New Video of Nibbles

I’m hosting my first Thanksgiving which means being a B&B for 8 people plus the actual Meal…gulp. We also had 7″ of snow dumped on us on Saturday and the temperature hasn’t broken 30F since so yeah. Needless to say, I’ll be riding less this week.

In the meantime, enjoy these new videos of Nibbles! She sure doesn’t have much of a coat for being in Michigan in November. I love how sleek she looks. Elise and I are planning a photoshoot in the spring when she has finished shedding out and is all muscle from so much *wonderful* work.

Enjoy the commentary by Elise’s trainer friend who took the video while on her mare, ha!

PS- Having Nibbles away has given me too much time to look at stallions and contemplate getting her Trakehner approval (since she’s a registered purebred Shagya)….hmmm….

Joker’s Stripes and Nibbles’ Stretches

I’ve been riding Joker three days a week, give or take. The assistant trainers at the barn I’m at are riding in the evenings when I get there. Having over horses around makes Joker happy which makes me happy. We haven’t started him on omeprazole yet but Elise ordered it so hopefully that won’t be too much longer in coming.

I feel like I finally have a good feel for how to ride this horse without fighting but without being a pushover. He can be very forward and spicy when he wants to be which sound like a sassy dark bay mare we all know… But it’s the type of ride I really enjoy. Elise drove down on Monday so we could give Joker a racing stripe because after 30 minutes of work, he’s been getting pretty sweaty and I don’t fancy walking him out for ages and ages in the freezing cold.

Joker had never been body clipped and, while the other horse on the crossties next to him was there, he did well. However, when that horse left, we forget all our manners and wiggled and jigged and otherwise made coordinated lines impossible.

I give you…. the most ghetto, hilarious clip ever.

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It may be ugly but it does the job. After Elise speed clipped the jigging 2(1) year old, she said she’d be happy to watch if I felt like riding. Did I feel like riding after a 9 hour day and wrestling a horse who didn’t want to be body clipped? Yes, yes I did.

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reins still need to be shorter which would help get my hands out of my lap

I rode for maybe 20 minutes but felt like I got some good work. He was a bit bracy, I think in light of the fact that the other horse left the arena early on in the ride. There was a little head flipping in the canter but no bucking or bizarre Spanish walking. After the first 10 minutes, he settled in nicely and we worked in a few serpentines, rein backs, and things to change up the track around the arena. Note to self: at future barns, be wary when there is junk (hay bales, tractors, drags, random tarps, buggies) stacked in every corner. It makes the 116 x 80 arena feel a lot more like 80 x 80 which isn’t enough to even do a dressage test in.

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But I digress. I’m really, really enjoying riding this little guy. We measured him at right at 14.2 which explains why I look like I have the longest legs in the world on him (I’m 5’5″). We’re having much more good than bad and I feel like I’m home again. For the first week or so, I felt a bit unstable. But since then, I feel like I’m getting noticeably stronger with each ride. I feel like I can push him into the bridle with my seat and really control his shoulders with my thighs (pro tip: horses who thought they were retired to pony ride life are not amused when you ask them to use their bodies at first). I feel like my leg isn’t correct yet but given that I’m in a close contact saddle, I try to not be too harsh on myself. When Elise showed me the pictures she took, I was pleasantly surprised – I don’t look like a complete sack of potatoes for someone three weeks in after not riding for 5 years. Hey, maybe I can ride.

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As for Nibbles, Elise is riding her 3 to 4 days/week and she is doing really well. I’m tickled to hear she is maintaining without 5+ days needed since I am going to have to maintain employment for at least a few more years ha! Elise reports that Nibbles is finally understanding that stretching feels good. She doesn’t maintain it long term yet but she’s finally really getting the stretchy trot.

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The canter remains her biggest challenge – you still can’t completely sit the canter without Nibbles losing her balance/hollowing out. In a half seat, she’s perfect. I’m hoping a chiropractic visit and continued regular work will only help her get stronger. It’s so easy to forget that she’s only been under saddle in actual work since May. That’s six and a half months. From barely backed to where she is now, I’m thrilled!

