Three Years of Francis

Can you believe we’ve already had 3 years together?

It feels like just yesterday that Frankie came home, but also feels like he’s always been a part of my life. I simply can’t imagine not walking into the first stall on the right and trading scratches and smooches with this big brown beast.

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PC- Liz Stout Photography

Our first year was spent getting to know each other. I’m pretty sure I didn’t fully adjust to his way of going until we were a solid 10-12 months in. Luckily he never took a bad step, and was patient with me while we figured each other out.

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At his very first show, he calmly packed me around like he had been doing it for years

Our second year was spent pushing our boundaries. We jumped heights that were new to both of us, we trained in ways we had never trained, and we went out and strutted our stuff.

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Somehow he’s always known when he does a good job. PC- K. Borden

This third year has been the best yet, where our partnership has become that much better. We’ve chased dreams, we’ve explored so many amazing places, and we’ve taken everything we’ve done to the next level while learning and growing together.

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New heights and new places – but there’s always time for snugs

I wish I had better words to describe this past year – the thousands of words I’ve shared with you on this blog still don’t do it justice. I don’t think any words can really capture the emotions, the drive, the companionship, the laughs, the tears, the toughness, the excitement, and everything else we’ve encountered together.

Sometimes I feel a bit silly. All I ever tell you about is the sunshine and rainbows and sparkles that accompany the Frankfurter wherever he goes. That has to be boring.

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The happiest boy

Honest to goodness, I can’t help it. We’re both so so so very far from perfect, but even the difficult days are fun and exciting with him. His happiness to work and learn makes everything more enjoyable. I’ve never had cause to be nervous, no matter the occasion. His brattiest worst behavior is hysterical in its lack-of-badness. He’s simply not very good at it. I only have sunshine and sparkles to share because he really is that kind of horse. Kind, calm, goofy, affectionate, hard-working, fun, trainable, sweet, consistent, wonderful, the list goes on for miles.

Our relationship now is no longer new. We’re not getting to know each other – we know each other plenty well. I know just where he likes to be scratched on his forehead, and when he needs a little longer to stretch in his warmup. I can tell at a glance when he is tired or relaxed or eager or happy (his default). He knows that if he turns his head after finishing a course, I’ll rub his ears for him. He knows that I’ll always let him drink from the hose before a bath and that I’ll never ask him to do anything scary. Every day is a comforting conversation because we know and trust each other’s rhythms.

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PC- Liz Stout Photography

For as long as I’ve been riding and competing, and as long as I’ve been engrossed with the barn, I could’ve never imagined having a partner like Frankie. He’s one in a million and a once in a lifetime. In and out of the saddle, he brings so much joy and kindness into every single day we share. I don’t know what adventures we’ll get to go on together in the years to come, but I can’t wait to find out.

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PC- Liz Stout Photography
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Blogiversary Math

It’s hard for me to believe, but my fourth blogiversary is already here! It’s so crazy that I’ve been writing about my adventures for so long, and that so many of you have joined the journey. Many of you have even been here since Day 1, and I’m amazed and grateful that you’ve stuck around. You’ve all been an incredible source of support, advice, hilarity, and general awesomeness over the years.

To celebrate, I did what I do best- I analyzed some numbers. Enjoy a few charts of this blog!

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I thought this one was interesting! Visitors and views have both increased steadily over time even though the number of posts per year has declined. My hypothesis is that the content has gotten more relevant- while I did enjoy my lesson recaps, those didn’t encourage as much interaction as some of my more recent posts.

Based on the average % change in visitors and views (excluding the jump from 2015 to 2016, which was abnormally high), I can aim for roughly 37k views and 13k visitors in 2019. I mean, as long as I can maintain some decent quality of content, no pressure.

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This one isn’t too surprising for me. Basically the number of comments I get on each post is fairly steady, but the number of comments per visitor and per view has gone down. I interpret this to mean that there are a fewer number of people commenting, but those people that do are more active. Like I said- not surprising. I don’t have the largest following, but those of you who stick around are a frickin’ fantastic group that I get to chat with a ton.

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These are all the countries I’ve been able to reach over the last few years! My readers are predominantly in North America (consistently about 93% of my traffic), with roughly 4-5% of you in Europe, and the rest of you coming from all over the rest of the globe. Hi everyone!!

Some of the links you all have clicked on most often from here:

My trainer/barn’s website
Instagram
The Printable Pony
The 900 Dollar Facebook Pony
In Omnia Paratus
Amateur At Large
Guinness on Tap

And some of the ways you have found me:

Fraidy Cat Eventing (aka everyone’s favorite blogroll)
A Enter Spooking
The 900 Dollar Facebook Pony (apparently the link-love is reciprocal)
Instagramย (weird how linking between my accounts actually works, right?)

