GushFest 2018

You guys. It’s time.

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

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

Because UGHHHH GUYSSSSSS HE’S THE BESTTTTTTTTT

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

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

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Blerp PC- Liz

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

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

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Mahm. Scritches. Thnks. PC- Liz

And then under saddle. Man oh man.

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

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

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So proud of himself for a job well done.

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

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FrancisGoZoomies(TM)

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

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

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My best buddy. PC- Liz

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

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PC- Tracy
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Pony Finances

Let’s talk expenses! Not specifics, because that’s fairly private and incredibly region-dependent, but let’s talk about how we handle them. Mostly because I just made a big change in my approach to horse expenses, and I want to know if all y’all already do this and are like “dude obviously,” or if you’re going to tell me that this is super weird and definitely awful.

Let’s get into it.

There are a few very predictable expenses for Frankie every month:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides (if I opt for them that month)
  • Farrier (this isn’t quiiiiite every month, he’s on a 4-6 week cycle depending on time of year and how good/bad his feet are at the time. Still rather predictable tho.)
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Unlimited snugs are included for free in our monthly package

And then there are some that pop up regularly but not as consistently:

  • Vet care- both routine vaccinations/checkups, and more intense things like injections. Also who knows when everything could go sideways and he needs emergency vet care (knocking on wood SO INTENSELY HERE PLEASE STAY ROBUSTLY HEALTHY)
  • Frankie’s insurance- I pay in 3 lump payments throughout the year, but they’re not all the same
  • Shows- different venues have different fees, shipping costs more/less depending on how far the venue is, I compete more often in the summer, etc.
  • Gear- blankets break, saddles need re-fitting, my spurs need replacing, etc. This is the hardest to predict.
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Thank the good Lord above that I don’t have to pay for a 2-week horse show every month. PC- Tracy

So what these means is that in any given month, I only really have a solid handle on the “no less than” number in advance. It’ll be at least X amount, and likely much higher. I have historical data (yes, obviously Frankie has his own spreadsheet, duh) to plug in for shows/vet/insurance so I’m not totally in the dark, but it still makes consistent budgeting hard when expenses fluctuate so much.

Now that my Human Mate and I are combining forces, I decided it was time for a full audit of my spending habits to figure out what makes the most sense as I move from doing-everything-solo-all-the-time to sharing-a-home-and-a-life-with-a-person. Which brings me to my big change:

Frankie got his own debit card.

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“It’s about time I got paid”

He won’t get to use it himself (honestly his dexterity with small objects extends exclusively to eating them), but I now have a separate account exclusively for horse expenses. I’ve taken my total horse expenses over a full year, divided by 12, and added a cushion, and that amount will automatically be going into his account every month.

Some months I will need more than that average, some months I will need less, but over time it should even out to have a constant buffer.

This simplified my budget like you wouldn’t believe. It took my line items from this:

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To this:

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Literally cut the number in half.

This makes my monthly budget A MILLION TIMES more predictable. Obviously if something totally unexpected happens I’ll need to pull from my main account, but I purposefully made Frankie’s monthly budget higher than I usually need (except in months where we compete) to try and build up some “savings” specifically for him.

So talk to me, folks. Is this a total no-brainer thing that you did years ago? Or do you think giving Francis his own bank account is overkill?

Such a Happy Francis

So obviously Francis was very well-behaved and wonderful during the full 2 weeks in Ohio. Not a foot out of place, polite and well-mannered, and working hard. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.

But as I mentioned in my last post, Francis is a very social beast. Very. And he didn’t get his group turnout while we were gone. Now that we’re back and he’s reunited with his buddies, he is SO HAPPY OMG SO HAPPY.

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MAHM THINGS ARE SO GOOD MAHM PC- Courtney

It’s funny- I can tell his mood so quickly just because I know my pony, but it’s subtle. Even when he’s cranky/tired, he’s polite. He never gets sassy or nippy or rude, he just kinda tunes out and gets a case of the “blahs.”

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Have you ever heard a horse snore? Come to our next show, and you totally can.

But Francis in a good mood is like a 5 year old little boy. When he’s happy, he’s like a sassy little pony stuffed into a giant 17.1hh body. He is playful and goofy and hilarious.

Our lesson this week had Happy Francis on full display: he was scratching my shoulder for me in exchange for the scratches I was giving him, during every break he would look back at me and rub his nose on my boots (begging for ear rubs), and he was snuffling at my clothes the entire time I was untacking.

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Hello yes I am good pls rub ears

Like any 5 year old little boy, that energy sometimes turns into poking and playing a little too far- at one point he tried to take a nibble of my boot while I was scratching his ears. I walloped him a good one because he knows better than to use teeth near me, and he proceeded to give me the middle finger around our next course because HOW DARE YOU I AM MUCH OFFENDED. Homeboy got over it by jump 3 tho. Because he was in SUCH A GOOD MOOD.

I tend to refer to Frankie as “my boy” or “my child,” but we really don’t have that type of relationship. I’d say he’s more like a little brother that I have custody of. At the end of the day, I’m in charge and he has to listen to what I’m saying. But we also love to play together. And sometimes there’s that exasperation of oh my GOSH Francis if you can’t be cool then you can’t hang out with me and my friends. Because he’s like the little brother who keeps poking*poking*poking to get attention.

But even when he’s got Pony Man Syndrome, I can’t help but laugh when he’s like that. His playfulness and joy is totally contagious. Even my trainer was chuckling at him the other day.

