Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Packing

Well the date is fast approaching (tomorrow!)- the day that Louie and Cash will move to their new home at Mel-o-Dee Stables. I am very excited and I think the horses will like it too once we get there. They have a much bigger facility, lots of horses, and a lot more going on. I will give a full tour of the barn once we're moved in.

But for now, I've been busy hauling "stuff" out of the barn and into the trailer and my car while Louie eats his lunch. Despite moving most of my stuff out yesterday, a lot of stuff still remains to be moved- western saddle, bitting rig, work harness, long lines, Cash's bridle, grooming box, treats, fans, jolly balls, and of course horses. The plan is to clean out the rest of the "stuff" today and move the horses tomorrow mid-day.

Of course when you move to a new stable there are always things to consider that are different than your current set-up. The stalls needed a little "fixing-uping," and Bjorn helped me build a shelf to install on the wall of Louie's stall (the stalls don't have any shelves there, and I'm at a loss without a place to put things like my water bottle, lol). I will include pictures of that once I get it installed. The tack rooms are also a different set up. Right now we have a small communal tack room, but at Mel-o-Dee, they have large tack rooms with tack lockers. I have already reserved the tack locker that I had (and altered to my liking) the last time I was at this stable with Social. Each of their tack lockers are about 4' high by 2.5-3' wide, 3' deep, with a wooden board for a saddle rack in the middle. Well, when I was there last time, I found that I did not have enough space for my saddle, harness, and bitting rig, so I added in a few pieces of wood creating 2 saddle racks stacked on top of each other. My cutback saddle is flat enough to fit on the top easily, and the harness and bitting rigs can easily fit below on the pre-existing saddle rack. I think probably the locker remained open after I left because most people could not fit their western saddles or their deep-seated dressage saddles in the locker after my alterations. Well, it's all good for me- I've got a lock on it and ready to move into!

Speaking of tack lockers, I was bored over the weekend and did a little searching for a potential project to try to create (I think I was born to be a creator, I love making things, projects, etc). A few people at the farm have made their own lockers, utilizing all the space above the standard lockers by building ther own taller tack lockers. Well, I found a design that I just love, one that utilizes the storage space very well. It is, perhaps, a little bigger than I could realistically make, but it is a great starting block, packed with good ideas. Note the shelf on top for saddle pads, blankets/sheets, etc. Hangers on the wall for spare bits, lots of hooks on the door for bridles, etc. And they're tall enough that I could leave my martingales as I put them on instead of trying to loop them up to fit in the smaller box. And of course, storage organizer for miscellaneous supplies (Lord knows I've got enough of those!) There is also space below for more storage, grooming box, etc. This is a wonderful design, and with a little tweaking, I think I could probably make something similar that would fit my needs perfectly.
Anyhow, back to packing. . . I've got to run up to the feed store today too to get a new salt block holder for Cash, and hopefully start "installing" the fittings into the horses' new stalls. Cheers!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Slowly but Surely

Today was a "fun/start over/make-up/basics" day. After working Cash (hubby's walking horse), Louie and I, along with Cash and Bjorn went for a hand-walk down the driveway. I wanted Louie to try warming up slowly with a bit of hand walking before doing any faster work, to see if this would help with his sore leg, which I am assuming is a pulled muscle/tendonitis type condition. After walking to loosen up with lots of pets and praises, I stretched Louie's hind leg, put a couple of light chains on him, and headed out to the arena for some fun and free lunging, and a change of scenery from his stall. I brought all of the fun "non-scarey" toys, plastic bags, milk jug with rocks in it, etc.

Louie trotted and cantered just fine, and I didn't notice any lameness, though it usually becomes less and less evident as he gains speed. Bjorn noted that Louie didn't really care to free lunge tracking to the right. That is definately true, going to the left has always been his prefered/dominant direction, and it still is.

We were talking to our trainer/instructor Judy Jensen a little bit yesterday at Tanbark horse show, and she recommended a method to try when we get back into working on the canter again- she suggested trotting a circle to the right, posting on the incorrect diagonal, and then cueing as I post, just lifting him up into the canter from there. I will have to try that when we get back to working on that.

