Saturday, January 31, 2009
At first there was a little pony in the ring- running around like crazy, Louie thought it was a little bit funny looking. Then a big green (as in green broke, not its color) appaloosa, then later a paint joined us (all within about 45 minutes!). There were at least 2 and for a while 3 horses in the ring at one time and Louie did really well with it. The snow melting off the roof made some funny sounds on occasion too, which spooked Louie once, but he got back on track quickly. He was also a little hesitant in that the bright blue jump standard on the wall might be scary, but he got over that too. I was very impressed with how he managed all this stimulation. Lots to look at, and the question of "do I listen to my mom or go check out these other horses?" He maneuvered the obstacles and other horses pretty well, and settled right in after just a few minutes. I also rode him with a caveson today, adjusted down lower on his nose, and that really helped with the mouth/teeth stuff.
We didn't really work on anything in particular, but more just getting some exercise and making sure we could control ourselves amongst the other horses. We did canter both directions again today- and he went 1.5 laps consecutively which was really good! Dragging my fat butt around is clearly a LOT of work for him as he acted like he was going to collapse after that lap and a half, lol. I don't think I'm going to have those "hyper issues" with this horse. He cantered really nicely too- slow and smooth. I think once I get him collected up he will be able to do a really nice canter. His canter to the right is still a bit off- head bobbing just a little bit in that direction- I think he needs a little more of that lateral hoof wall taken down. He did pretty well with the cantering today though, no bucking or anything, transitioned pretty decent from the trot, but doesn't have much stamina yet. I think I probably worked him a little longer than I would have liked to, but I feel that if I have to go to all the trouble of trailering him over and paying to use the indoor I want to get my money's worth out of it! You know? If we had footing at home I could at least have him somewhat in shape, but unfortunately, that's not possible right now.
Other things Louie did today- he walked over a ground pole a few times with no issues- good boy! He also trailered beautifully- no issues, he's getting much better with it. This is great practice for him, and it was great to see how he dealt with all of this stimulation! It's a lot for a little guy, but he was a real champ about it. :)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The one thing I struggled with today was Louie chewing on his bits- he has done this some throughout the time I've owned him, but I really noticed it today. He actually bites his bit with his teeth repeatedly and intentionally and in a grinding manner. I'm not sure whether it is out of boredom, frustration, pulling on the bitting rig, or if something is not fitting well in his mouth, but this worries me a little bit that he does this. I plan to have the equine dentist out this spring to check his teeth, as I am sure they will need some adjustment. Louie also does not like the crupper- just going to put it on he squirms around and clamps his tail trying to avoid it. I think we just need more regular work with it.
We are supposed to have a heat wave (up to mid 30's!) this weekend, so I am hoping to get out and actually work my baby for a change!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Attempt #1- I lead Louie and he approaches the trailer quite calmly, reaches for the grain once I am inside the trailer in front of him, postures his hind legs under himself, but gets stuck there. (He hasn't totally grasped the concept of picking up his front feet to step into the trailer) Hubby walks over and picks up a front foot and sets it in the trailer, and Louie continues right on in to get his grain. Good boy! We stand for a while as he eats, then I ask him to back and step down out of the trailer. Good boy once again, we praise and walk around and try again.
Attempt #2- same approach, this time hubby applies pressure to Louie's hindquarters when he gets stuck, Louie lifts his own front leg and hops right in.
Attempt #3- Same as attempt #2, but no success, so we try again.
Attempt #4- Hubby leads Louie up to the trailer while I shake his bucket of grain. Louie stops in front of the trailer, postures, but doesn't lift his front leg. Hubby lifts it for him and Louie hops right in.
Attempt #5- Hubby shakes the grain from the hay manger area of the trailer while I attempt to load him myself. I walk him up to the trailer, he stops (and so do I since I can't walk in the other side with it frozen shut), then since there is nobody inside the trailer to pull his leadrope, I try to encourage him, but end up lifting his leg into the trailer- and he hops right in. Good boy.
Well, I know he will load if we lift his leg for him, but why won't he do it himself on a regular basis? Is it that the trailer is too high (about 1.5 feet off the ground)? Does he need a ramp? Has he just not figured out all the steps yet and needs more practice? Or is he thinking he's training us to do the work for him? Perhaps it is too slippery (we do have some slick footing right now)? He does not express any fear or unwillingness, he just hits a mental roadblock, and stands there calmly like a helpless little puppy until somebody helps him along. He hauls tied in a single stall and unloads like a champ.
