Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Feet! I mean New Year!

Louie got his feet trimmed today- just a little clean up on his angles. His feet are holding up really well with all the snow and ice we've gotten around here, and they look even better now after a fresh trim!

Louie also got to wear his new blanket for the first time today. It's a Schneider's turnout, midweight with a TOUGH 1680D ballistic nylon outer shell to stand up to the hard-core playing that he does outside with his buddies. It is a fitted turnout, so it conforms more to his body like a stable blanket. I really like the way that it fits him. My only one complaint about it is that I got the long-drop version of the blanket and it's not really very long, barely covers more than a stable blanket would. I think though, that is because they only put the longer drop on the larger sizes, so perhaps Louie's 74 did not qualify as one of the larger sizes and just has a regular drop. But it is a VERY nice blanket and I'd definately order it again! Here it is on the Schneider's model horse, no photos of Louie in it quite yet, though I assure you it will come!

We're in for a cold snap here, highs in the single digits for the next few days, so I decided a double layer of blankets might be nice for Louie, so I put his old blanket over the new one so that we preserve the new one and keep it looking as nice as possible. Once it warms back up to at least over 15 degrees during the day again, we'll take the outer shell off and he'll get to wear just the new one.

We've not really been doing any consistent work since it has been so cold outside, but we've done just a little free lunging and regular lunging. Louie has started anticipating the canter really bad while lunging to the right, to the point that every time we get to the part of the circle where I usually had been asking for the canter, he takes a couple of awful looking trot-canter-left-lead steps where it looks like he's lame, but really he's just trying to counter canter instead of trot. Ugh. On Tuesday I lunged him in circles for about 20 minutes to the right only, trotting only (after a walking warm up), and it took that entire time to get him to just trot square and even and not attempt to canter. Yikes this is not fun! Going to need to come up with a game plan to fix that in the new year! Until then, wishing all of my readers a wonderful new year (and a new decade)! Cheers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Full of P&V

Well I worked Louie for the first time since I've been back last night. Wow was he full of himself! I made the mistake of trying to long line him- well I should have started out just on a lunge line or something I think. . .

I had just gotten done talking with one of the other boarders at the barn about how Louie was really steady and wasn't really spooky, and that the "far end" of the arena that so many horses are scared of doesn't really bother him. . . well thanks Louie for making a liar of me! There were some new jump standards at the end of the arena and a little bit of snow that had blown in under the door- suddenly my steady, fearless, easy going Saddlebred turned into a brainless, frantic Arabian (no offense to Arabian lovers in the crowd, they were my first love too, they just tend to act a little silly on occasion). Snorting, scooting past the far end while drifting off of the rail and me counter bending him in an awful way to try to get him back ON the rail, and spooking at nothing because he hadn't been in that end of the arena lately.

Well we only had use of half of the arena since vaulting lessons were taking place during our workout, but we did a lot of trotting to try to take a little bit of the edge off. It was clear that Louie had become a little rusty in his time off, as it was taking a little longer to get that nice extended walk and slow, rhythmic trot that we had before I went on vacation. But eventually he settled down and at least tried a little bit.

Well, it's going to be a process once again getting him going nicely in the lines and eventually in the cart, and with the holidays just around the corner, I suspect it will not be until 2010 that we really start getting back into the swing of things.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Chunky Monkey

Returning home from Oklahoma, I found Louie to be a bit of a chunky monkey. I guess the past 2 weeks without work caused him to pack on a few extra lbs- or was it Christmas cookies? Perhaps he is just starting to fill out, as his legs don't look near as long anymore as they did 6 months ago. Well one thing is for sure, this horse needs some exercise!

It has been REALLY cold here lately, today I think the high was -3. The horses stayed in their stalls today, and it's below my 10 degree rule (though, I might lower that number if the arena stays significantly warmer than the outside air), so I didn't work Louie, but turned him loose in the arena with two other horses to run around and get some excercise at will. He had a great time- he was playful and snorty, and has got some good speed!

Afterward, I gave him a much-appreciated curry and brushing. I've never seen a horse so happy to be curried. Well I'm glad I could make his day, it was probably itchy under that blanket for 2 weeks without brushing.

As I giggled about my little pork linker, I took a few cell phone photos. Sorry they're kindof poor quality, but I think they show his body condition nicely.
Note the roundness of the rump blending into the belly blending into the shoulder.Wide load!Look at that tail head- yikes! This is a nice meaty HQ though.Oh purdy. . .Do I see a dorsal stripe??Awww, what a cutie. Sorry Louie, gaining weight when on vacation is a good thing!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

End on a Good Note

This is a phrase that is ever so important in horse training. And this is what Louie did tonight- well, not really "end," more like temporarily put the training on hold. We're going to our national field trial in a few days and Louie doesn't get to go this time, so this was Louie's last cart work for about 2 weeks. And the good note that we ended on- we made progress, Louie did great, and so did I.

Tonight we got the whole arena to ourselves, so after a nice long lining warm-up, Bjorn grabbed the cart and we set up in the usual fashion- shafts through the tugs, but nothing secured. We walked a few steps and stopped. Then we repeated that process. Having success in two small bouts, on the third time we kept going. We made a turn around the end of the arena and continued on at a walk- Bjorn holding the cart, me leading Louie by his halter and lead rope. We walked around for several minutes, both directions, practicing turning, which at this point seems to be the biggest challenge. Bjorn bounced the shafts on Louie's sides and he didn't care too much. All Louie really wanted to do was eat his lead rope. I swear this horse is stuck in his Freudian oral stage. . . as long as he's got a pacifier, he's happy. Bjorn pointed out at one point that Louie had his "fifth leg" out, which is a sure indicator that he was relaxed and happy walking along pulling the cart.