For now, we're going to relax, re-group, and work on the small stuff with no real plan in mind. . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Plan Stinks

So thinks Louie. And me. And it's my fault, it was a bad plan to start with and I should have recognised that. I think we're going to scratch the show tomorrow- it won't do either of us any good to bring him there and have a potentially bad experience, as much as I want to go and show under a light breed-loving judge at a light breed-friendly saddle club. . . I want to keep the show ring a happy place as it is currently. I have been thinking a lot about this cantering situation and how seemingly frustrated Louie has been acting the past few days. I'm not sure if it is because I'm pushing him a little harder than he's used to or if it's too hot, or if his days and nights are messed up (all week the horses have been on a reverse pasture schedule since it has been so hot during the day), or what. He has not been looking forward to nor enjoying his work the past few days. He backs up in the crossties when I bring the tack to him, doesn't open up his mouth and reach for the bit like he usually does so eagerly, and has had a sourpuss expression on his face. So I think I'm best off scaling back and going back to the basics with him. Someday Louie will need to learn to be pushed a little bit and accept the new challenge, but we can save that for another time. For the meanwhile, we need to "enjoy the ride" and we'll get there when we get there. Saddlebreds, I have learned, are very emotional and tend to be a little on the fragile side, so it is very important for them to be happy and enjoy their job, or it shows.

Today I went to work him, still planning to go to the show. We did our usual bitting rig lunge routine for about 5 minutes, he got is right lead, lots of praising, etc, then went in to get saddled as we have been. See now, if I were smart, I would have stopped after the bitting rig the past 2 days. But I'm not- so I saddled up and hopped on. Today, however, I decided I really didn't want to fight, or get mad, or give Louie much of an opportunity to disappoint me, so we only walked and trotted. NO cantering. Mister "go mo' faster" needs to get back to the game plan of trotting at my speed, and we did a decent job of this today working on walk/trot/halt transitions and speeding up/slowing down at both gaits. Throw in a few serpentines and reverses and that is a pretty nice workout. Well, while that workout would have been fabulous any other time, today Louie wasn't so happy with it. He of course was mad at me for working him so hard the past few days, concentrating and pushing so hard for this show, and he was showing me what he thought of it- by cocking his head to the side, chewing/pulling/grinding the bit, and not being respectful in general. I can't blame him, but at least he didn't do anything stupid or dangerous.

So after just a few minutes in the arena I could see he wasn't happy, so we headed out to pasture for a change of scenery and to relax a little bit. He hasn't worked out there for probably a month since the grass is so long. We walked around, and while he seemed brighter, that eventually disappeared when I asked him to trot 2 laps around the pasture. Still not happy, I decided, okay, we're going to go for a walk down the road, because I REALLY want to end on a good, happy note. So we headed down the road for a nice little walk (about 3-4 blocks) on a beautiful day and Louie seemed to brighten up a bit more. Lots of pets and praising and telling him how good he was and reassuring him that everything is going to be okay between us, and he seemed a little better by the time we got home. When we got home, I gave him lots of pets, told him how much I loved him and showed it with a hug, a few kisses, a few treats, a little massage, hose bath, lunch by the trailer, more lunch and fresh cold water in his nicely cleaned out stall. . . man, whether he knows it or not, he is living the life. ..

Since that trail ride, we're starting fresh. New plan- spending some fun time together with shorter, more varied workouts that will hopefully brighten and refresh his attitude. I do believe that most people go through rough patches with their horses, and we just had one in March/April, but we recovered from that pretty well, now it's time to bounce back again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Still Working this Rocky Road

By "rocky," of course I do not mean solidified masses of minerals, I mean emotional turmoil and challenge.

This whole right lead cantering thing has given both Louie and me a bit of strife. Some days he gets it, some days he doesn't, some days he gets it after much frustration, some days it leads to a fight. It has maybe gotten slightly better since his chiro adjustment a couple weeks ago, but the issue still exists and I don't know how to interperet it- as a physical problem or as a mental hoop Louie is making me jump through. While he has seemed a little tight/short on his left hind on and off when warming up for about the past 2 months, this very slight lameness disappears after warming up, and is not there under saddle. Additionally there are absolutely NO physical signs of what might be causing it- malingering has entered my mind lol. There was never an obvious injury, though Louie does play REALLY hard with his buddies in the pasture, and could have possibly done something to hurt himself on the stake out at the field trail. So, if he has pain in his left hind, of course that would make taking the right lead difficult, but what could it be? But that wouldn't explain why he has had a hard time with his right lead for 6 months. . . Anyhow, I gave him a gram of bute to see if that improves it at all tomorrow, though I doubt it will have any effect.

