Can We Try This Again

Y’all, I’ve been riding my horse more often and for longer times lately and IT FEELS AMAZING. He’s giving me lovely work, he’s jumping out of his skin and firing off the ground beautifully, and he’s straight up happy. I’ve told you so many times that the big dude thrives in a fuller training regimen and the proof is so clear – his already playful and curious nature is absolutely next level these days.

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I need to remember how to hold my position more tightly when the jumps go back up a bit, but the Frankfurter is simply excellent at his job

 

We’ve been incorporating more conditioning rides and as it turns out – Francis is totally faking being a chunk. I mean, physically he’s obviously rockin’ that Dad Bod. But endurance-wise? Barely sweating, not even puffing. Jokes on him, that just means we’re making these sets longer and more difficult. Seriously Francis, now I don’t believe you when you say you’re exhausted after trotting two laps.

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Couldn’t quite seem to keep all my body parts coordinated through this grid, but I’m confident it’ll all come back in time.ย 

Making the point to ride more frequently and with more focus is also straight up making me a better person in all areas of my life. I know it was the right call to take a small step back from riding for the wedding and for school, but now that I have a better handle on things I definitely prefer getting back into my previous 5-6x a week schedule. It forces me to be more disciplined and productive with my time and I’m simply a better student, employee, wife, daughter, friend, etc. when I’m getting my full horse fix. I suspect a lot of you know the feeling.

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We’re both much happier when we get extra time to goof off together.

As you may have seen in pictures, I also got myself a new helmet during the IHAD weekend sales! And this whole thing is actually where the title of this post comes in. As you may or may not remember, I got a new helmet about a year ago – I went to Dover, tried on a bunch, and was informed that nothing really fit my head except the CO that I ultimately ended up buying. I was super bummed because I had really liked a Samshield I had tried on previously, but we all know that helmet fit is paramount and that was basically the only thing they had in stock that truly fit my head. The rep there sadly informed me that the Samshields just didn’t fit my head as well.

You know what I wish she had said instead, that would’ve been more accurate? “The Samshields THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE IN STOCK don’t fit you as well.” That sentence would have been accurate.

Because back in June, I stopped by one of my favorite show vendors to peruse their ever-lovely merchandise. I admired the Samshields yet again but informed the rep there that sadly my head was not destined for such breathability. She then proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes pulling out not only different SIZES of liner, but different SHAPES. Because newsflash guys, Samshield makes liners for both round and oval heads. And it turns out that yes, Samshield does have an option that fits me perfectly and safely and is extremely comfortable (and yes, I have basically a child-sized head). I didn’t pull the trigger and buy it on the spot because I was in the midst of paying for the show – but with truly amazing service, the rep wrote down all the info I needed to be able to order it myself when I was ready.

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After a VERY intense week of lessons/pro rides/conditioning rides, we did have a much-needed toodling day to stretch our muscles and recover. I love my mobile couch so much.

So fast forward to now, I went ahead and ordered it from their site. They put in the customer service and effort so they 100% deserved that sale. And I now have a helmet that fits perfectly, helps with the sweaty head, makes me feel super fancy, AND I can swap out different sized liners so I can actually safely wear my hair either up or down. This is LIFE CHANGING to no longer get a blinding headache when I need to wear my hair up in the eq ring.

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Francisco approves of it and that’s clearly the most important thing

So the moral of the story is that when working with a salesperson, it would be good if that salesperson is not only knowledgeable in what you’re talking about, but is willing to, I don’t know, PULL OUT ANOTHER SIZE WHEN ONE DOESN’T FIT.

And in a quick mishmash of other updates: Frankie’s leg wound is healing great with no complications, we’re psyched for our show this upcoming weekend, and I finally bought brunette hairnets (I haven’t been blonde in many years). All good stuff.

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Mean Mom

You all know that there is nothing I love more than gushing about how much I adore my Francisco. He is truly the light of my life and I need everyone to know it. Constantly. I’m even happier when I can get people out to the barn to bask in the presence of the Sweet Sleepy Boy.