So after a few minutes of that, we moved on to the next challenge, instead of me being right next to Louie's head leading him, I moved back to his flank and took control of the lines. Still holding the safety line on his halter, we successfully long lined Louie with the cart in tow! We walked around a few minutes doing that, with much praise, and called it a day. A very positive accomplishment to "end" on. Now I think if we could trot Louie in this set up (not sure how easy that would be for my poor husband), I wouldn't be too nervous about hooking him. So we'll see what our adventures bring when we return. . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

If the Cart Fits. . .

. . . wear it! Good news- the green meanie is plenty big enough for Louie! Twice this week we've walked Louie with the cart, shafts just through the tugs, not hooked. On Tuesday I was a little more nervous than I think I would like to be, every time Louie took one step a little faster than I thought he should, I had a panic moment and stopped him. It's as if I forgot that the cart could easily be pulled away from him if he needed it to be. But today, I did much better- and so did Louie.

We just walked around for a few minutes with the cart through the tugs, with me leading Louie by a lunge line attached to his halter (over his bridle and blinder hood) and petting him and praising him all along the way. We practiced stopping every once in a while, and making turns with the shafts at Louie's sides. Louie is pretty desensitized to the feeling of shafts against his sides with all of his shaft training he's done, though the cart is a little more restrictive than loose shafts that aren't attached to anything, so he's getting used to stepping over and abiding by where the shafts allow his butt to go. The green meanie makes almost no noise behind him, so there's really not a whole lot to be desensitized to in that way- at least not yet.

I'll admit I'm a little bit nervous about hooking him and proceeding with the training, but we've got some good resources out there for assistance and professionals available to step in when we need help. We're making progress, slowly but surely. Onward we go. . . green meanie in tow!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Green Meanie

The term "green meanie" is one that comes from my physician assistant training. A few of my classmates had these cool green pencils that were more extraordinary than your average mechanical pencil, and they believed that they had special lucky powers in them (maybe a little superstitious). Before each test, my two friends would pull out their "green meanies" and recite a short phrase of good luck to oneanother, brought to them by their pencils "green meanies unite!" they would proclaim, then on to the test taking. . . well they were some of the best students in my class, so maybe those green meanies really did have special powers.

Anyhow, back to Louie- after discovering that my cart was too small for him, I decided it was time to list it for sale and purchase a new cart. I had really wanted a 2 wheeled jog cart the first time around, but ended up with the Jerald Runabout instead. I really enjoyed that cart and it was fabulously comfortable to drive around in, but it wasn't going to fit my horse. Well, as luck should have it, within a few days of listing my cart for sale/trade, I got a few responses to the ad, one of whom had an old Houghton jogger that she was interested in trading for mine since it was too wide for her 14.3hh morgan. Well the trade worked out, the shaft length was the same between the two carts, and this one is considerably wider, plus it's a 2 wheeled jog cart, which is what I wanted anyhow. So I won't be able to haul passengers around, but this is really the type of cart I wanted from the get go for exercising and conditioning my horse. It just happens to be a rather interesting shade of green. The seller didn't like the color at all, but I rather like it (not to mention Louie looks good in green). This cart has been well used over the years but looks to be solid as a rock, so I think the nickname "green meanie" may be suitable for it. And it just might have special powers and bring us good luck and safety in our driving adventures.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Pessoa

Today Louie got his first "real" workout in the pessoa. While this is not a name brand Pessoa training system, it's a home creation/replica that cost a small fraction of what the real thing costs. The premise of the device is to encourage a horse to pull their butt underneath them, use their abs, and thereby raise their backs. While not that great for enabling a horse to extend, their ability to enable a horse to "collect" in a sense, is wonderful. For more information on the system, visit this website

We started with this system very loose today just to get used to the idea of it being there. Eventually we want to get him set up with it tight enough to actually produce a rounding of the body, but he needs to be desensitized before we get too fancy with it. I just hooked it to his halter rather than putting him in a bridle. I'd rather have him pull on his nose for now and keep his mouth soft until he's learned how to wear it properly.

We just lunged large circles at all 3 gaits in both directions, and while we struggled to get the right lead at first, we eventually got it- a reminder that we need to work on and develop that lead as we progress.

Louie fought the pessoa for a little bit at first, trying to pull UP on it with his head and traveling in quite the awkward high headed inverted type of frame. But with a little vocal encouragement and reward, Louie was eventually stretching down and floating along with a nice long stride. By the end of the session he lunged as if it weren't even there. More advanced work in the pessoa to be continued. . .

Edited to add: I found a photo of Louie in the pessoa from a few months ago when I first made it, this is essentially the concept, though I need a new surcingle with rings on the girth- oh I love shopping. :) hehe

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tight Fit

Today my husband accompanied me to the barn to work on some 2-person driving training with Louie. We worked in the outdoor arena, taking advantage of it while we still are able to use it! This was Louie's first official workout since his knee injury, and it was also his first time long lining outside. Apparently the far end of the arena was a little bit scary with a few tires and ground poles along the fence and 4 new round bales in the pasture beside the arena. But Louie marched by the new sights and focused on the task at hand pretty well. After a short long lining warm up, we pulled out a few "scary" items to test Louie on.

