Monday, August 30, 2010

Easy Peasy Mac And Cheesy

One of my favorite "lines" from a friend at work.  But really, it kindof describes Louie.  Not so much the Mac & Cheese part, but the easy part. 

Louie has been a little sore since our possibly-excessive jumping extravaganza last week, so we're taking it a little bit easy.  Coincidentally enough, Jackson, our 4 y/o walking horse gelding who is at Mel-o-Dee for a month somehow managed to hurt himself too (I think too many rollbacks in the pasture).  So, I've got two sore 4-year-olds who should be getting worked.  Well, Friday my husband and I went out to the barn to visit the horses.  It was a beautiful evening, so instead of letting our mildly lame horses sit in their stalls, we saddled them both up and went for a nice relaxing ride in the outdoor arena, just gentle walking for about 20 minutes.  This was a good chance for them to get out and stretch, and keep their minds mentally engaged in the fact that they are learning young horses, and work is expected of them.  Bjorn rode Jackson and I rode Louie. 

It occurred to me while I basically pony-rode Louie around the outdoor ring that he is SUCH an easy horse, so mellow and even tempered.  He wouldn't hurt a fly- well, unless it landed on his butt within tail's range.  On the rare occasion he spooks at something, but he never really loses his mind or tries to pull the wool over your eyes like some horses.  Really, he's a pretty safe and trustworthy mount- suitable for a child even.  That is a pretty cool trait, in my mind, for a horse to be safe enough for a child to ride.  It makes them so much more enjoyable and easily useable for a variety of people.  I don't think I've really ever had a horse that was child safe, except my husband's walking horse "Cash," and I'm realizing just what a great horse I have in Louie.  :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jumping Jimminy!

Louie and I have been doing a little bit of jumping for fun this week.  Two days this week we jumped for our work-out, granted nothing over about 18", but we had a lot of fun!  Bjorn even wanted to come out to watch us on Friday. 

We have started taking our first fences from a canter, which Louie finds to be preferable to trotting them, and we are starting to learn about how to count strides, or at least get a feel for how far each canter stride will take us in relation to the jump.  Tuesday our friend Jordan helped us out and even took Louie over a few fences for me to watch, then Friday, Louie did a really nice job and didn't even knock down any fences! 

We're finding that doing a little bit of jumping is a great way to change up his routine and work on the canter without the stress and anxiety of working on transitions on the rail over and over.  Also, I'm hoping that he will start to associate being in the middle of the ring with doing the work, and walking calmly on the rail as a reward and time to relax.  :) 

Louie is definatetly not a Grand Prix talented jumper, but what I love about him is that he never refuses a jump (knock on wood)- the worst he does is plow through it if we have a communication error.  Otherwise, just aim him at it and he's willing and eagar to go!  Wee!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spooky Wind!

The hot and humid 90 degree days we had last week have passed and the past two days have been beautiful, 70's with a nice breeze, and very little humidity.  Perfect weather in my opinion.  Apparently Louie liked the cool weather too as he was a little spooky today I drove him outside- first time I've worked him in a week actually (took our other 4 y/o walking horse camping last weekend).  I'm not sure if it was the wind, the cool weather, or if Louie was just feeling fresh from his week off after his show, but he was really spooky today, he jumped a few times at weeds blowing in the wind and at the squeaky gate at the back of the arena, which he has driven by countless times.  There were a few times I thought we might be in for it in the cart, but they were all short lived, a stride or two and then back to his usual self, just a little more wary than usual.  I tried to work him hard, really get him trotting hard and fast, in order to burn off a little extra steam, but his lazy side kicked in and he slowed down to a gentle jog in short order.  Another scary thing that happened today, my reins gave me a little trouble.  They're a tad long, and actually my right rein blew to the side and kindof got hung up in the axel of the cart, by the right wheel.  Luckily, Louie stood perfectly with constant pressure on his right rein while I freed the rein from the axel.  A second time the tip of that same rein blew towards the wheel and this time only made some funny noises as it brushed against the spokes.  Perhaps I should turn Louie's cart into a "motor cart" like we did with a card in the bike spokes as a kid- or perhaps not.  Haha

After we wore the edge off a bit, we worked on some agility, making figure 8's and doing barrel patterns around the jumps in the arena.  Louie's getting really good at turning in the cart, and I can't wait until my trace extenders that I ordered last week get here.  He really needs them- I'm so nervous he's going to hook a rein on the shaft when doing those tight turns.  The trace extenders are supposed to arrive on Thursday, keeping my fingers crossed! 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Well I Guess He Isn't a Show Hater!

Louie and I went to our first Saddlebred breed show today.  It was a small one, but I wanted to start out small before we went to the bigger (and more expensive) shows. 

The show grounds got about 3 inches of rain last night, so the arena was a giant puddle, but it was okay, Louie rolls in the mud ever day, so he wasn't too worried about it.  It also was very hot, and I've always compared horse shows to exercising in a dress suit on a hot sunny day.  I definitely got a work out!

Now on to the good stuff- Louie was feeling good today, no soreness from his fall yesterday.  His lips were a little tender putting his bridle on, but other than that, it was hardly noticeable.  He is still very green, having only been to 3 shows prior total, only once prior doing a walk-trot-canter class.  He had an issue with the speakers by the announcer stand in the first class- our first pass by it at the trot, he broke into a sideways canter into the center and nearly ran the judge over.  Of course I apologised and off we went to continue along.  Louie really scooted past the announcer stand, and barely so by the end of that class, but other than that, he had a really nice ride.  He had to trot into his left lead canter in the first class, but he did take both leads, and took the right lead beautifully, so I was happy.  He was very consistent in his headset and speed.  We managed to take 2nd place out of 3, even nearly trampling the judge, so she must have liked us.  My husband said that if we hadn't had that blip, we probably would have won the class.  Ah, well, green horses will be that way, and I could have planned better if I wasn't so concerned with noticing my own nervousness.

