Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garage sale signs and gopher holes

What do these two things have to do with driving? Funny you should ask!  After posting the two links to the video of the Live Oak competition... I was watching it for about the 87th time when the light bulb in my head went off. I had one of those DUH! moments. What took me so long to see this?

As one of the four in hand teams were going through the obstacles, the flags caught my eyes. They were blowing and flapping in the wind. I need flags.

The flags were way above the horses heads, but they were there, they were flying and they were pretty.  It was right about then that I realized, if Kat is going to compete at any level in competition like this- I need flags!

As I watched the video a few more times, I noticed I wasn't paying (as much) attention to the horses. I was watching the obstacles themselves and all the other stuff around them.  I need flowers! 

I was noticing the little things on the sidelines.  I need cones!

I was picking up the little things that they set out to make the course visually appealing to the spectators.  I need barrels!

Sure there are obstacles to navigate, but there is also the stuff to make it pretty or challenging looking too.  I need bales of hay or straw!

Suddenly my mind was on a mission to build obstacles in our back pasture/arena that could be easily set up or taken down. Things to teach him about navigation- go though, over or around.  I need a bridge!

While one of Kat's first shows coming up is most likely a pleasure class, simply going around the arena in both gaits, both directions, we are working towards a higher goal. My aim is something along the lines of Live Oak. From there- International competition.  Talk about setting your sights on something BIG!  Yes, I am. Why not? 

Realistically? We will go as far as we go. I am not at all disappointed by my pony's efforts. He has already done a lot and come a long way in a short time with little work on my part.  Time is a huge factor in his workouts and whether or not we get them in. I can usually drive him on the weekends, both days either in the morning or evening. The rest of the week- hit or miss at best!  If we fit in 4 workouts in one week, we are really pushing it full steam ahead...  If he were at a training facility for this- he should reasonably be at 4-5 workouts a week as the norm. Such is life.

In one of my trips to the dollar store to see about the fake flowers and pots to put them in for my obstacle course, as I came around the corner- there they were.   Nice, big, red and white signs (with stakes to put them in the ground), signs that stated


Since the obstacles follow suit with the jump courses having red and white 'flags' on either side to tell you that you are going the right direction, I figured these would work.  For $2, it is no big deal if they didn't!   Besides- If I drive him down the street and someone has them out, he should be used to them.

I found cones at Wal-Mart in the sporting goods section-> $3.50 for a set of four. Best $7 ever spent. They really brought out the WhhhheeeeEEEEeeee factor in driving. Now we have things to go around, an 'alley' to drive through and the garage sale signs? I stuck them in a couple of gopher holes for now. They are in the center and we walk through there because of them.  The plastic stakes they are on just aren't very durable.  I will find something else to put them on. I may just stick them into the hay bales.  Just have to knock a few down and drag them out there.  We have barrels. We have the wood for a bridge....

The rest?  Might mean another trip to the dollar store.
Or maybe a garage sale.
Just gotta be creative.
Damn the luck!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finding a starting point

There has been some interest from others here in learning to drive. A couple of people are curious as to how to get started. Obviously you need a horse and at some point a harness and a cart, wagon or buggy.

Getting started though, about all you need is your basic ground driving or long lining equipment. A bridle, long lines or two lunge lines and a surcingle.  So far I have found the surcingles are ranging in price from $20 at, or Stateline Tack for a synthetic surcingle to a couple hundred dollars for a nice leather surcingle.  No need to go all out, sparing no expense and buying a harness yet. Wait until it is perfectly clear that your horse IS or is NOT suitable for driving.   Even so, you can find a good harness at a reasonable price. One that will fit properly, hold up to use and last.

I am going to be starting two horses in harness and bringing them along. One being our Arab stallion Pal (the horse in my profile avatar) who has hung out and done a lot of nothing long enough. He is broke to ride, I have ridden him and so has JR.  Pal seems to have this self proclaimed allergy to work and sweat though. He will do what you ask, but makes it clear, he's not thrilled with the idea.  Maybe that will change?  

The other horse I will be bringing along is the OTTB mare. Mommy mare is the one with the bad knee that I posted the pictures of here on the blog.  While she may never make a competitive driving horse (No CDE's in her future!), she may make an elegant pleasure horse and be able to do the simple driving classes, going around the ring a few times.

