LoveFest

I know I gush about Frankie on the regular, but we haven’t had a dedicated gush session in a while.

So strap in, because I need to talk for a while about just how much I adore this horse.

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LITERALLY THE CUTEST EVER

Of course I always adore him, but it just hit me super hard in my last lesson. We weren’t doing anything crazy, the jumps weren’t huge and the courses were simple. It was one of those lessons where we went back to basics and focused on precision.

But for whatever reason, it struck me so hard that I really do have the horse of my dreams.

Whether it’s because we’ve trained him to perform exactly how I like, or because I’ve adjusted my own riding to his style of going, or (likely) a little bit of both, he’s my favorite horse that I’ve ever ridden in my entire life. By a long shot.

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He wishes I loved riding him less so he didn’t have to do weird crap like this, but he deals with it.

He’s the perfect mix of steady and fiery. His version of spooking is taking a deep breath and blinking twice, and will happily toodle on a loose rein forever and ever. But if I put some leg on and take a feel, he will turn and burn and jump the moon.

He’s so wonderfully athletic. Everything I’ve ever asked of him, he has been able to do without difficulty. As he’s learned how to use his body over jumps and we’ve developed our flatwork, the jumps have gone up and the turns have gotten tighter and he’s met it all with the same happy attitude.

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He’s just so darn HAPPY all the time

He doesn’t hold grudges. I mess up all. The. Time. And he bails me out without hesitating. I have no doubt I would be eating a lot more dirt on any other steed, but Francis keeps trucking and lets me go back and try again without a fuss. And then he turns around to look at me and demand ear rubs for being so good.

He’s got so much personality. I swear, he’s like a little boy. He just wants to know what’s going on, and get attention, and poke his nose where it doesn’t belong, and pretend he didn’t hear you when you told him not to eat the crop. He loves to play and I can spend hours with him without getting bored.

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He loves booping his snoot against me for snuggles

When I got him, I was hoping for a horse that could safely take me around a 1.10m course. What he’s given me is so so so much more than that. I’ve never had to say no to something because I thought my horse couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. He gives me the confidence to say yes to everything because I have the best partner in the world.

Championship rounds at 1.15m? No sweat, and let’s throw in some inside turns just ’cause. Cross country schooling? Happily, on a loose rein. Go into the equitation ring? Let’s go win the class. Toodle in a halter? Best day ever. Work on lateral movements I never even heard of ’til recently? Mahm it’s like this. Chill in his stall? We can trade scritches alllll day long.

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Also sometimes he wishes I would leave him alone to nap in peace but TOO BAD BUDDY LET ME LOVE YOU

He’s been my pony for just over 570 days and I keep waiting to be chiller about having a horse. Like, maybe one day I’ll wake up and this will be totally normal and whatever it’s all cool I just have this incredible animal that I get to take care of and ride no big deal at all. Except clearly I have NO chill and keep getting MORE excited about it because HOLY CRAP THIS HORSE IS AMAZING.

I feel like all I ever talk about is how much I love my horse, but I can’t help it. He’s everything I could ever want and more- and he just keeps getting better. Every time I think we’ve hit a peak, he goes out there and shows me that he’s got more to give.

My trainer jokes that if she hears me say “OMG I LOVE MY HORSE” less than 4 times in a lesson, she knows that something is terribly wrong. Can you blame me?? He’s the total package, and good looking to boot.

I’ll shut up for now. I just need y’all to know how much I love this big, goofy, wonderful creature.

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The Dad-Friendly Horse

I haven’t had a full-on lovefest over my horse in too long, guys. It’s been all blah blah blah competition blah blah blah improve our flatwork blah blah blah consistent correctness.

So strap in, because today I just wanna gush about my pony.

My dad came to visit this past weekend, and he got to meet his grandpony. And from the very first moment, Frankie was so SO good with him.

Let’s rewind the clock a few years: my dad came out with me to fetch a horse, they were all going nuts and galloping around, and he ended up getting kicked squarely in the thigh. To this day, there’s a dent in the muscle.

So when we rolled up to fetch Frankie, and saw him playing Wild Island Stallion with his best buddy, my dad was understandably leery about wading into the ruckus to fetch him.

