Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goodbye February!

I shall not miss thee! I think we must say every year how hard, cold, and long our winter has been. Last year it was just long and dragged out but at least mostly functional, this year it has been hard and cold and totally useless, but not necessarily long (yet). I haven't accomplished anything training-wise with Louie in the month of February, except getting better at trailering. To add injury to insult, we got 7 inches of snow on Thursday, and while I thought the footing might be okay since I saw a lot of exposed grass the day before it snowed- it's not. I tried to lunge Louie a little bit, just an easy trot and he nearly wiped out on a slippery spot. Dang! I am SOOOO frustrated with this crap! Well, anyhow, at least February will be gone tomorrow and soon things should start looking up as it is supposed to warm up next week.

So we worked on some basic leading principles and give/take type stuff, wormed with Panacur, and called it a day for Louie. (I'm doing kindof a silly worming schedule right now since I got off track last fall somehow- so I'm catching up with the Panacur, next month Ivermectin, then back onto our regularly scheduled 2 month rotating program). I also got some probiotic paste to give him after each worming, but I'm going to wait until at least a few days after the wormer goes through his system to boost up the GI flora again. So that's at the barn ready for when I need it.

It has been a little bit depressing the past few days, colder than Alaska again (talked to Lisa yesterday, she had 8 degrees on us!), and I'm just fed up with this winter. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I were taking Louie for sleigh rides like I did with Social last year (as in the photo), but I doubt it- it's even too icy for sleigh rides. I did work on a cool project today, but I want to bring March in on a good note, so I'll post it tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

FRESH and Spunky!

lol that sounds kinda bad. But I think I must have left my brain at work today instead of bringing it to the barn with me. After taking Louie for a 1.5 mile walk yesterday, I figured maybe he wouldn't be THAT fresh. . . ah ha was I wrong! It was beautiful again today and we're expecting 7 inches of snow tomorrow, so I decided today (this is the lack of brain part), to take Louie for a ride around the farm. I didn't have any place to lunge him like I usually do to get the bugs out before riding and take the edge off, and I hadn't ridden him in I think 3 weeks? lol- yeah, not the smartest choice I've ever made. Anyhow, I got on in the driveway (wide open space), stood for a second, then we walked off- then Louie got a bug up his butt, did a good head shake, started trotting sideways and started to get a little squirley- I anticipated a buck at any moment. So I stopped him, stood, then continued on at the walk without incident. Obviously too fresh and inexperienced to ride down the road, I headed out for the pasture that is sort-of melting and actually has some exposed land. Since the footing is not good enough for anything other than walking, that's what we did- walk and work on leg yields.

He actually settled in pretty well and behaved himself- until I went down into the front part of the pasture by the road. A car whizzed by us (from about 20-30 feet away on the road, other side of the trees and fence), and Louie got all wound up. Head up, trotting big in place, trying to canter in place- very nervous horsie and sure got my blood flowing. I actually shouted "No!" and whacked his butt with my whip as I spun him in a circle- this was my first instinct- okay I could have come up with something better if I had remembered to bring my brain along today. Then we stopped and stood and just soaked in the whole situation- my heart pounding, praying to GOD he didn't bolt and run back to the barn. Lucky for me he didn't, he was very level headed, and went on walking like nothing had happened.

So I intentionally stayed down by the end of the pasture and worked on our "squares" exercise, did one big square in each direction, and no more cars passed, so I didn't get to test him to see how he would do again. It was becoming fairly obvious by this point that Louie's little brain was about done- and had had its 15-20 minutes of work, even though he tried really hard to pay attention. He started pulling on the bit a little, chomping, and just acting in other ways mentally fried. So we walked back up to the barn, got off, and called it a day.

I really am thankful that he has got such a good head on his shoulders (to make up for my lack)- most half-broke 2 yr olds would have done something REALLY bad, but Louie- just little spooks- sort of in place. Enough to scare me a bit though, and I'm pretty certain had it not been dusk and rush hour and having not just had 3 weeks off of work, he would have acted differently in that situation. I think he needs to spend more time by the road to get desensitized to cars. And I need to spend more time using my brain and not hopping on an unbroke 2 yr old when he has been sitting around and not worked for 3 weeks, lol. Well here's to a happy ending for today and better luck with the brain part next time!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Beautiful Day

