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.

Balance & Rhythm in the Young Horse

From ManoloMendezDressage.com

One of the purposes of this blog is for me to be able to keep training information and articles in one place. As Nibbles gets more and more rides under her belt, I’m interested in developing her in a way that is both correct and sympathetic. Manolo Mendez is a trainer with just such an approach. He was the first Head Rider at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art which is one of only four classical schools, including the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

So without further ado, here is there article I am mulling over. I’ve read it twice nice and get more from it with each pass. I think it’s extremely timely for where Nibbles is in her training. The biggest issue for me now is finding a place where I can safely canter Nibbles as OTI is not going to cut it by a long shot.

Manolo Mendez Blog Article on Balance & Rhythm in the Young Horse

Third Ride

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After four days of not getting on her, Nibbles got ridden again last night. That makes it her third ride. She did get worked on the line on one of those four days but I wanted to let the puffiness go down (it did) and I needed to work with my other mare (we did).

Nibbles was more distracted than normal last night. Part of me considered not getting on. She wasn’t actually doing anything bad, was just jittery and kept wanting to look out OTI (Our Tiny Indoor) doors. I decided I felt confident in my ability to handle if she bucked or bolted and my sister was on the same page. So I hopped on and she didn’t do anything wrong. She was still looky and I felt like she was holding her pelvis up as though she had to pee. I hopped off and tried to see if she’d go but no success. So got back on and we set to work. The trot was more rushed with a little more tension than last time (the first time) but it was there in both directions on the lunge. I sort of laughed to myself because she’s done exceptionally well so far that I sort of forgot how green she really is. How she was last night is how I’d expect a greenie to be.

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When we untacked, she dropped the bridle completely calmly. That was an issue just two weeks ago. She’s progressing by leaps and bounds in so many little details. I’m immensely proud of her. After we brushed her off, we went to practice trailer loading. This has been a goal for us as the last time she loaded, it took over an hour. She had a bad experience loading two times before (as in flipped herself over backwards).

Strategically, I brought her dinner to feed to her on the trailer. Before we even shook the bucket, she walked straight on the dang thing after maybe 2 seconds of looking at it. I’ll take it! So we praised her and rubbed her and let her eat.

Wouldn’t you know it: while she was standing quietly on the trailer, she peed. I knew she was holding it in! It explained what I was feeling what I was on her. After that, she got to go back out with her friends with a little unwrapped poultice on her back legs for good measure.

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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First Arena Ride

I was finally able to ride Nibbles in the tiny indoor arena last night. Tacked up and threw her on the lunge for just a few minutes. I lunged her first then had Leah lunge her because I want her to feel confident when she starts lunging with me up. The goal is to get to that point this weekend.

She's 15.1 and I'm 5'6" - actually not too bad!

She’s 15.1 and I’m 5’6″ – actually not too bad!

It was Nibbles’ first time with me on her when not being in a stall so after a little lunging (which she didn’t truly need), Leah gave me a leg up and we walked in about 10m circles. Leah walked with us just in case. Of course, Nibbles didn’t do anything. Besides being small, the indoor arena isn’t really an indoor arena. It’s maybe 60′ x 80′ with 8 floor-to-ceiling posts down the middle of it. It’s really annoying and makes lunging extremely challenging. So we just walked on one side of the posts, made as wide of turns as I could manage, and practiced halting from the walk.

She was so nonchalant that we cocked a foot while waiting for Leah to take the picture, hence why I'm also off balance.

She was so nonchalant that we cocked a foot while waiting for Leah to take the picture, hence why I’m also off balance.

You can sort of see the posts I’m talking about in the pictures. Anyway, the other things about the indoor is 1) the footing is just very old, wooden mulch (not even actual wood chips) so it gets very dusty and 2) birds ZOOM in and out all day long. Leah was a little worried about the birds but I’ve worked Nibbles in there several times on the lunge before so she doesn’t mind them anymore. They really are annoying – seriously, at least 20 or so flew in and out, banging the ceiling, the entire time we were in there (which was maybe half an hour). It’s very annoying but good desensitization for the greenie, I guess!

And I did end up winning Day Two’s Easter Egg Hunt at Forging Fiction! Julie from Dreaming of Revelry and I posted at the exact same time so we were both winners. I’ve never won anything before so I’m excited!

