Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Photos! From the Dressage Show

As promised, here are few of the photos that the professional photographer took of us at the dressage show. I had debated ordering these, but decided to go ahead, as some of them I am going to enlarge, frame, and display in my exam rooms in the clinic. Many of these are so beautiful, and so artistic, I think my patients will enjoy them. Plus they are a great distraction for worried minds in the doctor's office and a good conversation piece as you never know when you're going to meet another horse lover. Maybe it's just me, but I could look at my baby all day long. . . :) Without further ado!







Photos by J. Reilly Photography: www.jreillyphotography.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pony

Louie got to experience a new activity today- ponying. I had been wanting to pony him a few months ago, because it is a good way to get a young horse used to things and a good skill to have in our back pocket incase we need it! So I brushed Louie and let him loose with just his halter on in the outdoor ring to graze until I was ready for him. Then I saddled up our walking horse Cash, and headed out to the outdoor arena. Just to see how the two horses would react, I walked Cash around the ring once or twice with Louie just hanging out free in the arena- niether of them cared. Then I grabbed Louie's leadrope and without even dismounting, walked over to him, got his attention, and hooked the leadrope on. Then we walked off.

I just held the leadrope instead of tying it to anything as I think it's a little safter that way. I tried to keep Louie's head by my leg, but he wanted to slack off at first and lag behind Cash and me. We walked around the rail, keeping Louie to the inside, and Cash was just a champ about it- he couldn't have cared less. Louie thought this was a little interesting and at first tried to bite Cash, but I was able to use my arms and legs to ward him off. After a few trips around, Louie had settled into the idea nicely, turning both ways with us, stopping, and starting when asked. We mostly just walked.

We did do a little bit of trot- at first Louie did not keep up with Cash when we started to pick up our speed. This was not so fun for the middle man- me. But after some coaxing, I got Louie to jog beside us as Cash picked it up to a nice flat walk. By the end, we even practiced a little turkey cutting- there was a giant herd of turkeys in and near the arena during our ride, and at the end, we thought it might be fun to try to separate one from the rest of the flock. It was really easy, we just stayed on the rail and kept walking- we left one turkey in the middle of the arena and the other 10 on the outside of the arena fence- fun! Niether horse did anything more than prick their ears up to look at the turkeys waving their wings and showing off.

The hardest part of the whole ponying thing was getting Louie to trot when I wanted to go faster. I'll have to remember to cue Louie in advance of cueing Cash so that I keep both of my arms attached to my body in the future, lol. All in all, it went really well, very smoothly, and both horses took to it really easily. It's a great way for me to work Cash, yet still get Louie out of his stall a little bit in the evenings to stretch his legs without really "working."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vacation

Louie has been relaxing and enjoying a nice vacation since the dressage show. I figure he deserves a little time off from regular work after all the new things he has learned and accomplished in the past 9 months. A little mental and physical break is just what the doctor ordered. He has been such a good boy through everything I've asked of him up 'til now, so we've been lounging around, going for walks, stopping to munch on the fresh grass and clover, eating apples and carrots, and getting lots of love.

We'll pick up on the lessons after a while, hopefully completing the cart-breaking (haha, that's breaking TO the cart, hopefully not breaking the cart) process this fall. Louie had been having a little bit of back pain leading up to the dressage show, and while I suspect that this was aggravated/caused by the saddle (Stuuben's have that reputation), it did open my eyes to the fact that we need to initiate a better back/core/hind end routine into our regular work schedule. So we will pick up with that after his vacation.

But for now, we're going to be relaxing and enjoying the break, as all young horses should have, and Louie very much deserves! What a good boy!

I also am pleased to announce that I have ordered a photo CD from the Dressage Show photographer that should be here next week. I had 40 photos to choose from (it's amazing how many more photos they get of you when you're the only one in the ring!), and got 13 of them on a CD. I plan to use some of them as framed 8x10's in my clinic exam rooms. Right now I have bare walls and what better way to put people at ease than to look at beautiful high resolution photos of a horse with as sweet a face as my little Louie!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dressage Show

We went to the schooling show yesterday and had a great time! I was really suprised by how nice everybody was. We had so many comments on what a lovely horse Louie was and everyone was so amazed that he is a Saddlebred and only 3 years old. By the end of the day he had his own fan club of people who didn't even know us cheering for us (you can hear them in the intro A video lol). He did great- really impressed me for being his first time on this farm, new discipline, stuff to look at, etc. He handled everything like a seasoned pro, having never seen the letter markers, judge in the trailer at the end of the arena, people sitting in metal chairs on the side of the arena, etc- he just took everything in stride. Mind you, I've never had any formal dressage schooling and therefore niether has Louie, so we have a lot of room for improvement should we decide to pursue this dressage thing. Overall, I was very pleased with how we did.

