Smartypants McRetainsWell

I’m officially all healed up from my tailbone injury and back in the saddle! I think taking a solid week or two of next-to-no activity was just what I needed to let the inflammation die down. Even with the holiday this week it looks like I’ll get a solid 4 rides in. That’s more than I’ve done in months!

My Christmas present was being able to ride pain-free!

True to form, Francis has been an angel boy for me. I’m comically low on endurance, so he’s pretty thrilled about the frequent walk breaks as I gasp for air. I WOULDN’T BE SO OUT OF BREATH IF YOU’D JUST MOVE FORWARD MORE, HORSE. He’s a little confused and annoyed that after so long I’m asking him for correct work again and actually backing that up with some semblance of leg, but is begrudgingly delivering.

And luckily he remembers all the stuff we worked on over the summer. He thinks self-carriage is The Worst and would rather not, but I’m not having to hold his hand nearly as much as I did last spring. This is regular “would rather nap” and not “I literally have no clue what’s going on” like it used to be.

I’m also really really glad that we opted to bump up to 2x/week with AT as I get back into it. She’s definitely sharpening him back up so that when I’m on he’s able to respond quickly and correctly, and it’s certainly helping get him back in shape. It means that he sometimes gets ridden twice a day but he’ll live. I promise.

It’s funny, now that he’s back in a more intense program, he actually comes out more eager to work. He’s gone back to shoving his face in the bridle and putting his face at chest level for me to tack up. Legit he was mouthing around looking for the bit as I tacked up the other day. So he can fake the grumpies all he wants, he actually loves having a job to do.

“hello mahm would like scritches pls”

The super fun part right now is that my muscle memory is definitely there. I know how to ride my horse to get good work out of him, and I know the timing I need to ask. You know what’s not there? The muscle strength. You know, a very minor consideration. Those things combined mean that I’m riding him pretty well since my body does it fairly automatically, and then the next day I wake up INCREDIBLY SORE.

It’s the best sore I’ve ever felt. I’m so incredibly happy to be back on board this creature and back in a training program.

So our short term steps forward: Mama needs to work out, hard. I already have my program chosen and will be kicking that off this weekend. Between that and returning to a 5-6x/week riding schedule I think the first month of the new year may be a bit achy. It’ll be fine.

I even went for a jog. It was awful. I’ll probably do it again soon.

We’re also looking to restart the private and/or semi-private lessons- it turns out our other rider in my division is also free on Friday afternoons, so we may combine forces! We’ll play showing by ear, likely making an excursion in the Lows in January or early February depending on what’s available, timing of any injections, finances, etc. I don’t have any major competitive goals for this year besides enjoying ourselves, and will likely be trying to save money for more clinics and training opportunities.

A few things tentatively on the radar are trailering in for a lesson with Joe Fargis, potentially doing Team Finals again, signing up for when George comes to town in the fall, and Upperville. Because I can’t NOT go to Upperville. We’ll see what happens as we get back into shape!!


2018 Goals Review

I’ve taken a slightly different approach to goal-setting lately, but I do want to review the goals I set for this year, and see what went well and what I can do differently in 2019. Let’s go.

