Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Lameness Exam

Today was the big lameness exam with Dr. Turner to find some answers to "Louie's sore leg." Well, I hope we did find some answers. He was definately off on his left hind today at the trot, both in a straight line and in circles, and he didn't really want to canter, but then again there was a guy with a brush-hog driving by as the vet tech was trying to canter him on the lunge. He flexed positive in the hock/stifle, but not super sore, just slightly worse than usual.

He had a bit of swelling in both hind fetlocks (he has had that since our accident, and being on basically stall rest), as well as his left stifle. So they sedated Louie with a very small amount, but about enough to make him fall over- he was resting his face against a concrete wall as if it were a down pillow. We all thought this was rather comical. Dr. Turner was a little bit concerned about him possibly having OCD in the fetlock, so we X-rayed that but it turned up negative. He was more convinced that it was in the stifle, so the X-rays of that joint were critical.

He pointed out a small "divot" in the femur, which may be the cause of Louie's pain. He said this was a small divot as far as divots go, and could possibly be considered on the same spectrum as OCD, but this is much smaller than what would typically be seen with that. He diagnosed Louie officially with "gonitis," which is just inflammation of the stifle, but thought that that divot could represent a few different possible things- a little bit of unabsorbed cartilage, a cyst forming, or a defect in the cartilage. Here is his x-ray, I have added a red arrow to point out the area of concern (being in the human medical profession, I'm amazed at how much this really looks like a human knee, with the exception of the chestnut):

So Dr. Turner injected Louie's stifle with Hyaluronic acid and cortisone, and instructed me to give Louie 2 days off, then return him to our regular work program and report back if he's not any better. He suspects that this probably happened in some sort of small traumatic event in which Louie's legs slipped out from beneath him- so this could have been at the field trial on the stake out, in the pasture with his buddies, running through the neighborhood, or even just slipping in the indoor arena on some wet footing. Dr. Turner thinks that there probably is some degree of muscular/soft tissue injury along with this, and says he's not even sure if this little tiny divot is what is giving Louie his troubles- many horses with similar findings on x-ray are asymptommatic. So when we return to work, we are to treat this as if he has a muscle strain (as I have been with a long slow warm up) in addition to a stifle injury. He gave me a few things to work on to help strengthen up the hind end and the quadriceps to support the stifle joint. Things like working in more straight lines (avoid excessive circling- good thing we have a ginormous arena at Melodee), driving (ha! we're working on it), trotting over ground poles (or with chains on the hind feet- when I suggested this, Dr. Turner was like, "oh yeah, duh, he's a Saddlebred- perfect"), and doing a lot of the reverse direction (backing up- and more than just a couple of steps).

So starting Friday or Saturday, I will probably long line Louie to take a look at how he's moving and continue back with the regularly scheduled programming. Dr. Turner says that if this doesn't make him any better, let him know, we can come back and move on to the next step of diagnosis (not sure what that would be, but I'm sure he's got lots of tricks up his sleeve). Well, though it's hard to predict the future and the prognosis for Louie, I'm hopeful that this will help and that everything will go away and he'll be back to normal eventually. Only time will tell.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Fun

My husband's mom, Berny, came out to the stable today to visit. It was her first time meeting Louie and touring the new stable. I think she liked both. :) We had a great casual afternoon, doing a little lunging with Louie, going for a walk, watching the herds come in, eating ice cream (what is better than horses and ice cream- NOTHING!!!), watching the barn manager run some poles (she does an 11.329 poles pattern with her NSH- wow!), and of course riding. Berny got to ride Cash, and she had a good time, learned a lot, and looked like she totally knew what she was doing- yay! Plus, she had him gaiting very nicely. Good job Berny!!

I think I am going to try to bring Cash to the Washington County Fair English Show this Sunday (if I'm not too tired from the wedding we have the night before), and ride in the 2-gait classes. Based on the walking horse entries in the Mid-Summerfest horse show last weekend, I think we can kick some walking horse butt.