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November Riding Goals

Joker is now out of quarantine and into the pasture with some other geldings. His new friend tried to follow us out of the pasture but didn’t make a fuss when we left for the barn. There were two other horses in the barn when we came inside but they left quickly so Joker had to deal with being alone again. There was a lot of fidgeting and trying to peek as far out of the crossties as possible but no rearing. Progress is progress!

I rode Joker Joe for 20 minutes last night. He wasn’t quite as good as Monday with Elise here but was definitely still willing to make concessions. It took about 10 minutes to get him to slow down from mach 5 – rushing around and blowing through aids is much easier than trotting around like a good pony. But he eventually conceded and a good pony he was.

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We worked at the walk and primarily the trot. For the first time with him I added in some change of rein across the diagonal as well as some circles. There is junk in every corner of the already small-ish indoor so serpentines are a bit of a tight fit. Circles seemed to be hard enough for the time being but I’m hoping to get coordinated enough for figure eights that don’t involve dirtbike turns. We may have had a couple of those!

Husband and I are visiting family out of town, leaving Friday and getting back later on Sunday which means tonight is my last ride until next week. Really looking forward to it. He was off the tums the day before yesterday but he got them last night so I’m hoping to see him even happier this evening.

Now that I have a riding horse (thank you so, so much again, Elise), I get to make some riding goals! Sure, they’re small and super basic but they’re riding goals.

  • Participate in No Stirrup November by committing to one ride per week without stirrups. We’ll start there and see how his back does. With the ulcers, he’s pretty tense and a tiny bit sore over his back so I don’t want to make it any worse by flouncing about.
  • Work on appropriate rein position and length by tying my reins, keeping them shorter than feels normal, and maintaining one fist length above and in front of the saddle. I have a tendency to want reins that are too long. I don’t know if it’s from my hunter days or if I feel like I’m holding too tight. Either way, I know that once my seat is more secure and independent again, I’ll feel like I’m bracing less with my upper body and hands. In the meantime, I’ll work on getting  a feel for where my hands and elbows should be – not super low and straight out, respectively.

Thirty-two Tums and A Visit From The Trainer

I’ve kept Trainer Elise in the loop given Joker’s antics. She’s had him for 15 years so she knows him better than anyone. After racking our brains, the only explanation we could come up with is ulcers. Before we jumped in and bought omeprazole, Elise wanted to try giving him something I’ve never thought of that she received as a suggestion from her bodyworker. I’m not a vet so don’t take my advice as one but I thought you may find this interesting too.

UlcerGard’s active ingredient is omeprazole. Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPIB) which means it stops the pumps in the stomach from making acid.

Tums are calcium carbonate. They are not a PPIB, just an antacid. However, the antacid can temporarily and mildly alleviate the symptoms of digestive upset such as an ulcer. It will not heal the ulcer but it can act as a litmus test for digestive issues and give the gut a little reprieve so, in the instance of minor issues, the body may be able to heal itself.

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According to Elise’s friend, 32 tums is the magic number to see an effect in horses. So I went and bought a bottle of generic, peppermint tums and popped 32 into Joker on Sunday afternoon. Or rather, my husband did while I took pictures and squeed because he doesn’t come to the barn often and seeing them together made my heart go pitter patter. Joker ate them slowly and piece by piece but I later found from Elise that that is normal behavior for him.

Elise offered to drive down and work with him together. That happened to work out the day after he got his first “dose” of antacid. I was so relieved she was coming to see him because I was feeling really baffled and not sure what to do with him because his behavior was pretty extreme.

Making friends. Little Joker is only 14.1.

Making friends. Little Joker is only 14.1.

So last night, Elise and I met at the barn and as soon as I saw Joker in his pasture, I knew it would be different. I’m calling it tums and being there for a week now for lack of a better explanation. His eyes were quite literally brighter and his head was up. Okay, maybe he was happy to see his mom, but I still think it was remarkable. (Editing to add that Elise hasn’t been his regular rider for a long time. He’s been a kids pony for lots of little ones so he hasn’t been a one person horse.)

