I waffled over whether or not to share this here. This blog has almost always been devoted to all things horses, with my personal life mostly sneaking in around the edges in a light way when it’s relevant to my barn life. But sometimes it’s cathartic to write things down, and I’m just now starting to get to the other side, so here goes.
I had an ectopic pregnancy recently. And it really really sucked.
I know this subject can be sensitive or uncomfortable for many, so consider this a heads up to not continue reading if that is the case. I don’t plan on talking about this beyond this post, so you will not unexpectedly run into it anywhere else on this blog.
The short version is that I called my doctor with some concerns a few weeks after we found out I was pregnant, the staff there brushed me off and told me to sit tight until my appointment 9 days later, and I ignored them and went to the ER that night because I know my body. It took several days of repeat testing to confirm that the pregnancy was ectopic. It was a very difficult few days of having hope repeatedly given and then retracted as test results came in.
Since we caught it pre-rupture, I was able to get an injection instead of needing surgery. This was a chemo drug that caused common chemo side-effects, and I experienced them for several weeks. It took a week to confirm that the medication had done what it’s supposed to, and I’ve been getting weekly bloodwork since then to watch my hormone levels slowly tick back to zero. It’s a weekly cycle of fear that things aren’t working, relief that they are, then grief at having to confront the numerical evidence of it every time. I’m still anemic and easily exhausted and have been told it will take several months to build my body back up.
If I had listened to that first nurse, I would have best-case lost an ovary and worst-case had serious life-threatening injuries. When my husband called to cancel my appointment with them, they did not even ask why or note that I had called with concerns a few days prior.
So this is why Frankie’s hospitalization came at a really really difficult time. At that point I had been told to stay within a 20 minute radius of a surgical center in case I ruptured and needed immediate life-saving treatment, so I had to look up hospitals near the barn and vet hospital to make sure I was close enough. My husband had to keep his phone on high and a neighbor on standby to watch the baby in case he needed to come meet me in the middle of the night. It was a physical, mental, and emotional rollercoaster. I know this also is one of the reasons that I pushed to get Frankie to the hospital rather than wait-and-see; I was already dealing with too much uncertainty and needed him to be safe and healthy with more security.
There is plenty to be grateful for: that I know my body and my husband trusts that knowledge enough that I went in to get checked against that initial recommendation, that the doctors at the hospital were extremely thorough and compassionate in a difficult time and listened when I refused to be admitted in favor of being home with my family, that our babysitter and friends and family were able to help with Lina so she had nice normal happy days while we were back and forth from appointments, that we avoided the need for surgery, that both my job and my husband’s job were beyond supportive and understanding in giving us time off to handle all of this, that our friends and family have surrounded us with love, that everything ended with me being healthy with no expected long-term side effects. Lina has been our endless ray of sunshine the whole time, and my husband has truly been an unbelievable anchor of stability and support and love.
But being grateful for all of that does not cancel out the fear, the dread, the guilt, the deep sadness, and how generally hard it has been. Those emotions coexist, they don’t cancel each other out. There are good days and bad, and the balance is slowly but continuously shifting towards the former.
I was recently complaining to someone how I’ve had Frankie insured VERY comprehensively for seven years, and have never used a dime of it.
And obviously this was my first mistake, saying that out loud. The universe heard me and decided to say OH OK BET.
So that I don’t ruin anyone’s day, I will tell you now that Frankie is doing fantastic and everything is fine now.
It started almost two weeks ago, when I got a call from the barn manager that Frankie was showing some mild colic symptoms: not pooping a lot, low fever, and ignoring his food. They gave him some banamine which helped a little, and the vet came out later in the day to tube him and do a rectal exam. His bloodwork showed some sign of infection, so they started him on an antibiotic; their theory was that the infection is what caused him to feel bad, which made him stop eating and drinking, which is what caused the colic symptoms. He was doing better that night when his leasers did night check, so we felt comfortable waiting to see what would happen.
And then the next day it was just more of the same. He ended up getting tubed again to make sure he was staying hydrated, and got another rectal, but still was acting very subdued and under the weather. One of our amazing barn kiddos offered to hand walk him at night check, and at that point he got down to roll.
So now it had been two full days of symptoms that weren’t getting terribly worse, but also weren’t responding to treatment, and then the colic symptoms started getting worse. His leasers had been there tirelessly late at night, early in the morning, and every time in between.
But sometimes, it’s time to call in Mama.
I called the on-call vet and had her meet us at the barn around 10:45pm that Saturday night. After a conference on what the next steps would be (continue monitoring and tube as needed) I made the call that he needed to go to the nearby vet hospital – the Equine Medical Center is only 20 min away from Frankie’s barn! The vet agreed that this was a reasonable escalation since all the moderate treatments hadn’t budged the needle.
