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
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Viva Carlos Blog Hop: My Ideal Day

I’m loving this blog hop, because I’ll take any excuse to daydream about my ideal scenarios. The hardest part for me is narrowing it down to just one day, since there are so many iterations that sound so ideal.

First off, I’d wake up around 7 without any kinks in my neck or back. For me that’s just the right time to feel like I’m not waking up in the wee hours, but not lazing the morning away. And the neck kinks are self explanatory.

I’d then have a nice light breakfast of fruit and yogurt with my husband. Just a little something to wake up. Throw some English breakfast tea in there because in Dreamland I can have caffeine without staying awake for 3 days. I wouldn’t have to worry about preparing any of it or doing any of the dishes.

From there I’d head to the barn, with my magically not-allergic-to-horses hubs coming with to enjoy the fresh air. He would obviously bring a fancy camera with him.

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Like this only imagine that he’s not holding back sneezes

My first ride of the day would be on the schoolmaster I bought with my imaginary riches, with a brief lesson jumping the big jumps and learning more about how to ride the big tracks. After cooling and grooming my delightful packer, it would be Francis time. Plenty of time to groom and play to get ready, then a private lesson of learning to work together. I don’t even care what we do in the lesson. Then a nice cool out walk around the neighborhood with my ammy friends to enjoy the sunshine, more grooming time, and a deep clean of my tack while chatting and hanging out.

After that I’d probably want to head to a winery with friends to relax and enjoy trying some new wines. We’d be able to sit outside and pet everyone’s dogs and listen to music. It would be sunny and 70s – warm enough to be comfortable outside, but not too hot or humid.

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This one 10 minutes from the barn would do nicely (they have a mini donk there too so it’s literally a paradise)

I’m thinking this would take us to about mid afternoon, at which point I’d want to head home to my house with a quiet yard, garden, and plenty of ducks. I’d go for a leisurely swim in our pool, and we’d have the neighbors over for a barbecue, share a bottle of wine, listen to some music, not get eaten by bugs.

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I imagine it looks a lot like this. Source

The house would magically clean itself, and we could go to bed at a reasonable hour to the sound of crickets.

Basically all I ever want to do is ride ponies and drink wine with friends.

Alternative version: pretty much any day I get to spend at a horse show. Lucky me that I get to live my ideal day so often ❤

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.

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Blog hop time, this time from Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony! The rules: there must be a picture for all of these categories. Join in!

Favorite Show Picture

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Favorite horse meme or funny picture

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It’s all about balance, ok???

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Clearly a sucker for a blog hop, and Amanda so kindly provided one! Let’s dive right in.

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

Team sports are super not my thing. Never have been. I went to like one soccer practice as a kid and hated it and never went back. I really don’t like having my success hang on other people. And I also don’t like things that require catching or throwing. Reeeally not my forte. That left things like swimming, ballet, and horseback riding- all of which I did extensively as a kid. For whatever unknown reason, the horse stuff got into my blood and I never recovered!

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?

Casual lessons until I was around 11, when I half-leased a 20yo Morgan to do some local short stirrup shows with (he was the best!). Got my own horse Star when I was 13, and did all the 2’6″ mini medals and pre-children’s hunter divisions I could. As I started wrapping up high school and got more focused on college prep and AP courses, we sold him to teach someone else the ropes (side note, he’s now happily retired down in Florida getting as much love as he could ever want).

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

Ooh tough one. There was this GORGEOUS 18.1h hunter I tried as a kid once that was just amazing. But ultimately he did end up having soundness issues, and I’m no longer into the whole hunter thing. So it’s a good thing we passed on him.

What disciplines have you participated in?

Hunter, equitation, jumper all the way! I took a few lessons at an eventing barn and went to summer camp with an eventing focus as a kid, but I’ve been pretty firmly ensconced in the HJ world most of my life. Played polo 3-4 times and really enjoyed it but was TERRIBLE at ever hitting the ball.

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Sometimes I pretend to be eventer-y

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

Pretty happy in jumperland! I’d like to take some formal dressage lessons with the Frankfurter sometime, and I’ve already mentioned I think it would be fun to do a little HT with him. I’ve been weirdly adjacent to the eventing world for a while so it would be fun to participate.