Our first class was intro B. I thought we really had a pretty nice ride. Louie was really responsive and listened well. My own error, I don't know how big a 20m circle is, so I made my circles a few feet small on this pattern, but corrected it for the next one. So here are some of the scores/comments- we got knocked hardest on our free walk, and the major thing being that he needs to reach down into the bit more- something we haven't really worked on having kindof aimed for saddle seat or hunt seat in our training thus far. We received our highest score on impulsion, and much to my suprise I got a 6 on my form (I thought for sure i'd get a 2 with my hunt seat/saddle seat equitation). Our overall comments were: "Nicely forward test, good effort! Work on getting horse to push from behind and stretch over topline into a steady soft connection to hand/bit. Also, watch accuracy- circles should be 20m." We got a 59%! (not an amazing score, but I thought it was pretty darn good for having no dressage training whatsoever!! - I was honestly expecting to embarrass ourselves miserably and come out with a 20% or something lol). This got us 2nd place out of 10. Granted, I think there were a lot of beginners there just like me, but I was pretty happy with that for a first time! Here's the video:



Our second test was Intro A. I kindof lost my horse in this one- I really needed spurs/whip in this class because you'll see in the video how I couldn't get him to trot at C tracking to the left, lol, and he was super lazy and lacked some of his usual impulsion here. My friend Sarah was even clucking from the rail at one point lol. I thought for sure I'd need a stronger bit and no spurs/whip because he was really strong at the last hunt show I brought him to, but Louie was so relaxed and mellow that really wasn't the case. We were also horribly crooked on entering the test (in my opinion, judge didn't think it was that bad) and kindof left the salute prematurely. Other than that, it was a decent ride, I had a hard time getting him over to the rail without counterbending (wasn't listening to my inside leg much at all), and we had a lot less style in this one (from my perspective)- not much bending on the circles, etc. We once again got knocked for our free walk- lazy as could be with no stretch and my elbows locked out, and didn't score as well on the submission category this time- big suprise. Our overall comments were: "Nice job! work on getting horse to stretch more over topline with neck reaching out of shoulder into a soft steady feeling connection to your hand." We scored a 56% on this test, which was good enough for 3rd out of 7. Still, not bad for "dressage on a whim." lol Here's the video:


And here are a few photos- my friend got some really cute ones on her camera so I'll try to post them later when I get them, and there was a pro photographer there too, so her proofs will hopefully be up within the next week, so I'll try to post those if I find them too.
Thanks again to Melissa for videotaping and Sarah for coaching, lending me her saddle, and photographing!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cross Training Woes

I've been tossing around the idea of bringing Louie to a nearby dressage schooling show going on this weekend to try Intro A and B. I have no real formal dressage training and I don't own hardly any of the necessary equipment, but what the heck, if I enjoy it and find the feedback as potentially achievable, maybe I'll take some lessons. I'm fully prepared to fail miserably, but the only way to find out is to try it, so I entered. Generally I have a dislike for events that require me to commit ahead of time because I like the flexibility of being able to decide on a whim, but it's not too expensive and it's very close to home, so we'll give it a try.

I'm borrowing my friend's saddle- a 70's model brown Stubben (suprisingly comfortable from my perspective!), along with my hunt bridle, and an old pad that the barn manager gave me. When it comes to bitting, we struggled for a while to find one suitable to the USDF rulebook, but I finally found a legal bit that I own- just a plain half-cheek snaffle. I have the required clothing from my hunt seat closet, so we're set! I had my friend Sarah out to the barn yesterday to ride and play and we had a great time. She watched us perform our two dressage tests and gave me some feedback. The main feedback was that I've got my patterns down, but when it comes to collection/bending, equitation, and other dressage-specifics, we're going to require some longer-term work that is not going to happen by Saturday, so just do our best, have fun, and don't worry about it too much.

The other feedback was that Louie looked a little short on his left hind again. I've been debating his soundness lately and the decision of whether I should bring him back to Dr. Turner for a follow up visit, as I was instructed to follow up if the injection wasn't the answer as he had more ideas and plans. Louie hasn't been all that short on that hind leg, just ever so slight, and it seems as though he's more tight in his back, loin, and croup as he really tends to tighten his topline up when he trots. Well, I think I am going to bring him back to see Dr. Turner. Louie's second massage didn't produce nearly the results that the first did, and he was actually notably short at the walk yesterday. Now I'm not sure what part of this might have to do with this new saddle I've been riding him in for the past 2 days as Stubbens do have a reputation for being rather ouchy for some horses' backs, or if it is due to one of his pasture shennanigans or something else, but he's definately taken a little step back from when I watched the barn manager ride him on Thursday (two new riders for Louie this week- and the only real riders other than myself- and he treated both quite nicely)! Here is a short video I got of him on a lunge line last weekend, where you can see that he is a tiny bit short, but more than anything just looks lazy in the hind end:


So, I'll give him a few days of rest and light stretching work, then if he doesn't look too off, take him to the show on Saturday- see this is why I hate pre-entering, no more than 1 day after I sent in my entries and fees does my horse turn up lame. . . ugh. Well hopefully we can get in to see Dr. Turner soon and get a definative diagnosis. I'm ready to have a sound horse again. . .