Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Knock It

Louie has really taken to our new adventure- jumping! Granted since he just turned 4, we've only been doing a few, very low jumps, the highest is about 12" on a lunge line- but we have been making slow, steady progress and I think Louie really likes it! He hasn't refused a jump yet, and he's getting the idea of "leaping" and using his legs together appropriately rather than just plowing through it one foot at a time.

Today we went over a straight rail on the lowest notch, maybe about 8-10" several times- he just soared over it beautifully probably 10 times, just flowing along like he'd been doing it forever. My favorite part is that we never had to check out the jump prior to going over it. The jump was positioned in the middle of the arena, we rode around the arena about 2 times, then headed straight for it at a trot and he went right over without question.

I was SO proud of my baby today and we had a TON of fun! Until the second to the last jump- we approached it and Louie's (and my) timing wasn't quite right, he got in a little too tight and knocked the rail with his legs (I think his front legs). The rail was one of those 100 pound wooden posts and he managed to take it down, so naturally he bucked once afterward- a display of his discomfort- I'd imagine that would hurt! Well, we couldn't end there, so I hopped off, re-set the jump- man it took about everything I had to set it back up! lol- note to self, use lighter rail next time. We had to go over it once more to end on a clean, good note, so we trotted a few strides to make sure everything was working well, then approached it one last time. This time we didn't time it very well either and he had to jump really long to clear it, but you can bet he wasn't going to hit that thing again!

We have also been picking up our right lead really nicely- several times he would actually take it right out of the jump, so we just continued around on the right lead for a little bit, enjoying the fact that he took it so easily. Today we also did about 1 lap of hand gallop which was a lot of fun! Overall, I'm so proud of my boy! He's doing so well and I think we've really found something that Louie enjoys; he is happy being a hunter.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mud Management

Mud season is upon us. And with that irritating thick layer of dried pasture caked onto my horse's ankles up to his knees that takes seemingly forever to clean off, just to repeat the same procedure day in and day out, I felt it would be nice to share my technique for Mud Management.

Step 1: allow mud to dry

Step 2: gently curry with a jelly scrubber

Step 3: brush off any remaining dust with a coarse bristle brush

Step 4: spray generously with Show Sheen (hair needs to be completely soaked)

Step 5: allow to dry fully before turning out

The Show Sheen repels the mud and makes it much easier to remove once it does become caked on. The silicone coat on the hair does not allow the mud to cling so tightly to the hair and is slides off with much less effort.

The jelly scrubber is flexible and bendable, so it is perfect for grooming parts of the body that are not flat- such as the fetlocks and pasterns, where thick caked on mud forms the most.

And that's my Mud Management Methodology.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strike a Pose

Today Louie and I just did a little light lunging and went for a nice walk down the driveway. As we got about a quarter of the way down the driveway, Louie stopped, parked out, and stood up like a beautiful Saddlebred statue, eyes and ears focused on some people walking in the distance. At that moment, of course I thought- where is my camera when I need it!? Well, we trotted back to my car, grabbed my phone, then continued on our way. Louie stood and posed a few more times, but never quite as breathtaking as that first time. But we did get some very nice camera phone photos of the handsome boy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What Happened to Spring?

We had been having beautiful, 60 degree temps, the mud was out in full force, I had taken Louie's winter blanket off, and I could work outside in a T shirt. Until yesterday. I got out to the barn to work Louie yesterday morning and it was below freezing out. The pasture consisted of chewed up mud craters filled with ice capped puddles. Louie's coat was fluffed up and his tail plastered to his butt. He was standing with his head burried in the middle of a round bale. It was 26 degrees out! Poor baby, he was cold- bad momma for taking his blankie!

Sandy met me at the barn and we worked Louie just walking and trotting with a few trotting poles/cavaletti at the end. Louie was full of P&V in this brisk weather. I was uncomfortable and not feeling my usual degree of security in a slippery new (old, but new to me) close contact saddle that Sandy had brought for me to try. It took a while to transform him from a saddle seat show horse to the hunter that he usually is, but after a warm up, he was moving around beautifully, Sandy noting an improvement since his adjustment as well.

After settling into our routine and me feeling just a bit more comfortable in the new saddle, we approached a ground pole at a posting trot. I figured we'd just trot right over it like it wasn't even there like we usually do. Quite the contrary- much to my suprise, as I reached for my *up* post over the pole, Louie sprung about 3 feet in the air, jumping over the pole like it was a 3 foot oxer. Woah, what was that? I had never felt Louie jump before and that was a bit of an uncoordinated last minute pounce that I sure didn't expect.

After that he improved dramatically, trotting over the trotting poles beautifully. He's really figuring out how to look at what's in front of him and plan and judge where to put his feet rather than just plowing through them haphazardly. At the end of the lesson, we approached a 6-8 inch high cavaletti/straight rail a few times from a trot. I rode in 2 point this whole time. Funny enough, Louie just trotted over the cavaletti rather than jumping it. That's okay, it probably wasn't high enough to actually be worth the effort to jump.

