Monday, May 11, 2009

Louie's First Field Trial!

We survived!
Last week/weekend we took Louie to his first ever pointing dog field trial. It was a 5 day event in Eagle, Wisconsin that is put on by the Northstar and Wisconsin Weimaraner clubs. For those of you who are not familiar with field trials, they are like hunting on horseback. While my husband competes in these events (and hosts this one every year), Louie and I went to watch and ride along in the gallery.
Here is part of our camp- the course is in the distance, the clubhouse in the background, and some of the dogs staked out (our two weims in the foreground):
These events run from sun up to sun down, most horses riding all day long. The evenings are fun for the people involved, as there is usually great food, a lot of beer, and tall tale telling. For the horses, it is camping on stake outs- a new concept for Louie that we practiced as much as possible beforehand. The stake outs are metal car axels pounded into the ground with a rope attached that the horse is tied to. We wrap the ropes in a garden hose to make them a little safer- they don’t bend as easily so the horse can’t get caught up quite as easily, and they slide against the skin a little easier than rope or chain. It may sound pretty simple, but this is a lot for a horse to learn how to maneuver while tied to this line- they get their legs caught up pretty easily if they’re not careful. Louie did pretty well with the stake outs. He had a couple of incidents where he got his legs caught and panicked, but mostly when he was anxious—when he was calm and his surroundings were peaceful, he maneuvered the line like a pro. He stayed out there through a thunderstorm, and even learned how to roll and make quite a mess of himself on the stake out.
Here's Louie on his stake out:

Making a mess of his stake out- walking in small circles and getting his line tangled on the stake so Mom has to come and bale him out.

He enjoyed playing with all of the sticks he found- I think maybe he spent too much time watching the dogs.

We had a thunderstorm on Friday night, and Louie was still managing to make himself into "pig pen," rolling in the mud.

Riding in field trials is a lot different than most trail riding- you encounter dogs running loose around you, gun shots while on course (blanks, but still loud!), and of course riding in a group (in the back if you are in the gallery) in which your horse must be well behaved and quiet so as not to interfere with the event. Louie did great with the riding- much better than I expected. He was a little excited the first day, the first time he went out on course, but didn’t do anything stupid. He flat walked with his buddy Cash about 100 feet back from the rest of the gallery- ears up, no problem. He didn’t spook at the gunshots or dogs running around him, and handled the footing like a pro. While standing during finds wasn’t exactly his thing, he figured out by the end that if he stood quietly, Mom would let him snack on a little grass. Louie even remained perfectly calm with other horses rearing, cantering sideways, galloping, and spinning around him. On Friday and Saturday, we rode a whole stake each day, 2-3 hours per day. We rode the amateur walking derby, a stake in which the handlers are on foot. This was the best stake for us to ride, as we could keep up at a flat walk, whereas the other stakes we had to trot to catch up to the Paso’s and TWH’s that everybody else has. Plus I could watch the dogs in these stakes, which is a bonus, lol. Louie did absolutely phenomenally- he flat walked with the best of ‘em and acted like he had been doing this his whole life. And at only 3 years old, he really impressed a lot of people (especially me).

Here are a few pictures of me and Louie riding in the gallery on Saturday, I am in the light brown coat and blue jeans, usually towards the back of the group (did I mention it was really cold on Saturday?):

And some close-ups, my favorite photos, even though my saddle slid back about 5 inches from where it started (Friday top and Saturday on bottom):

After our ride on Friday- "the wet blanket sign" as some of the cowboys call it(it was 70's and sunny- absolutely beautiful weather):

And so fresh and so clean after a hose bath on Friday:

The only thing that wasn’t very fun was babysitting. We had a fair amount of down time since I couldn’t ride every stake (didn’t want to ride that much, and didn’t want to negatively impact his training by doing anything other than flat walking). We went for a few light trail rides down the road by ourselves, past cars, scary rocks, through trees, puddles, etc. But I still had a lot of time to “babysit” as I called it, where I either had to hold him and hand-graze him, or tie him. He didn’t much like the idea of being on the stake out when no other horses were around during the day (got himself tangled up), and hasn’t really learned to tied at the trailer, especially by himself. Well, by the end of the weekend Louie learned to tie and stand at the trailer quietly- all alone. I was quite pleased with this, as I got a chance to study and even take a nap!

The camping was alright. We had beautiful weather on Thursday and Friday. It stormed on Friday night, and was quite cold (highs in the 50’s) on Saturday. We stayed in the gooseneck of the trailer, in which I didn’t put enough blankets or padding. The trailer we had was un-insulated, so the rain was SUPER loud, the trailer was never warmer inside than outside, but it was much more humid inside. Every morning we woke up damp- yuck. We should have just slept with the windows open, and it wouldn’t have gotten so humid in there. It wasn’t too bad, better than sleeping in the cab of the truck, but insulation and a mattress would be stellar.

Overall, I was VERY proud of my horsie- especially for being only 3 and having only 6 months under saddle, all on the farm or in arenas. I think he had a good experience, though he was tired by the end, and his brain soaked up that atmosphere like a sponge. He adapted well, and with this experience behind him, he will be prepared for just about anything. He even made it out un-injured and alive in one piece (my biggest concern, lol). He did a phenomenal job on the trails, was pretty well behaved otherwise, and definitely won the beauty contest at camp with all of the girls and even with the old cowboys! I think Louie did his breed proud, and someday if he ever learns to slow gait, he will impress even more people!

7 comments:

  1. That looks like so much fun! You should be very proud of your horse!

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  2. Congratulations! It sounds like you had a great time with your horse. I too have Weimaraner's and have been to a few field trials to ride but I don't show my dog in field trails. Although his parents were both champions in Texas. I have Arabians and Saddlebreds for my ponies. Love reading your blog to see what is happening next Louie.
    Cheers,
    Karen

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  3. Thanks ladies! Karen- that's awesome that you have a field-bred Weim, what are his bloodlines?

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  4. That is AWESOME!!! Congratulations!!! Proof yet again that the ASBs can do anything.

    I once catch-rode a QH who someone had tried to use for field trials - he was terrified of anything that sounded like a gun, to the point where we had to TQ and stall him on the 4th of July. I purposely didn't tell you that one until AFTERWARD. :-) Good on you and Louie! We're very impressed with y'all!!

    Loff
    Liz and Quattro

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  5. Hi Leah,
    Ringo's dad is Fletcher's Meister Blau and his mom is McKinney's Shadow Star. Ringo is just a beloved member of our family, I never did any field trial training with him although he has the natural instincts to hunt, smell, point and flush. He has been on many a trail ride with me though...he turned ten this year and looks and acts like he is much younger. Would love to hear more about your dogs and I love reading your blog.
    Karen

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  6. Hey Karen,
    I'm not familiar with those lines, were the parents show or field champions? Either way, I agree, Weimies are great family dogs! If you want to read more about our dogs, you can check out our website: http://smoknwindsfarm.angelfire.com/
    Thanks!
    -Leah

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  7. Leah,
    His parents were only shown in field trials that I know of. Ringo is my constant companion and so intelligent, he reads my body language and I can talk to him and he knows exactly what I am saying. Your dogs are very pretty. I will probably always have Weimaraner's, although I also have a 100 pound blonde Lab that I adopted at a year old. Anyway, good luck with continuing Louie's training. I have one that I am training under saddle right now myself and hope to take to at least one show this summer...
    Karen

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