Whenever people hop on the Frankenbean, I find myself giving them similar advice. Which I will now share with you, so if you ever come to visit us and want to take a spin on the Beast you will be prepared to enjoy him fully.
Without further ado, here is the Official Guide to Francis:
Put more leg on. More. No, even more. Seriously, more. I pinky pinky promise he isn’t trying to go anywhere. Ever. The only reason he ever looks like he might be forward is because his rider is squeezing the ever-loving-crap outta him. He does not think to take you forward to that crossrail. Leg. Him. On.
Take a feel. He will be mildly annoyed, but only because he knows this means he has to work and he’d rather be eating. He is not trained to a loopy rein, he is trained to a connection. If you don’t take one, he assumes you don’t really have that much to ask of him and he will act like a beginner pony. Safe, but not particularly talented. You want the good material, you gotta start by telling him you can speak his language.
Now that you’ve taken a feel, put even MORE leg on. He will test you by trying to get behind your leg because moving forward on a contact is Hard Work. Set the tone early that this is Not Allowed.
Carry a crop. You likely won’t need to use it. But he knows if it’s there or not. Somehow, he always knows.
Be direct with your questions and don’t be afraid to ask firmly. He is not offended by direct pressure- as long as you are fair and release that pressure when he gives the right answer. He’s not particularly sensitive and likes to have a conversation, so it’s ok to “speak” a little louder if you’re not getting a response. He also won’t be offended if you tell him it’s the wrong answer. Just try asking a little differently and reward his attempts to understand. He’s not the quickest thinker, but he will remember what you tell him.
Place him. It’s better to make the wrong decision than it is to make no decision. Put him at the base of the jump. Tell him that his canter is too strung out. Get your ass in the saddle and PRESS him up into the bridle. He will forgive you any mistakes, but he’ll forgive you much quicker if you don’t leave those mistakes up to him.
Pat early, pat often. He’s a really good boy, likes doing a good job, and likes being TOLD that he’s doing a good job. Lightening your seat and giving him a scratch on the withers as you come through the end of the ring is a cause for much rejoicing. A hearty “Good man!!!” and pats on the neck give him the happy feelings. Trust me, you’ll want to pat him.
Trust him. You don’t have to ride him defensively- he will not spook, and you can trust that he will do exactly what you ask of him. Seriously. He will not spook. He’s a confident horse, so you can be confident that he’ll take care of you. If you’re nervous, ask him to slow down. It’ll make his day, he loves that. He has absolutely no buck, spook, bolt, or anything else like that- his default mode is “things are ok, and they would be even better if I could nap.”
When in doubt, rev the engine. Francis is the living embodiment of the phrase, “the right answer is ALWAYS more leg.” I cannot stress this enough. Literally anything wrong can be fixed by adding some leg into your hand and getting the RPMs higher. It cures any wiggliness, it cures lack of impulsion, it cures sticky distances, it cures form over fences, it cures ALL THE THINGS. Any time you need a reset, loosen your reins and ask for a bit of a hand-gallop. It’s the magic button and then you can re-gather and get back to it.
He will do exactly what you ask of him. No more, no less. He is the ultimate tattle tale. He’s capable of really great stuff, but will not offer that up to anyone who doesn’t ask clearly and firmly. He’ll work for you, but only if you work for him. Don’t make the assumption that he will power up to the jumps- he absolutely will only if you tell him to. If you’re pulling and taking your leg off, he will peter right out and get lurchy. If you want to test his buttons and see what he’s capable of, be prepared to set the tone early and then sweat for it- if you can do that, he is sensitive and responsive and will do absolutely anything.
Enjoy the snot out of him. He’s extremely safe, extremely obedient, extremely well-trained, and genuinely enjoys his job. Toodle on a loose rein if you want, or package him up and see how sporty you can get. He’ll do it all with a smile, and he’ll make you smile too.
TL;DR add a metric crapton of leg and enjoy riding the Best Horse Ever(TM).
