Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stimulation!

Today my husband and I trailered Louie over to the nearby stable to ride again. It is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day, they said it was supposed to get up to the mid-30's, but my computer is telling me 46! Woah!! Sunny, snow is melting- LOVING it! I rode without gloves or a coat. Apparently some of the boarders at this barn also thought it was a nice day to ride because Louie got his first experience riding with other horses today!

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

Tying Around

Well today was my big interview, so after recovering from that, I went out to see Louie for some stress relief. It was too cold to work him and we have no footing, so we did another bitting session, this time standing still for the most part. We started by tying around to each side. First I tied him around to the left, with probably a foot between his mouth and the surcingle. I let him wear that for a minute or two and it seemed fairly obvious that he had not encountered this type of bitting before as he fought with it. At first when I checked him to the side he started doing circles like they all do, then he started trying to back away from the pressure, and after about a minute he figured out to just stand and give with his neck. When he stood for a good bit of time (maybe 30 seconds), I released him, let him relax a while, then checked him to the right. Much to my suprise he was tighter to the left than the right, or at least he protested to the left more than the right. He stood very nicely and figured it out quickly to the right, so after I released that side, I checked him back to the left one more time for a little extra stretch on that side. He only spent about 4-5 minutes total being checked to a side, but this will be able to be increased if needed in the future, especially should he develop a one-sided dominance or tightness. After the tying around, I checked him straight back and up with the sidecheck. He produced a beautiful headset, more that of a hunter than a saddle seat horse, but I think with some work and as he grows this may change.

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

Gotta Pay the Bills

Well this is rather un-related to my baby Louie other than the fact that it relates to the source for paying his bills. I am quite nervous- I have an interview on Thursday for a Physician Assistant position with a family practice clinic near my house. I will graduate PA school in May, so I am just starting this interview process. This position was one that I was referred to by one of my emergency medicine preceptors, and I am actually spending time in this clinic currently as the final clinical phase of my training. Well, this could quite possibly be the biggest interview of my life aside from my PA school interviews, and I'm starting to fret just a bit. I have prepared a list of questions to ask of them, but am not certain what they will be asking me, other than what I like to do in medicine. I don't believe this is going to be a "standard" job interview, as there has already been quite a bit of work done (months, and many of my precepting physicians talking to the heads of the cooporation on my behalf- without my even knowing it- wow, what a great group!) to get me to this point- this is like the final thing, they've heard about me from my preceptors, have worked with me a little bit, have seen my resume, and now they get to put me on the spot to decide whether or not they want to hire me. Wow, that's some pressure. Well all the docs at this clinic are SOOOO nice and I just found out that the lead doc actually was really big into hunter/jumpers and wants to get back into it. I am going to refer her to some H/J stables in the area, but I think that is just awesome that we have that in common as well. :) Wish me luck! And Louie- bear with me over the next couple of days, I will come to see you after my interview when my nerves have settled and tell you all about it. :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trailering Practice

Today was a very important lesson and practice for Louie- trailering. I convinced my crabby husband to come out in the frigid temps and help me and Louie practice loading into the horse trailer. So, equipped with a bucket and grain and the horse trailer, in which we could only get one back door open on because the other side was frozen shut, we set out to overcome this obstacle.

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

Blankets and Ribbons

Well we're going through another Arctic Blast this weekend- wind chills around 30 below today, so no work for Louie- not sure whether he likes his "snow days" or not. Anyhow, yesterday I went out to put a different blanket on him in preparation for this cold spell as well as a timely replacement of a nearing disaster of his blue/green Big D. He personally has been treating his blankets quite nicely, but he is allowing his pasture buddies to shred the hind-quarters for him. He started out with a cheap, already near-death sheet and liner that my old horse ripped up last year. I didn't want to invest in anything nice for him as a trial to see how he did. He destroyed that in a couple weeks. Then he wore a heavy canvas duck sheet over that beat up liner. Killed that one in a couple more weeks. (that canvas sheet only cost about $20, so no big loss there).

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!