Louie is still sore. He was really sore last week, a few days after his "event," and while he's gotten a little bit better since then, he's still looking more sore than he was before the event. I haven't been working him, just doing a little bit of hand walking and the occasional lunging to see how he's moving, and wow does he have a lot of pent-up energy! This horse needs to get back to work- he's been extremely playful on the lunge line, and has got quite an attitude lately. We had been waiting for a different chiropractor to come out to the barn, but after I hadn't heard anything 1 week from when he was supposed to be contacted, I figured there's no reason to wait. Plus, I start my real job next week, so I want to get this figured out before it goes on forever. So I made an appointment for Louie on Wednesday with Dr. Turner, who he saw before for his foot. Dr. Turner is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best equine lameness vet in the midwest. So I will be trailering Louie to see him, and hopefully we will be coming home with some answers- and hopefully with a useable horse and some money still left in my checking account. ;) I hope he takes pictures of him with his thermographic camera! How cool!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sheath Cleaning

I thought I'd wait and let Louie get settled into his new home for a while before springing this one on him. It was really needed, and today was the day- but I'm afraid it's going to be a multi-day job, as today we didn't even get to "the part" as the inside of the sheath was so crusted and nasty. Louie enjoyed it though and accepted my intrusion quite willingly- I guess I would too if part of me were that dirty. Maybe tomorrow we'll finish the job.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, here is the "sheath cleaning song", sung to the tune of "Hello Mother, Hello Father."

"How's it hangin'?
So much cleaner.
Aren't you glad I
washed your wiener?
I'll admit it's
kinda creepy
that I had to stick my arm up in your pee-pee.

It was sticky.
It was gunky.
It felt icky.
It smelled funky.
It was cruddy,
it was crusty--
when you stuck it out, it creaked like it was rusty.

After half an'
hour of toilin'
and of squirtin'
baby oil in,
you're as fresh there
as a daisy.
Either this means I love you or else I'm crazy!!!"

And for those who want a little more information on "the hows" of sheath cleaning or for those DIY'ers out there, here is a wonderful and entertaining instruction article:

Have a great squeaky clean day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back Between the Shafts

Today after a warm-up long lining, checking all the gears to make sure everything works as it did where we left off, my husband and I got Louie back in the training shafts. We didn't hook them at first, and Louie gave exactly the same response as the first, second, third. . . etc time he wore shafts- couldn't care less.

After a while, we went ahead and cliped the shafts to the breast plate and my husband pulled back on the "traces" while Louie walked. No reaction- Louie is just as solid with the shafts as he was before our incident. I was a bit nervous, but not bad at all. I think when we actually have him pull something on the ground again I might be more nervous. We did take more precaution today when we hooked the shafts, at first I had Bjorn walk beside Louie, holding on to him as a safety aid, then gradually distance himself and let me take control of the lines. Of course we didn't need his assistance, but that's a good thing- better to have more caution than not enough.

We stopped after a couple of laps of walking against resistance in the shafts went without incident. We'll continue on where we left off from here. . . so far no harm done!

Oh- and on another note, Louie's teeth grinding was almost non-existant today. The only time he really did it was when I made him whoa, or when I held the reins back and asked for a little more energy out of him- and even then it was only for a second or two. I was quite pleased with this. His questionable lameness however, hmmm, not quite so pleased. Bjorn doesn't think he looks sore but maybe a little off balance around tight turns, I think he looks a little off most of the time and blatantly lame around tight turns. I don't think this is going to go away on its own since it's still with us after about 3 months. . . so I think I'll probably have the vet check him out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feeling His Oats!

I was too tired yesterday to do much more than lunging, and I wanted to start Louie back slowly after his "event." So that's what we did- only Louie had some different ideas about lunging. . .

He started out quietly and calmly at a walk, then after that, whenever I asked for a trot or canter, or used my lunge whip, etc, he exploded with head shaking, bucking, kicking, lunging, etc. He was having fun after a day off, and I figured as long as it was just him in a halter without any other tack on, I'd let him play around on the lunge and have fun. Wow did he ever do that- about 20 minutes of fun-having. It very much resembled a video I have of Trust Fund, Louie's father, turned loose in the arena- these are some athletic animals!

