Monday, August 31, 2009

The Spray Bottle

Louie has never really loved being fly sprayed, but having cross ties and a relatively small area to work in, I can usually get him confined and still enough to spray it on him through his dancing and discontent. Well today I decided it was time to tackle the spray bottle issue. So I filled up a fly spray bottle with water and we headed out to the arena. I started spraying on his front left leg and he walked a circle around me, then eventually stopped, stood, and tolerated the spraying. I made a "rule of 10's," and decided that I would stop spraying him after 10 sprays of him standing calmly. So I sprayed and sprayed until he stood calmly, then continued for 10 more sprays, stopped and petted him. Repeat.

Once he accepted being sprayed without a fuss, I moved on to the other front leg and repeated the process. Then I moved up to the elbow, shoulder, neck and belly. By the time I got to his back he was pretty bored with the routine and I had already filled up my spray bottle twice (my forearms are going to be aching tomorrow and Wednesday from all that excessive use of my fingers!). When I got to the hindquarters and hind legs, I got a more heightened response, as I expected. So this took a while to get some relaxation, but eventually we got there.

After using 3 full bottles of water on him and thoroughly soaking my poor horse, we called it good for the day and went to get a little fresh chow. I attempted fly spraying him while grazing (with actual fly spray) and it was a bit of a different game outside. Luckily he only moved a little bit, so I was able to get him fly sprayed pretty well without wasting too much.

This will be a multi-day lesson for Louie, but hopefully he will stand still to be sprayed by the time we're finished.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Having a Little Fun

Louie running around and having some fun in the outdoor arena for a little while on Saturday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Kid on the Block

For a little while now I have been considering trying to move Louie into one of the small group paddocks at the barn so that he can socialize with other horses, run, play, and eat grass the way that a young horse should. I wasn't really sure if this would be possible as of the 3 small group paddocks, one is pretty much at maximum capacity, one is on the opposite side of the barn (which would require moving to "the double side"), and one, the one that Louie's current paddock borders, is ruled by a large QH/Clydesdale cross who I am worried might beat Louie out in a one-on-one duel. The options didn't seem too hopeful, so I hadn't comitted my heart to getting Louie out with other horses, but the stars aligned this week for us.

Then this morning I got a note from one of the other boarders (the owner of Connor, the QH/Clyde) saying she would be fine with trying Louie out there with that herd, and she would be there to work Connor in the morning before going out so he didn't have excessive energy with which to chase Louie. The owner of the other two horses in the paddock, a ~20 year old TB mare (Silly) and a 2 year old quarter horse gelding (Murphy), was also fine with the addition.

So, while Connor was out being worked, I let Louie go in the group paddock with the other two horses, niether of whom are excessively agressive or mean. Louie did great with them, though the 2-year-old, Murphy, thought it was a lot of fun to chase Louie off and strut his stuff. After a while, Louie wasn't responding much to Murphy's efforts on chasing him off- Murphy would get going at a good extended canter towards him, and Louie would take 2-3 strides of slow trotting then go back to eating- obviously he was really afraid of Murphy. ;)

Then the time came to add the big guy to the mix. At first he didn't notice Louie off in the far corner. Connor went over to the nice dirt pit to have a roll. Louie thought this was good reason to investigate and sauntered over to take a gander. Murphy intercepted Louie and proceeded to chase him away, protecting Connor from the potential threat Louie brought by coming over to check him out. Then the chase began. Connor noticed the imposter in his paddock, got up and began to chase Louie off. Luckily, most horses can outrun Connor due to his size, and Louie is in pretty good shape. Connor chased, and Louie maneuvered- zigging and zagging to get out of Connor's way. Connor couldn't keep up with the agile 3-year-old and gave up for a moment.

After a short while, the chase began again- after just a short lap around the paddock, Louie learned that he could out-maneuver Connor by slowing down and letting Connor pass him, then duck out behind him and go back to eating. I was pretty impressed by my horse's smarts when it came to the herd dynamic, and his agility, grace, and speed! We (the few of us who were there, owners of the horses and another boarder) also quite enjoyed watching Louie strut around, snorting and blowing, flagging his tail, and prancing around in that classic Saddlebred barnyard trot. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about watching that Saddlebred strut.