So I went out there, put Frankie’s halter on, and walked him out of the paddock. No dramatics involved. Because Frankie knows that it’s time to play nice and be gentle when mom is there. And if one of the other horses pin their ears, Frankie will move in between us. He may not come to the gate when I call- but Francis knows to be careful with his mama.

So off the bat, Frankie is impressing my dad with his ability to say “OK, let’s not kick anyone when there’s a two-legs in here.”

Then we headed inside….walking right past the tarp that had blown free from the shavings pile, and was flapping like a sail in the gale-force winds.

I think Frankie may have looked at it as we walked by….but he also may not have. He was busy leaning into his daily neck scratches.

Another check in the box for my dad: Frankie does not care about killer tarp animals. Frankie cares about neck scratches and food.

We tacked up- my dad helped brush him- and he stood stock-still to receive the loving. He moved only to greet the cats and to give kisses.

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U FEED ME NOW???

Check: pleasant to handle.

Then I hopped on. In the raging winds. Buildings were creaking, gravel was splatting against the wall, birds were zooming around the indoor. Francis responded to all of this by sneezing four times and going around on the buckle during our walk breaks.

Check: pleasant to ride, even under less-than-ideal conditions.

Naturally, I decided that a pony ride was in order. We lengthened the stirrups and legged my dad up, and sent him off towards a crossrail!

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Happy dad, happy daughter, happy horse

JK LOL. We kept it simple. My dad has been on a horse before so I had him do some basic stop-go-turn left-turn right. We then enjoyed Frankie’s neck reining skillz (seriously his turning radius is impressive) before hopping off to put him away.

Check: calm and happy enough to take care of anyone on his back.

Frankie then spent the rest of our time there mooching on my dad for treats- he always hopes that new people won’t know his mean mom’s rule of no treats. Even without treats, Francis was leaning into the brushing my dad gave him, soaking up every spare scrap of attention because his mean mom never EVER pays any attention to him. Obviously.

So we didn’t do anything crazy with the Beast this weekend- just rode around to get our muscles moving and ask for some correct work. But in this week where we reflect on what we’re grateful for, I’m so incredibly grateful for the fact that I can feel safe handling and riding my horse at all times. Because safe for me equals fun.

And I’m so SO grateful that my dad finally got to meet his grandpony! Of course we did plenty of other fun things during his visit- but let’s be real here, folks. We all know that Francis is my fuzzy child and deserves center stage.

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My three main men ❤

I’m already planning for my dad’s next visit- I think he needs to come join during show season, amiright???

Do your parents like to come to the barn? How are they with your horse?

 

I have a crush…

…on my horse.

Soon we will return to discussing our learning process and what we’re working on, but today I’m just going to love on my boy and tell you just how wonderful he is.

Because honestly Frankie is my dream horse. I don’t know what I did to deserve him and I don’t know what stars had to align to bring him into my life, but I am grateful every day for this big brown brontosaurus. And here’s why.

