Loudoun Benefit 2022

Folks, we did it. We made it back in the show ring after 22 months.

It. Was. Awesome.

Truly, I was beyond thrilled to be back out there with the Frankfurter. The short version is that we got right back into it like no time had passed. There were no nerves, I wasn’t as rusty as I thought, and that muscle memory kicked right back in. And obviously Francisco was perfection incarnate.

We opted to take the conservative route and start off with a single 0.90m class on Friday. The original plan was to start with that, then do a 1m Low Adult class if it went well, but I had to get home to baby girl so we opted to stick with the one.

Here was our course. I biffed jump 8 and had to add a stride out over 9, but other than that it flowed really nicely. Basically a hunter course, right?

We ended up getting a super cheap rail in the two stride (I literally didn’t even feel him tap it) and I needed to help him out a bit in the crazy heat, but overall it went great! I left the ring beaming from ear to ear, feeling super confident in our ride. And the height felt like absolutely nothing to him. I immediately got online and scratched the rest of the 0.90m classes for the weekend so I could move back into the Lows!

I got to see friends who I haven’t seen in ages and ages, and it was the best. My social little heart was so happy.
Blurry screenshot from our warmup, but I want to make it very clear that I could not stop smiling the entire time. Riding this horse is more fun than anything.

Thankfully, Saturday was MUCH cooler than Friday (65F instead of 95F). Even better, Nick and Lina came out to hang! I was a little nervous about keeping Lina entertained so we packed a hundred toys and snacks and tents and just a ton of gear, and she needed none of it. I did my course walk with her strapped to my chest, she hung out in her stroller, she walked around the rings, she said hi to every person within eyesight and pet all the ponies. She smiled up at me from her stroller as we walked back to the barn together after my round. The whole thing was just really really really lovely to share with her. I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s also just super cool and awesome. Big fan.

Fam 🙂

But moving on to the exciting part: our actual round! It was a speed class (our favoritest of favorite formats) and everything walked really nicely. I ended up screaming at people in the warmup ring to STOP CIRCLING IN FRONT OF THE JUMPS, but I popped over a few and got out of there ASAP.

The plan was to go in and get around. Make conservative turns, get nice and straight, just take our time and have fun. It was a pretty big class (35 riders) and my goal was simply to get my sea legs back at the 1m height.

It ended up being a great course! I got a little close to 5 and had to gallop out over 6, I let Frankie drift through my right side heading up to 10a-b and he needed to put an extra stride to make it out (sorry bubba!!), so I decided to sit back and add out over 11. But these mistakes didn’t feel like “holy crap we haven’t done this in two years” mistakes, they felt like “I am an amateur and sometimes forget I have two legs” mistakes. The normal kind I’ve always made. And because Francois is an angel baby, he managed to go clean.

And fast. Despite making wide turns from 4 to 5, 6 to 7a-b, and 9 to 10a-b, this kid earned us 3rd place out of 35. I was laughing that if I had known we stood a chance at a ribbon, I would’ve made those turns neater! Literally the only thing holding him back was me.

In case anyone was wondering if the height would be a problem. It was not.

I’m obviously proud of that ribbon, but moreso I am downright giddy at how much fun we had out there. Frankie was game, he was honest, we took turns helping each other out, he was simply a joy (as always). Literally the best boy in the world.

Another blurry screenshot of me smiling at Lina as I came off the last jump.
We then spent the afternoon out on the river, where Lina tried to jump in the water the whole time. Blessings to the person who put an oh-shit handle on baby life jackets.

The original class listing showed the Sunday classic as a speed round, which I found surprising but delightful (again, we LOVE speed rounds). Much to my chagrin, they changed it on Saturday night to a more traditional II2.b jumpoff round.

The Low Adult classic was the first in the ring starting at 7:30, so I was up and out the door mega early. It was the first time in Lina’s life that I wasn’t there when she woke up. This isn’t relevant to the story, I just had some emotions about it (Lina was perfectly happy with her daddy, so the emotions were only on my end).