It was an absolutely beatiful 37 degrees here today! So of course I had to go out to see my baby. Unfortunately the footing is still tretcherous and probably will be for a few weeks yet. So we strapped on the Old Mac's and headed down the road in hand. We got passed by about a zillion cars, only one of which scared Louie- the one that zipped by us at 50 mph. I trotted him just a bit to see if he looked sore at all and he trotted really nice and evenly. :) When we got back, Louie had a snack, I re-stocked his Assurance Grass Balancer (even though he didn't really need it, he's only gone through 2 bags since I've had him), and spent a little time grooming him and working on tail stretches. He is getting to be pretty good about this- he always protests right at first, but settles down, and it seems like maybe his tail is getting more flexible. I do have an old used bustle that I hope to put on him this summer once I am able to work him more regularly- I think he needs it for the shape of his tail, it looks a little silly right now. He did finally start shedding today too- I got about 10 hairs off of him YAY! that's a good sign!

I ordered a height and weight tape for him when I put in my yearly wormer order last week, so when that gets here I plan to do some measuring. When I first got him, I measured him at 15.3hh, and about 975#. So we'll see if he's grown at all in 4 months- he seems maybe a little taller? Here he is standing in the crossties this weekend- cutie (nevermind the spots on the camera- I promise my horse isn't growing mold)! I need to get one of those health maintenance books to track this stuff and his vet/farrier info, but I suppose I can make a document in my computer too. Well we shall see when the tape gets here! Until then, I'm going to be doing the warm weather dance in hopes for some melting!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is Winter Over Yet?

We managed to get 4 inches of fresh snow last night- it sure made everything pretty again, but of course I know that it's just a layer to hide what is underneath- ice. I went out to spend some time with Louie today, and tried to lunge him in the pasture thinking the fresh snow would be enough of a cushion, but it wasn't. He went around maybe 3 times each way before I saw enough slipping and short stepping to call it quits- he was taking baby steps with his hind legs- well at least they were equally short. This weather sure is discouraging, the ground is hard and slippery and there's no way you can work a horse in it safely.

Sometimes I wonder what I'll get for a horse come spring time- the horses sure look different without their coats on, and they move a lot differently once the ground becomes useable. Oh for spring. . . It should only be another month before we start seeing some big changes around here, the snow will be melting, the earth will be muddy and saturated with melted snow, the days will be longer, and one of my most anticipated holidays will soon be upon us- March 8th. That's right, daylight savings begins! Hallelujah! And the first day of spring follows just behind that on March 20th. I can't wait! Louie hasn't even started shedding yet, while others here have been losing their coats for a month already. Oh when will this be over? At least someone seems to be enjoying it. ;)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just A Little Trim

The farrier came out to check Louie's feet since it has been 6 weeks since his last trim, in which we made some drastic changes to his hoof angles because of the unbalance he had that was causing him some pain. Aside from being just a hair long on that lateral edge of the front right foot again, his feet look just awesome. Pat really likes his feet too- good thick soles and strong hoof walls. So he just took about a centimeter off of that lateral hoof wall again and filed the rest of the hoof and frog to match it, trimmed the left frog so he wouldn't be unbalanced, and called it good. We don't have any footing to try to tell if it made any difference for his soreness, but I bet it did just like last time. Not sure why he is growing unevenly, but who knows, he's almost 3 and horses his age grow unevenly sometimes.

With school work piled up from the past 6 weeks, all due tomorrow, I didn't have time to spend the afternoon with Louie, so he just went back out with his buddies. He was rather mouthy and curious today. He really was interested in my farrier and my dog. I think I am going to have to cut back or cut out Louie's treats because he was really good for a while there with his mouth and now he's pushing it just a bit. I know, bad Mom for spoiling my boy! Hoping to get over to C&D to long line or ride this weekend. I haven't been able to actually long line him in many months because of the footing- I just can't keep up with him through the snow. And my is he feeling his oats- a little bundle of un-worked energy today!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Lonely Valentine

Boring weekend for Louie. Too busy and cold to work, so he's modeling his $30 blanket, which he is taking great care of. I need to get my leather punch out there to punch a hole in the front buckles to get them tighter. At least the fuzzy part is against his skin, and he's not getting rubs from it, the blanket is just too big- he's not quite a 78 yet. More like a 74. Louie did get to try his first ever pear, which he actually sort-of enjoyed- he ate about half of it, lol. I didn't think it was too tasty, so I can't blame him for not chowing it down whole.

Our arena is literally a skating rink right now- I thought about bringing my skates out, then I remembered that I'm rather accident-prone with things on me feet. So that's a no go.

