Journal: Keeping At It

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There a lot of things I want to change about myself in these photos… But the progress that Robbye has made is just STAGGERING to me.

Early this winter, when the weather was horrible, I was still trying to get over a horrible fall, Robbye seemed to be stagnating once again, and riding just plain wasn’t any fun, I made an ultimatum: if we weren’t making any progress by spring, I’d put Robbye up for sale.

The thought of doing that now makes me want to cry. The fact of that matter is – six months ago I didn’t like Rob very much. She’s obstinate, dominant, and not very affectionate. She didn’t seem to have any desire at all to work.

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Kim, Newton, and Julie

And then we found Kim. Kim had new words and new ideas for us. She made me throw away the equitation I’d worked so hard for, and forced me to maintain dominance over Robbye.

And it’s funny – now that the mare and I have a more “horsey” relationshipI like her a lot more. I know that I have to kick her ass once a day or so. But that’s okay. The same thing would happen if she and I were both mares in the pasture. I can love her and be her boss. In fact – I’m realizing I need both in order to attain either.

I won’t be selling Robbye this spring. We’re finally making progress, I like her a lot more, and I think she’s starting to enjoy work, too.


After my learning to longe lesson, Robbye was instantly more compliant. That’s one of the great things about longeing – I think – it’s work that directly translates to under-saddle work, but it’s also an inherently dominating exercise, where I can really make Rob work the way I want.

I had one ride where I longed – and made her work – then immediately got on and made her work under saddle. This was a great ride because I made her work past her mental checkout point! She’s not a baby anymore – working for 40 minutes is NOT going to hurt her, as much as she thinks it will. I’d been treating her like a three year old even as she approached six.

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We had a lesson on April 28, and Kim could not stop gushing about how well we had done our homework (YAY!). Robbye was much more forward (!!), and we spent the lesson learning how to add some nuance her new frame – mainly, by re-installing bend. It was tough for both of us to think past the frame, since that’s all we’ve been working on for so long, but it felt SO good.

I also need to work on a few equitation pieces, now. I need to re-install the toes forward/heels out position that’s so hard for me – I think this is probably something I’ll struggle with my whole life. I need to ride with my thumbs on top – a habit I’m working on establishing now. It’s easier now that I see why we ride with our thumbs on top.

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Not sure what her expression is here, but I like mine!

Saturday, Zeke came to the barn with me and took some great videos. I saw some things I need to change in my position, and am excited to practice them. Robbye was in a great mood, and gave me two canter transitions without inverting herself – something she’s never offered under saddle before. Longeing for the win!

We’ve been working on my new jumping position a bit too. I’ve been jumping a lot – and even jumped a log that was laying outside of the arena, which I was proud of. Then, I did as many laps around the arena as I could in 2-point. (This was an activity Robbye really enjoyed – all I asked of her was that she continue trotting at a nice forward pace.) A few rides after, we ventured out to our largest grass field, where we did trot and canter sets. Robbye loved this activity too – it was a nice change of scenery for her, I think! That ride informed almost all of May; I’ve been doing very little dressage-in-the-sandbox.

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This is the life.

The next week, I move some (very small!) jumps into the same field. Robbye thought it was fairly boring, but it was scary for me, and that’s what I’m trying to get past. By the end we were both bored, so that was a win!

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I’ve been riding less than normal – about four days a week instead of six – but I’ve been proud of the progress I’ve made. I think I’m gaining a bit of my cajones back – I rode down the road one day, the jumps are getting back up to my “normal” height, we dragged Newton across the creek one day (which, by the way, Robbye was great at. She really showed her draft disposition that day – not something I see often). Yesterday, I rode bareback and we “hacked” around the farm – every time she let her attention leave me, I’d ask her to round and work. I’m determined to teach her how to work even when she wants to be distracted.

Kim says it’s time to get back to showing. I’m scared, but I also think she’s right. We’ve worked too hard not to show it off 🙂

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Wordless Wednesday: Roach

Sooo pleased with how this turned out. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I think it suits her personality well. It makes her neck look so much nicer, and she looks cleaner and more professional too!

Before:

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After (pre-bath)

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After (post-pee – thanks a lot, Rob. Make as much mess as possible.)

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After

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After in motion!

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Lesson Recap: Longeing

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Our new longe.

So I learned how to longe a few lessons ago.

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Longeing a baby Rob. She was three here!

