After being postponed once last week due to weather, Nibbles arrived home on Friday afternoon. Home, of course, being the boarding barn about 30 minutes south of my house/work where Joker and I have been hanging out. Although this winter has been mild for northern Indiana save a few dumps of snow, it’s apparently decided to make (hopefully) its final stand just in time for Nibbles’ return to me. On Friday, it was about 20*, snowing and quite windy. Perhaps not ideal weather for transport but the roads were not slick so the switch was made.
I didn’t get very many pictures because my phone dies almost immediately when it gets to be about 20* or below. Wimp. But Nibbles walked on the trailer without batting an eyelash I’m told and hauled like a champ. She unloaded fine (after deciding she’d like to stay in the warm trailer just a little bit longer please), hopped off and walked inside like nbd.
Took off her wraps and took her for a few laps around the indoor. A couple of snorts and that was it. No spooking, no silliness, just taking it in. We put her out in her quarantine paddock and she walked around a bit after we tucked her in. We left her to grab Joker which she didn’t care for much and started screaming a little. I got her a few flakes of hay and that was the end of that.
Joker hopped on the trailer pretty quickly and off he went. He’s going to be spending some time in bootcamp with Elise at the barn Nibbles was at in Michigan. He’s been on Ulcergard for about 6 days now so hopefully he starts to get some relief.
Saturday was brutally cold and windy with a frostbite warning. I had them keep Nibbles indoors all day because, even with her blanket, she just doesn’t have much of a coat this winter. It was a good decision because the roads were bad and I couldn’t make it out.
Sunday was Valentine’s Day and my husband was cooking steaks for us at home (he’s an AMAZING cook). While he was meal prepping and finishing some homework, I jetted to the barn to see Nibbles for the first time since Friday. It was 15* and – yes, still snowing – windchill 0*.
I got to the barn to find it deserted. I must be nuts to want to ride in this. Elise said I’m dedicated. Pretty sure I’m just nuts… The barn is sort of off the beaten path and I’m not sure how often the road gets plowed or salted. The main roads are fine but the road the barn is off of is MIA right now – you can’t tell where the road ends and the fields begin. It’s just solid snow. Everywhere.
Anyway! I was there and super excited to see my horse. In the barn, I got everything ready. Threw the bridle in the heated lounge, dug through my tack trunk from Michigan (Elise sent my earmuffs and shims, God love her), put my stirrups back on my dressage saddle, staged my riding boots. I intentionally ran around getting things together to try to warm up – except my fingers, it was a success. I grabbed her halter and headed back into the tundra to retrieve the beast. She was munching quietly on hay and let me snuggle her before I put her halter on. I had a nightmare that she was a lunatic and bowed a tendon running around in the frozen mud so I naturally checked her legs. Nothing, clean, tight. Phew!
She followed me into the barn and quietly stood on the cross ties like a normal horse – completely alone in the barn, not a single horse in a stall. This is a situation in which Joker would have been doing his very best to be sent to the looney bin. But Nibbles was fine – albeit I could tell she was cold when I took her blanket off, poor thing. I don’t have a quarter sheet so I speed tacked up and hurried into the arena to get her moving asap.
I walked her around the arena a few times in both directions to let her get a look at things. They have a lot of stuff (read: junk) in the arena; only one corner is even open. In one corner they have a ton of jump standards, a tractor and a barrel of…I’m not sure what but it looks like frozen oil. In another corner they have corral panels, a four wheeler/gator thing, and a buggy. In the other corner, they have (get ready) insulation for the lounge they’re finishing, a ton of wood, a huge stack of hay bales, tarps and two buzz saws. So really it’s an indoor arena/storage shed/pony death trap. I was prepared to give Nibbles lots of time to console her gerbils.
Except for being tense, she was perfect. That pretty much sum it ups.
She looked at things as we walked around, smelled what she wanted to smell, and we went to work. I put her on the lunge with side reins and told myself we would at least lunge properly, even if riding seemed off the table for our very first day. She wanted to counter bend quite a bit and look but settled in after 15 minutes and gave me some really nice stretching and rhythm. It wasn’t on the same level as at the Michigan barn but I didn’t expect that this time. Frankly, I know I was a bit nervous – it was our first time without training wheels (aka Trainer Elise) since last APRIL… like 10 months ago, what the what.
I really needn’t have worried. Tension was our biggest hurdle – and there were definitely moments when she relaxed over her topline. I lunged her for about half an hour, maybe a smidge more. She was blowing ever so slightly and definitely hadn’t broken a sweat.
So I got on. I was consciously tense and cold so I know I affected her. But she was such a good girl. We walked in both directions and had one spook at the large back door when the wind banged it loudly. Spooking was a crouch and hop then walking on like oh, we’re alive, ok, onwards. We did our tight-loop serpentines but I didn’t add in any lateral work this time. We trotted in both directions and got a few nice moments on the 20m circle. It was a little fussy and tense overall. After a particularly nice trot, I decided to end there – short, sweet and positive. I stuffed her with a few carrots and many “good girls” before taking her back out. I opened the barn door to be literally blinded by snow. Nibbles went back to her hay without any complaints.
Had Elise been the one riding her, I’m sure she could have asked for more and gotten it. This ride was just as much about proving to myself that I could do it as it was proving that Nibbles could handle it. I was thrilled with her. If tension is our biggest problem, I feel like we’re in a great position moving forward. She was never silly or ignoring me – just looky and then responding to my lack of relaxation.
What do you do when you know you’re tense come time to ride? Any tricks before and after mounting?