Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Year With Nancy

 A year ago TODAY Nancy arrived in Luxembourg!

Here is her arrival post (LINK), I can't believe how far we have come in 12 months. This post is going to be a bit of a year in review/celebration of Nancy joining Kika & myself out here in Luxembourg.

We still have random teething problems and regularly run into issues - more to come on that, but this is to be expected when working with young horses coming into their teenage years and beginning to question everything you ask.

Can someone please remind me why I decided to try to navigate these waters again?! I only barely managed myself and Kika's partnership together thanks to unbelievable help from the Guru - she is a LEGEND and thankfully she is invested in nacy and myself as well as continuing my progression with Kika! I cannot say enough good things about L, she truly is one in a million - I am blessed by her friendship!

Arrival Confo shot for comparison
Poor phone quality shot taken tonight

Sorry she's not standing great in these but I had no one to hold her for me
12 months ago the initial introduction to Kika went heaps smoother then I thought it would as they became Fast Friends, completely blindsiding me Kika was super sweet & welcoming towards Nancy. I think the fact that N was born and bred at the yard I used to keep Kika at in Ireland (my mother's family farm now a livery yard & foaling unit run by her sister) bode well for her as Miss Kika can be territorial and snarky towards other horses...what can I say she is a mare! Perhaps K had seen N from across a fence divide as Nancy would have been a foal/yearling when Kika was in Ireland and Miss K is nothing if not maternal - she loves foals & ponies that are smaller than her. I may be kidding myself but I think she knew Nancy from before, even though they never shared a field - maybe it was enough for the introduction/safe-haven/welcome from Kika that N smelt "familiar" - although perhaps I am personifying equine behaviour and am in fact way off the mark!

Throughout the year Nancy has been a super star, taking everything in her stride and being phazed by very little; not melting snow falling from arena roofs or horses getting out of their lunging equipment (think completely loose in arena - as in managed to get out of their tack) - LINK, N couldn't care less if horses are being lunged in the arena with her - even if they spaz out and buck & fart about the place. She is a dream to hack (LINK) and doesn't blink at anything, in company (LINK) or alone (LINK), in front or behind - she is one happy camper...which is great for me after Kika's far from smooth forestry outings although she is a lot better than she used to be but she will always have her moments and a certain edge to her.

In June both girls and I had our first off-site outing when we all went on a rally which took us through woods, fields, towns/villages with food pitstops along the way. So lots of stop starting, mounting & dismounting - both girls behaved liuke angels. Photo blow-by-blow post HERE
We also moved both girls off-site for 3 months of the summer, where we had no arenas and care-free hacking for the remainder of summer. The Big Move - LINK, Kika got ponied as we hacked through the woods from the yard to the summer turnout field a couple of towns away.

Sister 1 & Nancy - LINK
 Nancy ha snot only been a superstar for me, but 3/4 of my immediate family members have all had spins on her! My dad being the exeption - but he has never really ridden and doesn't see the need to start now, but he does come to say hi every now and then and has been a great support to me playing chauffeur if i need a lift!

She looked after the Mammy for me
Sister 2

Super Nancy as also minded a uni friend who rode when she was younger and a work colleague of mine's daughter.

My war-horses in their fly-gear - LINK

I was also able to pony Kika from Nancy's back as we hacked back to the yard at the end of summer - typically in drizzly rain as the light started to fade - so sorry for poor quality photo!

We have had our ups & downs this year. While our ridden work seems to have come full circle with my issues re-surfacing now that I am trying to ride properly in an arena after so much forestry hacking - I cannot pretend that it hasn't been an amazing year as we tackled many firsts together. Including my first ever horse-riding holiday with my girls & first time EVER riding on a beach ...to do so with my own girls was just the icing on the cake (LINK). Even though I combined that first with my first fall from Nancy, it was a nice soft landing ;-)

The two ladies being very cute - LINK

Apologies not a great angle for photo
 LINK 03/11/2013

While remembering firsts - I musn't forget N being a great big brave girl for her first & later second time being clipped - she is such a LEGEND.

