Ohmygosh OUCH

We are officially back at it!!!

And we’ve really gotten back into it with a bang: I was able to sneak a private lesson on Saturday morning, made a quick jaunt to the barn for a short hack on Sunday, and had my first group lesson in almost two years on Monday evening.

Oh. My. Gosh. Ow. My muscles. I’m making old man noises every time I sit down. Or stand up. Or walk. Or move in any way.

Worth it.

Saturday was a bit chaotic: I was heading to my in-laws directly from the barn, so I had the dog in the trunk, the baby in the carseat, my saddle and stroller in the backseat next to her, and all our overnight gear piled in the front. While we don’t need as much equipment as we did when she was younger, it is tough to travel light with a bebe. Nick was at work, so it was interesting getting everyone and everything wrangled solo. But with much goodwill and patience from Maggie and Lina we got to the barn pretty much on time! I was able to pop Maggie in Frankie’s stall while I rode (which she LOATHED), and my trainer’s daughter kept an eye on Lina and entertained her (which she LOVED).

I have no pics from that lesson due to the aforementioned chaos, so here’s a picture of the little entropy agent terrorizing her grandmother

We kept things fairly simple: some light flat work, a little sitting trot to test the muscles out, some lengthenings and shortenings to get Frankie feeling good. A couple crossrails, some little lines, then a short course to play over some jumps. Nothing over 2’6″, it was all such chump change for Francis. He felt simply incredible. I’ve been so grateful to hop on friends’ horses, but nothing compares to my perfect Frankfurter. He’s in fantastic shape, he looks like a million bucks, he was happy and forward and adjustable and ready to cover up all my mistake. I got stuck on the add step a little while I tried to figure out my eye, but overall I felt like things were starting to come back and every time got a little better. It was a perfect low-key confidence boost of a lesson to officially kick things back off.

Sunday was a treat – since it was Easter, I wasn’t planning on riding. But then Lina went down for her nap, my in-laws offered to keep her entertained if she woke up, and I was able to dash out for a quick ride. It was so fun! Very short and sweet – maybe 15 minutes, trying to work out some of the soreness from the day before – but the weather was perfect and Francisco was his usual happy self. This was also my first time going to the barn without Lina since she was born. As much as I love bringing her along, I gotta say that it was a luxury to have my whole focus on Frankie and take my time grooming him without worrying about her.

My favorite view through my favorite ears

And then my first group lesson on Monday! Nick took Lina and Maggie home while I split off to head to the barn, which was also a first for us. I thought I might make it home for bedtime, but we figured she’d be ok with her daddy even if I wasn’t there.

This was also my first lesson with one of the other trainers working out of our facility – I’ve only really worked with my barn owner/trainer and her former assistant trainer. I really liked her! She was sympathetic to my complete lack of muscle tone, but still gave solid technical feedback. I’ll be riding with her every other week and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It was also great to ride with some of the other ammies that I haven’t gotten to spend time with in a while. I love having my barn social time back ❤

Big hugs for the Big Man

And because she is a very excellent little girl, Lina went down easy and bedtime was not a problem. I’m super relieved to know that getting to the barn during the week is going to be manageable!

Riding three days in a row may have been the most painful thing I’ve done to myself in a long time, but I don’t regret it for a minute. I’ve been absolutely floating with happiness at getting this time with my boy. I felt like we settled right back into our little routines and interactions, he’s still my goofy lovable creature, he’s still my heart. I’ll be hobbling around happily, constantly glancing at the calendar to see when I get to ride next.

PS – I’m on a bit of a hunt for show clothes if anyone is looking to offload. My body is a completely different size and shape than it was pre-baby, and while I expect things will shift more as I get back in the saddle, I don’t want to pressure myself into getting back completely in my old clothes. If anyone has a show coat in a size similar to a Grand Prix 12 or 14, show shirts in a S or M, or tan mid-rise breeches in a 28 or 30, hit me up!

Our Upcoming Reunion

We’re just inches away from our official reunion, and it’s starting to hit me that I’ll get to have my Francisco back. I’m all sorts of emotions: a little nervous about figuring out the balance with riding and Lina and work, gratitude for the MANY people coordinating to help make this work, and primarily excitement to have time with my boy again. And that excitement just keeps building as the day comes closer and closer and it feels more real.