I was 6th in the order, which I loved. It meant I had time to walk my course, head back to the barn and toss my helmet on, and immediately go warm up. I don’t like to sit around and wait – put me in, coach.

Another bonus of going early is that the warmup ring wasn’t crazy yet. Thank goodness.
Smiling while walking up to the in gate. All the smiles.
Here’s the course! Mostly straightforward. 6 to 7 walked weird for me every time – I kept getting 7.5 strides no matter what I did. I saw people doing everything from 7 to 9. I ended up putting in 8 since I got a bit close to the oxer at 6, but it was def tight and I had to kick out. Other than that, everything lined up really nicely.

I had my Sunday Frankie – a little more tired, and needing to maintain a nice forward gallop since sitting back and collecting is harder at that energy level. He’s definitely a much better Sunday horse than he used to be, but I don’t blame him for starting to slow down after a big weekend!

We had a rail just barely tip at jump 2, but the rest went lovely. He absolutely LAUNCHED over the oxer at 5, we got a bit close to the in at 7a and had to kick out, 8 up to 9 rode in a lovely 6 strides, and then I totally just let him drift all over the place at 10a-b so we got a bit strung out and chipped over 11. But much like the day before, I was thrilled at how game and how smart he was. It definitely felt like a course where we took turns helping each other out, which is always my goal.

Debriefing after our round, pointing to the jumps I liked the best 🙂

In true Francisco fashion, even with those 4 jumping faults he was fast enough to earn us a pretty lime green 11th place ribbon out of a field of 28. I was delighted that they placed through 12th, and even more delighted to be in that group. It was a lovely way to wrap up the weekend.

Loving on him while he rested up in his ice boots.

I could not feel better about this past weekend. It was fun, I felt confident walking in the ring, it was FUN, I got to hang out with so many friends, I had a BLAST, Frankie took incredible care of me, it was SO FREAKIN FUN. The ribbons were a lovely cherry on top.

Showing definitely looked different for me than it used to: I had to head out soon after my rounds to get home to Lina/let her nap, instead of lingering all day. I had to lean on our awesome groom to help get me tacked/untacked/where I needed to be on time, while I often like to do more of Frankie’s aftercare myself. I had to sneak in quick visits with friends when I was able, instead of staying to watch all their rounds. It was an adjustment. It took a lot of help from a lot of people, both in the barn and out of the barn. I’m incredibly grateful for all that help, and that I got to experience such a great weekend of being Lina’s mom AND Frankie’s partner. Those are two of my favorite roles I play in this life, and having them coexist so closely feels so good.

I’m already counting down the days to Tryon so we can get back out there!

Cheers to the bestest Flying Frankfurter. My heart ❤

It’s ShowTime

I have two big things I wanted to share, so let’s start with the best one first!!

Our darling girl has officially made it to her first horse show. Evangeline went in for her first leadline class under the oaks at Upperville, and it was everything I was dreaming of from literally the day I found out I was pregnant.

Like. The cuteness. I cannot.

Y’all haven’t seen cute until you’ve seen a size 18M show coat. We did have to get a little creative: her bows simply attached to her helmet because she has such short hair, and her “paddock boots” are just toddler shoes with brown laces instead of the sparkly pink they came with, and her breeches are knee patch pants. But the show shirt and coat and helmet and garters are all genuine show clothes made in a tiny size!! And do you see that little itty bitty saddle?!

We were lucky enough to borrow the sweetest little pony mare who was beyond gentle and careful with Lina. My dad came down to be her other handler, and she was so happy to have her Colonel close by (in full Colonel dress, no less). Yes, all the grandkids call him Colonel. It’s hilarious. I also got to wear an absolutely enormous hat, so I’m very happy.

It was utter chaos. 10/10 would totally do again.
Also hilarious that they had full size numbers for the little kids. It was literally the size of her entire torso.