Sharon pointed out "he looks none worse for the wear- that's what he looked like as he was running down the driveway." Lol. Silly horse. He seems to be just fine, still a little bit sore on that left hind, but nothing new there. . .

So today I rode him while my husband stood in the arena and provided some assistance. He did pretty well, walked, trotted, and cantered pretty consistently. Got his right lead 3/3 times, and his left lead 1/1 time. He really was very well mannered and listened pretty well to all of my aids. We worked just a little bit on extending the walk to start, and I think that will be something good to work on- extending and collecting the stride at each gait, to work on engaging the hindquarters more and moving towards real collected work.

My only complaint with today's ride was Louie's teeth. . . his grinding is really getting to me. Stall bridling him makes him better in a stall bridle, but when working, he goes right back to chewing/grinding. He didn't use his ears quite as well today as he did last time either. It was a little windy today, and there was another horse out there, so perhaps he was distracted by other things, but Bjorn's hooting and hollering wasn't getting Louie's attention as consistently today- I think it was because of Louie's bit chewing habit- when he chews and grinds so much, he doesn't use his ears. I don't know what the answer to this issue is, but I'm sure hoping I can find a cause, and more importantly- a solution. I thought he was bored, but he's been doing it now even when trotting and cantering, which shouldn't be too boring considering how much work it can be to canter! Perhaps he's still bored. I don't know. But other than the chewing issue, it was a very nice ride today- very Minnesota-esque with our 60 degree July temps. :) Love it!
Edited to add this very cute photo from Saturday's ride. Courtesy of Laura Hutchinson, Mel-O-Dee Stables.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Driving is Dangerous- Our Near-Tragedy

I learned this today in the most vivid sense- driving is, indeed, potentially a very dangerous sport. Here's the story. . .

Louie has been doing just phenomenally pulling the sled with a bale of hay in the indoor arena. He's pulled people, etc, even me in the sled driving him now. Well today, in my overzealous stupidity, I pushed him a little bit too far perhaps. Maybe not even pushed, just didn't think through my actions.

After driving around the arena for a while, I decided it would be a good idea to expose Louie to a little different sound behind him- something he should probably get used to eventually. So I asked Sharon, the barn trainer/instructor, to walk at Louie's head while I drove him out of the arena and onto the gravel road. I just wanted to go about 10 steps and be done with it.

Well we got 5 steps, he was fine, then he got a little spooked by the noise. He half stopped, and just as I was going to get out of the sled to unhook before anything happened, it did happen. Louie got startled, got away from his header, and took off down the driveway. I thought I had installed some pretty good brakes on him, but the adrenaline was in full gear. I fell, I think, out of the sled, and all I can remember is Sharon yelling- "let go! let go!" Well it's a good thing she did because it's sure not instinct to let go. I've got some nasty rope burns (I'm wearing gloves from now on), but that's the least of my concerns at this point. My horse is galloping down the driveway, sled in toe- flying like a kite behind him. I'd imagine that this would probably be a little scary.

I figured he'd stop when he saw the horses ahead of him, but no. On he went, out the driveway and onto the road at a full gallop. I was sprinting trying to keep up with him, knowing there is NO chance of that happening, yelling "Sharon get a truck!" By the time I got to the end of the driveway, Sharon and another boarder, Fred, were behind me with his truck. I jumped in the back and we started our drive. At this point I was envisioning the absolute worst- hit by a car, 4 broken legs, stabbed through the chest with the "shaft", trampled a pedestrian, you name it.

All of the passerby's were pointing us in his direction- thank God for good neighbors! I'm sure it was quite a scene for them. Half a mile later, we came upon him, standing calmly (well mostly calmly) in a "quiet" neighborhood, behing held by a very kind woman who probably knows next to nothing about horses other than the word "whoa," which she told him- and he listened! I can't decide whether the blinker hood was a good thing or a bad thing at this point. Granted he couldn't see the flying sled behind him, but he also couldn't see much else of where he was going. . .

After a brief and panicked thanking of the woman holding him, and my trying to gather my thoughts in a totally flustered mind, we unhooked Louie, put the sled in the truck, took off his blinders, and checked him out. He was just fine. I am amazed. Not a single mark on him, still has his shoes even. I walked him off, and Sharon and Fred drove the truck home. Louie and I enjoyed a nice long walk home, as I inspected him for injuries and learned about my own.

