Sunday, November 29, 2009

If the Cart Fits. . .

. . . wear it! Good news- the green meanie is plenty big enough for Louie! Twice this week we've walked Louie with the cart, shafts just through the tugs, not hooked. On Tuesday I was a little more nervous than I think I would like to be, every time Louie took one step a little faster than I thought he should, I had a panic moment and stopped him. It's as if I forgot that the cart could easily be pulled away from him if he needed it to be. But today, I did much better- and so did Louie.

We just walked around for a few minutes with the cart through the tugs, with me leading Louie by a lunge line attached to his halter (over his bridle and blinder hood) and petting him and praising him all along the way. We practiced stopping every once in a while, and making turns with the shafts at Louie's sides. Louie is pretty desensitized to the feeling of shafts against his sides with all of his shaft training he's done, though the cart is a little more restrictive than loose shafts that aren't attached to anything, so he's getting used to stepping over and abiding by where the shafts allow his butt to go. The green meanie makes almost no noise behind him, so there's really not a whole lot to be desensitized to in that way- at least not yet.

I'll admit I'm a little bit nervous about hooking him and proceeding with the training, but we've got some good resources out there for assistance and professionals available to step in when we need help. We're making progress, slowly but surely. Onward we go. . . green meanie in tow!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Green Meanie

The term "green meanie" is one that comes from my physician assistant training. A few of my classmates had these cool green pencils that were more extraordinary than your average mechanical pencil, and they believed that they had special lucky powers in them (maybe a little superstitious). Before each test, my two friends would pull out their "green meanies" and recite a short phrase of good luck to oneanother, brought to them by their pencils "green meanies unite!" they would proclaim, then on to the test taking. . . well they were some of the best students in my class, so maybe those green meanies really did have special powers.

Anyhow, back to Louie- after discovering that my cart was too small for him, I decided it was time to list it for sale and purchase a new cart. I had really wanted a 2 wheeled jog cart the first time around, but ended up with the Jerald Runabout instead. I really enjoyed that cart and it was fabulously comfortable to drive around in, but it wasn't going to fit my horse. Well, as luck should have it, within a few days of listing my cart for sale/trade, I got a few responses to the ad, one of whom had an old Houghton jogger that she was interested in trading for mine since it was too wide for her 14.3hh morgan. Well the trade worked out, the shaft length was the same between the two carts, and this one is considerably wider, plus it's a 2 wheeled jog cart, which is what I wanted anyhow. So I won't be able to haul passengers around, but this is really the type of cart I wanted from the get go for exercising and conditioning my horse. It just happens to be a rather interesting shade of green. The seller didn't like the color at all, but I rather like it (not to mention Louie looks good in green). This cart has been well used over the years but looks to be solid as a rock, so I think the nickname "green meanie" may be suitable for it. And it just might have special powers and bring us good luck and safety in our driving adventures.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Pessoa

Today Louie got his first "real" workout in the pessoa. While this is not a name brand Pessoa training system, it's a home creation/replica that cost a small fraction of what the real thing costs. The premise of the device is to encourage a horse to pull their butt underneath them, use their abs, and thereby raise their backs. While not that great for enabling a horse to extend, their ability to enable a horse to "collect" in a sense, is wonderful. For more information on the system, visit this website

We started with this system very loose today just to get used to the idea of it being there. Eventually we want to get him set up with it tight enough to actually produce a rounding of the body, but he needs to be desensitized before we get too fancy with it. I just hooked it to his halter rather than putting him in a bridle. I'd rather have him pull on his nose for now and keep his mouth soft until he's learned how to wear it properly.

We just lunged large circles at all 3 gaits in both directions, and while we struggled to get the right lead at first, we eventually got it- a reminder that we need to work on and develop that lead as we progress.

Louie fought the pessoa for a little bit at first, trying to pull UP on it with his head and traveling in quite the awkward high headed inverted type of frame. But with a little vocal encouragement and reward, Louie was eventually stretching down and floating along with a nice long stride. By the end of the session he lunged as if it weren't even there. More advanced work in the pessoa to be continued. . .

Edited to add: I found a photo of Louie in the pessoa from a few months ago when I first made it, this is essentially the concept, though I need a new surcingle with rings on the girth- oh I love shopping. :) hehe

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tight Fit

Today my husband accompanied me to the barn to work on some 2-person driving training with Louie. We worked in the outdoor arena, taking advantage of it while we still are able to use it! This was Louie's first official workout since his knee injury, and it was also his first time long lining outside. Apparently the far end of the arena was a little bit scary with a few tires and ground poles along the fence and 4 new round bales in the pasture beside the arena. But Louie marched by the new sights and focused on the task at hand pretty well. After a short long lining warm up, we pulled out a few "scary" items to test Louie on.

The first was a plastic shopping bag full of cans dragged across the sand. This didn't make him flinch at all. My husband dragged the bag on the ground in front of us and Louie and I followed him to start, then we slowly worked our way up beside him, and eventually positioned ourselves in front of the bag. The bag full of aluminum cans was a non-issue.