The first was a plastic shopping bag full of cans dragged across the sand. This didn't make him flinch at all. My husband dragged the bag on the ground in front of us and Louie and I followed him to start, then we slowly worked our way up beside him, and eventually positioned ourselves in front of the bag. The bag full of aluminum cans was a non-issue.

The next was the plastic sled. This outdoor sand arena was a new sound for Louie, reminiscant of the gravel, so naturally this one got him a little bit more worked up. Louie and I stood at one end and just watched Bjorn drag the sled around in front of us. He was "looky," but kept his composure as long as the sled was within sight. We slowly progressed to getting the sled behind him as we did with the bag and sans one little spook, he did great with it, old memories and all.

Then it was time for the next big obstacle- we brought out the cart. Bjorn pulled the cart in front of us with Louie and I following, and he was very interested in the cart- actually tried to catch up to sniff the cart. He wasn't the least bit bothered by the sound of the cart, so we did the same progression and eventually had the cart being pulled along behind us with not even a flick of an ear.

Then we progressed to one final test- putting the shafts around the horse. I held Louie while Bjorn pulled the cart forward. It was then that we learned that the shafts are a little bit of a tight fit around Louie's barrel. We were able to get the shafts a few inches through the tugs, but not without a little bit of a struggle. We didn't secure anything, but walked just a few steps with Bjorn holding the cart and me holding the horse. After about 15 steps something spooked or pinched Louie and he crow hopped a few steps. We got the cart off and and Louie relaxed really quickly, but it was enough to scare us all just a little bit. We wanted to end on a good note without making backward progress, so my husband walked the cart behind us again, we re-positioned, and put one shaft through once more. We walked about 10-15 steps perfectly calmly, stopped, "un-hooked" and called it a day.

Overall Louie took all of the desensitization pretty well despite his few little bobbles. We will continue working with the desensitization process, all the while realizing and for the first time seriously considering sending Louie to a professional to finish off the breaking process- partly due to equipment, partly due to his history and my nerves/lack of bravery. We will see what happens in time. . . but there is one thing that is for sure- my cart is too narrow for Louie and I will have to begin the searching process to find a new one that will fit him. This is somewhat suprising because Louie wears a smaller blanket than my old Saddlebred Social, yet he is too wide for the cart that fit Social. . . granted Social was pretty narrow, but Louie is really not that wide (my husband was teasing him, calling him mean fat names- he's not fat, just has larger bone structure haha). And at only 3, he will certainly be filling out, making the necessity of a larger cart with longer/wider shafts quite definate. Anyone need a nice Jerald Runabout?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feeling Much Better

Just a quick note to report that Louie's leg is looking MUCH better. Almost all of the swelling is gone, and it is no longer tender or warm, and Louie is moving around quite comfortably on it. I think our treatment regimen worked. Now just a few little lacerations to heal up and he'll be good as new! Thanks to Tom, the barn manager, for all of his hard work giving Louie his antibiotics this week- and I know how much of a struggle it was because Louie saw that dosing syringe coming and faught pretty hard to keep it away! Also special thanks to Sandy for her "drop-everything to help out a friend" attitude.

Hopefully this weekend/next week we'll get started with the desensitization I had planned for him, followed by the introduction of the cart! Yipee!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

He's A Weenie!

Louie scratched himself in the pasture on Thursday, I thought nothing of it, rinsed it out and put some topical antibiotic ointment on it and put him away. Today his whole knee was swollen, hot, and he was TEN-DER, not to mention he was lame. Ugh. My husband promptly pointed out that my horse is accident prone. Thanks honey, that really helps. ;)

Saving myself from the emergency vet call, I did some self-vetting and did a betadine scrub, cold hose, some topical Nitrofurazone ointment, then had my good friend Sandy stop out and give him some Bute and start him on some Sulfa antibiotics. My husband and I were just on our way out of town (picking up the trailer) to go pick up our new horse, so this was an unplanned event (obviously), but Louie is always managing to find ways to steal the attention from any other horse for himself! We were lucky that Sandy was available to come to our rescue while we were en route to get our new horse and that she also happened to have 140 spare sulfa tablets on hand. She called me to let me know she didn't think it was too bad, wasn't that swollen after the first cold hosing, and told me that my horse is a weenie for pain. Haha.

Tonight, after dropping off the trailer, I repeated the cold hose and topical ointment application and headed out to Fleet Farm to pick up a Tetanus booster. When I got there I debated for several minutes which one to get- the Tetanus Antitoxin or the Tetanus Toxoid. So I eventually ended up getting both, as they were only $5 each and I was in a bit of a hurry to get it into him. I put in a page to the on-call vet for a recommendation on my self-vetting (it sometimes annoys me when my patients do that so I felt bad, but oh well) and some guidance on which Tetanus to give. When I arrived at the barn, phone in hand, waiting for vet's call, I was suprised to see the vet's truck there. He wasn't there for my horse, but it was very convenient so I got my vet "consult" in person and even got a mini exam and his opinion on the injury. I love our vets! He reassured me that it looks like just some soft tissue infection/inflammation rather than a septic joint, and agreed with my treatment plan. Whew! A HUGE sigh of relief for me. :)

Cost of tetanus vaccines: $5 each
Cost of oral antibiotics: $0 (Thanks Sandy, I owe you lunch!)
Cost of reassurance from an experienced vet: priceless.