Most horses with a job are happier. Horses who are trained to do something are typically easier to place or sell- even in a crappy economy.  Think about it. Would you rather spend the money on a horse with no training or one you can do something with and enjoy. If you don't have the time or means to train your own, most people will go with the horse who knows their job.

With our two horses it is going to be an adventure and we will see where it goes. Not every horse is suitable for driving.  These two have a calm demeanor about them. They don't easily spook or get rattled and flip out over little things. Even if something startles them, they just don't go full blown stupid on us.  Despite both of them being horses who typically get a bad rap because of their breed, breeding status or previous career, these two may just be good ambassadors later on for- this is what they CAN do if given a chance.

Since most horses are started in long lines before anyone climbs on their back, you should have a pretty good feel for your horse and how quickly they learn as well as how they react to new things.  With our horses we lunge them before we ride them. Even the old farts who have been there and done that, still get to let it all out on the lunge line before we get on.  The driving horses will be no different.  Trust me, accidents happen quickly and are not fun.

** Shameless self promotion warning....

I have been searching for new recipes and the cooking is really taking off. Join me on my new blog Cheap Chef in my adventures with food. Dinner should taste good but it shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to make it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crisis averted! For now...

I have said it many times and it still bears worthy of repeating.  When you are driving a carriage or cart, it becomes a whole different game as far as safety is concerned.  Putting a horse, donkey, mule or pony to a cart brings on a whole new dimension of danger when things go south and it all unravels.  It never happens slowly and if you can avoid it, you do.

If ignorance is bliss, there are times I feel we have gone way past Disneyland. Some people are just too damned ignorant to realize when the rest of us are not only looking out for our own safety but theirs as well! Makes you want to slap them stupid, but it's pointless because they have exceeded all limits in that respect.

Yesterday at the horse park, we encountered one such person.  It has been said on the blogs more than once, that stupidity should be painful. Trust me- IT IS!  Problem is though, the wrong people get hurt and they are the ones who suffer. Those who should feel it, merely suffer a blow to the ego, if that. They caused the wreck and walk away as if nothing happened. No remorse, not a care in the world and rarely even offering an apology.

We took Kat to the park yesterday morning to drive him. Last weekend there were a few people there and our timing was excellent. We were ready to put him to the cart just as they had all finished up and were exiting the arena. We had it to ourselves.  The two women with the three reining horses were there again, the woman with the hunter horse too and another woman with a long ponytail as well. We had all worked around each other and everything was fine.  Nice group, well behaved horses all around and it was pleasant day for everyone.  This weekend? We weren't so lucky.

As I was grooming and tacking up Kat, another trailer pulled in with two paint horses. Then two more horses showed up that had been ridden over, a black horse and a gray.  Let. the. games. begin.......

The two paint horses were tacked and ready in a flash so they headed over to the round pen. It's all public use and first come first serve. No big deal, their one horse was bucking like no tomorrow and they were going to work it out before putting their kid up there.  They took over the round pen, but if they stayed there and kept the horse under control, I have no problem with that. I can respect them for that! I needed to lunge Kat before making him work so I headed into the arena. He has been to shows, done the in hand stuff, and knows he still has to work even though there are other horses around.

The black and gray horses were there for whatever reason. The woman riding the black horse was 'coaching' (if you can call it that) the young boy (about 7-10 y/o) that was riding the gray.  Kat walked off and eventually started to trot. About then the two horses came around the end of the arena and spotted him. The gray panicked and stopped, then tried to turn and run.  The boy got him stopped and turned him around to face Kat as the pony kept on working.  I kept Kat on a shorter line and made him focus on me while he was working. This shorter line also left plenty of room for the other riders to use the arena, go by and stay on or off the rail as they needed.  

Kat was finally done working and ready to put to the cart. Hubby was standing near the gate talking to the two women with the reiners. I led Kat out and stood under a tree to wait and see where everyone else was at in their workouts and if we would be posing any problems bringing the cart in. The two reining horse women had no issue with it. One of them said I had as much right to be there as any of them, but it was easy to tell the gray horse would be an issue. Everyone else in the arena was in agreement on this. Everyone except the woman on the black horse that was with them.

I kept the cart out of the arena because of all the horses to upset- the gray is the last one I wanted to rattle. The kid riding him had little to no control as it was. The Harpy on the black horse was giving him a lesson, but often she was out in front of them, shouting instructions to him behind her and had no way of seeing how things were going.  In her world everything was fine...  

