Behind the Stall Door with: To Be Frank

If you haven’t yet, y’all need to go see Tracy’s ADORABLE kickoff to this super fun hop. Of course I can’t resist, so here’s my own version featuring the Beast.

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Who is this handsome beast when he’s at home? PC- Liz Stout Photography

When we showed up to ask ammy Olivia Carr about the famous To Be Frank (aka “Frankie”), she was only too happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that we had a remarkably difficult time fitting a word in edgewise. A partnership since early 2016, Carr clearly adores her current partner, and he stoically tolerates her constant face hugs right back.

You all know this 2006 Oldenburg x TB gelding as a star in the adult jumper ring, but we got the inside scoop on just what makes this big bay behemoth such a character around the barn. Let’s go behind the stall door to find out more!

Francisco was a late bloomer

“As best I can tell, someone spotted him eating from a round bale in a field of cows when he was about 6. He bounced around a bit getting some basic brokeness, but wasn’t in any sort of program until shortly before we found him,” recounted Olivia. That late start didn’t hold him back- he spent time in the foxhunting field as well as trying some lower-level eventing before finding his niche in the jumper ring.

Not a dog guy…but he won’t tell you that

“Frankfurter tries to drag me over to every dog he sees,” laughed Olivia, “and then he remembers he doesn’t actually like them and makes cranky faces. I’m waiting for the day that he remembers he’s not into dogs, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Cats? Totally different story. As we were speaking, Frankenbean was snuffling happily into the face of a purring barn cat.

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Enjoying his time on the farm with owner Olivia and soon-to-be-step-father Nicholas. PC- K. Borden

One of the laziest jumpers in Zone 3

When we asked about Franklin’s blinding speed on course, Olivia quickly set the record straight. “Oh no, he is definitely not a spicy horse. Not at all. No way.”  Despite ribbons in speed classes and jump-offs, and once famously coming in 20 full seconds under the time allowed, this apparently does not come naturally to the leggy bay.

“Whenever people hop on him, they’re always really surprised at how much leg he takes to get moving,” confessed Olivia. “Any sort of urgency or pace comes from me, and he just knows the job well enough now to go along with it.”

No scope no hope

While originally purchased to be a 1.10m horse, the sky is the limit for Francis. He’s taken his ammy owner up to 1.15m thus far, but has been successful in the 1.20m show ring with a professional in the irons. “We were hoping to try the Low AO division in 2018, but planning a wedding put those plans on hold,” explained Olivia. “Luckily he’s sound and healthy, so there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t give it a go in 2019. We’ve schooled higher than that at home so I don’t anticipate it being a problem- he hasn’t had to work hard at any height we’ve asked of him yet!”

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He’s certainly not having trouble at the 1.15m height, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for this talented creature! PC- Hoof Print Images

Leave the ears alone

Despite his love of ear rubs and ear scratches, there is one thing The Big Guy does not like- getting his ears clipped. He is, to quote Olivia, “a real asshole about it.”

Taller than he looks

We were surprised by how big Franz is up close, but we’re not alone. “I think because I’m 5’10” it makes Franco look smaller than he actually is, just proportionally,” mused Olivia, “because every time someone meets him, they comment on how much taller he is than they expected.” Take it from us- he’s every inch of 17.1 with a presence to match.

A snugglebug at heart

When we asked Olivia to name her favorite thing about Frankie, she didn’t hesitate. “The constant snugs. He’s always always coming in to rest his head on my shoulder, or beg for ear rubs, or give kisses. He’s incredibly affectionate and playful, I can’t get enough.”

Sure enough, we got the same treatment as soon as we were in range!

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A wonderful partnership between a crazy girl and her lovely horse. PC- Tracy

 

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Snaps for Olivia

So earlier this week I had a little party about how my professionally-trained-for-years horse was acting like a professionally-trained-for-years horse. That even though he’s a little out of shape and out of a consistent program, he’s still a super capable steed with lots of buttons that can Do The Things. Because while I know it’s pretty normal for a trained horse to remain trained (especially one with his disposition), I’ll never stop being giddily grateful for my shmancy pony.