Overall, it was such a fun experience that I definitely hope to repeat next year. Lina has been carrying around her pretty rainbow ribbon ever since, she loved waving at her adoring fans lining the ring, she giggled when she pat her pony’s nose, it was simply heartwarming. I was hoping she’d have as much fun participating as I did preparing, and thankfully that was the case!

And now that Evangeline’s show debut has happened, we’re turning our attention towards my own re-debut! Francois and I will be competing at Loudoun Benefit this weekend, and I am vibrating with anticipation.

The OG readers may remember that Loudoun was our very first show together when I got him back in 2016. We’re both older and wiser (questionable) now, and it’ll be super fun for this to be our re-entry to the show world.

In the spirit of not being an entire idiot, we decided to do the 0.90m class on Friday to see where we’re at. Depending on how that feels, we’ll either stick in the 0.90m classes for the weekend or head into the 1m Low Adults for Saturday/Sunday. The only reason I super want to do the Lows is because both Sat/Sun are speed classes (and you all know I love a good speed class), but really I’ll be happy either way. We’ve got nothing to prove, nothing to qualify for, we’re just here for a good time.

We’ve been schooling some decent height in our last couple lessons and it has all felt beyond easy for Frankie, so I know he’ll be good to go for whatever height we end up doing. My eye isn’t as rusty as I thought and I’m feeling stronger every ride! Francisco literally feels the best he’s ever felt right now in terms of muscling and fitness and rideability – I was joking that we should throw him in the 1.10m classes at Tryon if he’s gonna make this all look so easy.

Bad photo. Good horse.

I’m joking. Probably.

But in all seriousness, I feel really really prepared and excited going into this show. A few friends expressed some gentle concern when I mentioned my plan to get back in the show ring so soon after getting back in the saddle, and I will fully admit that it was an aggressive timeline, but now that we’re here it feels extremely comfortable.

My trunk is packed, Francois heads over to the show tomorrow, and I can’t wait to share updates!

South Not North

In the usual way of things, we have a change of plans for our summer show schedule!

Instead of heading north to Michigan to enjoy GLEF for two weeks, we’re instead heading down to Tryon for a week. My trainer called recently to ask if I was dead-set on Michigan, and I believe my words were: “I literally don’t care where we end up as long as I get to show.”

I’m a high maintenance client in most ways, but I am supremely not picky about where I get to hop over colorful sticks for exorbitant amounts of money.

It might not look like a smile, but I remember being pretty dang happy

While GLEF is staying on my bucket list, I’m super majorly excited to head down to Tryon! You may remember that we almost made the trip down a couple years ago (holy crap it was already five years ago), so I’m super super excited to finally get there. I’m especially excited that my husband was able to take some time off work for us to turn it into a little family vacation. The super-cute AirBnB is booked and we’re excited to make the trip! The house I picked has a fenced in yard and is pet friendly, but I’m not convinced we should be subjecting our polar bear to July in North Carolina. She’ll likely stay up north, either at Grandma and Grandpa’s air conditioned house, or at her own air-conditioned home with a house sitter.

Yes, she sleeps like this every day. Yes, she snores. Yes, my coworkers can hear her when we’re in meetings.

I’m feeling really good about being ready to go show. We’ve slowly started putting a few jumps up and it’s going well – I definitely have to grab mane and cling on when I ask for shorter turns and Frankie delivers, but he’s smart enough to stay under me. He’s on schedule to get his usual injections this week, we’ll likely sign up for a massage after Loudoun, and the combo of training rides and fitness center visits is fantastic for his overall feeling under saddle. In short: he feels absolutely lovely, and is just as fun as ever. I simply adore him.

Muscle Man!

Right now I’m riding him in his snaffle since I don’t quite trust my balance with the leverage of the elevator I like him best in. It’s not the end of the world if we stick with this, but I’m hoping to get strong and balanced enough to get back in the elevator for the show ring since he does get a bit know-it-all-ish when he hears the buzzer go off. To be fair, he does know quite a bit. We’ll play it by ear; he’s also a lot more broke and smart than the last time we showed in a snaffle, so I’m not overly concerned about it – we’ve shown at a lot higher height, with way fewer miles under our belt, and it was fine.

