Nibbles turns 7 years old officially today! I met her as a weanling long before I had plans to buy her. She came to live with me in March 2012. For the first 24 hours, she wouldn’t let anyone touch her. Since then, she’s been velco pony and my family loves her to pieces.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us. Happy Birthday, sweet girl! I know Elise will stuff you with carrots and kisses for me.
I had nothing creative for a post title. Sorry, readers.
This post is overdue but better late than never, am I right? Last weekend, my mom, sister and I drove to Grosse Pointe to visit Nibbles for the first time since she shipped up there. She looked fabulous – trim, sleek and, for the most part, content. I say for the most part because in the barn, she wasn’t 100% her carefree self. She didn’t do anything wrong (aside from being nippy) but didn’t seem at ease. It was amazing how her demeanor changed as soon as we headed for the outdoor arena.
A lesson was wrapping up so we waited by the gate for a few minutes. Nibbles was perfectly happy to hang around. When they wrapped up, it was Nibbles’ turn. Elise started with some brief groundwork. Nibbles thought this was old hat and Elise commented that she has the lightest response of any horse she’s ever worked with. That made me feel good; at least I haven’t dulled her or created bad habits! She popped her over a couple flower jumps in hand which Nibbles was quite lazy about. Calm yourself, horse. Then it was to lunging with the sliding side rein. It’s obvious she is starting to understand and work into the contact.
Then Elise hopped on. I offered to hold Nibbles but she said no thanks, Nibbles is good about the mounting block and waiting for the cue to move out. Again another proud moment for me as that’s something I insist all my horses do and we worked on before she came to the trainer’s. The under saddle work was short, maybe 10-15 minutes, but very positive and forward. Nibbles was happy and compliant in all three gaits. Steering isn’t 100% installed as Elise had to do some fancy maneuvers to miss a few jump standards. If steering is our biggest hole at this point, color me super pleased!
This was my first time seeing Nibbles canter under saddle in person. I was floored and so so thrilled. She is very relaxed and Elise doesn’t have to nag her to keep her going. No buck, no resistance. She’s remarkably balanced for a green horse who had three days of cantering previous to this day with a rider.
After Nibbles showed off her new skills, Elise rode her on a walkabout around the property to cool her out. In my opinion, this is where Nibbles really shined. Cars flew by, there were other horses and general barn commotion – nothing made her even take a second glance. She was the complete opposite of looky. The one thing she thought about giving the hairy eyeball was a park bench but she smelled it and that was that.
In light of my wedding being just three weeks away and having to do some traveling to prepare, I won’t be able to see Nibbles in person again until afterwards. I’m hoping I can convince Elise to write more guest posts! If not, I may just be doing photo dumps of what she sends me until July when life returns to the new normal.
Hello again, E popping in. Did you hear my happiness across the country this afternoon? Nibbles and I had such an awesome workout, I might still be floating instead of walking.
We worked outside where there is a full jump course set up, the lawn guys were out working, and traffic is always going by. Nibs and I started out today with some groundwork over a pole, over a flower box, a flower filled itty-bitty cross rail, and finally over a short gate/plank with flowers. She got really into it… Folks, I think we may have a jumping star on our hands soon!
Longing in side reins went pretty well. They are still long enough as to not make her feel trapped or forced into a neck position she’s not ready for, but they also are easy for her to ignore. That’s okay, baby steps. She is getting s lot stronger and has no issue trotting and cantering on a variety of circle sizes.
Decided to give riding in the bridle a try and I am pleased as punch to say it was absolutely perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect! We walked and trotted without and head tossing so I had Tracey, my assistant manager, video our ride. It was a gorgeous day and I’m so glad to have had a cameraman so she could follow and zoom. Such a treat!
Nibbles did walk, trot, and canter in both directions with light, steady contact and even had a couple moments where she stretched down into the bridle a little. It was so thrilling!! I’m still so impressed by her canter work … This is still only the third day she has cantered under saddle and transitions are already not awful. Athletic horses are such a blessing 🙂
She makes me so happy! Hope you had an awesome Thursday!
We live! In fact, we’re doing an awful lot right now. I’ve moved for my new job and Nibbles is having the best experience with Super Trainer E. As a special treat, E wrote a guest post for Back In The Tack! Check it out and stay tuned for video spam coming soon…
Hello all! This is a guest post coming at you from Elise, better known as E, who has been entrusted the honor of training the Beautiful Miss Nibbles. She’s already a barn favorite and has been since her very first day at the Hunt Club. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to play “find the pony” when it’s time for her to leave: nobody, myself included, will want her to go!
