It’s been an interesting week since I last journaled. Thursday I got a call from the farm that Robbye was acting very strange – listless, not eating all her hay, not drinking at all. Of course I freak out and rush out there, to see that she’s just a bit…off. Doesn’t seem to be anything life-threatening, and I hand-walk and then longe her a bit and she seems to feel better. I ended up going out to the barn three times that day, and she felt better every time I visited.
Friday was really fun. Four of us were riding at once – which is strange for our barn. It was like a party! After (barn owner) Carolyn finished riding, she returned to the indoor and gave Robbye and me a mini-lesson. She had some great new ideas, as does (neighbor rider) Heather. They left me with a lot to think about regarding Robbye’s current place in her training.
Saturday, Kathy, Julie, and I trailered to Possum Creek for a trail ride. I rode in draw reins for the submission/obedience factor. On one hand, it feels icky to use them on the trail – there’s a safety factor for sure. After some Google searches, it looks like some people do advocate using them on the trail (for control, brakes, submission, etc.) and others are horrified because they could get caught on branches and then provide a whole lot of leverage to a panicking horse’s mouth. I can definitely see both sides of the argument; of course, draw reins themselves provoke a whole lot of controversy.
Anyway, Robbye was good with the draw reins. They definitely gave me the confidence I needed to make her listen to me. It was also fun to be able to work on some dressage on the trail – ask her to give her head, back it up with the draw reins when she inevitably ignores me, release the draw reins and ask her to walk like she isn’t a llama. It was nice! And I felt nice, too. Not scared.
Sheesh. Only four months ago I was trotting bareback down the trails. That damn crash at the Standardbred show screwed me up so much. SO FRUSTRATING.
Sunday she got the day off, then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Robbye and I worked on our roundness some more. Again, Carolyn and Heather piped in with some ideas on how to help encourage her and train her. Julie had some new ideas, too – including trying Yogi’s bit. (It’s a baucher. I’m not noticing any difference.) I have a whole lot to think about. Julie commented that it’s taking a village to train me and Robbye, and she’s right! Boy do I like it, though.
Yesterday was particularly successful. I put her surcingle on, and Heather suggested I move the side reins to the buckles on the girth, which are about six inches below the lowest ring I usually use. This made a dramatic difference in her roundness. She was suddenly keeping the side reins very slack, only hitting them when she llamaed. Her back raised six inches as it rounded, I swear.
Carolyn then suggested I get really strict with her behavior on the longe. This is something I thought I had been doing, but I stepped it up a notch and really demanded instant transitions. After a couple small fights – wow was she listening and obeying! This is the kind of obedience that we really need under saddle.
After a great longe workout, I jumped on bareback and tried to replicate her roundness. I tried to focus more on her stretching down instead of rounding up, per Heather’s suggestion. She thinks we may find success turning a stretch into a properly round horse, rather than…whatever we’re doing now. Robbye does seem to like stretching down at the walk and trot, and she offered some nice stretching last night, so I’m definitely going to try this approach!
Wow, I just wrote a really boring novel about getting my baby horse round. RIVETING. Better quit now before I type another 12 paragraphs.
I’m really loving having a “presence” now in the horse blogging community. I’ve been lurking for…sheesh…two years now. I’m really loving commenting – I should have started sooner, but it just seemed so silly to do it when my blog was private!
Let’s pretend that financial restrictions don’t exist and logistics isn’t a nightmare. If you could do anything with your Ponykins, what would you do?
If you could buy anything for your horse, what would you buy?
I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot since The Owls Approve posted the first. Especially since Robbye and I have been struggling so much for the past…year. If I could do anything with her and for her, what would I do?
I love to fantasize and come up with big dreams, for basically every aspect of my life. Become a world-renowned programmer and work for Google? Heck ya! Turn an Etsy shop into a million dollar business? Sounds awesome!
So, in regards to these questions, I’m honestly relieved to find that my answer is…not a whole lot different than what we’re doing now. I would love to take more lessons – two a week would be perfect. I’d love to attend clinics more often, school off-site more often, and have the money to blow at shows so we could get more experience.