Equestrian Goals

  • Work with my trainers, my vet, my farrier, and other members of the team to keep Frankie healthy and sound. He’s currently in great shape both physically and mentally, so I’m looking forward to working with these awesome pros to make sure our program keeps him happy and feeling his best! I think this was a success! We learned more about the kind of support he needs, we ensured his tack was appropriately fitted, and we got some great fitness and training. Moving into next year when he will officially be a teenager (OMG), I think he looks better than ever.
Beefcake Francis!
  • Test the waters at 1.20m. We don’t need to win the class, and we may not “officially” move up completely, but I do want us to safely and competently make it around at 1.20m. I know Frankie is plenty capable, so I’ll just have to get my butt in shape! I’ll give this a partial success rating- I may not have made it around at that height, but Francis did with AT! Our plans to tackle this together late summer were derailed by wedding planning. I’m really not bothered by this- getting to see him fly like that made my heart so happy.
In 2018 I learned that I really LOVE playing owner, and watching my favorite horse be a superstar with an expert pilot.
  • Become a better rider. This is intentionally vague- I have different bad habits that come and go at random. I’d like fewer bad habits, and I’d like them to show up less often. I want to go make newer, fewer mistakes and improve the support I’m able to give Francis on course. Giving this one a solid gold star. This year felt like I really turned a corner in my knowledge, skills, and timing. Private lessons and training sessions with the Frankfurter were worth every penny and more. I still have an enormous mountain to climb and infinite skills to learn, but I’m really excited about our progress this past year.
We put in the time and we put in the sweat and we put in the consistency to build our partnership to new levels.
  • Come up with a plan moving forward. Frankie told me that he really wants a brother, but mama’s broke. Talk to Trainer and figure out the best way for me to continue moving up without having to sell an organ. We don’t really have a solid plan except for enjoying the crap out of my horse and progressing with him as far as I can go. When we top out together or he needs to step down, we may revisit finding him a brother- or we may not. At the end of the day I really really like riding horses, but I deeply love riding Frankie. I never thought I’d say this, but I might rather stick with him than move up (cue the gasping).
This sweet boy means the world to me. PC- Liz
  • Have a blast competing! We’ve got some INCREDIBLE shows lined up on the calendar for this year and I plan to enjoy the heck out of every single one! Definite check in the checkbox! Between WEC, Blue Rock, Upperville, and Lake Placid, Frankie and I got to compete at some incredible venues and had a blast doing it.
This horse has given me the world

Professional Goals

Ongoing goal: work remotely from horse shows more often
  • Take the time to consider what I want my long term trajectory to be, and create a more concrete pathway to reach that point. I’m finally starting to figure out what I really like doing and starting to coalesce a vision of what I want to achieve, so it’s time to get deliberate about moving in that direction. Partial checkmark. There was a lot of change at work this past year as my department reorganized, and we’re currently in the midst of some more exciting changes. I think my role will only shift a little, but it’ll be in the right direction to sharpen and add some really useful skills.
  • Research business schools and the GMAT. I don’t think I’ll want to start school in 2018, but 2019 may be the year to go start working towards that MBA. This ties into that first goal of finding my pathway- I have a strong feeling that another degree will be majorly helpful to advance the way I’d like to. This is on the back burner for now, but not discounting it entirely. Looking into some alternatives, specifically those that fit into the employee education reimbursement program. Still solidly in the research phase, I’m not ready to pull the trigger on something until the time is right.
  • Maintain close relationships with my mentors and colleagues. I’m lucky to have a fantastic network of professionals (many of whom have become close friends). Life may get busy, but I want to be sure that my relationships with these talented and intelligent people stays a priority. So far so good! I’ve only been able to add to my network of great people, and am excited to keep learning from them.

Personal Goals

  • Plan a wedding and get married! Does this count as a goal? I feel like it’s more of a major life event. Leaving it here anyways. Super psyched about this. Along these lines- move in with Buddy Fianci (sorry guys, this is the one that’s sticking in my head for now). It’s gonna be rad to be roommates. Check and check! We love being roommates, and we love being married even more. Ridiculously psyched to move through life with this guy. 
#FrankieHasADad! PC- Samantha Robshaw Photography
  • Maintain a consistent workout schedule and (semi) healthy eating habits. There’s a lot of stuff that I really enjoy doing that requires me to be in good shape, so I’d like to make sure I’m as physically prepared as possible to Do All The Things. Ehhh this went through ups and downs. I was doing great with my fitness and nutrition up until around September, which is when riding took a back burner to wedding prep. I definitely lost some muscle tone (like a LOT) but I ate pretty healthy so I’m not a complete tragedy right now. I’m very eager to get back on the workout train as soon as this injury heals up enough.
For a while there I was working out hard enough that I needed to stand out in the rain to cool down afterwards
  • Make time to just breathe and rest. Between riding, competing, planning a wedding, moving, maybe starting school, and just existing, it’s going to be a MAJORLY busy year and I don’t want to burn out. I want to make sure that I build regular self-care into my routines. Hahahaha definite fail, I experienced major burnout this year on several levels. Honestly though, it was eye opening and I learned a lot about how I want to structure things moving forward. Getting married and setting goals together with my new husband also changes my priorities, so it’ll be exciting to experience those changes.
It’s all good stuff when we’re together ❤ PC- Liz

Now it’s time to think about what 2019 and beyond is going to look like!

