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.

Quo Vadis: Part 2 – Current State of Affairs

Quo Vadis is Latin for “Where are you going?” (Before I decided on a business degree, I was a philosophy and classical studies major so forgive me the chance to toss in a little Latin.) In this mini-series, I’m going to articulate where I’ve been, where we are now, and finally where Nibbles and I are heading. This is a personal exercise to make me think critically about my goals but also to further introduce myself to the wonderful blogging community that has supported me so much already.

Last time, I covered where we’ve been.

This time, I’m going to try to objectively talk about where we are now. To help organize my thoughts and not drag you all through a giant narrative, I’ll break this up into my non-horse life, my riding life (or lack thereof) and Nibbles’ life.

My Non-Horse Life Status

Woo, actual headers to break up my ramblings! I think it’s important to reflect on where I’m at now in my life outside of horses because we all know it has a big impact on what we can realistically commit to horses and riding. In the past 3 months, I’ve experienced a massive amount of change. I got married (in June) and we moved for my husband’s two-year MBA program. That means I left my old job (working in the marketing world with many equine clients) and started a new job (that I really enjoy but has nothing to do with horses). Don’t they say the most stressful things in life are starting a new job and getting married? If not for my husband’s amazing support, I couldn’t have accomplished both at the same time. Throw in a European honeymoon and we’ve been, literally, all over the place!

Photo by Jamie Abitz Photography

Photo by Jamie Abitz Photography

As stressful as that sounds – and it was – things are better than they have been for me probably ever. I have an amazing support system, steady employment, and I know I’ll be in this location until at least May 2017 (MBA and all).

What does that mean for what you care about, the horse part of my life? It means I can finally look at a budget I know isn’t changing anytime soon, look at my other commitments requiring a lot of my time, and carve out what can be “spent” on horses and riding.

It’s taken a long, long time to get here. I know it won’t always be smooth sailing. Exhibit A: Surprise, we have to buy husband a new laptop for grad school. But it feels good to finally be mostly stable.

 

My Horse Life Status

The last time I rode was visiting Nibbles July 13th and before that was in April. But I’ve taken the first step to change that:

I scheduled a lesson with a local trainer. I am beyond excited. My last lesson was last May and, while I was annoyed with what I couldn’t make my body do, I had a blast. This Saturday can hurry up and get here as far as I’m concerned. I’ll be riding one of the trainer’s school horses since Nibbles is still 4 hours away and will be until at least after her first show on September 20th.

Ok so those half chaps ARE pretty fugly...

Ok so those half chaps ARE pretty fugly…

Additionally, I’m trying to sell my trailer. It needs some work so I’m not asking much and hoping that will lead to a relatively quick sale. In fact, I’m working with a local dealership to trade it in for a flatbed trailer that I can then sell (I hope) much easier.

As far as tack goes, I really don’t need anything right now. I have everything I need to ride. Given, I still have my ugly helmet that does need replacing but that will come after I’ve committed to regular lessons (as a little incentive, ya know?). Given that we now live pretty far north (think Chicago-ish), I have a feeling I’ll be investing in some winter riding pants and boots. But for now, I’m going to delude myself into thinking I can survive with what I have and pat my wallet.

Hoping this is not in my future with Nibbles

Hoping this is not in my future with Nibbles

Nibbles’ Little Life Update

Nibbles is broke. I love writing that sentence! That was the whole point of sending her for training and it’s definitely been accomplished. She’s green but she is most definitely broke.

August 11 - photo by Trainer E

August 11 – photo by Trainer E

I’ve committed to sending her to her first dressage show on September 20th. I’ll be heading up there as groom, cheerleader and photographer. After that, it seems likely that she will be making her appearance in my neck of the woods which means I am fervently looking for the right boarding situation (hopefully even at the barn of whomever I decide to lesson with). She’s green and I’m out of riding shape so I want to be as close to a support system as I can be.

Next up: the good stuff – where we are going in the future.

 

Watermelons & Being Broken

Husband, 6-year old stepdaughter and I made the 3 1/2 hour drive one way to see Nibbles over the weekend. I barely slept the night before. I was excited because I hadn’t seen my horse in a month. I was nervous because I haven’t ridden in months. What if she dumped me in front of my husband who, even though we’ve been together for 3 1/2 years, has never seen me ride?IMG_4727When we arrived, Elise met us and pulled Nibbles from her pasture. Nibbles’ turnout buddy is Elise’s gelding, a 16.3 hand (I think) Latvian Warmblood named Atlas. He makes Nibbles (15.2) look like a foal. In the crossties, I showed my stepdaughter how to pick out hooves and the proper order of brushes for grooming. Nibbles seemed much more at ease in the barn than last time I visited over a month ago. Elise tacked her up and we headed to the outdoor.