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My MIL loves to come see him, and he loves soaking up all her praise. It’s very heartwarming.

For my non-horse friends and family, there has been a pattern of some surprise when they come out and see how I handle Frankie. Apparently they often have certain expectations based on my unceasing verbal adoration. I’m not sure what those expectations are, but I imagine gazing adoringly and softly cooing sweet nothings feature prominently. Reality, however, is quite different. More than once, I’ve had someone tell me:

“Olivia, you’re kinda a mean mom.”

And you know what? They are totally right. I am kinda a mean mom.

I don’t feed Frankie any treats, I never let him rub his head on me, I give regular “course corrections” in the form of a smack when he’s not focused or behaving. I’m (surprisingly to them) strict with Frankie.

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I put ice boots and BoT wraps on him every time we jump I AM SO VERY MEAN TO HIM

But here’s the thing. Francis is a very large horse. Francis also loves treats more than anything in the world, and forgets that he’s big when he thinks he might get one. His excitement about the treat trumps the lessons he knows about respecting personal space. This is absolutely something we could fix with groundwork and practice, but I don’t see a need. The Treat Fairy will sometimes leave him something in his bucket, and I praise verbally instead. He is an enormous fan of verbal praise, so the lack of treats does not ruin his life (I promise).

And no, I don’t let him rub his face on me when untacking. You know what he likes to rub his face on? Fenceposts. And the younger horse in his herd that he sometimes likes to pick on. You know what I do not want my horse to see me as? An inanimate object or as lower in the dynamic of our own little herd. Not exactly the precedent I want to set in terms of who is the leader here.

And yeah, I’ll give him a slap or a poke and a bit of a growl when he moves into my personal space. He’s the one that has to move his feet out of my way, not the other way around. Again – you know who moves their feet for Frankie? That younger gelding. Again – I’m not particularly willing to be low man on the totem pole here.

Frankie gets plenty of face scratches – but only when I offer them to him, and he happily accepts. He gets to go for nice long walks and get nice long grooming sessions – respectfully holding still when asked, and only coming into my personal space when invited. Every time that he offers the right behavior (which is almost all the time), he is praised with scratches and pats and a hearty “good boy!”

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He doesn’t even have to get up, I will bring the face scratchies directly to naptime

With all my strictness, do you know what I end up with? A horse who has clear boundaries, who respects those boundaries to keep us both safe even in tough situations (like his Very Bad Day recently), who can relax because he never has to guess how he should act. There is consistency around it – he doesn’t get away with something one day, and then punished for it the next. By being a fair and consistent leader for my horse, I’m allowing him to be a contented follower.

So yes. I am strict with my horse and I can kinda be a mean mom. But I also have a horse that I can hand off to a child and know he will be careful and polite. That almost never spooks, because he has faith that I’ll take care of things for him. And at the end of the day, I have a horse that is relaxed and happy because he knows and likes his role in our dynamic.

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You can even basically drop the reins while nervously waiting to propose and he’ll keep chillin’

I’ll take the Mean Mom moniker happily if it keeps Frankie as wonderfully content as he is.

Frankie Long Legs

You know that running joke about how horses know when we enter a show, and immediately maim themselves?

REAL FUNNY JOKE, RIGHT????

I was very excited to have a friend offer to take some pics/video of my lesson over the weekend – other than shows, I literally have no evidence that I’ve jumped my horse since 2018. I swear that I have. I’m an extremely visual learner, so the prospect of that video made me absolutely giddy.

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Classic: Frankie having no concept of personal space and assuming everyone loves him as much as he loves them.

Until I pulled Frankie out to tack him up and noticed a not insignificant amount of blood on his hind leg. Followed that trail up to a decent looking laceration on the inside of his leg, about midway down his cannon bone. I brought him over to AT to get her opinion, we poked and scrubbed it with some iodine to get a better view, jogged him (sound, but a little ouchie most likely from the aforementioned poking), and she texted a pic to our vet to get her thoughts.