Fellow riders, we’ve ALL run into those people who tell us, “How hard can riding really be, you just sit there and the horse does all the work!”
And we’ve all struggled to control that fiery ball of rage in our chest and politely say, “there’s actually a lot more to it than that,” instead of bursting out like we want to and screeching, “LISTEN BUDDY YOU HAVE NO IDEA.”
So to help you out, feel free to print multiple copies of this guide to hand to anyone who just doesn’t get it.
All the Things Going Through My Mind All at the Same Time at Any Given Moment During My Ride
Not like that, your ankle looks broken when you do it like that
Keep the inside of your calf in contact with his side
Well don’t just pop your knee off the saddle
But soften your knee
Push your knee down
Why are you struggling so much with your knee
Relax your seat
Shouldn’t you be engaging your seat more?
Lighten your seat
Get up out of your saddle
Get in the back seat and DRIVE him forward
Don’t arch it though
Shoulders down and back
Why is JUST your left shoulder hunched? That’s super weird
Keep your shoulders even
Like your shoulders are headlights and you want them pointing straight ahead to illuminate the road
But still look around your turn
Don’t look down at the jump, you’re not trying to go to the jump. You’re trying to go OVER the jump.
Seriously stop looking down. There’s nothing for you there.
LOOK THROUGH YOUR TURN
Relax your jaw, you’re getting a tension headache
More outside aids to help him around the turn
Keep your weight even in the saddle
Your hips are to the inside and your shoulders are to the outside. That is SO not even.
Close your fingers
Keep your thumbs on top, it looks like you’re playing the piano Mr. Bojangles
Get your hands up out of your lap
Get your hands below the level of your collarbone
Get your hands out of his mane
Go ahead and grab mane
Get your hands…I don’t know, just move them somewhere else because this clearly isn’t right
Soften your elbows
You look like you’re churning butter with your arms
Elastic contact on that outside rein
Play with that inside rein a little to get him to soften
DON’T JUST JIGGLE THE REINS THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT TO DO
Keep your leg at the girth
Except sometimes move it just behind the girth
But not right now, you fool
Use your inside leg to push him into that outside rein
NO STOP YOU’RE OVERBENDING STRAIGHTEN HIM OUT
OK now do all that but sit up straighter
Close your hip angle a little
NOT THAT MUCH YOU LOOK FETAL
Let him jump up to you
Your leg shouldn’t be that far back
Stop bracing your leg forward
Don’t pinch with your knee
What are you doing with your knee why are we on knees again
Don’t get left behind the motion
STOP JUMPING AHEAD OF THE MOTION
Elbows on top of the mane when you crest release
But maybe this time try an automatic release
Reach towards his mouth
Not that much, it looks like you’re making out with his mane
Hands too high
No, now they’re too low
Why is “towards his mouth” so hard to figure out?
You need to do soooooo many sit-ups so you don’t collapse on his neck when you land
Bend him around your inside leg through the turns
Except this turn, you should counter-bend through this turn
Gallop up to the base!
Hold a little to the base, why are you just running him at it?!
Remember your course of 13 jumps with crazy turns, if you go off course that’s $50 just to get disqualified
He gets slow away from the in-gate, and that line is on a bit of a hill, and Mercury is in retrograde, so make sure to consider that while on course
Slow down this isn’t a race!
Well I didn’t mean that you should trot every jump
I don’t care if you “don’t like flower boxes,” your job is to jump over flower boxes bucko
Count your strides in that line and so help me god if you leave one out
But that doesn’t mean you should add
Someday we’ll make the standard striding like A NORMAL HORSE YA DINGUS
Throw out “pretty” and get the job done
Don’t throw it out that much, you look heinous
Don’t be nervous, the worst that can happen is you fall and get terribly injured and your horse will never walk again!
Pass left shoulder to left shoulder
Unless you’re that girl apparently. She gets to pass however she wants. Apparently.
Be aware of all other horses in the warmup ring BUT KEEP YOUR FOCUS