We brought him into the barn which was had several other horses in the cross ties. Darn,  that’s the first time as normally he has been completely alone and I think that’s part of the problem. The other horses left pretty quickly, which meant we’d get a good look at his attitude in similar circumstances. Joker decided he wanted to look around and fidget but he did not rear once. He never completely checked out. You know when horses just leave and there’s nothing you can do to bring them back down to planet earth until they work out that adrenaline or upset? Like you’re just a ragdoll on the end of the line and, as far as they’re concerned, you don’t exist? That’s what it was like before. That is NOT what he was like this time. He wasn’t perfect pony pants but it was a big improvement even over the first day he arrived when Elise had him in the cross ties with me and he was naughty even then.

ze crosstie area

ze crosstie area

In the cross ties, I was able to pick out his feet for the first time. I literally couldn’t get a hoof up in between rears before. The saddle went on a back that wasn’t dancing around. I was tickled at this point and we hadn’t even tried riding him. Elise did a little bit of ground work, just getting him to yield his shoulder and his haunches, some small circles and changes of direction, checking to see if the gerbils were home. This is very similar to what I’ve done with him so I was really pleased to see we were on the same page. The gerbils were home. When we first went into the arena, another horse was being lunged. They left before groundwork was done which was good because, again, it was a great test to see how Joker would react. He noticed but stayed with Elise.

I like my new tack locker

I like my new tack locker

We finished tacking Joker up and Elise hopped on. At this point, other horse was back in the arena being ridden. Walking around, Joker looked tight and Elise remarked on as much. We both agreed – he was tense and coiled but he wasn’t explosive. Other horse left again and he didn’t seem to care. They picked up a trot and, while the tension was there, he went around without his nose in the air in a cute little frame. She got after him a couple of times for ignoring her inside leg but that was it. Then she asked for the canter.

Oh man, we were both in tears. Sorry, Joker, buddy, but your theatrics were hysterical. If you can imagine a horse trying to do a Spanish trot – legs flying out, hyper extended, knees almost to nose – that what Joker did… except cantering behind, trotting -ish up front, head shaking in displeasure (not lame).  Trotting was the limit, said Joker’s belly. And that was fine. The first (and only) time I had ridden him, there was nothing I could do to get his nose out of outer space and I didn’t have a martingale.

She hopped off and offered me the reins. As soon as I sat in the saddle, I felt a difference. I told her if this was tense, then he was a robot the first time I was on him because it was a huge improvement. So we walked around and Elise had me shorten my reins a bit and reminded me that if I give a little halfhalt with my inside ride, he’ll stay connected to my hands and not fling like crazy.

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Never has someone ridden in longer stirrups in a close contact saddle #dressageprobz

I’ve never been so excited to trot you guys. I had so much fun in the maybe 10 minutes I was on him. He wasn’t completely relaxed but he was with me and listening. When I slowed my posting, he matched my rhythm. Telling me to slow my posting doesn’t click in my brain. Elise had a great little analogy: try to lengthen the amount of time your thighs touch the saddle to regulate their rhythm. Lightbulb! Immediately I had less of a roadster and, if its possible, was grinning even wider.

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I hopped off and we brushed him and I gave him some facerubs. It really seemed like I was seeing bits of his personality for the first time. That night, Elise placed an order for omeprazole. We’ll do a month’s worth and see where that gets us.

I’m going to the gym with husband instead of the barn tonight (after two weeks of being sick and being out of it) so he won’t get his tums today but the plan is to go out again tomorrow after work, hit him with 32 more little chalky guys, and ride. Fingers crossed the gerbils are here to stay!

Nibbles Update

Trainer Elise blogged about her ride on Nibbles yesterday – complete with a little XC field galloping! Nibbles is doing so well and really growing up.

Here is a video of her trotting along in the autumn leaves. I’m jealous!

Joker hasn’t changed yet. As soon as he can’t see other horses, he melts down. Elise is actually driving down today so we can work with him together and see if she can provide some insight. In the meantime, he’s getting a slew of tums everyday to see if that doesn’t alleviate any minor ulcer symptoms so his body can heal itself. We are trying to avoid having to shell out cash to scope him but, if this doesn’t work, I think a course of UlcerGard will be in order. Horses, right?