  • His stunning good looks. He may try to maim himself out in the field and scrape off all his skin like a dope, but goshdarnit he’s a well put-together horse. I realize that I’m biased here, but I love everything about how he looks- from his deep dark color without a hint of white, to his giant donkey ears, to his big thick tail, to his liiiittle hint of dappling, to his sturdy legs, to his sweet expression, the list goes on and on. If I could have built a horse from scratch, this is what he would look like.
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DROOL
  • His terrible goldfish memory. To be fair, he may actually have a great memory. But he has a wonderful ability to forget when things go wrong. We crashed through that jump? No problem. I can circle around and try again without wondering if he’s going to back off it. I pick up the wrong lead? I can just bring him back to trot and ask again. He doesn’t get flustered by any of my rookie mistakes and is patient enough to take care of me until I figure it out and give him a good ride.
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Like when I BURIED him to the base and he didn’t care
  • His ability to compartmentalize. This kinda goes with the goldfish memory. Even if he gets riled up about something before I hop on, he settles into his job as soon as my butt hits the saddle. For example- we clipped him in preparation for the show next week. He was totally fine for everything except his ears. The ears were…exciting. A twitch seemed to have no effect other than giving him a weapon to impale me with. We did manage to get them done without too many hysterics, but he certainly made his displeasure known. I let him decompress in his stall for five minutes and then hopped on for a hack- no residual tension or angst. He lets the past be the past.
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Happy horse ALL THE TIME
  • His consistency. He comes out of his stall/his field every day the same- ready and eager to work. Even when he has a few days off due to a lost shoe/flooding in his mother’s apartment/whatever reason, he doesn’t get sassy or fussy. Tired Frankie rides the same as Fresh Frankie rides the same as Rainy Day Frankie rides the same as No Turnout Frankie rides the same as any other Frankie. I don’t wonder what kind of horse I’ll have under me on any given day- I know he’s gonna be my reliable guy. Indoor arena, outdoor arena, grass pasture, side of the road, any venue.
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He also consistently makes llama faces
  • His nonchalance about the jumps. He doesn’t blink at them. You know that perky cute expression most horses get when they approach a jump? He doesn’t make that face. He just lopes along and takes the jumps as they come up. Gates, verticals, oxers, boxes, poles, mountain blocks, muck buckets, traffic cones, whatever. He will jump whatever I present to him. I was used to having to manage Addy and wonder if she would jump the jump, and it’s so different having a horse that doesn’t need that mental reassurance.
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Yeah. No cute perky faces.
  • His ability to jump the jumps. He’s just so ATHLETIC. I’ve jumped him 3′-3’3″ fairly regularly and he barely puts in any effort, and when I popped over 3’6″ he was juuuust starting to pay attention. And he takes the bigger jumps with the same laid back attitude- he is confident in his ability to get over the jump. My goal has always been to make it to the high adults at 1.10m and that’s still the case, but it’s kinda crazy to realize that Frankie could likely take me higher if I wanted to.
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MUSCLE AND ABILITY
  • His willingness to try new things. I’ve hopped on him bareback with just a halter and he has behaved just as well as when there’s a bit in his mouth. I’ve used the horse vacuum on him without really showing it to him first and after an initial sniff of curiosity, he leaned into and got a droopy lip. I took him for a trail ride around a residential neighborhood and he bopped around on a loose rein the whole time. He is totally game for any harebrained scheme I can come up with.
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Literally any harebrained scheme
  • His personality. You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you? Francis is one of the absolute cuddliest snuggliest horses on the planet. He LOVES hugs and smooches, loves scratches up near his ears, loves to give kisses on the cheek, and will press his face into my tummy just for loving. He hangs out by the gate when I turn him out so I can give him more kisses, follows me along the fenceline, stands for HOURS to be groomed, and generally just soaks up attention like a sponge. The epitome of a sweet goofy gelding.
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Snugglez 4 dayz

Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. We can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Frankie Goals

We all love a good goal post, amiright??

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hahahahahahaha get it???

I wrote one of these up a month or two ago when we were still on the horse search, so most of them were pretty focused on myself. Basically: be a better rider. Of course these still hold! But now that Francis is in my life, we have some goals that are a little more specific to our partnership.

Well, I have some goals. His goal is to eat EVERYTHING.

  • Take some more private lessons. This of course depends on my trainer’s schedule, but once school lets out and the juniors can move their lessons around, she may have a semi-regular slot for me. I learn a ton in our group lessons and have no problem with them, but some super-targeted teaching every so often would likely help us progress even more quickly.
  • Make it to the High Adult Amateur Jumpers in the next few years. Ideally, next year, but we’ll see how things go. I looked at the prize lists for shows we usually go to and the High Adults are usually in the 1.10m-1.15m height range; seems pretty doable to me.
  • Have a successful show season at 1.0m/Low Adults this year. By this I don’t mean winning all blue ribbons- although I won’t complain if that happens. This means that I am confidently and comfortably able to ride a 1.0m course while giving Francis a positive experience in the show ring.
  • Compete in a horse trial. People from my barn tend to do a horse trial every fall as a fun way to shake things up, and I can’t even WAIT to take Frankie out!!!! He has tons of experience as a foxhunter and eventer so I have a feeling he’s going to be a blast.
  • Go on a hunter pace or two. Along the same lines- the more we can get out of the ring the better. Virginia in the fall is absolutely gorgeous. Last year I did a hunter pace in the division with a couple little logs, this year I want to do the one with all the coops!
  • Learn more first aid skills. I’m lucky enough to have a ridiculously awesome vet and an amazing set of trainers/BMs to help out with the major stuff, but I’d love to be more self-sufficient with the little things. I used to be very good at this stuff, but the knowledge has seeped out of my brain over the last 10 years of non-horse ownership.
  • Keep Frankie shiny. A minor goal? Maybe. But Francis showed up in my life gleaming like a mirror, and I want to keep him that way. He’s getting great nutrition and frequent, extensive grooming sessions, so I’m going to keep working to keep him shining.
  • Get WAY better at polo wraps. I used to be able to do these in my sleep. I was the QUEEN of all wraps- polo wraps, standing wraps, you name it I could do it. Fast forward a couple years and spend a year with an unbreakable DragonMare chiseled out of granite, and you lose your edge.