In a snaffle. Totally survived. It went fine.

We’re excited to be heading into our summer show season, and will keep you all updated!!

Grabbing Mane

With several lessons under our belt, I’m excited that things are (slowly) starting to come back together for us.

The good news is that the muscle memory is definitely there, and emerges more and more with every ride. The not so good news is that I often don’t have the strength or stamina to enact said muscle memory. But we’re tackling things methodically and it’s getting better every time I get in the saddle.

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to ride, and I got my wish ❤

Both trainers have been really great about balancing my lack of fitness while still knocking the rust off by focusing on tightening up my position and giving straightforward exercises. I’ve been able to tackle some basic bending lines, some fun serpentines, we’re slowly starting to put the jumps back up, and I’ve been grinning ear to ear the whole time. Thankfully the height is the easiest part of things, since Francisco has a very easy jump to stay with. I’m eager to get less potato-ish so we can start putting the pieces together with technical + height – my eye is still basically there (as much as it ever was, which is not great but at least it’s something) and I like riding on a more open step to a little height.

I mean I don’t look the best I ever have, but I also don’t look the worst. I’ll take that as a win.

One thing I’m particularly grateful for is how fit Frankie is. He came out of the winter having gained a little weight, which I see as a win as he enters his mid-late teens. I’d much rather have him pack on a few pounds than lose any in the cold weather. He feels powerful, forward, eager to do his job, and with his usual good nature he is being very patient and careful with me (literally during one of the serpentine exercises he changed direction to stay under me when I wobbled around a turn. The horse is a saint.). All of the work over the past 6 years has really changed him – it’s crazy how correct muscling has literally made his conformation look different (better).

Frequent naps are the cornerstone of his fitness program

His fitness is fantastic for me as I get back to it. It means he has his own motor so I can focus on a supportive still leg rather than constantly squeezing (the OGs from 2016-2017 know how much pony kicking we used to do), it means he’s very comfortable and powerful enough to jump from a variety of spots when I don’t adjust as quickly as I should, it means he’s happy to collect and add the stride when it’s clear I have no idea what I’m doing. He’s so well educated that he’s easily tattling on me when I ask for something versus when I do nothing. He really came out of his lease even better than he went into it.

As I mentioned previously, I’m currently a bit of a weekend warrior (plus one weekday), so obviously I’m not able to keep up this fitness level on my own. I also very very much want to keep up this fitness level, both for the help it gives me and for the obvious reason that Frankie is healthier for it. The core of this remain his 2x a week pro rides that he’s been getting for years. The trainer I ride with on Mondays now is actually the person who has been giving him these rides for roughly 2-2.5 years now, and it definitely helps our lessons that she knows him so well. She’s the one who installed a really nice trot jump on him and has very patiently focused on correct, adjustable, educated work. She has also said that he’s the only horse that would tempt her to try the jumpers and that he’s good as gold, so clearly she has great taste.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve also added weekly trips to the Equine Fitness Center for the Frankfurter to get his sweat on! I’m really eager to see how this helps with his fitness, his muscling, and overall way of going. It’s under the supervision of our usual vet who has been fantastic for us, and I’m hoping it’s a solid complement to our regimen of training, preventative maintenance, and conditioning. He’s been twice now, and got the following report card the first time:

I have never used a chain on him in 6 years of ownership WHY NOW FRANCOIS

Scary equipment he’s never seen? No problem, walk right on. A wash stall, the same as any wash stall he’s been in a HUNDRED times? NOPE NOPE NOPE. Chilling in a nice paddock with hay and water within sight of his buddies? NO WAY NO WAY. Apparently on his second visit they just had him go first so he always had a buddy within sight and he was fine. Why is every person and animal in my family so extroverted that it becomes a problem for other people.

Cute gym boi

It really is a full time gig trying to ensure that this horse becomes immortal. Worth it.