Well, surely more practice is in order, but it is reassuring to know that he will at least load willingly as long as there are two people. My goal, even if I have to continue to lift his front foot in the trailer for him as long as he lives, is to be able to load and trailer him myself, without the need for assistance, as that is the biggest inconvenience I've found in all of horse ownership- needing someone else to go along just to help get the horse in the trailer. Well he shows good potential and I believe he will be a 1-person trailering horse at some point, but for now, practice makes better!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Then, since he didn't have a great winter coat, I put hubby's horse's old Big D that doesn't fit him anymore on Louie- it's a 74, and a bit tight, already scratched up a fair bit, but that thing has lasted quite a while- probably 2 months- and it fits him great. Well it just about met its demise this week, a huge flap hanging out of the back, lots of tears- I'm thinking about trying duct tape on them as I saw another horse at the stable with duct tape on his blanket. I wonder if it works? It would be a heck of a lot easier than trying to sew patches on. . . I think I'll give it a try.
Well, so now Louie has Social's old Taka on- got it half price, which was still expensive, but it doesn't fit my saddlebreds for crap- way too wide in the shoulders, meant for an old style wide QH build. But it isn't awful and will do the trick for now. I have a couple more blankets and liners that I got at Horseloverz (one of my fav's- 1200 Denier with fill winter blankets for $30- I got two) ready to jump in there as replacements as needed- I've been collecting inexpensive blankets that he can destroy that I won't feel too bad about losing. I'd rather have him wear the cheap ones than the Taka, but that's the warmest one I've got, and if it doesn't fit, it's not worth that much to me anyhow!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Well it was a big day for Louie and me! We met Sandy at the barn, loaded up and trailered over to C&D Stables, a nearby stable with an indoor arena. It is only about 5-10 miles away and they let me use their indoor arena for a small fee. So, it's worthwhile for me as we have no footing at home, which limits us to walking only, and it's close enough to trailer over for an hour or so. Well we got there, unloaded, and tacked up and headed into the arena which they had dragged just for us! There were no boarders there- I was rather suprised to have the arena to ourselves on such a beautiful Sunday morning. Maybe everybody was at church. . . anyhow we walked around a bit to check out the arena since this was Louie's first time in this new place. After just a lap or 2 around being led, Louie seemed to be settling in just fine and ready to get the show on the road. So we lunged for a little bit as I thought it would be wise to burn off a little excess energy (remember no work last week because of the cold) with him being in a new place and all- no need for catastrophe. He moved really nicely and I was quite relieved to see him go on good footing that is even and not slippery. After he took the edge off, I hopped up and asked him to walk off, which all went just perfectly- we didn't forget our brains at home today. :) We walked around a few laps to stretch and warm up, then trotted lightly a few more. He was doing great and this was Sandy's first time really seeing him ridden beyond a walk (and she now wants to own one of his brothers or sisters ;) hehe). We all 3 decided we were ready to move along in our training, as we had the walk and trot down pretty well after 15-20 rides or so that we have behind us. So, we decided to progress to the next step and try the canter. Okay, first time, we're in a new place, but Louie is so mellow and easy going and wasn't reacting to the new arena, he seems to be feeling great- I'm great, you're great- we're all great, and we had good footing to work with for the first time since I've owned him- so let's go for it! So after a thorough warm up, double checking that we still remember how to stop, go, and turn, we started off trotting to the left (most horses good direction). We got around the far end of the arena, trotting at a pretty good pace by now, so I sat, kissed, and used my right leg against his side and voila! "Here he comes- the Kentucky Derby winner down the home stretch!" Yay! We cantered! Granted it was only a few strides and it was faster than a bat out of hell, but we did it! GOOD BOY!!! So, let's continue on at a walk for a while and digest what just happened, then try it again- second time- right on cue, and slower this time- he's onto it. Now Louie is feeling pretty good- trotting with a lot of gusto and excited about what he gets to do. So we walk and trot some more, change directions and try it tracking to the right (his bad side- well, not bad, just not as good as the left). He's got the hang of it. We trot, then coming out of the corner, I kiss and use my leg and off we go! Good horse! Okay, let's go get the video camera before we run out of steam! Below are a few clips of him walking, trotting, and even cantering! Note at the end a little oops- we were all getting tired, but it was the second time I had cued him without the right reaction, so he needed to do it- I used my whip, somebody wasn't very happy about that- so I got a little buck. Thank you very much for that! But at least he cantered.
