Journal: Launch

Spoiler alert.

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 HelloMyLiviaSprinklerBandit, 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.)

I know because I’m leaning so far back that I’m asking hard here for submission. Even here, where she’s kinda halfway to round, is such an enormous improvement from a month ago. (I will not comment on my equitation, I will not comment on my equitation…)

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.

That tail though.

(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.

Still a bit of tension in her neck. Unfortunately the day I had a videographer, she wasn’t nearly as relaxed as she had been…probably because I was a lot more tense.

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.

10 thoughts on “Journal: Launch

  1. Oh girl, I know exactly how you feel about being stressed! It’s tough sometimes, but you have to make yourself #1 and let go of other things. And don’t worry, none of us working adult ammies will hold it against you — we’ve all been there.

    I’m glad you got some new tools in your toolbox for working things out; and it sounds like you’re making GREAT progress! YAY!!


  2. I hope the personal/professional drama is starting to resolve! I think I would’ve made the same call to step away from the blog for a bit- this is supposed to be a fun outlet, not another source of stress. That being said, I’m very glad you’re back 🙂

    It sounds like you and Robbye are totally “clicking” up to that next level of understanding!!! It seriously never ceases to amaze me how having a different set of eyes on the ground can lead to a whole new approach to how you can interact with your horse. Can’t wait to read about your lesson!


  3. Don’t worry about the disappearances…sometimes we all need a break! 🙂

    Sounds like you are making wonderful progress! I think that first picture is wonderful. Forward is definitely the priority and I would much rather see a horse pushing into the bridle and be a little above the bit than behind the leg and the bit. So much progress so soon, so happy for you!! 🙂


  4. yay for awesome rides!!! i really like your trainer’s strategy too. by solidly establishing your tools, over time you’ll have to exaggerate the ‘ask’ (like the cowboy seat) less and less so that eventually a slight deepening of your seat will achieve the same response. i’m a firm believer that the horse has to understand the ‘ask’ first and foremost – and sometimes that means asking loudly haha. glad it’s going well!!

    re: getting overwhelmed by the ‘unread’ count – i totally know that feeling! and sometimes you just gotta click ‘mark as read’ and start fresh lol


  5. Yeah, what they said! no apologies needed! I think you guys look great.
    I have two consistent lesson horses- a saintly albeit crooked schoolmaster and a guy that’s more like Robbye who gives me nothing for free and often expends more energy in evading. I know it can be really tough. He is teaching me how to manage my patience and persistence, and what used to make me frustrated and turn into a fight, now isn’t quite so emotional since I’m better equipped to deal. Lessons are great for this since my trainer knows how tough it is to keep him straight, light, and forward. My mentality has switched about it, like it sounds yours has a little too. Riding him feels more like a really tough puzzle now, I can come at it with more curiosity than before and I absolutely want to take a stab at solving it!
    Gadgets aren’t my favorite tools either (not that I haven’t/won’t use them) but I’m glad you are finding some tools in your own belt that are working so well for you both!!


  6. Yay progress!! Your trainer is right–effectiveness of the aids is more important than being pretty. I’m working through the same thing myself right now and I absolutely CRINGE at pictures of us, but the proof is in my horse. 🙂 Welcome back and hope your work life is improving.


  7. I completely understand being busy and stressed. I have over 700 blogs to read in my Feedly and it is stressing me out so much. I’ve done a horrible job keeping up with the blogs I follow. Don’t feel bad if you have to click the mark all as read button. I’m seriously considering it. *hugs*


  8. Never feel bad for having to take a minute to breath! Horses are incredibly complicated, and therefore so are our relationships with them I think you two are looking great, and I’m routing for you both!


  9. Don’t ever worry about blogs piling up! I think we all know that sometimes we need a break and blogs can’t get commented on… seriously not something to stress about 🙂 It will all be okay!


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