Around the Water Trough

The Equestrian Journal ... For the Thinking Rider

Contributed by Around the Water Trough

Daryl and ‘Fernhill Picture This’

“Sometimes it just takes a single sentence to make a difference in your riding,” says Catherine Respess, owner and creator of The Equestrian Journal. “The act of putting pen to paper after a session with your horse helps solidify the memory of what you encountered. By taking the time to process what you learn from your horse or trainer, even if you just write a few words, you will be surprised by how much more you retain from each lesson. You may even be able to capture insights that you missed in the moment, which means you actually increase the value of the experience.”

Growing up, Catherine lived in a barn, literally, her family renovated an actual barn into a home! The kitchen was in a stall and bridle racks were incorporated into the home’s decor. Her surroundings cultivated Catherine’s pony-crazy mind and at age 3, her parents finally caved and located a Welsh pony farm where the owners were happy to let her hop on the ponies. By the time she was 6 years old she was a “free range kid” riding trails and enjoying lessons with the ponies - Goblin, Dumplin’ and Firefly were her closest friends. Throughout her childhood, her family moved quite a bit as her stepfather was a Methodist minister. In each new town, Catherine would learn about different disciplines, whatever was popular in the area they had settled - from fox hunting and jumping to dressage and polo, and even driving and long lining. “This really worked for me, I love learning and expanding my horse knowledge. I learned so much when I was younger, and that really influences the way I ride and teach today. You won’t be surprised to know that I found, writing it all down enriched my lasting memories!”

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Accustomed to keeping a diary from a young age, mostly chronicling her days with the horses and ponies in her life (much to her brothers’ dismay when he broke into her diary for juicy news!), it was natural for Catherine to continue to write about her days as she grew up. Catherine had a great opportunity in high school to live with her trainer and go to Wellington, “I did a work study program for course credit and part of the requirement was that I had to record, or journal, my days. I had a project horse, ‘Ariel,’ and the journaling helped me feel confident about our progress and accomplishments while I also giving me a clear view of the next steps that were logical for the horse and for me.

As her equestrian career began to flourish and include more horses and students, she found that writing down information after each lesson or ride influenced her teaching. While she enjoyed the action of recording details about her day, her system at the time was a bit disorganized, “I had my personal journal, a blog, my scheduling book, an online calendar, and loose-leaf diagrams tucked here, there, and everywhere. It was too much! I was talking with my life coach, Dr. Heike Jung, about ways to engage my students and help them recall what they learned lesson to lesson when it came to me, I should create a useful journal for riders.” The goal of The Equestrian Journal is to provide riders with a format to see things in a few different perspectives using guided questions on monthly, weekly, and daily pages. The journal provides riders with the opportunity to learn more about their horse by recording their observations while also capturing the knowledge they recall as they are making journal entries.

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Thus, The Equestrian Journal was born, “you could say The Equestrian Journal took more than 15 years to cultivate, but after doing this for so long it only took me a weekend to sit down and create it!” laughs Catherine. There are 4 options for the journal – digital, paperback, spiral bound and a lovely leather disc bound option. The journals come with diagrams, questions and prompts to get you started on your journaling journey. There are also alternative pages like weekly evaluations that combine the daily and weekly pages, 2-sided lesson pages with rider diagrams, student pages for trainers and competition pages to help you determine what is or is not working for you and your horse at shows.

Daryl and ‘BEC Valencia’

As a Trainer, Journaler, and Accelerator Coach (a service provided by Catherine where, together, you review your lessons, observations and goals to help you create action steps and practice crafting a quality journal entry), Catherine is passionate about guiding equestrians:

  • to increase their awareness

  • cultivate good habits

  • reveal patterns

  • develop powerful insights

  • improve working memory

  • reduce intrusive mental blocks

  • connect your horse's team

  • customize your horse's program

There is also a Certified Partner program that, along with many other benefits, guides trainers and educators to incorporate journal coaching into their programs. To start your journaling in style, check out