Thursday, August 25, 2011

Road Ridin'

Louie and I went for a nice ride down the road today.  There is a gravel road that starts about 1/4 mile from the barn that we can ride down, and the shoulders are actually quite nice sandy footing to ride on.  Louie, as it turns out, is a great trail horse, he's much more brave and confident riding out by himself than most horses are. 

Something I found surprising was that Louie didn't seem to be scared of garbage cans or mail boxes like most horses are, but culverts are another story.  He also didn't seem to mind the cars whizzing by him either from in front or behind him, as I had expected he may.  Louie hardly spooked at anything, but sure looked that classic wide-eyed Saddlebred part!

We did a little bit of trotting along with lots of walking.  We got some really nice active, reaching walks that are great for developing each individual leg's muscles.  We also got some nice saddle seat style trots!  Louie definitely livens up when he's out of the arena, or out of his comfort zone in general.  He was sleeping when I tacked him up, but was wide awake and high-headed when he realized we were going someplace new.  I got to work a little bit on my saddle seat equitation with his head up like a saddle seat horse, and it got me thinking I should maybe try showing him as a saddle seat horse at some point, maybe in a WSCA open show.  After all, I already have a saddle suit and a beautiful day coat, along with lots of other saddle seat attire

Perhaps you noticed the two links in the last sentence.  A fellow Saddlebred enthusiast has started a new company that I think deserves a second look.  She sells gorgeous custom saddle seat apparel made by Victor Layne as well as ready to wear suits at very reasonable prices.  They make hunt coats too!  Perhaps when Louie and I need an upgrade, we'll have to check out Blue Ribbon Diva! 

For now, we're taking it easy on the trails and roads, and Louie is loving the simple life.  He and his lady are also finally integrating into the herd, which is a bit of a relief, as he has survived a month in his new home and being a "real horse" with very few marks to show for it! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coming Along

The horses seem to be getting along better now.  They're not exactly hanging out with each other, but at least I haven't seen any chasing or bad behavior in the past few days.  I found out why it was maybe so bad, the mare was in heat.  I think she must be out now because she's not quite as attached to Louie and life has settled down a little.  Though, I think Louie's got a new girlfriend in the big pasture across the fence, where he'll be going come fall- a Friesan.  She's pretty, and Louie has historically had good taste in girlfriends, his last one was a warmblood jumper.  Louie and the Friesan have been grooming each other over the fence, and she seems to be fairly protective, keeping her herdmates away from him. All in all, it's pretty cute.

I haven't ridden Louie much except to just hop on and toodleoo around a few days ago when Sandy came to visit.  I think we'll go for a nice trail ride down the road this week.  Louie has settled in and is really relaxed and calm, I'm tempted to drive him down the road, but I figure we better master riding before we attempt to drive anywhere!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sorting It Out- Day Two

Things were more quiet at the barn today.  I think they were all tired and sore from over-exerting themselves yesterday.  I only noticed one chase, which involved Jackson and the mare, while I had Louie out to be groomed.  The mare is seriously attached to Louie, I'm thankful he is not as attached to her, I find it rather annoying the way it is as I have to ward her off every time I get near my horse, they are practically attached at the hip. 

I was a bit surprised to find that two of our three horses were lame today.  Any guesses which two??  I'll give you a hint, much to my surprise, it wasn't the Saddlebred.  That's right, I was sort-of mixed happy-sad to find that (happy that Louie was fine, sad that the other two were sore, but it serves them right, they were the ones doing the unnecessary and very mean chasing!).  I checked all 3 of them over, no obvious leg swelling, heat, tenderness, no rocks in the feet, etc, and it looked like Cash and Jackson were only mildly off.  I'm sure they'll shake it off in no time.  Jackson had a little swelling in his chest, where he had a hematoma earlier this summer, probably got kicked again, but Cash looked pretty clean, other than being due for a re-set on his front shoes.

Louie just had a little cut on his left front leg (from interfering I'm sure), swelling of his right jowel which is probably either from a kick or a bug bite (but no tenderness, no difficulty eating, no difficulty with the bridle, etc), and a rub on his cheek bone from his halter.  Overall, I was pretty impressed that he got out of the first day of introductions relatively unscathed, especially with the way they were running around yesterday! 

I took him out for a nice ride, just an easy ride of mostly walking and trotting, working on extensions too.  He was good.  Still needs a fair amount of reminding to relax, drop his neck, etc, but he's doing a nice job.  Now he'll have a few days off and hopefully he'll continue settling in to his new pasture.  I do have to say, if he was mellow before, he's really mellow now, not spooky or nervous, hardly grinding his teeth anymore, doesn't seem to be girthy anymore- I think this pasture life is a good thing for Louie! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Pecking Order

This entry could have been named "introductions," but due to the nature of the interactions, I felt the current title more appropriate. . .