I’m leaving off on the show-ring eq goals for now. My budget is EXTREMELY tight when it comes to showing this year (and probably next to be honest) and I’m having to prioritize. I certainly enjoy the eq ring and hope to give it another go soon, but if I have to pick, you’ll find me in the jumper ring.

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Making really intimidating Brontosaurus faces at the competition

And now for my pie-in-the-sky goal: qualify for the Zone 3 USHJA Adult Amateur Jumper Championship. Not even necessarily compete in the championships, although that would be cool. It has both individual and team aspects that sound really interesting and I think it would be a HUGE learning experience. Basically the jumper version of a year-end medal finals. We’re nowhere near ready for this yet, but it’s a fun goal to work towards!

 

Struggle Monorail: Express Line, No Stops

Pity party alert:

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I can’t get a full body shot of my horse because he wants to come get smooches every time. JUST KIDDING I LOVE THIS EVERY TIME.

A short list of things that I’ve been able to do comfortably and confidently for a long time that I can no longer do:

  1. Pick up the correct lead. Either direction.
  2. Sit squarely in my saddle, even a little bit.
  3. Not collapse on my horse’s neck upon landing off a jump of any height.
  4. Put together a short course without falling apart in the middle.
  5. Actively ride my horse instead of clomping around up top like some sort of Jello-based dessert.

I’m just being bitter because of a series of sub-par lessons. I’ve mentioned that it feels like I’m having to re-learn how to ride with Frankie, but apparently I’m having to un-learn everything first. Including all the stuff I really would rather not un-learn.

And none of this is on Frankie: homeboy is a SAINT. Legit, he trotted over a 2’9″ square oxer rather than stopping when I absolutely mangled the approach. He would’ve been well within his rights to coast to a stop but he knows his job is to jump the jump NO MATTER what I’m doing. Much love to my best boy.

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He’s sexy, he’s cute, he’s popular to boot, he’s bitchin’, great hair, the girls all love to stare

But I’m frustrated that I mangled that approach. Blah blah blah hooray for pony saving my butt- I don’t WANT him to have to save my butt. I want to take care of my own butt, thank you very much.

Enough about my butt. (EVEN THOUGH APPARENTLY EVEN MY BUTT CAN’T SIT STRAIGHT IN MY SADDLE OK NOW I’M ACTUALLY DONE WITH BUTTS)

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Do I look crooked here? I analyze my butt in every picture now. (Side note- cutest saddle pad ever or what?!)

Pity party: over. Thank you for indulging me for a couple paragraphs.

Time to focus on an action plan instead! Here’s what I’m doing to tighten up:

  • Drop dem stirrups. Even better, take them off my saddle before I hop on so there’s no temptation. I’ve been sore in some form or another literally since I bought Frankie, so I may as well intensify those muscle aches a bit more.
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Both of us make faces when the stirrups come off.
  • Continue the pick-up-the-lead-I-ask-for exercises that my trainer suggested. These exercises went amazingly on Saturday, which is why I was so frustrated that we bombed our lesson on Sunday. Such is the manner of progress with riding, I suppose.
  • Get more comfortable with spurs. I tend to wear these in lessons and then flat without them- I need to learn to use them more intentionally at all times. No accidental poking allowed.
  • Get. My. Head. In. The. Game. It’s been a weird couple of weeks and I haven’t had the same focus I usually have, and I need to shake that off and get back in it. I want/need to be fully present during our rides.