So we continue with Louie's treament regimen for the next week or so and hopefully after that we'll be back to work in the lines and very soon -the cart! As for now, my little weenie of a baby horsie will have to tough through the results of his shenannigans!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shaft Training Round 2

Louie had a long line lesson tonight (3rd lesson back) and he was great! We've been working sort of long-ish and low-ish, trying to keep a nice loose and long stride with a relaxed back and Louie did GREAT with this tonight! He looked awesome- I started him out at a slow jog, asking him to tuck his nose in a little bit, then I slowly asked him for a little bit more speed while trying to maintain the same nice and slow cadence but cover more ground. He did this beautifully and really floated by the end of the session. I am going to keep working him like this because I love the long floating strides that he was showing me tonight.

So after a basic short long lining work out, a little walk, trot with plenty of transitions and halts in both directions, we stepped up to the next step in getting him to a cart- revisiting shaft training. We hadn't put the training shafts on in a while, so we started very slowly, but Louie remembered the drill and didn't even flinch with the shafts tonight. I drove him a little close to the wall intentionally so that the shaft would scrape along the wall and make noise and that didn't seem to bother Louie at all either. Praise, praise, praise. After a few trips around the arena at a walk and trot, testing out all of our gears including "park," we called it a night.

I was very proud of my boy tonight- both for the beautiful trot that he gave me and the tolerance for the training shafts- picking up where he left off and not minding one bit. :) Good Boy! Maybe over the weekend we'll add in some other desensitization- sounds and funny feeling things added onto our basic long lining work. We're getting closer- one step at a time!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Outside the Box

Last night Louie and I went for a nice long line down the road. It was a rare occasion lately that it has been light out after work and it was above 45 degrees and not raining- so we took advantage of it! For his second day back at work, he was a very good boy. We started out with his exercises, then warmed up in the arena with a little walking and trotting, practicing our halting and standing- something that is very important to be good at! He needed a few reminders to stand after being asked to whoa, but he stopped very nicely when asked. After I felt he was sufficiently warmed up and paying attention, we turned around and walked out the arena door- the same exact door we walked out of the day of the sled accident. Of course I got a little nervous, but Louie just marched right on through. Once we got out of the barnyard, it was an easy nice walk down the road. I walked by Louie's hip and we went down the driveway and out onto the gravel road. The sun was setting and it was just beautiful- Louie looked gorgeous- that Saddlebred head and neck against the sun setting fall colors. . . if only I'd have had my camera. . .

We walked and halted every now and then just to test out his skills, then turned around and headed home. Louie took it all in stride. We walked through a bunch of fallen leaves, making that every so slightly scary crunching sound, but Louie hardly noticed. We got back to the barn just as the light was becoming dim, un-tacked, and got Louie all tucked into his stall for the night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back to School?

Louie has been giving me little hints lately that he wants to go back to work- like those big brown sad eyes when I take Cash out to work him and bypass Louie's stall, running up to the fence to greet me- even if it's for a flu shot, and his increase in demanding attention while waiting for the farrier. He has been very excited to see me when I come out to visit, but perhaps that is because I come with treats most every time I am there. We have been working on "our exercises" in which we use lots of treats- but that deserves its own post, so we'll save discussing his exercises for later.

Anyhow, life in a stall is pretty boring for a youngster, and there is usually too much going on at the barn to just turn Louie loose in the arena, so it's time we think about getting back to some form of organized work. Especially if we want to be pulling a cart before 2010.

Tonight we went for a quick little long line- which is good for me to get back to too as I see how out of shape I am running around trying to keep up at the end of the lines. Louie was really good considering he had quite a bit of time off (I long lined Cash just before Louie, so I got to experience both ends of the spectrum there haha). I left the overcheck off, as we're working on our back and hind end, and after a brief warm up, I clipped the reins down onto the sides of the harness by the girth making a draw rein set up to encourage a lower head carriage. Louie looked great- lowering his head and stretching through his back.

His only one quirk today was putting the harness on, which is a frequent problem. He hates wearing a crupper- he gooses it almost every time, regardless of how slow and gentle I am or what methods I attempt to try to prevent it. We may have to outfit him in a bustle for a few nights to get him over his crupper phobia.

Anyhow, I had planned on letting Louie vacation until the end of October, but we're almost there, and he's had about a month and a half off now, so maybe it's time to ease back into it. . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Living Up To His Name

Today Louie was making a good case for his name- Master of Illusion. Or at least master of mischief.

First, when I arrived at the barn to work this morning, Louie was standing in his stall quietly with a neat pile of manure on the aisle floor in front of his stall. How did that get there? What kind of horse poops outside of his stall? Well apparently mine does. How he managed that, I'm not quite sure, but I'd imagine that he backed up to his half door do pull that one off.