Nibbles has been such a JOY to get to know the last few weeks. She is still in that wonderful, innocent phase of young horse training where none of her previous handling has given her any resistance or fear. She greets every challenge I throw her way without hesitation and there is no undoing of bad habits before you can lay the groundwork for something new. Every session, whether it is groundwork, longing in side reins, work in-hand, or riding has been such an improvement from the previous one. If training horses was a drug, this is my addiction! There is such a high from seeing her progress and I’m awfully glad this blog exists to share that with!
So far she is adjusting to the life of an urban barn horse fairly well. We have limited pasture space so turnout is limited and a rotation schedule in place. She is enjoying her stall even though it’s a new concept, and likes to peek out the Dutch door to make friends. Nibbles is turned out with my gelding, Atlas, after getting a bit too attached to the mares group in her first week here. Whoops! So far, she and Atlas just sort of coexist. He’s very independent and won’t start anything, but rules the pasture with a firm but gentle hoof when necessary. Nibbles has been much more interested in the mares in the other pastures rather than with him, so it’s been a drama free zone between the two.
We have been doing a lot of in-hand work, a style of which I learned from a mentor trainer who is a student of Bettina Drummond. At this point it’s basically long line work sans long lines: one hand on each rein standing next to her shoulder. Working on just basic turning and stopping with the very beginnings of leg yield, which is great for her patience. Eventually we can introduce advanced things such as shoulder-in, renvers and half pass but that won’t be for a while. It’s a very low-stress way to introduce these elements to the horse before attempting them under saddle.
Rides has been good, keeping them short and positive during her adjustment period. In the bridle mainly it has been working to keep her relaxed through downward transitions as she is very sensitive in the mouth and trying to install seat aids. We did a lot of trot work the other day and even did circles and figures of eight without breaking to the walk. Not bad for our third or fourth ride! With a horse so sensitive, I’m taking it extra slow so we don’t rock her world too hard and lose that young horse willingness.
Yesterday though, was the best ride yet (phew I thought we’d never get to the best part of the post!) I had a lesson to teach to one of the adult amateurs at the barn and the only one who also does natural horsemanship. Needing a horse to demo certain exercises, I grabbed Nibbles instead of Atlas as she was less muddy and he is getting hock injections on Thursday so is a little off. This was going to be a great chance to test her patience, I thought, regardless if we rode or not. Plus her first ride outside since the jumps moved to the outdoor.
I didn’t have an opportunity to longe so we did groundwork as I taught then figured I’d try tying the lead rope like reins and hop on. I knew she had been ridden in the bitless before and my emergency dismounts are pretty solid, so why not give this a whirl. She was a little flustered when I attempted to hop on from the ground the first time, but the second try was no big deal. We walked a bit doing circles and stopping and she was very, very relaxed. I tried trotting her and she kept the level head even as traffic and bikes drove by, even going through the mud puddle without hesitation. We did some pattern work with my student at the trot which she thought was a piece of cake. Straightness is still coming so for part of the pattern, she was doing a very nice leg yield with nose to the wall. Smarty pants!
Nibbles could not have been better so I decided to try and canter her. She picked up the incorrect lead tracking right, but the canter she picked up was so balanced and in control that I didn’t bother changing. Ended up cantering once more in each direction, getting the leads both times on the first try, so pleased!! We concluded with a “hack” around the outdoor ring on the grass with the little tiny hills. She was perfect!
I texted Rabecca with an update post-ride like always to which she responded, “you cantered under saddle?” and promptly said that she had never done that before! I was/am geeking out over Nibbles’ work ethic and attitude towards new things because seriously, you could have fooled me that those were her first ever canters U/S!! Now I am so bummed that we didn’t get it on camera, but that’s tomorrow’s goal!
So much excitement to see where Nibbles goes during her time with me. Until next time!
After my serious post yesterday, I just have to share this funny list of 20 Things I have Learned about Horses from Facebook. Horses are God’s best creatures (in my humble opinion) but sometimes we obsess and let them define our lives entirely. It’s good to take a step back and laugh!
Tuesday, May 5th
E reports Nibbles was GREAT today. They did groundwork, longed in the side reins WTC, then worked in hand on stopping and turning with one hand on each rein. Then she hopped on for a calm ride at the walk to finish up. She said Nibbles threw a small tantrum during the in hand rein work where she did a mini-rear and sat down. She said she got up and the expression on her face was, “Well that was dumb!” She said she was fantastic for everything after that on the ground and riding. She also mentioned that she’s getting much better about keeping her mouth closed (flash attachment is in the mail) and that she’s even letting E have some steady contact at the walk.