And of course I also don't really know how to approach this problem- he is a young horse, but with all of the abilities he has showed me, he is plenty ready to be cantering on both leads. I don't want to push him too hard so that he becomes spiteful or unhappy, yet it is hard to know whether or not he is just pushing my buttons and hoping for a "chok up another win for horsie" type scenario.

Yesterday I lunged him prior to riding and he, being a very smart horse, anticipated the canter from the moment I first asked for it. (I HATE anticipation, but it's hard to avoid when we're actively working on something like this). It was about all I could do to get him to trot on the lunge after that first canter. And to make things more difficult, all he wanted to do was canter on his left lead. He gets his head turned in so hard to the inside that it throws his hindquarter out and he picks up his left lead without even questioning it. This is why I have been working him in the bitting rig for picking up the right lead- it keeps him somewhat restrained so he can't throw his hips out quite as easily, and he picks up his right lead fairly easily in it. So after getting into a little scuttle on the lunge line over trotting vs cantering, we did a short ride. He did okay while riding, but has adopted Q-man's motto of "Go mo' faster." He is trotting fast, cantering fast, and I have to work rather hard to keep him at my pace. He had a hard time getting the right lead yesterday under saddle and thus the struggle continues. We ended on a good note with lots of praise after finally getting the lead.

Today- I used my brains and lunged him in the bitting rig to warm up. He took his right lead perfectly the first time I asked for it, so we quit and went in to get saddled. Today, while he got his right lead more than yesterday, he went back to his "let's kick at the Leah's leg because I don't like it on my side" routine- once while I cued him, and once after he already got into the right lead well, but I had to put an inside leg on him as he was drifting toward the middle of the ring. For that, he got himself a little talking to- from my kicking legs and a couple smacks on the butt- that is NOT cool, and he hadn't tried that for many many months. He learned his lesson and the next time I asked him, he took his right lead, stayed on the rail, no funny business. So we stopped there for the day.

I don't know if this is normal for young horses to try things and protest with these hurdles or if there is something wrong here, but I HATE getting into fights- I need to not take it so personally, but it is really hard. I've come to this issue with cantering on the right lead a few times over the past 6 months, and I usually give up, work on something else for a while, and re-visit it later. I must admit, we have made a drastic improvement lunging in the bitting rig with this issue, but under saddle we still aren't getting it. Am I to continue with avoiding this issue or is it time to face it? Perhaps I should continue to work on it through different avenues that aren't so confrontational- bitting rig, long lines, etc, and save the saddle work until he is cantering consistently in these other exercises. . .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Working Through It

This morning Sandy came out to work with me and Louie, as we prepare for our upcoming show on Saturday. They have pleasure type classes in all divisions, which makes me really happy, as I don't have to worry about ruining any QH riders' classes lol. These pleasure type classes are specifically meant for light breeds, and you can show in either hunt or saddle seat in the english classes. The judge is also a pinto Saddlebred owner and lover. So I am very excited to go to this show and support it- I wish we had more like it! It will surely be a long and hot day, but this is summer in Minnesota.


I think I am going to show Louie in hunt style, as it will just be simpler to prepare for than trying to get him going in a pelham and have a half-effort saddle seat turnout, barefoot and all. So we practiced hunt seat this morning, without a martingale, something we have not worked without for a while. Overall it went very well. I haven't ridden him more than once in the past 10 days since he has been having this off and on very mild hind leg lameness that we can't figure out. It is there slightly on a lunge line, but he is perfectly sound under saddle. Maybe he's faking it to get out of work- afterall, he is very smart. Anyhow, since he was totally sound under saddle and has no obvious signs of anything wrong, we continued. The trot was pretty good despite his laziness with the heat.

We worked on the canter, which is still coming along. He is still struggling with his right lead under saddle, even though he is getting much better on a lunge line since his chiro adjustment 2 weeks ago. We worked on some roll-back canter transitions into the fence, which will really help to get him on his haunches once he becomes responsive enough to my cues to do it NOW (rather than 10 strides from the cue). After Sandy uncovered his dull responsiveness to my legs, she put some spurs on me. I have only ridden in spurs maybe one or two times in my life, so this is a new concept to me. Louie didn't mind the spurs at all, and they really helped to get a little more impulsion, keep him on the rail, and respond to my cues. After some basic intro to spurs 101, leg yielding, trotting, etc, we went back to the canter.