Some of my most popular posts by views:

2015: How to Groom Your Gray Horse
2016: Setting the Record Straight (which I didn’t even write you guys, come on)
2017: How to be a Better Horse-Show-Boyfriend (seriously guys?! After all I do for you, you like him more than me?! Uncool)
2018: What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (Finally. Thank you.)

And some of my most popular posts by comments:

2015: First Time XC Schooling
2016: The Maybe-Not Forever Home
2017: HITS Culpeper: Commonwealth National 2017
2018: Show Recap: WEC 9

And not to get sappy at you, but the fact that these are the ones you’ve commented on the most makes me so happy. Most of these were really big adventures and you guys were so awesome and encouraging about them.

A lot has changed in the past four years: I’ve moved (three times), gotten married, changed my name, changed jobs, bought The Best Horse(TM), traveled all over for shows, tried new adventures with the Frankenbean, and have learned more than I could’ve imagined. This blog and the community I’ve found with all of you has been a wonderful constant, and I’m so excited to keep sharing the adventures with you!

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From 2015…
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…to 2019 and on. Cheers to 4 fantastic years! PC- Liz Stout Photography

Two Years of Francis

Somehow our two year mark snuck up on me. Can you believe it? Two years with this big beautiful amazing steed.

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ESI Photography

In some ways it feels like I just got him yesterday- I can still so distinctly remember every moment of our trial ride and how it felt to sit on him for the first time.

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But in other ways, it feels like he’s always been part of the family.

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PC- Tracy

We’ve come a long long way together. Both of us were jumper-ring-greenies when I got him, and we’ve learned the ropes together as we’ve grown.

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PC- Courtney

Through every success and setback, move-up and misstep, Frankie has been there with me to remind me why I love this sport.

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PC- K. Borden

He has pushed me to become a better rider and a better horsewoman. He’s been the reason I’ve sought more education, gotten involved in my sport at different levels, met incredible people. His own work ethic has inspired mine.

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PC- Tracy

He’s been there for some of the most amazing moments of my life.

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PC- K. Borden

He’s been a warm and comforting source of love when I’m down.

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We’ve learned, sometimes at different speeds, sometimes with one of us outpacing the other- but always working together patiently to catch up. His athleticism is so beyond what I could’ve dreamed or hoped for and he is the reason my dreams keep growing.

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PC- A. Anderson

 

We are both so very far from perfect, but I can’t imagine a more perfect horse for me.

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PC- K. Borden

Cheers to two years with the best horse a girl could ask for. I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.

3 Years of Manfriend

Non-horse related post!

Manfriend and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary this past weekend. Which is kinda crazy to type out- the only thing I’ve ever done for three years at a time before has been go to school. And I had summer vacations from that.

But honestly? He’s the coolest. An absolute lunatic weirdo, but the coolest.

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He paid real money for this photo

You know what he got me as an anniversary gift?

A grooming tote. With a scrubby mitt, other brushes, and fly spray in there. HE GOT ME FLY SPRAY FOR OUR ANNIVERSARY. GUYS. FLY SPRAY. He gets it, he really does.

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He’s also prettier than I am with his stupid face UGH

He has been so incredibly encouraging and supportive of the horse thing. Even though he’s allergic to Frankie and standing in the indoor makes him sneeze, he still comes out to the barn because he knows it’s my happy place.

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A stolen moment between sneezes

He’s now located two hours away from me due to work, so we really only get to see each other on the weekends. There has been more than one time where I’ve said, “I can’t drive down to see you, I have to be here so I can ride.” And without hesitating he has said, “No worries, I’ll drive up to you.”

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How do you make a 17.1h WB look small? Toss a big ol’ 6’3″ man up top.

I’ve apologized to him for not having any money for date nights, and he’s immediately started listing all the fun things we can do together for free. I’ve shown up at his place covered in sweat and muck and horse hair, and he still calls me beautiful. I’ve excitedly talked about all these different dreams I have that all involve NEVER HAVING MONEY EVER AGAIN, and he’s never paused in rooting me on as I chase these crazy pie-in-the-sky goals.

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He knows how to lean real cute

Of course he has infinite other good qualities than just “he doesn’t mind the crazy.” But I am so SO grateful that he’s cool with the crazy. He makes me laugh ’til I cry on the daily, eggs on my weird obsession with lizards, feeds me when I’m hangry, is a constant source of fresh clean drinking water, and recognizes the necessity of having a jacket with you at all times. He’s the best.

I actually really hate cheesy corny romantic gooey stuff (despite how this post may make it seem), so I gotta stop now and save the sap for Francis. I’ll have to balance this out by using finger guns instead of hugging him for a month or something obnoxious like that.

Here are some pictures of his stupid annoying face UGH HE’S THE WORST.

