JJ Tate was here Monday and Tuesday for another clinic. She was last here in January and I was so excited for her to see how wonderfully Nicolai is doing. It has been a long road to this point. About 18 months ago I took Nicolai to Florida and he had a bout of laminitis and terrible back spasms from the trip down. It has been a long road of rehab and gradually building his strength up. He has always been such a nervous and internal horse who has had a number of health issues since I bought him…ulcers, metabolic syndrome, and apparently bouts of laminitis prior to my purchasing him, and now Cushings. But because of his stoic nature, I think many of these went unrecognized and his pain probably contributed to his tension and sullenness. While in Florida we consulted with a PUrina nutritionist, and placed him on Purina Low Starch, started weighing his hay and soaking it in water to decrease the sugar, and feeding him four times a day to even out his insulin levels. Unfortunately, he had a flare after getting vaccinated, but Dr. Lockamy jumped right on it and got it under control quickly…but we only had 10 days until we hauled him to Maryland. I had to have surgery and would be out of commission for 4-6 weeks, so I decided to take Nic to Maryland for JJ to continue working him. We put him on Robaxin and made the trip over three days. He did beautifully.
His major issues under saddle were that he didn’t want to bend to the right and accept the left rein, pull through all the transitions, hollow the back, and his trot was short and choppy…okay, why did I buy this horse? He was kind and I knew that he could do all the Grand Prix work for 8’s. This is definitely the horse that has taught me to ride, and to train a horse.
In Florida Nic went back to training level, 20 meter circles, lot’s of slow steady trot work, suppling at the walk, me learning “passive resistance” technique and the timing of when to give and reward him when he gives and relaxes. It was very frustrating, but JJ was confident that we could retrain him; she said her real forte was retraining the FEI horse. She was right! Last summer I went back and forth to Maryland to ride him, and work with JJ and then back to TExas and would work Valentino. I would fly in and get to Hassler’s at 2 and have a lesson at 3, spend two nights with lessons, and then have a lesson the fourth day at 7 a.m. and qick shower and off to airport to fly back to TExas. In August I brought him home. Again using Robaxin and a long 3 day drive.
It has been such a slow process with lots of tears and not knowing if I would ever get him down center line at Grand Prix. I was alwasy encouraged that when JJ did come for a clinic we had continued to show progress, while working at home on our own.
Well, now I can say that I have a whole new horse thanks to JJ! I can actually now have a 10-15 minute normal warm-up with walk, a steady, regular rhythm rising trot, and then canter circles with changes through serpentines. (When I first got Nicolai, my friend Maxine watched him and said “Wow, he has like a hundred different trots!” not a good thing). He is getting stronger in the self carriage, and really seems pleased with himself and the work. The trot work and passage/piaffe are really good, and the canter work is now really coming. I am so pleased to now have the tools and the understanding to get him soft within the work. He still wants to take over occassionally, but is so much better. I know we are still not quite there: I am working hard to maintain my core when I ride particularly within the movements when I am concentrating so hard, and I finally feel how close my calf has to be all the time. I also have to thank my pilates instructor, Cassandra Thompson who has really helped me with my shoulder issues and hip flexibility, and overall core strength. Nic and I will make our Grand Prix debut next weekend. I am looking at it as a work in progress. Of course there is a lot we still can improve, but as musical freestyle choreographer, Karen Robertson, said, “just get her done”. I am so thrilled with how much progress we are making now and how quickly, so I can only imagine how much stronger and prepared we will be for the fall shows, so I think it is good to get the first one out of the way now.
Thank, Jerry, for being supportive and understanding of my passion.