Riding Francis: A How-To Guide

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.
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Austen learned quickly that sometimes we have Feelings about using our muscles
  • 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.
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Buried him to the base. Note that the ears are still up. Things are ok.
  • 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.
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He really REALLY loves hearing what an excellent boy he is
  • 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.
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“Pls stop telling them to leg me and let me live my life”
  • 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).

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But you just sit there!

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.

backwards

All the Things Going Through My Mind All at the Same Time at Any Given Moment During My Ride

  • Heels down
  • Toes forward
  • 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?
  • Sit deeper
  • Lighten your seat
  • Get up out of your saddle
  • Get in the back seat and DRIVE him forward
  • Flat back
  • 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
  • Pleasedon’tspookpleasedon’tspookpleasedon’tspookDAMMIT
  • Don’t look so terrified, you do this for fun

What else would you add to this list?