Well after a short while, everyone settled down and focused on the main task at hand- eating. Louie didn't eat with the herd, and was driven off a few more times by Murphy, but he got along pretty well for his first day, with only a single hoof sized welt on his neck to show for the day (and that was probably from his girlfriend- the gray mare in the adjacent paddock). It's funny how horses can get along so well with others over the fence, but take that boundary away and it's like they don't even know each other.

I think Louie will get along just fine out in the paddock with Connor, Murphy, and Silly, and after a few days, I bet Louie and Murphy will be playing like the young'uns they are and becoming best buds. Being out with other horses is so good for a horse's mind, and I think Louie really enjoyed being out with a group again- and most of all, I think he enjoyed being turned out on something green and edible.

Here is a photo of Louie's new paddock. Of couse I will have to get some more photos of it with him in it now. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Relaxing Evening Ride

It was a beautiful evening as I pulled into the barn and was suprised to learn that I was the only one there! It had been a long day at work, and what a better way to undwind than to go for a ride and hang out with Louie. So we went for a nice relaxing trail ride tonight across the street from the barn. Donna owns a few acres of almost swampy land across the street where she used to have a cross country course set up- now it's used to spread the manure from stalls and for anyone who wants to go riding through the tall grass fields.

So after a quick warm up and "gear check" in the outdoor arena, we went down the driveway and across the street into the field. The manure path was a bit deep and Louie was a bit startled by the fact that he sunk into the path (but wow what a great work out that would be for him and his stifle!), so we walked on the grass field in between for now. Louie was very relaxed and just walked along like he'd done it his whole life. The grass was up to his chest in some spots- and he's got very long legs! After a little tour around the field, we stopped to graze on some of the luscious grass that had been tempting Louie during our entire ride. I think Louie was really happy to get to graze for a while, but maybe after he got home he wasn't quite so happy as he discovered the millions of welts on his neck and belly from the mosquitos biting him. Well I helped him scratch a few of them and Louie was very greatful for that. Poor guy.

Louie got another massage yesterday and Sharon thinks that he has some growing pains- in that his bones are growing and the muscles haven't had a chance to stretch and catch up with them. She expects a big improvement like the last time she massaged him (he's been a little tight since our show or soon after- I think maybe we overdid it a little bit with that cantering class), but I'm not sure I felt a huge improvement today. I'm not that great at feeling lameness from the saddle, but I will long line tomorrow and see how he looks from the ground.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In His Spare Time

I would imagine life can be rather boring for a horse. Every day it's the same routine: wake up and eat breakfast, then go outside and greet your neighbors. . .
. . . catch up on the latest gossip from the ladies. . .
. . . run around and stretch your legs (I didn't know he could run this fast in such an enclosed space!). . .
. . . show off for your girlfriend (the gray mare next door) with your feats of agility and grace. . .
. . . maybe take a little afternoon nap to recuperate after all that excitement. . .
. . . go for a ride when Mom comes to visit (I am starting a PT regimen for my neck/back after seeing this picture lol- it's a really cool picture, I just look awful). . .

. . . and if you're really lucky, go for a trail ride through the edible green forest with your friends. . .

. . . then as the sun begins to set, come in to a cozy stall for dinner, and get some rest to prepare for the adventures that tomorrow might bring.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Great Show!

Well this was only our second show ever, and Louie did great! Our first class was walk-trot english pleasure 18+ and we rode hunt seat style as we've been practicing at home. We had a great ride- pretty clean, I think one missed step, but otherwise a very nice ride. They called for extended trot and everything, and Louie did that nicely. Out of 5 horses, most of whom were experienced show horses, we took 2nd place!! Yay Louie! The horse that won was a 4-yr-old morgan who was shoed up for the show ring and was obviously somewhat experienced- a very nice horse.