If the gray was having an issue with the pony just being in the arena with him, imagine ramping things up and bringing the cart in there too.  The last thing I wanted was to freak out their horse. The kid would likely get dumped- possibly hurt and their horse freaking out, could freak out mine. I didn't want the kid to get hurt and I just don't need that kind of excitement again. Sorry, but I will pass. Thanks!

It's bad enough that I choose my clothes by what I wouldn't mind losing if the paramedics have to show up to treat me and they cut it off. Seriously, I think of these things... If you're hurt, strapped to a board and they need to treat you, they are cutting through the clothes to do it. So much for that new pair of jeans, the brand name shirt- whatever- they are going to cut it up no matter what you say.  I plan for this. Sick, I know, but what can I say?

As I am standing there with Kat under the tree, Harpy and her student come over by the gate. She instructs the boy to dismount, tie the horse to the rail with the reins, adding how you shouldn't, "but it's ok this time", climb the fence and grab a water bottle out of their bag for them.  She asks me if I will be bringing the cart into the arena? Um, no. Not today, but mostly not as long as YOU two are in there...

Instead I took Kat back to the trailer to put his bridle on and grabbed the long lines. We could still work, just going to be a little different this time.  Had Harpy and her student brought the horses out while they got a drink and took a break, I could have taken Kat in, put him to the cart and driven him some. Common courtesy is non existent for some people though and it wasn't meant to be. 

By the time I brought Kat into the arena in long lines to ground drive him, Harpy and her student were again working in the arena. She shouted instructions behind her and they went from a walk to a canter (or hand gallop rather) then with another shout, a few loud "Ho's" and lots of yanking, pulling and one rein stops later they would be back down to a walk again.  I felt bad for the two horses as she was slamming on the back of the black one and the kid was doing some one rein stops with about one foot or less of rein between his hand and the bit. 

She called out "Yay! I'm glad you came back in." to Kat & I as we entered the arena and declared to everyone in range how happy she was about the decision.  
Yeah, whatever...  
I was not there for her entertainment, nor was I there for her approval. 

I got right to work with Kat, asking him to bend and doing our softening work. For the most part he was on a loose rein the whole time. We did a lot of walking and stopping and the woman on the hunter horse said how much she liked him, admired his behavior (for being a stallion) and agreed that Harpy was going to get the kid dumped at some point at the very least.  The woman with the long ponytail said the same thing. She too was glad I had opted to leave the cart behind for the kids sake and safety. "Nevermind me, I would worry more about them."

As we were leaving the park, Harpy and the woman with the paint horses were standing along the rail of the arena talking. The kid on the gray? Harpy was shouting to him to do all sorts of things as they were doing laps around the arena at mach 5. 

I don't blame the boy at all. We were all there at some point, riding without a clue, doing as we were told, trusting our instructors and learning as we went. Some of us didn't have lessons or a coach and learned it all by the seat of our pants as we went along.  Trial and error mixed with a dash of major mistakes, but we survived.  Plenty of us managed to take safety into account and how to look out for ourselves and our horses.  Sometimes this includes watching out for others.

Then there's the people like the Harpy. They think they know what they are doing, but someone is going to get hurt in the process because of their ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of judgement and lack of common sense.  The rest of us can only do so much to help out, even if that means staying out of the way.  When it all goes wrong- the horse will most likely get blamed. It happens more than any of us would like to admit.  

Friday, June 17, 2011


For those of you who haven't experienced a CDE or Combined Driving Event, I give you a link to a video clip from Live Oak competition down in Ocala, Florida from the end of March.

Live Oak

Here is another one from YouTube.

The elegance of the dressage course, excitement of the marathon and precision of the cones... there's a little bit of something for everyone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Back on track

As some of you  may have noticed, this has sorta turned into an online training blog about Kat.  I didn't mean for that to happen but it has. I will be switching the other blog over to this account, deleting the old profile, post the grooming info there and Kat's training info here. Does that work for you guys? 

Although it is not up yet, Hubby- Johnie Rotten was able to get some video of us driving over the weekend.  We went to the horse park again yesterday and had, as he said, "What has been one of his best workouts to date."  It was our first trip back over there since our incident/accident the last time and he did great. Lots of whinnying/whining on Kat's part, but other than that, he didn't get stupid or let his 'other brain' take over, thinking with his boy bits.

