Settling In

We’ve now been at the new barn for a little over a month, and it’s going great!

I opted to have the saddle fitter come out and check on Frankie (we adjusted his half pad situation and he seems to be feeling good) and got his hocks injected (he told me he was due right when I marked on the calendar to check, so at least we’re predictable). He’s feeling super strong and comfortable and bouncy after those adjustments, so we’re starting off on a good foot.

Bein’ real cute while my little buddy supervises our lesson. She happily sat there for the full hour, periodically babbling out instructions.

Much to his chagrin, we did have to cut his grain. His new field has a lot more lush grass than he’s used to, and the big man had an expanding waistline we had to get under control. We also picked up a half-leaser who rides him a couple times a week, so between the two of us and the training ride and fitness session, he’s in much more consistent work! He always feels his best in relatively heavy work, and sure enough he’s just feeling better and better. We’re being careful as he ramps up his fitness level, but so far he’s just taking a few extra naps.

This is the field of amateur-friendly teenage packer geldings, and it’s great. No drama. Frankie eats all day (as you can see from the wild dad-bod he’s rockin’ here). We found bot fly eggs in his mane, so clearly he’s comfortably napping out there. Shade trees if it gets warm. A nice shedrow if it gets wet. Great stuff.

I’ve gotten back in the lesson rotation, and am super enjoying the big ring. Frankie rides very differently in bigger spaces – I think having the visual room to stretch out makes him feel like he can physically stretch out – and I’m enjoying that feel too.

I’ve also been hacking out a little bit, trying to put my brave pants on. I’m able to access all the turnout fields since the horses are currently on overnight turnout and Frankie has loved getting to explore! I still need to figure out where the official hacking trail is, but I’m having plenty of fun playing cowgirl in the meantime.

Our half-leaser is an absolutely delightful teen who watches Lina for me on the weekends so I can ride. Lina adores her. Frankie adores her. She adores Lina. She adores Frankie. I adore them all. Her parents are nice normal non-crazy people. It’s an A+ situation all around.

I’ve been really thrilled with the staff at the new place. The barn manager is wonderfully communicative and tells me regularly that she loves my horse, so clearly she has great taste and we love her. The folks taking care of the property are so fast at responding to requests and are great around the ponies. The staff at the fitness center gives report cards every Friday so I know how it went. They’re coordinating with my trainer, my vet, and my farrier so I feel super taken care of.

If you didn’t see the video of this I posted on Instagram, I am begging you to reach out and have me send it to you. It is peak comedy. Francis did NOT want to go to the gym. I think we can all relate.

With an increasingly busy job and an increasingly busy almost-toddler in the mix, I am incredibly grateful for this level of care. It means that I’m able to come out my 3x a week knowing my horse is healthy, happy, fit, ready to work, and anything I need to schedule will be done within a week.

We have our sights set on doing the Low Adults at Piedmont at the end of the month, which is my absolute favorite show of the year. It’s the same gorgeous showgrounds as Upperville/Loudoun Benefit, but more pleasant cooler weather and much quieter since it’s a jumper-only show. My husband is working that weekend so Lina will be my little tag-along, but she’s turning into a total barn kid! I don’t really have anything else on the show calendar this year, so I’m excited to get out there one more time before the weather cools off.

She now happily refers to every horse as Bubba (including pictures of horses, her beloved rocking horse, and zebras). She wears her helmet constantly around the house, especially when she practices on her rocking horse. She reaches for Frankie to hop on with me. I won’t force her into riding if she doesn’t enjoy it, but so far I’m loving that she’s having so much fun with it! And loving that my most perfect Francisco is so gentle and careful with her ❤

Tryon 2022: The Beast Post

So I lied before: I’m going to post the enormous three-book series I originally wrote out. If you make it through the whole thing, I feel like I should send you some kind of reward.

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We survived the heat that is July in North Carolina!

The short version: it was hot. But it was fun.

The longer version: where do I start! I suppose at the outset of the trip.

We opted to drive down in two cars so we could have some flexibility while I was showing and Nicholas had the child, and it also meant I could wildly overpack all her toys. Note to self: super unnecessary and annoying. It was about a 7 hour trip without breaks, but we took a couple to let Lina stretch her little legs and get out of the carseat. Other than a little whining 6 hours in (to be fair, I also was in a whining mood by that point), she was a total trooper for the trip!! I wish I had parenting tips to share, but I really think I just have a super easy going child. We got settled into our AirBnb without a fuss.

Side note: the house we rented was at the top of a mountain. I’m not exaggerating. The road up to it was TERRIFYING. It took me 4 days to stop clutching the arm rest every time we went up or down the steep switchbacks, and I never truly got used to it.

Our house was actually HIGHER than this overlook. Gorgeous, but single-lane roads with no guard rails over a ravine gave me several heart palpitations

I opted to take Tuesday as a family day, so Francisco got a training ride on the derby field where he had to practice going in straight lines which is SUPER HARD. Meanwhile, the three of us did some hiking, dipped our toes in the water, took a nice nap, and ate the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even like BBQ and this stuff was life-changing.

