Who could be calling?
Her mother Eileen Beckman, the famous equestrian and founder of the breeding facility, was on their property, and her daughter Katie Gardner, a musical theater graduate, was in a performance of Guys and Dolls.
The caller, a friend, it turns out, got straight to the point: “Do you want a free Thoroughbred?”
Beckman replied, “What kind of a free Thoroughbred?”
The response was good enough for Beckman. The next day, on May 15, 2008, Beckman took home, sight-unseen, what would turn out to be “the coolest horse ever!”
After Gardner returned home from her theatrical performance, and met the unfortunately named Thoroughbred Struggler’s Legend, the third-generation horseman decided to put her theatrical aspirations on the backburner a bit and instead, leap tall fences toward a different kind of stardom.
First things first: the name Struggler’s Legend had to go. So the dark bay Thoroughbred with Clark Gable good looks was renamed Frankly My Dear, or just plain Frank for short.
But Frank was more like Chevy Chase in his first rehearsals on a jumps course.
Race name: Struggler’s Legend
Show name: Frankly My Dear
Barn name: Frank
Dam: Legend’s Daughter, by Alleged
Foal date: April 27, 2001“There was a point early on when I seriously thought I’d found the one horse who could not jump!” she says. “No matter what I aimed him at, he would plow right through it and pull them down.”
Finally, as a last resort, Gardner made a somewhat unorthodox move. Thinking of her grandmother’s bravery and talent, which landed her in the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame, as well as shows at Madison Square Garden, Gardner took a deep breath, and aimed Frank at solid jumps, objects he could not knock down.
“I recognize that this is a very unorthodox way to do things, however, I also know my horse, and he does not like to be lectured to,” Gardner says. “He learns better when allowed to figure things out his way. I am NOT recommending that as a training technique for the average horse!”
And yet, Frank was brilliant!
He sailed over the top of them with style and grace, and Gardner’s freebie Thoroughbred was well on his way to a career over fences.
Proving so capable at his new job, Gardner decided to debut her handsome guy at the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show in November 2009.
Unfortunately, Frank wasn’t so keen on working a Hunter course, and once in the ring, he grabbed the bit and ran away with his brave, young rider.
Unfazed, she once again thought of her grandmother, a beloved figure in her young life, and powered onward.
“People have told me I’m a lot like my grandmother, and she was fearless!” Gardner says, noting that she decided very quickly that the incident would not derail her plans; her horse was too good to give up on.
She put him in the Jumpers, where his natural bravery and boldness came to the fore. He settled, found his natural balance, and started winning ribbons.
Although 2010 was a sorrowful year, with the loss of her grandmother at age 91, Gardner and Frank began to hit their stride.
Frank won the R. Huey Versatility Award at the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Shows in 2010, an honor given to an off-track Thoroughbred who has been re-trained in more than one new career. By this point, Frank was doing Hunters and Jumpers and the pair’s confidence swelled.
“We started getting some ribbons and he picked up a reserve championship in June 2011 Thoroughbred Celebration three-foot,” she says, noting that 2012 was better yet, with good showings in the Hunter trials.
And Frank qualified a couple of times for Hunter stakes that year, and won good ribbons. And consistently, throughout 2011 and 2012, he showed well in the 3-foot Hunters.
He actually won the 2012 Bedford County Hunter/Pace and is pointed toward the three-foot-three schooling shows this year. And now the sky’s the limit where they’ll go next!
Although Gardner loves all horses and all breeds, Frank, she says, “is a once in a lifetime partner in crime; he’s my most treasured sidekick.”