Those of you that connect with me on IG/FB already know, but Francis has actually been taking a little vacation.
He came in last week with a missing shoe (no big deal), but as I took a closer look and he got progressively more upset about me taking a closer look, it was clear that there was a solid heel grab in play there.
Of course being my usual dramatic self, I immediately made plans for Frankie’s retirement. In my defense, he was acting like that leg had been chopped off and his expression of long-suffering patience had a very studied air. Luckily my trainer took a look, smacked Frankie for being rude, and pronounced it essentially a really bad hangnail.
Not so dramatic after all.
But while it’s not that dramatic, Homeboy was still off for a little over a week as he healed. It’s been a lot of hand walking to keep him moving, plenty of epsom salt soaks to keep it clean, and lots of vetwrap and poultice pads to make sure no grit or germs get in there. He’s totally sound to tack walk and was at about 95% to flat around last night. Nothing visible but he felt just baaaarely NQR to me – could be the heel grab, could be stiffness from being stuck inside for a week in the cold. Either way he desperately needed some movement and the flatting helped his mood immensely. I’m not worried, we’re in no rush to get back to 100% and the wound itself is healing up just fine.
This is actually a huge novelty, since this was the first time he’s needed more than 12 hours off to heal from anything. For a horse, he’s generally pretty sturdy.
Now that he’s not nearly as ouchie on it and I can stop pitying him, I’ve actually enjoyed this time to play together and relax! I caught some lessons on the school horses so I still got a workout in, and we did nice long 30-40 minute hand walks together. It’s also been a great chance for me to practice some basic first aid skills (like, extremely basic). His auntie even brought him a stall toy to keep him entertained in his confinement (the combination of awful mud and the placement of the cut makes turnout unfortunately no good for now) and while we all find the banging noises annoying, he seems to really like his giant plastic apple.
He’ll get to stay in light work while I’m in Ohio next week (I swear his timing is uncanny, how do horses always know?!), but fingers crossed he’ll be healed up and ready to get back to full work when I return!
Building on the new-car-news, I have more non-horse related news! It’s been quietly in the works for a bit now, but I’ve been keeping it on the DL as I’ve figured things out.
Basically, I was so relieved by being done with wedding planning that I almost immediately started looking for something else to fill my time. Because I’m garbage like that.
I considered a couple things:
I could get back into the 6x/week training schedule with Francis that’s worked well in the past. But I’m honestly feeling really good about the slightly lighter schedule that I have while keeping him in training with AT. I don’t have huge competitive goals this year, so I’m happy with this different balance of barn time for a little bit to re-set.
I could throw myself into my workouts more devotedly. But I also already do them consistently and as much as I like feeling healthy, I have approximately zero desire for it to be a “thing” in my life besides serving a basic purpose.
I could throw myself into keeping a really beautiful home for myself and my husband. But we live in a small 2 bedroom condo that takes very little effort to keep tidy and clean, so there’s not actually that much to do.
I could start cooking meals more often hahahahahaha yeah right nope.
And as I was considering and discarding each of these options, I got an email from a listserve I had signed up to on a whim 6 months ago: “Do you want to meet with an admissions rep for X school in your area?”
I was about to send it to the trash without responding, but I paused and thought about it. And thought about it the next day. And brought it up to my husband. And then brought it up to my boss which lead to one of the most amazing professional mentorship conversations I’ve ever had.
So after ALL that, I finally responded that yes, I’d like to meet with this rep. I knew next to nothing about the program, I had done zero things necessary to apply to ANY program (let alone this one), but I decided to go for it.
And in the intervening 8 days until that meeting, I had researched 50+ other programs, attended two info sessions in person, talked to 10+ admissions reps, and applied to one. Oops.
The more I researched, the more I knew what questions I wanted to ask and what was important to me. By the time I got to that originally scheduled meeting that kicked this whole thing off, I had already realized that program was not a good fit. But it seemed rude to cancel.
The long and short of it is that within 2 weeks of seriously considering applying to schools, I had an application in. About 2 weeks later I had an acceptance letter. And in just about 2 months I’ll be kicking off the next phase of my education as I pursue my MBA!
The closer it gets, the more excited I am. Getting my MBA has been in the back of my mind for a while now (as you may remember), and while it will require some sacrifices and changes, there won’t ever be a better time for me to do this.
For those of you worried about Francis, never fear. He’s obviously not going anywhere. Robust employee benefits mean that my financial situation remains unchanged, so my only consideration is time. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t ride at all, but realistically I know there’s no way to support a 5-6x/week schedule while also working full time AND going to school. He’s currently in a 2x/week with a pro and 3-4x/week with me program, and I’ll plan on sticking with that until I have a better handle on the workload. My trainer is on board and I know that we’ll adjust as needed to make sure he’s getting plenty of exercise and plenty of love!
