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?

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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.

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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.

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

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….

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.

Twenty-one = Two (or something)

Joker ended up arriving on Sunday instead of sooner due to truck trouble. But Elise brought him down safe and sound and fluffy. Wow, not being at the barn all the time made me forget how early in the year their coats start coming in.

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He unloaded fine. After we sorted things with the BO about where everything should go, we put him out in his 10-day quarantine pasture so Elise and I could go talk and eat for a bit. She has some really exciting, international things on the horizon in 2016 so it was a lot of fun to catch up. We went back to the barn to check the fit of my saddle on him so we put him in the crossties. That’s when he realized he was a bit up, pawing, screaming, more like 21 years old going on 2. I chalked it up to him showing off for the new mares and, when the saddle looked fine, we threw him on the lunge.

I didn’t take any pictures because I was trying not to get bowled over – pushy is a good word for his mood that day. But he was a very good boy once he was out on the lunge and settled down just fine. Since he was virtually just off the trailer, we called it a day and Elise headed back out.

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I’ve been battling a cold and still wasn’t 100% on Monday so I stayed away from the barn (read: husband convinced me not to go although I had every intention to haha). But Tuesday there was no stopping me – I was determined to ride. So after work, in the light rain, I headed out to the barn intending to ride Joker for the first time.

Joker greeted me at the gate and walked calmly back to the barn. There was another horse in the indoor arena being long lined as we headed for the cross ties (out of sight). Once in the cross ties, Joker decided he was still maybe 2 and not 21 and lost his marbles a bit. At least I can still tack up a very squirmy horse, right? I got after him because rearing in the cross ties is a no no, no matter how new to a barn you are. Very strange as I know this is completely out of character!

We headed to the indoor and I put him on the lunge for a minute to make sure he left the sillies in the cross ties. For the most part, he had. He was a little tense and pushy but listening so after a little lunging and a little ground work to make sure I had his brain (and quit the pushiness), I mounted up. Or rather had to sort of launch myself from the mounting block to reach him since he would not stand still but at least he’s only 14.3, right?

He was certainly tense but did fine. I walked him on a loose rain while he looked around the indoor. The long lining horse was still in there with us and was being very nice about sharing the space. We trotted a bit and Joker pretended to be a giraffe – boy, he can get his nose up there! But every once in a while he would relax and gave me some nice, albeit zippy, trotting. He was definitely still tense, though, so I tried to give him lots of pats and good boys. We went over a few ground poles which seemed to help keep him focused.

Unfortunately, the other horse left the  arena before we were done and Joker just couldn’t deal. We had some spinning and rearing. I managed a few tight circles before one rear was just a little too high and unsafe for comfort so I hopped off. Hey, at least I can still emergency dismount, right?

Back in the crossties (next to his apparent new best friend), he was still VERY up and pawing but at least not rearing. BFF left before I was done untacking him and we lost it again. At one point he quit, parked out, and proceeded to take a nice, very long pee. I laughed and thought, “Oooh, that explains it,” and expected him to regrow his brain cells. Heh, well, it wasn’t meant to be. I undid the cross ties and put a leadrope on and we played the standing-still-is-good-rearing-is-bad game for 20 minutes. In the meantime, another horse joined us on the cross ties next to us and suddenly 21 year old Joker remembered his age and stood calmly with his head down. He yawned and yawned and acted liked nothing happened. Really?

fluffy!

fluffy!

Not sure what ants are in his pants but I’m giving him today off. Elise is sending a calming supplement that will hopefully help until he decides that his brain lives in his head again. She is totally floored as he’s never acted like this, never even bucked under saddle much less flip out and rear. Although the goal of bringing Joker down was to build my confidence and that really didn’t happen our first ride, I was surprisingly OK, even zen about it. I felt like I knew when to get off and, before that, it felt great to trot around for even 15 minutes. I didn’t get mad or scared. Certainly I would prefer him not to act this way moving forward but I am sort of patting myself on the back for being out of the saddle (except backing babies) for 5 years and being able to handle mister loopy pants. And not just handle him but not be afraid of him and exercise good judgement. Yay for being a competent defensive rider but here’s hoping I can leave that profession soon and be able to enjoy the ride.

Follow Trainer E’s Blog!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me gush about my dear friend and trainer extraordinaire of Miss Nibbles, Elise. She has made her return to blogland and is already up to providing some awesome tips for riders (especially fitness – can I get a what what for shoulder struggles) as well as some awesome Spanish Riding School clinic recaps! I may be biased but she’s totally worth adding to your blogroll or Bloglovin.

Check out the Pearl Classical Dressage blog!

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PS – She is dropping Joker off a day early – tomorrow afternoon! Let the picture spam and nose smooshing commence!!

The Best Secret

In my recent post – The Itch – I confessed how much I miss riding and lamented the fact that, with Nibbles away in training, I am horseless and not left with enough in the budget to afford lessons more often than once or twice a month. I finished by posing the question:

Anyone know of a horse in northern Indiana I can adopt until March?