Louie and his girlfriend finished their quarantine time and joined the herd today- all four of them (it's a smaller herd in the summer because only a few horses come in to be grained once a day, the rest get enough to sustain themselves on the lush pasture).  Two of the 6 are senior horses, two are our Tennessee Walking Horses (Cash- the Alpha, and Jackson- the Sidekick), and of course Louie and the lady. 

I don't know if it was because there was a mare introduced to the herd or if this is the way Cash always treats newcomers, but I felt bad for poor Louie and the mare.  At first I didn't notice any commotion, just the two of them grazing out away from everybody else, which I thought was pretty normal for new horses in a herd.  Then while I was tacking Louie up to ride I saw Cash and Jackson chasing after the poor mare, running her down back and forth, back and forth.  Then when they felt they had had enough fun, they retreated back to their shelter and left her in a corner separated from the herd.  After a little while they were back at it again. . .

I went and rode Louie, we had a nice ride, the footing was a little slick from all the rain we had yesterday, but not too bad.  We worked on extensions in the walk and trot, and suppleness/roundness in all gaits.  I got a good work out- wore my new heart rate monitor and burned 541 calories in a 35 minute ride!  Wow!  Louie got a good workout too.  As an afterthought, I probably shouldn't have pushed him too hard. 

When I put him back in the pasture all was quiet for a while.  I walked him over to the automatic waterer and pushed down on the floating cover and put some water to his mouth.  I thought maybe he'd want to drink after a hard ride, but instead all he did was scratch his head on the waterer.  You can lead a horse to water. . . I stayed in the pasture for a little bit, watched Louie roll, then he and the lady went off to graze together.  No action from the Alpha, so I walked over to say hi to them and check on them.  I told Cash to be nice.  Unfortunately he didn't listen. 

As I was putting my saddle away I heard commotion and looked to the pasture to see Cash and Jackson chasing Louie and the mare all over the pasture, weaving in and out, tight on their tails.  Louie let fly and clipped Jackson in the face with both hind feet (I don't think he was seriously hurt, just brushed him I think).  Louie led the chase, with the other 3 behind him, like 4-in-line barrel racing.  Luckily Louie is more agile than he looks, he dodged around some trees, cantering like he wasn't all that worried, just fast enough to stay away.  Cash tried to corner him , but Louie protected his lady.  At one point another boarder came up to see the action and pointed out that the two new horses were being chased, so I told her, "the funny thing is that 3 of the 4 horses invoved are mine. . ."  We had to laugh a little.  After a few minutes of action-packed adventure, Cash and Jackson retreated to their shelter, where Cash, the Alpha then proceeded to remind Jackson that he is the boss.  All in all, I think Jackson took the brunt of the battle, he tripped or fell once (all fours in the air), took a kick to the face, and I think got kicked or twisted a hind leg, which he limped on for a few strides, then shook it off and proceeded to try to remind Cash that he was his Sidekick buddy, and they were a team. 

Louie and the lady stayed in the far corner of the pasture for the rest of the time I was there, where one of the senior horses ventured out to say hello, in a much more kind manner.

I am interested in the herd dynamics in this situation.  I am assuming Cash wants Louie's lady, and they're going to have to duke it out and somebody (I'm sure Louie) will have to back down and assume his spot in the pecking order.  It's a matter of how long. . . how long will they continue to work out their differences?  I wonder if it had just been Louie new to the herd how the situation would be different, just adding one gelding versus a gelding and a mare?  At the same time I'm glad Louie has a buddy, I figure two on two is better than two on one!  I'm sure they will sort this all out quickly.  Louie can be a bit of a pest, and Cash doesn't put up with any non-sense.  I had hoped that since they knew each other and lived together for more than 6 months, used to get ponied together (granted it was a couple of years ago), that they would remember and get along.  Apparently not.  I just hope they get it figured out soon and nobody gets hurt too badly in the meantime.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More on The Stable

I promised more photos of Louie's new home, so here it is.  He has not taken advantage of all of the facilities yet, but in time. . .

The tie stalls, where the horses come in to eat once a day.  I love that they separate them for feeding, which allows each horse to receive a customized feeding plan, and is more than a lot of pasture boarding stables offer.

The indoor "arena," a small lunging space that is protected from the elements, allowing for at least a little bit of work to be done in the cold months of the year.

The other half of the barn, a few box stalls, which Louie will not be utilizing.  Unfortunately I didn't get any of the chickens or cats in this photo, they roam the farm and add a lot of character to the barn, not to mention great desensitization for the horses!

And the best part, acres and acres of grass pasture.

The outdoor arena, good size for riding or driving.

 And of course, friends.  Louie has met Cash, on the right, but has not really met Jackson, other than the show that they travelled to together.

Room to run!

Louie will have to figure out how to use an automatic waterer, but he's pretty smart, I don't expect him to have any trouble.

So here is Louie in his quarantine pen.  Another thing I love about this barn is that they have good quarantine practice.  Every new horse spends 2 weeks here before mingling with the herd, so that any disease that the horse might be carrying has time to incubate and show clinical signs.  So far, so good.

What a cutie!

Complete with new girlfriend.

And he's a happy horse.