Our second class was immediately after the first- junior horse english pleasure. This was our first ever cantering class. Of course I was nervous about this as we've had our share of cantering trouble at home. . . But it went pretty well! He did just great the first way, then one of the other horses in the class had some trouble, so they had us repeat our canter the first direction after that horse left the class. Louie just stepped right into his left lead both times, but he did get a little amped up after all of that cantering- a level of excitement I haven't seen from him yet, but I'm kindof glad it's in there somewhere. He walked just fine, with a few reminders, but was really trotting with a lot of energy the second way. I had a bit of a hard time just keeping him in the trot- he was trying to canter during the extended trot the second way, and he did actually break for a stride or two right in front of the judge. When it was time to canter the second way, I asked him from a walk, but he trotted about 4-5 strides into it (which is okay because we've actually only taken the right lead from a walk ONE time at home- ever). But he did get the correct lead on his first try- so I was very happy about that! He was a bit fast at the canter, and was trying to keep up with another horse who was quite fast, but he listened pretty well and cantered at a reasonable speed despite his bountiful energy supply- and I don't think we passed anybody, so that's good. :) We were 5th out of 5 in that class, which was probably where we fit with not having a perfectly clean ride.

Overall I was very pleased with how he did- he listened, didn't have any big spooks at any of the scary cow corrals or barrels next to the arena, was very well mannered, and he seemed pretty happy and comfortable. He wore his neck and head beautifully- a bit higher than he has been at home (that's what happens when you get to a new, more interesting place!), wore his ears, and was very consistent, collected, and fairly light in the bridle. Bjorn said he was moving really nicely- had a nice big floaty stride, and used his legs as well as Social ever did with show shoes on, and Louie just has plain plates on a short foot in front (now I think that might be an exaggeration on Bjorn's part, but I'm happy that he thinks that because that's all he cares about and he likes this horse). He thought Louie could easily raise up to go saddle seat in the show ring. Unfortunately, I nearly had to twist his arm to get Bjorn to even come with me to the show, so he didn't want to take any pictures of us. I understand the whole concept of not being able to watch if he's taking pictures, but I would have loved even a candid of two before or after my classes, but oh well. :( So I have nothing to share from this show, so you'll have to take my word for it- we did really well! Yay Louie! Good boy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Possibility

Well it seems as though most every time I write about planning to go to a show, for one reason or another, it doesn't happen. So anyhow, I haven't written about it yet, but here goes- I'm planning to show Louie on Saturday at the series show that I had planned to go to last time (in July, right after the sled accident). They have walk-trot english pleasure 18+ and they also have Jr. Horse english pleasure- and they're back to back so we don't have to wait around all day for 2 classes. So I figure I'll try both classes, and if we canter in the one class, then we do, if not, no big deal. I'm planning to ride huntseat style, as that's what we're prepared for both in frame and in equipment.

Sandy was out yesterday and she was thrilled with how Louie was moving. We did a little of everything, walk, trot, canter, trotting poles, etc, and Louie was very good. He did not, however, get his right lead on the first try yesterday. It took 3 tries, but by the 3rd time, I asked him from a walk, and he departed into his right lead just beautifully. Good boy! So I'm not going to push the cantering thing, but I'll ride tomorrow night after work and test out our gears and prepare for the show. So hopefully I'll be reporting back this weekend on how the show went!! :D

Monday, August 10, 2009

The View From the Ground

Two more great rides yesterday and today. Today we even cantered, both ways, just about half to one lap each direction, and Louie picked up his right lead more easily and willingly than he has in many months! Yay!! I'm praying this is not a fluke- but he just stepped right into it the moment I asked for it- no fighting or having to crank on him to get him positioned- just willingly did it. I'm thrilled, this could be a major breakthrough for us- keeping my fingers crossed. Plus he was more energetic and light than he was yesterday.

Yesterday we rode indoors because the outdoor ring was flooded, and had to work around the stable Shire, "Sophie," who was giving vaulting lessons. It was a little more cramped than the nice big outdoor that we've been using lately, but we made do. Here is a short video of Louie and I practicing our trotting poles and straight aways (yes, and the art I call "two point in a cutback" around some of the corners) yesterday (light chains on all 4 for increased stifle strengthening), and a photo after we were both thoroughly sweaty, both compliments of Laura Hutchinson, Mel-O-Dee Stables. http://melodee-stables.com/uploads/080909_Leah_and_Louie.wmv

Friday, August 7, 2009

Moving Great and Losing Teeth

I long lined Louie this morning so I could watch from the ground to see how he was moving. . . and I was super impressed! He was moving so fluidly and evenly, I haven't seen him move that nicely in a long time! Even Sharon was impressed with how nicely he was moving. Must be feeling really good! Yay! So now the plan is to continue along with the strengthening program and my daily massages and if he gets short again, we'll plan another massage with Sharon.