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

Nope! Both horses I’ve owned were bought through a pretty traditional route where my trainer found me horses to try and I picked based on that.

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

Oh man I LOVED me some quarter horses. My dream horse was a chestnut quarter horse that I would keep in the field behind my house and ride to school.

If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

Probably the Czech Republic right now. They have some incredible young stock that they’re breeding and bringing in from around Europe, so the access to super nice horseflesh is there. I also fell in love with Prague when I went a million years ago and would love to go back.

Do you have any horse-related regrets?

Nothing major. I might do some small things differently, but overall I’m happy with the path that I’ve taken.

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While I don’t have regrets, Francis clearly has a few that led him to the life of ammy packer

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

There’s plenty I’d love to clinic with regularly as check-ins, but I wouldn’t want to switch full time to a different trainer. Joe Fargis is a big one I’d love to work with, and he’s in my area so hopefully at some point I may actually be able to trailer in for a lesson. I’d love to have a session with Beezie where she’s on the horse and just narrates everything she’s feeling and doing.

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

I don’t know that I really have one! There are plenty of shows I’d love to do with Frankie (Vermont, WIHS, etc.) but none of them are do-or-die, more “wow that would be cool if we can.” I think it would be fun to do the charity challenge down at WEF, but that’s mostly because I love any excuse to dress up in costume and perform in front of an audience.

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STICK ME IN A TUTU AND JACK THE JUMPS UP

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

To be completely honest, probably not. While I love love love just spending time around the horses and find a great deal of peace in it, I get so much joy from being in the saddle. I think it would be hard for me to be around horses knowing that it wasn’t an option to ride. I would definitely retain ownership of Frankie because he’s stuck with me forever, but I’d probably lease him out so he could stay in work.

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

If we’re going full fantasy, I’d love to make it to the Regional GP level, which is 1.40m. Go to all the big shows up and down the east coast, winter in Wellington, and have a shot at some real prize money. I could even cross over into the High AOs if I wanted.

More realistically but still a not-quite-within-reach dream, I’d like to be competitive in the Low AOs. Consistently fast and clean at 1.25m.

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

Francis, hands down. He’s always always always a very good boy, but he definitely challenges me as a rider. He works only as hard as I do, and insists that I ask correctly. The combination of his patience as I get things wrong and his willingness to offer amazing work when I get it right is one of the greatest gifts in my life. Aaaand here come the emotions.

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He has also taught me the extreme importance of constant snugs

If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

More money. This is really my only limiting factor- I have the flexibility in my schedule to put in the time, I have the desire, I have access to a fantastic health care team to support the work, and I have access to top notch training. More money would mean more training and more shows, which is what I’d want to do.

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

Right now the two big ones I can think of are Vermont and WIHS. I was just at WIHS over the weekend and it’s such a uniquely interesting venue, and I’ve heard so many amazing things about Vermont over the years. Trainer said that Vermont may be our big summer show this coming year, so I may be able to knock that one off the list sooner rather than later! Old Salem Farm may be another one- those pics are absolutely stunning.

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

I’m lucky enough that I’ve gotten to spectate world class riders several times, either down in Ocala, here at Upperville, or at WIHS! These tend to be less crowded venues than something like WEG or the Olympics, but still world class athletes. Best of both worlds in my book. I hate crowds.

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McLain was literally in the next ring over at Upperville

Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

I did quit horses, for 7 years. Every once in a while I think about all the things I could be doing if I didn’t have the horse- vacations, nicer clothes, things like that- but none of those things are any fun when you’re miserable. And I get pretty miserable when I don’t get to ride.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

The lack of information flow. New research about horse welfare takes a long time to trickle out to everyone, shady characters are able to keep shady deeds under wraps, rules aren’t always clear, there’s a million different ways that poor information flow hurts the sport and hurts the horses.

Oh yeah, and make it all cheaper.

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Does buying a horse count?? Because that was super dumb and worked out fanastically hahaha.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

That I’m going to have to compromise my horse-related goals for other things as I get married and start a family. Right now I’m able to throw myself pretty much 100% into advancing, and while I know and am ok with that changing, not knowing how it will change does cause some anxiety. Luckily I’ve been able to talk about that with WBF (World’s Best Fiance) and he understands, so there’s a big comfort in knowing that we’re on the same team and we’ll figure it out as we go.