Then, when I went out to catch Louie for the farrier, he was in a different paddock than I had put him in this morning. The small group paddock that he is normally in is adjoined to the individual paddocks that he used to be in, separated by a fence. Somehow, Louie had gotten from the large group paddock to the other side of the fence, in one of the small individual paddocks. ??? I looked around thinking perhaps one of the gates had been open, but that wasn't the case. I asked the barn manager if he had moved Louie, thinking maybe he thought he'd make my job easier by putting Louie in a smaller area for catching him later, but he said no, he hadn't moved Louie at all. Hmmm, Louie was covered in mud- you know, he thinks that he is half pig, and had a few little scratches from his shennanigans, but no major damage to him or the fence. I think he must have rolled or crawled under the fence where it was missing one of its lower boards. I'm not sure what the motivation was for him to go in the small paddock as there was nothing to eat in there, but apparently he thought it would be fun. I have no idea how he did it, but I bet it would have been quite something to watch!

A few months ago he did manage to break out of his stall and rearrange everybody's stuff on their stall doors, so I know he is pretty handy, but Louie's recent endeavors go to show that his name really suits him well!

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Year Ago

Today marks exactly 1 year from the day we decided to bring Louie home with us. It seems like just yesterday that I was out at Indigo Acres looking at prospects. I had "looked" casually on the internet and at local stables for a couple of months and was not all that thrilled with what was out there and the prices people were asking for these horses- until I saw an ad for a local breeding farm that had a few young prospects available in my price range. And this was no back-yard breeder, this was a nationally successful breeding program standing a young stud who had already produced multiple world champions. How could you pass up that opportunity?

I can remember Sandy and myself out in the pastures with the breeder Romy, immersed amongst the herds of 20 yearlings and 10 two-year-olds. They were all so friendly and curious, it was almost hard to evaluate them from so close haha. Luckily for me, I was pretty sure I wanted a 2-year-old rather than a yearling, as I didn't want to wait an extra year to get started with training, so that narrowed down the choices significantly.

Romy was so essential in helping us decide. She knew each of her horses so well, and had prepared videos and pedigrees of many of them for us to make the decision easier. They were all very nice horses, so I'm sure I could not have gone wrong any way I would have chosen, but she listened to what I wanted, my experiences, and suggested a nice 2 year old colt with good size to match my height. She recommended him because he had been so easy to work with and had a fabulous amateur-friendly disposition, and was also very talented. It wasn't until she showed us his video that we saw what he was really capable of- trotting around with his knees at his chin, amazing hocks and a powerful back end, not to mention beautifully marked and kind-eyed. The pedigree also helped to persuade me- seeing Yorktown and Status Symbol on the dam's side so close up, I liked what this horse looked like on paper.

Sandy and I asked Romy to hold him for the night so we could talk to my husband and decide the following day. On the way home, Sandy was already calling him my colt, and helping me to think of a new barn name for him. He initially came with the name "Milk Man," which I wasn't terribly fond of, but it didn't take long to find a new name for him. On the way home in the car we were brainstorming the possibilities based on his registered name, "Ro & Me's Master of Illusion". . . iLLUsion. . . "Louie!" Sandy blurted out. I thought it over for a second, and decided it was perfect- a very cute name, fit with his registered name, and not to mention, is short for "Louisville," the location of the Saddlebred World's Championship show every year. It was perfect, and it stuck.

Naturally when my husband saw the video and how this horse used his legs he was convinced. Due to formatting, I can't share the video, but here are a couple of still frames from it- you can use your imagination.
I was so excited I hardly slept that whole week. The following day I called Romy and told her I would like to purchase the "Milk Man" and would be out with a check later that day. Romy took him and another colt that had just been sold to her training facility that following day for a brush-up on training as he had been sitting out in a pasture for a couple of months. She kept him there for a week, where she got him back to work in the long lines, clipped up, had his feet trimmed, and got him ready for his new home. 1 week later we brought him home- and the rest is history. Here we are- Louie had just arrived at his new home.
It's hard to believe that I've had him for a year, but when you look back at what we've accomplished, it all seems to make sense.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Photo Shoot

More beautiful photos from K. Noel Photography. Though we were not prepared for these (as you can tell by the mud and our attire), Karina managed to once again make us look great! Thanks Karina for your awesome work!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Photos! From the Dressage Show

As promised, here are few of the photos that the professional photographer took of us at the dressage show. I had debated ordering these, but decided to go ahead, as some of them I am going to enlarge, frame, and display in my exam rooms in the clinic. Many of these are so beautiful, and so artistic, I think my patients will enjoy them. Plus they are a great distraction for worried minds in the doctor's office and a good conversation piece as you never know when you're going to meet another horse lover. Maybe it's just me, but I could look at my baby all day long. . . :) Without further ado!

Photos by J. Reilly Photography:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Louie got to experience a new activity today- ponying. I had been wanting to pony him a few months ago, because it is a good way to get a young horse used to things and a good skill to have in our back pocket incase we need it! So I brushed Louie and let him loose with just his halter on in the outdoor ring to graze until I was ready for him. Then I saddled up our walking horse Cash, and headed out to the outdoor arena. Just to see how the two horses would react, I walked Cash around the ring once or twice with Louie just hanging out free in the arena- niether of them cared. Then I grabbed Louie's leadrope and without even dismounting, walked over to him, got his attention, and hooked the leadrope on. Then we walked off.