After I got done long lining him, Louie was chewing at his bit excessively. Usually I just make him wear the bridle until he quits chewing when he does this- I go about my business, grooming, un-tacking, etc, and he gets to wear the bridle under his halter until he quiets down. Well today he was exceptionally active after his workout, and as I was massaging his hindquarters, I looked at him and noticed blood on his lips! I'll admit I had a slight freak out moment- I thought, oh great, probably another vet call. . . I can't imagine the bit would have cut him. . . So I opened his mouth and saw that the blood was coming from just above the right upper second incisor. I pressed on the tooth and it moved- ah! (didn't expect that). Then I did it again and it slid down, revealing some sort of tooth-like substance underneath the existing tooth. Well I thought, could he have fractured it or gotten kicked in the mouth (he is kept in his paddock next to a very mean, moody mare)? I had thought he was too old for this to be a baby tooth, but it turns out it was! Stephanie and Tom helped me hold him and yank the tooth out (it was already quite loose and causing obvious discomfort and bleeding). Out it came, with another permanent tooth right underneath it. He continued to bleed a little bit, but when I put him out in his paddock, he immediately went over to his hay and started munching on it (he wasn't eating this morning when I got him out coincidentally enough). So I took that as a good sign that if he's eating he must feel okay.

Later I did a little research and found out that this is totally normal, and the average age for a horse to lose the caps on the second incisors is 3.5-4 years, so he's right on time. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief. And some more good news- the contralateral side is also loose- so it won't be long before we get to do this all over again. I'm starting a collection now for baby teeth (I know, freaky wierd packrat Mom thing, but I think it's kinda cool!). Here is a chart, courtesy of Wikipedia, with the common ages for tooth erruption- a good reference to have next time we lose a tooth!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turkey Ride

Well today was my first day of work at my new job, so I went out before work to ride Louie and give him a quick massage. We did our standard walking warm-up, and I felt like I was carrying him around- he was pretty lazy today. Maybe it's just a morning thing? I don't usually ride him in the morning.

Anyhow, after I got him warmed up, we trotted- posting and 2-point, and then over the trotting poles. He's still a little clumsy over the trotting poles, but at least he's not falling on his face. I noticed he felt really loose and relaxed today, he hardly chomped on his bridle at all (except when doing maneuvers like pivots where I think he was processing the information through his teeth- not biting the bit anymore though). He even felt like he had a longer, looser stride than normal. Maybe I was imagining it, but he felt great! I plan to long line him tomorrow to watch him from the ground to see what he looks like from a different perspective.

As I was riding, 7 wild turkeys came walking into the arena. They hung out in the middle of the arena while I was riding, and Louie wasn't the least bit bothered by them- he liked to look at them, but didn't spook or get silly. They would get too close to the rail, then as we trotted by, they'd go running or flying out of the way. Fun! It was a pretty fun ride- I should do this morning riding thing more often!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Royal Treatment

Louie had his massage today. I think he was on cloud nine. He was super relaxed, then his lip would start going when she hit a spot that was sore or felt good, he even tried to rub back a little bit on some spots. What a spoiled horsie, even I don't get that kind of pampering. Sharon showed me where his sore or tight spots were, so I can massage them with my little horsey massager tool on my own and hopefully keep those muscles feeling decent.

So here is a diagram for reference. I've highlighted this drawing (in blue) illustrating the muscle groups I am to massage daily. Basically, the problem area is in the hind quarters, with the areas most affected highlighted in blue. The shoulders and traps were not very sore, but I've highlighted them as Louie thoroughly enjoyed having those areas massaged, so why not? Additionally, he was a little bit tender along the anterior coronary band of both hind feet, so I am supposed to lightly massage that area daily as well. Sharon also pushed on some of the connective tissue between his hip joint and the dock of his tail, and he loved that- he leaned right into it, and thought that felt great to get that spot stretched out. This diagram even accurately illustrates the length of Louie's tail (haha).
Sharon also got the soft tissues around his sacrum to loosen up enough that we heard something click into place (hopefully into and not out of place), I think on the left. So the plan now is to continue on with what we've been working on for hind-end strengthening, daily massaging of those target areas, and follow up in 4-5 days to see if we've noticed any improvement with the massaging. I'm hopeful since it seems as though we accomplished a lot today- keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raising the Bar

Sandy came out today to see how Louie looked since his lameness exam. She concluded, like me, that he looks quite a bit better, but is still just a little bit off, but improves significantly after a good long warm up. He only had one step today that looked very lame to her, and I felt it too, but I think it was more of a riding error (horse-human communication-steering-turning, etc) problem than actually a pain problem. And it didn't happen at all after that one step.