I want to do a comparison or progress post based on video so I’m saving the good stuff. If I had to describe Nibbles’ improvement in one word it would be confidence. Watching Elise ride her looks less and less like a wiggly baby and more like a horse who knows her job.

Elise up

Elise up

Elise put Nibbles’ through her paces on the ground first, showing me some of the lateral work and exercises they’ve been doing to strengthen her hindquarters and get her off the forehand. Then she hopped on and walked, trotted and cantered her around the outdoor and even through some lakes puddles in the arena. She’s still green but Nibbles is most definitely broke.

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By the photo and video above, you can see what I mean as far as brand new baby versus maybe I kinda got this. By all accounts, Nibbles is progressing by leaps and bounds. I don’t know how else to say it besides I couldn’t be happier. This time, though, I didn’t just watch Super Trainer ride the mare.

I rode my horse

I rode my horse

Photographic proof that I rode my horse. She was also completely fantastic. I walked and trotted her around poles and through flower jumps and she was all, ” I got this mom.” I was grinning like an idiot the whole time. I didn’t canter on account of my own haven’t-been-riding-sloppiness because Nibbles was foot perfect. My husband took a quick video. You can hear Elise ask me how it feels and my response to her if you have your volume on.

Note to self: bend your elbows and stop posting so quickly. I did not fall off. I didn’t even feel unstable (even if I look like a sack of potatoes). Nibbles spooked once right after I got on at a bird. It didn’t scare me. I want this more than I’m afraid of it. But then came the best part: after a year of promising, my stepdaughter got to take her first ride (rather than just sit on a stationary horse).

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Bless her, she begged not to get off after 15 minutes of walking around. I taught her that if she just exhales, she can stop Nibbles without tugging the reins. She thought that was way cool. She also learned that if she’s nice and relaxed and happy up there, Nibbles will be too. My husband may kill me for giving her the bug…

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After three riders, Nibbles was sweaty and we planned ahead by packing a swimsuit for the little one. So Nibbles got a bubble bath though I’m sure the kiddo was just as soaked when it was all said and done. After her bath, I had a plan. When I was a kid, we used to feed watermelon in the summertime to the horses…

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Nibbles LOVED her watermelon. She wolfed down three slices.

All in all, the day was virtually perfect. I had a quick chat with Elise and decided that Nibbles will remain in training indefinitely, possibly until next spring or summer. She is progressing so much faster than she would if she was here with me. In the meantime, I’m going to get back in the saddle near where I live so when I do bring Nibbles “home”, I’m ready to set us up for success. But more on that later…

Video Update

Hello blogland! I am probably the worst blogger ever so I will try to make up for it with new video! Nibbles has been with Elise for 30 days now and I’m thrilled with her progress. I think being 7 years old is a huge advantage as she seems mentally ready to tackle new challenges.

The first video is mostly walk work with some trotting. For those of you following along, look at how much more quite she is with her head in just a couple weeks. The second video is trotting and cantering. She was quite spicy in the canter that day! She must keep us from realizing she’s capable of perfection, right? Also, I really appreciate how Elise rides her. She’s firm but fair and immediately praises her when she does what she asks. If you have the sound on, you’ll hear her verbally praise her when she gets something. She has the rest of June and July at least with Elise.

No News is Good News

I’ve decided that in the world of green horses, no news is good news. That’s not to say that Elise the Trainer hasn’t been sending me updates. It’s just that Nibbles’ work is slow and steady, exactly what a greenie needs. She is figuring out being on the bit where fighting contact and gaping are less and less. In a stroke of genius, Elise tried her in a fulmer. This is the combination the Spanish Riding School uses on their green horses. It’s sort of like a hybrid between a loose ring and a full cheek. IMG_4231

It turns out this bit is a winner in Nibbles’ book with zero fighting or gaping. Woohoo! Elise also reports that her arena figures are really improving. No exciting new photos or video so you’ll have to settle for cute mug shots.

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Visiting Nibbles at The Trainer

I had nothing creative for a post title. Sorry, readers.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Happy Dance!

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.

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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!