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….

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.

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.

Frank Sinatra Gives Me a Lesson

The verdict on my first lesson in over a year can be summed up in two words: humbling and amazing. It was a balmy 90 degrees and muggy with rain storms on the way. My parents were in town and my husband came as well which meant that a) I would have media and b) everyone would see that I’m basically a beginner all over again.

Meet Frank Sinatra

Meet Frank Sinatra

My ride for the day was a 16.3 hand Hanoverian/Paint gelding named Frankie (short for Frank Sinatra). Frank is a confidence builder supreme and let me flop around while I struggled to find my balance. Being used to 15 hand Arabians, Frank was a tank to me but I really, really enjoyed him.

blue eyed boy

blue eyed boy

As soon as I mounted (using a massive mounting block I might add), my right hip started spasming. I’ve always had weak hips and it didn’t take long for my body to remind me that I’m no longer a teenager. The instructor – we’ll call her Trainer J – showed me some stretches that were challenging but really beneficial. And off we went!

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The first thing I noticed was how tight my body was and Trainer J noticed the same. My seat wanted to stretch tall and long and be supple but there was a massive amount of rust. One of the first things I appreciated about J’s teaching style was her incorporation of baby yoga stretches. Frankie was content to plod along no matter how I contorted my body.

Eventually, my hips started to swing and my leg got a little longer and draped a little better. She also had my exaggerate pulling my shoulders back. A few years behind a desk will really destroy your posture! Looking at photos and videos after makes me realize my shoulders weren’t near as far back as it felt like they were. That was eye opening!

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Trainer J encouraged me to keep the same width between my collar bones as between my shoulder blades. I think this may be a Sally Swift thing but that image really helped me. After getting my joints loosened up at the walk, we moved on to trotting. Boy, I better get used to eating humble pie.

While I can certainly post and I haven’t forgotten my diagonals, the rest of my trot work needs rebuilding. Immediately she called me out on posting much too far out of the saddle and not allowing Frankie’s motion to create the movement. I also started tilting forward and undoing my work to get my shoulders back and core engaged. Darn it!

Best husband ever took some video on his iPhone. Blogging is about the journey and being honest, right? Here you go. I wish it was longer but hubby had limited memory space.

Obviously my toe starts leaving the building but I’m ok with that because I know it’s a lack of strength. She laughed when I told her everything she was saying made sense, I just had to get my body to listen up.

I will say that by the end of the lesson, I felt a lot more confident and I could see a big difference in my leg. Big difference meaning instead of looking like a sack of potatoes I looked like a solid handful – but I’ll take it!

As humbling as it was to be hit in the face with yes, you are a beginner again, I haven’t been so happy since, well, the last time I was on a horse. I am completely consciously incompetent and I have never been so excited to be a novice.

My big takeaways and homework are:

  • Post from your inner thigh, not your knee. Let your leg drape and your toe come in by engaging the inner thigh and not pinching elsewhere.
  • The distance between your collar bones should be the same as the distance between your shoulder blades. Even though my shoulders felt jammed back, seeing myself proves that they definitely were not.
  • Keep a following feel in my elbows while keeping my upper arm draped loosely by my side. This is the only way that I can (eventually) establish elastic contact.
  • Let the horse’s motion create the post. I don’t need to come high out of the saddle, just barely and briefly (which if you switch to is way harder!).
  • Practice stretching my hips (she showed me a few yoga poses) as well as keeping my shoulders back and stretching them regularly at my desk.

Another thing that made me like J is that she brought up lunge lessons. I may have said “YES PLEASE” before she finished her sentence. I would love nothing more than to be put on the lunge line and have my reins and stirrups taken away. Sign me up for independent seat bootcamp!

Money is tight right now with Nibbles’ show so my next lesson won’t be until around September 1st. I’m counting it down.

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…

Happy Easter!

 

Nibbles says Happy Easter!

Nibbles says Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from Nibbles! Not an actual Easter photo. This one was taken on Friday when I tried her new dress sheet on her. I couldn’t get her ears so enjoy the tongue action. I did, however, go to the barn this morning but not for a particularly good reason. Explanation to follow.

On Friday, following the first arena ride, I spent maybe 40 minutes clipping the poor beastie. I meant to just do the outside of her ears and she pulled and I slipped…and took out a chunk on the inside. So off it all came. She was not particularly thrilled about having her ears done but she really wasn’t that bad. I also did her face/nose and bridle path. After that, we tacked up and headed back to Our Tiny Indoor: hereafter, OTI. Because of how small her circles have to be in OTI, I only lunged her for maybe 5 minutes then hopped on.

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Leah walked next to us like the day before. Then with a little guidance from me, we sent her out on the circle while Leah stood in the center and “lunged” us. I use this term loosely because Nibbles doesn’t require much micro-management. She’s a pretty forward horse naturally so when you send her out, she goes until you change something, whether it’s speed, gait or direction. She felt good at the walk so after discussing with Leah what to do if Nibbles freezes, explodes, bolts, rears, or otherwise panics, she asked her to trot.

Baby’s first trot was…uneventful. Unlike many greenies I’ve been the first on, she didn’t need much encouragement to move out and after one circle, she seemed to have a relatively good feel for how to balance me (for a greenie, that is). I don’t have pictures or video because the humans were preoccupied but YAY! We got a few circles to the left, then a a few circles to the right. Asked for a couple laps then back to the walk and much praising. Very little tension, no blips – what a good girl! So we called it a day and pumped her with sugar cubes.

That’s not entirely true. Her show is a week from today so we washed her mane and tail out for the first time in…6 months? I don’t do it often. Oh, and before the ride, we snapped a couple of shots. I didn’t realize my trailer was in this until after the fact. Oops!

I can't decide which I like better. This one...

I can’t decide which I like better. This one…

Or this one?

Or this one?

Leah and I went to the barn again yesterday with the intent of getting some new photos and video of my other mare who is for sale. Perhaps I’ll do a post on her? Anyway, the plan was to groom and give Nibs the day off. I caught her (aka grabbed her from the gate where she was waiting) and saw that the slight puffiness in her LH was now slightly more than slight puffiness. How’s that technical jargon for ya? To me, it looks like minor edema in the suspensory. I’m wondering if the circles in OTI are too small and making her sore? But then she’s only coming-6 and I’m careful to keep them to a minimum and never more than a medium trot.

As you read in my Tack Haul, I just bought a new jar of Sore No-More so I slapped a poultice on both back legs and put standing wraps on. Nibbles isn’t off and this was the first time there was any heat whatsoever in that LH. I kept her in overnight and I went out at 5am this morning to rinse off the poultice. I don’t have before pictures (go me) but these are after the rinse. It looks pretty much the same as it did yesterday. It seems slightly tender (like yesterday) but again, she doesn’t seem off on it so I turned her back out for the day. Another boarder is checking her for me tonight. Anyone see anything that I don’t below? Just a little swelling on the outside above her fetlock.

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