Riding Journal: Feb. 14 – Feb. 18, 2016

I’m taking a page out of Austen‘s book and taking a stab at journaling my rides. After writing about my lesson with Elise in depth, I know I want to capture what we work on in this blog. Sometimes they may be long, sometimes short. Perhaps I’ll play with formats. I suppose that’s the way of the amateur rider blogger.

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Blurry iPhone pics for everyone yay

Sunday, February 14th

Had it’s own post here.

Monday, February 15th

Nibbles was much less tense and so was I. My goal was to reduce my tension, stay in the middle of the saddle no matter where she went, and send her forward. And that’s exactly what we did. Lunged for 25-30 minutes WTC both directions. Side reins still not short enough in spite of the new holes. There were ground poles out so I left them and let her navigate them; completely a non-issue although she wasn’t super confident cantering over them and wanted to break to a trot afterwards.

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

No one to take pictures so you get selfies

I rode with a whip. Mounting, she wanted to walk off right away and we practiced standing. She’s fine as soon as I tell her no, you’re waiting for me. Right away I set off in the trot, wanted to see if I could get her on my aids without the serpentines and lateral work. It was OK but she preferred to stay above the contact. Again, much less tense this time. With the whip I wasn’t afraid to really send her forward and make absolutely sure she was in front of my leg. It got a bit rushy at times but when I gave her contact to move into, we had really nice moments. Also cantered, felt great, not super through her back but 20m circles were nbd. Shoulderfore was nice, leg yields a struggle. She was wiggly. I’ll take wiggly over tense for our second ride “alone.”

Takeaways:

  • Forward is always the answer
  • She wants to counterbend tracking left

Thursday, February 18th

That was a learning experience. I showed up feeling confident and determined to be less tense. And I thought I was until my big fat tattle tale of a horse told on me. Lunged for 30 minutes WTC both directions, side reins with second set of new holes worked much better. She is going much better to the right than the left; to the left, she really wants to counterbend. She took a solid 20 minutes to settle in. The barn had a horse tied in the corner of the arena and he was trying to dig his way out through the arena wall which basically made the loudest banging known to man… nonstop. Nibbles no likey but she eventually began to care less.

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Blogging honesty: this was what the low point looked like

I rode with a whip and spent the first few minutes with a crop behind my back and through my elbows. Woah, that was tough, I clearly normally stretch them way out in front of my torso. Nibbles was being fussy about the contact so I ditched the crop because I felt like I was really bracing. I rode for about 20-25 minutes and all but the last 5 minutes were a pretty hot mess. Nibbles was very spicy and, as Elise would say, demonstrating her “yoga in action” moves. We were above the bit 95% of the time in the trot and canter. Cantering to the left she even had a couple of baby bucks which is uncharacteristic for her. I think she was protesting to me sending her forward any time she tried to fuss. Overall, I’m proud of myself for riding through her sillies but I was definitely disappointed that we struggled so much. I didn’t think to put her on a 15-20m circle until the end of the ride and I think establishing that bend really helped get things back to earth. I had been trying shoulder-fore and leg yields which only seemed to create more sassiness. I walked away disappointed but definitely not angry, saying “Well, tomorrow is another day.”

I think part of my tension comes from weakness in my core. My legs are pretty strong from lifting weights for a few years now but I’ve never focused on my core. I think this really shows. I’m hoping that as I get stronger, I will be able to brace less (even when I don’t realize it) and really open up through the crown of my head. If I can be patient with Nibbles, I can be patient with myself.

Takeaways:

On Friday, Nibbles had her toes done.

On Saturday, I went to ride only to discover my horse had heat in three legs. More to come

Lesson with Pearl Classical Dressage 2/6/16 – 2/7/16

I already spilled the beans that I had some amazing rides with Elise this past weekend. I’ve taken my time writing down notes and things I want to be sure to remember because there was so much goodness. That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle. I struggled a lot but I didn’t get frustrated and I didn’t give up – my hip did but more on that later.

Although I want to be an interesting blogger, my primary goal is to be able to reference posts like this in the future when I want to look back. Feel free to breeze past the boring stuff for the meat from the lesson!

I arrived late Friday night to Elise’s house and we stayed up talking horses, dressage and flipping through some books together. Nerdery supreme – and it was awesome! In particular, I was devouring The Elements of Dressage as well as Dressage for the Not-so-perfect horse. The latter book Elise sent home with me because she recently read it cover to cover and marked it up with all kinds of good notes. Yay homework! I definitely want to get a copy of both books for my own collection. They are excellent!

