This is going to be a short one, folks. I just felt a pressing need to share something that you may or may not know about the Frankenbean.
You obviously all know how much he loves nap time. I’ve made that abundantly clear over the years, and those of you who have met up with us at shows have seen it first hand. Homeboy loves a good rest.
I’ve also mentioned in passing that Francis is not one to keep a neat stall. Like, it’s awful. They basically have to strip it every day because of (1) how dang MUCH he poops and pees and (2) how much he spreads it all around into a big icky coleslaw of disgusting. Our people try really hard to keep his stall clean and he pretty much makes their jobs hell. I’ve seen how thorough of a job they do. And then I’ve come back ~45 minutes later and seen the carnage my boy has wrought.
The logical combination of these facts is something that you may not have thought about for our darling boy.
What do you get when you combine a filthy stall and a horse that loves to stomp around and take naps in it?
You get the world’s SMELLIEST HORSE.
I swear, this horse is one of the greatest gifts of my life and he is an angel upon this earth, but he reeks. His blankets reek. When his fluffy winter coat grows in, it traps the smells SO much more strongly and it gets a million times worse. At least in the summer, rolling in the mud and dust helps cut the stench. No such luck in the winter.
So the other day when he started steaming while I was riding, I knew it was time for a haircut. For more than one reason. Of course I want him to be comfortable while we’re working and that means getting rid of his yak-like fluff.
But this steam also smelled atrocious. I was breathing in the fumes of my pungent steed. Literally being gassed by his propensity for wallowing in his own filth.
There’s my confession for the day. I’m the proud owner of the stinkiest horse in the barn, and it’s reached epic levels.
Our annual XC school was an absolute blast. Tons of rain the night before meant soggy footing which meant Frankie and I kept it VERY low key, but we loved our glorified trail ride.
Just how low key was it?
WOAH THERE DON’T TRY TOO HARD FRANCIS
Literally we popped over a couple logs and then WALKED SO SLOWLY up out of the water. That’s all we did.
It was thoroughly delightful.
With our wonderful group of bays! (plus one token chesnugget). This group includes AT’s 4yo uber-talented baby jumper out for mileage, my ammy friend with her new horse playing around for fun, myself (duh), my friend with her super amazing shmancy hunter that is a MACHINE ON XC OMG, a junior on her newish eq horse, and another ammy on one of the saint-like schoolies. Everyone did something slightly different, but everyone had a blast and the horses all really enjoyed themselves.
Brace yourself big guy, because we’re getting ready to leg back up!!!
With less than a month left until the wedding, I chatted with my trainer about the plan post-wedding, when I won’t have the equivalent of a part-time job wedding planning. And you know what?
I. Am. Pumped.
We’re not talking too much about any shows just yet- we both clearly need to get back into shape and that won’t happen overnight. Y’all know how notoriously difficult Frankenbean is to get and keep fit. Homeboy has a big ol’ hay belly that he needs to lose.
As we were talking about the best way to leg him back up, I asked if it would make more sense to have me work him harder in December, then put him into a 2x/week program with AT in January. Ultimately though, I also need to get back in shape and I’m going to get tired and sore and cranky in the process. Trainer said we can do whatever I’m comfortable with, but used the phrase “let us help you.” Because she is an absolute gem.
So after discussing pros and cons of different approaches, Francis is going back in his program in December! I’m really happy about this- Frankie is a million times easier to ride when he’s fit and I know that those 2x a week with AT will get him there much more quickly. She’ll take him out to the hills on the property and get him working and lifting so that I can focus on getting my own strength back instead of carrying Francis around. It’s a total ammy move and I LOVE it.
We’re also getting proactive about his vet care- when he last got his SI done, the vet recommended that we move to a 9 month cycle instead of 12 month. 9 months puts us right in January, but we’re going to have him checked to see if we should make that happen in December instead. We know he’s going to be uncomfortable as he gets back in shape and we definitely want to minimize that in any way we can. If we decide to wait until January to give him the bouncy juice, we’ll likely give him Pentosan to help him out in the meantime.
We’ll also be proactive with his other care- likely add a few massages to the schedule to help combat any muscle aches. If he tells us he needs it, we’ll add some chiro and/or acupuncture to the mix. I’m also intrigued by Magna Wave after hearing Amanda’s account of how much Henny liked it. If other people in the barn are interested, maybe we’ll bring someone in.
So don’t feel too bad for Frankie. Sure, he has to get in shape. But he’s also getting incredible amounts of pampering under the supervision of a whole cadre of knowledgeable pros. Let no one say that I don’t spoil the crap out of my horse.
While we’re not putting any shows on the schedule just yet, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk about that at least a little. There’s quite a few within a two hour drive in the winter months that Trainer said we could likely ship into for the day. I love the idea of getting out there more often for a MUCH smaller amount than all those 5 day long sagas. We’ll see where we are at the end of December/early January and potentially make an outing in the Lows to get our sea legs back. I’m in zero rush to get back up to speed so we’ll see how Frankie is feeling as we move along and let him tell us when he’s feeling good to get back out there.