Wednesday was lesson day! We were able to go in the morning before the heat got too bad, and had a nice little lesson in the covered arena. Nothing crazy, just some canter pole exercises for lengthening and collecting, and popping over a jump a few times to make sure we remember how. We do.

I felt ready for our 0.9m class the next day; the only wrinkle in my plan was that my trainer asked me to be fully dressed in show clothes rather than the schooling outfit I was planning on wearing. I’m much more limited in my show outfit options than I used to be, so it was time for a detour to the tack store to boost my collection!

I started out well-behaved, I promised. Grabbed a comfy pair of tan RJ breeches, a show shirt, and the midnight blue RJ mesh coat. All was right with the world. And then I opened my fat mouth. It wasn’t that bad to start: “do you have anything budget-friendly so I can have another coat on hand?” The salesperson happily showed me several reasonably-priced options. And then because I’m dumb, I said, “eh, these are all pretty boring. Got anything in fun colors?”

The salesperson’s face lit up like the fourth of July, she made a beeline to the other side of the store, and brought out the most gorgeous plum-burgundy show coat that I’ve ever seen in my life. The dang thing had sparkle trim. And then I saw the Equiline logo and said nope don’t let me try it on because I don’t want to pay for it and then next thing I knew I was staring at the mirror falling in love. And then somehow I ended up trying on a Samshield shirt with sparkles that matched perfectly.

Honestly my husband is used to this kind of stuff by now

I mean. How could I not. Right???

The next day was my warmup class in the 0.9m, which went well!

A clear round meant a pretty blue ribbon for Francis. I definitely let him stay underpowered and added the strides most places, but it was a useful gauge for me to know what horse I had under me. I felt prepared for the rest of the week. We had a quiet afternoon back at the house where Lina and I both took a much needed nap.

I opted to give Frankie the day off on Friday so that he’d get a break heading into a hot weekend with a bunch of classes, and just hacked him out on the derby field again so he could stretch his legs. He seemed happy and relaxed to work! After a quick lunch break where we introduced Lina to the joys of sushi, we stoppedbythetackstoresoIcouldgetthematchingwhitesformynewcoat then headed out to explore Hendersonville. Lina loved the little aquarium, we did some fun non-horsey shopping, we made friends at a wine bar, found some treasures at a consignment store (Nick is now hooked on antiquing), and had some really incredible German food. It was a great balance of horses and family time!

Saturday kicked off our division, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Thankfully, they ran both my classes open card, so I was able to go in pretty much back-to-back. I also managed to wedge in second in the order, so I was completely done for the day before 7:45a. Going that early meant there was decent glare in the ring which contributed to a rail, but I maintain it was worth it entirely. The rail in each class kept us out of the ribbons in a huge class, but I’m comforted by knowing that we had the fastest times in each class. If I can get out of Frankie’s way, he’ll win for me!

After a quiet afternoon, we headed back to the showgrounds for Saturday Night Lights. We didn’t stay that long, but I can tell you that the class was brutal – the first clear round didn’t come until 13 deep in the order. Rails were falling left and right, and even with an adjusted time allowed there were time faults. Lina got to ride the carousel, we watched the mechanical bronc fail to unseat all the teenagers, and we snuck into the VIP area where our friends had a table. I would’ve loved to stay longer, but tiny bodies and extreme heat don’t mix well, so we headed out to get her to bed in the AC.

Sunday was our last day! We had a speed class and then our classic round. Most importantly, it was the day I got to wear my new outfit. We all know the priorities here. Our speed class went early in the day, and it was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing catastrophic. Frankie was starting to slow down a bit in the heat at the end of the week, and who could blame him. I still had a blast and he still was an angel.

After a break that made me seriously contemplate scratching the classic so I could remove myself from the pits of Hades that was the showgrounds, we went in for our classic round. The first line was set on a pretty open step and I was definitely not helping Frankie accomplish that, and he very politely and reasonably declined to make the monstrous move I asked him to make to jump 2. He then politely and reasonably permitted me to try again, and gave me a lovely rest of the course. Bless his heart for not holding a grudge and giving me the chance to try again. It was very much a case of pilot error and Frankie being smart enough to make the decision to keep us both safe, and I can’t be mad about that!

We rounded out our week by stuffing our faces with pasta and taking a long nap. The car ride home on Monday was a mirror of the previous week – Lina and I both had some Emotions(TM) around hour 6, but we made it home in good shape and no worse for wear.

A few overarching thoughts:

On Lina: she is the coolest kid and we are so lucky. We took her to probably 10-15 different restaurants over the course of the week, and she was such a bro about it. Ate everything, sat happily, smiled and waved at everyone nearby. She handled the constant car rides, the heat, the change of scenery all with her usual toothy smiles. Obviously I’m biased because she’s my kid, but she’s just the coolest little buddy.