All in all, we are incredibly lucky that the only damage done was to my fingers. I'd imagine I won't have much skin on them for the next week or two once all the blisters open up, but I can't stop thinking about how incredibly lucky we are that neither of us was hurt. He will probably be a little sore for a few days from his escapades, but I don't see any major trauma. Now, definately a little bit of psychological trauma for both of us, but lesson learned! Should I never be so stupid again is a good goal to aim for. If I had thought it through ahead of time, this would have been totally preventable, well at least it would have gone differently.

I just hope I haven't ruined him as a driving horse. With how sensible he is, I am fairly confident that he'll bounce back just fine when we start back over from square one- um, probably after my fingers heal. I am also lucky that he thought to stop- at least he was smart enough to figure out that stopping makes all the scary stuff go away. But I just can't help feeling incredibly guilty about this. My hands hurt so badly that I couldn't even give him a liniment bath- did I mention that rope burn hurts- yeah it really does. . .

Well I guess this is a somewhat common incident, though really I could have lived without it. It was like living a nightmare. I hope to never experience anything like that ever again. We will recover in time. . . I am just thankful that someone was watching out for us today. And I'm incredibly thankful for everybody at the barn who just dropped what they were doing to come to my rescue. I am lucky to be in such a wonderful barn with such wonderful people. Ahhhh. . .. now back to my ice pack. :(

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stall Bridle

Louie is wearing a "stall bridle" for a day or a few. . . he has been grinding his teeth and biting the bit quite a lot yesterday and today while I rode him. We've been facing this issue for a while, and I can't really tell if this is "baby stuff" or something hurts, or what. From what I can tell, the bit isn't hurting his mouth. He's had his teeth floated with no change in his chewing. Caveson, no caveson, flash caveson, none of it makes a difference. Raising the bit up, lowering it down, trying different bits- none of it changes anything. He's not exactly upset or unhappy with his bits, because he doesn't do it all the time, but it's getting annoying and starting to interfere with our work. So it's time we tried some things to stop it.

Yesterday I rode him in the outdoor, his first time out there. At first he did great- was looking around, etc. But after 2 laps at a walk (yeah I guess that's kinda boring), he wanted to chew his bit and grind his teeth, so I had my husband make some noises in the middle of the ring to get his attention. Well that distraction worked like a charm- Louie quit grinding and chewing on his bit, and started looking around, earing up beautifully, watching my husband, and even spooking he was looking so much! Wow! Well that worked very well, but unfortunately I don't have a body double to do that for me when I need it. . .

Today I rode him "western," which I really shouldn't have. I was tired from cleaning stalls this morning, and just wanted to relax and ride western. Yeah-No. Louie isn't digging the idea of a jog trot. Maybe when he's older he will think that is fun because he may realize it's less work than a park trot. But not yet, he protested that jog trot with fury. We cantered on the right lead a little bit, and he went very fast, but at least he got the right lead, but quit on me before I was ready. The second time I asked him for it, he kicked out, so he got a good spanking. Finally, I asked him one last time, he got it, so we went about half a lap of the arena, then called it a day and went for a walk up the driveway to end on a good note before we had any more problems.

I didn't really want to get into a fight, as there is a show coming up on Saturday that I'd really like to go to. They not only have walk-trot english, but they also have junior horse english pleasure. So, I could possibly do both and give the canter a try, as he's getting it most of the time now. They have walk-trot western, but we're not going to go there yet. . .

Anyhow, Louie's bit chewing is rather perplexing to me, and is starting to interfere with life- I was trying to lead him out of the arena today and he was so busy chewing on his bit, that he wasn't paying attention to my cues to follow me. So, we're going to try the stall bridle and see if that will "get the chews out." He wore it (his padded fuzzy leather halter with a bit tied on) for about an hour today and his chewing really settled down after about 20-30 minutes. So maybe that's all that it will take. Well I hope so- tomorrow will be a full day in the stall bridle for Louie, and we'll plan to work on some driving tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Just Tickled

Sandy came out today and we made a lot of progress on our driving! We started out the same as I have been- long lining, introducing the shafts, lining in the shafts, then adding resistance. Then today, I had Sandy line Louie while I dragged a rickety noisy old hay cart behind him. That didn't bother Louie in the least. So we tried dragging the sled behind him- no matter.