We are coming up with all kinds of strategies to get this right lead under saddle. Today we first tried bending his head to the rail like a lot of saddle seat horses do, but that didn't work after a few tries. So Sandy had me lean WAY back (I felt like I was laying on his croup practically), and add a little extra umph to my cue if he didn't respond the first time. This actually worked really pretty well. He got his haunches under himself better and picked up the right lead at least half of our attempts. We figured out that, since Louie likes to trot about 10 strides after I cue him before cantering, he nullifies any preparation/set up for picking up the right lead that we give him (coming out of a corner, bend, haunches in, seat position etc), has more time to think about it, and picks up the left lead. So by adding in this little extra umph (a more firm leg cue), it has helped at getting him to pick up the canter sooner after the cue, and therefore getting the right lead because he hasn't had time to get himself all un-set-up. Very interesting. So I am going to keep working on this at home this week, and hopefully he will canter on his right lead at the show.


As you can imagine, with temps in the upper 80's already this morning and a lot of canter and transition work, Louie was a sweaty monster when we finished. So we cooled out thoroughly, got a hose bath, electrolytes, then extra lunch (to make up for expended calories) after I worked hubby's horse. The day was not without loss for myself as well- I got run into the rail, and have a large bump on my shin, a big rip in my jeans over that same spot, and an open blister on my pinkie finger (on my dominant hand, nonetheless). Ouch that finger hurts, Louie was anything but soft and supple today- obviously. We need to get back into working on this as we usually do when we're doing a lot of under saddle work, and I probably need to ride in gloves for a few days at least. yuck, this heat is not conducive to equestrian activities.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Hot Out

Today for some strange reason I decided to ride my bike to the barn to work the horses (it's about 15 miles round trip). It was 93 degrees out, heat index in the 100's, but then again, I'm crazy. By the time I made it to the barn I was already so hot I had to hose off my head- so I wasn't in much of a mood to work Louie too much even though I got the all clear on his soundness from Sandy on Sunday. So we did what we've been working on lately- just some light lunging in the bitting rig, working on getting the right lead, which is coming along pretty well, by the way.

There was one new thing today, however. Since I really want to get Louie in a few shows, I thought I'd start trying to introduce him to a pelham as an introduction to a curb. I just lunged him with an argentine snaffle first, like a pelham, jointed mouthpiece. No curb chain, and just let him feel the shanks against his whiskers. Other than trying to eat the shanks (and being fairly sucessful considering this is a jointed bit), he didn't seem to even notice it. So I played the bit a little bit by hand- just moving the shafts around a little bit for him to feel it pull at the poll. Not too much of a reaction there either. So I hooked up a firm elastic rein through the center of the surcingle to the shanks and lunged him around in this. Once again, he hardly seemed to notice. So I petted him up and called it a day.

We've been doing a lot of hose baths too, and I actually had to hose Louie off BEFORE working him today he was already that sweaty from standing outside. Louie didn't love baths at first, but I think he's starting to like the idea. Afterall, it was very hot out. He doesn't mind having his legs sprayed in the least, but he gets a little antsy when the shower moves up to his body. Soon he will begin to appreciate the full experience. We also identified Louie's new favorite itch spot- the outside back part of his sheath, back between his legs where he can't reach. With the bugs bothering him and biting him there, it must be itchy, cuz he curls his lip up and makes the funniest face when he is scratched there. He goes into such a state of enjoyment he seems to lose track of what is happening around him, lol. This is horse Valium if I've ever seen it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pyrography

Well Louie is still kindof struggling with a little bit of a sore hind leg. . . another one of those things that I just try not to think about and hope it will "just go away." There are no signs of heat, swelling, or obvious injury other than the minor knicks and scrapes from pasture battles, and I am no expert in veterinary medicine or lameness. So we're just taking it easy and not doing too much training, though I would love to get him cantering on that right lead so I can show him. . . but no rush.
In the mean time since I can't work him as I really would like to, I've been playing with a new artistic media, as noted in my previous post- pyrography. It is really difficult, much more challenging than meets the eye. Maybe the $2 wood pieces from Michaels aren't the best for this, but they're a start. The grain lines burn easier than the rest, and the wood has so much variation from one area to the next, so some parts burn really quickly and some take a lot of heat to color- this makes for really easy mistakes. It is also really hard to get nice smooth shading due to these factors and my lack of skill with the tool. Anyhow, despite my challenges with it, it is a lot of fun and I'm enjoying the new challenge. Here is my latest work, based on a photo taken by Karina at Louie's photo shoot.
I start with a sketch outlining what I plan to draw. . .

