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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
And they make a perfect backdrop for photos.
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.
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!
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.
I don’t need to tell you all how predictably unpredictable equine expenses can be. We’ve all encountered the worst-timed vet visit, the even-worse-timed pulled shoe, and the oh-wait-I-wasn’t-ready-to-buy-yet-but-the-perfect-horse-is-available-oops-he’s-mine-now.
With all that in mind, I have a few simple ways to budget for the wonderful world of horses.
Separate bank account. That’s right, Francis has his own debit card and checkbook. I transfer a set amount into this every month, and all things horse-related get pulled out of this account. It’s enough to cover all monthly expenses, as well as extra for shows and emergencies. It’s great for impulse control- when it’s out, its out.
Wait, it’s almost out but there’s a show I want to go to. It’s fine, I’ll dip into my other account to fund it.
OK now I’m short on gas money. It’s fine, I can dip into another different account.
Wait ok no it’s fine I didn’t need that much for groceries anyways. It’s fine it’s all fine, I like ramen and toast a ton. I just have to make it to next month when my next paycheck comes in.
What do you mean he needs special shoes now
And more injections
Poor thing is probably sore, put him on the list for a massage
No it’s fine it’s totally fine
Obviously I already sent my entry in for that 5 day A rated show with gold plated stalls and hay made from actual shredded money, it would be rude to back out now IT’LL BE FINE
You know what yes, I would love to try an eq class. Not a problem, tack on the braider fees.
I think the chiropractor will get better results if he adds in acupuncture, let’s add that on next time
No really it’s fine it’ll be totally fine money can’t buy happiness who needs it anyways
And then next month I transfer the same amount and continue with the careful planned out budgeting with great willpower and self-restraint!
Maybe my favorite picture of all time. Seeing this always reminds me of how far we’ve come together, and how he’s blown every expectation we had for him out of the water. His power over the fence, his expression as he looks to the next one, all of it makes me so proud.
Favorite Non-Show Picture
Liz captured this photo, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I look at it. I have no idea how she managed to so beautifully capture his expression and kindness. It’s such a faithful representation of my handsome boy.
Favorite thing you bought
Do private lessons count? I didn’t really buy much tack or equipment this year since we were well set, and spent my money on training and vet care instead. We worked our butts off and it was sweaty but amazing.
Favorite moment on horseback
Getting back in the saddle after being gone for weeks, just to walk around. Feeling that familiar swinging walk, seeing those happy ears, and realizing just how much I had missed that feeling.
Favorite moment out of the saddle
If this doesn’t capture us, I don’t know what does. My mom snapped this as I was tacking up, incredibly nervous and jittery, and Frankie somehow knew that I needed some love. He gave me the confidence to put my feet in the irons and try- even though that ride ended with me falling off before I could even go in to compete, he was right there with me the whole time.
Favorite “between the ears” picture
View from our outdoor ring at sunset. I’ve grown to really love my adopted home state, and I feel so lucky that Frankie and I get to call this barn home.
Favorite horse book or article
My trainer put out some incredibly thoughtful and interesting blog posts this past year, and I’m hard pressed to pick just one. I find that she has a knack for articulating different concepts in a way that makes sense to my brain, and uses examples that I can apply directly. Big big fan.
Favorite horse ridden (or groomed/cared for) aside from your own
I got to hack my friend’s SUPER broke and fancy hunter. While he’s also a tall leggy bay, he is completely different from Frankie and I absolutely did not do him justice. It was so weird and cool to feel what it’s like to sit on a horse with such beautiful hunter movement!
Favorite funny picture of your horse
Another from Liz! It was so hard to pick just one for this category- Francis is a King Goof and I have endless silly pics of him. I just love how in this one we have his fancy tack on, the composition of the shot is beautiful, the jumps set up in the background, ears up and attentive…and then classic Francis. It’s so him.
Favorite fence that you successfully jumped or movement that you conquered
We’re showjumpers, every fence is some variation of colorful sticks hahaha. But this particular jump was a decent sized oxer into a one stride off a short turn, which we had been struggling with. But Frankie was super on it, I rode well (for once), and this came up powerfully out of stride like we knew what we were doing. So it isn’t really the jump itself as much as the skills that finally clicked into place to jump it well.
Frankie came home with me in spring of ’16, which means this is his third(!) winter with me. He’s been clipped every time, which sometimes includes his face (if we’re actively showing) and sometimes doesn’t (if we’re focused on training/smaller shows).
One thing has remained constant: the bright orange snoot.
This is exclusively a winter phenomenon. His spring/summer coat comes in with appropriate dark bay snoot hairs.
But inevitably winter rolls around, and out pops the orange snoot.
Which sticks around for a few months, and then boom.
Once is interesting. Twice may be a coincidence. But we have an official pattern here.
And by now I’ve almost brought us up to the present day so bear with me for a few more pics.
And to wrap us up:
There you have it folks. The world’s most smoochable snoot comes in a seasonal ginger spice color. So festive.