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Our 2nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball back in 2015
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STOP EMBARRASSING ME IN PUBLIC
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I told you he’s prettier than me WITH HIS STOOPID FACE
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Two days before I signed the check to buy Frankie. Poor guy had no idea what was in store.
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For someone who’s allergic to horses, he sure is willing to go to lots of horse-themed events (Gold Cup 2016)
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3rd MCBB!
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He’s also exceedingly valuable as a bartender
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Our first Christmas tree together! Manfriend wore that hat for a month. He LOVES Christmas.
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Getting out of the house/barn for a New Year’s hike
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Wine and cheese and selfies. Standard Saturday.
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Guaranteed looking at a dog here.
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Anniversary dinner date!

I’m thinking it’s time to coerce him into another blog post soon so he can chime back in with his lunatic thoughts. ‘Til then, we’re going to keep leaving each other voicemails of screeching for 7 minutes straight, sending each other dat boi memes, and generally doing weird stuff.

Happy Blogiversary!

Somehow without realizing it, my second blogiversary came and went this past weekend! I’ll soon return to my lesson recaps and upcoming show schedule (spoiler alert, there are two on the near horizon), but here’s a fun little view of how Hellomylivia has grown over the past few years:

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As you may remember, I took a little hiatus in Dec/Jan of last year because I couldn’t handle living my life like a normal person needed to step back and slow down for a bit. Womp womp. But since then, we’ve been back and better than ever! We’ve managed to even out through the rest of 2016 and I’m hoping to keep up that momentum in the new year!

I started breaking things down further, getting all math-y and creating roughly 900 MILLION graphs. But you know what, guys? I live my life in numbers and spreadsheets. This blog is my escape from the constant number crunching. So you will take my lone graph and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

Or not. No skin off my nose.

We started when I was riding Addy in the 2’6″ Hunters

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And now we have our boy Francis prepping for the 1.10m Jumpers

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Clearly the quality of media has gone downhill

I’ve met some of my closest friends through this blog, learned new skills (website, social media, horsemanship, and myriad other areas), explored my creative side, and have gotten to join in with a community that I never even knew existed.

Thank you to all of you for following along (especially to my Superstar Commenters: Micaylah, Stacie, Carey, Monica, Heather, and Alli). I know that this blog provides no real benefit to anyone besides myself: I don’t have cool coupon codes, I rarely do meaningful product reviews, and I ask for advice constantly while giving little advice back. So the fact that you still join in for this journey just tickles me pink. It means the world to me to have you all coming along on these adventures with me.

Cheers to 2 years in Blogland!

2 Years at Home

I had not ridden a horse in quite some time as of September 23rd, 2014.

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And then this fateful email exchange.

September 24th, 2014 was the first time I sat on a horse in years. Literally years.

I went into that lesson planning to walk and trot around for a little while- I knew my muscle memory was likely relatively intact, but my muscle strength was absolutely abysmal.

The stone-cold badass who I now proudly call my trainer had other ideas. She had me jumping a full course in that first lesson and I haven’t looked back since. She’s been kicking my butt around the ring for a full two years now.

In some ways it feels like only a few weeks since that first lesson! And then at other times it feels like I’ve always been at Clairvaux. It’s home to me.

I don’t know that I can fully describe the impact this barn and these people have had on my life over the last two years, but I’ll certainly try:

I had been so unhappy here in Virginia- even though I had some family here, I missed all my friends and was having a really hard time making new ones. Everything seemed very alien and it was just so different from home. To be honest, I was starting to look at jobs in other areas because I simply couldn’t see myself staying another year.

Joining this community is what turned my life around- I know it sounds dramatic, but I mean it. I have gotten to meet and spend time with some AMAZING women- they are driven, interesting, kind, helpful, and straight up fun to be around. I have found a place where I can go to feel centered and welcome, no matter what happens. I have re-found a part of myself that feels such incredible drive and passion for this sport.

And I have gotten to work with trainers that I respect immensely- who I trust with my wellbeing and who I trust to have my best interest at heart. They have demonstrated time and time again that they are not in this to make a quick buck- they are in this to keep us all safe and having fun while learning.

I had never even dared to dream that I might make it to the 1m division. That was so far out of the realm of possibility. But with the support and encouragement and guidance of the Clairvaux family it has all felt not only manageable, but natural. Now my pie-in-the-sky goal is a stepping stone to even bigger and better things.

It’s certainly been a whirlwind two years: I jumped into a half-lease almost immediately, started a horsey blog, re-entered the show ring, moved from 2’3″ to 2’6″ to 2’9″ to 3′ to 3’3″ in height, moved over to the jumpers, spent a week in Ocala, bought a horse. In retrospect, that’s a heck of a lot to fit into two years!