At the end of the day I’m allowing myself to be frustrated about these lessons going poorly, but then I intend to channel that frustration into something productive. I have a fantastic horse who loves his job and will do anything I ask without question. I have the desire and the ability to work hard to improve. I have a trainer that will make sure that my horse and I are safe, and who will push us to expand our abilities. It’s time to really take advantage of these wonderful resources and turn them into something amazing!

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Even MORE amazing than this family photo. Sorry Manfriend, but this is your family now. Get pumped for the Christmas cards.

PS- Seriously though, I love my horse. He’s the bestest pony.

When you’ve started riding a new horse, what was the learning curve like? Any tips for adjusting to such a different ride??

At it again with the lesson recaps!

Subtitled: “Seriously Olivia your left leg theoretically has muscle and is not just a limp spaghetti to drag around”

We’re now a little over a month into horse-ownership (OMG) and things have been going…how do I put this….AMAZING. THINGS ARE AMAZING. HOLY CRAP I LOVE THIS HORSE. LIKE AGGRESSIVE AMOUNTS. IT ACTUALLY MAKES ME ANGRY SOMETIMES HOW GREAT HE IS.

But we’re not going to focus on that right now. We’re here for a lesson recap! With the return of professional Powerpoint diagrams! (seriously Olivia this is not a talent that makes you stand out from the crowd)

Flatwork: getting there. I’ve mentioned that if I ask correctly and consistently, Francis will give me correct and consistent work. I’ve started getting the hang of the correctness, so now it’s more of an exercise in consistency. Asking for a bouncy collected canter and MAKING it happen before softening at him. In some ways Addy really prepared me well for this- to ask as softly as I can but as firmly as necessary to get a response.

A big focus in our warmup was controlling our pace within gaits- lots of extensions and collections. Extensions are definitely Frankie’s happy place and he loves to cover the ground, but he needs some help from me to package that whole long body of his together to collect. Holding my outside aids around the corners, sitting deep, and keeping my shoulders back instead of hunching in the fetal position have all really helped me maintain my own balance and help him maintain his.

Then we did no-stirrup work and shallow serpentines along the long sides to get them softening and changing the bend and blah blah blah lets get to the fun part.

Jumping!!!!!

We trotted a crossrail a couple times to get ourselves in the zone, and then started with a really cool exercise. We trotted up 6, came around the corner down 3, and then HALT. And then canter out over 1.

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This was tough! Frankie likes to jump. Frankie does not appreciate being told to halt when it’s jumping time. Luckily I learned how to ask for a halt on the DragonMare so his half-hearted “but mahhhhhhm” was met with my cackle as we halted WITHOUT EVEN USING THE WALL TO RUN INTO. Sucker.

Then of course we picked up the wrong lead to canter out over 1, because we can’t have nice things.

This is a pattern: Francis does not like my left leg. He will pick up the left lead 100x more willingly than his right, dives around corners going left, and generally thinks my left leg is a funny concept but nothing to take seriously. This is something we will be working on.

Anwhosicle. On to our course! 1-2-3-4a-4b-5-6-7-8. It’s almost like I labeled it that way on purpose. So up the outside line in a quiet 4 or a forward 3 (in an amazing show of faith, Trainer left it up to us to decide), down the swedish oxer, 3 strides to the bounce, up the outside vertical/maybeitwasanoxer, then down the s-turn: green, itty bitty three strides to wall, two galloping strides out over the coop.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I loved this course. Anything that smells like a gymnastic is solid gold in my book, and this course had lots of fun little gymnastic-y elements. I of course went for the galloping 3 up the outside line because reasons, Frankie promptly dove through the corner and did a gangsta lean until I dug my spur into him and gave him a big fat nope, popped over the swedish and came to the bounce no problem, got to a nice close distance to the outside verticalmaybeanoxerimnotreallysure, and then survived the s-turn. It wasn’t really that dramatic because the jumps were basically speedbumps at 2′, but that tiny 3 to a big 2 was probably very entertaining to watch.