Okay, so here's the moment of truth, the moment when we try something that actually resembles driving. I didn't really want to actually tie him to the sled, so I got in the sled, and held onto the traces, so that I could let go and free him of the "cart" at any given moment. Louie didn't even care- he just walked along as calmly and quietly as he does in long lines. Yay! So he pulled me around for a bit, we tried the trot, same thing, just rock solid. Good boy!! I gave him a handful of the treats I had stashed in my pocket.
Then of course I wanted a picture, so I asked Sandy if she could take a picture while long lining. Well she couldn't handle the steering and the photographing (to be quite honest, she was not that great at steering all day lol). So she handed me the lines. Louie went along with me driving him just perfectly! I am SO proud of my baby! For a 3-year-old, this horse has really got his head on RIGHT! Yay Louie!
I figure we're probably on track with being driving next week. A few more times like this with the sled, then we'll start introducing the real cart. Woohoo! Ada boy Louie!! Somebody got extra dinner and treats tonight!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Shoes

Louie got what I'm pretty sure are his first pair of shoes put on this morning- just a pair of plain plates on the fronts. He did seem a bit suprised by the whole idea of nailing the shoes on with a hammer, and he put up a bit of a fuss at first, but he settled down pretty quickly and realized that it wasn't so bad having the farrier hold him up and his Mom petting his face talking softly to him.

We've been trimming him about every 6 weeks, but with how little he grew before the last trim, we thought we'd try to push him out to 8 weeks, but he didn't quite make it. His feet were a bit long and starting to get very chipped up from stomping at the flies in his paddock- so at 7 weeks, it was time. We went with shoes on the fronts this time to help with the chipping, and to give him a little weight to balance out the front end. Pat said Louie's feet were nice and hard today, which is good for shoeing. We haven't had much for rain this summer, so it's not suprising that the horses' feet are hard.

Before shoeing, I lunged Louie in the bitting rig for a little while (to take the 3-year-old-edge off for the farrier). We tried a new bit I found for $3 yesterday, a mullen mouth pelham. I fastened the curb chain very loosely just to get it out of the way since I couldn't take it off, and hooked the check reins onto the snaffle ring so it had no curb mechanism. Louie took this new bit in stride just like he has with everything so far. I was curious to see how he would react to a solid-mouthed bit, since he likes to grab and bite the bars of jointed bits. Well he still chewed, but at least he couldn't bite the bit.

While lunging, Pat, my farrier watched and gave his perspective on Louie's hind leg lameness. He agrees with what I had thought it was. He thought, watching Louie trot around on the lunge this morning, that he looked like he had a bit of a strained muscle somewhere up high on the left hindquarter (somewhere above the hock)- exactly what I thought, but we're still not exactly sure where. Pat suggested that perhaps it is a groin (adductor) muscle, or maybe even a psoas muscle (in not so many words, more farrier talk, ya know? that big muscle right there). Still no signs of injury or soreness on inspection or palpation, and the lameness has not even been noticable lately, which I believe is due to his turnout situation plus my warm-ups. I have noticed that having Louie turned out in a small paddock where he can walk around, but not run and play hard, for a few hours before working him really helps. I think turnout in this manner loosens him up, as he starts to gradually move the muscle without tearing it more. I haven't seen any lameness the past few days long lining, until today when he had only been out 30 minutes before I worked him). That turnout situation combined with a long, slow warm up with walking and easy trotting, and Louie doesn't look the least bit sore. So I'm going to stay the course I think with what we've been doing- if it ain't broke, don't fix it! It may take a while, as strained muscles seem to take FOR- E V E R to heal. But we've got time. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shaft Training- Day Two

Today was a repeat lesson on shaft training- repeating to be sure that he's still okay with the whole concept- which he is.

