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….

Follow Trainer E’s Blog!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me gush about my dear friend and trainer extraordinaire of Miss Nibbles, Elise. She has made her return to blogland and is already up to providing some awesome tips for riders (especially fitness – can I get a what what for shoulder struggles) as well as some awesome Spanish Riding School clinic recaps! I may be biased but she’s totally worth adding to your blogroll or Bloglovin.

Check out the Pearl Classical Dressage blog!

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PS – She is dropping Joker off a day early – tomorrow afternoon! Let the picture spam and nose smooshing commence!!

Woodbine Dressage Show: Part III

I was bursting with pride after her second test. She kept the gerbils in the same general direction and harmed no one in the process. Sure, she was more giraffe than dressage horse, but this show means we are one step closer to become a real dressage pony.

All done and all smiles.

All done and all smiles.

I won’t keep beating the fact that I’m really happy with Nibbles. I wanted to comment on the experience of the show itself. The horse world can get a really bad rap because of how selfish and nasty people can be. I had the exact opposite experience my first time back after 5 years and I think it’s important to talk about.

Other Competitors

I did not hear one word of gossip or body shaming. Everyone clapped politely and, if anything was whispered, it was about how cute the horse was or how we understood their pain. Half pass is hard, canter serpentines are hard, your horse screaming in the middle of the test happens to us all. No one tore anyone down and it was fantastic.

Case in point: I showed up at an open show with an Arabian. Not only were there a handful of other Arabians, I overheard people saying nice things. “Wow, that horse has presence.” “Oh, she’s spirited and beautiful.” “How striking!” Standing on the sidelines, I don’t think people realized I was this horse’s owner which was a great opportunity to potentially hear them talking out of the side of their mouths. If you’re looking for another story about people tearing each other down, you won’t find it here. Not today.

Does it get any more adorable?

Does it get any more adorable?

The Judges

Judges get a bad rap sometimes too. They’re the people who remind you that Ponykins isn’t perfect and your riding needs work. That is, you know, what you pay them for. Nibbles didn’t even break 60% at Intro level. That should hurt, right? Not at all! She is 90 days under saddle and had never been away from “home”. You know what else, the judge took the time to tell Trainer E (who was of course riding) that she thinks she rode the horse well and to come back.

The judge I watched  most of the day (who judged Nibbles) was nice to other riders as well. She made small talk with them when they entered and thanked each and every one of them at the end of their test. She was smiling and she was kind. It was clear she made it her goal for everyone to have a positive experience.

If you want to make fans of your sport, that right there is how to do it. Did Nibbles keep it together? Most of the time barely. Did she show off her mad skillz? Absolutely not. Will I do it again? Yes, tomorrow, please, as soon as possible!


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All in all, Nibbles’ first dressage show is in the books and only made me hungry for more. One day, she will trot down the centerline like a civilized pony. This day was not that day but we made a deposit in the confidence bank and had a lot of fun doing it.

Quo Vadis: Part 3 – What Lies Ahead

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.

If you’re just joining us, check out Part 1: A Riding and Not Riding History and Part 2: Current State of Affairs.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

I don’t know who said it first but I’ve found this statement to be 100% true. I tend to have a lot of ideas and ambitions but if I don’t set tangible goals along the way of a strategic plan, I don’t arrive at the destination.

I’ve seen a lot of you write goals on your blogs and I’ve always admired the practice. I took a stab at goals for Nibbles in spring of 2014 and made progress or accomplished 50% of them. Very shortly thereafter, I lessoned with a trainer who asked me what my goal was with horses. My answer: I honestly don’t know right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. My riding is important enough to me to deserve a strategic plan.
  2. That strategic plan, once written, can change.

I’ve hesitated over writing out goals because I didn’t think my plan could change. Silly, I know, but I had that mental hurdle. But who says your goals can’t change? Right now, I want to compete. Maybe I’ll get a few shows in and go, you know, I enjoy this a heck of a lot more at home. Or maybe I’ll say man, this is my jam, we gotta up those competitive goals. And that’s the beauty and genius of goals – they can be fluid if you let them.

And because I am that person and I love strategy and lists, I’m going to push myself to make these goals S.M.A.R.T.

