Christmas

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maybe my favorite picture of us ever

Finally, my Christmas recap post! Better late than never, right? My husband and I decided to have a quiet Christmas this year after hosting Thanksgiving at our place. We really, really enjoyed it and were basically bums all day. His big gift this year was an Xbox One. My family went all out and spoiled me this year with so much from my horsey wishlist. It honestly deserves its own post – so here it is!

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My aunt very sweetly printed and framed an older photo of Nibbles – the one from her About Nibbles page. The flowers were from my husband just because. And the rest of it were my horse-related Christmas gifts this year. Cue massive squeeing!

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My first surprise came by way of my sister who bought me a set of Leistner brushes. I had some of them many moons ago but they got stolen at a barn we ended up having to leave in a hurry. I’ve wanted new ones because they’re the best thing ever but honestly didn’t think it was worth spending that much money on brushes when I wasn’t riding regularly. This fall/winter, I have decidedly started riding again and I put them on my Christmas list thinking a girl could dream. My sister is the best!

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When my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her the brush set or a nice leather halter for Nibbles. Obviously, the halter was more expensive (by a lot) and I really didn’t think either of these things would be realistic (we had already talked about little things to get for one another a while back). The brushes came in the mail first which was a huge surprise so I never imagined she would get me both.

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Have I mentioned my sister is the best? She went in with my parents and got me my dream halter for Nibbles. I’ve always wanted a really nice, padded 3/4″ leather halter with a nameplate. I mean, what girl doesn’t want one for their shiny pony? I may have freaked out a little…okay, a lot, when it came in the mail.

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beautiful and stitching and padding oh my

The next one I kind of knew I was getting because it’s all I asked for from my husband and my parents. I’ve been riding in an older (9+ years) helmet and I’ve never owned one that cost more than like $50. I’ve been coveting a One K and told myself that I’d save up and get one when I got back in the saddle (and not just for sporadic lessons). I accomplished that this year with the help of Elise and Joker.

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I absolutely love my new One K Defender. It fits like a glove and I love how it looks. I didn’t think I’d be into the matte look but I decided I should take a chance and that’s what I asked for. I’m so glad I did. I’ve been in a velvet helmet for 19 years. It’s time for that part of the hunter princess in me to die hahaha.

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Taking my step daughter for a spin, sporting my new gorgeous helmet<3

The next gift was a pleasant surprise that I was a part of. When hubby and I went to see Nibbles a couple weeks ago, we stopped at a local tack shop that was closing and had everything super marked down. Nibbles snapped the browband on her Stubben this summer and I haven’t replaced it yet. I only have the one black bridle so when I saw one super discounted, I pounced.

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It’s a really inexpensive brand so it won’t last forever but it will serve as a great back up when she graduates to something fancy, hopefully next summer. Plus, I mean, new shiny bridle? Yes pwease.

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Inexpensive materials but it’s soft and the padding and stitching aren’t half bad really.

The last gift was made for Miss Nibbles by Elise and I just LOVE it. Nibbles’ color is that deep merlot/maroon color which she knows. Nibbles is a Shagya Arabian and, like warmblood studbooks, they have their own brand. Elise did a stunning job of hand painting the Shagya Sun on this brush in our colors. I used it on Nibbles when she gave it to me and told her it would probably never leave my house again because it needs it’s own pedestal.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! Coming soon, an update on Joker… is omeprazole helping? Also, what are my goals in 2016? Blogger is going to try to be a real blogger!

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I Love My Not-A-Pony

This weekend turned into a bit of an adventure although not because of Nibbles. When we left on Friday, the weather was clear and cold. On the drive up, we got caught in a lake effect snowstorm. Within 15 minutes, we had minimal traction and highways were going 15 MPH. We decided to stop tempting fate and – 30 minutes from home – get a hotel for the night.

The next morning, the roads had been plowed and salted so we headed back out. On the way to the barn, we stopped by a local tack shop that was closing and got a steal on an early Christmas present for Nibbles (but I’ll be doing a new post just to talk about Christmas this year so you’ll have to wait). From there, we headed to the barn to see my pony.

