Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Fran Latane-Lukehart

Fran & Tempi. Photo Credit: Miriam Schwabe

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Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Fran Latane-Lukehart

Today’s featured rider is Fran Latane-Lukehart.

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me.

 

Get to know Fran
I am 27 and I’m a trainer, riding instructor and equestrian facility owner. My husband and I own and operate LilliCrest Farm, LLC, in Osseo, Wisconsin. I’ve been riding since I was 7-years-old, mostly because I love horses, and also a little bit because my mom told me the likelihood of being an Orca Whale trainer was unlikely for a little girl from Wisconsin! Horses seemed more realistic!

I have competed through Training level as an eventer, and 1.15m show jumpers, but have spent a majority of my professional career starting young horses, from first rides to first show seasons, essentially. I have goals to produce my own string of horses to the FEI levels.

Fran’s horse power
I have a whole herd at home, but my main squeeze is a jet black, 2009 Hanoverian mare, “L’Istesso Tempo”. Tempi is by Escudo II, and is, characteristic of that line, a very talented jumper. I got her in April 2018 after my young OTTB, Apollo, developed some chronic health issues that have made his show career questionable. Her acquisition was a tale of serendipitous circumstance; my best friend in Wisconsin found her ad, out of South Carolina, and she turned out to be previously out of my instructor’s sale program (In Ocala, FL!) several years prior. We were somehow able to arrange her purchase, vetting, and shipping in less than 12 hours, after I had turned around (in Tennessee!) from driving to Wisconsin from Florida, and went to look at her in Aiken.

Tempi is very sensitive and incredibly, almost dangerously, intelligent. The greatest challenge with her is staying a step ahead, so she doesn’t get bored and come up with her own solutions to puzzles. She can be incredibly dramatic, but is also fearless, has the biggest heart, and kindest mind when she’s connected; something that’s happening more and more frequently as we get to know each other.

What I’m the proudest of is how quickly she and I have connected and found success. I know she can be a challenging ride, and it makes me so happy to know that she can be free to express herself, but also is so willing and eager to work with me, most of the time.

Photo Credit: Miriam Schwabe

Training
I am “trainer-less” during the summer season in Wisconsin. Because I run and manage my own farm, I can make time for weekend clinics occasionally (and we host a few!), but carving out time in the busy season for anything more than monthly is challenging. I do watch a lot of video of myself riding and try and make changes based on my own observations.

In the winter, I travel to Ocala to escape the cold. Some of my horses get breaks from training then, as I usually only train one or two in the winter. I’ve worked with several different instructors in Florida over the years, but most recently I’ve ridden at Copperline Farm with Tik Maynard and Sinead Halpin. I’ve been so happy to connect with the two of them, as we align philosophically as trainers and riders, and they’re just downright good people, too.

 


 

Influence and inspiration
One of the most influential people to my riding was the instructor I worked with in my early 20s, Len Danielson. Len and his wife Jacki owned North Run Farm in Delano, MN. Len passed away in 2016, (Jacki still owns, and operates the farm, including their monthly schooling shows!) and that has left a huge hole in my support structure.

Len was a gifted jumping trainer, who’s analytical mind simplified even the most challenging concepts in riding, and added a splash of humor to every ride, even the ones that included dust flying or tears falling. He was also the first person who looked me in the eye and told me I had a skillset worth pursuing, and encouraged me to chase my dream of riding at the international level. He showed me that humane, for-the-horse training existed in the sport horse world, and that you didn’t have to be born into that world to be successful, if you were willing to put the time and the training in on your own horse. He inspired me to dig deeper, and his mentorship still inspires me to bring out the best in every horse I sit on, whether it’s destined for international fame, or a little girl’s first mount.

Another person worth a big shout out in terms of influence, is perhaps my biggest fan and the financier of many things LilliCrest Eventing, my sponsor, Cynthia. Eventing is a tough enough sport without the financial stressor, and in terms of influencing the takeoff of my career as professional rider, nobody deserves more credit than she. Everyone in my barn is grateful for her, because without her, there wouldn’t be an “us”!

Most embarrassing Eventing moment
Oh gawd… the great rider-fall elimination of 2017 comes to mind. I was at my first schooling event of the year, on my incredibly dramatic OTTB gelding, Apollo. We were actually leading our Beginner novice division after dressage but came into the stadium ring with bug eyes for everything, including the suspicious red oxer at fence 6. He had spooked at every fence, but gotten over them, but fence 6 was especially suspicious. He indicated he might stop about 5 strides out, so I added some leg…which propelled him in 4 directions at once, zig-zagging, unseating me, sliding to a stop and finally darting out right and I sailed over his neck and landed on the oxer. I was so mad…at myself, at him, and at the circumstance, that even as I fell, I decided I wouldn’t let go of the reins, prompting Apollo to panic, and run backwards, dragging me off the jump and across the ring. You haven’t truly arrived as an eventer until you’ve actually heard the ring steward exclaim “Oh my GOD…is she DEAD?!” My friend standing at the rail (videoing, by the way!) was quick to set her straight “Oh no, she’s alive, she’s just really angry…”

Needless to say… that was the beginning of a new training plan! Fortunately, it was a short-lived issue, but boy, it sure set the tone for my 2017 eventing season—and led me to seek out help with Tik Maynard! So even though it was humiliating, it did turn out to be beneficial!

Fran & Apollo

Most triumphant Eventing moment
The other weekend, I won my first event in 15 years as a competitor. I’ve won my fair share of jumper classes, and I have a decent number of red and yellow horse trials ribbons, but I’ve never been able to clinch a horse trials division!

If I’m honest, I didn’t want to be at that event, initially. It’s been a more-busy-than-usual July, and I could barely stay awake driving to the venue after coaching students all week before. But, I showed up, smiled, and decided if we were going to be there, we were going to be there and people were going to know about it.

I was super grateful for my showjumping background, as the course had some really tricky turns that got a lot of riders into trouble, and Tempi and I were one of only a handful of double clear stadium rounds across all the divisions.

After finding out we won, the first thing my neighbors in the barn commented on were how much fun it was to see Tempi be so interactive with me throughout the weekend, that we obviously had a partnership that deserved to be rewarded. I take my relationships with my horses pretty seriously, so to simultaneously win, in addition to having our partnership acknowledged was a high point.

Photo Credit: Miriam Schwabe

2018 milestones
My best moment this year was at a horse trials a couple of months ago, about halfway through my cross-country course. Tempi is a cross-country machine, and the footing was kind of a mess coming out of the woods. Without any prompting, she adjusted herself to navigate the mud, and then rated herself to a perfect spot to jump a big table downhill right afterward. In a moment of relief, (I had walked that line with my heart in my throat several times) reached down and patted her and said “You…are a CHAMPION my friend.” …The announcer heard me say it, and she repeated the affirmation, along with our names and my rider number, prompting a TON of applause and we navigated the water complex. It was one of those incredible, warm and fuzzy moments, where I felt both love and tremendous gratitude for my horse, and love from the people around me, and just a tremendous love for the sport of eventing, and the community that surrounds it.

Best of luck this year Fran! 

 

If you would like to be featured in Rider Connect, email me

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