When we went back and did it again, Trainer added on a fun little thing at the end: after landing out of the s-turn, drop stirrups and jump 1 to 3 in a bending 6, then trot and come back over 6.

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So you don’t have to scroll up. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you.

At one point I crashed through 1, but Francis is the ultimate ammy-packer type and went back and jumped it as if I hadn’t crawled up his neck and whispered “I’m so sorry” in his ear as things went south.

I was really happy with this! We learned that Frankie is not suuuuuper into my left leg at the moment, but we made new mistakes. That’s one of my favorite things my trainer has told me: go make new mistakes. New mistakes means we’re not making the same mistakes as last week means progress.

At this point, one of the other girls in my lesson asked Trainer to put the jumps up (she’s our Maclay junior who is an insanely talented rider, with an insanely talented horse, and an absolute pleasure to watch). Trainer had her pop over 1-2-3-1 once she set the jumps to 3’3″-3’6″ and they just flowed. It was gorgeous.

And then Trainer turned to me and said, “Olivia, do you want to give this a go?”

UM YES OBVIOUSLY PLEASE LET ME AT THEM

So we did the same mini-course. The first time through we took a bit of a flyer to the swedish, but we went back and fixed it and it was absolutely lovely. This horse, guys. He didn’t even blink.

Also- when I biffed that distance, Trainer said, “Olivia, you won’t be able to get away with that distance when the jumps really go up, that’s the kind of distance that will land you in the middle of the spread.”

Of course she’s totally right and all that. BUT. “When the jumps really go up.” LADY I THOUGHT THIS WAS UP. But this is the second time she has alluded in passing to the fact that we want to jump big and she doesn’t see it as a total impossibility for me and Frankie. She sees it as a logical progression. Beyond cool to have a trainer that believes in us and our abilities.

Speaking of logical progressions, we just sent in our entry blank for our first show together!!! We’re headed to Loudoun Benefit in June, held on the same showgrounds as Upperville. The tentative plan is to do 0.90m as a warmup on Thursday to see what kind of horse we have, and then do the 1m Low Adults Fri/Sat and the 1m Low Adult Classic Sunday.

To prepare for this, Frankie now has his lifetime membership with USEF as To Be Frank. I can’t wait to hear our names over the loudspeaker!

Any ideas for A) how to strength my legs or B) how to convince Frankie to respect that left leg more or C) build up Frankie’s strength to that side so it’s EASIER for him to respect it?

Our First Ride

Media time!!!! As you may have guessed, Jenn was here for a visit when I went to try Frankie, and she took some fantastic videos of the very first time I sat on him. I’ve posted screenshots and short clips to my Instagram, but here’s a treat for you guys: all the videos spliced together!

Note: any missed distances, late changes, lack of changes, or general ickiness are entirely on me. These videos are all within 10 minutes of me meeting Frankie for the first time and he was patience incarnate. I love this horse.

We’ve only gotten better together over the last few weeks as I’ve slowly started transforming from a mashed potato into an overly cooked baked potato (aka getting my hands up out of my lap, mashing him together more to fit the strides in, balancing for changes, doing ab workouts to be less jiggly, etc.). My goal is to one day not be a potato at all, but I am willing to take it one potato-step at a time.

A note from Jenn, who is the esteemed videographer and was there to witness the magic. She has finally been allowed to break her silence on what went down during her visit, and here’s what she has to say:

One of the things I was most excited about when going to visit Olivia last month was being able to see her try two horses, one of which was Frankie…and we all know how that story ends. When we got to the barn, Frankie looked pretty big in his stall, but was actually larger once they brought him out: a bay with no chrome who had the sweetest look in his eye and a stocky build, I thought he might be perfect for Olivia. We went up to the ring and we watched the working students ride Frankie and D (the other horse) first, flatting both of them around before popping over a few fences. Then Olivia hopped on Frankie, and I videoed chunks of her ride at all gaits.

I remained pretty quiet while she was trying Frankie because I didn’t want to interfere with her trainer’s instruction and observation of Olivia on Frankie, but the more I watched them together, the more I thought they would be a great match. As soon as she got on and began trotting Frankie around, you could see how much she was enjoying him….that was until she started jumping him around, and I actually got goosebumps watching her because I could tell how much fun she was having. Though they had only known each other for about 20 minutes, the whole aura of the ride began to change, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know why we’re going any further, this is her horse.”