Overall, I think Louie is really happy in his new home, but I know he is looking forward to getting out of quarantine and into the main pasture where there is lots of room to roam and grass to eat.  Only 3 days left! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The New Stable

Well, so far so good, Louie thinks of his new home.  I moved him right after the show to his new home in Hugo, MN, just a small friendly stable with the basics- pasture turnout, fed once a day in a tie stall, outdoor riding ring, and a small indoor lunging space. 

My first impressions of Louie in his new home- he loves it.  When I go out to see him, he is brighter and happier than ever.  I think he's enjoying being able to move around and not be confined to a stall too, which I know is healthier for him.  So far I've long lined, driven, and ridden- once each.  The outdoor arena has got a fair number of rocks in it, but I know that the staff are working on improving it, and so far it hasn't been a problem (knock on wood!).  Louie likes this outdoor ring, it's got great views, and hardly any bugs.  When I rode last night, I didn't even put a drop of fly spray on him. 

We will get more photos of Louie's new home soon, but for now, I thought I'd post a few pictures that my husband took last night, what a gorgeous night for a ride!  Finally a break from the heat, just picture perfect riding conditions. 

Just as most horses take a little time to set in, so does Louie, so he's a little more stiff and not quite as soft/relaxed as he usually is, but he'll get there.

My husband with his funny photos. . . wow look how crooked my legs/saddle are! I hope it was just how we stopped/were standing!

Beautiful lighting, and a view of the pond beside the arena.

This is kindof a cool photo, I think he had it in sport mode, which must focus in the center and let everything else fall out of focus.  I can clearly see my equitation difficulties here.

A quick video he shot of us trotting in a circle, Louie looks pretty sound to me!:

I'll add more photos later.  Until next time, happy trails!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mid Summerfest

The horse show went well!  It was miserably hot and sticky, but Louie was a pretty good boy and we had fun.  We brought our five-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, Jackson, as well, so I really had my hands full, but it was worth it. 

Louie's first class was not so great.  He was acting a little spooky, and anticipating a lot.  I had trouble getting him to walk, and keeping him on the rail (he wanted to drift to the inside during the walk, trying to canter).  We got around, but it was not a great ride.  The photographer did get a beautiful picture of him from this class.  ASB Hunter Country Pleasure

Our second ride was the following evening, Open Hunter Pleasure.  I had time to ride Louie in the ring that afternoon and we got a lot of our issues worked out.  We worked on walking, patience, and realizing that there were no horse-eating monsters lurking along the rail.  Then for a little added reassurance I put my spurs on (I have been riding in spurs all year, and find them to be quite helpful at times).  Our ride that evening was awesome- one of the best rides I've had.  He flat walked, took his transitions beautifully, and we had great gait extensions.  Even my husband commented on what nice extension Louie had in his gaits at this show compared to last year.  I was pretty impressed since we've hardly worked on it.  But that is one of my main skills I'm trying to build up for the show ring.  Open Hunter Pleasure  Well, we won that class, and my husband thought it would be fun if we did our victory pass at the hand gallop.  Weee!!

After our second class, another competitor came up and asked me if I'd be interested in riding in an Open Hunter Stake if they added it, so naturally I said yes.  The following afternoon was the Open Hunter Stake.  It was dreadfully hot and I was so dehydrated and hot it was all I could do to stay on and get through the gaits.  My husband was standing on the rail saying "smile!" but I just couldn't get up enough energy for anything more than the absolute essentials.  Louie was a little boogery in that class as well, same issues as the first class, but to a lesser degree.  So we took the Reserve in that class, which I felt we deserved.  Open Hunter Stake

Our final class was the ASB Hunter Country Pleasure Stake, and we were the only team in the class.  We had a pretty nice ride, better than the previous ride, as Louie was not as spooky and walked a little better.  We need to work on our walk and having him not anticipate the canter.  This is a really common problem in show Saddlebreds, and my last Saddlebred had the same problem that I never was able to really cure.  Louie's is only just beginning, so I think we can work on it, we'll just have to get creative and I need to be really firm on not allowing anything other than the gait I ask for.  ASB Hunter Country Pleasure Stake

The photographer, Courtney Church, snapped some great photos of us, as usual.  This is my favorite, from the Hunter Country Pleasure Stake- in the hand gallop.  I look like I was tipped forward, but I usually feel very balanced in two point, so I think it's partly just an optical illusion and maybe the angle of the photo.  Hand Gallop

Overall, Louie had a great show.  We received some nice comments from other competitors and even a few trainers on what a nice horse Louie is.  Sometimes I feel that I have two different horses- one at home and one at shows.  But he is very beautiful, and I'm sure he probably makes a very elegant hunter. 

We used our new rubber stall mats and a hoof packing called Magic Cushion Hoof Packing, and I think it helped him. It is supposed to act as sort-of a liniment and increase blood flow to the hooves, something Louie can use.  He is doing great in his plain plates, moving really nicely, and after the show he moved to his new home.  More to come on that later. . .