Cue a panic as we tried to figure out how to get him there. My trainer was out of town at a show, her husband had kids at home he couldn’t just leave, and it turns out most reasonable people are asleep at 11:30pm on a Saturday night. Thankfully one of our barn moms picked up the phone and was there within half an hour to hitch up her trailer.
Side note – at this point Frankie had his vet, me, his leaser/her mom, AND 3-4 other people there to check on him. Who showed up in the middle of the night. This horse is many things, but most of all he is adored by a whole lot of people.
Another side note – I’m now super paranoid about being stuck without a ride and am figuring out options to either buy one or pay in to have consistent access to a friend’s when needed. I welcome any thoughts or opinions on this.
One of my favorite things about Francois is that he could not care less about getting on a trailer. Pitch black outside, howling winds causing some real weird tree noises, a dark trailer all alone walking away from his friends. He paused to examine it, but then just marched on.
We got him to the hospital around 12:30am and they put us in the isolation barn because of the low fever he had. He backed right off the trailer, and we handed him off to the techs to settle into the stall while we reviewed his history with the on call vet. Thankfully our vet had called ahead to share all her notes, so this was more of a confirmation exercise than anything.
At that point, it was time to sit in the waiting room and see what they said. His leasers stayed there into the wee hours, along with our amazing friend with the trailer. After 45ish minutes the vet came in to chat.
She was able to confirm an infection using a belly tap to test the fluid around his intestines. This also confirmed the theory that the colic symptoms were secondary to the infection, and that treating one would treat the other. She proposed putting him on IV antibiotics, fluids, and nutrition while they waited for the labs to come back with more information. She also said that while he came off the trailer a bit peppy, as soon as the adrenaline wore off he was noticeably uncomfortable. It was nice to have the reassurance that I’m not a crazy overreactive owner and that we made the right call to bring him in when we did.
Sunday was fairly quiet while they waited for the antibiotics to work. Thankfully his colic symptoms subsided fairly quickly and they kept close eye on that the whole time.
Monday he terrified the whole staff by laying flat and passing out. They called me and I apologized profusely for not warning them that this was an excellent sign, and the only reason he WOULDN’T lie down is if the treatment wasn’t working. But hearing that he was mooching the techs for attention, starting to eat and poop more, and taking his normal nap was fantastic.
Tuesday he continued to improve (along with his terrifying nap), and several of his labs came back negative. They told us that as long as he continued to improve he could come home the next day! Lina and I stopped by for a quick visit through the glass – since he was technically still in isolation, no pets were allowed. Lina was thrilled to see him, thrilled to say hi to the vets, and spent the rest of the day repeating “Frankie! Bubba! Barn! Horses! Frankie!” to anyone who would listen.
Wednesday his final lab came back negative, which mean that he was not carrying any scary contagious illnesses that would risk the other horses at the barn. We were able to coordinate a ride home for him at a much more civilized mid-day hour, with orders to continue on oral antibiotics, repeat bloodwork, and a follow up belly tap in a few weeks. We still don’t have any concrete answers on what the infection was or where it originated, so I’m trying to focus on the fact that whatever it was, the treatment worked.
So here we are. He’s home, he’s happy, he’s playing with his buddies in the field, and he’s on ultra ultra light light supervised work for the next few weeks to ensure there are no lingering effects.
While I’m able to write about this calmly now and even make jokes about it, this was a truly awful experience only made better by the support and sheer competence of the whole team we’ve got around us. I had my first ever panic attack driving home from the hospital at 3am, I slept with my phone on max volume for days, and spent most of my days liaising between the vet, my leasers, my trainer, and my barn manager to make sure everyone knew what was happening. Combined with some stuff going on in my personal life (which may or may not be a post for another time), this was extremely the worst.
I’m glad that he made a quick recovery and all signs point to everything going back to normal. Our barn managers were incredible at coordinating a whole lot of stakeholders over the course of several days, our vets were all so incredibly invested in getting Frankie better (literally one was texting me while in Florida on time off because she wanted to make sure Francis was doing ok), my trainer woke up multiple times in the middle of the night to get updates even though she had an extremely busy show weekend, the vets at the hospital were communicative, informative, and compassionate, and his leasers were beyond dedicated. They did absolutely everything right, knew when to call in reinforcements, and were extremely supportive of me taking the driver’s wheel for a little while to make some decisions.
So this is the story of how after seven years, I’m finally getting my dang money’s worth from his dang insurance.
I was recently looking back at old blog posts from the early days with Francisco, when I stumbled across this one. The short version if you don’t want to read the whole thing is this: I bought Frankie to be my athletic partner and not a pet, and I did not commit to keeping him forever.