An Equestrian’s Guide to Budgeting

I don’t need to tell you all how predictably unpredictable equine expenses can be. We’ve all encountered the worst-timed vet visit, the even-worse-timed pulled shoe, and the oh-wait-I-wasn’t-ready-to-buy-yet-but-the-perfect-horse-is-available-oops-he’s-mine-now.

With all that in mind, I have a few simple ways to budget for the wonderful world of horses.

  • Separate bank account. That’s right, Francis has his own debit card and checkbook. I transfer a set amount into this every month, and all things horse-related get pulled out of this account. It’s enough to cover all monthly expenses, as well as extra for shows and emergencies. It’s great for impulse control- when it’s out, its out.
  • Wait, it’s almost out but there’s a show I want to go to. It’s fine, I’ll dip into my other account to fund it.
  • OK now I’m short on gas money. It’s fine, I can dip into another different account.
  • Wait ok no it’s fine I didn’t need that much for groceries anyways. It’s fine it’s all fine, I like ramen and toast a ton. I just have to make it to next month when my next paycheck comes in.
  • What do you mean he needs special shoes now
  • And more injections
  • Poor thing is probably sore, put him on the list for a massage
  • Crap
  • No it’s fine it’s totally fine
  • Obviously I already sent my entry in for that 5 day A rated show with gold plated stalls and hay made from actual shredded money, it would be rude to back out now IT’LL BE FINE
  • You know what yes, I would love to try an eq class. Not a problem, tack on the braider fees.
  • I think the chiropractor will get better results if he adds in acupuncture, let’s add that on next time
  • Crap
  • No really it’s fine it’ll be totally fine money can’t buy happiness who needs it anyways
  • And then next month I transfer the same amount and continue with the careful planned out budgeting with great willpower and self-restraint!

The End.

Riding Francis: A How-To Guide

Whenever people hop on the Frankenbean, I find myself giving them similar advice. Which I will now share with you, so if you ever come to visit us and want to take a spin on the Beast you will be prepared to enjoy him fully.

Without further ado, here is the Official Guide to Francis:

  • Put more leg on. More. No, even more. Seriously, more. I pinky pinky promise he isn’t trying to go anywhere. Ever. The only reason he ever looks like he might be forward is because his rider is squeezing the ever-loving-crap outta him. He does not think to take you forward to that crossrail. Leg. Him. On.
  • Take a feel. He will be mildly annoyed, but only because he knows this means he has to work and he’d rather be eating. He is not trained to a loopy rein, he is trained to a connection. If you don’t take one, he assumes you don’t really have that much to ask of him and he will act like a beginner pony. Safe, but not particularly talented. You want the good material, you gotta start by telling him you can speak his language.
  • Now that you’ve taken a feel, put even MORE leg on. He will test you by trying to get behind your leg because moving forward on a contact is Hard Work. Set the tone early that this is Not Allowed.
Austen learned quickly that sometimes we have Feelings about using our muscles
  • Carry a crop. You likely won’t need to use it. But he knows if it’s there or not. Somehow, he always knows.
  • Be direct with your questions and don’t be afraid to ask firmly. He is not offended by direct pressure- as long as you are fair and release that pressure when he gives the right answer. He’s not particularly sensitive and likes to have a conversation, so it’s ok to “speak” a little louder if you’re not getting a response. He also won’t be offended if you tell him it’s the wrong answer. Just try asking a little differently and reward his attempts to understand. He’s not the quickest thinker, but he will remember what you tell him.
  • Place him. It’s better to make the wrong decision than it is to make no decision. Put him at the base of the jump. Tell him that his canter is too strung out. Get your ass in the saddle and PRESS him up into the bridle. He will forgive you any mistakes, but he’ll forgive you much quicker if you don’t leave those mistakes up to him.
Buried him to the base. Note that the ears are still up. Things are ok.
  • Pat early, pat often. He’s a really good boy, likes doing a good job, and likes being TOLD that he’s doing a good job. Lightening your seat and giving him a scratch on the withers as you come through the end of the ring is a cause for much rejoicing. A hearty “Good man!!!” and pats on the neck give him the happy feelings. Trust me, you’ll want to pat him.
He really REALLY loves hearing what an excellent boy he is
  • Trust him. You don’t have to ride him defensively- he will not spook, and you can trust that he will do exactly what you ask of him. Seriously. He will not spook. He’s a confident horse, so you can be confident that he’ll take care of you. If you’re nervous, ask him to slow down. It’ll make his day, he loves that. He has absolutely no buck, spook, bolt, or anything else like that- his default mode is “things are ok, and they would be even better if I could nap.”
  • When in doubt, rev the engine. Francis is the living embodiment of the phrase, “the right answer is ALWAYS more leg.” I cannot stress this enough. Literally anything wrong can be fixed by adding some leg into your hand and getting the RPMs higher. It cures any wiggliness, it cures lack of impulsion, it cures sticky distances, it cures form over fences, it cures ALL THE THINGS. Any time you need a reset, loosen your reins and ask for a bit of a hand-gallop. It’s the magic button and then you can re-gather and get back to it.
“Pls stop telling them to leg me and let me live my life”
  • He will do exactly what you ask of him. No more, no less. He is the ultimate tattle tale. He’s capable of really great stuff, but will not offer that up to anyone who doesn’t ask clearly and firmly. He’ll work for you, but only if you work for him. Don’t make the assumption that he will power up to the jumps- he absolutely will only if you tell him to. If you’re pulling and taking your leg off, he will peter right out and get lurchy. If you want to test his buttons and see what he’s capable of, be prepared to set the tone early and then sweat for it- if you can do that, he is sensitive and responsive and will do absolutely anything.
  • Enjoy the snot out of him. He’s extremely safe, extremely obedient, extremely well-trained, and genuinely enjoys his job. Toodle on a loose rein if you want, or package him up and see how sporty you can get. He’ll do it all with a smile, and he’ll make you smile too.

