Hello, Changes and Updates

Oh hey there blogland and blogpeoples and blogponies. Most unofficial blogger ever checking in to say winter hasn’t offed me yet.

There are a lot of changes happening in my family life and in my pony life. Hopefully they will be for the better all around in the long term. In the short term, change is difficult.

Award for most vague post ever? You can leave that right here, thank you.

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I can’t talk about the family happenings but your thoughts and prayers are coveted. This change could happen in two weeks or six months – and there’s not a whole lot of in between. I suppose this is my cue to say if I poof again, this is probably the reason. I have no idea what else to say because I can’t really say anything else… but it’s the single biggest change in my short married life – and that includes the actually getting married part.

As for pony life, that I can talk about! That’s what this blog is for.

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Joker has not gotten any better, poor fella. I feel dead awful about his lack of improvement. If anything, his behavior has regressed further. It came to a head last weekend when he rung my bell by flinging his head around, screaming for pony friends he could not see. I had my helmet on so no harm done but his inconsolableness has remained inconsolable for three solid months. I decided it was time to have the tough conversation with his wonderful owner about his time with me. He needs to see a vet who can thoroughly work him over to find out what has his goose cooked.

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He is going home to his owner’s parents’ farm where he will get seen by their vet and more than likely be scoped to kick things off. Although the plan was for him to stay until March when Nibbles comes home, he is homeward bound next week.

Which means…

Nibbles is coming home!!!

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She has grown up right in front of my eyes. As a riding horse, anyway. She’ll actually be 8 in late May but that’s not the point. The point is that Trainer Elise has provided her with so much great training and experience. She’s been ridden in clinics, schooled with other horses, schooled by herself, she survived her first show, she’s even hacked out several times completely alone without fanfare. Just being ridden regularly at least 4 days/week for 9+ months has been so incredibly valuable. Elise texted me earlier this week to say she rode her bareback for fun, WTC was no problem, and even shoulder-fore in the trot was easy.

*sniff* My baby is all grown up.

Just kidding. No sniffling here. I am ECSTATIC.

I’ve ridden her a handful of times since she’s been in training but I want to make sure I feel confident with all her fancy new buttons she’s had installed. I’m spending this coming weekend with Trainer Elise so we can get a couple more lessons under our belt. The idea is that Elise will still come down, hopefully at least once a month, to keep the ship right-side up. I’m hoping to be able to take lessons with other people as well but Nibbles full-time training will be in my hands.

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If things go according to plan, the switch will occur next week sometime. Unfortunately, the 20 degree weather comes back next week as well. Wah. But she’s coming home! For now, not even the cold can stop me.

 

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!

Hot & Cold

Remember when I said omeprazole was ordered so hopefully that wouldn’t be a long time coming? Definitely jinxed it. It’s been on back order; hopefully it will be here on Friday.

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The farm I have him at has neighbors with 500 acres we can ride on when their fields are fallow ❤

I say hopefully because the last three or so rides with Joker have been… interesting. We settled into a groove in late November as long as he wasn’t the only horse being ridden indoors. At the beginning of December, we went on our first trail ride with a group from the barn and he did super. You could tell he really loved being ridden out as opposed to indoors. We went about 3 1/2 miles in an hour (there were people in the group who were only comfortable with walking) but it was heavenly to me.

Last week, I rode him three days – two nights in the indoor plus one mini trail ride. Each ride was progressively more tense. I had a half-day at work last Friday so another lady and I decided to take advantage and go for a trail ride in the same area as before. It took me a solid five minutes to get Joker off the property – he just planted his feet and said “No, thanks.” I tried an opening rein, pony club kick, circling, zig zagging, letting the other horse go first. Nothing. Finally, I think he just got tired of me and moved off. He wasn’t up or tense when we set out but when we got to the field across the way, he checked out. The trail ride only lasted half an hour because his behavior was frightening the other lady. To me, he wasn’t being a nightmare (I spent almost a decade riding green beans). But to be fair, he was jigging and being looky and pulled some hard stops every once in a while. I told her I was fine and that I would definitely let her know if I felt like we were in any danger. This was this lady’s third trail ride I later learned so that explained her apprehension. Joker was pretty lathered when we got back; note that he didn’t break a sweat on our first trail ride and it was twice as long.

I gave Joker the next day off and went back out on Sunday with another woman from the barn who agreed to trail ride with me. It’s been 60 degrees in December (Northern Indiana) which is ridiculous so I wanted to take advantage of it. We went a different route and Joker was slightly jumpy but much better although he spent most of the ride pretty up though. We got caught in the rain so headed back to the barn to finish our ride. Joker was tense and bracey inside so I tried to do some suppling exercises and used some trot poles. He improved after a while so I called it quits.