Clearly, past me had no idea what was in store. And to be fair – at that point we were only a few months into our partnership, we had not yet achieved all these incredible things we’ve now accomplished, we had not been on adventures all over the country, we had not built the trust and love that we have in the past 7 years.
I don’t think I was necessarily wrong in theory, but I do think things have changed after all the years and things we’ve done together. I realized a couple years ago that Frankie made so many of my dreams come true, and it was way more fun for me to pivot and try things that he might enjoy rather than just pushing for myself. And that didn’t feel like a sacrifice, it felt selfish – instead of always climbing climbing for the next division, I picked what makes me happy. And what makes me happy is riding this specific horse.
So yes, Frankie does have a forever home with me. He has and will continue to spend time on lease as needed while I navigate the early years of motherhood, he will pack me around in whatever divisions make us feel good when I’m able to get to the barn, and when he wants an easier job he’ll either go be part of the lesson program or move out to the farm across the street from my house and be a pasture pet.
Whatever the future looks like, I will be the one ensuring his health and happiness. Not only do I owe it to him after all that he’s selflessly given me over the years, but I simply adore this creature. I want to be the one who takes care of him, I want to always be there to love on him. Again, this doesn’t feel like a sacrifice; it feels like such a blessing to continue to have Francis in my life.
Added to that, I want to show Lina what it means to be the steward of these animals. That the balance can shift over time, and that it can be a joy to find new ways of being together.
There will be other horses in my life as time goes on, and I do maintain that it is likely that not all of them will be a forever horse for me. But Frankie surely is.
I realized I haven’t posted in quite a few months, and my only excuse is that my computer logged me out of WordPress and I kept forgetting to log back in. It’s that simple and that dumb.
But I do really like having a little record to look back on, so let’s talk about some Frankie updates!
I am ecstatic to share that the treatment protocol we went through for Frankie’s Lyme’s diagnosis was extremely effective. We did end up having to extend the doxy once to make sure we were being aggressive enough, but his symptoms have completely disappeared. He managed to come through the antibiotics without any tummy upset, a shiny coat, healthy muscles, and his personality is as goofy and sweet as ever. I’m beyond thrilled to have my happy boy loving his job again.
I did have the opportunity to take Frankie to a little local show this past weekend. We just did one speed round where he was perfect: forward to the jumps, extremely responsive, locked on to the fences, and so relaxed. There were lots of green horses there getting miles which meant lots of spooks and chaos, and he just fell asleep at the ingate then went around practically on the buckle. And of course he still managed to get us 6th out of 30, because he’s just that good. I was so relieved to not feel any of the hesitation he had back in the fall, and he didn’t hold any sort of grudge about it.
We also had a classic Francis moment: when we were backing him off the trailer, his blanket caught on something. Instead of panicking, he just swung that direction (I could almost hear him thinking, “I’m getting tugged that way, guess I should start going that way”). The strap ended up loudly tearing off completely. He didn’t blink. My trainer just laughed and said “thank God that happened with Frankie, I think most other horses would be halfway across the parking lot by now.” In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear: this horse is the most perfect angel boy to ever exist.
In more bittersweet news, I did make the very difficult decision to lease him back out. As much as I wish I could be there more often, I’m really only able to get to the barn 2x a week (maybe 3 if I’m lucky, but that’s rare). Balancing a busy work schedule, an increasingly busy toddler, and other life commitments is just tough during this phase of life. He needs more attention than that, and honestly the math doesn’t super work out in terms of my cost per ride. I was waffling about a partial lease vs a full lease when a perfect situation came along looking for a full lease, so that’s what we’re doing. We’ve learned over time that when a great arrangement pops up, it’s best to say yes.
They’re a really lovely family who rides with my trainer, looking to start moving up in height beyond what the lesson horses offer and start competing more. They’ve been extremely invested in making sure Frankie has everything he needs to thrive with them, including getting their saddle fitted, buying all sorts of brushes and tack and treats, and asking tons of questions about how they can support him. They’ve also expressed that they would love me to come say hi as often as possible and I’m welcome to hop on – I certainly don’t want to abuse that since they’re paying to have sole usage, but I’m thrilled that they are so open to keeping me involved. It makes it much easier.
And as bummed as I am to be missing out on saddle time, I do think Frankie will really enjoy his job. This is now the 3rd time he’s been asked to bring a junior rider along from the 2’/2’6″ height up to the 3′ jumps, and he’s so dang good at it. It’s something that is easy for him and he can relax into. I’ve seen the kiddo ride him and they get along fantastically; she’s being thrown into the deep end at a new barn (the training barn we’re at vs the lesson barn) with new lesson mates and a new trainer (she’s riding with our head trainer now instead of the assistant lesson trainers), and she’s handling it gracefully!
