It seems as though Louie's back is sore. . . I think this is why my lesson, and the two subsequent rides I have had, were not so good. We are going to be having the saddle fitter out to check out our normal saddle, though I suspect the trials of a number of different saddles on him is what contributed to the soreness. So, we're taking a little time off from under-saddle work and focusing more on driving to give his back a little time to settle down.
Today we drove, and started our transition to the blind bridle. As you probably know, Louie still drives in an open bridle, as he is more comfortable being able to see me and the cart and his surroundings. This is fine, and we drive at home without any problems whatsoever. However, if we ever want to show, or compete in carriage driving, we will have to learn to drive in a blind bridle, with blinkers.
To make this transition, we are repeating each step of the lining, hooking, then driving process in a few steps. The first step is to progress through each stage with a pair of big fleece halter fuzzies on the cheek pieces of his driving bridle, which will block out his view behind him, but not to the sides, and if he really wants to, he can just turn his head slightly and see everything behind him. The next step will be to either use a blinder bridle with the blinders positioned wide and more open or a blinker hood, then finally drive with a normal driving bridle with the blinkers in the normal position.
Today we drove with the fleece halter fuzzies on the cheek pieces for the first time and Louie did great, he didn't act any differently or less comfortably than he did without them. I think this transition will be easy, but we're taking our time to be on the safe side.
We did learn something that does still bother Louie, and that is the sound of something unpredictable behind him. After I unhooked him, Sandy was driving one of her minis and Louie was a little bothered by it. He always looks at the minis when she lunges them, as if they're some strange two-headed, hoofed dog or something, but pulling a cart is a whole new experience for him. I was walking him around the arena in his harness (still with the halter fuzzies) after unhooking to let him have some exposure to these little buggers pulling carts when one of them broke into a canter behind him, and the sudden change in the rhythm of the noise startled Louie. He had to turn around and look, spooked a little bit, then proceeded to walk around in Saddlebred style. After I removed the harness, I let Louie stand in the middle of the arena while Sandy drove her other mini in circles around him. He didn't so much as lift an eyelid.
So, we will have some desensitization to do with each stage of the transition to the blind bridle.