At this point I’ve owned Francis for over four years, and it has honestly been a total blast the whole time. Each incremental piece of progress has been a joy to tease out and refine, finding confidence together has built a true partnership, and even the inevitable setbacks haven’t seemed so bad when I have such a good-natured beast to go try again with. I often reflect on our time together and it makes me feel a lot of feelings: excitement about the adventures we’ve gone on/are yet to go on, awe at how much further we’ve gone than I ever hoped for, comfort in how well we know each other, joy in his own happiness in his work.
One of the strongest emotions I feel about our journey together is pride. I am incredibly proud of Frankie every darn day for his work ethic, for his kind response to hardship, for his ability to do his job. He is a very different horse than I brought home and the work we have put in together over the years has led to a strong and confident athlete who knows (and likes!) his job.
For the first two years, that improvement was primarily on me. Under the guidance of my trainer, I was really the only one who ever sat on him. No training rides or professional attention beyond our weekly lessons. With a lot of hard work and sweat, we successfully made it up to the 1.15m height together. We all know that the lion’s share of the hard work there was Francisco going out there and trying his heart out for me despite my many mistakes, but I was also very proud of myself for growing to that point.
After that, I enlisted some help. I signed Frankie up for pro rides as part of his regular schedule to see how that might help him. And help him it did – I’ve mentioned many times that building this into our program did wonders for both of us. While the jumps didn’t go higher for us, our timing and abilities and awareness grew exponentially more quickly. I’m extremely grateful that I’ve had the opportunity and ability to take advantage of this type of program; I’m very conscious that it’s not an option for many.
I don’t have any less pride in this part of the journey. I’m just as proud of Frankie for learning and gaining confidence around the bigger tracks, even though I wasn’t the only one helping him get there. And I’m just as proud of myself for showing up and learning how to give my horse the ride he needs to feel good about his job as he gained these skills.
All of this is a self-indulgent and rambling way to say that I really don’t think there’s a single way of training that makes one a “good horseperson.” There is so much to be excited about when working hard with less support, and there is so much to be excited about when working hard with more support. There are opportunities to learn and grow no matter how we do it.
As long as we end up with happy, healthy horses at the end of the day, we’re on the right journey.