Sure enough, she said it looked like it needed stitches to stay closed. Our vets are also the actual best, and she was at the barn roughly 15 minutes later to take care of it. She made short order of giving Frankie some night night juice and getting the wound cleaned and stitched.

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He was trying valiantly to stay awake, poor guy

 

Frankie came out of the sedative remarkably quickly (I think mostly fueled by anger since I had pulled his hay) and is recovering well so far. He’s on stall rest for a few days so he doesn’t play too hard and rip it back open, but I have permission to hand walk and graze him for as long as I want – he’s sound and walking is totally fine as long as he’s not being goofy (and homeboy is never goofy on the lead because Angel Boy).

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A dignified puddle of drool. I felt bad for laughing but also he’s fine and this was hilarious.

Honestly the timing isn’t the worst on this. Our vet is coming out later this week to inject Frankie’s SI anyways, so she’ll be able to check on his leg and make sure everything is going alright with the healing process. Hopefully by the time he’s ready to go back to work post-injection, his leg will be in good enough shape that we can get him out to stretch. Right now he’s getting a vacation from work, all the naps he wants, and gets to go for walkies. He’s not having a bad time.

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We went for a nice long walk and then grazed for a bit – sound as a bell and very tolerant of me poking around the wound, no heat or soreness (and he 100% lets us know when he’s sore) and in very good spirits. Also he’s not actually that insanely over at the knee, I swear I just caught him mid-step.

I don’t think this should affect our show at the end of the month at all, as long as he heals as expected. If it turns out that he loses a ton of fitness this week and we have a tough time toning him up then I’m fine with dropping down a level, but I really think we’ll have plenty of time to get back into the swing of things.

Horses, man. There’s always something!

How to Be Good at Riding as a Busy Ammy

I am flawless and have never made any mistakes or done anything wrong in my life, so it seems appropriate that I share with you my secrets of doing everything perfectly while maintaining clear skin and an amazing sleep schedule.

My first tip is to make sure you’re eating super healthy. Definitely don’t skip breakfast because you slept in an extra 15 minutes, definitely don’t skip lunch because you worked through it (again), and definitely don’t just eat a ridiculous amount of buttered noodles when you get home at 9:30pm. Snacking on candy throughout the day is right out, and taking a multivitamin can really only cover for so many sins. You’ll want to plan out nicely portioned and packaged organic balanced meals with planned healthy snacks. Gotta fuel your body with the nutrients you need!

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Use this time to call your friends and maintain healthy relationship!

The next tip is to set aside blocks of time throughout the week for your different activities! If Mondays are set aside for schoolwork, focus on that to get it done. There is no possible way that the only day your case study group can meet is on Tuesday so you have to miss your lesson. Not even a thing that happens. It’s all about setting up your schedule in advance because you have complete control over these things!

Protect your weekends. With work and school during the week, your weekends are your time to catch up on errands, see friends, and spend quality time at the barn. You probably don’t have any trips scheduled ever, and it’s unlikely that you have weddings to attend in the near future. You definitely are always at home and available to catch up on things.

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No one ever has birthdays to celebrate so you never need to go anywhere or pose for stupid pictures

Most importantly, make time to ride consistently. How can you get better (or even maintain) if you’re not getting consistent saddle time?! You need to spend time on your own improvement and keep your horse in shape!

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Round is a shape

I mean, when you’re out of town on those RARE trips, I guess the barn rat can hop on to keep your horse moving.

And when that case study needs to get done and the group can only meet on lesson day, I suppose he can get a training ride instead.

And when your immune system just shuts down from exhaustion and you can’t stop coughing, maybe he can be used in a lesson.

Screw it, guys. I’m getting floppier by the day, relying on my entire barn fam to keep Frankie fit and in work, and taking it one day at a time.

To all my fellow ammies juggling all that life brings, I salute you.