This really is such a team effort for me to be able to do this. My husband is taking Lina for bedtime on the days I go to the barn during the week, which is a huge huge thing. Lina has never taken a bottle and we’ve always done bedtime together, so his willingness to figure it out is a major undertaking. This will also be on the days that he has her all day while I’m working, so those will be her Daddy Days from sunup to sundown. I know you all have heard me say nice things about my dude plenty of times over the years, but I’ve got to add this: he’s a rockstar dad and an amazing co-parent. It’s amazing to see.

My all time faves

I’m also having to coordinate someone to watch Lina on the days I go to the barn with her on the weekends, and my barn family has been wonderful. My trainer’s daughter is keeping an eye on her this weekend so I can take a quick lesson, several of the junior riders have offered to keep an eye on her, and one even told me that when she gets her license next week she’ll come out whenever I need her. The amateurs and barn moms have all offered to keep her entertained. I don’t know how I got so lucky with this community, but I sure am grateful.

As always, my trainer has just been the best. As we’ve approached the official reunion day, I’ve been texting her about lots of details: making sure the vet and farrier know to bill me, transferring his Smartpaks back to my account, setting up lessons and shows and training rides and fitness center visits, planning his maintenance for the year, a million other things. She’s literally already taken care of 90% of it, and set it up so I can easily do the other 10%. When I mentioned I needed someone to keep an eye on Lina during my lesson, she offered her daughter’s help (which is WILD because I’ve known her since she was teeny tiny and now she’s so grown up!!). Every concern or barrier I’ve seen, she’s worked with me to figure it out. Eight years into my time with her, I still have the utmost respect and appreciation for everything she does.

An older pic, but one I absolutely love. Knowing that she’s a card-carrying member of the Francis Fan Club means I know he’s in the best of hands

And now that all these different logistics are under control, that excitement is just building and building. I can’t wait to get my snuffly snuggles when I rub his ears. I can’t wait to let him slurp from the hose this summer. I can’t wait to catch him snoring in his stall when we go show. I can’t wait to love on him and groom him and play with him. I can’t wait for our bridling routine, where he looks around and then comes in for a hug before shoving his face into the bridle. I can’t wait for our little routine of picking feet, where I tap him and say “foot please” and then “thank you” when he obliges. All those little moments and little patterns we’ve had over the years.

From that very first month of ownership back in 2016, we’ve always had our snuggles

I also can’t wait to get that part of myself back. I’ve happily thrown myself into this new chapter of life, but riding and spending time at the barn has been so hugely important to me for so long, and it’s a part of me I’m eager to recapture. I can’t wait to share this with my daughter and show her all the amazing things that come with spending time around horses. I can’t wait to set the example of finding something you love and finding a way to make it work. I can’t wait to see her love of animals and spending time outside grow. For so many reasons, I’m so excited for Lina to come with me and be a part of everything.

We’re gonna have to get this kid a pony before she tries to ride the dog

And of course: I can’t wait to bring you all along for the ride too 🙂

Non-Horse Updates

As I get ready to get back in the swing of things at the barn, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about some of the other changes that have happened since I was last riding (and blogging).

A big one is that I am back to full time work! I was pretty contentedly doing part-time contract work with no plans to change that, but an old coworker approached me about an opening. I was initially hesitant to make a change, but the more I learned about the role and the company, the more excited I got about it. I was totally sold after talking to the CEO and hearing her vision for the next couple of years.

I’m now very happily acting as a technical product manager for a small company in the higher education technology sector, and totally loving it. The mission is one I feel strongly about (making higher education admissions more fair and accessible to more people), the culture is incredibly supportive of a healthy work life balance, and the people are SO FREAKIN NICE (have I mentioned this is a Canadian company?). It’s crazy working for a place where the benefits and policies all work to reinforce this encouraging culture, and I’m beyond grateful to be a part of it.