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We woke up Saturday morning and didn’t rush straight to the barn. After a stop for donuts (omg German chocolate donut wut), we ran a couple of errands. I picked up a tube of Ulcergard for Nibbles for the move (1 dose/day for 4 days). I also scored a bag of feed as I will be keeping Nibbles on the feed she’s been on when she moves – Tribute Essential K (2/3# twice daily). For anyone unfamiliar, it is akin to Buckeye’s Gro N Win. It’s a ration balancer with a very low NSC (starch content) which I really like because it doesn’t light her little tail on fire. She’s a fairly easy keeper, too, and when she moves she’ll be back on 24/7 turnout with tons of hay.

After a few errands, we made it to the barn where Nibbles is at. Elise had another lesson before me so I plucked Nibbles from her pasture and decided to groom her. She was by herself in the cross ties and was very wiggly. Cue me panicking – I joked with Elise that I have cross tie PTSD after Joker’s cross tie shenanigans. Of course, Nibbles didn’t do anything dramatic, she was just super wiggly and looking around when she was alone and couldn’t see any other horses. She pawed once or twice, I told her no, and that was that. Nibbles rarely argues which is one thing I love about her.

We tacked up and I borrowed Elise’s stirrups because mine are with Joker (whoops!). We agreed that I should do the warm up and be the first to get on. There’s no time like the present to take the reins!

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Elise lunging Nibbles in December

Guys, my horse is a boss. I put her on the lunge first so Elise could coach me through what they have been working on. I’m not good at play by play so how about a list…

  • Starting out very briefly without side reins then attached them firmly but no where near cranked (third D-ring on the side reins we we using).
  • Flick her shoulder/ribcage to create the correct bend or correct counter flexion.
  • Half halt with the lunge line just like when you are riding.
  • After she’s had a few minutes on a 20m circle, spiral in and out at the trot and canter between 10m, 15m and 20m circles. Carefully keep the bend and do not let her fall in at the shoulder. She has a tendency to do this to the right.
  • Play with transitions within the gait as well. She can really sit if you half halt and send her forward into the contact.
  • The goal is to get her warm and swinging through her back.
  • I didn’t lunge her first on Sunday and could tell a big different in her readiness to get to work and accept contact. Elise agreed it may be wise to lunge her first to warm up her back and get her accepting the contact before I get on for a while.

I was really impressed with Nibbles’ ability to not only canter on a 10m circle, but to do it really freaking well. It’s absolutely clear that Elise has carefully worked on her fitness and balance.

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Another from December

I want to note that lunging like this is not mindless circles and it is not about blowing off steam. It is thoughtful in-hand work to prepare Nibbles mentally and physically for the demands of the rider. She really tuned into me and wanted to work. Her expression was, “What’s next? Wheeee!” She’s such a happy horse.

After I felt like I understood a typical lunging session, it was time to mount up. Long time readers may recall that Nibbles’ was bad about the mounting block. No more! I mounted up and off we went. Although she wasn’t “up” or spicy, Elise had me do an exercise she uses when she is:

From wall to centerline, walk in tight serpentine loops down the longside. You should be able to fit in 6 or more in a dressage arena. Work towards seeing how little rein you can use and really get her moving off your leg and, eventually seat.

When she’s in a working frame of mind, leg yield at the walk in both directions from just off the wall to centerline – straighten – then leg yield back again. Did I mention my horse leg yields like a boss in both walk and trot now? Yeah, that’s a thing.

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Yay, a photo from this lesson!

Move on to shoulder-fore in both directions. This is still relatively new to Nibbles so don’t over school it. Get a few solid steps then straighten and praise her (scratch her withers and tell her good girl). Praise her before she feels like she can’t hold it anymore and she will get stronger with time. The outside rein is extremely important – do not throw it away or she will trail her hind end. Don’t try to over correct the hind end: correct your outside rein and, like magic, the hind end gets into gear.

If she gets above the bit and/or tense through her back, use an opening rein just off the wall to ask for one step off the track in either direction. It’s amazing how quickly she gets back with the program. Elise rode Nibbles in a clinic with a grand prix trainer and picked up this exercise. Reins should be opening – out but not down. You can do this multiple times down the longside and once, maybe twice, on the short side. We did this in both the walk and trot.

You’ll notice all of these notes are about exercises in the walk and trot. That’s because we were about 45 minutes in when we went to canter for the first time and my body gave a big fat NOPE. As soon as Nibbles went to pick up the canter like a good girl, my right hip started spasming like someone had stuck a hot knife in it. I talked to a PT friend and, without seeing it in person, she hypothesized that perhaps I had been gripping with my lower leg more than I realized. This can create tension and ultimately pain the hips. I think it was a combination of this and me being very, very tight through my hips naturally. I think they were just pushed to their limit considering I hadn’t ridden in the past week and hadn’t done much more than walking in several weeks on Joker. I felt relief only by completely dropping my stirrups.