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Someday I’ll get to hang out at this magical place more โค

Q & A

A la Amanda, I asked Instagram for questions, and here is the result! I may have to do this again, because it was super fun for me to see the questions that came in.

Tell us about your first ride on a horse that you remember!

I started taking lessons when I was 6 years old, so my very first ride is lost in the sands of memory. But I do distinctly remember going on a short “trail ride” through one of the paddocks on a little pony, and sliding right down his neck when he stopped to grab a snack! I remember him standing there patiently while I giggled like crazy laying there on the ground, and I remember getting back on and hearing my instructor say “lean back!” Kinda funny that the first ride I can remember is also my first tumble, but it clearly didn’t stop me from falling in love with ponies.

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Way back in 1998, six years old and already giggling about riding a pony (also what kind of helmet is that?!)

What are your long term goals for Frankie, or possibly a second horse? (Related question: when will Frankie get a brother? I got this question multiple times haha)

I’ll break this down into two parts!

My long term goals for Frankie are a little up in the air right now. Originally he was going to be my High Adult horse, and then last year we had our eyes set on the Low AOs. That didn’t end up happening since I shifted a lot of my focus to wedding planning, and now that I’m taking classes it’s not looking likely that I’ll do that this year either. Realistically by the time I’m done with my degree and ready to recommit to a stricter training program, Frankie will be 14 or 15 and that move-up to the AOs may not be in his best interest. If he’s feeling great and seems comfortable pushing, then we’ll absolutely go for it! I certainly don’t want to rule it out – he’s sound and healthy and there’s no reason to think that he won’t be sound and healthy for a good long time. If he tells us he’d rather keep the jumps a little lower, I’m perfectly happy to do whatever level he feels best at. Once he tells us that he needs an easier job with less intense training, I’ll may find him a lease situation for a junior or ammy rider that wants a safe packer-type to learn the ropes on. At this point I don’t know when that would be, I’m in zero rush and hope to enjoy him for a good while longer before he steps down to something like that. He won’t be for sale at any point though – I need him around to do leadline with any future kiddos.

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Giving pony rides is literally his favorite thing to do, he’ll love having that in his future

As to a second horse, that’s something I’d potentially like to look into in the future. It’s definitely not in my near-term plans due to the expense that I put towards maintaining and competing with Frankie. I’d much rather be able to spoil him rotten with everything he could need or want than spread myself too thin and not be able to provide top level care for both horses. Once I’m done competing with Frankie and we find him a situation where he pays his own bills a bit, it would be really nice to bring another horse into the family. Hopefully by then I’ll have progressed enough in my career to handle that financially, but I won’t get a second horse unless I can guarantee quality care for both creatures. That being said, life has a way of laughing at the best laid plans! I have a feeling my life will look very different in 5, 10, 15 years and I don’t want to jinx myself by placing all my hopes in one basket (pardon the mixed metaphor).

Do you have any fears when you ride? What are the biggest ones and how do you cope?ย 

I wouldn’t say that I have a ton of fear (usually), but I definitely have my own anxieties sometimes! I was an EXTREMELY fearful kid, and spent all of my junior years basically afraid of my own shadow. If I was a horse, I would have been the spookiest most ulcer-prone creature in the barn. Luckily as an adult I seem to have outgrown most of that.

These days, pretty much all of my nerves center around waiting. As long as I’m tacking up, warming up, walking a course, doing SOMETHING (either at home or at shows), I can stay mentally focused enough that I don’t notice any nerves. It’s having to wait – being in the barn but being too early to tack up, or standing around watching my trainer raise the jumps – that I can feel some butterflies in my tummy.

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Not gonna lie, my trainer has us do Wonder Woman poses before heading to the ring now and I kinda really definitely love it (even if Mare was v v skeptical)

The best way I’ve found to combat this is to keep myself busy with other things – visualize my course, walk some patterns with Frankie while we wait, things like that. I’ve never been nervous on Frankie once we actually get moving, so my tools for managing nerves all center around keeping myself mentally in the zone until I have both feet in the stirrups and am actively engaged in our work. I also frequently remind myself that I have a horse that I can trust to take me through fire, and that my trainer would never put me in an unsafe situation. That trust takes me a long way.

