Horse of the Year

I didn’t buy a super fancy horse back in 2016. I bought a safe, athletic horse with the kindest eye I’ve ever seen, but I did not buy fancy.

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I love him dearly, but he does kinda have the conformation and movement of a cart horse.

I had very moderate expectations for what we would do together. I had my sights set on the 1.10m jumpers and hoped to compete in some bigger shows, but mostly wanted a safe partner to learn new skills on.

Obviously Frankie blew this out of the water – he’s earned me ribbons up to 1.15m and has even done 1.20m with my trainer, and has held his own at some of the biggest shows in the country. Fancy or not, this horse can jump and walks into the ring with a swagger in his step because he knows how good he is at his job.

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He walks out with a strut and a smile too

And then this past year was a reset of sorts. I got married and went back to school, and our super intense training was put down a notch into a more moderate schedule. Frankie gained a bit of a belly and got a bit fuzzy – like I keep saying, he’s not the fanciest horse. With the scale back in our training came a scale back in my expectations for him.

Within the last three weeks alone, my kind un-fancy horse has won division champion in the jumpers, participated beautifully in a clinic with an Olympic rider, toted me around the Adult Amateur hunters, and carried me to yet another division tricolor in the jumper ring. Expectations be damned, Frankie cheerfully showed up for all of it.

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Calmly interested, eager to hop on the trailer and explore new places, always turning around for ear rubs when he thinks he deserves them (which is constantly), and always happy to receive love from his people (which is everyone). His contentment in his job makes it all a joy.

Sometime soon I’ll get around to recapping our clinic experience, and sometime soon I’ll share our recent show where he moved flawlessly from the hunter ring to the jumper ring, but for now I’m just going to shamelessly dote on my imperfect, un-fancy, perfectly fancy horse.

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Yeah buddy, you can have all the ear rubs in the entire world.

GushFest 2018

You guys. It’s time.

It’s been a solid 6 months. And you know what that means.

It’s time for Francis GushFest 2018 (Q2).

Because UGHHHH GUYSSSSSS HE’S THE BESTTTTTTTTT

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Like he’s a total turdblossom at feeding time, and sometimes it’s hard to muck his stall because #NapKing doesn’t want to stand up, and he likes to play Bitey-Face out in the field, and sometimes he twists his body over the jumps so he doesn’t have to work as hard. So clearly he isn’t perfect.

But he’s so dang cool, day after day after day.

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Blerp PC- Liz

He’s the most fun ever to play with on the ground. He’s so inquisitive and happy and content and radiates that sense of calm curiosity. He’s pretty sure everyone loves him and he loves to make new friends- who coincidentally always love him. He makes funny faces for the camera and gives me the stretchy moose lips when we scratch in juuuuust the right spot. He offers to groom me back because that’s the polite thing to do.

He thinks baseball hats are very fun toys, and is always always always game for some face scratches and snuggles (Towel Time behind the ears especially is the Bestest Ever). But I can also trust him to stand calmly on the crossties for as long as I need to get ready and situated. He’s happy to chill. He will bend over backwards if it means he gets ear rubs- even when I’m on him, he’ll turn his head back for ear rubs when he knows he did a good job.

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Mahm. Scritches. Thnks. PC- Liz

And then under saddle. Man oh man.

He’s the best kind of teacher- the kind who doesn’t get upset when I make mistakes, but also doesn’t give me anything for free either. I can ask for something the wrong way a million times and he’ll just keep trucking until I ask correctly, and then he rewards me with prompt obedience. He works exactly as hard as I do. It’s a true partnership of give and take and give some more.

There’s so much trust. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around us, what the jumps look like, where we are- I have 100% faith that he’s going to show up to work. And he has trust that I’ll do right by him. I may not set him up perfectly to every jump and I may make mistakes with my aids, but he knows I’ll do my best to stay out of his way and that we get lots of pats and scratches and down time after we work. And so he goes to work happily every single time.

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So proud of himself for a job well done.

And as we’ve both learned and gained some measure of subtlety, dangit we have so much fun. He knows the game and needs less help from me on a basic level, but looks for more input on a tactical level. We can plan for the inside turn (blasting up to oxers off a short turn is his new power move) and moving my shoulders forward and back is like a magic lever to his stride length. He’s super fast without feeling like we’re racing at any point, so we’re competitive without the pace being intimidating.

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FrancisGoZoomies(TM)

He’s my absolute favorite horse that I’ve ever ridden by such a long shot. No matter how my day was, no matter how nervous I may be, as soon as my feet are in the stirrups I am happy.

His quiet partnership has given me the confidence to dream bigger, try new things, gain comfort in my leadership skills, led me to new friendships, and is such a bright light in my life. I don’t have adequate words for how special he really is and how much he means to me.

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My best buddy. PC- Liz

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a lot of sweat and mud and work and setbacks and triumphs and the whole range therein. He just makes it all a joy.

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PC- Tracy