So, since I couldn't get out to the barn to work Louie today, I thought I'd catch up on a project that I left sit from about 2 months ago (I'm terrible like that- still have a drawing to finish). I like to make pre-fabricated saddle seat ribbons (braids) that I can just clip on before we go in the ring. They work quite nicely, I save a ton of ribbon as I can re-use them many many times, they save time, and you don't have to worry about straightening out the mane afterwards if you're going to try to show western later in the day. What a great deal- they look nice, save time and money- why not?! I love them, so I made a bunch. I just use nice cloth ribbon and tie them onto teeny tiny alligator clips. Then, the part that I neglected to do two months ago when I started this project, I use a needle and thread to tie the ends together (otherwise one end of the knot sticks off by itself and looks funny) and hold the clip in place. So, I have several choices now. I made a couple of plain red (so I can use a forelock one in addition if I want to), one red and black, one red, white, and black, and one maroon and white. I got this maroon ribbon from World Champion that I don't care for- and unfortunately I got a huge roll that I won't be using. Well I made a few ribbons with the maroon and just wasn't happy with them, then I made this one maroon and white. Well, I just gave up on it because the red is such better ribbon for this job- you can see it didn't braid as nicely as the red. Unfortunately I couldn't find any nice maroon cloth ribbon in the width that I need at the craft store. I'll check back later, I'm sure somebody must have some- as I think Louie will probably look nicest in maroon rather than dark red. Well who knows, he might decide to do hunt seat by the time this is all said and done, but I know I can show him in my open shows in saddle seat any way he wants to look, as pretty much anything goes there (okay, the Arab who carries her poll level with her withers wins all the time- blah!)! ;) As for the colors- I don't see a lot of mixed color braiding done in ASB shows, but it's really common in my open shows, so I thought it would be fun to spice it up a little! I like the red and black one a lot- I think it would look great if Louie decides he wants to be a park horse. ;)

Edited to add photos of the ribbons in action: These are my old braids, made with slightly different ribbon that was actually wired. Shown here on two different horses in the same day! Oh how easy was that?! Top is my old ASB Social Cut, bottom is hubby's TWH "Cash."


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parking My Frustrations

Teaching a horse to park out nicely seems to be a bigger hurdle for me than it really should be. I think this is partly because I usually don't have anyone to help me from the ground to get the transition from the ground to the saddle, and probably partly because I don't have the most patience with this exercise. So, I have worked on this once or twice for about 2 minutes total with Louie up till now. He hasn't quite got it figured out yet. So today, since I didn't get out to the barn until after sunset, I figured I would bring him in, groom and spend some time "bonding," then maybe work on parking out from the ground since I had those left over grapes. Well perhaps the grapes were the problem, but I found myself fighting off his searching muzzle more than getting anything accomplished with his feet. I am glad that I finally found something that Louie likes as treats, but now I think it's time for them to be out of the barn, haha. So I am teaching him to park by rocking his withers from the ground to shift his weight between his front feet (using my feet to guide his). Well, it is slowly coming along, but I think I have a problem with patience with this exercise (meaning, it seems to take a lot longer to grasp this concept than some of the other things I have taught him). Perhaps it is a larger amount of information to process and therefore takes longer to learn. Perhaps I would see faster results if I switch my method to using a whip or tapping on the elbow. Whatever the issue, I have been a little bit frustrated and tired over teaching this concept, which is silly since it is so simple. He is onto the idea, and I swear I saw the light bulb switch on today for a second, then a minute later it was definately off. Young horses can be like this, one step forward- two steps back, at times, and I think I will just have to get up the motivation to work on parking out more regularly and move it up on the "importance" scale of things to work on.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grapes

Well today I paid a friendly visit to Louie on my way home from work. I stopped by to say hi and give him some pets for what a good boy he was yesterday, and to try to reconcile any hard feelings about the trailering issues. He didn't seem bothered at all and was his usual happy-go-lucky self when I went to visit him out in the paddock. I brought some left over red grapes from my lunch that I didn't finish and thought I'd see if Louie liked them. Much to my suprise he LOVED them and followed me all around the pasture to get more! I don't think grapes are toxic to horses, but I cut him off at about a dozen just incase. It's not the most common treat I hear of horses liking, but what else can you do when your horse doesn't like apples, carrots, peppermints, or store-bought horse treats?! I was happy to see that he actually liked something. And when he likes something- watch out! He's going to be coming back for more. I found this out soon enough as he was scrounging around begging for more. Well, bad Mom for giving my mouthy 3-yr-old treats by hand. . . But I did insist upon a few boundaries. He needed to at least give me space while I got another grape out for him to eat. ;) haha Well now I have ammo for teaching him to bow if I decide to keep working on that. And as much as I am SO tempted to spoil him rotten, I know I shouldn't, so I guess it's a good thing he's picky about treats so it will be harder to keep them around, and thus harder for me to spoil him too much. ;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big Day! With video!

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.

video

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

A bitting rig refresher

It has been a while since Louie has been in a bitting rig. Probably a month to be quite honest, which is far too long to go without this important training tool. And with this cold snap that we had, we haven't been doing much of anything, so I thought today we would ease back into it with a visit from our good friend the bitting rig. So we warmed up with a quick lunge line lesson without actually connecting the bridle to the surcingle at all. Lessons learned: don't chew on the line- your gums might get hurt; whip = move away from it and no funny business or you're going to get socked with it; and finally "whoa"= stop, and if you don't, the chain on your halter is going to come down hard on your nose, which also hurts. We had been experiencing a bit of rebellion, mostly free lunging- with bucking and head tossing whenever the whip came out, and failure to yield to my voice commands to SLOW DOWN. Still having that when free lunging, but no funny business on the lunge line anymore. So after that brief lesson, I hooked up the rig to the bridle and Louie hung around the arena thinking about his predicament while I snapped a few photos.
Standing quietly exactly where he was left.

