Frankie came to us by fate, I swear. In early May, my trainer gave me a call and told me that a boarder of hers was looking to lease a horse out. I politely declined her offer as I wasn’t interested at the time. A few short weeks later, I was looking for another horse to lease and came across Frankie. A 12-year-old OTTB whose add said that leasing wasn’t an option. On a limb, I replied to the add and ended up with a response saying that yes, half leasing could be an option.
The next part of the email read, “Are you the Autumn that rides with Cathy?” Surprised, I answered yes and explained my situation. Not even a week later, I had a lesson scheduled on Frankie so I could try him out.
I was only casually looking for another lease and was contemplating taking some time off from riding. The confidence I had in myself (as both a rider and a trainer) was at an all-time low and I wanted to find joy in horses, not hardship and heartbreak. I wanted it to be fun and a community, not a solitary chore. I agreed to try Frankie out anyways, still not knowing he was the horse my trainer very kindly called me about a month before.
Fast forward to today, 06/16/2019, where I had my sixth ride on Frankie. We’ve taken him on a trial lease to see if he’s a good fit for me. I couldn’t say it more happily that this horse is something special. He tries his heart out and takes everything in stride. A nervous wreck at times but a total sweetheart, Frankie seems to have found a place in my heart.
At 5:30 last night I was pulling my breeches on and making one last phone call before hopping in the car to go try out a potential lease option. My phone call was to the lady who owned the horse, well actually the pony, to get her address. She picked up on the last ring and proceeded to tell me that she was too busy tonight to meet. Annoyed, I texted a friend of mine who knows the woman personally asking if this was typical behavior for her. Of course, the answer was yes.
“Plan B….” I thought. What was Plan B though? I decided that Plan B was texting Frankie’s owner to see if she was alright with me coming out and spending some time with him on the ground. Frankie is one of the horses I previously tried out that I liked, so I figured it would be good to get to know him on the ground a little bit more. The owner was cool with it so I continued my trek out the door, sugar cubes in hand.
10 minutes later, I pulled up in front of my dressage Trainers facility and hopped out of the car with my grooming bucket. Frankie, in a stall about halfway down the left side, was standing contently munching on hay. After an hour of grooming, cuddling, and doing a bit of +R with him, I decided to head home. I was feeling very relaxed despite my previous blood pressure spike due to being canceled on last minute. I was also feeling like I had found my new horse.
On 6/1/2019 I tried a 12 year old Thoroughbred gelding registered by the name of Frantic, barn name “Frankie”. He has some vices (pawing and being a bit mouthy) but other than that, the horse is perfect. He’s build like a truck and a bit chubby but is an absolute sweetheart. He can be a bit nervous sometimes but really knows his stuff. He does flying changes and stretches/goes into frame quite easily. The perfect horse for me? Yes.
The situation gets coincidental though. A couple weeks ago my Dressage trainer called me about this horse. He was a really good horse and her client was looking to lease him out. I was flattered, but at the time I was still with Diva. Then last week, when I really realized Diva was no longer going to work, I started looking for horses again.
I ran across Frankie’s add and even though it said he wasn’t for lease, I went out on a limb. The owner ended up being game for leasing him out and I tried him yesterday. Come to find out, the horse my trainer called me about and Frankie were the same horse. Fate? Maybe, probably.
I am trying out other horses, but Frankie is 10/10 a perfect horse for me and I am wanting to go back to ride him again. Who knows, maybe he’s the one!?
Well, we all knew this was coming. On May 25th I found out that my lessor responded back to an add of someone wanting a jumper. A friend of a friend told me and as any sane person would, I texted my lessor immediately. Diva wasn’t up for sale. But then on May 30th, she was sold to a girl that could ride her but to an extent. Not my horse, no longer my problem. I know that sounds harsh, but our lease situation was a very sketchy one from the start.
Anyways, May was my last month with Diva. Lots of tears were shed but it was for the best. We had hit a plateau in her training and she was meant to go elsewhere. I needed a horse that was consistent as much as I need a lessor that was consistent. I love Diva with all my heart, but we were never meant for each other.