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Unrelated, I just think it’s funny how much he enjoys the vacuum. PC- Liz.

 

We had our first lesson since August this week, meaning we jumped for the first time in 3 weeks. I certainly didn’t ride at the level that I was at during show season- my muscles are much weaker, I was cursing out my trainer while doing our no-stirrup work, and our turns were…creatively angled. But Frankie packed me around cheerfully, adjusted his stride promptly when asked, jumped cute, and was overall an absolute prince for me. Seriously, I could gush about how great he was for hours.

But I won’t. Because today I want to give myself some kudos.

I arrived home from my lesson beaming from ear to ear, and told my fiance all about how great Francis was, how the jumps stayed around 3′ but that was kinda a welcome step back since I’m so out of shape, and how glad I am to have a horse that can take care of me when my riding is decent-not-awful-but-definitely-not-great.

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We’ll work our way back up to being able to steer in the air. For now it’s no shame grab mane.

And then he reminded me- only about 3 years ago, jumping 3′ was my white whale. It was my hump that I had never conquered in all my years of riding. Counting up my years in the saddle, it took a solid 10 years to get to the point of jumping 3′ with any sort of consistency. And because he is a lovely person, he gave me a big hug and told me how he thought it was pretty cool that something that had been a mental block for so long now feels easy enough to be a step back. He was there when I got back in the saddle, he was there when I jumped my first 3′ jump with Addy, and he was there when I came home from a show with a ribbon from my first ever 3′ division. He has many clear memories of my endless monologues about the journey to 3′. He’s been there for every move up over the past few years and he’s cheered for all of them.

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He took this picture, back in 2015. I was so excited to finally jump this height.
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Having him there means the world to me. 

So yeah, he reminded me to give myself some grace. I’ve been kinda disappointed about stepping back after being on such an incredible trajectory for the past few years. I needed that reminder to consider the bigger picture, and give myself some credit for the progress we’ve made instead of being glum about what we’re not currently doing. Because what we’re doing is still really cool.

Thanks for bearing with this remarkably self-indulgent post, and we’ll get back to the pony-indulging posts shortly. We all know that Francis is the real MVP 😉

My Spending Freeze Wishlist

As you may have guessed, I’m currently on a bit of a spending freeze due to the wedding (helmet doesn’t count, Frankie earned me some dolla billz so that didn’t change my cash flow). And true to form, being on a spending freeze makes me IMMEDIATELY WANT ALL THE THINGS.

So sue me.

Here are a few of the items popping up lately that are giving me the grabby hands this fall:

LD Equestrian Leggings

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The best pic I could find was a gratuitous butt shot HAPPY TUESDAY

I saw someone wearing these on Instagram and they looked pretty cool, and I also like to look cool. Also they come in navy. So you know they must be good. I’ve been wanting to get some leggings for a while now, and will happily take any recommendations you may have for breathable, cleanable, pretty ones that aren’t too slippery. But until someone gives me a different recommendation, these are on the list.

Mountain Horse Sovereigns

“But Olivia, I thought you already had two pairs?”

Yeah, I do. But you know what I don’t have?

SOVEREIGNS IN DARK BROWN

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Be still my heart.

However, I can’t find these for sale anywhere. It was just one lone picture on one lone account on Twitter. But now I’m hoping. My current brown ones are looking pretty beat up, and these would be a gorgeous replacement. The two-tone lighter brown are def cool looking, but these are absolutely stunning. Hit me up if you find them anywhere.

Equifit BellyBand

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Finally, something for Francis. Despite going 2 years with zero problems, Homeboy started getting spur rubs pretty easily on his left side this past summer. A combination of my weaker left leg moving too much, and him being incredibly dull to that side (also likely due in large part to my weaker left side). It’s not really a mystery. But while I’m working on correcting that, I would also love to give him a little extra protection until I can control that rogue left heel.