What horse-related book impacted you the most?

Misty of Chincoteague! I read and re-read that until the pages fell out.

What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

I probably value forgiveness the most. I mess up regularly, and it’s tough when the horse holds a grudge. I think a horse that can handle a mistake and keep trucking is a very special creature. I really dislike a horse that doesn’t want to do the job. Slow I can deal with. Needing help and support I can deal with. But I want my mount to show up to work and at least meet me halfway.

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Please don’t hate me when I climb up your neck and shove you at the jump. Please keep going.

What do you love most about your discipline?

The strategy and nuance of it. A really good jumper course tests you in a million subtle ways- from the jump materials (is a light lower panel pulling your horse’s attention down?), to the grading of the ring (even a slight downhill builds momentum), to the striding (the tricky ones will put a tight line to a flowing line or vice versa just to test you), to your bravery (your horse has never seen these jumps and has to trust), to your conditioning (ever seen a chunky upper level jumper?), to your versatility (you need really solid flatwork to be able to manipulate the stride and track properly), to your scrappiness (when shit hits the fan, you’d better be able to throw out the pretty and kick on), to a thousand other things I’m not thinking of right now. It’s a test of skills both physical and mental. Also I like big colorful sticks go fast fast nice fun good.

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

In the next few weeks, getting our fitness back is the number one priority and that’s going to be a sore couple weeks for both of us. Once we’re both legged back up, I need to work on understanding my adjustability better. I know we have it in spades, but I’m working hard to be more precise on exactly where I’m asking Frankie to be. Having that type of precision and control of his stride lets us power off the ground more consistently, which lets us put the jumps up higher safely. Pretty much everything I’d ultimately like to accomplish with him ties back to that understanding of my horse’s ability to adjust and speed to react to those adjustments.

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It’s time to get back to beefcake status, not dad-bod-with-a-beer-gut status

Blog Hop: A Redo

Genny over at A Gift Horse posted a really interesting question the other day- if you could get a redo with horses, what would you change?

Hard one, right??

In my mind, I break out my horse experience into two completely separate blocks: pre-college, and post-college (roughly, though I was out of the saddle for closer to 7 years in total). There is a complete lack of continuity to those parts of my riding experience, so I’m going to think about them separately as well.

Let’s start with pre-college.

I have one big regret here, which was my absolute sky-high anxiety around riding. I had everything in the world going for me- a young healthy body, naturally good equitation, access to incredible trainers, my own super fancy horse, regular rides on other horses being offered, PARENTS THAT PAID FOR EVERYTHING, and more. Everything. I had everything. With all that, I should’ve progressed so much more quickly and accomplished so much more. I should’ve had a true junior career.

But I didn’t. Because I was scared. For no reason at all.

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Certain things don’t change- I’ve always loved giving ear rubs to handsome beefy bay geldings (also peep the early-2000s era jeans/half chaps/GPA combo)

So if I could have a redo, I’d want to overcome that. Realistically I’m not sure how- I was an absolute basket case who couldn’t get out of my own head, and I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently. It’s not really a regret in the sense of “oh I wish I could do XYZ instead of ABC,” but more like “wow I wish I wasn’t like that as a person for all those years.”

I’m also tempted to say that I regret taking 7 years off. Imagine how far along I’d be if I had an additional 7 years under my belt?!

But I really needed those 7 years to focus on my education, grow up a bit and get out of my own head, and build a life that can support riding. So I don’t actually want a redo on that. I’m very certain that it was the right thing at the time and I would probably make the same decision over again, no matter how much it stank to be away from ponies.

Which brings us to the Current Era, which includes lessons to half lease on DragonMare to FrancisTown.

And I don’t think I’d redo a single thing. Maybe be a little more frugal over certain things so I could stress less about money during show season. Maybe get Frankie his SI injection a little earlier last year so he wouldn’t get sore. But really these were learning opportunities and I took something away from each.

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I’d buy Francis again a million times over, I’d choose my trainer out of the many in my area every time, I’d use a similar progression to get Frankie and I up to speed. Maybe some people could have progressed more quickly, but what we’ve done has built an incredibly solid base and a happy healthy safe horse. We’ve taken a few calculated risks to push our boundaries, but we’ve built a partnership that can weather those risks.