I hadn’t been looking for full time work, in large part because I still happily have Lina home with me. Even if I wanted to send her to daycare (which for various reasons, I don’t at this point), the waiting lists for every facility in our area is literally months long. Luckily, we have a great situation going where she spends 2-3 days a week with her daddy when he’s home from work, and on the other days she hangs out with our new sitter who brings her son. He and Lina are the same age, and it’s hysterical watching them play with each other.

This one is my baby, doing big-brain baby stuff

I was definitely nervous about balancing full time work, even with childcare lined up, but I had such a reassuring interaction with a coworker earlier this week: I told her that I’d have to be a few minutes late to a meeting. I had several back to back, and needed a quick break to feed the baby before getting back into it. She could’ve just said “ok, thanks for the heads up.” Instead, she told me that it’s totally reasonable to expect breaks between meetings, and that we all will work together to find balance in our days. I was floored. It went beyond acknowledgement to active support, and I didn’t realize how important that was until I had it. So yeah, I feel super super lucky.

On the Maggie front, she continues to be the bestest pup in the world. We’re very careful not to overwhelm her with the baby, but she’s been beyond patient and still loves to come hang with us while we’re playing. She has a fan club at Petco – they all recognize her, and her favorite groomer always calls dibs when we make an appointment – and she’s been such a good egg about having a second baby in the house with our sitter. We adore our Sweet Meegz.

She has very happily returned to her life as a hard working office dog. Every morning I say “Rinkus, it’s time for work” and she BOOKS it to my office. Gotta clock in for another day of sleeping.

We also added another couple pets! We decided it would be fun to get a couple fish, and have a whole tank set up. I realize it might have made more sense to start small and get a goldfish, but we jumped straight to a 20 gallon tank with a bunch of tropical fish. If you know me at all, you know I don’t usually do things half way. We now have a couple zebra danios, some bumblebee catfish, and plan to add a couple gouramis, a shrimp, and some snails. Lina LOVES watching her fishies and waves good morning to them every day. We also made friends with the person working in the fish department at Petco (shoutout to my girl Bri) and she knows to brace herself when we walk in. This is why you never leave two extroverts with low impulse control loose around people. We do things like this.

On the house front, we’re starting to tackle our long list of projects we want to do. We got recessed lighting put into the living room and the TV mounted on the wall with some cable control, so it no longer feels like a dark cave with a thousand wires running everywhere. Getting those lights in may have been more fun for me than Christmas. The next project is going to be doing something with my office so it doesn’t look like the catch-all room for our random junk (even though it is), and we want to start saving for a deck off the side of the house. One thing at a time!

I am very obsessed with our view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and would like to sit outside and stare at it more thank u

On the baby front, Lina just gets better and better. She’s such a calm happy baby, loves people (the child crawled down a row of people at the airport, pausing and waving to every single one. In case you were wondering if the extroversion thing was genetic), loves her puppy, loves her fishes, loves her pony, loves the barn kitties, pretty much loves everything. She’s a snuggly little creature, always looking for hugs and kisses. Basically, she’s a total delight and we love her more every day. I’m so excited to spend my weekends at the barn with her! I’m hoping I can bribe some of the juniors to entertain her for an hour so I can ride, but I might have to get a portable playpen to keep her entertained on the days I can’t. I’m sure we’ll figure it out as we go.

We’ve chosen not to show her face on the internet, so you’ll have to take my word for it that she’s literally the cutest baby in the entire world. That’s just scientific fact.

Now that we’re back up to speed on all the boring non-horse stuff, I’m getting so excited to share lesson updates, show plans, and all things Francisco!

Equestrians Make Better Moms: Part 2

What can I say, I think about this stuff a lot. My brain used to be 90% Frankie, 10% everything else. Now it’s 90% Frankie, 80% Maggie, 100% baby, and still 10% everything else. It’s chaos up there, don’t try to make the numbers add up. But as I continue to muse during my nighttime feedings, I keep coming up with more ways my experience with Francisco has helped me with parenting skills.