Overall he did great. Louie is moving really nicely and has got a great attitude with all of these poles that I have aimed him at. He's figuring it out- all in good time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Bad Horsey Mommy

It's official. . . I'm a bad horsey mommy. I totally missed Louie's birthday last Thursday (March 11th). I'm sorry baby Louie, happy 4th birthday! Well if it's any consolation, I guess he got a feel good service for his birthday (see previous post). I also picked up a new Uncle Jimmy Hanging Ball at Fleet Farm the other day so I will give him that to make up for missing the birthday cake.

All hurt feelings aside, Louie was great tonight. I rode him for the second time since his treatment last week and he felt really good. Our hunter/jumper instructor even commented on how much better he looked this week compared to last week without even knowing that anything had happened between then and now. (thumbs up!) So that's a real good thing! Yay Louie! We worked on our extended and slow trot, we even cantered on both leads pretty well (no fussing or bucking). I need to continue to work on my legs- really dropping my heels down and keeping my toes forward- calves in at Louie's sides. This is a bit different than what I'm used to from riding saddle seat with the knees in tight and the feet turned out away from the horse's sides. So, more work for me, but Louie's doing great with our conditioning exercises.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Alternative Medicine

I had a new vet out to look at Louie as I have been a little concerned that his hind end issues may be coming up again and I wanted a second opinion from the vet I had been using, granted he is an excellent vet, I just wanted another opinion. The new vet was excellent, very thorough, and read through his whole history, records, and a painstakingly complete list of every chronological event I could compile in Louie's health history.

She watched him in all 3 of his gaits on a lunge line and palpated his entire body very thoroughly. The good news is that he is not lame. The only part on his entire body that was remotely tender was his right front lower suspensory ligament- but he's not lame. She is trained in chiropractic and accupuncture, and treated Louie with both chiropractic adjustments and accupuncture to see if we can improve his cantering issues. He was a little subluxed in his pelvis, withers, and poll. Louie seemed like he really noticed this time when he was adjusted, I could see moments of discomfort and moments of relief, which I did not see the first time I had him adjusted.

Then she put a few accupuncture needles in him. He flinched a little bit when the first one went in, but after that he just about fell asleep. I swear you could see the endorphins coming over him. I had never had any personal experience with accupuncture before, and know relatively little about Eastern medicine, but I was amazed at the effect it had on Louie.

She also checked the fit of my saddle and inspected the tree. For being a $50 saddle, she said it actually didn't fit too bad, though it bridges just a little bit in the middle. His back is not sore in the least. In addition to all of that, she also helped me with some feed and supplement suggestons- now that is the whole horse approach! Louie now gets 2 days off, then we resume regular work with a re-check in 3-4 weeks.

So that is great news! I'm very happy to hear that she doesn't think he looks lame, and I can continue working and riding him. :) I am anxious to see how the treatments work for him. Keeping my fingers crossed. . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First Hunt "Lesson"

Tonight Louie and I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and had our first hunter "mini lesson!" This might have been my first actual lesson in something I was inexperienced in/rusty on, in quite a while. I feel like I'm learning to ride all over again, and I think my body is going to tell me that is the case over the next few days! Ouch!

One of the ladies at the barn is an experienced hunter/jumper rider and formerly worked as a riding instructor in this discipline. We've been talking a bit about my goals for Louie and today she gave us a short lesson with some suggestions and had us work on a few exercises to improve Louie's gait, my equitation, and our work as a hunter team.

When she first got there, we were just starting to warm up, had walked and trotted both ways, and had cantered to the left. We were just walking to the right when she walked in, and Louie was being an absolute stink- anticipating that I was going to ask for the canter and balking and moving to the middle of the ring. I really need a whip so I can reinforce my right leg that he has been ignoring. He was being a stinker, so I trotted him, then after he calmed down and forgot about the canter, I asked him and he took about a half a stride on the left lead, and kicked the wall. Grrrr. . . We tried one more time and he just trotted and showed me he was NOT happy, so we just continued on at a trot. He trotted like a bat out of hell- I mean FAST for several laps! I think we might have been able to beat some of those Standardbreds on the track tonight.

So right in the nick of time, Mary chimed in and had us work on a few exercises- 2 point for, I swear, 10 hours! No, it was about 10 minutes, but it's gonna hurt tomorrow! During my 2 point session, we trotted a bunch of big figure 8's while Louie chilled out, and she gave me little pointers on keeping my calves on Louie's sides, using my inside leg to connect to my outside rein around corners, and using my legs to get some more impulsion from his hind end. She said she really noticed a lot of improvement in his gait after a few minutes of this, and all through the lesson she didn't think he looked unsound at all.

