Meet Nibbles

As I move away from just using this blog for random thoughts, I thought it might be useful to introduce my current project, Nibbles. Nibbles is a 5 1/2 year old dark bay Shagya Arabian mare. These photos were taken in October 2013. As you can see, she was very plump, having just been pulled from the field and the dust knocked off of her.995198_10151965469968764_1159289287_nNibblesOct20131402176_10151965719663764_470026175_o1233059_10151965469973764_1601964960_o980271_10151965496053764_701286672_o

To pull or not to pull?

I’m strongly considering cutting and pulling Nibbles’s mane. Seeing as I cannot bathe her at the barn she’s presently boarded at (that’s another story), I’m having a hard time maintaining her mane in its present beastly form.

Muddy mane

Fresh from a roll in the mud.

See what I mean? My other argument for pulling is that, ultimately, I want to show her in dressage. As an Arabian, she can get away with the long mane and a running braid. I’m pretty decent at running braids, as well. But I am tired of trying to maintain it. I feel like I have to rip too much hair out to get through it. It is so thick and the texture is fairly wavy and rough. Come on, Arabs are so cute with pulled little manes.

Moving with Rider

When the horse is no longer nervous with everything below, the group can begin walking together. The handler should walk a few yards, stop then walk again. Repeat for several days.

When the horse and rider walk without any stress, the rider may then be given the reins and the pair goes out on the lunge circle. The rider should not have any mouth contact. The horse should walk and stop several times using the same commands as without a rider. With difficult horses, a third person should take the lunge whip from the handler – if the horse gets dangerous, the handler can stop the horse with two hands.

When the horse proves that he can remain calm at the walk over several rides, we start to trot. This is done very carefully. Ask the horse to trot as he has always done. The person with the whip helps a little but when the horse needs even more encouragement. When trotting the first time, use a slightly small circle than normal for control. When the horse relaxes, increase the circle size. After one or two circles in trot, return to the walk. The rider should do anything to put the horse in trot or walk. There should be no aids from the rider – just follow the movement while being light during the first rising trot.

Many horses can be afraid when the rider posts, so some horses need the rider to sit at first. The rider’s hands should stay in contact with the horse’s neck but should not move. She only has very light contact with the reins, never trying to influence the horse at this stage.

If the horse start to trot suddenly but puts their tail between their legs, they are fearful. It is very important for the rider to move forward with the horse while the handler slows and calms the horse.

Other horses may not want to trot with the rider on their back, so the handler may have to push them more with their voice and possibly whip from the ground. Both types of horses need a lot of transitions between walking and trotting to gain confidence.

After several days with the passive rider at the walk and trot, the canter can be introduced. Using voice commands and the whip only if necessary, ask the horse to go into a fast trot and then the horse will eventually “fall” into a canter. The rider should be light, with deep hands and follow the horse’s movement.

The handler should lunge the horse and rider in all three gaits until the horse is moving as relaxed as he does without the rider. The rider, at this time, should not be using any aids. This period is only to teach the horse that a rider is now on his back. Then and only then do we start the next step: teaching him the rider’s aids.

Mounting

Like before, standing in the middle of the arena with full tack, a third person should be holding the stirrup on the right side of the horse while the rider mounts. The second person or handler is still at the front of the horse, ready with a soothing voice and treats should the horse get nervous.

The rider should put her foot in the left stirrup and pull her body up very slowly, without putting her leg over the horse’s back. Instead, rest a moment in the stirrup then jump of the horse. The jump exercises should have prepared the horse for this.

Little by little, the rider straightens their body while staying on the left side of the saddle. The horse should be able to see the rider’s whole body above them. Everyone should remain very calm, especially if the horse raises their head or gets concerned. This routine repeats for several days.

Only when the horse is completely relaxed should you continue.

The rider should mount by putting their leg over the horse’s back very slowly. The third person should carefully give the rider the right stirrup then move away in case the horse jumps. 99% of horses stay calm if they are well prepared. The rider should not move and just sit lightly. At the handler’s instructions, they should dismount by taking both feet out of the stirrups then carefully put her leg over the back of the horse then jump off. This is enough for one day.

During the next few days, repeat this exercise frequently after the horse has been lunged as before. The rider should not be doing anything with the reins at this stage.

When the horse is consistently calm, the rider can do more in the saddle. She can touch the horse’s neck then speak to the horse. When the horse is accepting of this, the rider should go up and down while in the saddle as if posting while the horse remains standing. Also try opening up the arms side by side. Again, these should last several days.