Our second class the announcer stand wasn't quite as much of an issue.  He still scooted past it, but much more controlled.  We got to do more gaits/speeds too, including not only walk, trot, and canter, but also country pleasure horses are asked to halt, back, extend the trot, and hand gallop.  Just after the canter was called for, and Louie had a beautiful canter depart, my stirrup slid off the bar.  Luckily in breed shows, time outs are allowed, so we used ours, Bjorn jumped over the fence into the 4" deep mud and came to help me re-attach my stirrup leather.  Then we continued on, and had another great canter depart.  Then they called for the hand gallop.  That was awesome, I guess I had forgotten that we would be asked to hand gallop in the show ring, but man was it fun! Louie didn't go too terribly fast, but as soon as I got up into two point he picked it up like he knew just what to do. Weeeeeee!!

He was a little antsy going the second way, anticipating the canter, but he waited long enough, they don't ask horses to walk terribly long in the Saddlebred show ring, so it was okay.  Overall, we had a pretty good second ride, enough for first place (out of two).  What a proud moment for an amateur owner trainer, we had 2 good rides, and got some beautiful photos out of it.  To top it off, we won all of our entry fees back with our ribbons (gotta love payback!). 

I am in the decision process as to which photo(s) to purchase, but here are some links to the proofs that I like most:
First Class- trot

I look silly, but Louie looks great here

My husband trying to figure out where to put the ribbon- I explained to the presenter that he has never done this before

Victory Lap- probably my favorite

Overall, it was a fun day.  I could not be more proud of my boy! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

He's a Show Hater

I swear my horse knows when we have a horse show scheduled, and purposely tries to spoil my plans. . .

Today we had a decent ride, then Louie got his bath.  While he was standing in the crossties drying, he couldn't take the fact that his hind leg was SO itchy, that he took it upon himself to itch it.  He got himself bent into a very nice C shape, really working his abs, then his feet lost traction on the damp concrete and he wiped out.  That's right, he fell while standing in the crossties.  I swear my horse has got to be really talented to accomplish such things. 

Well, he got up and was rather startled, stood still as a statue while I checked him over to assess the damage.  He had a chunk of hair missing off of his knee, but no big cuts under that at least.  He was standing on all 4's, which was good.  But his lips took the brunt of the damage- apparently he broke his fall with his face.  He had big (but thankfully thin) flaps of skin hanging off of his upper and lower lips that he had scraped off, and they were just starting to ooze.  I checked his teeth, which looked alright. I tried to look at the inside of his lips to see how badly he might have cut the inside of the lips (teeth tend to do some bad things to lips when people fall), but he wouldn't let me.  Oh well.  I put some antibiotic ointment on them, finished my work, then led him back to his stall.  He seemed to be walking comfortably, so we'll see if he's real stiff tomorrow.  He went right for his hay once he got in his stall and munched on that happily. 

So I felt better that at least Louie was eating after all of that drama and there was no significant damage.  I just hope that his little lips scab up and look okay for tomorrow.  The good part is that the damage was in a location that probably won't be easily seen by the judge- assuming he stays collected! 

Well, with that being said, horsey tucked in to bed for the night, I am off to get myself ready, including a refreshing shower and a good night's sleep.  We'll see what tomorrow brings!  Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Driving Right Along

Louie and I have been enjoying a nice mix of riding and driving over the past few months.  We haven't worked on too much that is new in our driving adventures, but perhaps we're ready to progress to some new challenges.  Louie is doing very well, even with the flies bugging him, he drove like a champ in the outdoor ring tonight.  With a little work and some additions to his attire (breeching, blinders, probably need a Meadowbrook cart too), I think he could probably make a nice carriage driving horse- as you can see quite clearly that with his headset where it is (low), he will certainly not make a Saddlbred show driving horse without quite a bit of work and risking hurting his back.  So for now we'll keep working this way and work on making a nice sound, bombproof driving horse out of Louie.  As our driving trainer Steve said, why try to change him into something else (ie a country pleasure show driving horse or a CDE maniac horse), when he is so pleasureable to drive the way he is?  Steve sure likes Louie just the way he is, and while he's not really much for breed shows, I don't think Louie's too shabby either.We need to work more on the driveway and potentially progress to the road or trail at some point in time (I think we'll make sure that is good under saddle before tackling it in the cart).  Then add some more desensitization tactics- we still have to drag that sled behind us at some point, and add blinders. . .

Here is a nice photo that Laura snapped of Louie and I driving yesterday in the indoor arena (thank you!!).  Here you'll see him outfitted in his new harness (Schneider's harness with a few Walsh accessories).  There are a few things I wish I could adjust just a bit more (ie I'd love to lower the tug straps about one notch to drop the shafts down a bit more level), and I definately need to pick up some trace extenders, as this harness was clearly not built for a long, big bodied Saddlebred, and we're a little tight, with the shafts a bit far forward on the harness.  Overall though, I think this was a great harness purchase for a used quick hitch!  And, I love driving with real reins instead of my LONG lines.