I’m so glad I had the chance to go compete with Francis one last time before his lease starts in March, and have the confidence that he’s feeling healthy and strong and ready for this next chapter. The way I’m looking at it is that Frankie and I are both focusing on developing the next generation of horsewomen right now in our own ways, and that’s one of the most important jobs there is.
And the silver lining is that we’ll now have space in the schedule to get Lina over to the lesson barn to start riding independently on a more size-appropriate pony, so we should have some adorable pony spam over the next few months!
We’re still here, still getting a handle on Frankie’s Lyme. Treatment looks like this:
A dose of doxy every day to address the Lyme A dose of omeprazole every day, to address the havoc doxy causes on the gut A gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc Another gut supplement with every meal, to also address the gut havoc Free range alfalfa, TO ALSO ADDRESS THE GUT HAVOC
I may be a bit paranoid and going over the top, but this horse has never been ulcer-prone and I’ll be damned if I solve one problem only to cause another. He’s had healthy-looking poops and no signs of an ouchie tummy, so I’m taking this as a success.
Pro tip: we were able to have our vet compound the omeprazole through the in-house pharmacy, which is saving us some money. Gastrogard and Ulcergard are so FRIGGIN EXPENSIVE.
Our progress is a bit of a mixed bag. Frankie went out and won his speed class for his kid last weekend (she was completely caught off guard at Francis in Full Jumper Mode but was a good sport and clung on for dear life). The vet was thrilled that just a few weeks after being so visibly sore, he felt good enough to go for gold in a big competitive class at 0.95m. I took him in the ring the next day and ended up scratching – he was a good boy but had that same laggy-ness as before. Our vet said she wasn’t surprised or discouraged by this – with Lyme it’s not uncommon for them to get fatigued more than usual.
We opted to run a full titer to see what levels we’re working with, and the results came back kinda borderline. It’s not quite acute, not quite chronic. This tells us that the symptoms I noticed over the summer likely were Lyme, and not heat like we originally thought. I’m kicking myself for not realizing this sooner (Frankie usually handles the heat extremely well so I should’ve known it was out of character), but all we can do is work off the information we have. We’re extending the doxy by another month with hopes that being aggressive will get us where we need to be.
We have some other options for treatment if the doxy isn’t working, but so far our vet is really happy with his progress and thinks we’ll be good to go. We talked about when/why we’ll try other options and we’re not at that point.
Worst case is that his case has already gone chronic, and we’ll always have to manage flares. Best case is that we’re getting at it hard now and we’ll be able to knock it out. Obviously I’m hoping for the latter, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. My plans for Frankie don’t really change either way: enjoying him at the level he wants to work, and making sure he enjoys his job. If we can get back to having the fastest times in the Low Adults, that would be awesome. If he says he only wants to do that sometimes, or we should stick with 1-day shows, or he wants to do a lower height, that’s awesome too. If he does have flares in the future, I now know exactly what that feels like and we can treat it ASAP.
We always have a quiet winter since I’m a big weenie and hate showing in the cold, so we have plenty of time to treat and re-test, treat and re-test as needed.
Biggest shout outs to my vet, who has been in close contact checking in and giving updates, my trainer for being flexible day-to-day as we react to what Frankie’s workload needs to be in the moment, and to our barn staff who have been simply amazing at helping coordinate everything – as soon as I said I needed to extend the treatment, they reached out to the vet staff to make sure we didn’t run out. The support system we have is amazing and gives me so much confidence that no matter what happens, we’ll be in great hands and able to continue having fun together ❤
I’m very happy to share that Frankie tested positive for Lyme.
Am I happy that Frankie is anything less than 100% healthy? Absolutely not. I hate that he’s been hurting. Am I relieved beyond belief that (1) we have answers (2) we have a super solid treatment plan and (3) my gut instinct was right? Very very much so.
As I mentioned in my last post, we were able to get on the vet’s schedule within a matter of days. She started off with a basic physical exam to check for soreness, with nothing coming up as a problem. Frankie actually seemed to love his unofficial massage and was nice and relaxed.
During this exam, I shared my five paragraph essay of collected symptoms I had noticed. I wish I was exaggerating, but when it comes to this horse I do not play. Other people have been on Frankie recently, but none have the 6+ years of history and knowledge of what his “normal” looks like so I don’t know that anyone else would have noticed some of the more subtle changes.
By the end of my soliloquy, the vet said this sounded like it could potentially be a tick borne illness.
She asked if I wanted to continue with a lameness eval, and I said that I’d rather just do the blood draw for the quick 10 min test – if that came back negative we could continue trying other things.