The plan is to go see Nibbles next weekend (May 16-17) after I get moved in and start the new job THIS weekend and next week. Lots of change!
How do you balance planning versus doing with your horse?
As a type A personality, I’m prone to lists and lots of them. I like having neat boxes and a clear understanding of what is expected of me. Try fitting horses into a system like that and it’s a recipe for heartache. For me, that has looked like several years of owning horses but not riding them.
Really? You had horses but you didn’t ride them? You heard correctly. I’ve ridden the horses I have now just a handful of times in the past six years. A combination of factors including leaving a trainer and going it alone plus buying unstarted horses has kept me from riding regularly. I say that but truthfully, the biggest battle has been in my mind. You see, after riding for 17 years, I’m not afraid that the horse will hurt me. I’ve started many horses that belonged to other people. I’m finally able to articulate that for the past several years: I’ve been afraid of hurting my horse.
I wonder if anyone else has struggled with something similar. You analyze and plan to death so much so that you become your own killjoy when it comes to horses, riding or whatever it may be. Without my trainer to guide me (and worse, trying to come up with my own guides), I analyzed everything: being in a stall too long, riding too long, riding in certain tack, riding with contact on the bit, riding with a bit at all, everything.
Don’t get me wrong. Asking questions is a good thing! I am a lifelong learner. I’ll never be done. Instead of riding and addressing my horse and my riding that day, I didn’t get on because I was too busy worrying what would happen once I did. My reaction to being Consciously Incompetent was keeping my feet out of the stirrups. If I didn’t ride, I couldn’t mess up my horse, right?
Writing it now it seems silly but it has taken me all this time to understand how wrong that mentality is. My horse profits nothing if I do not ride. For me, sending Nibbles to a new trainer was a big mental release. This decision will hopefully be the beginning to regaining balance in my riding life – and having one again to begin with. In fact, I’m determined that it will be.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Where you spend all your energy analyzing and suddenly find that you’re making excuses not to throw your leg over your horse? Masters don’t become masters by study alone. Masters become masters by studying and spending thousands of hours in the saddle. And yes, they too made mistakes along the way.
I believe that our horses enjoy having a purpose in life and get enjoyment out of human interaction. For me (hullo Type A), I’m happiest when I’m productive. Not to project human feelings onto animals but I’ve witnessed a similar experience with horses in 17 years. They are bored just hanging out in pastures/stalls. They thrive with a job, a purpose. They benefit from structure with bend (and a strong sense of humor!).
I’d love to know if you’ve ever seen or experienced this. I could use the encouragement as I get my brain wrapped around this new reality. How to you toe the line between analyzing and tacking up? How do you balance wanting to do what’s best for your horse with the reality that exists?
Friday, May 1st
After her day off yesterday, Nibbles seemed to be in an even better frame of mind today. Trainer E did some ground work and lunged her in her bridle before riding. She twisted the reins like side reins. She reported that she got a little “spicy” toward the end where she decided she didn’t want to play anymore. In Nibbles’ world, spicy is picking up your back foot for a baby pseudo-buck that lasts one literal second and then tossing your head. Wow Nibbles, such rebel, so wild. I had told her that Nibbles’ protests are her saying boos hiss dis my temper tantrum, okay fine. They finished with some good quiet walk work.
E says she thinks the side reins will really help her be less anxious about her picking up the reins. To be fair, I often rode her in a hackamore so it’s perfectly reasonable. She said even the reins over the saddle helped a lot. I’m going to dig out the flash attachment that came with her bridle to send up just in case gaping becomes a thing.
Can we real quick just talk about E’s breeches in the picture? Do need! I’m obsessed.
Saturday, May 2nd
Another great day and first trot under saddle with E. Longed in side reins for half an hour then walked and trotted under saddle. “It was all four on the floor” she reports – nothing fancy yet but I’ll take the good behavior at this stage! Trainer E sent me photos of her sliding side rein arrangement which is really interesting. She said it’s already doing wonders for Nibbles’ confidence with light pressure on the bit.
I live in the city where the Oaks and Derby are run and work just a few minutes from the twin spires. I love Oaks and Derby – I was raised going to Derby parties and all the wonderful festivities the city puts on in celebration. We don’t mess around. It’s kind of our thing.
Oaks is particularly special to me because it was one of the first dates my fiancé and I went on together. I can’t seem to find any photos from that day so I’ll steal some photos from his social media so you have some proof of our residence :o)
We aren’t going this year but I’ll be watching and handicapping online. Totally unrelated, but I hope you like the blog’s new look! We had the black look for a while and I wanted something fresh that is still really readable. Tell me what you think!
Do you have a pick for Oaks and/or Derby this year?