An homage to the trust bank

Don’t tell my trainer. Don’t tell my barn owner. Don’t tell the local DQs – I may get ostracized.


Robbye and I have been jumping!

Granted, the jumps are crossrails and cavalettis. And yes, we’ve been using the dressage saddle, with full-length stirrups.

But some of them were good jumps – and all of them were fun jumps.

I think I first heard of the trust bank from Nicole at Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management. The basic concept is that trust is not binary – it’s not something a relationship inherently has or doesn’t have. Instead, it’s a constantly flowing resource from which and to which both the horse and the rider can withdraw and deposit. I completely biff a transition, hang on the reins, or give a too-long correction? I’m withdrawing from the trust bank, and therefore Rob has less of a reason to give me the benefit of the doubt. I give a fair correction, hand out a timely cookie, or ride a movement particularly well? I’m putting a deposit in the trust bank, and our relationship grows.

Robbye can withdraw and deposit as well, and she has always taken full advantage of that privilege…to the point of putting our trust bank balance way in the negative. Every time she ran out, every time she bucked across the arena, every time she “spooked” (this horse is not spooky – she’s “spooky”) – she was taking out of the trust bank. I could no longer rely on her.

Smelly saddle pads, yummm.

Two and half years ago our trust bank hit an all-time low when we crashed into a fence at a show. I had withdrawn from the trust bank by entering a class we weren’t 100% ready for. She had been withdrawing from the trust bank for months through dirty stops and run-outs and bucking tirades.

For the next year she and I continued to withdraw from the bank without ever replenishing it. I continued paying for lessons from someone who didn’t build us up (one of my most egregious withdrawals – and I made it for two years). Rob continued bucking, bracing, and generally being a nasty snot. We didn’t like each other and certainly didn’t trust each other.

And then we switched trainers, and things got a bit better. I got fairer and she understood her job better. She still ran out and I still made stupid mistakes, and overall we were still withdrawing more than we were depositing – but at least the completely reckless pace of decline had slowed.

I got tired of the fighting. I put her in training for the first time, with the trainer who had already helped stanch the flow of trust. Rob’s boot camp started on the ground – something, it turns out, my mare and I both desperately needed. I needed to learn how to treat her like a horse, and she needed to learn how to respect me as a leader.

Ever since that training we’ve been adding to the trust bank. Of course we still make withdrawals – and really, recently, it’s been 90% me making those withdrawals. Robbye knows her job and understands her place, now. For years I was treating her as my partner, when horses…can’t really be partners. That’s not how horses work. Robbye needed to either be the leader or have a leader.

“I also need that candy cane.”

Slowly, slowly, we refilled the trust bank. If we hit rock bottom at negative a thousand, then by last summer we were finally approaching negative 100. I was starting to see the results.

Can we ride bareback again? Yes!

Can I stop longeing before every ride? Yes!

Can I ask for a canter extension without fearing for my life? Yes!

Can she trust me to use the whip in a fair, clear manner? Yes!

Then the summer was over, and we hadn’t spent trust on any shows, and we had continued taking lesson from our amazing trainer, and I was very careful to maintain both fairness and dominance, and finally, finally, I felt our trust bank hit zero for the first time in years. Suddenly our progress in dressage launched forward. Suddenly Rob wanted kisses and snuggles before riding time. Suddenly bucking and bolting just wasn’t a thing that we did.

The past six months have been spent filling our trust bank to overflowing.

In a dressage lesson a few weeks ago, Rob made an extremely dirty move and ducked out of the arena. I’m sure I had “left the door open” so to speak; we had been working on controlling her shoulders and I probably over-corrected. Either way, it was a turd move and she knew it.

I disciplined her fairly, I corrected the shoulder bulge the next time around, and we moved on. Small withdrawal from the trust bank on both our parts.

But we have trust to spare, and a small issue like that doesn’t affect us anymore. In fact, it turned out to be confidence building. My dominance was reestablished, my need to control her shoulders was reinforced, and she saw yet another fair and timely correction. Our ride the next day was better because of the withdrawal.

So proud of himself.

Our trust bank balance has been so healthy, in fact, that jumping has actually sounded…fun. I’ve been missing it. I thought jumping was out of the picture forever, and a couple years ago I was happy to see it go. Now, I’m wondering if eventing is a legitimate option again, after we’ve topped out with dressage.

Our trust bank is overflowing, so I can withdraw a little bit to point Rob at a jump when it’s been 2 years since I rode over fences without fear.

She pops over it with no drama and with happy ears – and now we’re back to overflowing. I’m beaming, she’s happy, and we’re cantering around to approach it again, long stirrups and dressage position and all.

Thank you Robbye, thank you trainer, thank you hard work, and thank you trust bank.



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

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

Journal: Keeping At It

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!