We did the same drill as yesterday with warming up, then slowly hooking up the shafts, walking and trotting off, this time with slightly less high-pitched shrieking "Good boy!" We got to where we left off yesterday rather quickly and comfortably, so I thought we'd take it a step farther. So today I clipped the shafts to the brest plate- "eh, no big deal," thought Louie.

Okay, I thought, how about if I intentionally steer him a little bit too close to the wall. Rubbing up against the wall with the cart is an inevitable event that will likely happen at some point, so why not try it when all we have attached are some little plastic poles. Louie trotted up close to the wall, the bottom of the shaft rubbed against the wooden wall, making a little different sound, but no matter to Louie, he just trotted along as relaxed and calm as can be.

Okay, how about if I pick up the shafts, hold them closer together hugging the haunches, and ground drive from behind. Okay, no prob. The only difficulty this brought was turning in tighter circles as his neck ran into the front of the "shaft." This really wouldn't happen in a real cart as the shafts point away in the front, so we're not really going to worry too much about that. He passed that test with flying colors too- shafts bouncing around his butt and all.

Next I thought, okay, I'm going to put a little bit of weight on the traces/shafts. Well, Louie didn't think it was a big deal, and didn't have any real reaction to this concept, but he wasn't quite sure that he was supposed to keep moving forward against the resistance. So with some convincing, we eventually went around, me pulling back a bit on the traces/shafts and steering with my index fingers. This actually worked out really well! So just a few laps around at a walk and trot and I was fairly tired from all this running. We went in the middle, stopped (and with the stop, I pushed the shafts forward a bit as to simulate what happens with a cart stopping suddenly- no reaction), unhooked, and called it a day.

Good boy Louie! He is just too smart, this is all coming so easily for him. :) At this pace he'll be driving next week.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shaft Training

Based on how well breaking Louie to saddle went, I figured- sure, breaking him to drive should be pretty easy. And so far, I am right! Did I mention I love this horse?

Today we started out today just long lining (and me getting my exercise too), did a lot of walking to warm up, as I really think that this helps with Louie's hind end soreness that he had been experiencing (he looked 100% sound today, by the way). After a good long warm up with walking and slow trotting, we worked in stretchies for just a few minutes and had fun hooting and hollering with that. We took off the stetchies and worked a little bit more on stopping, standing, and turning, all of which went smoothly.

So I decided today is the day we are ready to start introducing shafts for Louie. Shaft training, I feel, is a very essential step to preparing a horse for pulling a cart. The feeling of shafts against a horse's sides is rather un-nerving for some, so desensitization is imperative. Using these shafts that rest on the ground not only gives them the feeling of the shafts bouncing on their sides, but also makes a noise as they pull through the dirt, that is scary for some as well.

I walked Louie over to the training shafts (aka my winter sled shafts made of PVC poles) that I had strategically placed in the arena prior to tacking. Louie stood between them and I petted him, etc. I picked up one of the shafts, rubbed it against his side, and got no reaction. So I put the end of it through the near side tug, about a foot sticking out, but didn't secure it to anything. I took a deep breath, and walked Louie off holding onto his caveson, petting him at the same time. He went about 5 steps, didn't blink an eye (well at least I don't think so, he had blinkers on), the shaft fell out and hit the floor, again no reaction. Lots of pets, good boy, good boy! And then back to between the shafts.
Well that went pretty easily, so this time I put both shafts through the tugs, and still did not secure them, but put them through far enough that the clip I had installed on the shaft for hooking to the breast strap was through the tug, and that gave the shafts just a bit more holding power. I really wanted them to be able to come out easily if we encountered any problems, so this was ideal. Then, following the same procedure of walking and petting, we walked off. . . Louie didn't even notice the shafts, didn't care about the noise of them trailing on the ground behind him, didn't care about them touching his sides. Good boy! So I took a few steps back, assumed my position on the long lines, and walked along side him, all the while repeating "good boy!' in such a shrieking high pitched broken record way that probably everybody in the barn needed ear plugs. haha. We tried a couple of turns, "okay Mom, whatever you say. . . " We stopped, petted, and continued on.
Now that he had mastered walking in the shafts, with the feel of them against his sides while turning each way, it was time to try the next challenge- the trot. Now trotting in this set up is a lot more challenging than walking- the poles bounce, and make more funny noises and feelings than they do at a walk. But Louie didn't care. After much persuading (next time I need to grab a whip), he finally bounced off into a slow, steady trot, and pulled those poles around like he had been doing it all his life. Thanks to Stephanie, the barn manager, for taking these pictures for us! (Nevermind the graininess, I think I need to set my camera for indoor photos).
Wow. What a good boy! He didn't give me the slightest hint of a problem. Not one crow hop, not one kick, not one bolt, not one once of nervousness. Just calm as could be, level headed Louie. Of course he got a huge rub down, massage, toweling, a few treats, and some lunch and grazing for being such a good boy. We shall see if he tries any funny business with the next shaft training session, but based on how easy he was to get going under saddle and how smoothly today went, I don't expect any problems. The next step will be adding weight (ie a helper to pull back on the traces), which should be a fairly simple task. I love my horse!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Settling In

