Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shaft Training Round 2

Louie had a long line lesson tonight (3rd lesson back) and he was great! We've been working sort of long-ish and low-ish, trying to keep a nice loose and long stride with a relaxed back and Louie did GREAT with this tonight! He looked awesome- I started him out at a slow jog, asking him to tuck his nose in a little bit, then I slowly asked him for a little bit more speed while trying to maintain the same nice and slow cadence but cover more ground. He did this beautifully and really floated by the end of the session. I am going to keep working him like this because I love the long floating strides that he was showing me tonight.

So after a basic short long lining work out, a little walk, trot with plenty of transitions and halts in both directions, we stepped up to the next step in getting him to a cart- revisiting shaft training. We hadn't put the training shafts on in a while, so we started very slowly, but Louie remembered the drill and didn't even flinch with the shafts tonight. I drove him a little close to the wall intentionally so that the shaft would scrape along the wall and make noise and that didn't seem to bother Louie at all either. Praise, praise, praise. After a few trips around the arena at a walk and trot, testing out all of our gears including "park," we called it a night.

I was very proud of my boy tonight- both for the beautiful trot that he gave me and the tolerance for the training shafts- picking up where he left off and not minding one bit. :) Good Boy! Maybe over the weekend we'll add in some other desensitization- sounds and funny feeling things added onto our basic long lining work. We're getting closer- one step at a time!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Outside the Box

Last night Louie and I went for a nice long line down the road. It was a rare occasion lately that it has been light out after work and it was above 45 degrees and not raining- so we took advantage of it! For his second day back at work, he was a very good boy. We started out with his exercises, then warmed up in the arena with a little walking and trotting, practicing our halting and standing- something that is very important to be good at! He needed a few reminders to stand after being asked to whoa, but he stopped very nicely when asked. After I felt he was sufficiently warmed up and paying attention, we turned around and walked out the arena door- the same exact door we walked out of the day of the sled accident. Of course I got a little nervous, but Louie just marched right on through. Once we got out of the barnyard, it was an easy nice walk down the road. I walked by Louie's hip and we went down the driveway and out onto the gravel road. The sun was setting and it was just beautiful- Louie looked gorgeous- that Saddlebred head and neck against the sun setting fall colors. . . if only I'd have had my camera. . .

We walked and halted every now and then just to test out his skills, then turned around and headed home. Louie took it all in stride. We walked through a bunch of fallen leaves, making that every so slightly scary crunching sound, but Louie hardly noticed. We got back to the barn just as the light was becoming dim, un-tacked, and got Louie all tucked into his stall for the night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back to School?

Louie has been giving me little hints lately that he wants to go back to work- like those big brown sad eyes when I take Cash out to work him and bypass Louie's stall, running up to the fence to greet me- even if it's for a flu shot, and his increase in demanding attention while waiting for the farrier. He has been very excited to see me when I come out to visit, but perhaps that is because I come with treats most every time I am there. We have been working on "our exercises" in which we use lots of treats- but that deserves its own post, so we'll save discussing his exercises for later.

Anyhow, life in a stall is pretty boring for a youngster, and there is usually too much going on at the barn to just turn Louie loose in the arena, so it's time we think about getting back to some form of organized work. Especially if we want to be pulling a cart before 2010.

Tonight we went for a quick little long line- which is good for me to get back to too as I see how out of shape I am running around trying to keep up at the end of the lines. Louie was really good considering he had quite a bit of time off (I long lined Cash just before Louie, so I got to experience both ends of the spectrum there haha). I left the overcheck off, as we're working on our back and hind end, and after a brief warm up, I clipped the reins down onto the sides of the harness by the girth making a draw rein set up to encourage a lower head carriage. Louie looked great- lowering his head and stretching through his back.

His only one quirk today was putting the harness on, which is a frequent problem. He hates wearing a crupper- he gooses it almost every time, regardless of how slow and gentle I am or what methods I attempt to try to prevent it. We may have to outfit him in a bustle for a few nights to get him over his crupper phobia.

Anyhow, I had planned on letting Louie vacation until the end of October, but we're almost there, and he's had about a month and a half off now, so maybe it's time to ease back into it. . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Living Up To His Name

Today Louie was making a good case for his name- Master of Illusion. Or at least master of mischief.

First, when I arrived at the barn to work this morning, Louie was standing in his stall quietly with a neat pile of manure on the aisle floor in front of his stall. How did that get there? What kind of horse poops outside of his stall? Well apparently mine does. How he managed that, I'm not quite sure, but I'd imagine that he backed up to his half door do pull that one off.

