Process Oriented: Francie Steinwedell-Carvin's Path to the World Cup Final

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Process Oriented: Francie Steinwedell-Carvin's Path to the World Cup Final

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Apr. 05,2012
Erin Gilmore

About 18 months ago, Dick Carvin called his wife, Francie Steinwedell-Carvin, while he was away on a trip to Spruce Meadows. While trying prospects with a client, he’d come across a big-boned gentle giant of a horse.

Even though they weren’t on a specific hunt for a grand prix horse for her, when Carvin laid eyes on Taunus for the first time, he felt sure that he was looking at a horse that was meant for his wife to ride.

“When he saw Taunus, he said to me that I would ride him, and he would be good for me, and I should have him,” recalls Steinwedell-Carvin. “He said, he’s really big, but he’s got blood.”

Really big was an understatement; the 17.1hand+ Dutch Warmblood gelding is long from ‘nose to tail’ and totally unlike the type of horse that Francie has historically ridden. But with a strong partnership formed after plenty of hard work and time in the saddle, Francie now has a star on her hands, and a ticket to the Rolex FEI World Cup Final, which begins in just 14 days.

Oil and Water
Regulars on the West Coast A-circuit, the Carvins operate Meadow Grove Farm at Middle Ranch in Lakeview Terrace, California with partner Susie Schroer. When Dick called Francie from Canada and suggested that they bring Taunus home to be her new grand prix horse, it was somewhat of a surprise. Francie, 51, rode internationally at the beginning of her career and competed at the 1996 World Cup Final in Geneva, Switzerland, but riding at that level again hasn’t been her top priority in recent years.

“Life is very different now,” she explains. “I’m really happy, life with my husband is great, our business is great, and that’s been so important to me. I just didn’t think about having those huge goals again because I was really enjoying my life.”

But, Francie also trusts her husband. Taunus came home to Middle Ranch in the fall of 2010 and Francie began work with him. Ten years old at the time, the long, big horse wasn’t the usual ride for Francie, and became an instant challenge for her to gel with.

“I was so uncomfortable with his shape, I’ve never had a horse like him and he just rides big for me,” said Francie. “I almost sold him. We had this hard time coming together; it was like oil and water, and I just thought this isn’t fair.”

For nine months Francie worked on improving Taunus' suppleness and rideability on the flat. She threw herself into the effort of it, but wasn't making the progress she'd hoped for. 

Giving Up Control
During those initial months, Francie took a trip to a nearby ranch to check on another horse, a mare that had been sent to a California cowboy of sorts named Dan Deponde. The mare was with Dan to work on groundwork and respect issues, and when Francie showed up, Dan asked if she wanted to ride her in the round pen, Western saddle and all.

It was an eye opening experience. After a lifetime of gripping the reins for control, Dan instructed her to move the mare forward in the round pen without picking up the reins. Francie soldiered through what she describes as a highly uncomfortable moment, but the mare began moving forward with a freedom that Francie hadn't felt before. The feeling stayed with her. 

“I experienced giving up control to get control,” said Francie, who realized that trying so hard with Taunus was holding back her overall progress with him. “And when I got on Taunus back at home later, it carried over, and something inside me just went ‘ok’.”

The Elephant and the Mouse
Even after things fell into place with Taunus, and Francie began notching consistent results with him in 2011 World Cup Qualifier classes, she didn’t consider a trip to the Final as her end goal.

However, during the first three months of 2012, Taunus began to shine. After placing in four 2012 World Cup Qualifiers during the HITS Thermal Desert Circuit, one of which they won, her points from the 2011/2012 season skyrocketed. Francie was named the Rolex One to Watch for March 2012, and finished third in the North American FEI World Cup Qualifying Jumping League - West standings, behind Fellers and Richard Spooner.

On fire in Thermal, California. Photo ©Cheval Photos

But even then, it wasn’t until after a conversation with fellow rider Rich Fellers at Thermal that she really began to consider going. The 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup Final will be held in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, April 19-22.

“I was talking to Rich, and he said ‘are you going?’ and I said ‘well, no, I’m not going to go.’ And he said ‘well why not?! Is your horse brave? Is he scopey?’

“And I said well yes, he really brave and scopey. And Rich said ‘well he’s brave, he’s scopey, why not go?’ I said that I don’t think he’s jumped big jumps like that! And Rich said ‘well neither did Flexible, and he did just fine and you will be just fine’.

I walked away from that conversation going, huh. Ok.”

After some more thought and conversations with her team (Francie’s mother and aunt are co-owners of Taunus), Francie decided that Rich was onto something. Taunus enjoyed a post-Thermal break of treadmill work and plenty of lounging around, and this week Francie picked up his reins again to prepare for the Final. 

Process Oriented
Fellow American Michelle Spadone is also qualified for the Final, and spends time in Europe stabled in the area with Stal Hendrix. Francie will be arriving in Holland well before the Final in order to give Taunus a couple of turns around a European Indoor. Ironically, the indoor tent at HITS Thermal has long been one of their biggest challenges.

“He really doesn’t like the wind and the flapping of the tents,” explains Francie. “It’s like an elephant scared of a mouse kind of thing, he really truly is scared of it.”

Working him outside the tent, and then going inside, then leaving, then going back in, helped raise Taunus’ comfort level inside the enclosed space. The night that she won the World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix at Thermal, everything went smoothly, but Francie knows that giving Taunus plenty of time to school in new spaces is essential. Their daily program is specific, and her training philosophy is even more so:

“I stay process oriented, not results oriented. My process is to be consistent, to be good, to answer the questions that the course designer’s asking, and to know it, just have it in my brain and go ride. And just enjoy it and have fun,” Francie explains. “It’s all about my experience with that venue and that horse. It’s not me against anybody.” 

That mindset helped her stay focused to guide Taunus to an impressive third place in the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix on March 11th. It was a solid finish to her winter season, and in two weeks, Francie plans to keep the same focus when she jumps against the best in the world in Holland.

“I feel good,” she says. “I know I’m going to finish. At this point in my life I’m going to have an experience I’ve never had, and I know I’m going to be good!”

Photo ©Cheval Photos

Be sure to bookmark www.ProEquest.com and check back for daily, on the ground coverage during the Rolex FEI World Cup Final from April 19-22. For a fee, views can watch the live online broadcast of all four rounds at www.feiTV.org. To see the complete list of riders competing at the 2012 World Cup Final, go here

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