RIP Alan Rickman

If you’re like me, you grew up with and love the Harry Potter books. This post is unapologetically un-horse related. The amazing British actor, Alan Rickman, who portrayed Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, has died. According to his family, he lost his battle with cancer today at age 69. Rickman was a legend of an actor, having been in films such as Die Hard, Sense and Sensibility, Sweeney Todd and a plethora of others.

Thank you, Alan, for giving us Snape exactly as JK Rowling wrote him.

We will remember you, always.

tumblr_o0y1gz0bbw1qjmus3o1_540

tumblr_inline_o0y6nbA4sZ1sl6w8p_500.gif

Joker Update + Winter is Coming

In mid-December, Joker’s omeprazole came off back order and we started his daily dose. I decided to give him a week off then see where we stood. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a change. It’s been almost a month. If he can’t see other horses, he loses his 22-year old marbles. After we work for 15 minutes or so in the arena, he seems to do alright…usually. If there are other horses around, he’s fine. I have never seen a horse his age demonstrate new behavior like this. Hence my suspicion of ulcers.

But no results so far. It is what it is and I’ll continue to do my best to do right by little Joker Joe until he goes back to Elise in mid-March. I’ve sort of accepted that he’s bad in the cross ties and is going to take a solid 15 minutes work under saddle to through.. whatever it is he’s got going on in there.

During our last ride this past Thursday, there was a (drool worthy) young Oldenburg gelding who was being lightly lunged with a saddle for the first time. Joker didn’t flinch when the other horse bootscooted yet can’t seem to handle being alone…. horses, I tell you! I talked to the young lady working the Oldenburg and we agreed that she’d take half of our weeny indoor and I’d take the other.

We essentially had a 20 meter circle to work with given the space constraints. So I dropped my stirrups and really worked on opening my hips and keeping my hands up. In the few passes by the lounge window (that I use as a mirror #gottadowhatyougottado), I felt really good about my posture and ear-hip-heel alignment. Success! I’m no FEI rider but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made since early November of being back in the saddle after years away.

Leg yielding down the long side is asking for sass with Joker so I decided maybe it wasn’t the best idea to push it in even a smaller space. Joker isn’t really used to using his body like dressage asks for so I try to be very patient, especially in light of his age. For fun, I thought I’d ask for a little shoulder fore and see what we had.

And shoulder fore we had! I was completely pleasantly surprised. In both directions, it clearly made sense to him. Hmmm, wait, but leg yields are hard….

Light bulb. Exacerbated when it’s cold out, Joker is stiff, especially behind. Leg yielding is tough for him but shoulder fore is not. Is there a pattern? Perhaps. I have a hunch that Joker Joe is out in his SI, sacrum or both. Luckily, Elise is an amazing owner and immediately said let’s get the chiro out.

So, when the weather allows, I will schedule him.

Did I mention the weather is throwing off my groove?

tumblr_luqfvp1Mpa1qhigt0o1_r1_250

But really, not only am I not used to this real winter thing (I’ve lived in either Kentucky or Nashville all my life)… I’m pretty sure it’s not advisable to drive half an hour away from civilization to ride a 20+ year old horse when it’s not even 20 degrees.

Or not even 10 degrees.

IMG_6257

This was this morning at the gym. Check out the Feels Like.

That shouldn’t be legal. But it apparently is. Lame. And it comes with snow. We got about 6 inches in the past 24 hours and it’s supposed to continue snowing for another 6 or so.

201510_2328_eehee_sm

Excuse me while I grumble and hide inside with my cat and fifty blankets and beverage of choice.

This Stuff is Hard

I want to take a minute to give a shout out to all equestrians. Riding is hard. No matter how long you’ve been doing it, what your discipline is, or who you train with. This stuff is hard and sometimes scary and sometimes we’re nuts for doing it. We throw our leg over a thousand pounds, day after day, knowing full well these creatures are a recipe for broken bones, disappointment, and a gambit of their own emotions and whims and baggage.

Who does that?

We do.

onpurpose

I didn’t set out to write a touchy-feely post or anything but I guess it’s turning out that way. We had a group ride last Tuesday night. We had a reiner, a western pleasure horse, a rescue pony who’s just learning about speeds other than mach 5, a super green dressage horse, and a dressage rider on an old all-arounder (spoiler: that’s me). Instead of being my introverted self, I intentionally tried to be more outgoing and friendly. I’m still the new girl and I know I can come across as stuck up when in fact I am just quiet until you get to know me.

dontfall

With an open mind, it occurred to me that while we all looked really different and were at different stages in our riding abilities, we all had a couple things in common:

  • We are crazy enough to love and ride horses.
  • We are all out here in 15 degrees for nothing more than a fun ride.
  • We are all seeking to learn more and be better for our horses (I know because I’ve slowly gotten to know these girls).

It would be so much easier to judge and say hmmph, she’s in a chair seat or woof, that horse is super post legged. And we all do that sometimes. But it hit me how important it is to support one another. If we’re all out to nitpick each other to death, we become slaves to comparison. (Note: Trainers are the exception to this rule. We pay them to tell us we suck – and we love it. Again, we’re a special breed of crazy, us riders.)

tangled-horse

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Riding should be an expression of joy.

