I’ve been very stressed. I love this journal, and I love the blog it’s turned into, and I really love the relationships I’ve started building with other bloggers and readers.
But last week, when personal and (especially) work related drama spiraled ever higher, and that right after I had laid bare here some very personal thoughts concerning Robbye, I had to take a break. I was feeling swamped by my feedly unread count, I was feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for those who commented on my last post, but didn’t know how to express that gratitude, and most of all my job was taking all of my attention and energy, even as Robbye rejuvenated me with her sudden launch into actual-work-ethic-land.
All this to say: I’m sorry I haven’t commented on anyone’s blogs in the past few weeks. That weight is pressing on me and I refuse to let my follower’s kindness go unreciprocated.
Even more so, I’m sorry I haven’t replied to the comments on my last post. I don’t know what to say to such support; I’ve always struggled to express my gratitude, and it’s even harder for me without the ability to hug, do a favor, or send a gift or thank you card. All I can say is: Emily at The Exquisite Equine, Lauren at SMTT, Olivia at HelloMyLivia, SprinklerBandit, Emma at ‘Fraidy Cat Eventing, and Tracy at FOO…You guys are awesome. This last week, I’ve thought about your comments and especially the fact that you left comments a whole lot.
Okay I’ll try to end the mush now 😉
The post below is long and really just expresses how pleased I am with Robbye. It’s a boring post and I mostly wrote it because I need a journal, so feel free to skip it. Thank you for reading this far!
At the end of my last journal, I had ridden out in the indoor in six inches of snow. It wasn’t a productive ride, but I was pleased that I had worked through some anxiety to complete the ride.
Unfortunately, that ride was my last for almost a week. It had just been too cold here, and I’ve given up riding in the cold. It’s not fun and I’ve lost the motivation needed to do it well.
Luckily, Robbye has remained sounds and healthy. Her chronic lymphangitis seems to be aggravated by inactivity, so leaving her in her stall is always a risk.
Two Saturdays ago, we finally had a day above 20 degrees. I longed her first in the side-reins, then rode for a while with the side-reins still on. My intention was to remind her that this is what work feels like. She did work very hard, and was fairly forward, and I was happy.
The next day I rode in draw reins. She offered some resistance to the activated draw reins, which is new. At that point, I decided that I was over-using them and the side reins, and she was telling me so. I’d been desperate to get it into her head that THIS IS SUBMISSION, but obviously these tools aren’t translating 100% into regular rein work.
Although, after about 20 minutes of work in the draw reins she gave me some great, submissive round work without the draw reins activated. After one 20 meter circle with that frame, I quit happy.
The next night was our second lesson with Kim, where we learned some new strategies for achieving the submission needed for roundness. The strategies actually didn’t work that night, even with Kim riding, but I was hopeful and grateful for new tools.
(One of the tools is throwing away my equitation, which I tend to obsess over, in favor of a more floppy “cowboy” ride. It hurts me to share these photos because I’m so unhappy with myself, but I really wanted to share what Rob is looking like! For now, thinking about myself and my position are supposed to be low priority.)
Unfortunately we didn’t get to try those new tools for a very long and very cold four days. Luckily, a Friday with a high of 20 degrees broke to a balmy, 45 degree Saturday, and it looks like our winter may finally be over. Thank you, sun!
Saturday was So. Good. The ride started out tense and resistant, and I was immediately discouraged as Robbye and I fought about both moving forward and submitting. However, after 15 minutes of using my new tools, I was suddenly riding a round, active, forward walk. AHH! I asked for the trot, and continued a minor “bungee-ing” as I did so – and was rewarded with a round, forward active trot.
After replicating our success at the walk and trot her good way, I quit early as a reward. I was euphoric that my new tools seem to have worked, with zero “mechanical” tools used. Only my seat, my core, my arms, and a little bit of fighting and bullying.
(I realize now that we also started out going her worse way. This is a habit I’ve been actively trying to fix, since beginning on her good direction helps us both with the self-confidence issues inherent with learning.)
Last Sunday, the club started the day at the county tack sale, which was really fun. I’ve terribly missed our club outings. Kathy sold a saddle (!!) and Julie bought a helmet, so it was a successful trip. I was so close to buying a new pair of Ariat tall boots, but they were too wide. Probably good, since my pull-ons are perfectly fine, if annoying.
We grabbed lunch, then headed to the barn to ride and clean stalls. I used my new tools again and the results were incredible. After about five minutes of longing and five minutes of “establishing dominance”, Robbye dropped her head, lifted her back and gave to the bridle. We moved through w/t/c with the same great results, and I was pleased to find that even if she threatens to giraffe, I’m usually able to fix her with a verbal threat and a little bit of rein bungee-ing.
We even threw a few stretchy walk breaks into the ride. She never came back to the work immediately, and we did have a few minor fights, but the submission was there even after breaks, when Rob believed she should be done. This is incredible progress for us.
We spent last week and this week practicing the same concepts, and slowly our “fighting” step is turning into an “asking” step. I’m figuring out the tricks, and she’s realizing that it’s easier to be submissive. This Monday, I decided to ride bareback (with a bit and bridle). I acted just as I do when we ride with a saddle, with the same warm-up, the same insistence on forward and round, and the same duration and intensity. I tried to pay attention to how my floppy sitting trot feels without a saddle and stirrups so I can replicate that in the saddle.
OH BOY, was it a great ride. By the end, all I had to do was hold my outside rein and wiggle the fingers of my inside rein and she’d drop into the bridle. At all three gaits.
Last night we had our third lesson with Kim, which I’ve written into a separate post. Spoiler alert: Kim was astounded and very very pleased with our sudden progress. I believe her exact words were,
“I look away for two minutes and suddenly – look at you!”
Kim definitely has a different strategy for myself and Robbye. For Kim, submission and forward come before everything else, including equitation. For me, and for my partnership with Robbye, this approach makes sense. Yes, we’re going to fight. I’m going to have to force her to do something ten times before she’ll offer it up herself. But from my recent reading, this is normal dominant horse behavior, and it’s actually a healthy equine relationship. So I’m working to be okay with the fighting, the pulling, and the severe drop in pretty equitation, just for the time being.
Heaven knows it seems to be working.