On Nicholas: he continues to be the best husband ever. I would not in a million years have been able to do this without him being SuperDad and holding down the fort with the small one. He hates the heat, he’s allergic to horses, he had to handle 5:30a wakeup times when Lina wouldn’t settle as I left, but he was unwaveringly supportive and wonderful. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my husband, but he’s just the coolest guy.

On Frankie: oh boy. Where do I start. I felt confident every single time I walked into that ring. I smiled real big every time I walked out of it. He is total perfection, my angel boy, the best horse I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. He took care of me and made the whole thing so stinkin fun. Obviously I’m biased because he’s my horse, but he’s just the coolest bubba.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for joining this self-indulgent monster of a post ❤

It’s ShowTime

I have two big things I wanted to share, so let’s start with the best one first!!

Our darling girl has officially made it to her first horse show. Evangeline went in for her first leadline class under the oaks at Upperville, and it was everything I was dreaming of from literally the day I found out I was pregnant.

Like. The cuteness. I cannot.

Y’all haven’t seen cute until you’ve seen a size 18M show coat. We did have to get a little creative: her bows simply attached to her helmet because she has such short hair, and her “paddock boots” are just toddler shoes with brown laces instead of the sparkly pink they came with, and her breeches are knee patch pants. But the show shirt and coat and helmet and garters are all genuine show clothes made in a tiny size!! And do you see that little itty bitty saddle?!

We were lucky enough to borrow the sweetest little pony mare who was beyond gentle and careful with Lina. My dad came down to be her other handler, and she was so happy to have her Colonel close by (in full Colonel dress, no less). Yes, all the grandkids call him Colonel. It’s hilarious. I also got to wear an absolutely enormous hat, so I’m very happy.

It was utter chaos. 10/10 would totally do again.
Also hilarious that they had full size numbers for the little kids. It was literally the size of her entire torso.

Overall, it was such a fun experience that I definitely hope to repeat next year. Lina has been carrying around her pretty rainbow ribbon ever since, she loved waving at her adoring fans lining the ring, she giggled when she pat her pony’s nose, it was simply heartwarming. I was hoping she’d have as much fun participating as I did preparing, and thankfully that was the case!

And now that Evangeline’s show debut has happened, we’re turning our attention towards my own re-debut! Francois and I will be competing at Loudoun Benefit this weekend, and I am vibrating with anticipation.

The OG readers may remember that Loudoun was our very first show together when I got him back in 2016. We’re both older and wiser (questionable) now, and it’ll be super fun for this to be our re-entry to the show world.

In the spirit of not being an entire idiot, we decided to do the 0.90m class on Friday to see where we’re at. Depending on how that feels, we’ll either stick in the 0.90m classes for the weekend or head into the 1m Low Adults for Saturday/Sunday. The only reason I super want to do the Lows is because both Sat/Sun are speed classes (and you all know I love a good speed class), but really I’ll be happy either way. We’ve got nothing to prove, nothing to qualify for, we’re just here for a good time.

We’ve been schooling some decent height in our last couple lessons and it has all felt beyond easy for Frankie, so I know he’ll be good to go for whatever height we end up doing. My eye isn’t as rusty as I thought and I’m feeling stronger every ride! Francisco literally feels the best he’s ever felt right now in terms of muscling and fitness and rideability – I was joking that we should throw him in the 1.10m classes at Tryon if he’s gonna make this all look so easy.

Bad photo. Good horse.

I’m joking. Probably.

But in all seriousness, I feel really really prepared and excited going into this show. A few friends expressed some gentle concern when I mentioned my plan to get back in the show ring so soon after getting back in the saddle, and I will fully admit that it was an aggressive timeline, but now that we’re here it feels extremely comfortable.

My trunk is packed, Francois heads over to the show tomorrow, and I can’t wait to share updates!

South Not North

In the usual way of things, we have a change of plans for our summer show schedule!

Instead of heading north to Michigan to enjoy GLEF for two weeks, we’re instead heading down to Tryon for a week. My trainer called recently to ask if I was dead-set on Michigan, and I believe my words were: “I literally don’t care where we end up as long as I get to show.”

I’m a high maintenance client in most ways, but I am supremely not picky about where I get to hop over colorful sticks for exorbitant amounts of money.

It might not look like a smile, but I remember being pretty dang happy

While GLEF is staying on my bucket list, I’m super majorly excited to head down to Tryon! You may remember that we almost made the trip down a couple years ago (holy crap it was already five years ago), so I’m super super excited to finally get there. I’m especially excited that my husband was able to take some time off work for us to turn it into a little family vacation. The super-cute AirBnB is booked and we’re excited to make the trip! The house I picked has a fenced in yard and is pet friendly, but I’m not convinced we should be subjecting our polar bear to July in North Carolina. She’ll likely stay up north, either at Grandma and Grandpa’s air conditioned house, or at her own air-conditioned home with a house sitter.

Yes, she sleeps like this every day. Yes, she snores. Yes, my coworkers can hear her when we’re in meetings.