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GREETINGS I AM HERE FOR THE SCRITCHES

We will still have shows in our future that cut down on Frankie’s social time every so often, but it makes me happy beyond belief that he is so clearly content with his day-to-day life. A happy Francis makes one very happy Olivia.

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.

 

Sore and Ready

I wasn’t planning on blogging before heading out to Ohio, but I just had the most motivating session with my trainers and I have to share with all y’all.

The best way I can think of to sum it up is as follows:

Learning how to ride is kinda hard.
Learning how to ride WELL is super freakin’ hard.
Learning how to ride in a way that shows nuance and expertise is EXPONENTIALLY HARDER THAN ALL OF THAT.

As I had mentioned, Assistant Trainer and I set up a time for me to watch her ride Frankie and then have me hop on for some coaching on replicating that ride. It ended up being about 30 minutes of AT riding with constant commentary (mad respect for being able to multitask like that) and then 30 minutes of me working with Francis- and I could barely keep track of my limbs, let alone speak.

First off- Frankie looked AMAZING with AT. I’m such a visual learner and getting to see what kind of work he is capable of makes me that much more confident and excited about achieving it with him myself. I wish I had video to show you, but I was too wrapped up in listening and watching.

Some of the key takeaways that AT shared throughout both her ride and mine:

  • Walking needs to be powerful and forward. While warming up we’re not at all worried about where his head is- we are entirely focused on getting him moving off the leg and pushing powerfully from behind. Insisting on straightness- no wiggling out of a powerful forward walk.
  • A good way to encourage him to open up his stride more at the walk is alternating leg aids- cue with my left heel as he’s about to pick up his left hind, right heel for right hind, etc. Getting him more sensitive to my cues will help make this more effective at encouraging the activity from behind.
  • The contact on the outside rein needs to be steady- it does not need to be heavy, but it does need to be consistently present at all times. Test his self-carriage often by releasing the inside rein. He should not change pace or the shape of his body.
  • Stretch breaks are good, but that doesn’t mean throwing away the work. He is never allowed to grab the reins out of my hands- when I like what he is doing, I can feed the reins to him and encourage the stretch down. Part of working the most effectively with him is timing our breaks to be just as much of a training tool as the active work.
  • Insist more. Frankie is a well-trained, athletic, fancy horse- if I stick to my guns and continue asking, he will give me correct work. I can’t get lazy or he will get lazy. This doesn’t mean that he can’t do the work, it just means that I have to keep supporting and encouraging the right answer.
  • No more calling him a llama. The language we use matters, so we are only allowed to call him a fancy shmancy show horse. My new go-to is gonna be FancyPants Francis, but I’m open to other posh nicknames for the big guy.
  • Carrying himself properly is really hard work, and we can’t expect him to do it all the time quite yet. At the same time, we need to ask for it a little more every time so that we build that strength and build that muscle memory for him. He lets us know that he’s tired by getting strung out or trying to break- that’s when it’s on us to work really hard to support him for another half-lap or so to push just a liiiiittle bit more. Not enough to fatigue him, just enough to push a little harder than last time.
  • Drop my stirrups as often as needed. Especially when working at the sitting trot, go ahead and drop my stirrups so I can wrap around his barrel and get him super active to my leg. As he gets stronger and learns more self-carriage, that trot is getting a lot bouncier, but his back is also getting rounder and softer so sitting is getting easier.
  • At all times: straightness. Keep a major focus on where his hips are- is he trying to slide them to the inside or outside? Stay very vigilant about keeping his whole body on one smooth track unless explicitly asking for lateral movements. Keeping a steady outside rein will mostly take care of his shoulders, but let hands go wide if he needs some help finding that center track for his front half.
  • Don’t ride his head. When we are pushing powerfully from behind, we’re straight through his body, I have a steady contact on the outside rein, and am half-halting from my seat and inside rein, he will be poll-high and in the bridle. The goal is not a false headset- it’s that he’s so strong and soft through his body that he is pushed up into the bridle. If he gets too high- add more leg. If he gets too low- half-halt from my seat.
  • Almost think to counter-bend through the end of the ring. Frankie is happy to pretzel into a false bend and that is not productive. Keep that strong outside rein (notice a pattern yet?) and use my outside leg to keep his haunches on a smooth track through the turns.
  • When coming down to a walk, no plopping. He must continue forward on the contact. Do not feed him the reins until he is giving me the walk I want.

And this isn’t even everything- just the high level recap. It was mentally and physically a hugely demanding session- I was getting feedback on what to tweak with literally every single stride.

I basically rode in circles for 30 minutes, and my legs are about to fall off. All of this was hard. My brain felt like a hamster on a wheel trying to put all of these pieces together, my legs are like cooked noodles from the sheer intensity of the workout, and I’m still heavily ruminating on all the work we did.

None of these things are new concepts, it all basically boils down to inside leg to outside rein. It’s just the timing and subtlety of these aids that is some next-level work. AT assures me that with enough practice, these cues and their timing will become as automatic as keeping my heels down- I’m pretty sure it’ll take a good long time to get to that point but I’m hopeful.

Trainer was there as well so I had both her and AT working with us. Talk about intense. She told me that she’s not as fixated on my position so much anymore- there are certainly always going to be things to fix and improve upon, but she knows I know the job. Our focus now is on being the most effective rider I can be. In her words, “this is the difference between coming out to the barn to ride, and coming out to train. It’s time to train.”

So now I am incredibly sore and incredibly motivated. It feels like we’re really kicking it into a whole new gear and I couldn’t be more excited to get to work with my FancyPants pony.

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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??