Charles Ancona Show Coat

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Excuse me while I try to stop drooling. I currently have two lovely show coats- my more conservative hunter green one that I use for classics and my rare forays into the non-jumper ring, and my kickass light blue one for Every Other Time. But I’ve been starting to really covet something navy. Our barn colors are navy, red, and white (I’m sure you’ve seen our saddle pads and bonnets) and y’all know how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE color-coordinating. A navy coat with white and red piping?! I could cry. And the people I know with Ancona’s just love them, totally rave about the quality. I touched one once in a store and it gave me better posture. It’s literally over 3x what I’ve ever paid for a coat before, but unimportant. It’s fine. The Equiline coats also offer customization, and AT has one that’s just gorgeous. So what I’m saying is that I want a custom navy coat.

Haas Dark Bay Brush Set

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Back to stuff for Frankie! A couple people in the barn have gotten the Haas sets lately, and absolutely love them. And their horses are looking super clean and shiny too. Getting Frankie a full set of really nice brushes has been on the list for a while, so these have made it to the wishlist. Apparently the curry comb is Better Than All Other Curry Combs, and Frankie thinks any brushing system that includes moar brushies is a total win. Big guy does love himself the itchy scratchies.

OK, your turn now! What’s giving you grabby hands these days?

Mirror Mirror

More than 3 years ago, I wrote about how my emotions were affecting the DragonMare and how she mirrored those back at me. She was definitely the type that would react to any stress being emitted in her direction. Frankie is an extremely different horse (the actual polar opposite of her in pretty much every way), and is almost entirely non-reactive to that kind of stimuli.

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IF YOU’RE A STRESS THEN I’M A STRESS 
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vs. Lady I can feel you vibrating and I cannot make myself care

This past weekend, he reminded me that he does still read me EXCEEDINGLY well. And don’t I feel foolish about it.

Because for a couple weeks now, I’ve basically been calling him a fat lazy sack of bones (very affectionately, of course). And so I’ve hopped on and expected a lazy sack of bones.

And what does he give me? A fat lazy sack of bones. Homeboy ain’t dumb, he knows this is his ticket to No-Worksville.

How do I know this is true?

Because this weekend, I was feeling particularly motivated to get a good workout in. I pulled out his figure-8 bridle with the leverage bit (we’ve been riding in his basic snaffle lately). I put my spurs back on. I grabbed my crop. I prepared to really talk him into working with me.

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Jeepers crow he looks so handsome in his work-hard-uniform

And I didn’t have to. He was right there working hard with me from the moment I swung into the saddle.

Turns out my lazy horse was being lazy…because I was expecting (and allowing) him to be lazy. WOW THIS IS TOTALLY COMPLICATED ROCKET SCIENCE. Not.

As soon as I brought out his “work clothes” and actually rode instead of just passively sitting on him, he was right there. Prompt upwards transitions. Correct lateral work. Adjustable gaits. You know, all the things we’ve trained him to do over the past few years.

It may sound silly that I’m absolutely giddy about my well-trained horse acting like a well-trained horse, but I am. It affirms for me that slowing down is not ruining the work we’ve put into him. He’s not going to forget all of this just because we’re not jumping every week. We’ll have to do some bootcamp to get full fitness back, but he’s holding on to his know-how and will absolutely be ready for me when I’m ready.

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Ready for SMOOSHES ALL TIME FOREVER

As long as I don’t expect him to be a pokey pony. Because then he will 100% be a pokey pony.

Blog Hop: The Horse You Bought

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a blog hop, so I just had to jump in on this one from Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses after seeing L’s post.

We all know that Frankie has grown and progressed a TON from when I bought him. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and talk about it some more.