I’m feeling really good about being ready to go show. We’ve slowly started putting a few jumps up and it’s going well – I definitely have to grab mane and cling on when I ask for shorter turns and Frankie delivers, but he’s smart enough to stay under me. He’s on schedule to get his usual injections this week, we’ll likely sign up for a massage after Loudoun, and the combo of training rides and fitness center visits is fantastic for his overall feeling under saddle. In short: he feels absolutely lovely, and is just as fun as ever. I simply adore him.

Muscle Man!

Right now I’m riding him in his snaffle since I don’t quite trust my balance with the leverage of the elevator I like him best in. It’s not the end of the world if we stick with this, but I’m hoping to get strong and balanced enough to get back in the elevator for the show ring since he does get a bit know-it-all-ish when he hears the buzzer go off. To be fair, he does know quite a bit. We’ll play it by ear; he’s also a lot more broke and smart than the last time we showed in a snaffle, so I’m not overly concerned about it – we’ve shown at a lot higher height, with way fewer miles under our belt, and it was fine.

In a snaffle. Totally survived. It went fine.

We’re excited to be heading into our summer show season, and will keep you all updated!!

Grabbing Mane

With several lessons under our belt, I’m excited that things are (slowly) starting to come back together for us.

The good news is that the muscle memory is definitely there, and emerges more and more with every ride. The not so good news is that I often don’t have the strength or stamina to enact said muscle memory. But we’re tackling things methodically and it’s getting better every time I get in the saddle.

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to ride, and I got my wish ❤

Both trainers have been really great about balancing my lack of fitness while still knocking the rust off by focusing on tightening up my position and giving straightforward exercises. I’ve been able to tackle some basic bending lines, some fun serpentines, we’re slowly starting to put the jumps back up, and I’ve been grinning ear to ear the whole time. Thankfully the height is the easiest part of things, since Francisco has a very easy jump to stay with. I’m eager to get less potato-ish so we can start putting the pieces together with technical + height – my eye is still basically there (as much as it ever was, which is not great but at least it’s something) and I like riding on a more open step to a little height.

I mean I don’t look the best I ever have, but I also don’t look the worst. I’ll take that as a win.

One thing I’m particularly grateful for is how fit Frankie is. He came out of the winter having gained a little weight, which I see as a win as he enters his mid-late teens. I’d much rather have him pack on a few pounds than lose any in the cold weather. He feels powerful, forward, eager to do his job, and with his usual good nature he is being very patient and careful with me (literally during one of the serpentine exercises he changed direction to stay under me when I wobbled around a turn. The horse is a saint.). All of the work over the past 6 years has really changed him – it’s crazy how correct muscling has literally made his conformation look different (better).

Frequent naps are the cornerstone of his fitness program

His fitness is fantastic for me as I get back to it. It means he has his own motor so I can focus on a supportive still leg rather than constantly squeezing (the OGs from 2016-2017 know how much pony kicking we used to do), it means he’s very comfortable and powerful enough to jump from a variety of spots when I don’t adjust as quickly as I should, it means he’s happy to collect and add the stride when it’s clear I have no idea what I’m doing. He’s so well educated that he’s easily tattling on me when I ask for something versus when I do nothing. He really came out of his lease even better than he went into it.

As I mentioned previously, I’m currently a bit of a weekend warrior (plus one weekday), so obviously I’m not able to keep up this fitness level on my own. I also very very much want to keep up this fitness level, both for the help it gives me and for the obvious reason that Frankie is healthier for it. The core of this remain his 2x a week pro rides that he’s been getting for years. The trainer I ride with on Mondays now is actually the person who has been giving him these rides for roughly 2-2.5 years now, and it definitely helps our lessons that she knows him so well. She’s the one who installed a really nice trot jump on him and has very patiently focused on correct, adjustable, educated work. She has also said that he’s the only horse that would tempt her to try the jumpers and that he’s good as gold, so clearly she has great taste.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve also added weekly trips to the Equine Fitness Center for the Frankfurter to get his sweat on! I’m really eager to see how this helps with his fitness, his muscling, and overall way of going. It’s under the supervision of our usual vet who has been fantastic for us, and I’m hoping it’s a solid complement to our regimen of training, preventative maintenance, and conditioning. He’s been twice now, and got the following report card the first time:

I have never used a chain on him in 6 years of ownership WHY NOW FRANCOIS

Scary equipment he’s never seen? No problem, walk right on. A wash stall, the same as any wash stall he’s been in a HUNDRED times? NOPE NOPE NOPE. Chilling in a nice paddock with hay and water within sight of his buddies? NO WAY NO WAY. Apparently on his second visit they just had him go first so he always had a buddy within sight and he was fine. Why is every person and animal in my family so extroverted that it becomes a problem for other people.

Cute gym boi

It really is a full time gig trying to ensure that this horse becomes immortal. Worth it.

Overall, I’m beyond thrilled with how things are going. I love this big smelly beast with my whole heart, and getting to bop around with him makes me so so so happy. I’m excited to get off property and do some competing this summer!

