As this new chapter starts for me, I’m happy to say that a new chapter is starting for Francisco as well.
In a wonderful turn of events, Frankie has a new kid to love on him for the next year! Starting next week, he will be fully leased out to one of the juniors that rides with my trainer, and is already happily embracing his job as a confidence-boosting packer (though we all know that’s really always been his job).
I’m certainly having a lot of emotions about this: relief that he is remaining in-barn under my trainer’s watchful care, happiness that he’ll get to do a job he really enjoys at a level he finds straightforward, pride that he’s such a good boy that can make this kid happy, excitement to see their growth together, gratitude for the people that worked together to find such a perfect situation to keep Frankie nearby. But also regret that I won’t be the one holding the reins for the next year, and sadness that I’ll be cheering him on from the sidelines instead of waiting for the buzzer go off from his back.
But that’s all part of the different chapters, and I can acknowledge the bittersweetness while still embracing this new chapter. This truly is an ideal setup for us for the next year: it takes a financial burden off me and my husband while we adjust to a new lifestyle, while still keeping Frankie where I can stop by and see him whenever I’d like. I’ll still get to groom him and give him tons of smooches, will still get to bring my baby out to meet him as soon as we’re out of the hospital (too soon? nah), and will still feel good knowing that he’s going to be receiving the same wonderful care he’s been thriving under for the past five years.
I’ve always promised Frankie to make the best decisions I possibly can for his care and I’m confident that he’s going to have a wonderful year making this kiddo very happy! He’s more than earned an easy retirement with me when the time comes, but we have many years and many adventures yet before that happens. In the meantime, I am especially grateful that my trainer and whole barn family love Frankie and want to keep him around as much as I do.
With Frankie officially handed off and me officially out of the saddle, I’m not sure what this blog will look like in the coming months. I certainly plan to keep up with all of you, and hope to share pieces of the adventure. I’ll probably be more active on my other social media in the meantime though, so feel free to connect with me on Instagram at @hellomylivia!
It’s kinda a season of exciting but bittersweet news over in our corner of the world.
Firstly, our beloved Assistant Trainer has decided to move on to new adventures after 6(!) years with our barn. She’ll still be around ad hoc when we need her and she’s certainly not disappearing into the ether, just not as our end-all-be-all barn manager anymore. We’re all thrilled for her new venture and it is a very positive parting, but we’re all also very brokenhearted to lose her. Her attention to detail and her horsemanship are far and away the best I’ve ever encountered. Having her knowledge and eyes on the horses has been reassuring in the extreme. She knows just when to push and ask for more and when to give a break, she takes her time developing new skills with endless patience, and never takes shortcuts when it comes to the horses’ well-being. I’m sure we will find a wonderful new barn manager/trainer, but I’ll honestly be satisfied if they are even half as good as AT has been. With all her talent and attentiveness and tenacity, I can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish!
The other bittersweet piece of news is that one of the horses in the barn colicked the other day. He ended up needing surgery, but it went well and he’s recovering (thank goodness). Of course, this means he’ll be rehabbing for a good long time and is out for the rest of the season. Major bummer for all parties involved.
However, the silver lining here is that his teenage owner is a fan of the jumper ring, and her mom is trying to figure out a plan that means she still gets to show while her horse is rehabbing, without having to buy or full lease a second horse.
I think you can guess who is coming to the rescue here: Francis.
We’ve set up an excellent partial lease situation that means this kiddo is still getting to train and show on a confidence-boosting horse, and I get (a) reassurance that he’s getting loved on when I can’t be there and (b) help with some of his bills. I wasn’t actively looking for someone to share Frankie with, but I’m happy with how well this works out for all of us.
There’s also a certain sense of circling back around: having a flexible partial lease on Addy opened up a lot of doors for me and helped me grow in ways I never would have been able to otherwise. It feels kinda karmic to now be on the other side, able to share my own horse with someone in need of more saddle time.
So there you have it. We’re bidding a fond farewell-for-now to one of the very biggest influences on my riding, and we’re giving a warm welcome to the newest member of the Official Frankie Fan Club.
Change can be intimidating, but I’m eager to see where it takes us over the next few months!
Not getting into the actual show recap quite yet, I just want to talk about how different this year felt compared to last year. I’ve been to plenty of shows over multiple years (HITS, Upperville), but having to travel out this far is a different ballgame. There were some nice changes in the facility as some construction has completed (the vendor area is stunning), but it felt like I hadn’t even left. Like, it was creepy. It’s been a full year. But even though it felt like I had never left, this week was completely different from last year’s outing. Completely 100% different.
For one, I stayed on my own offsite in a hotel, not on the grounds. While it was still only 10 minutes away, it meant that I did all my work in my hotel room instead of working from the barn. Much more separation than before. It also gave more separation to heading back and forth from the show – I didn’t feel like I was on the grounds 24/7 like last time, which was a nice change. Having my own room also gave me much more alone time in the evenings, which this outgoing introvert thrives on.