TL;DR add a metric crapton of leg and enjoy riding the Best Horse Ever(TM).

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Blog hop time, this time from Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony! The rules: there must be a picture for all of these categories. Join in!

Favorite Show Picture


Maybe my favorite picture of all time. Seeing this always reminds me of how far we’ve come together, and how he’s blown every expectation we had for him out of the water. His power over the fence, his expression as he looks to the next one, all of it makes me so proud.

Favorite Non-Show Picture


Liz captured this photo, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I look at it. I have no idea how she managed to so beautifully capture his expression and kindness. It’s such a faithful representation of my handsome boy.

Favorite thing you bought


Do private lessons count? I didn’t really buy much tack or equipment this year since we were well set, and spent my money on training and vet care instead. We worked our butts off and it was sweaty but amazing.

Favorite moment on horseback


Getting back in the saddle after being gone for weeks, just to walk around. Feeling that familiar swinging walk, seeing those happy ears, and realizing just how much I had missed that feeling.

Favorite moment out of the saddle


If this doesn’t capture us, I don’t know what does. My mom snapped this as I was tacking up, incredibly nervous and jittery, and Frankie somehow knew that I needed some love. He gave me the confidence to put my feet in the irons and try- even though that ride ended with me falling off before I could even go in to compete, he was right there with me the whole time.

Favorite “between the ears” picture


View from our outdoor ring at sunset. I’ve grown to really love my adopted home state, and I feel so lucky that Frankie and I get to call this barn home.

Favorite horse book or article


My trainer put out some incredibly thoughtful and interesting blog posts this past year, and I’m hard pressed to pick just one. I find that she has a knack for articulating different concepts in a way that makes sense to my brain, and uses examples that I can apply directly. Big big fan.

Favorite horse ridden (or groomed/cared for) aside from your own


I got to hack my friend’s SUPER broke and fancy hunter. While he’s also a tall leggy bay, he is completely different from Frankie and I absolutely did not do him justice. It was so weird and cool to feel what it’s like to sit on a horse with such beautiful hunter movement!

Favorite funny picture of your horse


Another from Liz! It was so hard to pick just one for this category- Francis is a King Goof and I have endless silly pics of him. I just love how in this one we have his fancy tack on, the composition of the shot is beautiful, the jumps set up in the background, ears up and attentive…and then classic Francis. It’s so him.

