Saturday, February 20, 2010

Doin' Time

Stall time, that is. Mean auntie Sandy is making Louie stay inside away from his buddies for a few days, and, he has to take yucky medicine. Oh the poor thing, you should have seen him today, absolutely heartbroken. I'm sure he must have thought that someone forgot about him when they let all the horses out this morning. He sure misses his buddies, and his run-around time.

Well, why this torture? you ask? On Thursday I noticed a little bit of swelling in one of his hind legs. It was worse on Friday, and he wasn't lame persay, just moving rather uncomfortably. So, our *nice* aunt Sandy came out to look at him and called the vet, who recommended a few days of bute and stall rest. So, we're unsure of what it is, and really it's mild to my minimalist eye, but I guess we'll listen to the experts.

Today the swelling was just about totally gone, so we're doing one more day of bute and stall rest and we'll see what he looks like on Monday. At least he got a new treat to keep him company!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's A Long Climb Up. . .

. . . into the saddle. . .

Yup, you read that right. I rode Louie tonight, and the saddle did seem really high up after our short hiatus from riding. Tonight was the first time we did anything close to what I would call riding in 5 months. With the exception of one time a few weeks ago when I sat on him and walked around for a few minutes just to get him used to the idea that he is still a riding horse, we have been doing purely ground work for almost half a year! I wanted to give him some significant time off from riding so that he would have time to heal his back and legs and whatever else he had going on, and take some time to build up a good foundation with some lower-impact work in a nice controlled, long and low frame which I believe is the best thing for a horse with soreness in his back and hind legs. We have worked on core exercises to support his back and abs as much as possible, and worked a lot on a nice relaxed extended and free walk in long lines. We have worked on slowing down, speeding up, and extending the stride. Louie has changed immensely in size and shape since last winter/spring, filling out and broadening across his back and hind end, and wow is it noticeable from atop his back.

He really felt like a whole new horse tonight during our ride. Besides the fact that he was incredibly squirley and fresh, head flipping and trying to run and play, he was moving like a million bucks- and FAST! I was amazed at what a ground-covering stride he had developed and how seemingly effortlessly he floated around the arena as if he were a Standardbred trotter cruising around the track trying to finish first. But really, he did also settle down a little bit, we did some nice walking and leg yielding, bending and flexing and overall we had a fun ride!

At the end of the 20 minute ride Louie was biting at the girth on both sides, more on the right than the left. I figure this is most likely because the saddle pad did not entirely cover the flaps and it might have been rubbing on him and making him uncomfortable, but I'm not sure exactly that that's what was causing it. Easy enough to figure out though, next time I'll put a different pad on him and see how that goes.

Now I know I said that I didn't want to ride him again until I had him broke to drive, but I think I've come to a decision regarding that which in itself deserves a new blog entry. The basic principle of it is that I can't get consistent enough help to get him broke myself (it's definately a 2-person job) so I am planning on sending him off to an expert driving trainer this spring. More to come on that in the future. . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beanie Baby

Tonight I had only a short amount of time to work Louie since it was a late night at the office. I turned him out in the arena with one of his young pasturemates. They played and ran and chased and had a grand ol' time together. Louie demonstrated some really nice rollbacks, canter departs on both leads, and some very nice trotting, snorting, and tail flagging. By the time he was done running around he was a little out of breath!

I brought him over to the other side of the barn (the warm side) and decided it was time to try to clean his sheath. He had been rubbing his tail, and I thought this might be the cause. Also, Louie has got a chronically dirty sheath, which I like to try to clean frequently if possible. I had done a little bit of cleaning of his sheath on Thursday, but more was needed, and I was pretty confident he had a bean that needed removal, so I needed to see if I could remove it. Louie stood perfectly while I used a nice soft sponge to rinse his sheath with warm water. I used some excalibur also as Louie tends to build up a lot of gunk inside of his sheath. . . half an hour of washing and scrubbing later Louie's sheath was actually starting to appear clean. I used a tip from another fellow horse lover and had picked up some big dosing syringes from Fleet Farm yesterday, and planned to use this to rinse out his sheath since I didn't have access to warm running water. This syringe method worked great- it wasn't terribly messy and it definitely cleaned out any remaining remnants of excalibur or cotton inside his sheath better than a sponge could.

Finally after the sheath was cleaned, and though Louie never actually dropped sufficiently for me to clean him in his entirety, it was time to go after that bean. A few inches of dropping would do. After a couple of attempts, I was able to remove a large bean, about the size of a kidney bean or a large chili bean, plus several smaller pieces of hardening bean material that were still soft and pliable (this was where I was REALLY glad I had my gloves on haha). I'm sure I did not get everything out, but he'll most likely pee much easier without all that gunk in there.