I just held the leadrope instead of tying it to anything as I think it's a little safter that way. I tried to keep Louie's head by my leg, but he wanted to slack off at first and lag behind Cash and me. We walked around the rail, keeping Louie to the inside, and Cash was just a champ about it- he couldn't have cared less. Louie thought this was a little interesting and at first tried to bite Cash, but I was able to use my arms and legs to ward him off. After a few trips around, Louie had settled into the idea nicely, turning both ways with us, stopping, and starting when asked. We mostly just walked.

We did do a little bit of trot- at first Louie did not keep up with Cash when we started to pick up our speed. This was not so fun for the middle man- me. But after some coaxing, I got Louie to jog beside us as Cash picked it up to a nice flat walk. By the end, we even practiced a little turkey cutting- there was a giant herd of turkeys in and near the arena during our ride, and at the end, we thought it might be fun to try to separate one from the rest of the flock. It was really easy, we just stayed on the rail and kept walking- we left one turkey in the middle of the arena and the other 10 on the outside of the arena fence- fun! Niether horse did anything more than prick their ears up to look at the turkeys waving their wings and showing off.

The hardest part of the whole ponying thing was getting Louie to trot when I wanted to go faster. I'll have to remember to cue Louie in advance of cueing Cash so that I keep both of my arms attached to my body in the future, lol. All in all, it went really well, very smoothly, and both horses took to it really easily. It's a great way for me to work Cash, yet still get Louie out of his stall a little bit in the evenings to stretch his legs without really "working."

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Louie has been relaxing and enjoying a nice vacation since the dressage show. I figure he deserves a little time off from regular work after all the new things he has learned and accomplished in the past 9 months. A little mental and physical break is just what the doctor ordered. He has been such a good boy through everything I've asked of him up 'til now, so we've been lounging around, going for walks, stopping to munch on the fresh grass and clover, eating apples and carrots, and getting lots of love.

We'll pick up on the lessons after a while, hopefully completing the cart-breaking (haha, that's breaking TO the cart, hopefully not breaking the cart) process this fall. Louie had been having a little bit of back pain leading up to the dressage show, and while I suspect that this was aggravated/caused by the saddle (Stuuben's have that reputation), it did open my eyes to the fact that we need to initiate a better back/core/hind end routine into our regular work schedule. So we will pick up with that after his vacation.

But for now, we're going to be relaxing and enjoying the break, as all young horses should have, and Louie very much deserves! What a good boy!

I also am pleased to announce that I have ordered a photo CD from the Dressage Show photographer that should be here next week. I had 40 photos to choose from (it's amazing how many more photos they get of you when you're the only one in the ring!), and got 13 of them on a CD. I plan to use some of them as framed 8x10's in my clinic exam rooms. Right now I have bare walls and what better way to put people at ease than to look at beautiful high resolution photos of a horse with as sweet a face as my little Louie!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dressage Show

We went to the schooling show yesterday and had a great time! I was really suprised by how nice everybody was. We had so many comments on what a lovely horse Louie was and everyone was so amazed that he is a Saddlebred and only 3 years old. By the end of the day he had his own fan club of people who didn't even know us cheering for us (you can hear them in the intro A video lol). He did great- really impressed me for being his first time on this farm, new discipline, stuff to look at, etc. He handled everything like a seasoned pro, having never seen the letter markers, judge in the trailer at the end of the arena, people sitting in metal chairs on the side of the arena, etc- he just took everything in stride. Mind you, I've never had any formal dressage schooling and therefore niether has Louie, so we have a lot of room for improvement should we decide to pursue this dressage thing. Overall, I was very pleased with how we did.

Our first class was intro B. I thought we really had a pretty nice ride. Louie was really responsive and listened well. My own error, I don't know how big a 20m circle is, so I made my circles a few feet small on this pattern, but corrected it for the next one. So here are some of the scores/comments- we got knocked hardest on our free walk, and the major thing being that he needs to reach down into the bit more- something we haven't really worked on having kindof aimed for saddle seat or hunt seat in our training thus far. We received our highest score on impulsion, and much to my suprise I got a 6 on my form (I thought for sure i'd get a 2 with my hunt seat/saddle seat equitation). Our overall comments were: "Nicely forward test, good effort! Work on getting horse to push from behind and stretch over topline into a steady soft connection to hand/bit. Also, watch accuracy- circles should be 20m." We got a 59%! (not an amazing score, but I thought it was pretty darn good for having no dressage training whatsoever!! - I was honestly expecting to embarrass ourselves miserably and come out with a 20% or something lol). This got us 2nd place out of 10. Granted, I think there were a lot of beginners there just like me, but I was pretty happy with that for a first time! Here's the video:

Our second test was Intro A. I kindof lost my horse in this one- I really needed spurs/whip in this class because you'll see in the video how I couldn't get him to trot at C tracking to the left, lol, and he was super lazy and lacked some of his usual impulsion here. My friend Sarah was even clucking from the rail at one point lol. I thought for sure I'd need a stronger bit and no spurs/whip because he was really strong at the last hunt show I brought him to, but Louie was so relaxed and mellow that really wasn't the case. We were also horribly crooked on entering the test (in my opinion, judge didn't think it was that bad) and kindof left the salute prematurely. Other than that, it was a decent ride, I had a hard time getting him over to the rail without counterbending (wasn't listening to my inside leg much at all), and we had a lot less style in this one (from my perspective)- not much bending on the circles, etc. We once again got knocked for our free walk- lazy as could be with no stretch and my elbows locked out, and didn't score as well on the submission category this time- big suprise. Our overall comments were: "Nice job! work on getting horse to stretch more over topline with neck reaching out of shoulder into a soft steady feeling connection to your hand." We scored a 56% on this test, which was good enough for 3rd out of 7. Still, not bad for "dressage on a whim." lol Here's the video:

And here are a few photos- my friend got some really cute ones on her camera so I'll try to post them later when I get them, and there was a pro photographer there too, so her proofs will hopefully be up within the next week, so I'll try to post those if I find them too.
Thanks again to Melissa for videotaping and Sarah for coaching, lending me her saddle, and photographing!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cross Training Woes

I've been tossing around the idea of bringing Louie to a nearby dressage schooling show going on this weekend to try Intro A and B. I have no real formal dressage training and I don't own hardly any of the necessary equipment, but what the heck, if I enjoy it and find the feedback as potentially achievable, maybe I'll take some lessons. I'm fully prepared to fail miserably, but the only way to find out is to try it, so I entered. Generally I have a dislike for events that require me to commit ahead of time because I like the flexibility of being able to decide on a whim, but it's not too expensive and it's very close to home, so we'll give it a try.

I'm borrowing my friend's saddle- a 70's model brown Stubben (suprisingly comfortable from my perspective!), along with my hunt bridle, and an old pad that the barn manager gave me. When it comes to bitting, we struggled for a while to find one suitable to the USDF rulebook, but I finally found a legal bit that I own- just a plain half-cheek snaffle. I have the required clothing from my hunt seat closet, so we're set! I had my friend Sarah out to the barn yesterday to ride and play and we had a great time. She watched us perform our two dressage tests and gave me some feedback. The main feedback was that I've got my patterns down, but when it comes to collection/bending, equitation, and other dressage-specifics, we're going to require some longer-term work that is not going to happen by Saturday, so just do our best, have fun, and don't worry about it too much.

The other feedback was that Louie looked a little short on his left hind again. I've been debating his soundness lately and the decision of whether I should bring him back to Dr. Turner for a follow up visit, as I was instructed to follow up if the injection wasn't the answer as he had more ideas and plans. Louie hasn't been all that short on that hind leg, just ever so slight, and it seems as though he's more tight in his back, loin, and croup as he really tends to tighten his topline up when he trots. Well, I think I am going to bring him back to see Dr. Turner. Louie's second massage didn't produce nearly the results that the first did, and he was actually notably short at the walk yesterday. Now I'm not sure what part of this might have to do with this new saddle I've been riding him in for the past 2 days as Stubbens do have a reputation for being rather ouchy for some horses' backs, or if it is due to one of his pasture shennanigans or something else, but he's definately taken a little step back from when I watched the barn manager ride him on Thursday (two new riders for Louie this week- and the only real riders other than myself- and he treated both quite nicely)! Here is a short video I got of him on a lunge line last weekend, where you can see that he is a tiny bit short, but more than anything just looks lazy in the hind end:

So, I'll give him a few days of rest and light stretching work, then if he doesn't look too off, take him to the show on Saturday- see this is why I hate pre-entering, no more than 1 day after I sent in my entries and fees does my horse turn up lame. . . ugh. Well hopefully we can get in to see Dr. Turner soon and get a definative diagnosis. I'm ready to have a sound horse again. . .

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Spray Bottle

Louie has never really loved being fly sprayed, but having cross ties and a relatively small area to work in, I can usually get him confined and still enough to spray it on him through his dancing and discontent. Well today I decided it was time to tackle the spray bottle issue. So I filled up a fly spray bottle with water and we headed out to the arena. I started spraying on his front left leg and he walked a circle around me, then eventually stopped, stood, and tolerated the spraying. I made a "rule of 10's," and decided that I would stop spraying him after 10 sprays of him standing calmly. So I sprayed and sprayed until he stood calmly, then continued for 10 more sprays, stopped and petted him. Repeat.

Once he accepted being sprayed without a fuss, I moved on to the other front leg and repeated the process. Then I moved up to the elbow, shoulder, neck and belly. By the time I got to his back he was pretty bored with the routine and I had already filled up my spray bottle twice (my forearms are going to be aching tomorrow and Wednesday from all that excessive use of my fingers!). When I got to the hindquarters and hind legs, I got a more heightened response, as I expected. So this took a while to get some relaxation, but eventually we got there.

After using 3 full bottles of water on him and thoroughly soaking my poor horse, we called it good for the day and went to get a little fresh chow. I attempted fly spraying him while grazing (with actual fly spray) and it was a bit of a different game outside. Luckily he only moved a little bit, so I was able to get him fly sprayed pretty well without wasting too much.

This will be a multi-day lesson for Louie, but hopefully he will stand still to be sprayed by the time we're finished.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Having a Little Fun

Louie running around and having some fun in the outdoor arena for a little while on Saturday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Kid on the Block

For a little while now I have been considering trying to move Louie into one of the small group paddocks at the barn so that he can socialize with other horses, run, play, and eat grass the way that a young horse should. I wasn't really sure if this would be possible as of the 3 small group paddocks, one is pretty much at maximum capacity, one is on the opposite side of the barn (which would require moving to "the double side"), and one, the one that Louie's current paddock borders, is ruled by a large QH/Clydesdale cross who I am worried might beat Louie out in a one-on-one duel. The options didn't seem too hopeful, so I hadn't comitted my heart to getting Louie out with other horses, but the stars aligned this week for us.