We were also in a completely different barn! Last year we were in M, and this year we were in A. Check the map below and you can see that they literally could not be further apart.
It was lovely though, we got our own spacious aisle and even turnout!! This was my one big gripe last year, that the ponies didn’t have any time to go play and stretch their legs. We had to rotate them through so it wasn’t a full day like they get at home, but a huge huge huge improvement over none at all. I think it really helped them stay fresh. (Interesting side note – we were the only ones using turnout. I found that absolutely wild)
I also showed up suuuuper early in the week and was the only client there for a solid 3 days. I opted to drive out on President’s Day since my office was closed, so I could work remotely Tues-Wed and then take Thurs-Fri off completely. It meant a few extra nights in a hotel, but was totally worth the savings on vacation time. It was super leisurely for those few days: I did my work during the day, then headed over to the barn to lesson, clean tack, hang out with my trainer and AT. No stress no fuss. It’s not often that I get to be the only client and I obviously adore my barn fam, but there was something really chill about having such an open schedule for the first few days.
Of course probably the biggest difference is that I was riding a different horse. I haven’t shown another horse since before I bought Frankie back in 2016! I leased a gorgeous mare named Belle, a 17yo Selle Francais who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and leads tours. No joke, this mare is the ultimate definition of a packer. She self-adjusted, aimed herself at the jumps, found her own spots, maintained her own forward (and hoo boy was she a rocket), and was generally self-sufficient with very little needed from me.
I’ll be honest, riding something like this kinda opened my eyes to how hard I need to work with Francis. Obviously he’s still my favorite ride and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I do have to be giving him constant input. Constant. Belle did not require input beyond pointing her at the jumps and encouraging her to fit the last stride in, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve completely dropped the reins and she still would’ve found her way around the course.
So another big difference was that the pressure was off. I did some 0.85m classes as a warmup to get to know each other, then stuck in the Lows for my division. No pressure to do any big jumps. As long as I released, Belle jumped a 10 from any spot. And it wasn’t my horse. I had nothing to prove. She wasn’t even a sales horse, where I might’ve felt pressure to show well to help her resume. Her entire job is to take people like me and give them a safe and enjoyable ride in the jumper ring.
While I certainly missed my big bay beast, he was very happy back at home – fully recovered from his heel grab – and I was thrilled the get the chance to learn how to adjust my ride to something so completely different.
Overall it was a much more relaxing trip than last year, and I had a much more enjoyable time. So much so that I was sad to leave on Sunday! I know that doing another week would’ve been too much (contrary to popular belief, I do sometimes learn from experience), but it was hard to pull myself away to head back to reality.
A week or two ago I mentioned that I asked my trainer for a quote to attend WEC again in February.
And if you all know me at all, you know that my willpower hovers between “non-existent” and “will disappear with any passing breeze.” So clearly once I ask for a quote it’s all over from there.
But I knew that I definitely didn’t want to compete for two weeks again. Last year it became way more of an endurance test than actual fun, and I’m all about having fun in 2019. But for Frankie to go, he needed to be there the full two weeks my barn is attending- they’re not able to trailer back and forth due to the distance.
So with all that in mind, I came up with a couple different scenarios:
Scenario 1: bring Frankie, and commute out for both weekends. It’s a long drive but not a terribly difficult one, and it would be possible for me to drive out Wednesday night, school Thursday, compete Fri-Sun, then drive home. Then I wouldn’t be staying full time and I’d get to have my own horse, but it meant paying for a full two weeks for Frankie, and extra gas/hotel costs for me.
Scenario 2: lease a horse there. Then I could just go for one week no problem, not have to trailer out a horse, and could spend the shipping money on a lease fee instead. The obvious risk here is that I’d end up with a horse that I didn’t really like, but I’m fairly easy to get along with and my trainer has a proven record of finding me great horses quickly.
Scenario 3: See if we can find a leaser for Francis for the second week. In-barn, so that he could stay under my trainer’s watchful care. This would mean I could have my own horse, only have to pay for one week of care, and have a lease fee to help cover some of those costs. This would rely on Trainer having a client who was A) looking for a lease and B) comfortable and able to ride the Frankenbean.
I eliminated Scenario 1 pretty much off the bat. It was by far the most expensive option, and I hate being in the car any longer than I have to. I also don’t know that I’d want to compete for two weekends in a row- I’m a tired whiny baby and need my recovery time.
So knowing that I only wanted 1 week, my decision hinged on finding a leaser for Frankie. But we really did’t have the biggest pool of people going to Ohio, and while Frankie is a good boy, he also takes a rider who is willing to kick. When we weren’t able to find a solid in-house lease option for him, we decided to leave him at home for a brief vacation and find me a lease horse!
While of course I always want Frankie there, I’m super excited about this- I’ll get to test my skills on a new mount and try some classes I might not otherwise try, and it takes all pressure off my performance. Seriously if anything is less than perfect you know I’ll be using the excuse “oh this is only my 3rd ride on him.” I am not above that, I am petty and obnoxious.
