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

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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?

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.

 

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….

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.

The Best Secret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elise and Joker doing his favorite thing: trail riding!

Elise and Joker doing his favorite thing: trail riding!

500 acres and an indoor arena.

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

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

Nah, I’m not excited at all.