It certainly hasn’t been a perfect process and I’ve certainly made mistakes. Ultimately, I think I’d go back and make those same mistakes if it brought me to where I am now.

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PC- Liz

Behind the Stall Door with: To Be Frank

If you haven’t yet, y’all need to go see Tracy’s ADORABLE kickoff to this super fun hop. Of course I can’t resist, so here’s my own version featuring the Beast.

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Who is this handsome beast when he’s at home? PC- Liz Stout Photography

When we showed up to ask ammy Olivia Carr about the famous To Be Frank (aka “Frankie”), she was only too happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that we had a remarkably difficult time fitting a word in edgewise. A partnership since early 2016, Carr clearly adores her current partner, and he stoically tolerates her constant face hugs right back.

You all know this 2006 Oldenburg x TB gelding as a star in the adult jumper ring, but we got the inside scoop on just what makes this big bay behemoth such a character around the barn. Let’s go behind the stall door to find out more!

Francisco was a late bloomer

“As best I can tell, someone spotted him eating from a round bale in a field of cows when he was about 6. He bounced around a bit getting some basic brokeness, but wasn’t in any sort of program until shortly before we found him,” recounted Olivia. That late start didn’t hold him back- he spent time in the foxhunting field as well as trying some lower-level eventing before finding his niche in the jumper ring.

Not a dog guy…but he won’t tell you that

“Frankfurter tries to drag me over to every dog he sees,” laughed Olivia, “and then he remembers he doesn’t actually like them and makes cranky faces. I’m waiting for the day that he remembers he’s not into dogs, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Cats? Totally different story. As we were speaking, Frankenbean was snuffling happily into the face of a purring barn cat.

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Enjoying his time on the farm with owner Olivia and soon-to-be-step-father Nicholas. PC- K. Borden

One of the laziest jumpers in Zone 3

When we asked about Franklin’s blinding speed on course, Olivia quickly set the record straight. “Oh no, he is definitely not a spicy horse. Not at all. No way.”  Despite ribbons in speed classes and jump-offs, and once famously coming in 20 full seconds under the time allowed, this apparently does not come naturally to the leggy bay.

“Whenever people hop on him, they’re always really surprised at how much leg he takes to get moving,” confessed Olivia. “Any sort of urgency or pace comes from me, and he just knows the job well enough now to go along with it.”

No scope no hope

While originally purchased to be a 1.10m horse, the sky is the limit for Francis. He’s taken his ammy owner up to 1.15m thus far, but has been successful in the 1.20m show ring with a professional in the irons. “We were hoping to try the Low AO division in 2018, but planning a wedding put those plans on hold,” explained Olivia. “Luckily he’s sound and healthy, so there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t give it a go in 2019. We’ve schooled higher than that at home so I don’t anticipate it being a problem- he hasn’t had to work hard at any height we’ve asked of him yet!”

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He’s certainly not having trouble at the 1.15m height, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for this talented creature! PC- Hoof Print Images

Leave the ears alone

Despite his love of ear rubs and ear scratches, there is one thing The Big Guy does not like- getting his ears clipped. He is, to quote Olivia, “a real asshole about it.”

Taller than he looks

We were surprised by how big Franz is up close, but we’re not alone. “I think because I’m 5’10” it makes Franco look smaller than he actually is, just proportionally,” mused Olivia, “because every time someone meets him, they comment on how much taller he is than they expected.” Take it from us- he’s every inch of 17.1 with a presence to match.

A snugglebug at heart

When we asked Olivia to name her favorite thing about Frankie, she didn’t hesitate. “The constant snugs. He’s always always coming in to rest his head on my shoulder, or beg for ear rubs, or give kisses. He’s incredibly affectionate and playful, I can’t get enough.”

Sure enough, we got the same treatment as soon as we were in range!

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A wonderful partnership between a crazy girl and her lovely horse. PC- Tracy

 

Blog Hop: The Horse You Bought

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a blog hop, so I just had to jump in on this one from Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses after seeing L’s post.

We all know that Frankie has grown and progressed a TON from when I bought him. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and talk about it some more.