Well the horses are settling in nicely. Louie seems to be at peace in his paddock, though he got quite jealous when I went riding by on Cash today. I think he misses his buddy, but it seems that he is getting along with the horses over the fence as well. Today I caught a glimpse of Louie sharing a lunch of a few tiny blades of grass under the fence with Murphy, a 2-year-old quarter horse gelding in the neighboring paddock. Young minds. . .

I rode Louie for the first time at the new barn today as well- and he was great! Happy as could be, ears up, seemed comfortable and happy. We rode in the indoor arena because there was a threat of bringing the horses in right while I was riding (they open the gaits and the horses run in and find their stalls- yeah it gets a little crazy at times, not something I wanted him to be riding around outside witnessing for his first ride in his new home. So we just walked and trotted, and worked on some leg yielding and serpentines. He had a nice floaty trot with a good stride today- I was posting much easier than normal, everything just seemed to fit today- you know how that is when you work out the kinks for a while then all of a sudden one day it just *works.* I love it. Good boy! When we finished our 15-20 minute ride around the arena, we took a stroll down the driveway to "cool out." It was short, but fun and happy and exactly the kind of workout we needed to get back on track.

We also discovered a *new* favorite itch spot today- the top of his neck up by his mane, particularly on the right side. He was leaning in, eyes rolling back, lip going and all as I curried away- he just loved it. Well I'm glad I could help out! Lots more praising and kisses for Louie and off to his stall (and his dinner- I might add) he went. I love this horse and I think he's earning some more human friends at the barn as well. :) How can you not love this cutie?!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Barn Tour

Before we begin on the official barn tour, I want to quickly address Louie's workout today. All we did was a little bit of light lunging in the bitting rig, and he did very well. He picked up his right lead 2 of 3 times, and I think he knew that he got the wrong lead the one time he did- I could hear his conscience thinking. He was also very steady at the trot and didn't anticipate the canter like he has been doing lately, which was a pleasant suprise to me. I was quite happy with how he did lunging around the outdoor arena, so we called it a day and will hopefully try our first ride tomorrow.

Now on to the barn tour. We depart Louie's stall and go 2 stalls over to find this familiar face (Cash):
Then into the indoor arena (yay!) a spacious 80x200 with excellent wood shaving footing.
Next into the clubroom, which has a nice view of the indoor arena:
Then we move outside to the wash racks:

Then we head back into the barn, down the "double side" of the barn (the barn is split up with all of the stalls and the indoor under one roof- one one side of the arena is a single row of stalls, where Cash and Louie are, and on the other, there is a double row, stalls on both sides), and into the tackroom:

These are our tack lockers. It seems to be a little bit of a tight fit, but I'll get it all organized a little better in the future so we have more space. The open locker on the right has both my cutback and western saddles, grooming box, small organizer, spare bits, and a bucket with liniment etc in it. The locker on the left has all of the hangables- 3 bridles, the bitting rig/LL headstall, long lines, surcingle, work harness, lunge line, a large organizer for medical and training supplies, and saddle pads.