When googling “what is the ‘right’ first horse for me?”, you’ll never come up with an answer. You can rephrase the question and write it differently as many times as you want, but you won’t ever come up with an answer. This is because of the one simplicity that humans are forced to accept: diversity. We love the thought of the concept but deep down we tend to be afraid of the fact that we’re all different. Whether you can accept the concept of diversity or not, it’ll always bite you in the butt when it comes to shopping for either a lease horse or your own mount.
I’ve run into this issue when being faced with the fact that the woman I lease from wants us to either buy or full lease Diva. I’d love to buy her, but as a minor, I can’t legally do that. Because of this, the decision is not only up to me but also my mom. I love her to pieces but she keeps telling me that full leasing is a bad investment (I get that) and buying isn’t really an option. She thinks Diva is a safety hazard, the incorrect first horse, and won’t have an attitude change. In reality, I’ve dedicated almost a year of my life to this horse and can fully and completely tell you that all three of those things are not true. Most people wouldn’t click with her, but in some weird way, I do.
I know others have felt my pain and will continue to. The only piece of advice I can give is that you’ll never find the ‘right’ first horse but you will find a horse that you click with. The horse you end up with is going to have issues and you’ll find bumps in the road. It won’t be easy but those are just hills that you need to get over.
(I know that recently I’ve been writing a lot about how Diva has been doing, but here’s another update.)
On Saturday (5/18/2019), there was finally a let up in the endless rain and I was able to fit in a ride on Diva. This was only the seventh time I had ridden her since her being cleared by the vet. I love this horse with all my heart and seeing her start to really improve her flat work just makes me beam.
Anyways, I started out by lunging Diva in our Pessoa Training System. I do this to get her warmed up and her head in work mode. After 15 minutes on the lunge, I took off the system and mounted up. I walked and trotted tons before starting to work over some trot poles. Diva was well behaved and stretching/going into frame so I figured I would ask for a canter. I started on the left lead to maintain her relaxed disposition (it’s her preferred direction). She picked up the canter beautifully and I let her canter for a bit before coming back to walk and switching to tracking right.
I had her trot quite a bit to make sure that she was staying balanced and relaxed. After five minutes or so she offered me a right lead canter and of course, I took it. It was a tad bit rushed in the beginning but after a while, she became relaxed again. I let her canter some more before dismounting. It was mostly how nonchalant Diva was about everything that surprised me. She hadn’t a care in the world and acted as if she was able to act sane all the time.
Here’s some comparison to show her progress:
Morale of the story, Diva is coming back strong and I’m beyond proud of her!
Sometimes all horses need is time off, or an injury I guess. Their brains get to reset and be horses for a bit while you cultivate a plan to make them the most responsive and reliable horse you know how to create. In my case, my mare got just over a month off (34 days to be exact) due to two different injuries. The first being an infected puncture wound between the Long Pastern and the Proximal Sesamoids. The wound didn’t hit any tendons or anything like that, but the week it happened we got loads of rain. This made everything muddy and the cut got infected (Cellulitis), even with constant cleaning.
The second wound happened a few days after Divas leg swelled like a balloon. The day before the vet was coming out to look at her leg, Diva cut herself on a fence, resulting in a three in long Laceration wound in her side (between her flank and withers but in the middle of her). 13 stitches, stall rest, and 4+ weeks later, the vet cleared her for riding again. I wanted everything to be super chill and very low pressure when I started riding her again. Personally, I think that approach has worked more than anything I’ve ever done with this horse.
Before she got cleared to ride but was able to spend some time in the pasture, I restarted her on groundwork. I worked on keeping her balanced on a circle while stretching/working through her back in both walk and trot. When she was cleared to ride, I decided we would go bitless until she was solid enough to handle a bit. I had my sixth ride on her last night and the past six rides have been everything but awful: they’ve been perfect!
Diva now knows how to walk and/or come back to the walk. As crazy as that sounds, this horse couldn’t walk nor could she come back to the walk, now she can. I acted as if I was restarting her straight off the track and it showed her that she was able to actually horse correctly. She can also now trot in frame or stretching without me constantly bugging her. To add to that, Diva can also canter on both leads. It’s not pretty and she needs a bit of help on the right lead, but other than that she’s been absolutely perfect. I think her having some time off to just horse was quite beneficial in showing everyone that she’s not a total crackhead 🙂