While waiting for the results of the blood test, we did do a quick jog/lunge and Francis was noticeably head bobbing lame. Apparently his little massage caused something to flare up and the poor guy was very ouchie. Right around when we saw that, we also saw that the test came back with a faint positive.
Frankie is immediately starting a course of antibiotics, with some heavy GI support from multiple sources so he doesn’t get a tummy ache. He’s getting some high-buoyancy sessions on the water treadmill to give his joints a break, and will be in light work until this flare resolves.
I was surprised but happy to learn that movement actually helps with the treatment, so he won’t be getting any extended time off unless he tells us he needs it. My trainer, half leaser, and I are all on the same page of listening to him each day – if he feels great we can do a bit more, or if he needs a slow day then that’s what he’ll get. The vet had absolutely no concerns about him maintaining his current schedule as long as we’re attentive, and we are all definitely very invested in keeping him happy and healthy!
The vet is confident that we caught this early and that there’s no reason the treatment shouldn’t be successful at alleviating all symptoms. The sluggishness, the stickiness, the hesitation to move out (along with some other smaller things my paranoid horse mom brain noticed) are all explained by this diagnosis and should all start clearing up within weeks.
While finding out my perfect boy is sick isn’t ideal, we have a lot to be grateful for: my lease kid is just the sweetest and is so committed to making sure Frankie feels his best. My vet listened to my concerns, shared her thoughts, and gave me options. My trainer trusted my judgement and supported my decisions (and it was great having her there for the exam because she’s literally Frankie’s emotional support person I swear). My barn friends have listened to me absolutely spiral about needing to retire Frankie in his prime if we didn’t find an answer.
Most of all, as always, I’m grateful for Frankie. That he told me something was wrong and still kept me safe until I heard him clearly. I wish I caught on even sooner, but I’m glad we figured it out before it got too bad.
So to reiterate how I started this post, I’m happy to share that Frankie has Lyme because it means that we can fix it, and soon he’ll be feeling back to his wonderful self!
Piedmont Jumper 2022 is over, and I gotta say, it was a weird weekend.
It started off well – Frankie arrived at the showgrounds on Thursday, had a nice schooling ride with my trainer, and was tucked away happily waiting for me the next day.
I arrived on Friday with my tiny child in tow, ready to win everything. I was nervous about bringing Lina and not having my husband there to help wrangle her, but it all worked out wonderfully. The combination of (1) a super easy-going baby that’s content to hang out and (2) truly generous and amazing barnmates who stepped in when I needed a hand meant that balancing Lina and Frankie went better than expected!
We had our usual short and sweet warmup that went well, and walked in the ring for our Low Adult class. Our first fence was a little sticky but nothing awful, and the next couple jumps came up fine. Then there was a bending 5 stride to a 1 stride, I got him there on the half step, and he stopped.
I’m not mad about the stop itself – Frankie only ever stops when it’s going to be an unsafe choice, and I trust his judgement here. We circled, reapproached, and made it right through no problem.
But I am not particularly thrilled about WHY we got there on a half stride. It was a very easy bending line that walked in a perfect five. It was towards the in gate and his stall. It was down a slight hill. It was bending left, and he likes to fade left. And he’s a big horse. All of this means that he should’ve absolutely eaten that line up and I should’ve needed to help balance him. Instead, at stride 3-4 I realized that we were nowhere close to where we needed to be, and I could not get the length of stride to close that gap.
This was a red flag for me.
We were able to complete the course with no other major bobbles, and I walked out to my trainer saying that she’s glad I recovered and continued to ride strongly, and that I made solid choices. I agreed with her, and immediately asked that we schedule a vet appointment.
She asked why – other than an understandable stop, our course looked fine. I told her that despite a good pace and being on track for solid spots, two strides out from every jump I had to really squeeze him up. That kind of “lag” is extremely unusual for Frankie – he’s never spooked at a jump and he’s not the type to ask questions. The combination of short-stridedness and that hesitation before takeoff was to me a blaring alarm that something doesn’t feel right.
The plan we came up with was to drop down to the 0.85m class the next day. We figured one of two things would happen: either (1) he would feel better, telling us that the height was the problem or (2) he would still feel sticky, telling us that there’s discomfort going on. We had a plan either way.
At this point, I’m hoping for the former but do think it’s the latter. I felt these same issues in Tryon – but I blamed it on the crazy high temps and the fact that he was carrying some extra weight. But the weather is colder and he’s more fit now, so it’s something else going on. It could be something as simple as needing to adjust our warmup to give him more time to limber up, it could be that we need to re-adjust saddle fit (again), it could be that we need to increase/change the types of maintenance that we provide. Those are all easy enough to fix, so we’ll start there. I have a Plan A, Plan B, all the way through Plan M or N depending on what he needs from us.