Favorite fence that you successfully jumped or movement that you conquered


We’re showjumpers, every fence is some variation of colorful sticks hahaha. But this particular jump was a decent sized oxer into a one stride off a short turn, which we had been struggling with. But Frankie was super on it, I rode well (for once), and this came up powerfully out of stride like we knew what we were doing. So it isn’t really the jump itself as much as the skills that finally clicked into place to jump it well.

Favorite horse meme or funny picture


It’s all about balance, ok???

Order of Operations

Since I’m still doing super boring things in the saddle (aka walking around with two coolers and letting my pony snoot all the things in the ring for 20 minutes), I’m going to talk for a while about what we used to do when we did not-boring things. Today specifically I’m going to talk about the different skills we tackled with Frankie, what order we tackled them in, and why (not that I always have stellar insights, but I’ll try to articulate it).

To start, let’s rewind to the “base” that we started with when I bought Frankie. I won’t go over this again because I talk about this literally all the time (the words “good egg” and “broke but inexperienced” come up a lot). In a nutshell, we had a physically and mentally mature horse with decent fitness and the basic buttons firmly installed. A fantastic base to work with!

Calm, obedient, and love at first sight.

The very first thing we worked on was the go button. We ignored my equitation for a while, we ignored collection (for the most part), we ignored technique, we ignored a great many things and we made. the. horse. move. forward. off. my. damn. leg. This was not a trivial exercise for a horse like Frankie, who had made it to the age of 10 without reeeeally needing to move very fast. We were NOT trying to gallop him off his feet, just make sure he understood that he must move forward promptly when asked. Thankfully he did catch on to this fairly quickly and while he’s certainly still a leg workout, I find him appropriately responsive and downright speedy when I ask.

OMG HORSE MOVE IT PLS (this is before I figured out the joys of the driving seat)

Once we had a HAUL ASS button installed, we started focusing more on straightness. Not only must he move forward promptly, he must do so without trying to evade out sideways. The outside rein started being mentioned more often. Transitions had to happen without losing the shoulder or haunch. Walking in a straight line had to be a thing. Lateral work was our friend here, connecting his different parts and teaching him that he can move them independently. Going sideways in order to go straight, in a sense. He still likes to wiggle at the walk if left unattended, and will throw his shoulder out if I let him, but is much more educated to that straightness.



The next thing we did? Put the jumps up. This is around when we moved up to the 1.10-1.15m height and started schooling some bigger jumps at home. I don’t know that I would recommend this 100% of the time to 100% of people on 100% of horses, but I’m comfortable with how this worked for us. It wasn’t until we introduced some height that Frankie started really figuring out how to use his body a bit better over the jumps, and that now translates over the lower fences as well.

“Oh wait you mean like THIS OH OK GOT IT”

In conjunction with that, moving up to the next division introduced some more difficult turns as we started exploring the inside options. Getting him to move not only forward, but sideways off my leg was crucial. Counter-bending through turns. Maintaining good balance. All that good stuff.

I also learned that it really helps to actually look where I’m going. Weird, right?

This is around when we also began a more in depth conversation about adjustability. Can I place my horse where I want him? Can I feel my stride length and adjust to ride the plan? Our collection work became more intense as we pushed the envelope- changing his stride length between 10-14′ was no longer acceptable, we wanted 8-16′ of play or more. “Canter up and down like a carousel pony” was said more than once. Frankie did not like learning this skill. Collection is hard, yo. Butt muscles got sore.

It sure did help his quality of movement at all stride lengths tho

And finally, we began having a really serious conversation about self-carriage. I know what many of you are thinking- WOAH THAT IS BACK ASSWARDS. I get it. But the fact is that up to this point, we were chugging along pretty well, and likely could’ve continued chugging along if I hadn’t said “hmm I wonder if Frankie can jump 1.20m” one day. He was always obedient and athletic enough to do just fine. Frankie is incredibly hard to push up into the bridle, both conformationally and in way of going. It absolutely does not occur to him at ALL and even now that he’s a bit more educated, it takes constant reminders. Convincing him that this is how life is now was very difficult and came with many grumpy ears. Getting him to carry his own dang head around sharpened up every other ask and took it to the next level.