Quite literally 24 hours later, Nibbles’ trainer Elise (otherwise known as Trainer E), posted something on Facebook. I messaged her about that something and she came back with an incredible offer that is, quite literally, a prayer directly answered.

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Long story short is that with changing the barn she was training at, Elise needed someone to indefinitely lease her horse Joker. I can’t figure out a better way to describe Joker than what Elise wrote in her “wanted” post so I’m going to cheat and share part of that here.

I am looking for a new home for Joker! He is 14.3h and 21 years young, very sound, takes very minimal upkeep. He is barefoot, UTD on teeth, shots, and worming. I have owned him since 2001 so would prefer to free lease indefinitely to a friend instead of selling outright.

He LOVES trail riding and I have ridden/shown him English in 4H, taught lessons and has been a staple in the GPHC summer camp program. He is very patient with first time riders just learning to steer (including riders as young as 3-4yrs) and then does best with advanced beginners to intermediate riders only because he gets quick at trot and canter. He goes best in an English hackamore. Jumps up to 2′ but is not a complete schoolmaster in this area.

Joker is very, very easy to handle, goes out with anyone (no fussing/dominant issues), stands for vet/farrier/worming, loads like a dream, trail rides solo or in a group, knows natural horsemanship, and generally loves to be around kids and people. He is an easy keeper and his only “bad thing” is that he needs a cough supplement (I just ordered one from SmartPak, nothing prescription), if the hay is especially dusty. We also wet his hay down when his coughing gets bad. I only had him on one month of the supplement before the coughing went away and he went the rest of the summer/fall without.

Are you laughing out loud yet? Joker is quite literally what the doctor ordered. Elise made me an offer that is just incredibly, incredibly generous which means that I will not have to kill myself financially to do this. Nibbles will stay in training until March as planned while I lease Joker. I’m not a cryer but you better believe I cried when I realized this was really happening.

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Last week, I had a barn lined up that said they had space for Joker. Two days before he was to arrive, they called me to say the horse who was on his way out is now staying and they don’t have the space. I was crushed. The area I live in is very literally the middle of no where and barns with winter riding facilities are not common. I called five more barns that day (which is probably half of what is in a 30 mile radius; the other half I didn’t call because they were very pricey and stall board only). The same day, just after lunch (when I felt like my soul was being crushed from the weight of knowing I had this amazing opportunity slipping away), one of the barns called me back.

I went to see the barn on Friday and wow. I can’t believe something like this exists here. Their website doesn’t do what they have justice. It’s a 30 minute drive and worth every single second. They have 30 acres of extremely well-kept and rotated pasture space (including offering 24/7 turnout which is what Joker prefers), 90×150 outdoor arena with jumps, 80×116 insulated indoor arena, climate controlled tack rooms, heated bathroom/shower (!!), and – wait for it….

Neighbors with 500 acres and maintained horse trails (as long as you don’t ride on top of their crops, of course).

Elise and Joker doing his favorite thing: trail riding!

Elise and Joker doing his favorite thing: trail riding!

500 acres and an indoor arena.

The real kick in the pants is that the barn’s name is Faith. Did I have faith? Not nearly enough. The whole thing leaves me shaking my head because my prayer was answered in dramatic, beyond-wildest-dreams fashion. I needed a horse I could ride multiple days a week that would keep me safe: check. I needed an indoor place to ride over the winter: check. I needed it to be in my budget: definitely check.

Now that he really does have a spot at a barn, Elise is bringing him down this Saturday.

Nah, I’m not excited at all.

Chchchchchanges

Happy October, everyone! The leaves are changing, our wardrobes are changing, and some things are changing for Miss Nibbles. But before we get to that, can we just take a moment to appreciate fall? It’s finally fall while means boots and cute sweaters and breezes and bonfires and pumpkins and orchards and cider and hard cider and hot cider with alcohol and the most beautiful time of the yearrrrrr.

not my photo but ♥

not my photo but ♥

Okay, now that that is out of my system….

Nibbles has moved barns! Before you panic (because let’s be honest, you are uber invested in Nibbles’ story hahaha), she is still in training with Super Trainer E. Trainer E ended up leaving her position at the farm she was managing and where Nibbles was boarded. A big time trainer is taking the reins there so we have moved on and while figuring out exactly where things will land, Nibbles is at a friend’s beautiful little farm near to Trainer E’s home.

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Nibbles loaded right up with Trainer E’s warmblood gelding, Atlas, and settled in pretty quickly. Good mare!

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Nibbles is probably going to enjoy the change as she will get a ton more turnout and she didn’t even have to give up her love interest, Atlas.

Atlas' 16.3 hands dwarfs Nibbles' 15.2. She cares not.

Atlas’ 16.3 hands dwarfs Nibbles’ 15.2. She cares not.

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Nibbles had her first ride there yesterday which I’m told went well aside from reassuring her that that hay wagons do not in fact care for horse meat.

Isn't this pano neat?

Isn’t this pano neat?

This arrangement may change in the near future but until things shake out, I think this place is just too cute and I’m so pleased Nibbles is taking the change in stride.

headless horse is curious and loves her window

headless horse is curious and loves her window