matter what his job is in that moment- jumpers, cross country, hacking out, equitation, standing still on the crossties- he displays a clear and constant willingness to do the job correctly.

Confident– feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured.

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Things are peachy keen according to Francis. PC- A. Frye

He is pretty sure that he’s doing just fine. He doesn’t get flustered when I correct or reprimand him- he knows that he’s not a bad boy, so he just goes ahead and tries something else. He doesn’t glance at jumps, because he knows they won’t bite him. He doesn’t blink when the jumps go up, because he knows I wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t. He’s confident in himself and he’s confident in me- despite the times I mess him up.

Socialliving or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation.

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Always always wants snuggles and playtime. PC- Tracy

Frankie really thrives on companionship, whether that’s equine or human. He loves to play and trade scratches, LIVES for long groomings, and soaks up all attention he can get. He’s always a good boy, but he is noticeably happier and more relaxed when he’s had plenty of social interaction. This isn’t to say that he’s always super sweet to every horse- he can be a real asshole when he thinks someone is getting up in his grill- but he is curious and engaged and seeks out company. He’s a total bro.

So there’s my Francis in a nutshell! He’s a happy dude who takes pride in a job well done, and likes to kick back and relax with his buds.

….These may actually also be the word’s I’d use for Buddy Fianci. I guess I have a type? I love my boys ❤

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Tall, dark, and handsome. And happy. And fun. And athletic. And the similarities continue.

 

WEC: The Good, The Less Good, The Smelly

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.

The Good

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.

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Buncha cool jumps for us, good footing

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.

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I haven’t even scratched the surface of the sheer number of nap pics I took while there

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.

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Daily bathtime for Francis!

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.

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Super nice to have this photo op spot too, even if Frankie almost tripped and fell on his face stepping onto the platform. He’s speshul.

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.

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Francis thoroughly enjoyed his reasonably priced stall. Toldja I have tons of nap pics.

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!

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He sure did love those hand walks tho

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).

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This ended up being my workstation. Totally awesome to be near the ponies, but not the most ergonomic.

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.

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Unrelated, this dog was just hilarious. Sploot.

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.

The Smelly

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!