I continued to video all of the jumps (that Olivia has compiled in this video) and I was really amazed at how well Frankie and Olivia got along; it was almost like they had been a partnership for months and knew each other really well. Olivia was having a blast on Frankie, and her body language while she was jumping was infectious. Frankie is honest as the day is long, he remains unflappable about weird distances or new jumps or if he’s not sure where you’re going, and is such a good guy. He’s really athletic and amazingly scopey: he walks over 2’9″ and barely tries over 3’3″, which is great because I know one of Olivia’s goals is to do the 1.10m jumpers. Frankie really impressed me during Olivia’s test ride, and I think she was surprised at how much she liked him.

After riding him for about 20 minutes, she hopped off of Frankie and got on D. I also filmed chunks of Olivia’s ride on D, but as soon as she began trotting him around, her entire body language changed, and I think she realized at that point that Frankie was the one.  D is a wonderful citizen who tries really hard, but is a little too green (editors note: and a little too expensive- homeboy had oodles of potential, but I couldn’t spend that kind of money on potential!) for where Olivia wants to go at this point in her riding career. Frankie is just better suited for her goals, and can take her wherever/as high as she wants to go. Olivia’s trainer told her that she didn’t have to stay on D if she preferred Frankie, which I think we all knew was the case. 

When we got back to the barn, Olivia and I said goodbye to her trainer and when she and I were alone in her car I finally told her, “I don’t know why you’re looking any further; THAT is your horse. I had chills watching you, he’s your horse. I love him.”

And as they say, the rest is history. 

It was really neat to see how Olivia’s trainer tries horses (though she had ridden both horses prior to Olivia trying them), and I tried to stay quiet and out of the way as much as possible. Olivia’s trainer is super knowledgeable and knows a good match when she sees one, so I don’t think she was surprised that Olivia loved Frankie as much as she did. Every trainer has a different way of doing things when it comes to selling horses and trying sale horses out, so it was really special to be a part of that process. If nothing else, I was there to capture it all on video!

Frankie Updates!

It’s still kinda hard to believe that I own a horse. And not only that I own a horse, but that I own THIS horse. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve him- did I stop Jesus from tripping over a tree root in a previous life, maybe?- but I’m not gonna question it too much.

He’s been home with us for almost a week now and has settled in like he’s been here forever. He goes out with a group of geldings that he gets along with wonderfully, we’ve ridden in the indoor, outdoor, and all over the property, we’ve spent time in both barns, and he has handled it all with the same relaxed curiosity I noticed in him when we first met.

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His main question seems to be “Is this a thing I can eat?”

I have to thank whoever owned him before me- this horse has been loved. He has not felt tense or anxious at all in any of the situations we’ve been in over the last few days. He certainly takes a look at new things, but has shown a remarkable trust in me and has done every single thing I’ve asked him to without hesitation.

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Including the endless selfies. This is the face of a horse that is humoring me.

He’s quite different from Addy so I’m definitely still adjusting to his style of ride! He’s been very patient with me as I work some new muscles and figure out how to rate his stride properly. He’s shown that he’s willing to wait to the base as long as I’m not leaning up his neck (bad habit confession), and with every ride I get a better feel for his pace! He’s tolerant enough to handle my ammy mistakes, but when I manage to get my life in order and ride properly he gives me WONDERFUL work. Basically the best combo: he’ll jump the jump no matter what, but if I give him a good ride he’ll give me a great ride.

Handling him on the ground has been super easy too. He LOVES being loved on! He’ll stand in the crossties for hours if it means he’s getting attention. He does tend to get a bit mouthy when he thinks I have treats- he hasn’t tried to take a nibble yet, but he does get a little pushy. Now he only gets treats when he’s NOT mooching. Other than that (very) minor thing, he’s a perfect gentleman to lead, tack up, groom, and spend time with!

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Do you even see how shiny he is?!?!?!