But ultimately, we now have a horse that knows how to use his body, moves powerfully across the ground, is adjustable and forward, and is broke as shit. The self-carriage is by no means a complete check in the box- we have a ways to go to really help him understand and move this way. But so far developing this has also developed more specific skills- our lead changes are prompter and smoother, our turns are tighter, he can literally canter like a carousel pony, and his movement has much more suspension and lift to it. Even if he thinks this is a total scam and he should go be a camp pony.

“Why. Why is this my life.”

Your turn! What has your approach been? How has it changed for different horses? Has it followed conventional approaches pretty closely, or have you changed your order of operations? I’m curious!

Frankie the Orange-Snooted Reindeer

Frankie came home with me in spring of ’16, which means this is his third(!) winter with me. He’s been clipped every time, which sometimes includes his face (if we’re actively showing) and sometimes doesn’t (if we’re focused on training/smaller shows).

One thing has remained constant: the bright orange snoot.

Early spring 2016, when he first came home. Ginger snoot.

This is exclusively a winter phenomenon. His spring/summer coat comes in with appropriate dark bay snoot hairs.

Summer 2016. Dark snoot.

But inevitably winter rolls around, and out pops the orange snoot.

Winter 2016-17. FULL GINGER.

Which sticks around for a few months, and then boom.


Once is interesting. Twice may be a coincidence. But we have an official pattern here.

Winter 2017-18. SO ORANGE.

And by now I’ve almost brought us up to the present day so bear with me for a few more pics.

Summer 2018. Deep and chocolatey.

And to wrap us up:

December 2018. Full. On. Orange.

There you have it folks. The world’s most smoochable snoot comes in a seasonal ginger spice color. So festive.

First Ride Back

You guys, I got to ride my horse for the first time in WEEKS. It may as well have been decades because HOLY MOLY did I miss this creature.

Ignore the feral-length mane and LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS

The major ouchie I’ve been dealing with from falling down the stairs (which is seriously the stupidest way to get injured) is a bruised tailbone. For a day or two I was pretty worried that it might be cracked, but at this point I’m almost certain it’s just really badly bruised. Standing, sitting, and laying down are now fine, but bending over/picking things up off the ground does require some ginger movements (major MVP points to Frankfurter for holding his own feet up for me to pick). With that in mind, I wanted to ease back into the saddle pretty cautiously.

Frankie is also freshly clipped and it’s been frigid here, so I wanted to be sure I didn’t have SpicyFrancis under me. We only get 2-3 days a year of SpicyFrancis, and luckily this was not one of them. Big Man was an absolute perfect angel.

Unamused by his crippled mother. Also so in love with his winter orange snoot.

The verdict so far: walking is completely fine. Posting trot causes a few twinges but nothing too bad. Half seat is uncomfortable, sitting trot is right out. Cantering is also pretty uncomfortable- half seat remains twingey, and sitting is still no bueno despite how smooth his stride is.

I’ve had a bad tailbone injury in the past that I rushed, and it haunted me for literally years. So I’m going to move forward with an abundance of caution here, and stick to walk/trot for a bit until I’m more healed. Overkill? Maybe. But I’d way rather take it slow and steady and let myself heal completely.

In the meantime, I could not be happier to be reunited with my best boy. I don’t think I realized just how much I missed him until I was back giving him scritches- I had tears in my eyes when I got to hug his neck and feel his nose on my shoulder. He’s so playful and curious and kind and funny and sweet and I often struggle to articulate just how much I adore being around him.

The happiest to just share time with him

Slow and steady is just fine for now, as long as we’re together ❤



I only have a few pics to share as my friends send them to me or post on social media (for the love of George why can’t they tag me so I know when there’s a good one), but I missed y’all too much to wait until I had real beefy content to share.

In a nutshell: it was a perfect fairy tale day, and I got to marry the best man on the planet.

You can’t see my priest because he’s roughly 5’2″ and Nicholas and I were a literal human shield for most of the ceremony.


I felt like a princess, he looked like James Bond, and I got to wear a tiara without anyone rolling their eyes at me
Dancing, laughing elegantly, so classy
We did the thing!!

I also managed to fall down the stairs a few days later, so my triumphant return to hardcore training with Francis may be a little ginger and slow paced as I wait for all those bruises to heal (seriously, it’s an impressive number and color range).

Can’t wait to settle into life with the sweetest snoot and our officially official father figure!!

Fresh haircut, who dis?