Bought: end of March, 2016

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Doin’ some jomps in our trial ride
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His Coggins pic, looking mighty cute

Here’s what his ad said when I bought him:

“He is Eventing at the Novice level and has the ability for much more. This kind natured horse is quiet and easy going, with good movement and a super jump. He goes XC quietly in a snaffle and will jump whatever you point him at. He is also a good Foxhunter. A competitive horse suitable for an amateur.”

And you know what? That was entirely accurate. Honest, quiet, sweet, and athletic. A genuinely good egg. In short- exactly what I was looking for!

However, he was inexperienced in several ways. He was started quite late (as a 6yo) and had done relatively little until he was 8 or 9. By the time I bought him, he had roughly 12-18 months of consistent training. He was nicely broke and very willing, but didn’t really know how to use his body to best effect (especially over fences). While I think his late start is certainly good for his long-term soundness, I think it took him as long as it did to figure out his jumping form because he came to it so late. Luckily he was big enough and naturally powerful enough to step into the 1m jumper ring pretty quickly.

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HOW DO LEGS GO IN AIR HUH?

Which he was also brand new to. His first show with us was a week-long A rated show where he was stalled the whole time, at a height that was new to both of us. Bit of a trial by fire. For the first full year or so, he would land off of every jump and stall a bit- he didn’t ever think to continue on to another fence unless explicitly told to. I had to override to everything since he didn’t have the know-how to maintain a powerful collected stride. It made combos tricky since those were also brand new to him.

In a nutshell- he was a forgiving, fun, inexperienced horse who had lots of ability and lots to learn to be able to use it.

Fast forward to 2018.

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The most handsome angel
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Show pro, anywhere we go (sick flow)
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Happy boy totally knows the drill now when we walk in the ring

To say he’s a different horse than I bought two years ago couldn’t be more true. He’s (clearly) figured out his body over the jumps, and we haven’t found the upper limits of his scope yet. He says yes to all of it with that same happy face. We went from struggle-bussing over 1m, to easily doing the 1.15m with me and 1.20m with a pro in the irons. He’s learned how to stay powerful and collected so we have lots of options on course, he lands looking for the next jump, and he knows that the start bell means it’s time for zoomies. He’s an absolute professional in the jumper ring. He’s extremely well-broke on the flat with lots of buttons, and we can throw him in any ring and know that he’ll go around. He’s that fancy horse I could never afford, and I’m so proud and grateful that we put in the work and time to bring out that hidden potential.

He’s also a little less forgiving now that the jumps are bigger. He expects me to carry my weight and give him a good ride, or at least not an actively awful one. Now that we know how to rate our stride, he gets (justifiably) mad when I try to gun him at a jump. Sorry bro, old habits die hard. He does also prefer an active ride still- making the wrong decision is still much better in his book than making no decision. Of course, we all prefer the right decision. Working on it.

What’s the same? The rest. The sweetness, the kindness in his eye, his quiet confidence. That’s what drew me to him within the first 5 minutes of seeing him, and that’s what draws me to him now.

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PC- Tracy

He’s still the horse that thrives on attention, loves to come in for smooches, struts when he knows he did good, and that I can trust around children. That went XC schooling on a loopy rein, giving a lead to all the newbies. That happily stands for an hour of groomies when his mom is too tired to ride. That can have a week off, and then walk out of his stall foot-perfect.

When I bought him, my tentative plan was to use him as a step-up horse- spend a couple years moving up until we reached as far as he could go, then sell him and use those funds to bring in a new mount.

Um, yeah. No.

I’m open to leasing him out down the road, but homeboy is not for sale.

So that’s another big difference: the horse I bought was not intended to be a forever horse.

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When I’m so nervous I could puke, and he just quietly comes in for snugs as I’m tacking up…yeah buddy. You can stay as long as you like.

He’s enjoying his vacation season (he’s pretty sure that Mom getting married is the BEST THING EVAR OMG LIFE IS SO EASY), but I’m beyond excited to get back in the saddle and explore new adventures with him. He may be different from the horse I bought, but in all the right ways. I would buy him again a thousand times over.

What This Blog Means to Me

Both Emma and Jessica have posted recently about what blogging means to them (along with a bunch of people I’m sorry for not linking I promise I read them!!!). I really enjoyed both posts (and the new blogs I found because of them!), but had no plans to chime in.

But I’m a certified content stealer, and recently spent some time going through the archives as we approach 2 years with Frankie. And I had a lot of emotions about it. A LOT. Y’all know I get sappy REAL easy.

