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Shifting Gears for Nemo

Posted on: October 24, 2023 by Ellen Brunelle
Woman riding dark horse wearing pink saddle pad while riding on cross country course over water jump

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last 12 years with my horse Nemo, watching him grow up from a green 7-year-old into a now, seasoned 19-year-old. We’ve had so many adventures and opportunities to learn together over the years. One thing I’ve always been very mindful of with Nemo is keeping an eye on how he’s aging and adjusting his lifestyle and workload as needed. With that, I recently decided to make some changes to his care in order to shift gears and meet his current needs.

Nemo and I have been incredibly fortunate to spend the last five years at a wonderful eventing barn. We learned all about conditioning, cross country, achieving that energized, quality canter to make show jumping easy for him, and working on the ongoing art of perfecting our dressage together. It’s been such a wonderful experience—made even better by the amazing friendships I’ve developed along the way.

Dark horse grazing on green pasture with fence in foreground

Over the last year, I started to notice that Nemo was showing signs of needing to adjust his exercise plan. He loves to jump, but the impact of jumping started to cause the arthritis in one of his hocks to flare up. This presented as a slightly shorter stride in his right hind leg. It would become more noticeable after a jump set but was also tricky to catch, because he loves jumping so much that his adrenaline would kick in during a course and he wouldn’t show any signs of discomfort.

It was also more noticeable when riding a 20-meter circle to the left, especially at the canter. It seemed like Nemo’s strength to push off his right hind leg at the canter just wasn’t quite as strong as it was on the left. Nemo loves to work, he loves having a job, and he adores being told he’s a good pony, so it was challenging to catch this. He never showed a head bob, discomfort, or anything less than his usual happy facial expressions. Instead, his strides changed slightly.

After working with my veterinarian, we realized that it might be time to slightly shift our focus to keeping Nemo on the flat, conditioning him through dressage work, and doing lots of trail rides and hacks. Nemo is my best friend, and I’ve always been up for any adventure—or need—he has. For me, the most important thing is us spending quality time together.

Morgan horse in barn outfitted in dressage saddle

Around the same time, an opportunity opened to move him closer to me at a cozy, friendly co-op barn with options to ride in an outdoor arena and on miles of cranberry bog trails. Nemo has been there a little over a month, and he loves it. I’ve met some kind, passionate horse owners at the farm, and Nemo has already made several pony friends that he gets to spend time grazing with every day.

I also suspect he loves our trot sets out on the cranberry bogs. True to his Morgan breed, Nemo loves a good, working trot, and it’s been so fun to enjoy our riding adventures in a new way. He stays active and comfortable as he eases into his more mature years, and we’re still enjoying every minute together.

While I still love auditing a lesson any time I can, and I plan to try to get some dressage lessons in when possible, we’ve shifted our former plan of two flat rides, a jump set, a trot set, and a hack each week to more of a leisurely, very flexible two hacks with some trot setting interspersed, and two to three flat rides, followed by a hack each week (weather permitting). My main goal is to keep him moving regularly. For therapeutic support, I’ve continued to regularly use liniment on his hocks, SI joint, and back after our rides, and I’ve started lengthening our cool-down cold hosing, which Nemo loved during the end of this past hot and humid Massachusetts summer.

Dark colored Morgan sticking head out of stall

We’ve also tweaked his supplement plan (stay tuned for another blog coming soon!) to meet his additional joint support needs as well. I also love stopping by to clean his stall every day on my lunch break to share lunch time with him; it’s amazing to be able to see him every single day.

Nemo and I are looking forward to continuing our adventures in our new home and seeing what the future brings. I know for sure that it’ll bring lots of quality time together. Have a great ride!