Despite our best laid plans, I did wake up Saturday feeling sick as a dog and had to scratch the rest of the weekend. Womp womp. His kiddo was able to get him out to stretch his legs and said he felt great, so at least he wasn’t cooped up in the rain all weekend.
By the time I got online for work Monday morning, I already had a text confirming that the vet would be taking a look at Frankie on Wednesday to see what additional support he might need from us to feel his best. One of the many perks of boarding with my vet is that we never have to wait long for an appointment!
I have to say here just how much I appreciate my trainer. Instead of saying “it looked fine to me” or “maybe you were just nervous,” she immediately joined me in problem solving mode to see what we could try. She trusted that after 6+ years, I know this horse inside and outside and backwards and forwards. She listened to my concerns and then got us on the vet’s schedule within a day. I’ve worked with plenty of people that would’ve dismissed my concerns, so having her on board so quickly was a total relief.
So yeah. It was a weird weekend.
On the plus side: I gained a lot of confidence in just doing the darn thing even with a toddler along for the ride. Lina had a total blast watching all the ponies. We did make it around. Frankie was a very good boy and as always, tried hard for me.
On the not-so-plus side: To be petty, my absolute least favorite local show photographer was the official photog for this show, guaranteeing that I didn’t get a shot. If you’re in the Nova area, you know who I’m talking about. More importantly, despite making it around and the fact that Frankie is not showing overt signs of lameness, my gut is telling my that there’s something bothering him. My job, as it always has been, is to make sure he is happy and healthy in his work and I’m ready to start turning over whatever stones we need to so he can feel his best. He doesn’t owe me a thing, so he’ll get whatever he needs.
We’ve now been at the new barn for a little over a month, and it’s going great!
I opted to have the saddle fitter come out and check on Frankie (we adjusted his half pad situation and he seems to be feeling good) and got his hocks injected (he told me he was due right when I marked on the calendar to check, so at least we’re predictable). He’s feeling super strong and comfortable and bouncy after those adjustments, so we’re starting off on a good foot.
Much to his chagrin, we did have to cut his grain. His new field has a lot more lush grass than he’s used to, and the big man had an expanding waistline we had to get under control. We also picked up a half-leaser who rides him a couple times a week, so between the two of us and the training ride and fitness session, he’s in much more consistent work! He always feels his best in relatively heavy work, and sure enough he’s just feeling better and better. We’re being careful as he ramps up his fitness level, but so far he’s just taking a few extra naps.
I’ve gotten back in the lesson rotation, and am super enjoying the big ring. Frankie rides very differently in bigger spaces – I think having the visual room to stretch out makes him feel like he can physically stretch out – and I’m enjoying that feel too.
I’ve also been hacking out a little bit, trying to put my brave pants on. I’m able to access all the turnout fields since the horses are currently on overnight turnout and Frankie has loved getting to explore! I still need to figure out where the official hacking trail is, but I’m having plenty of fun playing cowgirl in the meantime.
I’ve been really thrilled with the staff at the new place. The barn manager is wonderfully communicative and tells me regularly that she loves my horse, so clearly she has great taste and we love her. The folks taking care of the property are so fast at responding to requests and are great around the ponies. The staff at the fitness center gives report cards every Friday so I know how it went. They’re coordinating with my trainer, my vet, and my farrier so I feel super taken care of.
With an increasingly busy job and an increasingly busy almost-toddler in the mix, I am incredibly grateful for this level of care. It means that I’m able to come out my 3x a week knowing my horse is healthy, happy, fit, ready to work, and anything I need to schedule will be done within a week.
We have our sights set on doing the Low Adults at Piedmont at the end of the month, which is my absolute favorite show of the year. It’s the same gorgeous showgrounds as Upperville/Loudoun Benefit, but more pleasant cooler weather and much quieter since it’s a jumper-only show. My husband is working that weekend so Lina will be my little tag-along, but she’s turning into a total barn kid! I don’t really have anything else on the show calendar this year, so I’m excited to get out there one more time before the weather cools off.
I’ve been sitting on some big news: Frankie and I have a new home!
If you’re confused because you’ve seen me tell you over and over how much I love my trainer, I’ll cut the suspense early – we’re still with her. Her lesson program has just grown so immensely over the last few years that she’s expanded into a second facility! I’m lucky enough to be one of the early movers.
And if you’ve been following along, this facility is actually one I’ve mentioned before – it’s where Frankie has been going to use the treadmill! And funny enough – I’m like 70% sure I actually competed at a show here with Addy many many years ago. Our vet bought the property last year and has poured a TON of time and effort into renovating and building up the facility, and it’s turned into a really incredible place.