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Candid happiness

And my pony is not a pony anymore. You guys, dressage done right completely transforms a horse’s body. We sticked her at 15.2 but I swear she grew two inches and has put on 25lbs+of muscle. It could be that I’m also more used to Joker who is 14.1 on a good day but wow, I couldn’t believe how big she is. I could tell a huge difference in her posture as well – and those gaskins<3

Nibbles hadn’t been turned out in 24 hours so she was tense and up. *sigh* One day, mare, you will come out with brain firmly installed and floor all of us. But until then, to the lunge! Elise popped on her first which was helpful for me to watch in person. She sure loves to canter now and wasn’t too keen to trot. One day all three gaits will be installed in equal measure but until then, I’ll take finally having a lovely canter.

After Elise’s brief spin, it was my turn.

I upped my stirrup a hole just in case.

I didn’t need it. Guys, she was awesome. The trot was tense (shocker, Nibbles). Looking at the pictures, you can tell she’s tense but it doesn’t look near as wonky as it felt. She wanted to tip her nose to the left, too, which is interesting to me. Elise says that’s not uncommon for her.

IMG_4135And then we cantered. Heaven on earth. Her canter was effortless. The cue was effortless. Riding it was effortless. It had the perfect amount of suspension. The best way I can describe it is that I felt like I was floating. Unlike her trot that day, it was more forward than up and calm and just dreamy. I didn’t want to stop.

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I stayed in a lighter seat just in case although wow, I’m farther forward than I thought in pictures. But at least my toes aren’t pointing straight out? One piece at a time for me and for her… After several trips in each direction, I hugged my pony and decided it was Christmas picture time.

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But you’ll have to wait for those 😉

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All smiles

Canter Nearly Cured

Nibbles’ toughest gait under saddle has been the canter. She has found it very difficult to tolerate a rider in more than half-seat while still using her body correctly. It’s not highly uncommon for green horses so I haven’t been too worried about it. My thinking has been that the stronger she gets, the better the canter will get.

Elise has been so patient with Nibbles which is yet another reason my decision to send her there is 100% affirmed.

And because Elise is the bomb, we have lots of video to compare. Watching these really makes me appreciate her progress. You can get a feel for the change even by watching 5-10 seconds of each.

The canter 30 days under saddle (50 second mark):

The canter 60 days under saddle:

The canter 6 months under saddle (40 second mark):

The canter 7 months under saddle:

It’s not perfect yet and probably not quite yet to Training Level quality (and certainly not consistency) but it’s such a big improvement. In the most recent video, she loses balance and the canter gets a little bit lateral and tense but relaxation will help with that. Elise says it was 10 and 12 meter circles on the lunge with lots and lots of trot-canter and canter-trot transitions using sidereins that seemed to turn on the lightbulb for that particular ride. Elise didn’t have to ride in a half seat and there was a lot less dramatic head flipping.

I’ve been wanting to get her chiropracted for a while but it hasn’t lined up with moving barns. I’m really, really hoping I can get her checked soon because I think it will only really help as she learns to really use her body.

Husband and I leave later today to head up to Michigan to see her. I am dying to ride her and beyond excited for Saturday morning when I get that chance. I’ve seen her but haven’t ridden her since July! I AM READY.

 

Hot & Cold

Remember when I said omeprazole was ordered so hopefully that wouldn’t be a long time coming? Definitely jinxed it. It’s been on back order; hopefully it will be here on Friday.

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The farm I have him at has neighbors with 500 acres we can ride on when their fields are fallow ❤

I say hopefully because the last three or so rides with Joker have been… interesting. We settled into a groove in late November as long as he wasn’t the only horse being ridden indoors. At the beginning of December, we went on our first trail ride with a group from the barn and he did super. You could tell he really loved being ridden out as opposed to indoors. We went about 3 1/2 miles in an hour (there were people in the group who were only comfortable with walking) but it was heavenly to me.

Last week, I rode him three days – two nights in the indoor plus one mini trail ride. Each ride was progressively more tense. I had a half-day at work last Friday so another lady and I decided to take advantage and go for a trail ride in the same area as before. It took me a solid five minutes to get Joker off the property – he just planted his feet and said “No, thanks.” I tried an opening rein, pony club kick, circling, zig zagging, letting the other horse go first. Nothing. Finally, I think he just got tired of me and moved off. He wasn’t up or tense when we set out but when we got to the field across the way, he checked out. The trail ride only lasted half an hour because his behavior was frightening the other lady. To me, he wasn’t being a nightmare (I spent almost a decade riding green beans). But to be fair, he was jigging and being looky and pulled some hard stops every once in a while. I told her I was fine and that I would definitely let her know if I felt like we were in any danger. This was this lady’s third trail ride I later learned so that explained her apprehension. Joker was pretty lathered when we got back; note that he didn’t break a sweat on our first trail ride and it was twice as long.