He got Monday off which brings us to Tuesday night’s ride. He was in the cross ties alone again which seems to be happening a lot lately. He pawed and weaved but didn’t rear. He was pretty squirmy to tack up and gave me some hard looks when I was slowly tightening his girth (anyone else hearing the screaming ULCERS yet).

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Breaking up text with the Pandora charm my parents got me

Someone else was just leaving the arena (with a super cute Oldenburg gelding) when we got in and Joker was none too pleased. I worked with him on the ground a little first on the lunge and then yielding various parts of his body. He was a little up but listening.

So I got on. And sigh. And ow.

He was a freight train. He was yanking my arms out of their sockets for the whole 30 minutes. He acted like he wanted to be a run away train so I decided, why not, I’ll just let him go. So up into a canter we went (it’s really too small to gallop) and I pushed him out and while he grunted and stayed stiff, he didn’t let any squirrels out. So we trotted some then cantered some and I tried to work in a lot of transitions to get his mind and body unwound.

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Freight train? Me? I am majestic angel

Nothing. I could hear him grinding his teeth (in a hackamore) and his back was like a two by four it was so stiff. He was spooking at things that have been in there since he’s been at this barn and tried to outright bolt twice. I’ve never heard a horse grunt almost the entire ride. And grind their teeth without a bit in their mouth. When I could finally walk him a lap without him trying to boot scoot, I called it a night. And immediately texted Elise, “Please tell me the omeprazole is off back order soon.”

It sounds really rough but in reality I’ve been having so much fun. We’ve had some pretty bad days but we’ve had some good ones sprinkled in too. Being back in the saddle has been like coming home. Even when I’m having to get after him or preparing for sillies, I’m having a blast. My body somehow remembers all of this. Sure, I’m no equitation queen and may never be again, but I know I’m not riding like a complete sack of potatoes and I’m really proud of that. My husband has come out once or twice and taken video and I kind of do a double take. Is that my stable lower leg? Wait, my toes aren’t turned out at the canter? Hold on, he looks that nice going around? It’s really reaffirming.

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I’m not a personal trainer so take this with a grain of salt but I’m attributing my relatively quick acclimation to riding again to the hard, hard work I’ve put in at the gym over the past two years. While I haven’t been able to ride much before Joker since college, I’ve been hitting the gym hard. Five days a week at 5AM. I lift weights and I run and I do some exercises my physical therapist gave me to strengthen my hip flexors for riding (she rides too). I’m no body builder but I’ve spent two years methodically lifting and conditioning myself.

And damn, I gotta say, I’m not as weak as I thought I would be in the saddle. It was mainly about getting the balance right and the minute feeling of where to put/move/keep your body in different gaits, to ask for leg yields, etc. I still have a long ways to go to be technically correct again and that’s ok.

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If the omeprazole comes on Friday like it’s supposed to, we’ll start Joker on it over the weekend. I’m going to give him a week off (the weather is finally getting back to season normal 30’s) from riding but go out and spend some down time with him. Hopefully after a week, when I go to ride him next, his tummy will be feeling a lot better. Fingers crossed because I hate fighting him, especially when I’m 99% sure he’s in some degree of belly pain.

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Tucker needs love too

On a much happier note, husband agreed that we could drive up so I could ride Nibbles this weekend. I haven’t seen her in person since the show in September and I haven’t ridden her since July (!?!?!!). I’m out of my mind excited. First of all, I feel completely prepared because I’ve been riding several days a week. I know I can do this. Second, I get to ride my horse. Third, I’ve never cantered her before (when I backed her, we only made it through walk and trot before she went to Elise) and I’m super, super excited to feel it. Fourth, I get to ride my horse. Fifth, MY HORSE.

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.

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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!

Nibbles Update

Trainer Elise blogged about her ride on Nibbles yesterday – complete with a little XC field galloping! Nibbles is doing so well and really growing up.

Here is a video of her trotting along in the autumn leaves. I’m jealous!

Joker hasn’t changed yet. As soon as he can’t see other horses, he melts down. Elise is actually driving down today so we can work with him together and see if she can provide some insight. In the meantime, he’s getting a slew of tums everyday to see if that doesn’t alleviate any minor ulcer symptoms so his body can heal itself. We are trying to avoid having to shell out cash to scope him but, if this doesn’t work, I think a course of UlcerGard will be in order. Horses, right?