Bought: end of March, 2016

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Doin’ some jomps in our trial ride
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His Coggins pic, looking mighty cute

Here’s what his ad said when I bought him:

“He is Eventing at the Novice level and has the ability for much more. This kind natured horse is quiet and easy going, with good movement and a super jump. He goes XC quietly in a snaffle and will jump whatever you point him at. He is also a good Foxhunter. A competitive horse suitable for an amateur.”

And you know what? That was entirely accurate. Honest, quiet, sweet, and athletic. A genuinely good egg. In short- exactly what I was looking for!

However, he was inexperienced in several ways. He was started quite late (as a 6yo) and had done relatively little until he was 8 or 9. By the time I bought him, he had roughly 12-18 months of consistent training. He was nicely broke and very willing, but didn’t really know how to use his body to best effect (especially over fences). While I think his late start is certainly good for his long-term soundness, I think it took him as long as it did to figure out his jumping form because he came to it so late. Luckily he was big enough and naturally powerful enough to step into the 1m jumper ring pretty quickly.

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HOW DO LEGS GO IN AIR HUH?

Which he was also brand new to. His first show with us was a week-long A rated show where he was stalled the whole time, at a height that was new to both of us. Bit of a trial by fire. For the first full year or so, he would land off of every jump and stall a bit- he didn’t ever think to continue on to another fence unless explicitly told to. I had to override to everything since he didn’t have the know-how to maintain a powerful collected stride. It made combos tricky since those were also brand new to him.

In a nutshell- he was a forgiving, fun, inexperienced horse who had lots of ability and lots to learn to be able to use it.

Fast forward to 2018.

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The most handsome angel
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Show pro, anywhere we go (sick flow)
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Happy boy totally knows the drill now when we walk in the ring

To say he’s a different horse than I bought two years ago couldn’t be more true. He’s (clearly) figured out his body over the jumps, and we haven’t found the upper limits of his scope yet. He says yes to all of it with that same happy face. We went from struggle-bussing over 1m, to easily doing the 1.15m with me and 1.20m with a pro in the irons. He’s learned how to stay powerful and collected so we have lots of options on course, he lands looking for the next jump, and he knows that the start bell means it’s time for zoomies. He’s an absolute professional in the jumper ring. He’s extremely well-broke on the flat with lots of buttons, and we can throw him in any ring and know that he’ll go around. He’s that fancy horse I could never afford, and I’m so proud and grateful that we put in the work and time to bring out that hidden potential.

He’s also a little less forgiving now that the jumps are bigger. He expects me to carry my weight and give him a good ride, or at least not an actively awful one. Now that we know how to rate our stride, he gets (justifiably) mad when I try to gun him at a jump. Sorry bro, old habits die hard. He does also prefer an active ride still- making the wrong decision is still much better in his book than making no decision. Of course, we all prefer the right decision. Working on it.

What’s the same? The rest. The sweetness, the kindness in his eye, his quiet confidence. That’s what drew me to him within the first 5 minutes of seeing him, and that’s what draws me to him now.

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PC- Tracy

He’s still the horse that thrives on attention, loves to come in for smooches, struts when he knows he did good, and that I can trust around children. That went XC schooling on a loopy rein, giving a lead to all the newbies. That happily stands for an hour of groomies when his mom is too tired to ride. That can have a week off, and then walk out of his stall foot-perfect.

When I bought him, my tentative plan was to use him as a step-up horse- spend a couple years moving up until we reached as far as he could go, then sell him and use those funds to bring in a new mount.

Um, yeah. No.

I’m open to leasing him out down the road, but homeboy is not for sale.

So that’s another big difference: the horse I bought was not intended to be a forever horse.

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When I’m so nervous I could puke, and he just quietly comes in for snugs as I’m tacking up…yeah buddy. You can stay as long as you like.

He’s enjoying his vacation season (he’s pretty sure that Mom getting married is the BEST THING EVAR OMG LIFE IS SO EASY), but I’m beyond excited to get back in the saddle and explore new adventures with him. He may be different from the horse I bought, but in all the right ways. I would buy him again a thousand times over.