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 🙂

Journal (with Lessons): Sunshine and Fresh Air

I’ve been so bad about taking photos lately. Most of the ones I do take are horrible. I’m sorry!

I was excited to get views and comments on my last journal post. I’d like to inject a little more nerdiness into the horse blog community 😉

My last equestrian journal was…more than a month ago. I’ve adjusted to my new work schedule, however, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to get back to blogging and commenting on blogs. I really really want to!

The past month of riding has had two main themes: submission and focus. Above all, I’ve been insisting that Robbye is submissive to me at all times. Eventually, I hope that this becomes a given in our relationship – we can be friends and have a happy relationship, but I’m the boss mare! Additionally, she must always be focused on me and waiting for her next instruction. Distracted by the dogs across the road? NOPE! We’re going to do twenty transitions. Flipping me off by powering out of the arena? AW HELL NO, we’re going to gallop across the diagonal in a frame.

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I guess we’re back into relationship-establishing mode. Which is great – we’re both going to come out of this happier. It just takes a whole lot of effort right now. Constant vigilance!

Midway through March, a few days after I rode Cupcake, I got to ride Zap, another draft x at the barn. He’s super broke, but not as fancy as Cupcake. It was nice to see the other side of the well-trained coin – a broke, submissive, easy to ride horse. Truly, Zap is an ammy’s horse and Cupcake is a professional’s horse. Knowing my goals, Kim has set me on the path on making a “professional’s” horse – sensitive, forward and driving, and reactive in the best way possible. Very cool.

Robbye says, “Helmets are for cool kids!”

March 31 I had another lesson with Kim. We worked on installing light aids under saddle, but that turned into a discussion about groundwork. Something else I skipped erroneously with Robbye. Kim taught me how to teach Robbye turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches from the ground, along with incorporating back and forward work. Of course this practice also contributes hugely to submission and attention. Like longeing in side-reins, working on groundwork is a way to start my rides by emphasizing submission and attention.

After this lesson, I spent another week working on submission, installing in the ToF and ToH and working on them from the saddle as well, and asking for a round front end as well. I also started working her only every other day – a huge departure from the six days a week I’ve been doing for the past two years. I’m not sure if the lighter schedule actually helped her or if she just appreciated having to work less – needs more experimentation 😉

2’3″. New record for Scaredy Annye!

Last Friday I set up some cavaletti (18″! Woo!) and a small x. Robbye was lazy and bored with the small height, which I appreciated. I need to do small jumps a million times to gain my confidence back. This Friday I bumped the jump up to 2’3″ or so and put it outside, which evoked a lot of fear on my part. But I’m proud that I did it, and Robbye took great care of me. I’m slowly, slowly, getting back to where I was last Fall.

I’ve also been working on my tiny, subtle cues. We had several rides just at the walk, where I made my walk > halt and halt > walk cues as light as possible. I was very very please with Robbye’s responses; I realized that the first step to these tiny cues was insisting on her constant attention.

Every time I write a journal I feel like such a noob. There are so many things I’m just now learning and realizing. Simple, silly things. Will I ever feel like I understand this sport??


Journal: A Whole Lot of Nothing

I’m way behind on my journal, which was the whole reason I started this blog a couple years ago. I just need to sit down and write it and try not to whine too much!

When I last journaled, I was longeing almost every day and asking for lots of long-and-low in an attempt to build her into a round front end. After a day off with an incredible migraine, I went right back to the longe. After kicking her butt on the longe (it’s really all about kicking butt with me and Rob. I should have named my blog something along those lines. “Kicking Butt: Establishing Dominance Between an Alpha Mare and an Alpha Woman”. I like it), I got on and Julie attempted to enforce forward by longeing us and smacking Rob with the longe whip when necessary. It…didn’t really work. Rob doesn’t respect the longe as a “scary” tool. I know now that incessant, loud, violent kicking works better than abusing her with the whip.

(I sound like a horse killer. Sheesh.)

We got new fishies and the kitties LOVE them.

Saturday we were going to go on a trail ride, but Julie didn’t feel well so I groomed instead. Clipped hairy face and bridle path, trimmed her feathers and tail, considered for the millionth time roaching her mane. All in a day’s work!

Sunday I had a very crappy lesson. Nothing bad happened but…I didn’t come away with any takeaways. The way I see it – I just paid for half an hour of lesson that I could have accomplished myself. I hate wasting money, I hate having unproductive rides, and I hate that I’m upset with Michele for not being able to help us when it is truly not her fault. (I know that she’s frustrated with us too, which is another reason this lesson particularly bothered me.)

For two days I fiddle farted through the cold, not doing any riding. And trying not to think about riding.