The next was the plastic sled. This outdoor sand arena was a new sound for Louie, reminiscant of the gravel, so naturally this one got him a little bit more worked up. Louie and I stood at one end and just watched Bjorn drag the sled around in front of us. He was "looky," but kept his composure as long as the sled was within sight. We slowly progressed to getting the sled behind him as we did with the bag and sans one little spook, he did great with it, old memories and all.

Then it was time for the next big obstacle- we brought out the cart. Bjorn pulled the cart in front of us with Louie and I following, and he was very interested in the cart- actually tried to catch up to sniff the cart. He wasn't the least bit bothered by the sound of the cart, so we did the same progression and eventually had the cart being pulled along behind us with not even a flick of an ear.

Then we progressed to one final test- putting the shafts around the horse. I held Louie while Bjorn pulled the cart forward. It was then that we learned that the shafts are a little bit of a tight fit around Louie's barrel. We were able to get the shafts a few inches through the tugs, but not without a little bit of a struggle. We didn't secure anything, but walked just a few steps with Bjorn holding the cart and me holding the horse. After about 15 steps something spooked or pinched Louie and he crow hopped a few steps. We got the cart off and and Louie relaxed really quickly, but it was enough to scare us all just a little bit. We wanted to end on a good note without making backward progress, so my husband walked the cart behind us again, we re-positioned, and put one shaft through once more. We walked about 10-15 steps perfectly calmly, stopped, "un-hooked" and called it a day.

Overall Louie took all of the desensitization pretty well despite his few little bobbles. We will continue working with the desensitization process, all the while realizing and for the first time seriously considering sending Louie to a professional to finish off the breaking process- partly due to equipment, partly due to his history and my nerves/lack of bravery. We will see what happens in time. . . but there is one thing that is for sure- my cart is too narrow for Louie and I will have to begin the searching process to find a new one that will fit him. This is somewhat suprising because Louie wears a smaller blanket than my old Saddlebred Social, yet he is too wide for the cart that fit Social. . . granted Social was pretty narrow, but Louie is really not that wide (my husband was teasing him, calling him mean fat names- he's not fat, just has larger bone structure haha). And at only 3, he will certainly be filling out, making the necessity of a larger cart with longer/wider shafts quite definate. Anyone need a nice Jerald Runabout?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feeling Much Better

Just a quick note to report that Louie's leg is looking MUCH better. Almost all of the swelling is gone, and it is no longer tender or warm, and Louie is moving around quite comfortably on it. I think our treatment regimen worked. Now just a few little lacerations to heal up and he'll be good as new! Thanks to Tom, the barn manager, for all of his hard work giving Louie his antibiotics this week- and I know how much of a struggle it was because Louie saw that dosing syringe coming and faught pretty hard to keep it away! Also special thanks to Sandy for her "drop-everything to help out a friend" attitude.

Hopefully this weekend/next week we'll get started with the desensitization I had planned for him, followed by the introduction of the cart! Yipee!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

He's A Weenie!

Louie scratched himself in the pasture on Thursday, I thought nothing of it, rinsed it out and put some topical antibiotic ointment on it and put him away. Today his whole knee was swollen, hot, and he was TEN-DER, not to mention he was lame. Ugh. My husband promptly pointed out that my horse is accident prone. Thanks honey, that really helps. ;)

Saving myself from the emergency vet call, I did some self-vetting and did a betadine scrub, cold hose, some topical Nitrofurazone ointment, then had my good friend Sandy stop out and give him some Bute and start him on some Sulfa antibiotics. My husband and I were just on our way out of town (picking up the trailer) to go pick up our new horse, so this was an unplanned event (obviously), but Louie is always managing to find ways to steal the attention from any other horse for himself! We were lucky that Sandy was available to come to our rescue while we were en route to get our new horse and that she also happened to have 140 spare sulfa tablets on hand. She called me to let me know she didn't think it was too bad, wasn't that swollen after the first cold hosing, and told me that my horse is a weenie for pain. Haha.

Tonight, after dropping off the trailer, I repeated the cold hose and topical ointment application and headed out to Fleet Farm to pick up a Tetanus booster. When I got there I debated for several minutes which one to get- the Tetanus Antitoxin or the Tetanus Toxoid. So I eventually ended up getting both, as they were only $5 each and I was in a bit of a hurry to get it into him. I put in a page to the on-call vet for a recommendation on my self-vetting (it sometimes annoys me when my patients do that so I felt bad, but oh well) and some guidance on which Tetanus to give. When I arrived at the barn, phone in hand, waiting for vet's call, I was suprised to see the vet's truck there. He wasn't there for my horse, but it was very convenient so I got my vet "consult" in person and even got a mini exam and his opinion on the injury. I love our vets! He reassured me that it looks like just some soft tissue infection/inflammation rather than a septic joint, and agreed with my treatment plan. Whew! A HUGE sigh of relief for me. :)

Cost of tetanus vaccines: $5 each
Cost of oral antibiotics: $0 (Thanks Sandy, I owe you lunch!)
Cost of reassurance from an experienced vet: priceless.

So we continue with Louie's treament regimen for the next week or so and hopefully after that we'll be back to work in the lines and very soon -the cart! As for now, my little weenie of a baby horsie will have to tough through the results of his shenannigans!