Speaking of feet, the farrier is coming to re-check/trim Louie's feet later this week. I think he still needs a little of that lateral edge off of his front right- the wall is starting to flare a bit, and he's sore making tight right turns again, so I think we'll have to at least do that. I am really impressed with the quality of feet this horse grows. My last horse couldn't make it more than a month without chopping his feet to bits- Louie's got nice strong hoof walls. Ooh la la!
Here's Louie, in his house eating his supper on Valentine's Day. I thought this was kindof a cute photo of the hungry hungry horsie!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

My husband and I have had a long-standing disagreement about the versatility of a show horse. He feels that a horse ought to master one discipline and compete only in that class at a show. I feel that a horse, if it has the mind for it, ought to be versatile and be able to learn and practice at least, if not compete in, multiple disciplines. Now by this I don't mean dressage, barrel racing, 5-gaited, and reining all in one day. I mean a horse ought to be able to be worked or even shown in saddle seat, hunt seat, western pleasure, and driving, if they have the mind for it. And they ought to be proficient in ground work such as showmanship, and be able to do some basic dressage and trail riding. Granted they will probably learn one or maybe 2 disciplines at a time, not all at once, but that is my idea of what a versatile pleasure horse should be able to do- if they have the mind and physical ability to do it. It seems that much of the Saddlebred show world agrees with my husband, as many show horses go to shows to do 2 classes at most. This seems like a bit of a waste to me. However, if you have ever been to a pinto show or an all-breed open WSCA show, you will see how versatile horses can be. The question I have is- does a horse have to be a "master of none" if they can compete in more than one discipline? Is a horse really more successful if you concentrate all their energy into a single seat or disicpline? Does versatility really decrease the horse's ability at each individual discipline? Can we have a "jack of all trades master of many?" Of course, my horse is a "Master of Illusion," so we'll see what that means. ;)

Monday, February 9, 2009

February Rain

It is raining outside. And the highs are in the mid-30's. That equals cold weather for the horses. Today I stopped out at the barn after work to let the horses in and attempt to dry them off. I'm not sure if they were appreciative, but I think come midnight they'll be happy they got the chance to get out of the weather a little early, get a little extra hay, and get some lovin' from Mom.

I talked to the barn owner today and apparently Louie got himself cast against the round bale feeder this morning. Louie, being so calm and smart, looked at the barn owner with his puppy dog eyes and asked her to come and help him out of his predicament. He thought she might just pull him up to his feet with her brute strength. Ha. She grabbed a front leg and attempted to get him to roll, but he wasn't getting the concept. But after she let the leg down, he realized he could pull himself forward and push off of the feeder to get up. Ah ha! He got back up on his feet and instantly asked Lisa if she had any grapes for him. Well I'm glad that this whole escapade went well, and Lisa's reports were that he was quite calm and cool in this situation, and waited for help instead of struggling and hurting himself like most horses do. She too is very impressed with his brains. :)

Oh, and by the way, this baby picture of Louie has nothing to do with anything else from today's events, I just thought it was cute and warm on a cold wet day like today. Maybe this is how he got his name- Master of Illusion- from his amazing technicolor dream coat.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Make a Horse Grow

Louie and I went for a lovely walk (in-hand) down the road today. We suited up in the Old Mac's and headed out the driveway and onto the road. It was a nice relaxing walk, with Louie occasionally perking up big like a show horse to look at his surroundings- mail boxes, neighbors, driveways, etc. I made note of how much bigger Louie looked with his Old Mac's on- as he is probably an inch taller at the withers with those things on. So there you have it- in order to make your horse bigger, put thick shoes on him and bring him to a place with lots to look at. Hehe. On the way back we walked through the woods a little bit, through 1 foot deep snow- wow did I get a work out! Then back to the barn to eat his lunch/breakfast/dinner and get brushed before heading back out with his buddies. We nearly wiped out on the ice in the driveway, but going for walks down the road where there are cars to pass us is great desensitization for Louie. We need a few more of these in-hand walks before I attempt any rides down the road. Just a little scary with the blacktop and all. :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Testing the Waters