So we trotted him over 2 ground poles, spaced about 12 feet apart. He got 1 full stride between the poles, I think, and I think he hardly even noticed they were there. Sandy was a little suprised that he barely even picked up his feet to get over the poles, so she lifted one side of each pole onto the jump standard at the lowest setting, which raised the pole up off the ground about 5 inches in the center of the pole, about like in this picture, except with jump standards rather than blocks.

I trotted him over the raised up poles, and while he still could have cared less that they were there, he did have to pick up his feet a little higher this time to get over them. So that's what we're going to do, a little higher poles to trot over while riding. Then I'll start him with chains on all 4 feet when I long line him to encourage him to pick them up.

So, Sandy thought he looked about 95% better than he had (I think that's pretty generous, I'd say maybe 70%), and is pleased at how he's putting on weight and filling out his hind end. Tom, the old barn manager, was there to watch us today (and hold Sandy's mini that she brought along) and he was impressed with how loose Louie was through his shoulders. I think this has been improving since coming to Mel-o-dee and having nicer footing for him. All in all, he's coming along, but we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us and a lot of prayers for long-term soundness!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back At It Again

Well I was anxious to see how Louie would respond to the stifle injection last week, so I long lined him Friday night, just briefly, to watch from the ground. He looks better! Not completely better, he was still slow to warm up and still looks like he just doesn't quite want to use that leg as fully as the other side, but he moved pretty evenly and smoothly, which he hasn't been doing lately. Sharon watched him go (she's a heck of a lot better at lameness than I am), and said that he's getting full rotation through his stifle now, he's just weak on that side, so he's not driving off of it the same as his good side. We think he probably does have a bit of a residual muscle strain that we're still nursing in addition to whatever problem is/was going on in his stifle. So that will take time, good long warm-ups, and some massaging!

So since Dr. Turner told us to get back to our routine and start a good stifle strengthening program, I took Louie for a ride in the big outdoor ring today after work (my first day! I needed the return to the normalcy of the barn after a day of meeting with 20 people and being totally info overloaded, wearing a suit and heels, etc. lol). So I set up 13 ground poles in a row along one side of the arena, leaving the rail open, but I didn't really measure in between, just tried to get them sort-of the same distance apart. Well I should have planned that a little better. After a good long walking warm-up, we did some trotting, then some 2-point trotting, then I had him walk over the poles. He did fine at a walk, but when I asked him to trot the poles, he nearly took a few nose-dives. He was tripping over the poles with his front feet, lol. I think I put them too far apart, either that or not far enough apart.

I took him through the poles probably 6-8 times total (a few times each direction), each time improving a little bit in our clumsiness and timing. I did most of the ride with a long and low headset (ala hunter), and in 2-point -which is tough in a cutback- but I needed the workout too. By the end, Louie figured out how to take one pole per stride on the ones that were close enough together (he was taking huge strides to get over them, but that's the kind of impulsion we need to build up strength!). So next time, I'll have to be sure to put them a little closer together so he can manage them in 1 stride rather than fumbling for 2, and I probably won't put so many in a row, maybe 2 sections of 6-7 poles on one straight away- did I mention this arena is huge? I loff it!

Overall, I think Louie felt pretty good while I rode him today, but I'm really not very good at feeling lameness (even worse than I am at seeing it from the ground). He felt a little different than he did before, but I'm not sure if that's a good different, bad different, or maybe I'm just making something up that wasn't there before? Sandy is supposed to be coming out tomorrow to watch him go and see if she agrees that he's looking a little better. I'm just happy to be back to working him again; it was miserable going out there and not being able to do much with him for nearly 2 weeks. So, hopefully we'll get his butt strong enough so that he doesn't require much help in staying sound! Back at it and keeping my fingers crossed!