In the same vein, I’m going to kinda let him dictate what we decide to do this show season. If he’s going great and feeling really good and solid in the Highs, we’ll try a 1.20m to see how it goes. If the amount of support he’ll need at that height surpasses my skill level, or if he tells me that he’s most comfortable at 1.15m, we’ll stick with that. My job is to give him the fitness and tools he needs to succeed, and from there he gets to tell me what that looks like.
It’s officially time for me to get my workouts in- I may not be motivated to build strength for myself, but you bet your butt I’ll do it for Francis. So excited to get back to work with my bestest beast!!
Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?
Team sports are super not my thing. Never have been. I went to like one soccer practice as a kid and hated it and never went back. I really don’t like having my success hang on other people. And I also don’t like things that require catching or throwing. Reeeally not my forte. That left things like swimming, ballet, and horseback riding- all of which I did extensively as a kid. For whatever unknown reason, the horse stuff got into my blood and I never recovered!
What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
Casual lessons until I was around 11, when I half-leased a 20yo Morgan to do some local short stirrup shows with (he was the best!). Got my own horse Star when I was 13, and did all the 2’6″ mini medals and pre-children’s hunter divisions I could. As I started wrapping up high school and got more focused on college prep and AP courses, we sold him to teach someone else the ropes (side note, he’s now happily retired down in Florida getting as much love as he could ever want).
If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?
Ooh tough one. There was this GORGEOUS 18.1h hunter I tried as a kid once that was just amazing. But ultimately he did end up having soundness issues, and I’m no longer into the whole hunter thing. So it’s a good thing we passed on him.
What disciplines have you participated in?
Hunter, equitation, jumper all the way! I took a few lessons at an eventing barn and went to summer camp with an eventing focus as a kid, but I’ve been pretty firmly ensconced in the HJ world most of my life. Played polo 3-4 times and really enjoyed it but was TERRIBLE at ever hitting the ball.
What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
Pretty happy in jumperland! I’d like to take some formal dressage lessons with the Frankfurter sometime, and I’ve already mentioned I think it would be fun to do a little HT with him. I’ve been weirdly adjacent to the eventing world for a while so it would be fun to participate.
Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Nope! Both horses I’ve owned were bought through a pretty traditional route where my trainer found me horses to try and I picked based on that.
What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
Oh man I LOVED me some quarter horses. My dream horse was a chestnut quarter horse that I would keep in the field behind my house and ride to school.
If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
Probably the Czech Republic right now. They have some incredible young stock that they’re breeding and bringing in from around Europe, so the access to super nice horseflesh is there. I also fell in love with Prague when I went a million years ago and would love to go back.
Do you have any horse-related regrets?
Nothing major. I might do some small things differently, but overall I’m happy with the path that I’ve taken.
If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?
There’s plenty I’d love to clinic with regularly as check-ins, but I wouldn’t want to switch full time to a different trainer. Joe Fargis is a big one I’d love to work with, and he’s in my area so hopefully at some point I may actually be able to trailer in for a lesson. I’d love to have a session with Beezie where she’s on the horse and just narrates everything she’s feeling and doing.
What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?
I don’t know that I really have one! There are plenty of shows I’d love to do with Frankie (Vermont, WIHS, etc.) but none of them are do-or-die, more “wow that would be cool if we can.” I think it would be fun to do the charity challenge down at WEF, but that’s mostly because I love any excuse to dress up in costume and perform in front of an audience.
If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
To be completely honest, probably not. While I love love love just spending time around the horses and find a great deal of peace in it, I get so much joy from being in the saddle. I think it would be hard for me to be around horses knowing that it wasn’t an option to ride. I would definitely retain ownership of Frankie because he’s stuck with me forever, but I’d probably lease him out so he could stay in work.
What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?
If we’re going full fantasy, I’d love to make it to the Regional GP level, which is 1.40m. Go to all the big shows up and down the east coast, winter in Wellington, and have a shot at some real prize money. I could even cross over into the High AOs if I wanted.
More realistically but still a not-quite-within-reach dream, I’d like to be competitive in the Low AOs. Consistently fast and clean at 1.25m.
What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?
Francis, hands down. He’s always always always a very good boy, but he definitely challenges me as a rider. He works only as hard as I do, and insists that I ask correctly. The combination of his patience as I get things wrong and his willingness to offer amazing work when I get it right is one of the greatest gifts in my life. Aaaand here come the emotions.
If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?
More money. This is really my only limiting factor- I have the flexibility in my schedule to put in the time, I have the desire, I have access to a fantastic health care team to support the work, and I have access to top notch training. More money would mean more training and more shows, which is what I’d want to do.
If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?
Right now the two big ones I can think of are Vermont and WIHS. I was just at WIHS over the weekend and it’s such a uniquely interesting venue, and I’ve heard so many amazing things about Vermont over the years. Trainer said that Vermont may be our big summer show this coming year, so I may be able to knock that one off the list sooner rather than later! Old Salem Farm may be another one- those pics are absolutely stunning.
If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
I’m lucky enough that I’ve gotten to spectate world class riders several times, either down in Ocala, here at Upperville, or at WIHS! These tend to be less crowded venues than something like WEG or the Olympics, but still world class athletes. Best of both worlds in my book. I hate crowds.
Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
I did quit horses, for 7 years. Every once in a while I think about all the things I could be doing if I didn’t have the horse- vacations, nicer clothes, things like that- but none of those things are any fun when you’re miserable. And I get pretty miserable when I don’t get to ride.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?
The lack of information flow. New research about horse welfare takes a long time to trickle out to everyone, shady characters are able to keep shady deeds under wraps, rules aren’t always clear, there’s a million different ways that poor information flow hurts the sport and hurts the horses.
Oh yeah, and make it all cheaper.
What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?
Does buying a horse count?? Because that was super dumb and worked out fanastically hahaha.
As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
That I’m going to have to compromise my horse-related goals for other things as I get married and start a family. Right now I’m able to throw myself pretty much 100% into advancing, and while I know and am ok with that changing, not knowing how it will change does cause some anxiety. Luckily I’ve been able to talk about that with WBF (World’s Best Fiance) and he understands, so there’s a big comfort in knowing that we’re on the same team and we’ll figure it out as we go.
What horse-related book impacted you the most?
Misty of Chincoteague! I read and re-read that until the pages fell out.
What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?
I probably value forgiveness the most. I mess up regularly, and it’s tough when the horse holds a grudge. I think a horse that can handle a mistake and keep trucking is a very special creature. I really dislike a horse that doesn’t want to do the job. Slow I can deal with. Needing help and support I can deal with. But I want my mount to show up to work and at least meet me halfway.
What do you love most about your discipline?
The strategy and nuance of it. A really good jumper course tests you in a million subtle ways- from the jump materials (is a light lower panel pulling your horse’s attention down?), to the grading of the ring (even a slight downhill builds momentum), to the striding (the tricky ones will put a tight line to a flowing line or vice versa just to test you), to your bravery (your horse has never seen these jumps and has to trust), to your conditioning (ever seen a chunky upper level jumper?), to your versatility (you need really solid flatwork to be able to manipulate the stride and track properly), to your scrappiness (when shit hits the fan, you’d better be able to throw out the pretty and kick on), to a thousand other things I’m not thinking of right now. It’s a test of skills both physical and mental. Also I like big colorful sticks go fast fast nice fun good.
What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?
In the next few weeks, getting our fitness back is the number one priority and that’s going to be a sore couple weeks for both of us. Once we’re both legged back up, I need to work on understanding my adjustability better. I know we have it in spades, but I’m working hard to be more precise on exactly where I’m asking Frankie to be. Having that type of precision and control of his stride lets us power off the ground more consistently, which lets us put the jumps up higher safely. Pretty much everything I’d ultimately like to accomplish with him ties back to that understanding of my horse’s ability to adjust and speed to react to those adjustments.
Genny over at A Gift Horse posted a really interesting question the other day- if you could get a redo with horses, what would you change?
Hard one, right??
In my mind, I break out my horse experience into two completely separate blocks: pre-college, and post-college (roughly, though I was out of the saddle for closer to 7 years in total). There is a complete lack of continuity to those parts of my riding experience, so I’m going to think about them separately as well.
Let’s start with pre-college.
I have one big regret here, which was my absolute sky-high anxiety around riding. I had everything in the world going for me- a young healthy body, naturally good equitation, access to incredible trainers, my own super fancy horse, regular rides on other horses being offered, PARENTS THAT PAID FOR EVERYTHING, and more. Everything. I had everything. With all that, I should’ve progressed so much more quickly and accomplished so much more. I should’ve had a true junior career.
But I didn’t. Because I was scared. For no reason at all.
So if I could have a redo, I’d want to overcome that. Realistically I’m not sure how- I was an absolute basket case who couldn’t get out of my own head, and I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently. It’s not really a regret in the sense of “oh I wish I could do XYZ instead of ABC,” but more like “wow I wish I wasn’t like that as a person for all those years.”
I’m also tempted to say that I regret taking 7 years off. Imagine how far along I’d be if I had an additional 7 years under my belt?!
But I really needed those 7 years to focus on my education, grow up a bit and get out of my own head, and build a life that can support riding. So I don’t actually want a redo on that. I’m very certain that it was the right thing at the time and I would probably make the same decision over again, no matter how much it stank to be away from ponies.
Which brings us to the Current Era, which includes lessons to half lease on DragonMare to FrancisTown.
And I don’t think I’d redo a single thing. Maybe be a little more frugal over certain things so I could stress less about money during show season. Maybe get Frankie his SI injection a little earlier last year so he wouldn’t get sore. But really these were learning opportunities and I took something away from each.
I’d buy Francis again a million times over, I’d choose my trainer out of the many in my area every time, I’d use a similar progression to get Frankie and I up to speed. Maybe some people could have progressed more quickly, but what we’ve done has built an incredibly solid base and a happy healthy safe horse. We’ve taken a few calculated risks to push our boundaries, but we’ve built a partnership that can weather those risks.
It certainly hasn’t been a perfect process and I’ve certainly made mistakes. Ultimately, I think I’d go back and make those same mistakes if it brought me to where I am now.