Louie stood like a champ for this whole procedure. I was super impressed with how well he tolerated it, even the bean removal. A lot of horses need to be sedated for cleanings and bean removal, but if you do it regularly, slowly, and gently, I find that many geldings will tolerate this as part of their routine grooming. And now that I've discovered this super easy and effective syringe method for rinsing, I should be able to do this much more frequently as I had previously been hesitant to clean his sheath during the winter months due to lack of an effective way to rinse out the remnants of my cleaning supplies. Louie got a few treats and a bunch of pets, and went back in his stall for bed time, now squeaky clean(er).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Making Progress!

Louie did great tonight! After our normal walk/trot warm up, I asked him first for a left lead canter and he took it beautifully (granted a little startled by my kiss cue, but he picked it up from a walk really nicely and NO bucking!). We went about a lap, praised like crazy, then went on doing some more walk/trot work.

Just to test the waters a little bit, I later set him up, half-halt, shift, bend, and cued him for a right lead and much to my suprise, he picked it up beautifully, no bucking or kicking, and stayed in it about one lap (I have to kindof keep clucking/kissing every few strides to keep him going) before I asked him to stop. Lots of praise again, and the permagrin plastered on my face as I was gasping for breath after sprinting a lap around the arena with him. I was totally shocked that he took both leads so nicely!

We continued on for a little bit more walking and trotting, working on our jog trot (which by the way is coming along really nicely!) and I thought I'd try the right lead one more time at the end of the lesson to see if he could do it again. Granted I was really pushing my luck, but I set him up and asked him for the right lead one last time. And right off the bat, he took it again! As I was running, breathing, and yelling "good boy!" he broke down to a trot (I didn't get my reminder cluck in quick enough lol), so I quick re-cued him and he got his right lead again, this time with one little kick. I let that slide as it was far less violent than what he has done in the past and he continued on his right lead really nicely. We went about half a lap and I stopped him, praised him like crazy, and we called it a night. Yay!!

Now I know next time may be a totally different story, he might not continue progressing as he has, but I really truly believe that this method is working and he is starting to get it. I think by being able to shift his haunches and tip his nose toward the rail, it's really opening up his shoulder and he's starting to get what I want from him and taking his right lead MUCH more easily and willingly. For such a smart horse, I'm honestly suprised it's taken him so long to figure this right lead thing out, but I think he *might* be finally catching on. Keeping my fingers crossed that he keeps progressing!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Crupperless

Tonight I long lined Louie, again working on all 3 gaits (yesterday we just worked on the walk and trot, so we're going for every other or every 3 days to work on the canter rather than every session, to keep from anticipating the canter). I added one new piece of equipment- a pair of loose elastic side reins to prevent Louie from over-bending when I ask him to move towards the rail- this is in attempt to get him to actually MOVE toward the rail when I ask him rather than just bend toward it. This piece of equipment seemed to help a bit with that.

We warmed up just as we always do- walk and trot. We worked on our slow western jog, a medium working trot, and an extended trot. We also worked on transitions and halting. Then after we sufficiently got all the bugs out, I removed the crupper and ran the lines through the tugs rahter than the terretts, dropping the outside line around his haunches. We started off at a walk, tracking to the left.

Instantly Louie knew what was about to happen so he started acting squirley. I just persevered and asked him to continue working on walk, trot, jog, and halt, until he got over the feeling of the line behind his haunches. From an active, forward walk, I asked Louie for a half-halt, a shift of the haunches, then gave a kiss to ask him to canter. He kindof jumped off into the canter, and hopped around a bit, but I pushed him through it and he continued on at a nice canter. Good boy! We stopped and praised. It's hard to praise and really get excited for a horse when you're out of breath.

After a little walking to settle down, I asked him again a second time to canter and this time, much to my suprise, he took his right (incorrect) lead. I brought him back down to a trot and asked him again to canter, this time he took a very nice left lead. I sprinted with him around a whole lap and again down to the far end (I have to run pretty fast to keep up, even though he canters at a pretty reasonable rate). At the far end, I asked him to circle. This was a little tricky, as he wanted to slow down, and kindof crow hopped when I gave him another kiss to continue on. Perhaps next time I'll try a cluck, as he obviously is a little jumpy around the kiss cue.

One last time, I asked him to canter again (I wanted to end on a good note with a clean canter- no wrong leads, no crow hopping, etc). He kindof jumped into the canter, startled by the kiss, and continued on very nicely, until I asked him to walk after about 3/4 lap of very nice, controlled cantering around the arena. We stopped and I showered him with breathless praise and pets one last time.

To end our lesson, we did a little walking, then changed directions and worked on our various trot speeds to get Louie's mind out of "canter" mode. Overall, he did really well today- much less bucking/craziness with the canter, so I think removing the crupper helped. In a few days, we'll try the right lead again and see where that takes us. I am waiting in hopeful anticipation.