Wednesday and Thursday I tried changing the subject by setting up some jumps – I need to start jumping again if I’m going to get over this stupid fear. So I set up what is now a big jump for me – probably around 2′, with cavaletti on each side to make a tiny hogsback. It looked scary – all 2′ by 2′ of it. So we did it once, I was scared but pleased with myself, and I didn’t want to mess it up so I quit there. Sheesh.

Crappy picture of our crappy hogsback.

Thursday I planned to tackle it a million more times, but Robbye managed to break her reins (totally my fault but ugh…worst timing ever. Couldn’t it have happened when I was in a good place, psychologically?) while I was setting up the fences. So instead of one larger fence, I made several small ones (18″, mostly. Baby steps!), put on Robbye’s halter and roping reins, and jumped that way.

The tack of champions, people.

Which ended up being a great confidence booster, because if we can do it without a bridle, of course we can do it with!

That Friday I took another day off, then Saturday I set up a course of poles on the ground and rode them bareback and with just my halter and roping reins. It was fun and pointless.

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(This is what happens when I have a pointless ride. I take stupid selfies. The horror!)

Sunday Julie and I took a trip to The Tack Trunk, my childhood tack store, which it closing/moving at the end of this month. Very bittersweet for me – but I managed to spend a gift certificate and some more money besides, so that was fun. We also visited our local Dover store, which we had never seen before. It was nice, but no Tack Trunk.


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(Bye forever, Tack Trunk…)

After that trip, I didn’t feel like going out to the barn. And I didn’t feel like riding the next day…or the next. I ended up taking an entire week of from riding, which is very unlike me. I cleaned my stall, I handed out cookies, and I didn’t do anything else. Maybe Robbye needed the break and maybe she didn’t, but I know that I did.

Take a week off of riding and get a whole lot of ponies cleaned. Aww, happy plastic ponies :3

Saturday, I was ready to get back to work. We were hosting a clinic at our farm (!!!!) on desensitization on the ground, which I’m still working on documenting. I was planning on riding before the clinic (I was just auditing/photographing), but when I got to the barn there was…a lot of mayhem. I wanted to back out, but I ended up riding and am proud that I did. It felt a lot like a show atmosphere in a familiar environment, and I was forced to work through my nervousness. Good lesson for me.

Sunday I rode with draw reins and Rob put in a great effort.

Monday I had my first official Zero Day, but the Zero part of it ended up being a bust because Robbye was FORWARD. So I basically sat in two point, with no saddle or bridle, while she galloped around. MY MUSCLES.

Tuesday I had my lesson!

Last night I worked on what we had learned at our lesson. Overall, I am very pleased. I got a few great upward, butt clench transitions – I would have taken even one, so to get three or four was a great accomplishment. Her downwards are not immediate, but I can feel her immediately trying. I know that it takes muscles and effort to stop correctly, so I’m happy just for her to immediately react, even if that doesn’t result in an immediate cessation of motion.

So that’s the past three weeks of horsie for me. I think that my small psychological downfall was inevitable considering how stressed out I’ve been about her progress. But the break and especially the lesson have brought me back up to hopeful and excited.

As a sidenote: if you haven’t yet read SprinklerBandits’ Ammy Manifesto, please go do it. It’s inspiring and uplifting. I know I really needed to read it!

my creativity: worked on my pony room, wrote lots of blog posts, got out my big camera and took clinic photos, started a blog for work

TOABH: Worth 1k Words


Let’s share our favorite photos of our stud muffins.  No limit.
This will be fun; since for 99% of this blog’s life it was private, I haven’t gotten to really share any of my favorite photos! Let’s see if I can do this in moderation…
Possibly my all-time favorite photo of us. For some reason she saluted the judge with me all year that year.
Looking through my photos and seeing the fences in the “look what we jumped!” photos get bigger and bigger is very satisfying.
Harnessed and hitched!
This was pre-reformed seat, I think. My leg would be so much more forward now.
Always wear a helmet! And boots. Especially when you’re on the road.
We look so sporty!





Jumping bareback like a boss.
Our o/f debut – hunter classes at 18″.
I was crying at this moment because I was so proud of her.
It’s not a photo of Robbye, except for that great butt, but it’s too great of a photo to leave out 🙂
One of my best friends, Paul, Robbye, and my husband, Zeke
My husband Zeke, looking majestic. Robbye is bored.

BN CT at Twin Towers


2014 Photo Dump

(Sorry for some of the spacing and formatting issues. Photos and captions didn’t import over from Blogger very well!)

Clip from early 2014

Little brother riding!


Bareback and bridleless 2’6″!
Zeke and Paul grooming 🙂
When Robbye was recovering from her bout of lymphangitis this year I went on a couple of trail rides bareback.

Spent a week cold hosing and hand-walking…

The best selfie one can accomplish with such a big head!