I’m personally competitive and want to compete. I want to do my best not to be a slave to scores but rather use them constructively to continually improve. And even those that really, really want to win – there’s nothing wrong with that!

This sport is hard. Mentally and physically. We have broken bones and broken hearts to prove it. My torn ACL? From a horse. My first broken heart? From a horse. My broken ankle? From a horse. My most frustrating moments? husband kidding! From a horse. So I just want to say to all the equestrians out there:

rock

You rock.

Keep doing whatever it is you do. Keep loving your horse and keep getting back on over and over. The world of horses we live and breathe doesn’t exist without all of us being a little bit crazy.

2016 Theme

Back in December (because that was so long ago), I sat down to hash out goals for myself and for Nibbles in 2016. I had a couple of things that I knew I wanted to write down:

  • Show Nibbles at Training Level by the end of summer
  • School all of First Level at home by the end of autumn
  • Blog at least twice a week, once being about Nibbles if possible
  • Ride at least three days per week (Sunday through Saturday)
  • Have Nibbles adjusted by a chiropractor
  • Have Nibbles teeth floated for 2016
  • Study for the GRE and really narrow down grad programs for myself

All pretty good, realistic and practical things. But what about more abstract things, granular things? What about finding a way to balance keeping Nibbles going with dressage while also trying out an introductory distance ride? What about balancing competition with her mental maturation process? And for myself, how can I balance my full time job and competing again and studying for the GRE without burning out?

I’m a list person. I’d even go so far as to say I like goals. But I was seeing a theme…

I have a tendency to get laser focused on one project. Sometimes, this is a positive thing: I am productive and I get things done. Sometimes, this is a negative thing: I neglect other things and, quite often, burn myself out. I feel like my “water carrying” capacity is pretty large and I don’t want to waste anything. That being said, I don’t help anyone – certainly not myself – by emptying my “bucket.”

Therefore, for 2016, I have things I would like to happen, especially showing at Training Level. But instead of a list of goals, I’m choosing a theme for 2016. My theme is one word. One word to focus on, one word to meditate on, one work to strive towards.

balance_web2

Balance.

That’s my theme for 2016. My goal is to achieve balance: personally, professionally and with horses. Who knows how this will manifest itself. I’m not a “zen” person or really all that knowledgeable about the Western world’s notion of balance. However, I feel strongly that this is the right word for Nibbles and for me.

I want to find a balance between training, competing and enjoying one another. I want to find a balance between how much time I spend investing in my marriage and how much time I spend investing in my career. I want to to find a balance of fitness and especially a balance of what types of foods I fuel my body with. (#goalbreeches)

Join me for the journey.

2015 Year in Review

2015inreview

IMG_3275

January looked a lot like this thanks to work and commuting

JANUARY – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/01/

The plan is laid for Nibbles to go to Elise for training (we hoped to be able to do 90 days – we’re going on 8 months now!)

Nibbles had the zoomies but still came back for snuggles 

We snuggle in the cold Kentucky rain

We worked on separation anxiety and tying in preparation for big girl life 

I apparently fell off the face of the planet in February and March because I didn’t blog at all those months. Whoops!

nibtrailer4.26

In April, Nibbles left Kentucky for Michigan

APRIL – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/04/

I swooned over the 18 things I love about Nibbles

I bemoaned my (now sold) trailer

I reminisced about my old rescue, Tiki

At the very end of April, Nibbles left Kentucky for Michigan and training with Elise!

The end of April were Elise’s first rides on Nibbles where there was a lot of ground work and mostly walking under saddle.

IMG_3940

I must learn to be a good horse!?

MAY – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/05/

Nibbles is spicy for Elise and learns about side reins and rein pressure

I get brutally honest about my time out of the saddle in Planning vs Doing – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/planning-vs-doing-with-horses/

Elise guest writes and gives an update on Nibbles’ early progress: short, positive sessions

My mom, sister and I visit Nibbles in Michigan for the first time! I see her canter under saddle for the first time.

Nibbles turned 7!

small-Ben and Rebecca-286

Married my best friend in June

JUNE – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/06/

I got married and honeymooned in Germany, Austria and Hungary!

Elise switches Nibbles to her magical fulmer and solves a lot of contact problems

Nibbles hits 30 days under saddle with Elise

IMG_4727

July in Michigan is nice and mild

JULY – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/07/

Husband and I move for his MBA

Nibbles attends her first clinic

I ride Nibbles for the first time since she’s been with Elise (W/T)

IMG_5194

Big horses are not kind to my hips

AUGUST – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/08/

We plan for Nibbles’ first schooling show at the end of September as Nibbles continues to get more consistent

I talked about the things I learned when I wasn’t riding

I do a short Quo Vadis series about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going 

I share photos from the Spanish Riding School

I take a lesson on a Hanoverian tank with a local trainer

Husband and I adopt Tucker!

IMG_5555

If a horse named Nibbles with a curly forelock doesn’t make you squee, you have no heart

SEPTEMBER – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/09/

Nibbles goes to her first show and all involved survive!