Overall, I’m beyond thrilled with how things are going. I love this big smelly beast with my whole heart, and getting to bop around with him makes me so so so happy. I’m excited to get off property and do some competing this summer!

Hairy beasts ❤

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.

Journey Back to the Saddle

I am so way overdue for a riding update!

I gotta say, I have so much admiration (and more than a little envy) towards those moms who have a baby and jump right back into riding. I had hoped to be the same, but the combination of difficult physical recovery from surgery, a baby that eats EVERY TWO HOURS LIKE A LITTLE HIPPO, a fluctuating nap schedule, and the need to coordinate childcare have all thrown wrenches into things. Half a year into this whole shebang and I just now feel like I can consistently make it to the barn once a week or so.

But once a week is better than nonce a week (that sounded better in my head) and I’m thrilled to bring Lina along to get some fresh air and enjoy the horses. The kid is fearless: she reaches for the big ponies with both little hands, loves the bumpy gravel in her stroller, and gets a big smile watching people jump around in lessons. We’re pretty sure we have a future eventer on our hands, this girl is ready to go at all times.

LEMME PET THE PONIES

I’ve also been so lucky to have friends who let me hop on their animals while Frankie is on lease (an update on that in just a minute!). While my muscle memory seems to be mostly intact, my balance and strength are decidedly lacking, and these horses are patience incarnate as I bounce around up there. Turns out that growing a 10+lb baby completely destroys any semblance of core strength, so that’s definitely a journey to get back. But every ride I feel a little stronger and a little more put together, so things are happening. I even hung on over a crossrail recently for the first time since last December!

We love a sweet bay ❤

I’m really focusing on getting my stamina and strength back before anything else. My first ride was just a lap or two at the trot and a circle at the canter, and now at 7-8 rides in I can comfortably go for closer to 20 minutes (with walk breaks, of course) so I definitely feel the progress. I take Lina for long walks as often as possible to help build some of that back too, and it’s helping. We have a stationary bike in the basement I’d like to get more consistent about using too.

One of the big reasons that I need to get my strength back is that we have a return date for Francisco! His wonderful leasers will be hanging on to him for a couple more months, which is just perfect for all of us. Lina will be a little older and more transportable then so I should be able to get to the barn a bit more easily, my work situation will be a bit more stable by then making it financially easier, and I won’t have to bundle up in the cold as much. I was mentally resigning myself to leasing Frankie back out for another full year, but I’m ecstatic that I’ll get to enjoy him again next summer.

We’re busy making plans for that glorious reunion: it turns out that Upperville is in early June, shortly after I get him back. Y’all know that’s my all time favorite show ever. You may also know that they do now have lower level classes there: the jumpers start at the 1.0m Ch/AA Lows. A height that I last jumped in September 2020. But since I’ve never been known to let little things like common sense stop me, we’re going for it. Frankie will be going at that height with his leaser so he’ll be ready to go, so I am bigtime focused on getting myself in shape to keep up with him! I figure as long as I can comfortably hold on over a full course at any height we’ll be fine – the height has never been a problem for Frankie so if my eye is tuned in and I can grab mane we’ll be good to go.

When I told him this he started to panic

What’s even more exciting is that we’re planning for this to be a mother-daughter show: Lina will be making her leadline debut at Upperville!! My trainer is already putting out feelers for the perfect pony for her, and the rest of us are busy planning perfect outfits for Lina and her entourage (myself and her father). The idea of sharing this with my daughter at my favorite show with my wonderful friends fills me with so so so much joy. I may or may not be planning a world tour appearance at Devon with her too, but we’ll wait and see how we’re feeling.

Did you know Ancona makes tiny sizes? May or may not need to get her a navy coat with red trim.

All in all, some really great stuff happening. I’m beyond grateful for my barn family: those who share their horses, those who entertain Lina while I ride, those who share my excitement to get back in the ring, those who share my even greater excitement to get Lina in the ring, and those who are taking such incredible care of Francis. It’s a great crew with great juju. Can’t wait to share more updates!