Then this morning I got a note from one of the other boarders (the owner of Connor, the QH/Clyde) saying she would be fine with trying Louie out there with that herd, and she would be there to work Connor in the morning before going out so he didn't have excessive energy with which to chase Louie. The owner of the other two horses in the paddock, a ~20 year old TB mare (Silly) and a 2 year old quarter horse gelding (Murphy), was also fine with the addition.

So, while Connor was out being worked, I let Louie go in the group paddock with the other two horses, niether of whom are excessively agressive or mean. Louie did great with them, though the 2-year-old, Murphy, thought it was a lot of fun to chase Louie off and strut his stuff. After a while, Louie wasn't responding much to Murphy's efforts on chasing him off- Murphy would get going at a good extended canter towards him, and Louie would take 2-3 strides of slow trotting then go back to eating- obviously he was really afraid of Murphy. ;)

Then the time came to add the big guy to the mix. At first he didn't notice Louie off in the far corner. Connor went over to the nice dirt pit to have a roll. Louie thought this was good reason to investigate and sauntered over to take a gander. Murphy intercepted Louie and proceeded to chase him away, protecting Connor from the potential threat Louie brought by coming over to check him out. Then the chase began. Connor noticed the imposter in his paddock, got up and began to chase Louie off. Luckily, most horses can outrun Connor due to his size, and Louie is in pretty good shape. Connor chased, and Louie maneuvered- zigging and zagging to get out of Connor's way. Connor couldn't keep up with the agile 3-year-old and gave up for a moment.

After a short while, the chase began again- after just a short lap around the paddock, Louie learned that he could out-maneuver Connor by slowing down and letting Connor pass him, then duck out behind him and go back to eating. I was pretty impressed by my horse's smarts when it came to the herd dynamic, and his agility, grace, and speed! We (the few of us who were there, owners of the horses and another boarder) also quite enjoyed watching Louie strut around, snorting and blowing, flagging his tail, and prancing around in that classic Saddlebred barnyard trot. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about watching that Saddlebred strut.

Well after a short while, everyone settled down and focused on the main task at hand- eating. Louie didn't eat with the herd, and was driven off a few more times by Murphy, but he got along pretty well for his first day, with only a single hoof sized welt on his neck to show for the day (and that was probably from his girlfriend- the gray mare in the adjacent paddock). It's funny how horses can get along so well with others over the fence, but take that boundary away and it's like they don't even know each other.

I think Louie will get along just fine out in the paddock with Connor, Murphy, and Silly, and after a few days, I bet Louie and Murphy will be playing like the young'uns they are and becoming best buds. Being out with other horses is so good for a horse's mind, and I think Louie really enjoyed being out with a group again- and most of all, I think he enjoyed being turned out on something green and edible.

Here is a photo of Louie's new paddock. Of couse I will have to get some more photos of it with him in it now. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Relaxing Evening Ride

It was a beautiful evening as I pulled into the barn and was suprised to learn that I was the only one there! It had been a long day at work, and what a better way to undwind than to go for a ride and hang out with Louie. So we went for a nice relaxing trail ride tonight across the street from the barn. Donna owns a few acres of almost swampy land across the street where she used to have a cross country course set up- now it's used to spread the manure from stalls and for anyone who wants to go riding through the tall grass fields.

So after a quick warm up and "gear check" in the outdoor arena, we went down the driveway and across the street into the field. The manure path was a bit deep and Louie was a bit startled by the fact that he sunk into the path (but wow what a great work out that would be for him and his stifle!), so we walked on the grass field in between for now. Louie was very relaxed and just walked along like he'd done it his whole life. The grass was up to his chest in some spots- and he's got very long legs! After a little tour around the field, we stopped to graze on some of the luscious grass that had been tempting Louie during our entire ride. I think Louie was really happy to get to graze for a while, but maybe after he got home he wasn't quite so happy as he discovered the millions of welts on his neck and belly from the mosquitos biting him. Well I helped him scratch a few of them and Louie was very greatful for that. Poor guy.

Louie got another massage yesterday and Sharon thinks that he has some growing pains- in that his bones are growing and the muscles haven't had a chance to stretch and catch up with them. She expects a big improvement like the last time she massaged him (he's been a little tight since our show or soon after- I think maybe we overdid it a little bit with that cantering class), but I'm not sure I felt a huge improvement today. I'm not that great at feeling lameness from the saddle, but I will long line tomorrow and see how he looks from the ground.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In His Spare Time

I would imagine life can be rather boring for a horse. Every day it's the same routine: wake up and eat breakfast, then go outside and greet your neighbors. . .
. . . catch up on the latest gossip from the ladies. . .
. . . run around and stretch your legs (I didn't know he could run this fast in such an enclosed space!). . .
. . . show off for your girlfriend (the gray mare next door) with your feats of agility and grace. . .
. . . maybe take a little afternoon nap to recuperate after all that excitement. . .
. . . go for a ride when Mom comes to visit (I am starting a PT regimen for my neck/back after seeing this picture lol- it's a really cool picture, I just look awful). . .

. . . and if you're really lucky, go for a trail ride through the edible green forest with your friends. . .

. . . then as the sun begins to set, come in to a cozy stall for dinner, and get some rest to prepare for the adventures that tomorrow might bring.