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?"
After his initial reminder, I hooked him onto the lunge line again and tried some basic lunging in smallish circles, repeating his whip and woah lessons. He did wonderfully. The footing really sucked though, so the arena is going to be out of comission very soon here. Finally, after about 15 minutes in the bitting rig, we un-hooked and went inside to take the tack off.
Louie standing in his Old Mac's waiting for his winter blankie.
Having a sip from the water tank before heading back out to the hay with his buddies. And that's the end of the day for today. Tomorrow surely will be more exciting, as Sandy is supposed to come out to watch us ride.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hang in there buddy!

High of -5 today. My co-workers are coming to work in giant winter boots like you've never seen, good to 100 below and tested in the Arctic Circle. You know it's cold when that happens. Only one or two more days of frigid temps (supposedly). This is the kind of weather where you go out to get the mail and your nose hairs freeze haha. You know, I got an email from my friend in Alaska today saying it was +36 and raining there today, and for those of us in Minnesota to stay warm. Ha! What is wrong with this picture? This is the same friend I got camping and outdoor activities photos from in July- she was wearing a winter coat- and I'm pretty sure Alaska is in the same hemisphere as Minnesota. I don't know but I sure hope Louie is staying warm and keeping his blankies on. I started back to work in the ER on Monday so I'm exhausted. . . Hopefully Friday or the weekend will be warm enough to go spend some good quality time with my baby. You know this cold winter weather sure kills the motivation- we're counting down the days till spring. Daylight savings should actually be a spring holiday in my opinion. Because after that, it is light out well into the evening and one can actually DO something after work. It is one of my most-anticipated days of the year. Well, nothing new in the horse world other than I got some pads for Louie's Old Mac's and I still love them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Brr cold freezing!

Brrrr! It's a chilly one out there. Highs for the next few days are supposed to be right around 0 degrees, lows down to -20, with snow and wind. So no work for Louie over the next few days- he and I will both be hibernating and trying to stay warm. Today I stopped at the barn on the way home from work to put another blanket on him. When I got there all of the horses were standing by the gait hoping to come into their stalls and out of the wind and snow. They're a bunch of big babies, but can you blame them? I was shivering too! So Louie got another heavy winter blanket stacked on top of his Big D- poor horse has about 30 pounds of blankets on him- but that's what happens when it gets cold and you don't have a good winter coat. Hopefully a) the blankets don't rub him too much, and b) he doesn't let his buddies destroy them out in the pasture! Even our other horse Cash, who grows such a huge thick black winter coat it is hard to tell his head from his butt, got a blankie put on tonight. Snuggle up boys, it's gonna be a cold few days!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Squares

Today was a riding lesson that really turned into more of a "joining up" refresher lesson. After tacking up, I was planning to warm up in the arena then move out to the big pasture to do some trotting work (more space out there). Well, Louie had a different plan in mind for today. I did as I usually do, brought him into the arena and let him loose with his saddle and bridle on to run around and get any excess "spunk" out. Well he thought it was kindof fun that Stoli, one of the barn dogs, was running around the outside of the ring playing with him (as seen on his most recent video)- and didn't come into the middle to me and stop, waiting for me to hop on, like usual. When he did stop, he stopped with his butt to the middle of the ring, totally disregarding my presence. So, being the "alpha horse," I moved him off with my whip and continued this process of chasing him off until he stopped and turned towards me. This didn't take long, as he hadn't forgotten this basic lesson that was one of his first with me. He stopped and looked at me, and waited patiently for me to approach. Often he walks up to me, but he was feeling a little bummed that he didn't get to continue chasing the dog, so he just waited. When I got up to him, after praising him for doing the right thing, I tested what he had learned and took a couple steps sideways toward his haunches, maintaining my posture towards his head. As expected, he moved his haunches away to face me. Good boy. So now it's time to ride.

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.

Old Macs


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

We Have Video!

Enjoy Louie's new video- free lunging through the snow in his new protective boots.

video

Up 'til Now

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!

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my blog! Meet my horse Ro & Me's Master of Illusion or "Louie" as we call him. He is a 3-year-old American Saddlebred gelding sired by Trust Fund and out of Everything in Return by Royal Return. Louie was an exciting new addition to the family in October of 2008 and shows tons of potential both in the show ring and out. His friendly personality, curiosity and remarkable intelligence are characteristic of his breed. This blog will follow Louie through his daily life and training as he learns what it means to be a Saddlebred pleasure horse.