Well we trailered Louie over to C&D again today to ride. It was worming day for the horses, so they got the nasty "apple flavored" Eqimax, which I think smells more like baby poop (yeah, the horses don't like it much either, but it's good stuff). I'm not sure if there are recommendations on when to worm vs. work a horse, but I figured it was at least a good half hour before any work would be taking place, and we took our time once we got there too, just in case. So after getting that wonderful palate cleanser, it was time to head over to ride. This time, when I loaded Louie up at the barn he just walked right into the tralier without assistance! Wow! I was super impressed! Yay!!! Once we were at the barn, we did our usual pre-ride routine plus a few tail stretches. I lunged him a few minutes to warm up and get the ants out of his pants- he was doing quite a bit of head tossing and goofing off on the lunge line so I started using my whip against my leg (didn't have a lunge whip with me so I improvised). We worked on this lesson about a month ago, but apparently Louie thought he'd test me to see if I'd still get mad about his games. Well the whip seemed to do the trick and Louie got the message- but unfortunately so did my leg. ouch!

We got on and did a long, slow warm up with lots of leg yielding and backing and he did just great. A little heavy in the bridle on these yet, but we need more regular work. There was one other horse in the ring with us, and Louie did just awesome with the other horse there- hardly paid any attention to him. Of course the little bit of light that was creeping in under the arena door at the far end was rather scary- we spent a lot of time walking by it and looking at it, and even by the end of the ride he was still scooting past that spot. We then worked on some walk-trot-walk transitions since Louie tends to be a little on the lazy side with these and would rather just meander around the arena, not expecting any cue to go faster (okay- yes this is a WONDERFUL thing, I'm just not used to it). This all went great.

A few more leg yields, then it was time to attempt that canter again. He did it beautifully on the second try- and went around about a lap and a half on the left lead. Then after a little rest I asked him for it again and he was not real happy about that. He let out a good buck/kick (like in his video), so I pushed him forward and try again, another kick, so I got up some real good speed, held his head up and tried once more and he finally cantered without issue. Yay- good boy! I was suprised that he protested that much, but he didn't do it until I put both legs on him to try to encourage him into the canter- I guess one leg is all he likes, lol. But he did it willingly after all that trying, so we walked a while and finished up with one last canter to the right (well he counter-cantered, but it is better than bucking!) which went without issue- of course it took a couple of tries, but no bucks at least.

Cantering seems to be really a lot of work for Louie at this stage (and yes, I'm sure it is since I am asking a lot of him for only cantering/riding once a week right now!). He seemed pretty tired (but of course after you do one lap at the trot he acts rather lazy, so it's tough to differentiate), until another boarder came in with a young horse that flipped out when coming through the gate- Louie perked right up and fed off of that nervous energy just a bit, but he kept his composure and his brain, so I was impressed with how he handled this test. We did one long and low trot, then some more walking to cool out, and called it a day.

Back to the crossties to untack and do some grooming- Louie is just like Social and LOVES having his face rubbed with a towel after he works. He had a lot of itchy spots on his neck too where he got sweaty, and he just loves a good rub-down. I dressed him in a cooler and headed back out to the trailer to go home. This time he went in by himself again, but not without a little bit of attitude- aka pawing. He is getting the lifting his own leg concept, but this time he got in with the front feet, then pawed, then backed out. Hubby opened the manger door since it was closed, and I think it usually helps for a horse to have a window by his face to walk into rather than just an enclosed space (not very inviting). So once that was opened, Louie got right in. He is getting a LOT better with the trailering- today was really hopeful that I will be able to trailer him myself pretty soon! Yay!

Once back at the barn, and cooled out, I put Louie in his stall to eat a little snack before going back outside. A good friend of mine just had to give her horse away, so she gave me a bunch of left over hay and grain that she didn't need- I shouldn't have any problem using it up! Thanks Sarah! Louie appreciates the extra yummy snacks! :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

High Heel Shoes

It's not the best idea to go to the barn in high heel shoes, dress pants and a pea coat. You just can't do a whole lot at a horse barn in that type of clothing. Unfortunately, when it's a beautiful day and you decide the barn is sort of on your way home from work (meaning, only about 5 miles in the opposite direction lol), you just can't help it. Well, that's not to say that the weather was great anyhow- it's still frozen and icy so I can't do anything anyhow. So I just brought Louie in to groom him, say hi, and work on the squaring up/parking out. He is keeping his new blanket on (put one of the cheapies on him to save the heavy Taka) and he hasn't put any holes in it yet, though he did break the snap on one of the leg straps (hence the cheap blanket! I guess you can't have everything haha). I also need to find a way to punch another hole in the chest straps to get the neck a bit tighter- the wither fleece is actually sitting behind the withers right now. Not rubbing or anything though. The Taka did leave him with a bunch of hair rubbed off of his shoulders- poor guy, that happened to Social too. It grows back though.

