Barbara Fulbright and Vince worked in the round pen for what seemed like forever trying to achieve the moment of “join-up” when horse acknowledges the partnership with man.
Day after day she free lunged her descendent of Northern Dancer, only to have the exercise end in frustration.
“It would always go the same way. He’d go round and round and then take a few steps toward me and stop,” Fulbright says. “To me, it felt like he was crossing his arms in front of his chest and saying, ‘You make the first step.’ ”
Finally, as if pulled from a page of Monty Roberts, the famous horse whisperer, Vince walked over to Fulbright, touched his nose to her shoulder, and they both agreed who was boss. Him.
If Vince could talk, Fulbright imagines the 10-year-old gelding might say something like this: “Now, I had no need of join-up because things were exactly I wanted them. I was the leader. I held out for days on end. Finally I just came over to her so I could quit the endless free lunging. I was tired, but I was still the real boss.”
Fulbright writes this description as a guest columnist on The Un-Retired Racehorse, a popular site by New York City exercise rider Natalie Reinert. In the June 28th blog entry, Fulbright mirthfully describes her life with her off-track Thoroughbred, writing from Vince’s perspective.
Race name: Invincible Vince
Dam: Roseabelle Believe
Foal date: May 1, 2000 The 58-year-old certified registered nurse anesthetist from Louisville returned to horse ownership a year ago.
Ten years had passed since Fulbright had climbed into a saddle when she decided to visit the Secretariat Foundation, a nonprofit created by Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery to benefit Thoroughbreds.
Vince had been housed at the facility for a year when she decided to take him last October.
“There was actually a point” in the preceding years “that I thought I’d never have a horse again,” Fulbright says. “Then, I told my kids that when they were both out of college I was going to get a horse.”
But, she decided to speed up her timetable.
With one child in college and one still living at home, Fulbright decided she owed it to herself to rekindle her childhood passion.
“Vince was beautifully trained in dressage, with some second- and third-level movements,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘My God, are they going to think I’m good enough for him?’ ”
Forewarned that life with Vince would entail a “lifelong learning process to discover who the leader was,” Fulbright now concedes the truth to that, and more.
Since achieving join-up in the round pen, the pair has learned to work together; he accepting guidance and correction, and she finding the “buttons” that elicit dressage movements in the ring and bravery on trail rides.
One of their biggest moments occurred in April on a trail ride to a creek. Standing at the top of an 18-inch drop to water, Vince froze. He refused to move forward. “He was terrified,” she says. “But I knew he could do it, so I loosened up everything on him, my grip, everything, and it was like he said, ‘If you say it’s okay, I’ll do it.’ ”
Since then, the horse and rider have taught each other to be more confident, she says.
“Overcoming my fears about him has helped me overcome my fears about life.”