It’s Show Time! Beginner Horse Hunter Division at Greenstone

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One braid on her body! Looooooved having the roached mane at this show.

I went into this show thinking three things:

  1. I was excited to try out the lessons I had learned at the Hunter Pace the week before.
  2. The 2’3″ jumps in my home arena were looking big, and I was scared of the fence height.
  3. It was really hot and really muggy and I was afraid of having enough horse.

The show was only about a ten minute drive from our barn, and we were entered in the first afternoon class of the day, so it was a very late morning, as shows go! Getting up at 9 is way better than getting up at 4:30 – no complaints there.

Robbye got on the trailer on her first try – using her big girl brain right away! – and when we got to the venue I put her chain over her nose before we got out of the trailer. This strategy worked really well – though she was much less dramatic than she has been before, I still was able to feel well in control when she started screaming and her brain shut off.

We took a long walk around the venue, and received lots of compliments on my crazy horse. I have to admit, Robbye’s certainly nice to look at when she’s all puffed up.

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Puffed up Robbye at the hunter pace. There was a professional photographer at the show, which I was super pumped about – I love buying photos! – but she seems to have disappeared and I can’t get in touch with anyone to find her name 😦

By the time we returned to our trailer, Rob was much calmer (!!!) and our warm-up round was being called to prepare. Perfect timing; I wanted to do most of my warm-up in the ring to preserve her energy…and mine.

Our warm-up in the warm-up ring was completely undramatic. No bucking, no bolting, no screaming. Nice transitions, nicely forward, just a couple small fences then it was time for our warm-up round in the ring!

…And it was great. Robbye enjoyed the hell out of the round. She galloped out, locked onto every fence, and completed very cute little simple changes. She didn’t even consider running out of anything, until we approached a slightly weird-looking fence and I chickened out. I saw it and just knew she was going to run out, and I’m sure that’s the only reason she did! But she took it on our second try, and I was very pleased.

Best of all, the jumps didn’t look large to me at all. The fill didn’t frighten me, and I was much more nervous about the show environment than I was about the fence height. Confidence wise, I hope I’m finally getting back to where I was before my fall.

At this point the heat was just unbearable, and you could practically swim in the air it was so humid. I knew I wasn’t going to have any chance of qualifying for the division high points, and I really was just there for the jumping experience, so I scratched from the flat class. I’m very happy with that decision, since Robbye got to get entirely untacked while we waited for jumping to resume.

For our first judged round, Rob was just as awesome as in her warm-up round. Very forward, nice little simple changes when she didn’t land on her leads, and having a lot of fun. Sadly, there was a weird, scary sound on our approach to the same fence she had run out on the warm-up round, and I really just let her run out on it again. GAH!

For our second judged course, I was determined to earn a clear round. Didn’t have to be pretty – damn it I’m never going to be a hunter and neither is she! – but I wanted it to be a zero-fault round.

The “Annye-thinks-it’s-scary” fence was the second to last jump. We had jumped clear up to there.

As I landed from the fence before it, I immediately began talking to myself. “We’re going to get this jump, Annye. First try, Rob. It’s not scary. It’s like 2′ tall. We want a clean round!”

And…over we went.

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Why yes, this is the best photo I got of Robbye. >.<

As we landed, I yelled, “Good GIRL, Rob!”. Maybe we would have placed better without it, but I was just so happy. We haven’t had a jumping round without any runouts, stops, or rails in…two years, probably. We’re finally getting to the point where I’m brave enough and she’s submissive enough to complete courses without making those kinds of silly mistakes.

That feels SO. GOOD.

And we ended up placing fifth out of nine, which I’m quite pleased with. Simple changes, yelling, and all.

I still feel silly celebrating such a little fence when last year I was doing 3′ courses. But I’m trying to get over it. Truly, we’re at a better place now than we were last summer, even after our crash.

And it really does feel good to get “not-last-place”, too.

4 to 6: Trotting Transformation

A baby to a…well, still pretty much a baby. I love looking at all the little details and all the improvements, though – her new listening ears, her diminished underneck, my nicer seat and elbows, AND THAT TAIL. I should do a whole progress post on her tail.

We’re getting there!

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Journal: We Don’t Need No Arena

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Robbye’s been getting more and more ring sour. I really don’t blame her – we’ve been drilling dressage and not much else for months now, and I’ve been too much of a wuss to leave the arena. Well more and more we’ve been moving those dressage rides out of the sandbox!

At the very end of May, we had a great ride in one of our fields. I downloaded a Tabata app, put on an audiobook and snapped her rope reins to her halter, and off we went to do some trot and canter sets. I was really pleased with how she did at the sets – moved out even as she got tired – and it really was a superb workout.

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Unfortunately, we ended up having a little too much fun. We were on our final set and both wanted to gallop up the final hill. I said, “Go ahead!”, and she said “Woo hoo!” with a couple little bucks, and I said *thump* as my sweaty basketball shorts slipped right off of her and landed on the hard, dry ground. Ugh.

You know, sometimes falls are nothing. Land on your feet or your butt, pop right up, sand and dirt are soft! And others hurt. It seems to me like it’s one or the other, with nothing in between.

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Unfortunately, this was a hurt fall. I actually didn’t get back onto my feet for fifteen seconds or so, which is unusual for me. I also whacked my helmet pretty good, and since I wasn’t riding with any tack I really didn’t want to get back on and risk falling onto a broken helmet! So I took a few days off while a new helmet was shipped to me. It worked out well, since I was so sore.