A few of the amenities I’m really excited about:
Group turnout in a super lovely rolling grass field. Frankie goes out with two other teenagers and it’s been the least dramatic herd intro ever. They’re all just happy to hang out with buddies and eat.
On the days he’s not able to go outside due to weather, he automatically gets thrown on the hot walker for an hour. I’m thrilled that he’ll still be able to get out of his stall and stretch his legs every day, no matter what.
Access to the fitness center! He gets to keep up his water treadmill workouts; I’ve been super happy with how this supports his fitness and stamina and I’m also happy I don’t have to pay for shipping to get to it any longer.
Vet on site. One of the vets in the practice we use is on site every Wednesday, which means we never have to wait long for anything. And they’re the vets we already know and love, who already know and love Frankie. (We also get to keep our incredibly awesome farrier)
A massive beautiful indoor. They’re getting ready to install some Big Ass Fans, which will only make it even nicer. It’s watered and dragged at least twice a week and it’s just so PRETTY. We’re in the barn attached to the indoor, so we don’t even have to get wet when weather hits!
An all-weather outdoor. It’s not quite done yet but should be soon, and there’s a really awesome drainage system that essentially ensures it will never flood. Dr. Jay explained the science behind it and it’s super interesting and nerdy. I’ll see if I can track him down for another explanation I can share with y’all.
Lots of hackout trails. I’m a huge weenie about hacking out, but I’m pretty sure Frankie will love it.
Nice big stalls. Frankie’s naps have just been upgraded for full stretch-out-ability. He’s on a corner too, which I love from a ventilation standpoint. He’s right across from the entrance to the indoor, and I know Mr. Social is going to love getting to greet everyone that walks by.
Climate controlled tack room and bathroom. This will make it a lot easier for me to bring Lina out on days it’s super hot or cold – I’ll have somewhere to keep her comfortable while I’m riding. The Clairvaux crew gets our own space so there’s still a sense of community for us. It comes with a fridge/freezer, lots of storage, laundry, and a little lounge that’s currently housing some new barn kitties. I’m excited to see how the space evolves.
A really responsive and communicative staff. In the week we’ve been there, I’ve already gotten several updates and texts on what Frankie is up to and how he’s doing. I love hearing from them!!
Dr. Jay has really put a ton of thought into every aspect of the facility (from the footing in the rings, to something as simple as making the bay doors to the fitness center open silently so the noise doesn’t bother the horses).
It’s an extra 10-15 minutes in the car each way, but so far it’s definitely worth the extra drive. I’m feeling extremely fortunate that I get to keep working with my trainer that I trust, I get to keep Frankie under her watchful eyes and in her program that has been so good for him, and I now get access to such great amenities.
As a housewarming gift for Frankie, I’ve ordered a new nameplate and some brushes/bathing supplies, and I’m happy to see him settling in like he’s been there forever.
So I lied before: I’m going to post the enormous three-book series I originally wrote out. If you make it through the whole thing, I feel like I should send you some kind of reward.
We survived the heat that is July in North Carolina!
The short version: it was hot. But it was fun.
The longer version: where do I start! I suppose at the outset of the trip.
We opted to drive down in two cars so we could have some flexibility while I was showing and Nicholas had the child, and it also meant I could wildly overpack all her toys. Note to self: super unnecessary and annoying. It was about a 7 hour trip without breaks, but we took a couple to let Lina stretch her little legs and get out of the carseat. Other than a little whining 6 hours in (to be fair, I also was in a whining mood by that point), she was a total trooper for the trip!! I wish I had parenting tips to share, but I really think I just have a super easy going child. We got settled into our AirBnb without a fuss.
Side note: the house we rented was at the top of a mountain. I’m not exaggerating. The road up to it was TERRIFYING. It took me 4 days to stop clutching the arm rest every time we went up or down the steep switchbacks, and I never truly got used to it.
I opted to take Tuesday as a family day, so Francisco got a training ride on the derby field where he had to practice going in straight lines which is SUPER HARD. Meanwhile, the three of us did some hiking, dipped our toes in the water, took a nice nap, and ate the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even like BBQ and this stuff was life-changing.
Wednesday was lesson day! We were able to go in the morning before the heat got too bad, and had a nice little lesson in the covered arena. Nothing crazy, just some canter pole exercises for lengthening and collecting, and popping over a jump a few times to make sure we remember how. We do.
I felt ready for our 0.9m class the next day; the only wrinkle in my plan was that my trainer asked me to be fully dressed in show clothes rather than the schooling outfit I was planning on wearing. I’m much more limited in my show outfit options than I used to be, so it was time for a detour to the tack store to boost my collection!