This will mean fewer horse shows and the jumps will likely have to be lowered a few holes, but I’ll still get my saddle time and the knowledge that he’s healthy and happy in his beloved program. And yes, the flexibility and cost of the program factored into my choice very heavily for this reason. Can’t make any decisions without considering the bestest Frankenbean ❤
I’m not sure how this blog will be affected by this new enormous piece of my life, but I’m excited to find out and bring you along for the journey!
Guess who has a new ride! And no, Frankie hasn’t gotten a brother. It’s the kind with four wheels and a steering wheel.
I’m so beyond excited to have this new-to-me car. But while it’s newly mine, it isn’t completely unfamiliar to me.
Rewind a few years. Before I bought Frankie, I had this tidy little savings account (because I was super boring and never did anything besides pay rent and buy groceries) and was planning to use it to buy a car. I did tons of research, asked tons of questions, and talked to my very wise father about it extensively.
Of course we all know this ended by me blowing my savings on a big bay behemoth instead of a vehicle.
But right around the same time, my dad called me to share the exciting news that he had just gotten a new car. Hooray! And he started describing it. When he finished, I asked why he had picked that car.
“Well, I did some research and talked to people and thought this was a good choice for what I need.”
UM NO FATHER ‘TWAS I THAT PLANTED THAT IDEA because he literally bought the exact car I described. Even in the color that I liked.
Naturally, I spent the next several years trying to convince him to sell me the car. I was not discouraged by failure, because my father also taught me tenacity. See, this whole thing is really his own fault.
Things kinda reached a head this past year when my beloved Jeep started needing more and more attention that I was pretty unwilling to invest in. I knew the inspection would be up in January (and that it would fail), and that I would need to get a new ride by mid-February.
Lo and behold, my parents decided that their car was actually a little too big for their needs, and they were going to be getting a different model.
We negotiated a price, we picked a day, and Nicholas took a one-way flight up to RI to drive it down to VA the same day. Yes, he does win Husband of the Year. And so we have a new big red Subaru.
That same day, the mechanic who saw the Jeep for the inspection (and failed it, obviously) made an offer. I accepted immediately and signed over the title. And yes, there were tears as I let go of my car of 10 years.
So while I spent 4 days and roughly 8 hours at the DMV trying to get all the paperwork sorted last week, it’s at least because I’m now driving a car with solid brakes and windshield wipers that work. I’m in love and really enjoying the Bluetooth connection to talk to my family and listen to podcasts.
But for all its quirks and constant need for repairs, that little Jeep carried me through everything. From the day he arrived in the driveway for my 17th birthday, he carried me to high school, college, boyfriends, breakups, road trips, moving to VA, 6 apartments down here, interviews, my first job, my second job, buying a horse, countless lessons, so many amazing shows, my first date with my now-husband in a blizzard, his proposal, our mini-honeymoon for my 27th birthday. As silly as it may seem, that car was a constant fixture in so many important moments of my life and occupies a large space in my memories. I’ve made countless phone calls to family members from that car, I’ve laughed with friends on our way to adventures, I’ve cried on my way home from bad days, I’ve napped in the backseat, I’ve sang along to the radio as loud as I could,
Cheers to Benjamin, the little red Jeep that helped me grow up. And cheers to the new big red car that will see me through the next exciting chapters!
When I got Frankie, I started tracking my monthly expenses for him in a spreadsheet I made (which should surprise none of you that know me at all). It’s broken out pretty broadly and probably has room for improvement, but at a glance it’s good for me to see what I’m spending in different categories at different points throughout the year.
The way I have it set up currently has the following categories:
Show fees paid to my trainer (which covers all the various pieces therein)
Other fees paid to my trainer (minor meds, blanket cleaning, random stuff like that)
I don’t include tack/equipment (though I probably should), and I don’t include clothing for myself. So my tracker runs a little lower than what I truly spend on the sport, but it’s decently comprehensive for the expenses that are specific to the Frankenbean.
Last year I peaked at 89th in the rankings for WIHS before dropping right off the radar altogether. While I was very pleased with our performance over the season, I simply didn’t have enough outings to get the points needed. Granted- WIHS wasn’t one of my big goals in 2018 and if it was I could’ve been MUCH more strategic about it by getting points at some of the smaller shows around here. But if I was aiming for that I still would’ve had to go to a lot more shows in total, so I don’t think the cost of showing would have been drastically different for the year. And certainly the money spent on training and equipment would not have gone down in the least- if anything, they would have gone up.