Weekend Warrior

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I’ve been meaning to post an update since Sunday but got busy. My sister came into town and we were able to work both Nibbles and my other mare, Sara, on Saturday and Sunday. The girls were really good and the humans both ended up slightly sunburnt in the 80 degree weather. Did I mention the low was 20 two nights later with snow?

photo (5)On Saturday, I worked Nibbles on the lunge in the back field while Leah took pictures. I intended to put the side reins on but decided against it because she was having to work pretty hard on the hills back there. She did really well for the most part, a few attempts to turn around but they’re getting to be fewer. She was really light and still very forward from the start which was surprising and lovely at the same time. Again, we had 20+ mph winds.

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On Sunday, Leah worked with Sara while I worked with Nibbles so no working photos. I opted out of tack because she’s been tacked up every day for weeks now and I wanted to give her a break. So we worked a lot on cantering which we haven’t been able to do because of ice and mud. I almost forgot how nice her canter is – I can’t wait to ride it. She also got a quick bath (the photo at the top of the post is her afterwards) with no hot water because the barn has been without hot water for months. (grumble grumble)

The horses are getting a break today and it will be back to work tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve contacted a trainer who lives and trains very close to where I live. I think I’m finally coming to grips with where I am in my riding and what my goals are now that I’m almost half-way through my 20’s and done with college. But that deserves it’s own post. Suffice it to say that I desperately missing having a trainer and taking regular lessons.

 

 

 

Wind-proof

After it took me twice the normal amount of time to drive to the barn due to traffic, I got out of the car to 30mph winds. There was actually a wind advisory for the area. I didn’t just drive an hour to not grab a pony so I grabbed a halter and headed out to the field. The pasture the herd is in is rather large. I would guess about 15 or more acres. Everyone was  at the very back of the pasture and, while Nibbles normally meets me at the front, she either couldn’t hear me or didn’t care to in the wind. So trudging through the mud and wind I went. She met me after a while and, when we started back to the barn, the other horses were following at a quiet walk. About 3/4 of the way there, one of them decides to take off like a bat out of you-know-where, which means that of course the rest of them follow. Poor Nibbles is torn between joining her herd and staying with me. She did stay with me but even after we were in the barn, the horses continued to gallop madly in the small paddock that connects to the back of the barn.

Considering one of those horses is my sales horse and another is into his twenties and recently had a choke scare, I cross tie Nibbles to calm the madness. Apparently wind kills horses now because they were still all on edge. Unfortunately for Nibbles, there is exactly one par of cross ties in this tiny barn and it was a total wind tunnel in the aisle.

Nibbles looked slightly puffy in her LH..maybe slight RH as well? Either way, there was no heat and she hasn’t been off. But with everyone being on edge (Nibbles included), I decided to give her the day off and cold hose those back legs. Mind you, this small barn doesn’t have a wash rack – just a hose on the side of the barn that you can pull around.

Nibbles hasn’t had a bath since…last October? The weather has been just awful and she hasn’t been off the property since December so I’ve just been keeping up with regular grooming. Combine lack-of-baths with insane wind (read: water literally flying sideways from the hose) and you have a snorting Dragon-Arabian mare on the end of your rope. Bless her, she snorted and danced but she stayed in one spot and, without being tied, let me hose her back legs without any problems.

I’m five minutes into hosing when I get a text that they woman who was supposed to feed tonight no longer can so could I please do it. I don’t know if I’ve explained before that this barn does not have a manager – it is 100% self-care. The owners of the farm are very nice but know nothing about horses. Being on a time schedule sucks which meant we got maybe 5 more minutes of hosing before I had to feed so I could make it home at least 45 minutes before bed. (sidenote: I leave my house at 5:00am every morning for the gym, get ready for work, work from 8:30-5:30, head straight to the barn, then get home around 8:15 for bed at 9:00-9:30 to do it all over again.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t a very good night at the barn. Humph. My consolation was that was my sixth day in a row at the barn and I’d gotten a lot done in those days. So what was one blustery, rushed night?

I’m really looking forward to my sister coming in this weekend. It will also be warm enough to bathe and – barring more interruption – Nibbles will finally lose the winter crud that no curry can tackle. No photos because I was flying my Dragon-Arabian kite for most of the night.