I fall off the blogging train again besides that.

12106747_606658212807963_714064220460859538_n

Joker joins the family for a while

OCTOBER – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/10/

Nibbles moves from Grosse Pointe to Three Fillies with Elise

I talk about The Itch to Ride because I had not ridden since my lesson in August – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/the-itch/

I turned 26

At the end of the month, Joker moves to be my lease

IMG_5995

You should write about me more, mom

NOVEMBER – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/11/

Nibbles hacks like a pro and gallops in the XC field 

Joker’s naughty behavior becomes a pattern and Elise even comes down to help out

Joker gets his racing stripe and Nibbles starts to learn to stretch

IMG_4208

DECEMBER – https://backinthetack.wordpress.com/2015/12/

Joker and I go on several trail rides, some better than others

Nibbles starts to really get cantering into the contact

I ride my mare and fall in so much love all over again, canter her for the first time

I get pretty much the best horsey Christmas ever with all the gifts and my step daughter takes her first solo ride on Joker


In hindsight, 2015 was a fairly hectic year for me personally. I left one job, started another. I moved to a new state. I sold a horse. I sold my trailer. I sent another out for training which is something I’ve never done in almost 20 years of owning horses. I got married. I honeymooned in Europe. I became a stepmom.

I am not complaining. 2015 was a wonderful year. 2015 was also a very busy year. Looking forward into 2016, I almost don’t know where to start. In the words of a dear friend, 2015 was a year of change…”It swept is off our feet and now we’re sitting here asking what even happened.”

Thanks for sharing the ride with me and Nibbles! Here’s to a new year!

That Red Mare Blog Hop: 25 Questions

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?
Can I put in a vote for stallions? That may make me slightly crazy but I really like riding and working with stallions. They don’t have the sass of a mare but they are more personable than geldings in general. Of course, it depends on the stallion but the ones that are regularly worked with can be perfectly good citizens, even around mares.

IMG_2635

My stallion, a couple years ago

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?
My horse ownership has tended towards green if not a completely blank slate. One day, I wouldn’t mind buying something made but it hasn’t happened yet.

3. Would you own a “hotter” breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).
Haha yes, seeing as I currently do! I don’t find them to be “hot” so much as just sensitive – which I like. I am not a dare devil but I don’t like a constant push ride either.

4. What was your “dream horse” growing up?
I always loved a handful of ideas. I liked the idea of taking a wild mustang and starting it myself. I loved the idea of an Andalusian for dressage and moonlit rides on the beach. I also liked the idea of an OTTB to restart. I’ve done the OTTB which was fun. But honestly, I’ve been very very blessed to own several horses over the past almost 20 years and they were all my dream horse in one way or another.

srs5

I wouldn’t mind one of these in my barn

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?
Snaffles, generally. Nibbles currently goes in a fulmer which she seems to really like and Joker prefers the hackamore though with my new bridle, I may throw a snaffle on him and see how he goes.

6. Helmets or no helmets?
Helmets.

IMG_4279

7. Favorite horse color?
I really love greys, again making me slightly crazy like the stallion thing. Quic Silver shampoo is my friend. But I also love Nibbles’ rich, mahogany bay.

IMG_4180

I love her dark coat

8. Least favorite horse color?
I’m not super fond of roans just because I think they can look dirty. Then again, I LOVE strawberry roans so I guess I can’t say I have a real least favorite.

9. Dressage or Jumping?
Dressage but I do enjoy jumping on something that knows how to jump. I don’t think Nibbles and I will be eventing anytime soon. Jumps seem to baffle her and sap her brain of any coordination.

12122684_606658362807948_2059743872570889196_n

Joker is a super cute little jumper

10. How many years have you been riding?
Since 1998.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?
Depends on the horse. I don’t have a problem with either.

12. Your first fall?
Probably in 1998 or at the latest 1999. I was jumping a tiny gelding over a tiny cross rail and he stopped. I went flying over his shoulder and landed on my feet, still holding the reins. I couldn’t land on my feet now if my life depended on it haha!

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?
I rode on New Years Eve and I took my step daughter for a ride before giving her a mini-lesson where she rode solo for the first time. She’s 6 1/2.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?
My dressage saddle, which I’ve recently learned is not wool flocked but foam and I’m not super happy about it *grumble*

IMG_4233

The offending tack

15. How old were you when you started riding?
8

16. Leather or Nylon halters?
Leather<3

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?
Leather<3

18. What “grip” of reins do you like?
I use laced reins generally.

19. English or Western?
English

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?
I own two, one of which is out on a brood lease. I unofficially lease Joker from my other horse’s trainer.

_20150725_083244

Mom and baby

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?
I do board. I have done the board at home thing before and it leaves you virtually unable to leave your property so I don’t recommend it until you realize that.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?
Yes, a handful.

23. How many saddlepads do you have?
Four I think. They seem to grow legs and wander away…

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?
Yes, you can give me either and I’d be happy 😉

25. Why do you ride?
Because life is short and it lights up my soul like nothing else.

IMG_5774

And having a supportive, non-horsey husband makes it all possible!