Between all those categories shown above, the investment money-wise was not trivial. Far from it. If I was one of those people that needed to recoup my investment on Frankie (HAHAHAHA RIGHT THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS), I would need to get an absolutely absurdly out of reach price for him. It ain’t ever gonna happen, despite his theoretical increase in value due to training and show record (I say theoretically because homeboy obvi isn’t for sale so we’ll never know what he’d go for).
I’m comfortable with my show results. I’ve never done this because I need blue ribbons, I compete because I love the atmosphere and trying new adventures with my horse. Ribbons and points and qualifying are the nice but unnecessary icing on the cake for me.
But I can absolutely understand the frustration of someone who DOES want to qualify and be a stronger competitor. Knowing that the the time and money and soul I’ve poured into training and showing has gotten me to be a solidly middle-of-the-pack competitor could be disheartening. If that’s the investment it takes to be mid-range, I don’t even know what it would take to be consistently in the ribbons.
If qualifying and ribbons were my goal, I would step down a level. Do the local rated shows instead of the biggest AA ones I can find. Maybe step back down in height and get really really perfect at that. There are definitely plenty of things I could do differently if that was my aim.
I’m not gonna do any of those things though. I’m going to keep reveling in the atmosphere and presence of great riders at the big shows, even if I’m out of the ribbons in a class of 60. I’m going to keep feeling like I’m flying over the big jumps with Frankie, even if we have a rail here and there. And I’ll keep signing those checks, even if that monthly investment has hit embarrassment levels.
The first step to fixing the problem is admitting that you have a problem, and I’ll be cold in my grave before you get me to admit this one.
A week or two ago I mentioned that I asked my trainer for a quote to attend WEC again in February.
And if you all know me at all, you know that my willpower hovers between “non-existent” and “will disappear with any passing breeze.” So clearly once I ask for a quote it’s all over from there.
But I knew that I definitely didn’t want to compete for two weeks again. Last year it became way more of an endurance test than actual fun, and I’m all about having fun in 2019. But for Frankie to go, he needed to be there the full two weeks my barn is attending- they’re not able to trailer back and forth due to the distance.
So with all that in mind, I came up with a couple different scenarios:
Scenario 1: bring Frankie, and commute out for both weekends. It’s a long drive but not a terribly difficult one, and it would be possible for me to drive out Wednesday night, school Thursday, compete Fri-Sun, then drive home. Then I wouldn’t be staying full time and I’d get to have my own horse, but it meant paying for a full two weeks for Frankie, and extra gas/hotel costs for me.
Scenario 2: lease a horse there. Then I could just go for one week no problem, not have to trailer out a horse, and could spend the shipping money on a lease fee instead. The obvious risk here is that I’d end up with a horse that I didn’t really like, but I’m fairly easy to get along with and my trainer has a proven record of finding me great horses quickly.
Scenario 3: See if we can find a leaser for Francis for the second week. In-barn, so that he could stay under my trainer’s watchful care. This would mean I could have my own horse, only have to pay for one week of care, and have a lease fee to help cover some of those costs. This would rely on Trainer having a client who was A) looking for a lease and B) comfortable and able to ride the Frankenbean.
I eliminated Scenario 1 pretty much off the bat. It was by far the most expensive option, and I hate being in the car any longer than I have to. I also don’t know that I’d want to compete for two weekends in a row- I’m a tired whiny baby and need my recovery time.
So knowing that I only wanted 1 week, my decision hinged on finding a leaser for Frankie. But we really did’t have the biggest pool of people going to Ohio, and while Frankie is a good boy, he also takes a rider who is willing to kick. When we weren’t able to find a solid in-house lease option for him, we decided to leave him at home for a brief vacation and find me a lease horse!
While of course I always want Frankie there, I’m super excited about this- I’ll get to test my skills on a new mount and try some classes I might not otherwise try, and it takes all pressure off my performance. Seriously if anything is less than perfect you know I’ll be using the excuse “oh this is only my 3rd ride on him.” I am not above that, I am petty and obnoxious.
The specifics of what classes I’ll be signing up for remain to be seen, but my hotel is booked for WEC 9 and I’ll be comin’ in hot. If you’re even remotely in the area, let me know! Mystery Horse and I would love to hang ❤
While I had my Trainer or AT hop on Frankie with some regularity (if not frequency) during the first few years of owning him, 2018 was the first year that I set aside a larger portion of our budget for a more regimented schedule of training rides. Frankie spent pretty much all of our show season in his 2x/week program of pro rides in addition to his rides with me.