Then back out of the barn- to the outdoor arena. They have a beautiful jump course set up. Unfortunately Louie and I won't be doing any jumping in the near future- and besides these are WAY too high right now lol. But we do have some serious jumpers in the barn, so this is perfect for them, and there's still plenty of room to ride or long line.

The arena is so big I had to take 2 pictures of it. You can imagine the speed we could work up in here! Yahoo!! I love it!

Then onto the paddocks. This is one of the larger- small group turnout paddocks that houses 3 horses currently. This is adjacent to Louie's paddock, so I'm hoping Louie will make friends with these 3 (one of them is a 2 yr old- perfect!) and be able to go out with them this fall.

And here is Louie's paddock, just a small drylot, but perfect for a little fresh air, moving around, and socializing while still being able to wear a tailset or show shoes if needed:

And finally, the gelding's pasture (20+ horses on this large grass pasture) which you can see at the stable's enterance (hence the sign). Sorry for the picture of mostly dirt, I didn't want to block traffic haha.Well this concludes the Mel-o-Dee stable tour. We hope you've enjoyed the ride and please come again soon!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Louie's New Home!

Today was the big moving day. The moving truck (aka our truck and horse trailer) arrived at the old barn around noon. All of the packing was done, so the only thing left was to load up the horses. That went smoothly, as did the 10-mile drive to Mel-o-Dee stables. Now getting the trailer turned around at the stables was a bit of a chore- I know that this truck and trailer set-up doesn't have a very tight turning radius. But we got it figured out and soon enough Louie and Cash were in their new stalls.
Cash settled right in, but the first thing Louie had to do once he arrived was to smell everything, check it out- figure out who had been in this stall before him, and start tasting things. He put everything he could get a hold of in his mouth- and with the half-doors at Mel-o-Dee, that was a lot of stuff. . . I thought it would be wise to put up a sign for unsuspecting horse-petters (Lord knows we have a lot of those walking down the aisles, petting each horse and giving treats to all)
Part of the stall set-up- buckets and the jolly ball.
I installed the shelf that hubby and I made, struggling a little bit to find a suitable place to it where he couldn't chew it up, but at least I found a place where he can only chew part of it. . .
After a little while, I left Louie's stall to go organize my tack lockers and Louie settled down and ate his hay. I spent a while cleaning out and organizing the tack lockers- I got two next to eachother and switched which one was on the right and which was on the left so that the doors would open away from each other. I got them set up with my saddles, boxes, brushes, and installed a few tack hooks. For right now, I have one locker with saddles, grooming box, and small tool box, the other with saddle pads and hangables- bridles, harness, bitting rig, and a large 3-drawer organizer. Wow do I have a lot of crap! Yet I'm suprised it all fit in those 2 lockers. Well I think I can work on getting it organized a little bit better when I have more time.
After that, I thought I would lunge both horses a little bit to burn off any excess energy they might have. Sharon, the instructor, thought Cash was really cute- he is a big floaty mover, perfect for a dressage horse- that is, if he didn't mix his gaits. . . and if he were a trotting horse under saddle- but no. Walking horse. Louie took a tour of the outdoor arena, set up with a beautiful jump course. He thought the jumps were pretty interesting looking- except the one with tires. That one was a bit much for his liking. But I think he'll grow to enjoy these "focal points" as something pretty to look at in the future.

No pasture or intro to the herds today for these boys. That will be tomorrow, though Louie will be in an individual paddock right in the front of the barn, so he'll be sure to have lots of action there, lots to look at and lots of people to talk to.
Finally, just as I was getting ready to leave (had to take the dogs to the vet), Donna, the barn owner, came down, so I of course had to introduce her to my new baby Louie, and Cash who she has never met. She just loved Louie, she was impressed by his size for a 3-year-old. Well he is 15.3. . . She loved his markings and thought he was quite the looker. Then she got a whole bunch of kisses from him. He kissed her for about 3 minutes straight, took all of her lipstick off, and Donna loved every minute of it. Too cute!!!
I will give the full barn tour tomorrow. Lisa is in town from Alaska, and has never met Louie, so we have been planning to go out and meet the boys and ride. Sounds like another fun day!