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Not sending her forward enough, reins could be shorter by the shoulders being improved

Nibbles is green but she is really so easy. My hip was really, really hurting so I kind of freaked out and tried to stretch it in any way possible. This meant one second I was asking her to canter, the next I was frog-legging, bicycling, throwing my leg to the other side like we were going sidesaddle… just trying to find relief. And the mare walked on the buckle like I got you mom. We tried to canter a couple more times. I decided not to drop my stirrups (I was pooped at this point) which in hindsight I wish I had given a shot. We got a 20m circle or two at the canter where I had to really force my hips open. There were a couple of strides where my hips finally relaxed but they would quickly spasm again so I waved the white flag.

We spent a little while thereafter working on the free walk. We didn’t have a correct free walk quite yet – it was more like she swallowed a telephone pole. To her credit, my seat was basically just flopping around trying to stay upright at that point so I don’t blame her.

Unfortunately, my hip pain continued into Sunday which means we made it about 15 minutes into the lesson before, even at the trot, my hips were screaming. It was again primarily my right hip (I think adductor muscle). We didn’t lunge first so Nibbles was colder through her back and not seeking the contact. It wasn’t super pretty but it also wasn’t hopeless – my body was betraying me and she just wasn’t quite ready to get to work. I considered getting off completely but Elise and I had thrown around the idea of going for a road hack and it was 30 degrees and sunny. So we opened up the big loud barn door (good mare don’t care) and headed out.

I’ve never ridden Nibbles outside of the arena. Until Sunday, she’s only ever hacked out alone. Elise says she LOVES trail riding and I was super excited to experience it. Homegirl went on autopilot. She was so happy – ears forward and neck swiveling to look around and take everything in. I say that but she wasn’t looking for something to spook at, I swear she was just enjoying her surroundings.

Elise was on her gelding, Atlas, and we headed up the road together. I dropped my stirrups as we walked because ahhhh relief and Nibbles was showing off her mad skills. Is there anything better than a horse you can hack out on the buckle? Atlas is pretty massive (16.3) and Nibbles is 15.2ish and she was taking her time sight seeing so we were getting left behind. I pushed her into a trot and she happily obliged. I’m pretty sure at this point I was laughing for joy. When I sent Nibbles to Elise, she had a small handful of rides and we had no steering. And now we were trotting up a road with our big girl panties on without a worry in the world. Well, there was one offensive boulder we gave a wide berth. And my hip gave me the bird after 30 seconds of posting. But my joy would not be deterred!

It was a quick hack, up the road, over a small bridge, and back. We had a couple of trucks pass us. I picked up my stirrups for the first one but didn’t bother for the others if that tells you how much she cared about them. When we got back to the barn, it was buzzing as there was a grand prix trainer coming in for a clinic in a little over an hour. So we snapped a quick picture (that I posted yesterday) and put ponies away.

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Notice one of us stole the other’s stirrups? xD

Like I said, I struggled in places over the weekend but it was awesome – none of it was because Nibbles was saying no or being silly. In fact, except for being wiggly the one time in the cross ties, she was foot perfect. If I asked in the right way, she said “Yes, absolutely!” If I asked in the wrong way (ahem pulling on the reins too much), she was a big fat tattle tale and giraffed it out until I fixed myself/asked correctly. Some other takeaways about my position/riding…

  • Really engage my traps and think about pulling my shoulder blades together (like in a low row at the gym) and softening them down. This is more correct and effective than just “shoulders back.” Desk job is killing my position.
  • Hip to heel line is generally good in walk and trot… cantering I definitely close my hip angle but not sure beyond that from this trip because of my mutinous hip!
  • Hands need to be UP (at least one fist above my saddle) – lower is not kinder.
  • Do not nag her with your hands.
  • Really make the outside rein your anchor, especially tracking right and in the lateral work.
  • Send her forward – she will suck back a little if I let her. Forward is the answer. Always forward, even if you change gait, just keep her on the track.

We knew this from the massage therapist back before her show in September but she is out in her C5 vertebrae and needs a chiropractic adjustments. This shows up especially when tracking and bending right. Her mane is also flipping very closeby and I have a hunch it will go back to one side after a few adjustments. I also want to bump her grain up just a hair; she could stand to gain 30-50 pounds.

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Elise and Atlas in the clinic this week. Stole this from her Instagram like a straight up bandit because GOALS. How amazing do they look?

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.

2015 Year in Review

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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)

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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!

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!

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.