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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).