What practical factors went into your decision to buy vs. continue leasing?

I’d say that the turning point for me was when I was able to crystallize my goals into something more tangible. I had been to a few local shows with my lease mare Addy (the DragonMare!), had the chance to tag along to a few bigger ones, and realized that my goal was to compete at some bigger rated shows and start jumping bigger jumps. Addy was AMAZING and taught me so so so so much, but she was not particularly suited to show life and we had about maxed out the height she was happy performing at.

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She was a powerhouse and I just adored her.

Having come off of a lease, I was also looking for a situation where I could have more input into the care – not that I would have changed anything about Addy’s situation, but there were (reasonable) limitations on what I could do with her as a leaser that wouldn’t be in place as an owner.

From a budget standpoint, I knew that my budget would either get me a lease on a solid horse for a year, or be a purchasing budget for something that might need a little bit of development. I’m not aging out or chasing any time-specific goals, so I decided to purchase something I could work with and learn with over time, rather than having to end it after a year. I of course ended up with Frankie, which was the best possible outcome!

If you could ride any horse in the world (past, present, or fiction) who would it be?

This is such a hard one! The obvious answer is Frankie (duh) because he’s a total blast to ride, but I wouldn’t turn down the ride on Cortes C before his retirement. Of course I know so much of his excellence was due to his partnership with a great horsewoman, but he just looks so darn game. His balance and expression and the way he carried himself was incredible. I was happy to hear that they put his welfare first and retired him rather than risk injury, but it was sad to lose him as a player.

If you could train with anyone in the world EXCEPT your current trainer, who would it be?

Another tough one! Right now a trainer that I’m watching is Cian O’Connor. Among others, he coaches Lillie Keenan who is a total girl crush of mine, and his attention to detail and focus on mental coaching is intriguing. Closer to home, I’d love to trailer into ride with Joe Fargis. Several riders at my barn have taken lessons with him and said great things, and he really is one of the great names in our sport. I’d love to get the perspective of someone with such a lifetime of experience to impart.

If you could change one thing about this sport, what would it be?

I’ve said this once before, but it bears repeating: improved communication. I see people at high levels complaining about things that don’t affect 99% of regular people, and I see people just starting out in the sport complaining about things because they heard something untrue through the grapevine and took it as gospel. Being able to have an open dialogue across disciplines, across income brackets, across regions would help get people on the same page and focused on what matters most. Improved communication would help expose the truth where it needs to be exposed and shared, and create channels of improved safety across the sport. A lot of the specific issues I’d like to see addressed boil down to a mismatch in communication.

Prioritizing Expenses

I was chatting with a friend over the weekend about what we like to spend our money on. I feel EXTREMELY fortunate to get to train and compete like we do, but I’m also not made of money and have had to very clearly prioritize what I spend my money on.

Of course this list has changed over time – when I first bought Frankie, getting him the tack/blankets/gear to be comfortable in a new home was priority numero uno. But if I’m considering a steady state of affairs, here’s how I prioritize Frankie’s bank account:

1.Vet/farrier care. This never gets delayed or cheaped out on. We have an amazing farrier and a fantastic vet, and we’ve built a level of trust that they’ll do what’s best without doing anything unnecessary. Trainer and AT coordinate schedules and have heavy feedback into Frankie’s care and they’ve kept him healthy and happy. It’s a fantastic healthcare team. Tied into this category are items that help keep him happy – I recently picked up some ice boots that I put on him after jumping.

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tHe HaT oF kNoWlEdGe

2. Lessons. This will always always always be my number one priority once Frankie’s basic needs are met. This might be different if I worked with a different trainer, but I don’t need to tell you again how obsessed I am with mine. This consistent knowledgeable feedback is invaluable to me, and I’m grateful that we have the opportunity for it to be so frequent.