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Baby Olivia back when we kicked this shindig off in January 2015

 

Many of you have been here since the beginning of this blog 3 years ago. I had just gotten into the saddle after a multi-year hiatus from all things horses, was half-leasing the DragonMare, and was getting ready for my first show in 10 years.

Getting to share that journey back into the show ring was incredible. All of a sudden I had this community where I could dissect every nitty-gritty stride of a lesson, talk endlessly about grooming my horse, acknowledge my nerves and shortcomings in competition- and not once did anyone say, “enough is enough, can you talk about anything besides horses??” There was this whole world of people to cheer our successes, commiserate and comfort our setbacks, and who I could talk with about ponies nonstop.

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You guys have been here for it all!

In a huge way, discovering the blogging community developed my growing commitment to riding so much more quickly than it otherwise would have. You all were here to say, “we totally understand that this makes your soul happy. Go for it.” (I’m blaming y’all enablers for making me go broke, btw).

This blog has evolved a lot over the years- when I started, it was mainly lesson/show reviews. It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ve slowly moved away from that- when is the last time we saw a dedicated lesson review?? We still do show recaps, but the rest of my posts are now more big-picture about mine and Frankie’s path, and thoughts about the industry that I spend more and more of my time in.

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We’ve talked a ton about developing Frankie into the rockstar powerhouse he is today

This blog has chronicled every step of my journey, from a half-leaser in the 2’6″ local hunters, to chasing AO jumper dreams at the big shows with my very own unicorn. If you had told me when I started this blog that we would be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I still can’t really believe how fortunate I am to be able to do this.

So what does blogging mean to me? A whole heck of a lot. It’s been a diary to track my progress in lessons, shows, and other training opportunities- and somewhere for me to review for encouragement when I feel like the progress isn’t happening as fast as I’d like. It’s been a forum to connect with knowledgeable, supportive, incredible horsewomen. It’s been the way that I’ve met some of my closest friends. It’s been a way to ask for advice. It’s been a place for me to organize my scattered thoughts.

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And share the hundreds of Francis nap pics I take

Y’all are awesome, and I’m grateful for you every day. Cheers to this wonderful, weird, crazy amazing blogging community!

Three Words

So I’m like a month late to this hop from 3Day Adventures with Horses, but it was too fun not to join in! I saw this when I was in Ohio and started thinking, and here’s what I’ve come up with for Francis.

Diligent– having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.

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Show him the jump, tell him what to do, and he will go do it. Period. PC- K. Borden

If you tell Frankie what the game is and explain the rules, he will go out there and play. If you raise the expectations, he will meet or exceed them. “Steady” implies slowness (and he actually has a motor now), and “responsive” implies reactivity to me, but I think diligent encapsulates his constant willingness to go out there and try. No matter what distractions may be going on and no matter what his job is in that moment- jumpers, cross country, hacking out, equitation, standing still on the crossties- he displays a clear and constant willingness to do the job correctly.

Confident– feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured.

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Things are peachy keen according to Francis. PC- A. Frye

He is pretty sure that he’s doing just fine. He doesn’t get flustered when I correct or reprimand him- he knows that he’s not a bad boy, so he just goes ahead and tries something else. He doesn’t glance at jumps, because he knows they won’t bite him. He doesn’t blink when the jumps go up, because he knows I wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t. He’s confident in himself and he’s confident in me- despite the times I mess him up.

Socialliving or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation.

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Always always wants snuggles and playtime. PC- Tracy

Frankie really thrives on companionship, whether that’s equine or human. He loves to play and trade scratches, LIVES for long groomings, and soaks up all attention he can get. He’s always a good boy, but he is noticeably happier and more relaxed when he’s had plenty of social interaction. This isn’t to say that he’s always super sweet to every horse- he can be a real asshole when he thinks someone is getting up in his grill- but he is curious and engaged and seeks out company. He’s a total bro.

So there’s my Francis in a nutshell! He’s a happy dude who takes pride in a job well done, and likes to kick back and relax with his buds.

….These may actually also be the word’s I’d use for Buddy Fianci. I guess I have a type? I love my boys ❤

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Tall, dark, and handsome. And happy. And fun. And athletic. And the similarities continue.