I thought a little game of catch-up might be in order to start this off. So here is a bit of history of the past couple months since Louie came home. For his first couple of weeks, Louie and I spent a lot of time getting to know each other, going for walks, grooming, and just spending time together. He already knew how to long-line when I got him, but was not broke to saddle yet, so his work sessions consisted mostly of lunging, bitting rig work, long-lining, and showmanship (advanced leading). My primary goal in this first couple of weeks was to absorb as much as possible about this horse- his quirks, his likes, dislikes, his temperment, what he knows and what he doesn't. My secondary goal was for Louie to learn about me- learn my voice, what certain words like "woah" mean, learn my body language, habits, and posture- oh- and of course learn that I'm his new mom who will be dishing out the loving and pets. :) Ultimately by the time both of these goals were under way, we started understanding each other and how things were going to be. So, after about 2 weeks, we were getting along pretty well and working well as a team from the ground.
Thus the next big challenge. Louie was pretty big already for a 2-year-old- well balanced, strong, and coordinated at about 15.3 hands. From our work from the ground I could see what an amazingly smart horse he is and how quickly he picked up on new things in our lessons. Louie was physically and mentally ready for the next step. So on November 10th, 2008, I decided it was time to take the big leap and ride my baby. Of course this was preceeded in the week or so prior by desensitizing Louie to the saddle and bridle, getting him used to a little bit of weight on his back and around his sides, and the concept of not being able to see his mom above/behind him very well. So thus the moment of truth- I chose the deepest, softest part of the arena, led Louie up to a fence and asked him to stand while I positioned myself for what was going to be the beginning of a long road of learning for both of us- and might be a complete disaster. My heart was pumping, but I tried to remain calm, deep breaths- Louie could care less, he was clueless about the adventures upon which he was about to embark. I put one foot up in the stirrup- no reaction. I put a little bit of weight in the stirrup, still no reaction. I leaned over the saddle- a precarious situation, but Louie acted as if he didn't even notice- he was busy thinking about what that wood fence in front of him might taste like. I petted Louie and told him what a good boy he was- just incase he forgot where I was- then I slid back down. Pet and repeat- a few times. Finally after I was quite sure that Louie was bored with "whatever Mom is trying to do over there," I pulled my right leg over. I was sitting on my horse- I didn't know whether to be terrified or excited- I think I was both. And that's what we did for several minutes- just sat there calculating the situation. Niether one of us moved other than my hand on his withers petting him and saying "good boy." Finally when I decided we were ready to push the envelope a little bit more, I turned his head, squeezed my calves against his sides, and clucked to walk off. We walked about 3 steps and stopped. This process continued for about 5 more minutes- walk and stop. Then being quite satisfied and proud of our accomplishments, I hopped down and practiced mounting and dismounting a couple times more. Louie got a big pat, hugs and kisses, and got to go out to be with his buddies in the pasture. Wow was I ever excited- I rode my baby! What a rush to ride a horse for its first time (though I must admit it wasn't that interesting)!
Since then, Louie has learned more and more about riding. Louie now knows how to walk, trot, stop, yield the forehand, yield the haunches, bend and flex to the bridle, speed up, slow down, and back up. He can also walk, trot, square up his feet, park out, pivot on the haunches (push and pull turn), and back up while leading from both sides (well, with some help- I mean, give him a break, he hasn't even had his 3rd birthday yet!) Anyhow, I'm amazed at how much Louie has learned over the past few months. Like any good horse, he tests my patience sometimes, but mostly he always makes me smile. :)
In December, 2008, Louie was dealing with a little bit of lameness due to his feet. He had a stone bruise, followed by some joint pain due to an un-evenly growing hoofwall on one of his feet. He was examined by the best lameness vet in MN, Dr. Tracy Turner. His x-rays were clear, and he has now been trimmed by our farrier based on the results of the x-rays. This set his training off schedule a little bit, but he is now feeling much, much better and is getting back on track with his lessons! :)
Well hopefully this has provided a background story from which Louie's blog will start. Here's to many more years of happy horse riding (and other adventures yet to come) for me and Louie!