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Lessons make a FancyPants Francis even more FancyPants

3. Training rides. When I first got Francis, these weren’t that high on the list. But after incorporating them into the rotation more often and seeing the benefits for him both in the on and off season, I’m a believer. The one-two punch of lessons and training rides accelerated our progress more than I thought was possible and opened my eyes to a whole new level of riding.

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This transformation brought to you by (drumroll please) a whole bunch of lessons and training rides

4. Shows. Ya’ll know ya girl here loves to compete. And y’all know I’ll happily sacrifice a chance at some ribbons to go to the big shows. I won’t cancel my lessons or training rides to be able to afford a show, but I’ll cancel just about anything else.

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I literally go into the ring giggling this is my favorite activity on the planet

5. Tack. Thankfully Frankie pretty much has what he needs to be happy, but every once in a while I do pick something up. I recently nabbed a used Vespucci figure-8 that looks great on him, and also got a used Equifit BellyBand to protect his sensitive skin. I have a rolling wishlist that currently includes new stirrup irons, replacement standing+pillow wraps, and an embroidered BOT pad to show in. None of them are immediate needs, so I’ll either ask for them as gifts or wait til some room in the budget opens up (though the stirrup irons are fairly quickly approaching the necessary category).

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We switched our bit last year when we had enough forward and enough responsiveness to handle a little leverage, but we mostly leave it alone now.

6. Other gear and clothing. While I have a well-known obsession with pants, they do actually fall this far down on the list! Basically Frankie has to have everything he needs before I open up the budget for myself. Current wishlist includes a new Samshield show shirt to match my gorgeous Samshield whites, and a custom tack trunk cover so I can make my cheapo beloved Stanley trunk look super legit at shows. Again – not immediate needs, so these will either be gifts or wait until show season is over.

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Spoiler alert these are going to be mine in May (fingers crossed my schooling pair can hold out that long, they are literally falling apart)

Board isn’t in there because it is a constant fact of life for us. I love our barn, the boarding fee is very reasonable for the quality of facilities and region, and I don’t plan on moving unless something truly catastrophic happens. It doesn’t factor into the priority list because it’s simply there.

And of course things pop up here and there and I don’t stop to think about the priority list. If Frankie’s saddle isn’t fitting and I need to pay to have that addressed, I don’t put it off. If I see a pretty pair of pants after drinking two glasses of wine, I buy them. I can always take shows off the schedule, but I can’t take Frankie’s happiness and my own enjoyment of the sport off the schedule.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, and I’m sure everyone’s order looks different! I’d love to hear what yours looks like and why.

Blog Hop: My Favorite Event

Y’all can’t keep me away from a fun blog hop just because I’m not an eventer! Out of the shows I’ve gotten to attend there is such a clear favorite in my mind that I just have to share.

If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you already know that I’m talking about Upperville. (And to a similar extent Loudoun Benefit, which is held on the same showgrounds the following week).

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Our very first round as a team, back in 2016 at Loudoun Benefit in the Grand Prix ring! Talk about jumping in the deep end with a new horse.

In my world, Upperville is basically an immovable holiday. I change flights, I take time off of work, I have my dude move me out of apartments for me, all for the sake of Upperville.

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Remember when Nick was loading up a Uhaul with my possessions literally while I was over this jump in 2017 oops lol

Of course I love it for a lot of the technical aspects: the footing is absolutely fantastic and meticulously maintained, the course design is always fair but challenging, and the staff is friendly and professional.

It also has old tent stalls with very few outlets, insanely chaotic warmup rings, and takes place during the heat of the Virginia summer.

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Throwback to 2015 before I had a horse to show, but volunteered to help set up the stalls. As the tallest I got to stack a ladder on top of a hay bale on top of a trash can so we could reach the ONE OUTLET IN OUR AISLE #holdmybeer

I’ll never say that it’s perfect.

