Sunday morning started off with watching a video- The Road to Gladstone. For anyone who doesn't know, Gladstone NJ hosts a BIG driving event every year. The video featured some of the top drivers, (Chester Weber, Tucker Johnson, Hardy Zantke) many of which I do not know, while others in the room were saying, "Oh wow. Look how young he looks there..." Do I have some catching up to do? You bet. Another thing the seasoned competitors noticed- in the video, the drivers and navigators were not wearing helmets or the safety vests, both of which are required now under ADS rules.
The two guys who put on the clinic, Gary Gang and Allen Funderburgh have been driving for a number of years each and both are well accomplished in the sport. Gary just won Preliminary Pair with a team at the competition in Sonoita at the Grass Ridge CDE last month and Allen has been competing at all levels going to places like Fair Hill and having been the USEF National Champion for Single Horse in 1990. Allen also won in Sonoita at Grass Ridge in Intermediate Single Pony.
After the video there were plenty of questions. How do you do this, when do you do that, what is _____? Lots of questions and answers to everything. At one point Gary and Allen both said, they could sit and discuss different aspects of driving, competition, etc. all day long and yes, they certainly could. With riding, there is plenty of room for discussion on impulsion, collection, extension, the training scale, which competitions to enter and what level... It's no different with driving.
After lunch we went outside and discussed the different carts, carriages, harness features, how to put the horse to, what the bonuses and drawbacks of each had and things like that. Again there was plenty of questions to go around. When it came to discussing the harnesses, I remembered I had the old one I started Kat with, in a box in the trailer. I drug it out and Gary and Allen pointed out the good, bad and otherwise about it. I had acquired it years ago with a cart and now that I have the new harness, it just sits collecting dust.
I have thought about selling it or giving it away, but both men said hang onto it. They each have harnesses like it, collecting dust, but they are wonderful to get young horses started with. Your good harness is not compromised if the young horse has a bad day. Mine is good for days when I ground drive, so I guess it can stay a little while...
I was able to lunge Kat before harnessing up and putting him to the cart. It was a chilly 45 degrees out with a breeze so he was feeling it. There was a team of Morgan cross ponies, a couple horses pulling a roadcart & a meadowbrook, a mini with the hyperbike and us. Gary had gone to pick up another horse that needed work and brought it with a 4 wheel carriage. We were all going different directions, warming our horses up, zipping around and through the obstacles, cruising around on the path at the edge of the property and working in the dressage arena.
I let Kat trot and get out all his extra energy and when we went into the dressage arena, the mini Allen were in there as well. I pushed Kat up into the bridle and asked for the extended trot, figuring that would burn it off quickly. As he settled down we changed direction and headed diagonally across the arena. Allen was walking across the arena and I thought he was headed for us. As we came up to him I halted Kat and asked Allen, "Okay, what? Is there something I need to do different?"
Expecting to hear corrections on how I was or wasn't doing something, I was a bit surprised when Allen said, "Oh, no. No, no. Nothing. He looks fine and is a nice mover. You're doing a good job with him and he's a fancy little guy. I was headed over to work with the mini and we can all work in here together."
I sat there kinda dazed for a minute. He thought everything was good and we were just fine? No more, no less and don't we need to change anything???? For someone who has competed horses and ponies from training level through advanced, singles and pairs to say we were fine... I was a little blown away.
Since I didn't want to think I had just gotten a pat on the head and a "Good job" even if it wasn't, I sought out Gary and went to find out if there Was anything I needed to do different. "Nope, not really, just keep practicing using your half-halts to keep him from dropping a shoulder in the turns, use your whip on the inside to reinforce it and you're good." He also said I needed a different whip (which I DO!) and he had one for me that would fit the bill. As with the turnout post, I was using what I had until I could get what I needed, which is perfectly fine.
Since there was an ADT last month at the facility hosting the clinic, they had left the cones course out for us to use. Not having a clue what the pattern was, I looked for the order of cones as they were each numbered. No time, no pressure, we went through it for fun.
Ooops! "You just killed the cone!" It was good thing we weren't competing, but even if we were... it happens to everyone, because later Gary "killed" a cone too. And so it goes.