The specifics of what classes I’ll be signing up for remain to be seen, but my hotel is booked for WEC 9 and I’ll be comin’ in hot. If you’re even remotely in the area, let me know! Mystery Horse and I would love to hang ❤
The Big Guy had his field trip last week! He and one of our lovely junior riders went out and competed in all three rings: they did the 0.85m and 0.95m jumpers, the 3′ equitation classes, and the 3′ children’s hunter division. CHECK THE CUTENESS:
I’m not comfortable sharing pics of a minor without their/their parent’s consent and I’m too lazy to edit more emoji faces into the pictures, but rest assured that I have lots and lots of pics of the Frankfurter being adorable.
Apparently he had a few rails in the hunter classes, because natural fill is a real snoozefest. But the videos I saw were really lovely- she rode him beautifully, very steady and consistent. And the two of them got 3rd in one of their 0.95m jumper classes- this maaaay have actually been her first foray into the jumper ring. So happy that Frankie could share his awesomeness ❤ Trainer said he was “wonderful” so I’m just bursting with pride at that.
Also never fear, I got plenty of nap pics of him. He certainly wasn’t worked up that I wasn’t there.
I felt a bit like a parent who had a kid away at summer camp- it was odd to not go to the barn at all after work. I don’t plan to make a habit of that, but it was nice to have a break to catch up on things!
And getting to catch up on things while Frankie got to go play with a talented rider, in some new rings, under the trusted supervision of my trainers? It doesn’t get much better.
I can’t wait to go out and love on my 3-ring creature! A break was nice, but I miss my giant four-legged buddy.
As I start to think about my own future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means for Frankie’s future and how best to ensure that it’s a happy and safe one.
Because while I’m optimistic that Frankie will be able to cart me around 1.20m, I think that will be about as far as I’m willing to push him. Could he have scope for the 1.25m? Maybe. I know he would try his heart out. But as the jumps go up the courses also get more technical, and I want to be very conscious to not overface him with something that will knock his confidence. He’ll be 12 this year and I want him to have a long and sound career, so we may start backing him off height-wise after this season depending on how things go and how he feels. I’m not committing to that yet, but it’s something we’re constantly monitoring and considering.
At the same time, I do want to compete in the AOs, hopefully up to the 1.30-1.40m height. Not tomorrow, but eventually. Which most likely means means a second horse. I cannot afford two horses. All of which means Frankie will need to earn his own keep.
Selling him is not my first choice (or second or third or fourth…)- he’s absolutely worth his weight in gold and eventually I want to teach my kids how to ride on his steady safe back (FAR IN THE FUTURE SO FAR IN THE FUTURE). He’s such an incredibly special horse and I don’t plan on letting go of him unless it was to a situation where I knew his life would be better than the one I can provide for him.
But leasing him out is on the table- ideally to a tall junior or ammy in the barn who is looking for a safe fun ride in the jumper ring. I’d prefer in-barn just so I could see him and know that he would still be under my trainer’s excellent care, but we do have some trusted contacts in the area that would be options. Trainer and I have discussed this possibility moving forward, and we had an interesting conversation on what type of person would do best with him.
She commented that he’s not so good for a nervous rider. I was a little surprised by that, since he’s so so so steady and safe- all things nervous riders are usually reassured by. But she reminded me that Frankie is definitely a kick ride. He’s happy to gallop up to the big fences- but only if you tell him to. If someone is nervous and starts picking at his face, he is more than happy to oblige by coasting to a slower rhythm, at which point he physically can’t make it over the bigger jumps. I can hold his face all I want to package him up, but only if I’m backing it up with a crapton of leg to maintain the power in his stride, and it is definitely a workout. He does best with someone whose first instinct at all times is to KICK JUST KEEP KICKING. He is the epitome of the phrase “the right answer is ALWAYS more leg.”
So if someone wanted to do the Highs with him, it would have to be someone who has strong legs and isn’t a puller. Not because he gets offended by pulling, but because he thinks slowing down is great and would love the excuse. Even at 1m where he’s now super comfortable, he does best with a foot constantly on the gas pedal. He’s never been the type of horse to pull you to the jump.
On the flip side, we could probably stick anyone on him to do the lower level jumpers/3′ equitation. Homeboy can hop those fences from a standstill, so it don’t matter if you pull. He’ll pack around the smaller jumps no matter what his rider is doing (ask me how I know, womp womp). So he could potentially be a great match for someone wanting an intro to the jumper ring, even if they are a nervous picker.
These aren’t decisions we have to make right now, as I plan to enjoy the heck out of this show season with him. As always, we’ll keep an eye on him to see what he’s telling us he wants to do, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Things have a way of changing, no matter what the best laid plans may be. Our number one priority at all times is making sure we have a healthy happy Francis! I just love the snot out of this horse.