But there’s just something so special about it. By unspoken agreement, everyone pulls out all the stops for their aisle-fronts: gleaming wooden tack trunks, coordinating banners, fresh mulch, piles of flowers, wrought-iron fences, bubbling fountains (yes, really). The jumps are full of lush greenery in the hunter rings and beautiful shapes and colors in the jumper ring.

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The entire place is just gorgeous from every angle. PC – A. Frye

 

 

There are the side-saddle and hunt classes with so much tradition on display. The hunters are some of the most beautiful animals I’ve had the pleasure of seeing go around – and watching them along with the commentary of my trainer (a hunter R judge) turns it into a learning experience. The classic lime ices are perfect on a humid morning. I can ride a track in the same ring as McLain, on the very same day.

Add to this that Upperville is about 30 minutes from our home stable, and there’s definitely a sense of hometown pride to it. The rolling fields adjacent to the showgrounds are perfect for cooling out in view of the rolling hills.

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And they make a perfect backdrop for photos.

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Which then make perfect subject matter for oil paintings

Upperville isn’t my favorite because it’s objectively the best show. WEC has nicer stalls, Swan Lake has great footing too, McDonogh is super accessible, Culpeper has more step-up classes, Lake Placid has the most stunning vistas, Ocala has better weather. There’s been plenty to love at all of these shows and we’ve had great experiences at all of them.

For me, Upperville is different. It’s where Frankie and I tackled our first 1.15m class as a team, where he beat ML in a 1.20m class, and where I felt truly competitive for the first time despite being out of the ribbons.

Whenever non-horsey friends and family ask if they can come watch me ride, the only one I suggest they attend is Upperville. Other facilities host competitions. Upperville is truly a horse show that’s a blast for competitors and spectators alike.

My show season is very light this year due to classes starting up in the spring, but there’s no way Frankie and I could miss our 4th opportunity to get back on that showground.

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PC – G. Mohan

Nicely Played, Francis.

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.

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He’s been standing like an angel for his warm soaks, as long as I let him lick my hand for the full 15-20 minutes. A small price to pay to keep him happy.

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 theย  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.

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He’s been making plenty of sand angels on our walks to make sure he gets to stretch and address the itchies. Literally as soon as we walk in the ring, down he goes.

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!

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And after every sand angel, he stays laying down for a little bit surveying the ring. Apparently he doesn’t like to be rushed.

My Expensive Reality

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:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides
  • 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)
  • Vet
  • Farrier
  • Insurance
  • Shows
  • Other

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.

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Vet care costs have crept up over the years as we figure out how to make him feel extra special best. And don’t worry, chiro/massage goes right in that “other” bucket.

The reason that I bring this up is because I read Emma’s post about budgeting and how that has changed over time to account for reaching for certain goals. It’s a cool post with some cool comments on it, def check it out if you haven’t! But it also got me thinking about my own budget and my own goals, and what the investment looks like for those goals and for goals that may be a bit out of reach. Starting with WIHS.

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.

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My big goal for the year was Lake Placid and all monies went right to that.

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.

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I mean clearly I’m never MAD about the ribbons

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.

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All I want to do is All the things in All the places with this creature.

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.

GIF Name Game

Ok, you guys got me. I was curious after seeing the hilarity ensure from all of you. Would the GIFs encapsulate Frankenbean? Would his many names lead to the many facets of Francis?

I started out with his actual real name (that I rarely call him): Frankie.

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Alright, alright. He does think the mares love him. Spoiler alert: approximately zero of them do. Doesn’t stop him from flirting tho.

Now onto what he goes by more often: Francis.

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Remember back when I got him and lobbied for his show name to be Saint Francis or Pope Francis but got told that was distasteful and borderline sacrilegious? Me neither. But yeah. It fits.

What about his affectionate nickname of The Frankfurter?

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Yeah ok I see it. Finger guns and all.

And lastly, what about his official show name? To Be Frank:

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Aaaaand this one may just fit the best of all. Constantly eating. Always making a mess. Only smart at weird random things. Always up for weird hijinks. Yep.