Hairy beasts ❤

Ohmygosh OUCH

We are officially back at it!!!

And we’ve really gotten back into it with a bang: I was able to sneak a private lesson on Saturday morning, made a quick jaunt to the barn for a short hack on Sunday, and had my first group lesson in almost two years on Monday evening.

Oh. My. Gosh. Ow. My muscles. I’m making old man noises every time I sit down. Or stand up. Or walk. Or move in any way.

Worth it.

Saturday was a bit chaotic: I was heading to my in-laws directly from the barn, so I had the dog in the trunk, the baby in the carseat, my saddle and stroller in the backseat next to her, and all our overnight gear piled in the front. While we don’t need as much equipment as we did when she was younger, it is tough to travel light with a bebe. Nick was at work, so it was interesting getting everyone and everything wrangled solo. But with much goodwill and patience from Maggie and Lina we got to the barn pretty much on time! I was able to pop Maggie in Frankie’s stall while I rode (which she LOATHED), and my trainer’s daughter kept an eye on Lina and entertained her (which she LOVED).

I have no pics from that lesson due to the aforementioned chaos, so here’s a picture of the little entropy agent terrorizing her grandmother

We kept things fairly simple: some light flat work, a little sitting trot to test the muscles out, some lengthenings and shortenings to get Frankie feeling good. A couple crossrails, some little lines, then a short course to play over some jumps. Nothing over 2’6″, it was all such chump change for Francis. He felt simply incredible. I’ve been so grateful to hop on friends’ horses, but nothing compares to my perfect Frankfurter. He’s in fantastic shape, he looks like a million bucks, he was happy and forward and adjustable and ready to cover up all my mistake. I got stuck on the add step a little while I tried to figure out my eye, but overall I felt like things were starting to come back and every time got a little better. It was a perfect low-key confidence boost of a lesson to officially kick things back off.

Sunday was a treat – since it was Easter, I wasn’t planning on riding. But then Lina went down for her nap, my in-laws offered to keep her entertained if she woke up, and I was able to dash out for a quick ride. It was so fun! Very short and sweet – maybe 15 minutes, trying to work out some of the soreness from the day before – but the weather was perfect and Francisco was his usual happy self. This was also my first time going to the barn without Lina since she was born. As much as I love bringing her along, I gotta say that it was a luxury to have my whole focus on Frankie and take my time grooming him without worrying about her.

My favorite view through my favorite ears

And then my first group lesson on Monday! Nick took Lina and Maggie home while I split off to head to the barn, which was also a first for us. I thought I might make it home for bedtime, but we figured she’d be ok with her daddy even if I wasn’t there.

This was also my first lesson with one of the other trainers working out of our facility – I’ve only really worked with my barn owner/trainer and her former assistant trainer. I really liked her! She was sympathetic to my complete lack of muscle tone, but still gave solid technical feedback. I’ll be riding with her every other week and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It was also great to ride with some of the other ammies that I haven’t gotten to spend time with in a while. I love having my barn social time back ❤

Big hugs for the Big Man

And because she is a very excellent little girl, Lina went down easy and bedtime was not a problem. I’m super relieved to know that getting to the barn during the week is going to be manageable!

Riding three days in a row may have been the most painful thing I’ve done to myself in a long time, but I don’t regret it for a minute. I’ve been absolutely floating with happiness at getting this time with my boy. I felt like we settled right back into our little routines and interactions, he’s still my goofy lovable creature, he’s still my heart. I’ll be hobbling around happily, constantly glancing at the calendar to see when I get to ride next.

PS – I’m on a bit of a hunt for show clothes if anyone is looking to offload. My body is a completely different size and shape than it was pre-baby, and while I expect things will shift more as I get back in the saddle, I don’t want to pressure myself into getting back completely in my old clothes. If anyone has a show coat in a size similar to a Grand Prix 12 or 14, show shirts in a S or M, or tan mid-rise breeches in a 28 or 30, hit me up!

Our Upcoming Reunion

We’re just inches away from our official reunion, and it’s starting to hit me that I’ll get to have my Francisco back. I’m all sorts of emotions: a little nervous about figuring out the balance with riding and Lina and work, gratitude for the MANY people coordinating to help make this work, and primarily excitement to have time with my boy again. And that excitement just keeps building as the day comes closer and closer and it feels more real.

This really is such a team effort for me to be able to do this. My husband is taking Lina for bedtime on the days I go to the barn during the week, which is a huge huge thing. Lina has never taken a bottle and we’ve always done bedtime together, so his willingness to figure it out is a major undertaking. This will also be on the days that he has her all day while I’m working, so those will be her Daddy Days from sunup to sundown. I know you all have heard me say nice things about my dude plenty of times over the years, but I’ve got to add this: he’s a rockstar dad and an amazing co-parent. It’s amazing to see.