Though to be fair, I’ve never had any trouble getting this one down for a nap

We make the right choice the easy choice. When I want Frankie to move a certain way, I make sure my body language is staying supportive and out of the way. I do my best to not present the opportunity to try the wrong choice (which works for him, because he’s not particularly inventive). We’re approaching childproofing in the same way: if I don’t want Lina to climb on the bar cart, I simply put a chair in front of it. She doesn’t really get a choice between the right choice and the wrong one, she simply gets pointed at the behavior we want and we remove (as much as possible) the other options. This is a work in progress – tricky little kiddo is a LOT more inventive than Frankie, so we’re getting a lot more creative.

MVP award goes out to Maggie, who has steadfastly refused to be childproofed and parks herself near her child at every opportunity.

There are lots of right ways to do something, and very few wrong ways. Seriously, there’s a hundred and one ways to approach eating, sleeping, playing, learning, EVERYTHING with a horse. And a kid. And lots of those ways work just fine. Horses and kids tend to be more resilient than we give them credit for, and it’s just not worth stressing over finding the one singular right way.

In a similar vein: all things being equal, there may be a “best” option. But all things are not ever equal. How many people have said that every single horse should be able to go in a rubber snaffle and no spurs? Like yeah, I agree, how awesome would that be. But there are lots of other factors that worm their way in there that make one single best option not the right option for everyone all the time. Same thing with breastfeeding vs formula, sleep training vs not, Montessori based toys vs other types. No two kids are the same, no two families are the same, and the best for one is not going to be the best for another.

Everyone and their mother will have an opinion. And everyone and their mother will take it at least a little personally if you do not share the same opinion. Enough said.

Got my first Instagram hate mail from someone telling me I was negligent for letting her crawl on the dirty floor at the airport. I was tempted to invite the sender to come hold her for 4 hours straight. This kid has sat in horse manure-flavored dirt, I am not worried about some floors.

Some things just take time, but it does get better. I was recently reviewing old blog posts from when I brought Francis home. There were so many things we had to work on and some of that took years to solidify. I’ve seen the same as Lina grows – a lot of the knots we had to figure out how to untie at the beginning just took time. As we approach a year old, we know each other so much better and she’s a total blast.

I’m sure as I get back in the saddle I’ll keep thinking of more parallels. It’s been really interesting to bring a lot of my riding philosophies into my parenting philosophies, and I’m sure it’ll bleed back the other way too.

Mama’s Back

Oh hayyyyy!!!

Frankie officially comes off lease and back to me in about a week and a half, and ya girl is beyond excited. It’s been almost 18 months of inconsistent barn time, and it’s going to do my soul so much good to have regular outings with my most favoritest Frankfurter.

We stopped by for a quick hello on our way home from brunch recently, NOT THAT HE CARED. I rank a distant second to food.

Originally the plan was for Frankie to stay on lease until the end of May, but his leasers found a super adorable (obviously bay) gelding to buy and gave me the option of taking back Francis earlier. I told my husband that I had to run some numbers since I hadn’t financially planned to have him back on the payroll quite yet, and his wise response was: “When have the numbers ever mattered when it comes to Frankie?” Touche, Nicholas, touche. The only obvious answer was to say yes, I’ll take him back, let’s pick a date, omg thank you.

I’d like to take a quick minute to rave about just how wonderful Frankie’s leasers have been over the past year and a half. They have loved and cared for Francis as their own, they’ve done everything in their power to keep him fit and healthy and happy, they’ve shared frequent updates, and they have adored my boy the way he loves to be adored. His kiddo has progressed leaps and bounds with him, and I’m so excited to see what she tackles with her new mount! I could not be more grateful for the peace of mind they’ve given me in this new season of life, knowing that I could focus on figuring out the cadences of our new addition without worrying about how Frankie was faring. They will forever be part of the Francis Fan Club and part of the family.

Getting ready to take Frankie back has come with quite a bit of logistical set up to prepare. From the small (getting him a new halter since my old one kicked the bucket), to the fun (we have shows on the calendar!), to the complicated (planning a lesson schedule around the baby and my husband’s rotating work schedule), to the interesting (signing Frankie up for outings to the nearby equine rehab facility – more details on that to come!). I’ve already had to call on my support network to help navigate everything, and everyone has been enormously helpful.