I thought, after this hard year, that I was questioning wanting to event, or even compete. But spending two weeks contemplating what I’d do if I could do anything has made me realize that I do want to either event or compete in dressage. We’re just…stuck in a rut at the moment. I don’t have the money to pay for three lessons and two training rides a week, but I don’t want that anyway!
The nature of my experience, her experience, and our relationship (not to mention our conformations) means that progress is naturally going to come slowly. I’ve always understood and been fine with that, except for occasionally when I just get, I don’t know – too excited, maybe? We start seeing sudden progress, I get super pumped for what we’re accomplishing, and then I’m inevitably let down when she naturally backslides.
That’s the nature of animal training and especially the nature of a green rider and green horse, so I need to be okay with it.
After all the introspection I’ve done in the past month, plus all the thinking I’ve done for these questions, I’m starting to feel better about Robbye. And of course, when I feel better about her that naturally leads to me being a gentler, softer, and more encouraging rider.
I really made this “fun” question into something it didn’t have to be, lol!
(Oh, and regarding buying things for Robbye – she really doesn’t need anything. Treats treats and more treats, and that’s about it. 😉 )
Last week ended up being a long, stressful week full of…nothing.
Temperatures topped out at around 10 degrees, and I couldn’t stand to stay longer at the barn than exactly how long it took to clean two stalls.
Saturday it was a tiny bit warmer and I felt brave enough to take one of my gloves off and take some photos. Every horse at the farm was out in the snow, which was really cool to see – although it was strange to have such a quiet barn!
I’m trying very hard to be content with taking time off. I know that there’s no way around it – riding when it’s 10 below is neither fun nor productive. And really, it’s not like we’re training for million dollar shows at the moment. Missing five days of training isn’t going to lose us anything. It’s still hard, though – especially since I get so much pleasure out of both riding and training. It affects my mood when I have to pick stalls and then dash.
It was “warm” last night – hovering right at freezing – so Robbye and I got to work! I wanted to let her move out without me to warm up but was too lazy to grab my longeing equipment, so I decided to try free longeing. The results were interesting – her good way (to the right) she was very obedient and stayed on her normal ~20m circle. We did some transitions and she was great. The other direction, which is much harder for her, she refused to stay on the normal longe circle. Instead, she’d race across a short diagonal and try to change directions. I apparently need to practice steering with my body and words, since I really couldn’t get her to stay on the circle. But when I got her to stay going to the left once around, I decided to stop for a second. I put her side reins on a loose setting and sent her back out to longe herself. Interesting results again – she was much less willing to carry herself than when she longes on a line. I wonder why that is…
Anyway, she and I got quite a workout doing the free-longeing. It’s something I definitely want to continue practicing. Maybe I’ll add jumps next time.
I did hop on for a very short ride. She was obedient, but much less forward than she had been with me on the ground. I’m not sure why that is, but I try to be mindful of what Michele told me – Robbye is more sensitive than what we usually give her credit for. If I’m bouncing, posting slightly out of rhythm, stopping her with my seat or my hands or my legs…she’s going to feel it and react.
Overall it was a great workout. I started learning something new and got a chance to be introspective about my position, and she got a chance to practice her frame and carriage without me interfering.
Last week was overall very good, and I think we’re back on track to achieving our dressage frame. Tuesday and Wednesday I longed her in side reins, and she worked very hard – I was pleased and proud. We put particular focus on her canter, since she’s still building those muscles, and still likes to doubt herself when it comes to cantering in the frame.
Thursday and Friday I rode out in the sunshine in draw reins. I tried to emphasize roundness and obedience from the very beginning – even as I mounted, I asked for roundness to prevent any shenanigans. She was fairly good, although on Wednesday she didn’t want to put any effort into cantering. She wouldn’t even pick up the right lead canter while the draw reins, which I thought was a little silly…but once she picked it up and held it for a while, I ended there. Thursday she gave me an incredible forward and round right lead canter after the first time I asked, so I was happy to end early!
Saturday we took a break and Sunday we had a very crappy ride.
Monday and Tuesday were fun. It’s very cold here – between -5 and 10, and I didn’t even feel like taking off her blanket…so we rode in a blanket and bridle. We actually accomplished a lot more than I thought we would – Monday we worked on roundness at the walk and trot, and Tuesday she offered me some intense round canter. This is with nothing but a bridle on!
I think we’re getting there…