My all time faves

I’m also having to coordinate someone to watch Lina on the days I go to the barn with her on the weekends, and my barn family has been wonderful. My trainer’s daughter is keeping an eye on her this weekend so I can take a quick lesson, several of the junior riders have offered to keep an eye on her, and one even told me that when she gets her license next week she’ll come out whenever I need her. The amateurs and barn moms have all offered to keep her entertained. I don’t know how I got so lucky with this community, but I sure am grateful.

As always, my trainer has just been the best. As we’ve approached the official reunion day, I’ve been texting her about lots of details: making sure the vet and farrier know to bill me, transferring his Smartpaks back to my account, setting up lessons and shows and training rides and fitness center visits, planning his maintenance for the year, a million other things. She’s literally already taken care of 90% of it, and set it up so I can easily do the other 10%. When I mentioned I needed someone to keep an eye on Lina during my lesson, she offered her daughter’s help (which is WILD because I’ve known her since she was teeny tiny and now she’s so grown up!!). Every concern or barrier I’ve seen, she’s worked with me to figure it out. Eight years into my time with her, I still have the utmost respect and appreciation for everything she does.

An older pic, but one I absolutely love. Knowing that she’s a card-carrying member of the Francis Fan Club means I know he’s in the best of hands

And now that all these different logistics are under control, that excitement is just building and building. I can’t wait to get my snuffly snuggles when I rub his ears. I can’t wait to let him slurp from the hose this summer. I can’t wait to catch him snoring in his stall when we go show. I can’t wait to love on him and groom him and play with him. I can’t wait for our bridling routine, where he looks around and then comes in for a hug before shoving his face into the bridle. I can’t wait for our little routine of picking feet, where I tap him and say “foot please” and then “thank you” when he obliges. All those little moments and little patterns we’ve had over the years.

From that very first month of ownership back in 2016, we’ve always had our snuggles

I also can’t wait to get that part of myself back. I’ve happily thrown myself into this new chapter of life, but riding and spending time at the barn has been so hugely important to me for so long, and it’s a part of me I’m eager to recapture. I can’t wait to share this with my daughter and show her all the amazing things that come with spending time around horses. I can’t wait to set the example of finding something you love and finding a way to make it work. I can’t wait to see her love of animals and spending time outside grow. For so many reasons, I’m so excited for Lina to come with me and be a part of everything.

We’re gonna have to get this kid a pony before she tries to ride the dog

And of course: I can’t wait to bring you all along for the ride too 🙂

Equestrians Make Better Moms: Part 2

What can I say, I think about this stuff a lot. My brain used to be 90% Frankie, 10% everything else. Now it’s 90% Frankie, 80% Maggie, 100% baby, and still 10% everything else. It’s chaos up there, don’t try to make the numbers add up. But as I continue to muse during my nighttime feedings, I keep coming up with more ways my experience with Francisco has helped me with parenting skills.

Though to be fair, I’ve never had any trouble getting this one down for a nap

We make the right choice the easy choice. When I want Frankie to move a certain way, I make sure my body language is staying supportive and out of the way. I do my best to not present the opportunity to try the wrong choice (which works for him, because he’s not particularly inventive). We’re approaching childproofing in the same way: if I don’t want Lina to climb on the bar cart, I simply put a chair in front of it. She doesn’t really get a choice between the right choice and the wrong one, she simply gets pointed at the behavior we want and we remove (as much as possible) the other options. This is a work in progress – tricky little kiddo is a LOT more inventive than Frankie, so we’re getting a lot more creative.

MVP award goes out to Maggie, who has steadfastly refused to be childproofed and parks herself near her child at every opportunity.

There are lots of right ways to do something, and very few wrong ways. Seriously, there’s a hundred and one ways to approach eating, sleeping, playing, learning, EVERYTHING with a horse. And a kid. And lots of those ways work just fine. Horses and kids tend to be more resilient than we give them credit for, and it’s just not worth stressing over finding the one singular right way.

In a similar vein: all things being equal, there may be a “best” option. But all things are not ever equal. How many people have said that every single horse should be able to go in a rubber snaffle and no spurs? Like yeah, I agree, how awesome would that be. But there are lots of other factors that worm their way in there that make one single best option not the right option for everyone all the time. Same thing with breastfeeding vs formula, sleep training vs not, Montessori based toys vs other types. No two kids are the same, no two families are the same, and the best for one is not going to be the best for another.

Everyone and their mother will have an opinion. And everyone and their mother will take it at least a little personally if you do not share the same opinion. Enough said.

Got my first Instagram hate mail from someone telling me I was negligent for letting her crawl on the dirty floor at the airport. I was tempted to invite the sender to come hold her for 4 hours straight. This kid has sat in horse manure-flavored dirt, I am not worried about some floors.

Some things just take time, but it does get better. I was recently reviewing old blog posts from when I brought Francis home. There were so many things we had to work on and some of that took years to solidify. I’ve seen the same as Lina grows – a lot of the knots we had to figure out how to untie at the beginning just took time. As we approach a year old, we know each other so much better and she’s a total blast.