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So, readers, here are my fluid but S.M.A.R.T. goals. This is where we are headed.

Short Term Riding Goals

  • Commit to bi-weekly lessons to primarily improve my in-the-saddle fitness and prepare for taking over Nibbles’ primary training by October 1, 2015.
    • The goal is not perfection. The goal is getting my mind and body saddle-fit.
  • When Nibbles arrives, commit to 4 rides per week for the first 30 days. Evaluate number of rides per week thereafter.
    • This is more about me managing my time better than a matter of what Nibbles needs so it may adjust if she mentally needs more/less.
  • Compete in one (dressage) schooling show (on Nibbles or another horse) in at least Intro C by December 31, 2015.
    • Ideally on Nibbles but since I’m a recycled-green-bean myself, I’m flexible.

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Short Term Nibbles Goals

  • Research and reserve a boarding barn in my area within a 40 minute commute and with an indoor arena by October 1, 2015.
    • This is already under way and it looks like stall board is my only option. More $$ than I hoped. No really promising leads yet however.
  • Maintain level of training at all gaits and including leg yields through May 1, 2015 (AKA when winter is finally gone from this far north). Evaluate strength for more complex work or additional training thereafter.
    • This is conservative. I want trainers’ opinions on how hard to push and what to add to her repertoire when.
  • Obtain saddle fitting and reflocking to ensure optimum comfort by December 31, 2015.

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Short Term Together Goals (after Nibbles is local to me)

  • Commit to bi-weekly lessons that advance both myself and Nibbles’ training towards Training Level through December 31, 2015.
  • Schedule trail rides at least twice monthly depending on buddy availability to continue Nibbles’ exposure to all the things through December 31, 2015.
  • Continue incorporating trot poles and cavaletti into Nibbles’ training regime. If possible, introduce cross rails for cross training, strength and confidence building by December 31, 2015.

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Long Term Together Goals (aka the scary but awesome)

  • Obtain our USDF Bronze Medal by December 31, 2020.
  • Complete a limited distance ride by December 31, 2016.
  • Break Nibbles to drive because why not whenever I can find someone with a harness and cart.
  • Take my stepdaughter to her first leadline class on Nibbles by December 31, 2017.
  • Ride bridleless. Someday.
And maybe even have a baby one of these sometime...

And maybe even have a baby one of these sometime…

Denny Emerson Knows His Stuff

I have never claimed to be an eventer but you don’t have to be to mine the gold Denny Emerson is serving up on his Facebook page, Tamarack Hill Farm. If you aren’t following it already, where have you been?

please tell me you get this

please tell me you get this

As usual, Denny hit the nail on the head regarding the whole it all comes back to hours spent in the tack thing. I can’t paraphrase it and do it justice so I’m going to post below what he shared because I think we all need to hear it.

Either you find a way or you find an excuse. As Denny so eloquently put it – don’t like it? Tough bananas.

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Whenever I post something about the need for endless practice as the key to improvement, INEVITABLY I will get responses about how expensive it is, and therefore how prohibitive it is, and those responses, while TOTALLY ACCURATE, are also TOTALLY IRRELEVANT.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we all know the overused cliche, “It is what it is”, right?

And here you come cantering on your horse toward a jump. You have a crummy, non adjustable canter, but it doesn’t much matter, because you couldn’t see your distance to save your soul, anyway.

You get in to a deep spot, drop him, and jump up his neck, while looking down, as he lumbers over the fence, sending rails flying into the neighboring village.

OR—Here you come toward a jump with a canter that combines, as Le Goff used to preach, enough impulsion and balance, so that at any nanosecond you can lengthen or shorten, as your eye, which you have honed by about a zillion repititions, tells you is necessary.

As the horse lifts off, your hips go back, your lower leg stays firmly put exactly just behind the girth, your chin and eyes go up, your back stays flat, and your hands and arms soften to allow for a good bascule.

Now, children, you can whine from now til New Year that it “isn’t fair” that the reason Susie can do it and I can’t is because Susie is rich/sponsored/, and I’m not, because—–

Drum roll—–Are you ready for this???? More drum roll—-

“The horse feels what he feels.” The horse doesn’t CARE why you suck or are competent. He only responds to the ride you give him. And how you became (or failed to become, or are failING to become) the rider with those requisite skills as opposed to the rider without skills is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to your horse.