After my legs were starting to get tired, apparently so was Louie, and he settled down into a more relaxed pace trot. We did a few spiral in-spiral outs and this was a really great exercise for Louie. We did a few long-way figure 8's, then she set out a few ground poles for us, which we did a posting trot over. One of the things that I learned that was really interesting and makes a lot of sense was that when first going over ground poles, don't try to set them perfectly- vary the distance between them so that Louie has to figure out how to approach, change his speed, and place his legs by himself. And don't mess with his mouth while he's doing it, just hang on for the ride and let him figure it out. This makes a lot of sense and as she varied the pole configuration each time, I could really see Louie thinking, watching, and planning his approach and thinking his way through the obstacles.

At the end, she set up a single caveletti, about 8 inches high in all and we trotted over that a few times in 2 point again. The first time he stumbled through it, but by the third time, he was arranging his feet well enough to get over cleanly. He didn't really jump the caveletti, more kindof trotted/half leaped over it. Mary said I should work him over some poles and similar small obstacles on a lunge line so that he can learn to approach it himself and set himself up, with the goal being that he coordinates his legs so that at least the front legs are both going over it together, not one leg at a time like he is currently doing. One other important thing that I learned tonight was about the function of the pole at the base of the jump and how it is very important for a horse's depth perception that there be a pole on the ground on the approach side of the jump, so they can judge the height of the obstacle- good to know the rationale behind that.

By the end of the lesson, I felt like I was carrying Louie around the ring. He was TIRED! That was a hard workout for him, and he got a little steamy, but I can tell with some regular work on these exercises, Louie will be a much stronger, more balanced and more impulsive horse. I really enjoyed my lesson with Mary and I am looking forward to working with her more! It has been so long since I've taken lessons where I've actually had to learn something and work hard, I really miss that! It's fun!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our Latest Riding Video

Here is a short video that Sandy took of us at the end of our ride today. His first canter departures today were GREAT. Both of these in this video took 2-3 attempts as he was getting tired and anticipating/avoiding the right lead- hence why he is turned practically perpendicular with the wall when we finally depart- I need a crop I think as he is ignoring my inside leg. I wanted this video to determine if he still looked off at all, but I'm not really seeing anything obvious in this video. Of course, my eyes have been conditioned to how he moves, so maybe I wouldn't notice it even if he was off. . .

Anyhow, his right lead is coming along pretty nicely. This long line work has done wonders for him and he hasn't missed his right lead yet since we've worked on it under saddle! I've asked him probably 7-8 times in the past couple of rides, and he's taken it every time! Granted, he does occasionally add in a buck/kick as we depart, and often tries to anticipate/avoid doing it, but he has not taken the left lead when asked for the right in quite a while (knock on wood). I think he's really getting it! So now that he's actually cantering on his right lead, I'm not sure if these cantering issues are physical or behavioral, but he doesn't look like he's in too much pain in this video to me. . . what do you think?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Right Lead

It's coming along. . . at least he's getting the hang of it, whether he likes cantering on that lead or not, he's at least trying. Last night I long lined him and we worked on the canter, which went very well! He cantered on both leads quite willingly and got both leads twice on the first try in each of his departures! We had a tiny bit of kicking on the left lead, but with a quick verbal reprimand he quit his little fit and we pushed him through it. I was very happy with him!

Tonight I rode him again, so now it's been 4 times in the past month or so. He was pretty good. He's not as "handy" as I would like, he doesn't respond to my cues quite as easily as he should, he's a little stiff, and one-sided, but he's out of condition, so I'll give him that for now. In particular, he was ignoring my right leg as I tried to push him toward the rail and didn't want to bend to the right going around corners. He was cutting corners like crazy and then missing the rail completely. Perhaps it was because the arena was in need of a dragging and had quite a rut by the rail that he didn't want to ride in. . . Anyhow, he eventually gave in and moved to the rail. He had a very nice walk and trot tonight, moved really nicely and evenly, and felt pretty good.

I then decided it was time to attempt the canter. Since it had gone so nicely the night before, we ought to give it a try. I asked him to canter on his right lead first (I don't think I've ever asked for the right lead before the left, so this was a challenge- bad side first). He gave me the usual rigmarole of trotting, teeth grinding, and a few bucks/kicks, then he picked it up- about a lap later. . . We went along pretty nicely and controlled on the right lead (both front and hind- yay!) for about 2 laps. After a little break I asked him for the right lead a second time, and this time it went much better, he took it a little quicker, and cantered pretty nicely. After going to the right, we tried the left lead- very nice! He didn't quite step right into it, it's like he needs more power in his set-up to take the canter right off from the walk/half halt and he's too lazy right now. Even so, he cantered really nicely, and he has suprisingly much more endurance in the canter with a rider on his back than he had the previous times we've worked on it.

I was pretty pleased that he took both leads with *relatively* little difficulty today under saddle. This is a clear sign to me that our work in the long lines is paying off, as he seems to understand now, that I'm asking him for a certain footfall when traveling each direction. The work continues. . .