Horses teach kids about discipline, hard work, and perseverance at a young age. I've had the joy of watching Summer Franco grow up from a tiny tot with a rotten pony (who EVERYONE fell off of at least once- myself included) to a gorgeous young woman who makes any horse look good. Summer is an amateur rider who is currently catch riding for Chrissy Rogers of Woodland Farms in hunter/jumpers as she saves up to buy her next horse.
Between school, work, and life Summer has found way to keep horses a priority. Having recently graduated college, I was curious to hear how Summer was transitioning from student to working professional with her riding time.
JD: Congratulations on graduating from college! How is "adulting" treating you and where do horses fit in?
SF: Finishing college was so relieving. Now that I am done, I have gotten my real estate license and started practicing real estate. It was important for me to find a career where I could still work in a riding career into my schedule. Some days I am super busy working, but other days I am able to go down to the barn and ride and hang out for most of the day which is exactly what I was looking for.
JD: What does your training regimen look like?
SF: I’ve been trying to finish school so I was only riding on weekends when I would drive home from long beach the past two years, but now that I am done I am trying to ride as much as I can when I am not working. Chrissy usually has someone for me to ride when I am able to go to the barn, and I also just started taking dressage lessons again with Wilma Blakely on Ollie. I am hoping to get my own horse in the next year and be able to have a more consistent riding schedule as well as start showing again, preferably in the jumpers.
JD: When did riding become a priority?
SF: I started riding with Chrissy Rogers when I was 7 years old and I got my first pony, Polly, when I turned 8. She was very cute but very naughty. I believe that her being so difficult is what kept me riding for so long, as crazy as that sounds. Most of my friends faded out during high school, however my competitive edge kept me coming back and riding my rotten pony, since I had her until I was 18. When I was 12, I became a working student for Chrissy and would do chores at the barn, feed the horses, and help with summer camps in exchange for lessons. I started competing more when I was around 15 on a horse named Tobogan. I mainly did the equitation on him as well as a few jumper classes. When I was 17 I started doing jumpers on Chrissy’s horse, Ollie. I really enjoyed doing the jumpers because I found it to be a less stressful environment than the equitation, and more fun for me. Right after this, I started showing in the equitation again on an amazing horse named Knightly. He really helped me with my confidence in the show ring, and we did well together in the adult medals. The last show I did before I left for school I did a last-minute switch from Knightly to a horse in our barn Named Dante. Together, we won the CWD Equitation Challenge and earned a free custom saddle. That was definitely the highlight of my show career. I didn’t have a saddle since my pony so finally being able to win my own after a few years of trying was very exciting.
JD: How has that "rotten pony" influenced your life?
SF: The most influential horse for me would have to be Polly. She taught me to never give up, no matter how upset I am, or how hard something is because it always gets better. Because of her I can sit a spin, buck, or rear pretty well, as well as I have won a few mechanical bull riding competitions. I have Polly to thank for my perseverance in this sport.
JD: Sounds like you have had a few spills on Polly, any tips for "getting back on the horse?"
SF: After owning Polly, I became a falling off master. I pretty much land on my feet every time I fall now, and just climb back on. However, for the times that I don’t land on my feet I think it is important to get back on right away so you don’t have time to dwell on the situation and psych yourself out. Once you fix your mistakes, you can move past it. Also, take a warm bath in Epsom salts cause if I don’t land on my feet I’m probably sore.
JD: What advice do you have for other competitors?
SF: My advice to other competitors would be to try and not get so caught up in your head that you can’t focus on the important things. I tended to spend so much time worrying before my class, that by the time I got on, I was a nervous mess. Something that Chrissy started having me do that would help me relax is before I would get on to warm up was she would have me ride her bike around the property and listen to calm music in my headphones to help soothe me. This helped me clear my head of any negative thoughts I was having and prepare me to get in the saddle and just have a good time.
JD: What have you learned from horses?
SF: Throughout my time riding, I have ridden a lot of amazing horses. Each one holds a special place in my heart and each one taught me some amazing life lessons. I am not sure who I would be today if horses weren’t such a huge part of my life. Since I have not owned my own in quite a while I have adopted almost every misfit, or sale horse I come across and pretend they’re mine until they find their new home. The biggest life lesson these horses have taught me is that if something is important to you, never give up on it and you will succeed. Horses have never given up on us, and the least I can do for them is reciprocate the compassion.