I gave Joker the next day off and went back out on Sunday with another woman from the barn who agreed to trail ride with me. It’s been 60 degrees in December (Northern Indiana) which is ridiculous so I wanted to take advantage of it. We went a different route and Joker was slightly jumpy but much better although he spent most of the ride pretty up though. We got caught in the rain so headed back to the barn to finish our ride. Joker was tense and bracey inside so I tried to do some suppling exercises and used some trot poles. He improved after a while so I called it quits.

He got Monday off which brings us to Tuesday night’s ride. He was in the cross ties alone again which seems to be happening a lot lately. He pawed and weaved but didn’t rear. He was pretty squirmy to tack up and gave me some hard looks when I was slowly tightening his girth (anyone else hearing the screaming ULCERS yet).

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Breaking up text with the Pandora charm my parents got me

Someone else was just leaving the arena (with a super cute Oldenburg gelding) when we got in and Joker was none too pleased. I worked with him on the ground a little first on the lunge and then yielding various parts of his body. He was a little up but listening.

So I got on. And sigh. And ow.

He was a freight train. He was yanking my arms out of their sockets for the whole 30 minutes. He acted like he wanted to be a run away train so I decided, why not, I’ll just let him go. So up into a canter we went (it’s really too small to gallop) and I pushed him out and while he grunted and stayed stiff, he didn’t let any squirrels out. So we trotted some then cantered some and I tried to work in a lot of transitions to get his mind and body unwound.

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Freight train? Me? I am majestic angel

Nothing. I could hear him grinding his teeth (in a hackamore) and his back was like a two by four it was so stiff. He was spooking at things that have been in there since he’s been at this barn and tried to outright bolt twice. I’ve never heard a horse grunt almost the entire ride. And grind their teeth without a bit in their mouth. When I could finally walk him a lap without him trying to boot scoot, I called it a night. And immediately texted Elise, “Please tell me the omeprazole is off back order soon.”

It sounds really rough but in reality I’ve been having so much fun. We’ve had some pretty bad days but we’ve had some good ones sprinkled in too. Being back in the saddle has been like coming home. Even when I’m having to get after him or preparing for sillies, I’m having a blast. My body somehow remembers all of this. Sure, I’m no equitation queen and may never be again, but I know I’m not riding like a complete sack of potatoes and I’m really proud of that. My husband has come out once or twice and taken video and I kind of do a double take. Is that my stable lower leg? Wait, my toes aren’t turned out at the canter? Hold on, he looks that nice going around? It’s really reaffirming.

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I’m not a personal trainer so take this with a grain of salt but I’m attributing my relatively quick acclimation to riding again to the hard, hard work I’ve put in at the gym over the past two years. While I haven’t been able to ride much before Joker since college, I’ve been hitting the gym hard. Five days a week at 5AM. I lift weights and I run and I do some exercises my physical therapist gave me to strengthen my hip flexors for riding (she rides too). I’m no body builder but I’ve spent two years methodically lifting and conditioning myself.

And damn, I gotta say, I’m not as weak as I thought I would be in the saddle. It was mainly about getting the balance right and the minute feeling of where to put/move/keep your body in different gaits, to ask for leg yields, etc. I still have a long ways to go to be technically correct again and that’s ok.

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If the omeprazole comes on Friday like it’s supposed to, we’ll start Joker on it over the weekend. I’m going to give him a week off (the weather is finally getting back to season normal 30’s) from riding but go out and spend some down time with him. Hopefully after a week, when I go to ride him next, his tummy will be feeling a lot better. Fingers crossed because I hate fighting him, especially when I’m 99% sure he’s in some degree of belly pain.

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Tucker needs love too

On a much happier note, husband agreed that we could drive up so I could ride Nibbles this weekend. I haven’t seen her in person since the show in September and I haven’t ridden her since July (!?!?!!). I’m out of my mind excited. First of all, I feel completely prepared because I’ve been riding several days a week. I know I can do this. Second, I get to ride my horse. Third, I’ve never cantered her before (when I backed her, we only made it through walk and trot before she went to Elise) and I’m super, super excited to feel it. Fourth, I get to ride my horse. Fifth, MY HORSE.