Then, when I went out to catch Louie for the farrier, he was in a different paddock than I had put him in this morning. The small group paddock that he is normally in is adjoined to the individual paddocks that he used to be in, separated by a fence. Somehow, Louie had gotten from the large group paddock to the other side of the fence, in one of the small individual paddocks. ??? I looked around thinking perhaps one of the gates had been open, but that wasn't the case. I asked the barn manager if he had moved Louie, thinking maybe he thought he'd make my job easier by putting Louie in a smaller area for catching him later, but he said no, he hadn't moved Louie at all. Hmmm, Louie was covered in mud- you know, he thinks that he is half pig, and had a few little scratches from his shennanigans, but no major damage to him or the fence. I think he must have rolled or crawled under the fence where it was missing one of its lower boards. I'm not sure what the motivation was for him to go in the small paddock as there was nothing to eat in there, but apparently he thought it would be fun. I have no idea how he did it, but I bet it would have been quite something to watch!

A few months ago he did manage to break out of his stall and rearrange everybody's stuff on their stall doors, so I know he is pretty handy, but Louie's recent endeavors go to show that his name really suits him well!

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Year Ago

Today marks exactly 1 year from the day we decided to bring Louie home with us. It seems like just yesterday that I was out at Indigo Acres looking at prospects. I had "looked" casually on the internet and at local stables for a couple of months and was not all that thrilled with what was out there and the prices people were asking for these horses- until I saw an ad for a local breeding farm that had a few young prospects available in my price range. And this was no back-yard breeder, this was a nationally successful breeding program standing a young stud who had already produced multiple world champions. How could you pass up that opportunity?

I can remember Sandy and myself out in the pastures with the breeder Romy, immersed amongst the herds of 20 yearlings and 10 two-year-olds. They were all so friendly and curious, it was almost hard to evaluate them from so close haha. Luckily for me, I was pretty sure I wanted a 2-year-old rather than a yearling, as I didn't want to wait an extra year to get started with training, so that narrowed down the choices significantly.

Romy was so essential in helping us decide. She knew each of her horses so well, and had prepared videos and pedigrees of many of them for us to make the decision easier. They were all very nice horses, so I'm sure I could not have gone wrong any way I would have chosen, but she listened to what I wanted, my experiences, and suggested a nice 2 year old colt with good size to match my height. She recommended him because he had been so easy to work with and had a fabulous amateur-friendly disposition, and was also very talented. It wasn't until she showed us his video that we saw what he was really capable of- trotting around with his knees at his chin, amazing hocks and a powerful back end, not to mention beautifully marked and kind-eyed. The pedigree also helped to persuade me- seeing Yorktown and Status Symbol on the dam's side so close up, I liked what this horse looked like on paper.

Sandy and I asked Romy to hold him for the night so we could talk to my husband and decide the following day. On the way home, Sandy was already calling him my colt, and helping me to think of a new barn name for him. He initially came with the name "Milk Man," which I wasn't terribly fond of, but it didn't take long to find a new name for him. On the way home in the car we were brainstorming the possibilities based on his registered name, "Ro & Me's Master of Illusion". . . iLLUsion. . . "Louie!" Sandy blurted out. I thought it over for a second, and decided it was perfect- a very cute name, fit with his registered name, and not to mention, is short for "Louisville," the location of the Saddlebred World's Championship show every year. It was perfect, and it stuck.

Naturally when my husband saw the video and how this horse used his legs he was convinced. Due to formatting, I can't share the video, but here are a couple of still frames from it- you can use your imagination.
I was so excited I hardly slept that whole week. The following day I called Romy and told her I would like to purchase the "Milk Man" and would be out with a check later that day. Romy took him and another colt that had just been sold to her training facility that following day for a brush-up on training as he had been sitting out in a pasture for a couple of months. She kept him there for a week, where she got him back to work in the long lines, clipped up, had his feet trimmed, and got him ready for his new home. 1 week later we brought him home- and the rest is history. Here we are- Louie had just arrived at his new home.
It's hard to believe that I've had him for a year, but when you look back at what we've accomplished, it all seems to make sense.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Photo Shoot

More beautiful photos from K. Noel Photography. Though we were not prepared for these (as you can tell by the mud and our attire), Karina managed to once again make us look great! Thanks Karina for your awesome work!