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….

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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.

Thirty-two Tums and A Visit From The Trainer

I’ve kept Trainer Elise in the loop given Joker’s antics. She’s had him for 15 years so she knows him better than anyone. After racking our brains, the only explanation we could come up with is ulcers. Before we jumped in and bought omeprazole, Elise wanted to try giving him something I’ve never thought of that she received as a suggestion from her bodyworker. I’m not a vet so don’t take my advice as one but I thought you may find this interesting too.

UlcerGard’s active ingredient is omeprazole. Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPIB) which means it stops the pumps in the stomach from making acid.

Tums are calcium carbonate. They are not a PPIB, just an antacid. However, the antacid can temporarily and mildly alleviate the symptoms of digestive upset such as an ulcer. It will not heal the ulcer but it can act as a litmus test for digestive issues and give the gut a little reprieve so, in the instance of minor issues, the body may be able to heal itself.

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According to Elise’s friend, 32 tums is the magic number to see an effect in horses. So I went and bought a bottle of generic, peppermint tums and popped 32 into Joker on Sunday afternoon. Or rather, my husband did while I took pictures and squeed because he doesn’t come to the barn often and seeing them together made my heart go pitter patter. Joker ate them slowly and piece by piece but I later found from Elise that that is normal behavior for him.

Elise offered to drive down and work with him together. That happened to work out the day after he got his first “dose” of antacid. I was so relieved she was coming to see him because I was feeling really baffled and not sure what to do with him because his behavior was pretty extreme.

Making friends. Little Joker is only 14.1.

Making friends. Little Joker is only 14.1.

So last night, Elise and I met at the barn and as soon as I saw Joker in his pasture, I knew it would be different. I’m calling it tums and being there for a week now for lack of a better explanation. His eyes were quite literally brighter and his head was up. Okay, maybe he was happy to see his mom, but I still think it was remarkable. (Editing to add that Elise hasn’t been his regular rider for a long time. He’s been a kids pony for lots of little ones so he hasn’t been a one person horse.)

We brought him into the barn which was had several other horses in the cross ties. Darn,  that’s the first time as normally he has been completely alone and I think that’s part of the problem. The other horses left pretty quickly, which meant we’d get a good look at his attitude in similar circumstances. Joker decided he wanted to look around and fidget but he did not rear once. He never completely checked out. You know when horses just leave and there’s nothing you can do to bring them back down to planet earth until they work out that adrenaline or upset? Like you’re just a ragdoll on the end of the line and, as far as they’re concerned, you don’t exist? That’s what it was like before. That is NOT what he was like this time. He wasn’t perfect pony pants but it was a big improvement even over the first day he arrived when Elise had him in the cross ties with me and he was naughty even then.

ze crosstie area

ze crosstie area

In the cross ties, I was able to pick out his feet for the first time. I literally couldn’t get a hoof up in between rears before. The saddle went on a back that wasn’t dancing around. I was tickled at this point and we hadn’t even tried riding him. Elise did a little bit of ground work, just getting him to yield his shoulder and his haunches, some small circles and changes of direction, checking to see if the gerbils were home. This is very similar to what I’ve done with him so I was really pleased to see we were on the same page. The gerbils were home. When we first went into the arena, another horse was being lunged. They left before groundwork was done which was good because, again, it was a great test to see how Joker would react. He noticed but stayed with Elise.

I like my new tack locker

I like my new tack locker

We finished tacking Joker up and Elise hopped on. At this point, other horse was back in the arena being ridden. Walking around, Joker looked tight and Elise remarked on as much. We both agreed – he was tense and coiled but he wasn’t explosive. Other horse left again and he didn’t seem to care. They picked up a trot and, while the tension was there, he went around without his nose in the air in a cute little frame. She got after him a couple of times for ignoring her inside leg but that was it. Then she asked for the canter.

Oh man, we were both in tears. Sorry, Joker, buddy, but your theatrics were hysterical. If you can imagine a horse trying to do a Spanish trot – legs flying out, hyper extended, knees almost to nose – that what Joker did… except cantering behind, trotting -ish up front, head shaking in displeasure (not lame).  Trotting was the limit, said Joker’s belly. And that was fine. The first (and only) time I had ridden him, there was nothing I could do to get his nose out of outer space and I didn’t have a martingale.

She hopped off and offered me the reins. As soon as I sat in the saddle, I felt a difference. I told her if this was tense, then he was a robot the first time I was on him because it was a huge improvement. So we walked around and Elise had me shorten my reins a bit and reminded me that if I give a little halfhalt with my inside ride, he’ll stay connected to my hands and not fling like crazy.

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Never has someone ridden in longer stirrups in a close contact saddle #dressageprobz

I’ve never been so excited to trot you guys. I had so much fun in the maybe 10 minutes I was on him. He wasn’t completely relaxed but he was with me and listening. When I slowed my posting, he matched my rhythm. Telling me to slow my posting doesn’t click in my brain. Elise had a great little analogy: try to lengthen the amount of time your thighs touch the saddle to regulate their rhythm. Lightbulb! Immediately I had less of a roadster and, if its possible, was grinning even wider.

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I hopped off and we brushed him and I gave him some facerubs. It really seemed like I was seeing bits of his personality for the first time. That night, Elise placed an order for omeprazole. We’ll do a month’s worth and see where that gets us.

I’m going to the gym with husband instead of the barn tonight (after two weeks of being sick and being out of it) so he won’t get his tums today but the plan is to go out again tomorrow after work, hit him with 32 more little chalky guys, and ride. Fingers crossed the gerbils are here to stay!

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.

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…

Spicy Yet Satisfying

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Friday, May 1st

After her day off yesterday, Nibbles seemed to be in an even better frame of mind today. Trainer E did some ground work and lunged her in her bridle before riding. She twisted the reins like side reins. She reported that she got a little “spicy” toward the end where she decided she didn’t want to play anymore. In Nibbles’ world, spicy is picking up your back foot for a baby pseudo-buck that lasts one literal second and then tossing your head. Wow Nibbles, such rebel, so wild. I had told her that Nibbles’ protests are her saying boos hiss dis my temper tantrum, okay fine. They finished with some good quiet walk work.

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E says she thinks the side reins will really help her be less anxious about her picking up the reins. To be fair, I often rode her in a hackamore so it’s perfectly reasonable. She said even the reins over the saddle helped a lot. I’m going to dig out the flash attachment that came with her bridle to send up just in case gaping becomes a thing.

Can we real quick just talk about E’s breeches in the picture?  Do need! I’m obsessed.

Saturday, May 2nd

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Another great day and first trot under saddle with E. Longed in side reins for half an hour then walked and trotted under saddle. “It was all four on the floor” she reports – nothing fancy yet but I’ll take the good behavior at this stage! Trainer E sent me photos of her sliding side rein arrangement which is really interesting. She said it’s already doing wonders for Nibbles’ confidence with light pressure on the bit.

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