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?