Well that was about enough fun for one day, so we walked to cool out, as this was a big ride for Louie! A long time in the saddle, and he was exhausted. We led him back out to the crossties where he just about fell asleep. We chatted with the stable owners for a bit, then it was time to load up and head back home. I made one quick check to make sure we got everything while Sandy sat with Louie by the trailer where he slept. Okay, I returned, so let's get in the trailer and go home. Well, Louie didn't really want to get in this time. He had been a good boy all the other times about getting in the trailer, but his stubborn side was coming out and he would have none of this trailer business. We got out the whip, and that just made things worse- the situation escalated from calm disinterest to eyes wide open refusal. Not good. The barn owners came over to help out, and we tried to persuade him in with hay- for some reason he was far more interested in the hay that the barn owner brought over than what was in his manger . . . go figure. Well we sat there and tried to settle everybody's nerves (mine were a little wired at this point), then finally broke down and did what we've had to do in the past- pick up one of his feet and set it in the trailer. As soon as he had that one foot in the trailer, up he went, no big deal. . . All that fuss for nothing! Somebody needs to learn how to pick up his own foot and put it in the trailer- I guess I know what we'll be working on at home. . . When we got home, we took our time getting out of the trailer, then Louie and I stood at the enterance of the trailer, which had all been so stressful just a few minutes prior. He stood calmly, making no big deal of it, as I petted him and told him what a good boy he is and how much I love him. Then off to the pasture. So today was a big day full of new challenges and accomplishments. It also brought things that need work and improvement (ie trailering, bitting). All in all, it was quite a day, and I couldn't be more proud of my baby.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Trotting around remembering that this is what happens with this contraption on- you can move around as much as you want, but IT STAYS!Chewing on the bitting rig- "I want this thing off!"
"Okay Mom, I'm done running around now, will you come and get me please?"
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Louie had expended a fair amount of energy chasing the dog around the arena and the sun was setting, so we had just a short lesson under saddle today, mostly consisting of leg yielding and lateral flexion. We worked on a pattern I call "squares." This is an easy exercise to do to improve transitions and precision as well as lateral movements, and can be modified to suit your needs. Make an imaginary square in the dirt- about 10-20 feet on each side. Start at one corner and walk to the next. Stop at the next corner and pivot on the forehand 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. Pause, then walk to the next corner and pivot on the haunches 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. You can see how this works. Just ride the straight parts, stop, pivot of choice, stop, and continue on to the next. Then repeat in the other direction. You can do the straight parts at any gait and in any length, and utilize which ever types of leg yielding turns you please- and no need to limit it to 90 degrees, you could do 270, or ride triangles or other shapes if you like. Remember though, to stay on the proper square, that when you will be pivoting on the forehand, stop with the forehand equal to the "corner." And when you will be pivoting on the haunches, stop with the hindquarters equal to the "corner"- thus you must ride a little beyond the boudary of your square. So this is a good exercise to mix in once in a while in between rail work. It improves a horse's attention, suppleness, precision, and patience. Louie tends to be a little dull on his right side, so this is a good way to work on listening to my right leg. Anyhow, after we finished with our squares, my fingers were starting to get really cold (it was 16 degrees out), so we did a little bit of trotting- speeding up and slowing down- and then a little bit of walking, working on our inside bend. Louie, being rather dull to my right leg, tends to drift off the rail during this exercise when tracking to the right, but today he did quite nicely and listened to my aids pretty equally. So there we ended our lesson and headed back to the barn for the night.
I recently bought a pair of Old Mac G2's for Louie by recommendation of many horse owners and my vet. They are protective boots that provide a surface between the hoof and the earth below it. They add cushion and traction for the horse, and can be used on all 4 feet (but I just have 2 for the fronts). I have to say, I was nervous about how well they would stay on, but I am SO impressed with them! Not only do they stay on, but Louie moves really comfortably in them on the uneven ground, he has more traction on the slipperly snow and ice than he does barefoot, and they are easy to use and ride in. I have used them 4 times now and have come to the conclusion that I love them, and I don't think I could go without them in the future. Why didn't I get some of these about 10 years ago? Anyhow, they're great and I'd highly recommend them. You can see in Louie's new video (below) how nicely he moves in them. Here is a link to their website if you are interested in ordering some for your favorite equine partner! http://www.easycareinc.com/our_boots/old_macs_G2/Old_Macs_G2.aspx
Saturday, January 10, 2009
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!