As a training tool for competition, these rides were absolutely invaluable. My lessons always built on the exercises that Frankie had worked on that week, so there was a ton of consistency and continuity in our work. The extra saddle time helped his fitness immensely, and the correctness of the work made sure the right muscles were developing appropriately. It was a very sympathetic program, but rigorous nonetheless. And while Frankie likes to pretend that he’s a lazy slug that hates work, he actually thrived in such a busy program- both physically and mentally.
But as we kick off 2019, I’m not in the midst of show season, I’m not planning on having a particularly busy or competitive show season in the next few months- but I still have Frankie in a 2x/week program.
And I still love it just as much, albeit for slightly different reasons.
For one, there’s the continued benefit to Frankie. His training rides are tailored to exactly what he needs to work on- not any other horse, not his rider. Just him. While he’s always been a confident horse, I’ve found that these sessions have made that confidence absolutely skyrocket as he’s been set up for success and praised for trying. He’s kept fit, he’s kept limber, he’s kept educated.
But there’s also several enormous benefits to me.
The first and most obvious benefit is when I’m in the saddle. A fit and well-educated horse is a million times easier and (in my book) more fun to ride. Especially Frankie, who tunes into me much more easily when he’s in consistent moderate-heavy work. So as I’m getting back into shape and gaining my strength back, having his help makes it much easier and more enjoyable. Basically I only have to worry about myself since I know he’s got this on lock.
The other benefit is when I’m out of the saddle- namely, that I actually feel that I can take days out of the saddle. As much as I love being at the barn and want to be there all the time, I have other responsibilities to take care of (that I ignored for like 3 years straight womp womp). It used to be that I’d try to cram everything in after the barn and would have to stay up super late, or I’d just push everything to the weekend when I had a bit more time. But now I feel like I can take a day to go home after work and take care of things without feeling guilty about not seeing Frankie. He’s still getting worked, he’s still progressing. It’s allowing me to find a different balance in my life without sacrificing Frankie’s quality of workload.
Basically instead of trying to be an ammy that trains like a pro, these pro rides let me be an ammy that trains like an ammy. Some days I’m a pretty good ammy, some days I’m a pretty floppy ammy, some days I’m an absentee ammy, some days I’m a competitive ammy. I work hard, I cross train, I spend most of my time obsessing about my horse and his care and his work and his health and his schedule and all things Francis-related. But it’s really really refreshing to give myself permission to spend time on other things every once in a while without feeling like I’m trading away my progress in the saddle.
I’m still figuring out what my new normal is as a newlywed, and I’m so grateful to have the help of wonderful people and a great program at the barn to help me as I adjust.
This year I logged more miles in the car to get to horse shows than ever before, I got to meet and spend time with some amazing people, and best of all- I got to marry the funniest, kindest, best man I’ve ever known. 2018 will always be a year to remember.
It’s hard for me to believe, but my fourth blogiversary is already here! It’s so crazy that I’ve been writing about my adventures for so long, and that so many of you have joined the journey. Many of you have even been here since Day 1, and I’m amazed and grateful that you’ve stuck around. You’ve all been an incredible source of support, advice, hilarity, and general awesomeness over the years.
To celebrate, I did what I do best- I analyzed some numbers. Enjoy a few charts of this blog!
I thought this one was interesting! Visitors and views have both increased steadily over time even though the number of posts per year has declined. My hypothesis is that the content has gotten more relevant- while I did enjoy my lesson recaps, those didn’t encourage as much interaction as some of my more recent posts.
Based on the average % change in visitors and views (excluding the jump from 2015 to 2016, which was abnormally high), I can aim for roughly 37k views and 13k visitors in 2019. I mean, as long as I can maintain some decent quality of content, no pressure.
This one isn’t too surprising for me. Basically the number of comments I get on each post is fairly steady, but the number of comments per visitor and per view has gone down. I interpret this to mean that there are a fewer number of people commenting, but those people that do are more active. Like I said- not surprising. I don’t have the largest following, but those of you who stick around are a frickin’ fantastic group that I get to chat with a ton.
These are all the countries I’ve been able to reach over the last few years! My readers are predominantly in North America (consistently about 93% of my traffic), with roughly 4-5% of you in Europe, and the rest of you coming from all over the rest of the globe. Hi everyone!!
Some of the links you all have clicked on most often from here:
And not to get sappy at you, but the fact that these are the ones you’ve commented on the most makes me so happy. Most of these were really big adventures and you guys were so awesome and encouraging about them.