While there have been all sorts of milestones over the past couple years, I’m most thankful for two. First of all, Frankie. He is my unicorn and every day with him is better than the last. Next week we’ll spend our 6 monthiversary at a show and I know it’s going to be amazing. Second of all, you guys. The blog community. Getting back in the saddle gave me my passion back and pushed me to join in and I can’t thank you all enough. I’ve met some of my closest friends through blogging!

I’ll stop talking now. I don’t have pictures from the VERY beginning, but here’s a part of my journey over the last two years:

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December ’14: One of the first “big” jumps I did with Addy
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February ’15: Our first “BIG” jump
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March ’15: First time back in the show ring in ~10 years
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April ’15: Maaaaaajestic
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May ’15: Warming up for our first time in the jumper ring!
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July ’15: Absolutely killing it in the 3′ hunters
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August ’15: First rated show at HITS Culpeper doing the baby jumpers
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September ’15: Headed out for a paper chase! Dream team.
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October ’15: First time XC schooling
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Dec ’15: Addy and friends making me smile during a tough winter
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Dec ’15: Christmas time!
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February ’16: Stepping into the adult medals with Poppy down in Ocala
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February ’16: Fastest 4-faulters in our classic with Victoriosa down in Ocala!
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March ’16: Our last show together
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March ’16: Enter Francis!
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May ’16: Braving the trails with a buddy
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June ’16: Learning the ropes at our first show
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August ’16: Getting better and better at our second show

I thank my lucky stars every day that my random “hunter jumper barns near me” Google search sent me directly to a trainer I trust and respect, and who pushes me to be the best horsewoman and rider I can be.

Cheers to two years at home, and cheers to the future!

My Madly Magnificent Manfriend

This weekend is mine and Manfriend’s anniversary, so to celebrate I’m going to take a little break from my usual posts and properly introduce this guy of mine.

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Ain’t he handsome?

If you’re wondering why he’s always simply “Manfriend” here, it’s because it sometimes freaks me out that I’m dating a full grown man. Like, not a boy. A full grown adult man. Am I seriously old enough for that? Anyways, we’ve established that he’s a man, not a boy- hence manfriend. And I’m always seeing bloggers refer to their SO simply as “hubs” or “PC” (Prince Charming?), and I wanted to give my guy his own blogging moniker.

How we met: My good friends had just asked me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding, and after exchanging some sly glances told me, “there’s a groomsman we need you to meet.” I tagged along to a party that he was at, we began chatting…and then nothing.

We had a pleasant time talking, but I got no vibes from him at all. No numbers were exchanged, and when my friends left I headed out with them thinking that was the end of it. Too bad ’cause he was cute and actually taller than me, but life goes on.

Fast forward two weeks, I got a message from him asking if I wanted to go to his house for a party he was hosting. I said yes, showed up, we had a blast, and a week later we went on our first real date in the middle of a snowstorm.

That very first party. I absolutely insisted on the selfie. We were Team Australia for the Beer Olympics, so I had the brilliant idea of taking the pic upside down. 'Cause, you know, Australia is upside down.
That very first party. I absolutely insisted on the selfie; we were Team Australia for the Beer Olympics, so I had the brilliant idea of taking the pic upside down. ‘Cause, you know, Australia is upside down.

I thought that date was a disaster- he had to come find me after I went to the wrong place, we couldn’t find a restaurant that was open because of the storm, and then I got so nervous I started telling cheesy jokes (e.g. what’s the internal temperature of a Tauntaun? Luke warm!). I couldn’t imagine that he would ever want to see me again. Thankfully he didn’t see it as a disaster, because we’ve been getting into shenanigans together ever since. I’m just as giddy to see him every time as I was for that first date and by some happy coincidence he seems pretty pumped about the whole thing too.

What he’s like: Imagine Prince Charming as an utter goofball, and that’s him. He spoils me like a princess, pushes me to work hard to achieve my goals (he’s the only one that can get me to run), and makes me laugh every single day. If he hadn’t encouraged me to go for it, this blog wouldn’t be here now and I wouldn’t be back in the saddle. Of course now he pays the price of hauling tack around for me and listening to me yammer on about site views, but he does it all with his usual smile and enthusiasm.

There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his friends and family- I call him Mr. Dependable. Guns are his biggest passion (he taught me how to shoot on our second date! His huge focus on safety made it much less scary) but he also gets excited about anything outdoors; no sitting behind desks for him. Instead of a desk job he’s in executive security (and working towards becoming a bodyguard) and in his other life he’s in the Marine Corps Infantry Reserve. It’s a running (terrifying) joke between his mother and me that he only wants jobs where there’s a possibility he’ll get shot at.

He’s my unofficial horse photographer, my own personal comedian, and my best friend. In short, he’s the funniest, sweetest, best person I know and even that is an understatement.

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He’s also an accomplished horse whisperer, but Addy doesn’t seem very impressed with what he has to say.

What’s your funniest first date disaster or favorite meet-cute? Share your story in the comments!