This guy is not just passively ok with me going to the barn, but has been proactively encouraging and helping me figure out how to make it work. I’ll never take that for granted.

The first hurdle we’ve tackled is getting a lesson schedule worked out. Back in the day, I used to simply text my trainer: “can i hop in the 6p lesson or nah” and that was that. But those were also the days that I was there 6 days a week, so I had the luxury of hopping in wherever it worked. I could show up last minute for a quick 30 min private at 7a before the day really started. I could hack around and then join in the jumping portion of a lesson. But my trainer’s lesson program has grown leaps and bounds and that has come with a need for more consistent scheduling, and with a baby in tow I need the consistency too! The current plan is for me to lesson once a week on either Mondays or Wednesdays (with my husband’s rotating schedule, I need to ride on a day he’s home to be with Lina), get out there on the weekends, and take any other days as a bonus. As Lina gets older, I hope we can bump that up, but for now I’m excited for my three days a week!

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you know that 3 days a week is not nearly enough to keep Tubbo Boy fit. If you’re new here, I’ll summarize it by saying that Frankie loses fitness the way I gain weight by looking at a doughnut post-baby. Real fast. So we have a super interesting plan for keeping him fit and ready for me: he will get his 2x a week pro rides, which is the schedule he’s been on for the past 3-4 years. With me being so out of shape and inevitably rusty, these will be majorly helpful in keeping him fit and undoing all the un-training I’m sure I’ll be doing. I poured all my sweat (and $$$) into training him over the past years for exactly this purpose – now it’s his turn to be better schooled than me. Here comes the fun part: we’re adding in a day each week for him to ship over to the nearby Nova Equine Fitness Center! I’ll plan to do a full post on this facility soon, but the short version is that our vet has opened a full service fitness and rehab center in our area, and it is incredible. We went for a tour recently, and the thought and consideration but into every single part of the facility is astounding. Frankie will be going to take advantage of the infrared solarium, 3D vibration plate, and water treadmill. I’m so eager to see how he likes it, and will definitely keep you all posted!

Cute gray pony giving us a demo of the water treadmill, featuring me and the peanut in matching outfits. Thankfully this kid loves the barn and watching the pretty ponies.

I’m at the point in our journey where I’d love to be the one doing all the work with Frankie (because he’s so dang fun), but it’s just not realistic with my other commitments. It’s going to make it that much more fun for me to enjoy our few rides a week together knowing that he’s staying fit and ready for whatever shenanigans I throw his way.

The last exciting update is our show schedule – we have three on the calendar! Upperville is hosting a fun little local show on the showgrounds the Sunday before Upperville proper kicks off, so Francis and I will head to that to do two 0.9-0.95m classes and knock the rust off. It’ll be a nice low-stress way to get back in the ring on my favorite showgrounds. We’re then planning to do the 1m Low Adults at Loudoun Benefit. Originally I was super excited to do the Lows at Upperville, but those run Tues-Thurs and Loudoun runs Fri-Sun. I just started a new job this month (back to full time work!) and taking one day off instead of 3-4 was just much more palatable. Don’t worry, Lina will still get to do her Upperville leadline debut! The last one on the calendar (for now) is GLEF over in Michigan in July. Lina and my husband are coming along for us to have a fabulous two week horse show/vacation, and I can’t wait.

Last time we went to Loudoun we did the Adult Eq and the Jr/Am Hunter Derby, but this time around we’re sticking in the jumper ring. I’m confident I can grab mane and steer around a course of jumps, I am less confident that I can do all that while looking nice.

I know I had some raised eyebrows from a few friends when I said we were planning on stepping right back into the 1m classes so soon after our break, and maybe I am a bit crazy. I certainly reserve the right to change my mind at any time if things aren’t coming together like I hope they will. But at this point, that height is such a non-issue for Frankie and he’s done it a million times, so if I can just get my eye back then I’m confident we’ll be good to go. Like I said earlier – it’s his turn to be better schooled than me, and now is the time that I’m extra grateful for all the careful solid training we’ve done over the years.

I feel like I could keep writing forever, but I’ll cut it short for now and chime in again soon! I can’t wait to pick back up and share as we navigate this new stage of the journey together.