A lot has changed in the past four years: I’ve moved (three times), gotten married, changed my name, changed jobs, bought The Best Horse(TM), traveled all over for shows, tried new adventures with the Frankenbean, and have learned more than I could’ve imagined. This blog and the community I’ve found with all of you has been a wonderful constant, and I’m so excited to keep sharing the adventures with you!
Frankie and I had a lesson this past weekend. Which may not seem like a huge deal but it TOTALLY IS BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T LESSONED SINCE MID-NOVEMBER OMG. Two months. TWO MONTHS. I literally have not had a lesson in two freakin’ months, and have jumped 2 crossrails in that time. BUT WE FINALLY DID THE THING.
I approached this lesson with a certain amount of trepidation- I am comically out of shape, out of practice, out of whack, out of pretty much everything. Frankie has been in his 2x/week program with AT for about 6 weeks now though, and this really ended up being our saving grace. We had decided to restart his bootcamp before restarting mine so that he could help me get back in shape, and it’s working exactly as intended.
My trainer had me warm up a little differently than we have in the past. In the past we’ve been very much about setting the tone early, placing him where I want him from the get-go, and riding very strongly off the bat.
But this time, she told me not to worry about anything for a while. Don’t worry about trying for too much forward, don’t worry about asking for too much contact, just trot around for a bit to let him stretch his muscles. Ask for a little bend through the turns. Leave him alone. Leg steady and on but not nagging. We slowly started adding in some lengthening and collecting. A little shoulder-in down the long sides, then straight and forward. Big circle then smaller circle. Wide loopy serpentine. No pressure, no worries.
And you know what we got? We got a very very happy Frankie, who loosened and stretched over his back, softened up into the bridle, and kept a lovely light connection without hanging on my hand. It took longer than it does when I ride more strongly, but he was offering this up to me because he wanted to- not because I was telling him to. It was truly delightful. Especially because I lack the muscle strength to really place him where I want him, it was super cool to adjust how I ride to allow him to place himself.
Our jumping exercise focused more on letting Frankie place himself: halting after jumps. We’ve done this plenty of times and it’s always been tough. Once we get the momentum going for the jump, it’s hard for Francis to sit back on his butt to stop in a straight line! Continuing the theme from our warmup, Trainer had us approach it differently than we have in the past:
My job: stay straight over the jump, sit up, and steer straight towards the wall.
Frankie’s job: stop before he hits the wall.
That was literally it. No pulling. No arguing. He has enough self-preservation to not run into the wall, and I simply allowed him to exercise that.
I gotta tell you- it went against all my instincts to not try and pull up. But it WORKED. I know it isn’t rocket science, but it was so cool. Since day 1 Frankie has needed a lot of input on what to do with his body, and now that he’s so well-broke we’re turning our attention to building his ability to think for himself. It kept him super mentally engaged in the work even though the jumps were small and it set up him to give good answers. He was visibly proud of himself by the end.
While one of the purposes of this exercise was to let Frankie learn to stop himself, it was also a big exercise in straightness. Since these jumps were across the diagonal, it was natural that Frankie would continue on through the end of the ring, which often meant that he would lean a shoulder over the jump in anticipation. But every time we halted at the wall, I’d turn a different direction afterwards. After doing this a couple times, Frankie stopped leaning. He jumped straight over his body and CUTE. And he stopped anticipating the turn.
So eventually when I didn’t ask for the halt and instead asked him to continue through the end of the ring, he went straight into the corner with great balance, gave a beautiful change, and was right there waiting for my input up to the next fence. And all this with a fairly light steady contact.
You know how I know that it worked? Trainer said, “this is the kind of ride that would be really nice in a derby.”
That’s right, guys. After close to three years of working together to build our skills and abilities, we’ve developed our straightness, our balance, our body awareness, and our just-plain-cuteness to the point that my Trainer thinks we could put in a good showing in a hunter derby.
So it looks like we may be trying one out this season! Like I said before, we don’t have any crazy big competition goals for this year besides having fun, and it sounds super fun to try something new with the Frankfurter. Not to mention that I think he’ll have a good time with it too- while he’s learned to be a pro in the jumper ring, it’ll be a nice mental break for him to do something a little steadier and a little simpler. Trainer is a big proponent of her horses going in multiple rings for just that reason- switching it up and letting them try new things makes for happier horses.
I’m also a financial masochist and asked for a quote on showing at WEC in February. But more on that later.
PS- who wants to come hang out with me to take pics and/or videos? I have no images of me going faster than a walk since September 19th and I wish I was making that up. I’ll buy you tacos, I’m not above bribery.