I’ve also managed to finish up my shopping list- all we’re waiting on now is my order from Riding Warehouse to come in! I have a few bills to pay off, but it looks like the river of cash is slowly adjusting to our basic monthly expenses. Which still gives me a bit of a panic attack, but at least it’s not, you know, BUYING A HORSE. The only thing left to figure out is saddle fit. My beautiful saddle that I’m in love with and fits me perfectly does NOT fit Frankie well. I’ll be talking to the saddle rep to see if this is something we can adjust, or if I may need to trade in for a new saddle. For now, I’ve got a shimmed half-pad to keep his back comfy.

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We’ve got another lesson on Wednesday and I can’t wait to share how it goes! In the meantime, you can check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) for videos and pics of Frankie being handsome!

PS- In a funny full-circle twist of fate, Frankie is wearing my old gelding’s halter. I was going to swap out the nameplate, but it’s kinda a nice homage to the bay gelding that taught me as a junior. My new bay gelding doesn’t seem to mind too much.

Introducing the Handsomest Pony!!

As you all know, a few weeks ago I had The Talk with my trainer, and we decided to go on a search for my very own unicorn. We very quickly found a super cute chestnut, and just as quickly realized that while he was a FANTASTIC pony, he wasn’t our pony.

So the search continued.

And we found Frankie.

I won’t even keep you in suspense: Frankie is perfectly perfect in every way. I’m totally not biased or anything, that’s just scientific fact.

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Happy pony has the sweetest face!!!
He’s a 10 year old Oldenburg x TB, 17hh, dark bay without a single bit of chrome (and it looks like his summer coat has some lovely dapples), and I LOVE HIM. 

  

  
He’s been a foxhunter for a couple years a.k.a. SUPER brave and nonchalant about everything, and has been doing some lower level eventing lately. We think he’s going to be the perfect jumper.

Side note to the eventers out there: do you know the name Phyllis Dawson? She went to the Olympics for the U.S. back in the day. She’s the one that sold us Frankie, and she called him a “jumping machine.” So yeah, no big deal, an Olympian just called my boy a jumping machine. Super casual.

On the flat, he’s super duper comfortable. He could use a bit more polish before we step into the eq ring, but he’s very willing to do whatever I ask of him. He really gets swinging beautifully over his back in the canter and is very easy to leg up into the bridle. He also has the rhythm of a metronome- you could seriously set your watch to the consistency of his stride.

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Covering SO MUCH GROUND

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I don’t know if you can tell, but this is on a pretty loose rein. I think we’re gonna be able to do the eq just fine.

Which makes it really easy to see a distance on him. It doesn’t matter what the jump looks like or how high it is, he approaches it with the same steady stride. Which is a POWERFUL stride- even when I got tight to a one stride, he powered out with very little assistance from me. He’s a little rusty on his changes- because he’s been a foxhunter, he’s never really been asked for them- but I got a couple and I don’t think it’ll be a problem to install them. He’s got the brain, the balance, and the muscle.

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Like, SUPER nonchalant about this oxer. Which was out of a one-stride combo.

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Because I am an ammy, I totally buried him to the base of this big wide 3’3″ oxer. And then accidentally jabbed him in the side with my spurs. How did he react? By jumping it without a problem, landing and loping away, and giving me a clean lead change. Homeboy does not hold a grudge.
He’s also a big sweetheart. He loves scratches and snuggles and has fantastic manners. It was so important to me to find a horse than I could be buddies with, and Frankie fits that bill perfectly! So let’s see what my checklist was:

  • Good attitude. Yup. He’s kind, he’s friendly, he’s sweet, he’s willing.
  • Safe. Yup. He’s super sane and bombproof.
  • Able to jump. YUP. He basically took a slightly bigger canter stride over a 3’3″ oxer. We may want to teach him to use his  body a bit better, but he has scope for days.
  • That “X” factor. You know that feeling when you sit on a horse and something just clicks into place? Like not only could you be partners in the future, but you’re already partners. He’s got that.

The vet came out Tuesday and loved him just as much as I did. He’s sound, maintenance-free, an easy keeper, and ready to get to work. Less than 24 hours after the vetting, Frankie is home and settling into his new life with me.

Already mooching for treats. He knows a sucker when he sees one.

This big brown boy is going to be spoiled rotten. I can’t wait for our adventures together.