And for the end of our trip down memory lane with firsts & recaps - I cannot forget her first time with the Guru at the training clinic in December - LINK to all the videos of N strutting her fancy stuff. Here's hoping I can ride her like that some day!

"Baby" Sister & the two girls just before Christmas LINK 24/12/2013 
Despite the wonderful first year we have had together and all these lovely firsts - sadly my arena time with Nancy appears to have come full circle and I am having issues when "working" her. I had the Guru watch & give me some pointers on Sunday, below are the take-aways from that & my thoughts since.

I am to keep my leg on every stride and release in front with my hands - not let go of the reins or throw away teh contact but move mz hands/arms forward to release the pressure on her mouth so she has nothing pull/lean against.
I am to hold the outside rein and let go inside while playing with the inside rein - i have this completely backwards and need to re-programme my brain to hope to get it right!

When Nancy gets defensive/leans I am to move my hands forward and release pressure on her head, I am subconsciously applying pressure with my hands/fingers. If I feel her pull/speed up I have to go against my natural (read:bad) instinct of trying to slow her thereby pulling against her - engaging her in a strength battle I cannot hope to win & don't actually want to get into nor encourage her to lean on the forehand. I am to release in front and apply leg so she has to move forward and catch herself or fall on her nose as nothing left to lean against - not pretty, but with practice and some faith in each other we should hopefully get there.

I need to give leg aid with calf and only if she ignores me am I to use heel. Apparently I move my leg back when applying leg and this could also be confusing the horse. Typical - my legs used to swing too far forward when I was riding so I worked on that and have gone to opposite extreme. *rolls-eyes* it's always something with me - i won't know what to do with myself the day I am told that I am actually doing something right on a horse...I have developed such terrible habits!

I also need to look into center of ring/circle when I'm tracking left as I'm completely crooked & twisted over to one side. I know I'm lopsided as horse is struggling and on that side of my back my muscles hurt after the spin. I am such a crock :-(

The lesson ended in tears of frustration & disappointment in myself (not the horse) that I have everything backwards. Its so difficult to fight against instinct - worse is realising my instincts are all backwards so I'm now doubting everything I do for fear of stuffing everything up & messing Nancy up like I almost ruined Kika.
It is a vicious cycle cos I want to do things right, so I concentrate trying to think of everything I do wrong, correct it and re-educate myself to fix my bad habits - sadly this then makes me tense and upsets and unsettles Nancy - who is now entering her testing phaze and only too happy to latch on to an excuse to get out of working - well that's not entirely fair. No she doesn't help me out, but that has more to do with the fact she doesn't know any better and I am confusing her with my backwards mixed signals.
Sorry for woe-is-me end to this post, I'm feeling a little down in myself and possibly being a little hard on myself - but what I am doing wrong is such basic stuff that I'm really annoyed at myself for having developed such bad habits!

Will leave you with one of the few shots of myself & Nancy in tack
LINK 03/10/2013
I did ride Nancy again last night and it went much the same as Sunday as i tried to remedy my issues and work on the pointers I had been given. We are fine warming up w/t/c - it is after the first canter that we lose our connection as N tries to run and we enter the power struggle, which is not how I want to describe it - but basically she wantsto run on, I want her to settle back down to work - if I close my fingers on the reins to slow her she pulls/leans against me and if i do as I have now been instructed and close my legs and release in front we completely loose the run of ourselves - not pretty & far from an ideal situation when sharing the arena with others.
A Work In Progress is the only way I can describe our arena endeavours at the moment - it starts out lovely and soft, but once we canter it goes to pot. The Guru rode her today and has asked to ride her again tomorrow as she has the day off work - Nancy isn't the issue though - I am and all my bad habits & backwards way of doing things.

Kika and I had a good spin this evening, after two lovely spins Saturday & Sunday. I tried to transfer the tips I had been given about outside/inside rein to Kika as I have obviously been riding her in the same wrong way as Nancy - the difference is Kika and I have learned to cheat and smokescreen what we are doing wrong so that it isn't immediately obvious - back to the drawing board there too then. Fingers crossed my bad habits can be fixed once and for all with lots of practice and patience from the Guru as we lesson on Sundays.