Then I add the outlines, switch to the shading tool and begin filling in the spaces. . .. . . a little sanding to blend and erase my mistakes, then more shading . . .And finally I put a little background in and touch up the rest of the picture.Whew! I need to take some lessons! This stuff is really not easy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stall Plates

For those of you who don't know this about me, I am an artist. I do mostly pencil drawings and doodles, but I like to experiment with different media. I'm trying a new creative media, another hobby that I need like a hole in the head- pyrography, the art of wood burning. My first products are stall plates for our horses. I plan to try some other pictures with more detail and try out the shading features too in the future. Here are my first 2 attempts at pyrography:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Louie's First Show!

. . . was a success! We aren't cantering consistently on both leads yet, but I felt Louie was ready to try a walk-trot class, so yesterday I got Louie out of the pasture, and we packed up and headed to a local open show in Polk County, Wisconsin to compete (read: practice) in the open walk-trot class ala academy style (helmet, martingale, and all). It was Louie's first show ever and I could not be more THRILLED with how he did! From loading, to standing at the trailer for several hours, to handling the crowded fairground with all the sights and sounds (people, horses, baby horses, awnings, trucks, golf carts, dogs, speakers, metal bleachers, announcer stand, etc), and finally to riding in the show ring- I was SO impressed with how he did. We rode in a class of 16 walk-trot horses (okay I envisioned a class of like 5 haha) in a show ring that he had never been in, with announcer, 2 judges, standing in the line up for what seemed like an hour, and a lot of people watching ringside and he handled it all like a seasoned show horse.

And what I think might be the best part of the whole thing is that I was happy and comfortable in the show ring for the first time in a long time. My last horse gave me a case of show nerves, and I really didn't have them yesterday. Louie took care of me- flat walked like a dream and went around perfectly without a step out of place the whole time. BRAVO Louie! Can you tell I'm excited? Lol. We even had people including complete strangers and a former saddle seat (Morgan) trainer come up and comment on how much they liked him and how impressed they were at his consistency for his age and level of training, and what great potential he has. I'm so proud of him. Here are a few pictures that my friend took (she will admit she is no photographer, lol). Looking at these photos, it is clear that we have a long way to go and Louie has a lot of growing up/filling out to do, but we've made a lot of progress in the past 7 months and he did really well for being totally barefoot and only haven ridden 4 times in the past month! The pro photographer also got a cute one, so I'll post the link when the proofs are up. Nevermind the dorky helmet, lol.

YAY LOUIE!! I'm so proud of my boy!



Edited to add: here is one of the photos that the pro photographer got. I ordered this one for the scrapbook - so cute! Here are the links to the other two that he got: http://cfphotos.instaproofs.com/printDetails.php?event=129924&id=34191791 and http://cfphotos.instaproofs.com/printDetails.php?event=129924&id=34191773

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Photo Shoot!

Louie and I had a professional photo shoot done on Sunday by my good friend Karina of K. Noel Photography, Marine on St. Croix, MN (http://www.knoelphotography.com/). The photos turned out fantastic (I can honestly say that their photos always turn out fantastic, they did our wedding, my graduation, engagement, and lots of other mini-shoots in between)! It was very humid with a threat of rain, so my hair was rebelling a little bit, and Louie's 3-year-old attention span was tested to the max with all of the earing toys Karina and I brought, costume changes, etc, but the pictures turned out awesome despite our few challenges. Here they are, enjoy!







Friday, June 5, 2009

Clothing

Since I've been having so much fun making clothes for Minime, I thought I should try out full-size horse clothes. So here is my first product. Mind you, I wish it had about 4 inches more drop to it, but the fabric came in 60" wide and I would have had to have bought twice as much to get that extra few inches. Perhaps in the future I will conjure up some good idea to make it work better. Anyhow, here it is, a closed front cotton stable sheet (this is pretty thick cotton, close to poplin or denim). It original purpose was to go underneath Louie's bustle/tailset, but we'll see what the future holds.

I have material for one more horse-sized anti-sweat/fly sheet, so I may make that, then back to Mini clothes which are so much easier!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tada!

Louie's newest skill:
We're still working on perfecting it- we only just re-started working on it a few days ago. He's picking it up much quicker the second time around, and I've learned that big treats work a lot better than small treats when it comes to protecting your fingers. ;) Now we just have to get that leg bent properly and we'll be set to whip out a performance any time the occasion calls for such a trick.