For Kat, it was hard to get a bit of the strong trot. The arena footing was a tad deep and needed to be worked. There were times I could feel the cart shift off one way or another when we were traveling straight down the rail. It had to be hard for him but it was kind of good in a way that he has to learn how to keep going even when the cart is doing some funky stuff. 

In pleasure classes, the horses are to have 3 gears in the trot and walk. Collected walk, normal walk and extended walk, collected trot, normal working trot and extended or strong trot. We were working on all three and have been from day one.  We are also working on him bending to the right and not dropping his hip to the inside when he turns. He is to remain upright and balanced, moving straight.

One thing that had made an impression at the last driving show in November, was the horse being shown by one of the local 'trainers'. When they asked for a strong trot- his horse was flat. He had nothing.  It sort of looked like he pushed for more, but even still, there was nothing there to give.  The horse had no extended gaits at all to speak of. Clearly he had not worked on this at home.  An easy mistake a lot of people can make.

Something that I had read somewhere long ago and who knows where- was about extension and collection work. It related to riding but works for driving too.  To get collection, you also have to ask for extension. (Wait a minute, what?)  It went on to compare the horse to a rubber band. You can stretch it out and push for extension for only so long. The horse can't maintain it forever and the rubber band can't either. Both will break.

To make it easy for the horse, ask for extension for a bit, push the horse to move out. As they build the muscle tone and durability, they will be able to hold it longer, but just before they start to fade and can't do it much longer, let them come back down to a normal working gait. Let them slow down even more if need be and take a little break. Keep the momentum, maintain their balanced way of moving, but let them slow down. It will be easy for them to do and they will actually appreciate it, being able to 'take a breather', while still maintaining the gait.

For driving, hubby said to let him flatten out a bit when getting the collected trot. I didn't understand and asked what he meant.  Let him flatten out? How? What do you mean?

Him- "Let him flatten out... put his head down and work that way."
Me- "Oh, you mean take more of a 'hunter frame' than a 'fancy carriage horse' frame?"
Him- "Yeah, I just couldn't think of the right words."
Me- "Got it!" Now it made sense. Let him relax like a rubber band... or take a hold of the reins and push him up into the bridle.


This horse above as compared to this horse below.

Both are moving correctly, but one is driving a lot more and is moving out a bit differently. Pushing if you will, for the stronger trot.

Same here- relaxed above and really moving out below.


I tried to find horses moving both ways (relaxed and pushing) in or around the same size, breed and coat color for comparison. Sometimes it stands out in pictures for some of us more visual people. We can see the difference and then know what we need to work towards. 

*Love the turnout in these two photos. Hopefully I can come close to this. I think they are both very elegant. Nicely put together in colors that accent the horses well.*

And before I forget- the downward trot-to-walk transitions are coming along nicely. I needed to take a hold of both reins and slowly work him down to a walk while telling him to "Ease on down to a walk".  As soon as he breaks into a walk, I release and let him go.  It's working for him so we will go with that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dark Horse

Peek a boo!  I see you...

Kat has this weird thing about ducking under the rail to stand in the dirt. He does it because he can. Although the cement provides a nice level place for him to stand, easy clean up for me and all that, he prefers the dirt. I'm sure the dirt is a bit softer on all the joints- for me too, but it can be annoying that he does this. Of course a lot of it is, he is trying to reach the weeds and grab a snack while he patiently awaits what is to come.

Although this series of pictures doesn't begin to capture the depth of his coloring, he has gotten to be incredibly dark brown lately. I took these to show a friend of mine the richness of such.  Seems the work is doing him good on a few different levels.  No supplements, nothing different, if anything he is now on a Bermuda blend diet instead of straight alfalfa.  It has helped with his weight, but his coat is now an incredibly deep, rich, chocolate brown.

Although he has an incredible amount of roaning mainly focused on the crest of his neck, covering his sides and leading down his back to his spot on the butt... His hocks remain dark until winter and his face remains the same deep brown color of his body. Even in winter, the winter hair on his points, turns a golden color, rather than dark.

What had started off as someone cast off has turned out to be a horse of not only a different color, but many colors.  He always attracts attention where ever we go.  Thing about it is, I hardly ever use a curry comb on him, dust him off with a stiff brush before working, rinse him on occasion and waa-laa he remains a deep color with a wicked shine, the whitest whites and no bleaching, color enhancing shampoos or supplements.  Can you imagine the results if I did use any of that?