So figure out a way to do it, or don’t. Whining about how hard/expensive/blahblahblahblah it is may make you feel better, but whining is hardly as effective a strategy as figuring out how to get more practice time.

Don’t like it? Don’t do it.

Want it? Figure out how. It is what it is, tough bananas.

Visiting Nibbles at The Trainer

I had nothing creative for a post title. Sorry, readers.

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This post is overdue but better late than never, am I right? Last weekend, my mom, sister and I drove to Grosse Pointe to visit Nibbles for the first time since she shipped up there. She looked fabulous – trim, sleek and, for the most part, content. I say for the most part because in the barn, she wasn’t 100% her carefree self. She didn’t do anything wrong (aside from being nippy) but didn’t seem at ease. It was amazing how her demeanor changed as soon as we headed for the outdoor arena.

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A lesson was wrapping up so we waited by the gate for a few minutes. Nibbles was perfectly happy to hang around. When they wrapped up, it was Nibbles’ turn. Elise started with some brief groundwork. Nibbles thought this was old hat and Elise commented that she has the lightest response of any horse she’s ever worked with. That made me feel good; at least I haven’t dulled her or created bad habits! She popped her over a couple flower jumps in hand which Nibbles was quite lazy about. Calm yourself, horse. Then it was to lunging with the sliding side rein. It’s obvious she is starting to understand and work into the contact.

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Then Elise hopped on. I offered to hold Nibbles but she said no thanks, Nibbles is good about the mounting block and waiting for the cue to move out. Again another proud moment for me as that’s something I insist all my horses do and we worked on before she came to the trainer’s. The under saddle work was short, maybe 10-15 minutes, but very positive and forward. Nibbles was happy and compliant in all three gaits. Steering isn’t 100% installed as Elise had to do some fancy maneuvers to miss a few jump standards. If steering is our biggest hole at this point, color me super pleased!

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This was my first time seeing Nibbles canter under saddle in person. I was floored and so so thrilled. She is very  relaxed and Elise doesn’t have to nag her to keep her going. No buck, no resistance. She’s remarkably balanced for a green horse who had three days of cantering previous to this day with a rider.

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After Nibbles showed off her new skills, Elise rode her on a walkabout around the property to cool her out. In my opinion, this is where Nibbles really shined. Cars flew by, there were other horses and general barn commotion – nothing made her even take a second glance. She was the complete opposite of looky. The one thing she thought about giving the hairy eyeball was a park bench but she smelled it and that was that.

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In light of my wedding being just three weeks away and having to do some traveling to prepare, I won’t be able to see Nibbles in person again until afterwards. I’m hoping I can convince Elise to write more guest posts! If not, I may just be doing photo dumps of what she sends me until July when life returns to the new normal.

Happy Dance!

Hello again, E popping in. Did you hear my happiness across the country this afternoon? Nibbles and I had such an awesome workout, I might still be floating instead of walking.

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We worked outside where there is a full jump course set up, the lawn guys were out working, and traffic is always going by. Nibs and I started out today with some groundwork over a pole, over a flower box, a flower filled itty-bitty cross rail, and finally over a short gate/plank with flowers. She got really into it… Folks, I think we may have a jumping star on our hands soon!

Longing in side reins went pretty well. They are still long enough as to not make her feel trapped or forced into a neck position she’s not ready for, but they also are easy for her to ignore. That’s okay, baby steps. She is getting s lot stronger and has no issue trotting and cantering on a variety of circle sizes.

Decided to give riding in the bridle a try and I am pleased as punch to say it was absolutely perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect! We walked and trotted without and head tossing so I had Tracey, my assistant manager, video our ride. It was a gorgeous day and I’m so glad to have had a cameraman so she could follow and zoom. Such a treat!

Nibbles did walk, trot, and canter in both directions with light, steady contact and even had a couple moments where she stretched down into the bridle a little. It was so thrilling!! I’m still so impressed by her canter work … This is still only the third day she has cantered under saddle and transitions are already not awful. Athletic horses are such a blessing 🙂

She makes me so happy! Hope you had an awesome Thursday!