I started out well-behaved, I promised. Grabbed a comfy pair of tan RJ breeches, a show shirt, and the midnight blue RJ mesh coat. All was right with the world. And then I opened my fat mouth. It wasn’t that bad to start: “do you have anything budget-friendly so I can have another coat on hand?” The salesperson happily showed me several reasonably-priced options. And then because I’m dumb, I said, “eh, these are all pretty boring. Got anything in fun colors?”
The salesperson’s face lit up like the fourth of July, she made a beeline to the other side of the store, and brought out the most gorgeous plum-burgundy show coat that I’ve ever seen in my life. The dang thing had sparkle trim. And then I saw the Equiline logo and said nope don’t let me try it on because I don’t want to pay for it and then next thing I knew I was staring at the mirror falling in love. And then somehow I ended up trying on a Samshield shirt with sparkles that matched perfectly.
I mean. How could I not. Right???
The next day was my warmup class in the 0.9m, which went well!
A clear round meant a pretty blue ribbon for Francis. I definitely let him stay underpowered and added the strides most places, but it was a useful gauge for me to know what horse I had under me. I felt prepared for the rest of the week. We had a quiet afternoon back at the house where Lina and I both took a much needed nap.
I opted to give Frankie the day off on Friday so that he’d get a break heading into a hot weekend with a bunch of classes, and just hacked him out on the derby field again so he could stretch his legs. He seemed happy and relaxed to work! After a quick lunch break where we introduced Lina to the joys of sushi, we stoppedbythetackstoresoIcouldgetthematchingwhitesformynewcoat then headed out to explore Hendersonville. Lina loved the little aquarium, we did some fun non-horsey shopping, we made friends at a wine bar, found some treasures at a consignment store (Nick is now hooked on antiquing), and had some really incredible German food. It was a great balance of horses and family time!
Saturday kicked off our division, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Thankfully, they ran both my classes open card, so I was able to go in pretty much back-to-back. I also managed to wedge in second in the order, so I was completely done for the day before 7:45a. Going that early meant there was decent glare in the ring which contributed to a rail, but I maintain it was worth it entirely. The rail in each class kept us out of the ribbons in a huge class, but I’m comforted by knowing that we had the fastest times in each class. If I can get out of Frankie’s way, he’ll win for me!
After a quiet afternoon, we headed back to the showgrounds for Saturday Night Lights. We didn’t stay that long, but I can tell you that the class was brutal – the first clear round didn’t come until 13 deep in the order. Rails were falling left and right, and even with an adjusted time allowed there were time faults. Lina got to ride the carousel, we watched the mechanical bronc fail to unseat all the teenagers, and we snuck into the VIP area where our friends had a table. I would’ve loved to stay longer, but tiny bodies and extreme heat don’t mix well, so we headed out to get her to bed in the AC.
Sunday was our last day! We had a speed class and then our classic round. Most importantly, it was the day I got to wear my new outfit. We all know the priorities here. Our speed class went early in the day, and it was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing catastrophic. Frankie was starting to slow down a bit in the heat at the end of the week, and who could blame him. I still had a blast and he still was an angel.
After a break that made me seriously contemplate scratching the classic so I could remove myself from the pits of Hades that was the showgrounds, we went in for our classic round. The first line was set on a pretty open step and I was definitely not helping Frankie accomplish that, and he very politely and reasonably declined to make the monstrous move I asked him to make to jump 2. He then politely and reasonably permitted me to try again, and gave me a lovely rest of the course. Bless his heart for not holding a grudge and giving me the chance to try again. It was very much a case of pilot error and Frankie being smart enough to make the decision to keep us both safe, and I can’t be mad about that!
We rounded out our week by stuffing our faces with pasta and taking a long nap. The car ride home on Monday was a mirror of the previous week – Lina and I both had some Emotions(TM) around hour 6, but we made it home in good shape and no worse for wear.
A few overarching thoughts:
On Lina: she is the coolest kid and we are so lucky. We took her to probably 10-15 different restaurants over the course of the week, and she was such a bro about it. Ate everything, sat happily, smiled and waved at everyone nearby. She handled the constant car rides, the heat, the change of scenery all with her usual toothy smiles. Obviously I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s just the coolest little buddy.
On Nicholas: he continues to be the best husband ever. I would not in a million years have been able to do this without him being SuperDad and holding down the fort with the small one. He hates the heat, he’s allergic to horses, he had to handle 5:30a wakeup times when Lina wouldn’t settle as I left, but he was unwaveringly supportive and wonderful. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my husband, but he’s just the coolest guy.
On Frankie: oh boy. Where do I start. I felt confident every single time I walked into that ring. I smiled real big every time I walked out of it. He is total perfection, my angel boy, the best horse I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. He took care of me and made the whole thing so stinkin fun. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my horse, but he’s just the coolest bubba.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for joining this self-indulgent monster of a post ❤