I’m sure as I get back in the saddle I’ll keep thinking of more parallels. It’s been really interesting to bring a lot of my riding philosophies into my parenting philosophies, and I’m sure it’ll bleed back the other way too.

Mama’s Back

Oh hayyyyy!!!

Frankie officially comes off lease and back to me in about a week and a half, and ya girl is beyond excited. It’s been almost 18 months of inconsistent barn time, and it’s going to do my soul so much good to have regular outings with my most favoritest Frankfurter.

We stopped by for a quick hello on our way home from brunch recently, NOT THAT HE CARED. I rank a distant second to food.

Originally the plan was for Frankie to stay on lease until the end of May, but his leasers found a super adorable (obviously bay) gelding to buy and gave me the option of taking back Francis earlier. I told my husband that I had to run some numbers since I hadn’t financially planned to have him back on the payroll quite yet, and his wise response was: “When have the numbers ever mattered when it comes to Frankie?” Touche, Nicholas, touche. The only obvious answer was to say yes, I’ll take him back, let’s pick a date, omg thank you.

I’d like to take a quick minute to rave about just how wonderful Frankie’s leasers have been over the past year and a half. They have loved and cared for Francis as their own, they’ve done everything in their power to keep him fit and healthy and happy, they’ve shared frequent updates, and they have adored my boy the way he loves to be adored. His kiddo has progressed leaps and bounds with him, and I’m so excited to see what she tackles with her new mount! I could not be more grateful for the peace of mind they’ve given me in this new season of life, knowing that I could focus on figuring out the cadences of our new addition without worrying about how Frankie was faring. They will forever be part of the Francis Fan Club and part of the family.

Getting ready to take Frankie back has come with quite a bit of logistical set up to prepare. From the small (getting him a new halter since my old one kicked the bucket), to the fun (we have shows on the calendar!), to the complicated (planning a lesson schedule around the baby and my husband’s rotating work schedule), to the interesting (signing Frankie up for outings to the nearby equine rehab facility – more details on that to come!). I’ve already had to call on my support network to help navigate everything, and everyone has been enormously helpful.

This guy is not just passively ok with me going to the barn, but has been proactively encouraging and helping me figure out how to make it work. I’ll never take that for granted.

The first hurdle we’ve tackled is getting a lesson schedule worked out. Back in the day, I used to simply text my trainer: “can i hop in the 6p lesson or nah” and that was that. But those were also the days that I was there 6 days a week, so I had the luxury of hopping in wherever it worked. I could show up last minute for a quick 30 min private at 7a before the day really started. I could hack around and then join in the jumping portion of a lesson. But my trainer’s lesson program has grown leaps and bounds and that has come with a need for more consistent scheduling, and with a baby in tow I need the consistency too! The current plan is for me to lesson once a week on either Mondays or Wednesdays (with my husband’s rotating schedule, I need to ride on a day he’s home to be with Lina), get out there on the weekends, and take any other days as a bonus. As Lina gets older, I hope we can bump that up, but for now I’m excited for my three days a week!

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you know that 3 days a week is not nearly enough to keep Tubbo Boy fit. If you’re new here, I’ll summarize it by saying that Frankie loses fitness the way I gain weight by looking at a doughnut post-baby. Real fast. So we have a super interesting plan for keeping him fit and ready for me: he will get his 2x a week pro rides, which is the schedule he’s been on for the past 3-4 years. With me being so out of shape and inevitably rusty, these will be majorly helpful in keeping him fit and undoing all the un-training I’m sure I’ll be doing. I poured all my sweat (and $$$) into training him over the past years for exactly this purpose – now it’s his turn to be better schooled than me. Here comes the fun part: we’re adding in a day each week for him to ship over to the nearby Nova Equine Fitness Center! I’ll plan to do a full post on this facility soon, but the short version is that our vet has opened a full service fitness and rehab center in our area, and it is incredible. We went for a tour recently, and the thought and consideration but into every single part of the facility is astounding. Frankie will be going to take advantage of the infrared solarium, 3D vibration plate, and water treadmill. I’m so eager to see how he likes it, and will definitely keep you all posted!

Cute gray pony giving us a demo of the water treadmill, featuring me and the peanut in matching outfits. Thankfully this kid loves the barn and watching the pretty ponies.

I’m at the point in our journey where I’d love to be the one doing all the work with Frankie (because he’s so dang fun), but it’s just not realistic with my other commitments. It’s going to make it that much more fun for me to enjoy our few rides a week together knowing that he’s staying fit and ready for whatever shenanigans I throw his way.

The last exciting update is our show schedule – we have three on the calendar! Upperville is hosting a fun little local show on the showgrounds the Sunday before Upperville proper kicks off, so Francis and I will head to that to do two 0.9-0.95m classes and knock the rust off. It’ll be a nice low-stress way to get back in the ring on my favorite showgrounds. We’re then planning to do the 1m Low Adults at Loudoun Benefit. Originally I was super excited to do the Lows at Upperville, but those run Tues-Thurs and Loudoun runs Fri-Sun. I just started a new job this month (back to full time work!) and taking one day off instead of 3-4 was just much more palatable. Don’t worry, Lina will still get to do her Upperville leadline debut! The last one on the calendar (for now) is GLEF over in Michigan in July. Lina and my husband are coming along for us to have a fabulous two week horse show/vacation, and I can’t wait.

