Upper level riders are often asked about their horses, their plans and their results. However, they are rarely asked about the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect of their successful systems. In this episode of ‘In the Locker Room,’ I talk to up and coming British rider, Franky Reid-Warrilow.
Based in Wales, UK, Franky runs a select string of quality horses and has been part of many Nations Cup teams. In 2017, she was accepted onto the World Class Podium Potential Programme, and she has competed at 5* level. Franky has had impressive results this year at the CCI4*-S level with Billy Champagne, including an 11th place finish at Barbury Castle and a 12th at Hartpury, as well as top three-star finishes with other horses in her string.
EN: What attributes do you look for in an event horse? What appeals most to you, and are there any things you absolutely won’t overlook?
Franky: “The two main things I look for are conformation and attitude. I have learned that horses with less than ideal conformation can be significantly hampered in showing their ability and scope in the dressage in particular. You can work around a lot with correct training if the horse has a good attitude, but it certainly means you are starting on the back foot against other horses with better conformation. My 4* mare ‘My Squire De Reve’ is a prime example of attitude and trainability winning out over less than ideal conformation. She finds certain things difficult on the flat because of how she is built, but she is easy to train and tries really hard so these things cancel each other out somewhat. I have also previously spent far too long on very talented horses who were difficult mentally, and in the end it is often not worth it.”
EN: What are your ‘can’t live without’ items of equipment for horse and for rider?
Franky: “For the horses, my Amerigo tack and my Veredus boots. Everything that we put onto the horses has to be of the best quality, comfort and design so that it impacts the horses as little as possible. The saddles have to fit perfectly so that they don’t move or pinch, and allow as much freedom as possible for the horse. The same applies to my bridles-I never use tight nose bands, and quite often do dressage without a flash strap. I use a grackle for jumping. I like the horses to feel free, so that they don’t need force or to be constricted to perform.
“For the rider, definitely my Cavallo gear. In particular, I love the Varius riding boots which I use for jumping, and the Ciora Pro Grip breeches, which I live in every day and also use for competing.”
EN: What sort of things do you focus on in the warm up for the dressage, cross country and show jumping?
Franky: “Relaxation of horse and rider is number one in all three phases. For dressage, I begin with focusing on making sure that the contact is correct, and that the horse is responsive to my aids in the correct way. For showjumping, I try to feel what sort of shape the horse is making over the warm up fences. I try to see if there is anything I can do to help or improve this before we go into the ring. For cross country, the horse has to be jumping the fences confidently and out of a forward rhythm-but in control. I like to jump angles appropriate to the course ahead, and to be able to land and turn if necessary. The contact and focus between my leg, seat and hand is key for my warm up.”
EN: How do you get yourself in the right frame of mind for competition?
Franky: “I have a system and process in place that I have been adapting and modifying for a few years now, and it works for me.”
EN: What is your most used jumping exercise, and why?
Franky: “A pole exercise I use a lot between competitions is simply having two poles on the ground set out on four, five or six strides. I like to work the horses over poles before or after a run to ‘recalibrate’ the canter, and make sure I am in the correct canter for jumping-not too big or too small. You begin to know your horses, and whether they will run up tight and short after competing, or long and strung out. The information gained helps you to make a plan for the following days or weeks.”
EN: What music are you listening to in your lorry currently?
Franky: “The Eventing Podcast from Equiratings is our ‘go to’ on lorry journeys.”
EN: What is your fitness and diet regime like during the season?
Franky: “I eat normally. Breakfast is a big thing for me, I love it. Once the season is up and going, I don’t tend to have to focus on my fitness as yard work and riding works well. I do use yoga every morning, and I go to a Physio when I need it.”
EN: Describe your perfect day off!
Franky: “Having a lie in, going off the yard with my boyfriend Arthur and doing something non-horsey like having a nice lunch somewhere.”
EN: Your most embarrassing moment in the sport?
Franky: “I have had a few! Probably getting thrown off a horse before fence one on the cross country course and just after leaving the start box is one that springs to mind. I could hear the commentator warning people to not get in the horse’s way as he ferociously headed back to the lorry, adamant he was not going cross country on that day……”
EN: Who is your sporting hero? And why?
Franky: “Sir Mark Todd, for sure — even more so now that I actually know him, have trained with him and compete against him. LEGEND is all that needs to be said!”
With sincere thanks to Franky for her generous contribution to this article.