Like I mentioned in my last journal post, I feel like I’ve been going back to basics recently – learning a bunch of silly little things I feel like I should have learned in Pony Club. I wish I had been in Pony Club!

(For example – at the clinic on Sunday Adriene mentioned that I shouldn’t keep my hand in my crop’s loop, as a safety precaution. Which makes total sense.)

My main takeaway from the longe lesson is that I need to longe as a way to teach her how to move. Longeing is not just for getting the sillies out, or even for building muscle (the two uses I’ve always thought it had). I can do training on the longe!

I feel like an idiot again now – because of course you can train on the longe. But it simply hadn’t occurred to me.

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No reason to keep the side-reins so low! Robbye’s a big girl now – she can learn how to work with them at rein position.

So, my notes:

  • Forward, forward, forward. And then more forward. At the walk, trot, and canter. FORWARD.
  • Forward comes before rhythm. For now, as long as she’s moving her feet she’s good.
  • I need to be insistent about my transitions asks. Like the forward thing, for now I shouldn’t worry about quiet cues. I need her to be submissive before I can perfect cues. If this means pulling her off balance to stop her, so be it. That’s part of the hole in our training.
  • I don’t need to baby her any longer. She’s strong, fit, and grown. The side-reins can be tightened, they can be attached up at her withers, and she can work in them for longer than 15 minutes. I’m treating her like she’s green, but she’s passing that stage now!
  • At all gaits, I need to start asking her to lift her front end and push with her hind. When she dives forward at the walk, I can physically lift the longe to ask her to lift her head, neck, and shoulders. At the trot, I can ask for more forward and then tug upwards to insist that she lift her shoulders. And it actually works! Her poll raises, her shoulder frees, and her weight moves to her hind. Amazing.

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The day after our lesson, I took Robbye out for a short longe just to emphasize what we had learned the day before. Holy cow, did the lesson stick! Robbye was instantly forward, and she began to give to the bit after just a few minutes. She even maintained her new uphill trot for half a circle, which I’m delighted with.

Though it seems silly and I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m really pleased that I took this lesson. I think it’s going to make a huge difference in our training.

Once we get the submission and attention down, it’ll be time to start working on lifting her front end under saddle. I can’t wait!

Nerdy Goings On: Board Games

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Zeke and I have been super into board and card games since we attended Tabletop Day a few weeks ago.

There, one of the games we played was Sheriff of Nottingham. Has anyone played it? It’s a super fun social deduction game with really neat pieces and artwork. I’d love to own a copy and think it would be more fun with a group of friends than it was with the random people at Epic Loot, but it was a Kickstarter game and is now hard to find for sale.

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We’ve been attending the weekly board game night at our Friendly Local Game Store and really enjoying it. A few weeks ago we played Euphoria – a great newish game which was also Kickstarted. I started out the game being super air-headed – I kept forgetting rules and making silly mistakes – so I was very happy when I won the game at the end. It’s a really neat game that I like a lot. The artwork and theme are very cool, and Zeke’s special Kickstarted components are really special.

This week we learned how to play Shadowrift, which is a co-op deck builder. Very, very cool game with some neat, unique mechanics. It allows you to trade some of the resources, which made it much more interactive with your teammates. It also had an option where you could persist your cards through hands, which was fun. We’ll be buying that one!

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Zeke commanding his troops in Card Wars.

Zeke has been into the Adventure Time card game, Card Wars, lately, to the extent of reading strategies online. I love the artwork and card design, but don’t find the game as fun as the MLP card game (or, of course, MtG).

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Zeke commanding his friends in MLP CCG.

I’ve been obsessing about the MLP card game. I think it’s a great game with some interesting new mechanics. For example, instead of fighting each other, opponents compete to solve problems – problems like a runaway cart, a missing bunny, or a sudden surprise party. Unlike Card Wars, where a player earns two actions each turn, MLP’s actions both increase as the game goes on and can be stockpiled between turns. I think this fact gives it a much more interesting pace, since the game really escalates as players gain points.

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The newest expansion of MLP cards were released recently and Zeke and I attended a pre-release party. Though we had each only played five or so times, and only with each other, we were wildly successful! We each went 3 wins 1 loss, and Zeke earned enough points for a second place out of twenty! It was quite a nice self-esteem boost, to be honest.

Anyone else playing or reading anything cool or interesting?