Last time we went to Loudoun we did the Adult Eq and the Jr/Am Hunter Derby, but this time around we’re sticking in the jumper ring. I’m confident I can grab mane and steer around a course of jumps, I am less confident that I can do all that while looking nice.

I know I had some raised eyebrows from a few friends when I said we were planning on stepping right back into the 1m classes so soon after our break, and maybe I am a bit crazy. I certainly reserve the right to change my mind at any time if things aren’t coming together like I hope they will. But at this point, that height is such a non-issue for Frankie and he’s done it a million times, so if I can just get my eye back then I’m confident we’ll be good to go. Like I said earlier – it’s his turn to be better schooled than me, and now is the time that I’m extra grateful for all the careful solid training we’ve done over the years.

I feel like I could keep writing forever, but I’ll cut it short for now and chime in again soon! I can’t wait to pick back up and share as we navigate this new stage of the journey together.

Journey Back to the Saddle

I am so way overdue for a riding update!

I gotta say, I have so much admiration (and more than a little envy) towards those moms who have a baby and jump right back into riding. I had hoped to be the same, but the combination of difficult physical recovery from surgery, a baby that eats EVERY TWO HOURS LIKE A LITTLE HIPPO, a fluctuating nap schedule, and the need to coordinate childcare have all thrown wrenches into things. Half a year into this whole shebang and I just now feel like I can consistently make it to the barn once a week or so.

But once a week is better than nonce a week (that sounded better in my head) and I’m thrilled to bring Lina along to get some fresh air and enjoy the horses. The kid is fearless: she reaches for the big ponies with both little hands, loves the bumpy gravel in her stroller, and gets a big smile watching people jump around in lessons. We’re pretty sure we have a future eventer on our hands, this girl is ready to go at all times.

LEMME PET THE PONIES

I’ve also been so lucky to have friends who let me hop on their animals while Frankie is on lease (an update on that in just a minute!). While my muscle memory seems to be mostly intact, my balance and strength are decidedly lacking, and these horses are patience incarnate as I bounce around up there. Turns out that growing a 10+lb baby completely destroys any semblance of core strength, so that’s definitely a journey to get back. But every ride I feel a little stronger and a little more put together, so things are happening. I even hung on over a crossrail recently for the first time since last December!

We love a sweet bay ❤

I’m really focusing on getting my stamina and strength back before anything else. My first ride was just a lap or two at the trot and a circle at the canter, and now at 7-8 rides in I can comfortably go for closer to 20 minutes (with walk breaks, of course) so I definitely feel the progress. I take Lina for long walks as often as possible to help build some of that back too, and it’s helping. We have a stationary bike in the basement I’d like to get more consistent about using too.

One of the big reasons that I need to get my strength back is that we have a return date for Francisco! His wonderful leasers will be hanging on to him for a couple more months, which is just perfect for all of us. Lina will be a little older and more transportable then so I should be able to get to the barn a bit more easily, my work situation will be a bit more stable by then making it financially easier, and I won’t have to bundle up in the cold as much. I was mentally resigning myself to leasing Frankie back out for another full year, but I’m ecstatic that I’ll get to enjoy him again next summer.

We’re busy making plans for that glorious reunion: it turns out that Upperville is in early June, shortly after I get him back. Y’all know that’s my all time favorite show ever. You may also know that they do now have lower level classes there: the jumpers start at the 1.0m Ch/AA Lows. A height that I last jumped in September 2020. But since I’ve never been known to let little things like common sense stop me, we’re going for it. Frankie will be going at that height with his leaser so he’ll be ready to go, so I am bigtime focused on getting myself in shape to keep up with him! I figure as long as I can comfortably hold on over a full course at any height we’ll be fine – the height has never been a problem for Frankie so if my eye is tuned in and I can grab mane we’ll be good to go.

When I told him this he started to panic

What’s even more exciting is that we’re planning for this to be a mother-daughter show: Lina will be making her leadline debut at Upperville!! My trainer is already putting out feelers for the perfect pony for her, and the rest of us are busy planning perfect outfits for Lina and her entourage (myself and her father). The idea of sharing this with my daughter at my favorite show with my wonderful friends fills me with so so so much joy. I may or may not be planning a world tour appearance at Devon with her too, but we’ll wait and see how we’re feeling.

Did you know Ancona makes tiny sizes? May or may not need to get her a navy coat with red trim.

All in all, some really great stuff happening. I’m beyond grateful for my barn family: those who share their horses, those who entertain Lina while I ride, those who share my excitement to get back in the ring, those who share my even greater excitement to get Lina in the ring, and those who are taking such incredible care of Francis. It’s a great crew with great juju. Can’t wait to share more updates!