PS: Just realised this happy post had ended on a bit of a downer. I had to edit it to say that i am overjoyed to have both Nancy & Kika in my life - the only black spot on the horizon is my disappointment in myself and my nasty bad habits.
New Year - New Attitude...time to clean up my act and reall work at bettering my eq!


  1. I'm totally in love with Nancy and her big noggin (which she has grown into splendidly). I think I may need to quote back what you just told me, in my post. Relax a bit and try to remember all the good things, even small that happened during the ride. Really your riding with Kika progressed better after Nancy, maybe she relaxes you a bit? My mare used to drag her nose to the ground and still leans heavy at times, partly my bad for not catching it early, and partly her being lazy and stubborn. She gets popped up and pushed forward, now she's learning its not worth it. Its a learning process for you both, and you are doing splendid, especially for not having your ladies in full training.

    1. Gosh fair play to you for reading through all of that so quickly!
      You're right, I was being a bit of a Debby Downer on myself - I just get so frustrated as these are things I should know and I don't know how I got it all so backwards. My reflex reactions are all wrong and that is a big negative for my brain to wrap itself around - I will try though :-)
      I am a realist (if a bit pessimistic when it comes to myself) but I will work on getting better & most importantly getting it right ;-)

  2. oh wow she's looking so shiny and more fit! I think you've done a good job with her! you'll work out the kinks as well :)

    1. Thanks for the kind comments and vote of confidence. I have good people who will help us - so I'm hopeful I can get there and stop confusing the poor pet!
      It's always a learning curve with horses...sometimes we have to start at the bottom :-D

  3. Such a tough place to be, good to be realistic, but for every 'bad' thing you think of force yourself to think of a good thing. My best advice is many short walk breaks and breathing exercises for you. I loved all the pictures:)

    1. Thanks pet, good advice and something I would tell others yet forget to apply to myself.
      I do love pictures so rarely a shortage on that front ;-)

  4. Wow, Nancy really has come a long way. I didn't realize it had only been a year.

    I can really empathize with your frustrations as Loki and I often have similar battles and of course 9 times out of 10 I am the one to blame. I have realized that staying positive is important not just for my state of mind but for me to be able to improve as a rider. Good luck!

    1. Positivity is key, I do need to be more generous with myself - hard though ;-)

      Thanks for your kind comments - it has been a great year. She is so different to Kika, talk about chalk & cheese when ridden ;-)
      Deff not a bad thing, means I gotta learn more to get the best out of the pair of us :-D
      As Barney Stinson would say CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

    2. OMG you quoted Barney!!! I love it!! :D

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, it has been awesome. I can't believe how much we fit in, the time has flown by. Here's to many more years of health and happiness with both girls!

  6. Nancy has come a lonnnnnnggg way Aoife, you should be uber proud!

    1. Aw thanks hun, I am uber proud of my lovable Nancy - just disappointed in myself. But that too shall pass as I strive to be better :-)

  7. First I have to say Nancy is so gorgeous it should be illegal!! I mean come on, how is she that beautiful?? :D

    Second, please don't be so hard on yourself! I am also pessimistic and a downer on myself so I do know how you're feeling, but you have to fight that because we ride for fun and because we love it. If all you think about is what you're doing wrong that's going to spoil riding for you completely and you don't want that. Try to focus on the positives and like you said above accept the challenge to improve. We all have our faults (good lord I have a ton) with our position and riding and that's part of the fun is figuring it all out. :) I think you're doing a fabulous job with your girls and I think you can sort out your mixed up brain if you give yourself a chance. In the clinic I watched last weekend we had one of my good friends working on pirouette and she kept getting it completely backwards, but we just laughed it off and kept going. Do a lot of visualization when not riding because that can help your muscle memory learn to do things the right way. It helps me anyway. Keep your chin up and keep having fun! That's what's important. Also be proud that you are actually doing something, I'm so terrified of ruining Chrome that I just don't do anything at all and that's probably the worst thing in the world to do!

  8. Oh and I totally forgot to say.... Happy Anniversary for you and Nancy! :D


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