We tried parking out once or twice and he is really getting it- I just say the word and he pretty much goes for it. Now getting him to stand with his front feet together on his own is a bit of its own challenge, but I think once I find a slope to practice on and have him really carrying his weight over his front feet, he'll get it figured out. I know he will- he's a smarty pants. :)

We worked on a few tail stretches to help with our crupper sensitivity and those went really well too. He stood much better than he has previously for this routine. He's got some gorgeous flaxen in his tail that isn't hardly even visible with it being so short. Grow tail GROW!

After the stretches, we worked on our ears. Louie is pretty sensitive in his ears from his aural plaques. So, we've been slowly working on touching the ears, and he is beginning to realize that it's not always the worst thing in the world. Slowly but surely, today I was even able to touch the insides a little bit! I have no idea how she clipped his ears without a twitch or sedation. . . Perhaps she used a team of helpers and a couple of ladders, haha. Louie gave me some kisses when I was done pestering him. He likes to stick his nose out for kisses, but today he did that, then started moving his upper lip and I was thinking- no Louie, I don't want THAT kind of kiss. . . lol He's such a cutie, I can't resist kissing that white nose!

A side note on worming- since we've been reading a lot about worming, etc lately, I've been thinking it is due sometime soon here, but of course I wrote the worming schedule on my OLD calendar, that hubby threw away before I got a chance to transfer everything, so that doesn't do me much good now does it- I can't remember if it is due this month or next. I think I'm going to go ahead and do it this month as Louie looks like he could use it now anyhow. I'm considering pro-biotics too, especially after worming. The local feedmill is a Fast Track dealer, perhaps I'll have to give that a try- I've heard great things about it and hubby's TWH has had good sucess on it too.

Oh I can't wait for the weather to warm up and the snow and ice to go away! Major cabin fever!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener

Or should I say the snow is always whiter? Haha. Well today was another beautiful day, a perfect day to go see my favorite Saddlebred. The ground is hard and icy now from the thaw we had yesterday, so the footing is even worse than usual, but there were lots of little tidbits to work on today. Ahhhh for an indoor arena. . . unfortunately, I have to tough it out a few more months until I have a job secured.

Anyhow, so I brought Louie in to his stall for a snack, since I'm sure was hungry after his big workout yesterday. I spent a lot of time grooming him, brushing, conditioning his mane, going over his back and haunches with my massager, and other general up-keep. It was quite clear that Louie enjoyed this spa treatment (the 5th leg is a dead giveaway). So after he had just about finished his food, I brought the clippers out to take down the mohawk. He was a little startled by them, but this was probably the 3rd time I've clipped him since I got him (just bridlepath, muzzle and eyes). He is REALLY touchy about his ears, as he has aural plaques, so I am avoiding them with the clippers, but trying to gently desensitize him to having his ears touched. Louie tried to hide in the corner of his stall, but the clippers found him and he did just fine with it. I put a different blanket on him (one of my $30 winter blankets with 1200D ripstop exterior! heck of a deal), because the Weatherbeeta is too wide for him (rubbing his shoulders), and is too heavy for the nice weather we are having.

After this I walked him outside onto the driveway (a bit slippery, but not bad), and practiced some basic handling stuff and parking out. I was amazed at how well he did with the parking today! I just said "feet" and he pretty much did it- he's starting to really understand the word. Yay! So the vocal cue plus the whip on the elbow as needed is working really nicely for him. We worked on some showmanship, squaring up, backing, walking, and pivoting (pull and push turns) from both sides. He is doing great with this stuff, very light and easy to handle. The biggest obstacle here is his head- he likes to do the rubberneck sometimes and I have to remind him to keep his head straight forward, as that has a big impact on the straightness of our lines. He also once or twice almost hit me in the head with his head when I was on his right- he was thinking I was supposed to be on his left. hmmmm, more work needed, but I think he got the message. Practicing showmanship with a whip is a good thing!

Well all in all, today was a decent training day for Louie- he did well with the clippers, and is getting the parking out much better, and the showmanship is going smoothly as well. Now if I had an indoor arena we'd be set. Oh well, I'm off to reorganize all of my horse crap (boxes and boxes and boxes)- lots of sorting and re-boxing to figure out what I need and what I don't. Cheers!