(Unfortunately, the day after my fall was our annual Mud Run. I LOVE this event but it’s not fun with a sore back, shoulder, and thigh!)

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Me and Zeke with two of my brothers and their SOs. Cutest prom photo EVER.

When my new helmet arrived I was raring to ride again – a good feeling! A fall with no lingering fear will probably help my confidence considerably.

Two days in a row, we had stupendous dressage rides in the fields. Julie did some driving dressage work with Yogi while I rode, and Robbye was 100% focused on me even as the cart clattered around.

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What a picture. So romantic!

Sunday was our hunter pace, then Tuesday I had an uneventful lesson where we worked on getting a consistent roundness and correct bend. Kim had a ton of nice things to say about our progress, though it’s gotten to the point now where it’s hard to see the day-to-day changes.

Wednesday I longed, and Robbye was amazing. Nailing transitions, moving out, acting like a pro. I think she likes longeing.

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Friday we jumped in the outdoor at “show height” because… Saturday we went to a hunter show! I’m very excited to tell you all how that went 🙂

It’s Show Time! Ohio Standardbreds and Friends Hunter Pace

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In case you were thinking my horse was small – here’s proof to the contrary >.<

Immediately off of the trailer, Robbye was…out of control. Her anxiety just completely takes over her, and she can’t focus on me to save her life. She doesn’t bolt or kick, but she completely ignores me, screaming and trotting in circles, to the point of running into and over me. That’s just absolutely not acceptable for any horse, much less for one as big as her.

(I don’t understand where all of this anxiety comes from. Since I bought her at barely three years old, Rob and I have traveled frequently. Trail rides, shows, fun little events like this hunter pace. Why does my calm, cold-blooded mare get so scared when we go somewhere new?! Maybe it’s because I get so scared. That’s probably it. )

And she was so distracted and nervous that I couldn’t get a chain over her nose to be able to control her. I have lots of “lessons learned” from this trip, and one is that I’m going to put the chain on in the trailer, right before she gets off, from now on. She respects the chain and I usually only have to bop her with it once, so…it’s worth it for my safety.

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Slowly reconnecting with her brain…

Ordinarily at this point at a show I’d tie Rob to a trailer and let her scream herself silly. Well I’m trying to learn from you all, and not just from the people I watch in real life, and I know many of you use hand-walks to calm your horses at strange locations. Why have I always just left Robbye to cry herself silly? Probably because I was busy crying MYSELF silly! But the hand-walking worked very well; as we made our way among the trailers and lots of sane, happy horses, Robbye inched away from insanity and back toward grazing and her usual cold-bloodedness. By the time we got back to the trailer she was only crying once in a while, and was willing to eat hay like the big girl she is.

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The pace course was gorgeous.

(I also used the hand-walking as a sort of dominance warm-up time, since her submission is our #1 issue right now. We’d take a few steps, halt, then back. Take a few steps, halt, then do a turn on the forehand. Walk a few steps, then graze for a minute. This got her paying attention to me, submitting to me, and relaxing.)

Anyway, I know this is all super riveting, but it was actually a great break-through for both of us!

I had decided, knowing that there would be an empty dressage court, a warm up arena looking a lot like a stadium course, and a hunter pace covered in cross country jumps, that I was going to pretend this was a horse trial. So we tacked up for dressage, then proceeded to absolutely rock our “dressage test”.

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Sane horses can eat at the trailer.

This is the first time ever that I’ve been able to replicate our under saddle work away from home. Ever. And considering the way this day started – completely out of control – I am absolutely thrilled. She was round, forward, willing, and happy. I felt confident, brave, and really really proud of my horse. After a long dressage school, we walked straight through the trailer parking – with zero drama! – and popped over the warm up jumps for our “stadium round”. They were only about a foot high, and I was in my dressage saddle so I’m sure I wasn’t pretty…but man, was it fun. When Rob realized it was time to jump she just lit up, and happily galloped over the little fences. I’m calling it a clear round!

At this point she was completely pooped and so was I.

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Aren’t we a cute team!

We each got a short break, then it was time for our actual pace. We didn’t do all of the fences – just the small ones – but I am just so proud of both myself and my mare. Though she was tired, she was very willing, and offered some gallop even at the end of the 30 minute trail ride.

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We care more about documentation than winning the pace. Selfie break!

(It really was a great workout for both of us, too. I really pushed her to keep working even when she was tired, and pushed myself to not feel guilty about it!)

Really, I would have been happy if we had headed home after our dressage school. We got past her new-place-crazies, I got on by myself and worked through her giraffe stage, ending with the quality of work I would expect at home. The fact that we followed that up with a great little jumping round, and then followed that up with a trail ride, and on that trail ride jumped some more!? 

What a successful day. I was brave. She was brave. We had fun and definitely learned a lot.

Six!

Robbye turned six last month.

I know if I were more experienced, or if I were willing to send her away for training, we’d be a lot further along than we are now. But we’ve stumbled along together, we’ve done a lot of fun things, and I think that, slowly, we’re making progress on the path to success.

What that success will look like, I don’t really know. Dressage? Eventing? Staying at home and continuing to improve without a chosen sport? Whatever!

None of these are good conformation photos, so really no observations to make there. What really strikes me is how she’s a different color in every. single. one. (Yet in the last two photos, taken a year apart, I’m wearing the same outfit. Lol.)

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Robbye at 2
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Robbye at 3 (the day I met her)
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Robbye at 3 (the day she was backed)
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Robbye at 4
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Robbye at 5
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Robbye at 6