Monday, January 30, 2012

Something to chuckle about

One of the driving forums I recently found had links to a couple of videos. I posted them below for your entertainment.

The first one, Changing Reins, is about the Bowman's in England, a well respected family that has driven for generations. They come to Canada for the Calgary Stampede. Not just to watch, but to compete in the Chuck wagon Races.  After that, the tables turn for their Canadian hosts, who travel to England to drive a 100 year old coach along the Roman Wall. 135 miles in 24 hours.

Then we have the sport of HDT's or CDE's from back in the day, before safety became a hot issue like it is now. Look at the differences in the carts, the lack of helmets and protective vests and how things can fall apart before you know it.  Watching this video I had to chuckle a few times at the ponies and the two wheel carts. Maybe I am a bit sick minded for this, but I laughed because at any point- this could easily be me! I already slammed into the one pole, almost hit another and things have gotten a shade crazy.  Besides, the large print stating-> Please note - no horses were harmed in the making of this video. Don't know about humans!  Love the patience of the team first seen at the 4 minute mark too.  And yes, there are a few four-in-hands of spotted horses/ponies.  And what's not to love about a video with the song Gettin Jiggy With It in it?

Old Skool Driving, by Tim Maloy

The name Tim Maloy sounded familiar to me. It seems like he is to carriage driving as Warren Miller is to skiing. Epic Win by Tim Maloy   Enjoy!

I will be posting about our weekend in a few days. Some new things to discuss along with links to more info....

Friday, January 27, 2012

When you are ready, part 2

Part 1

With the water obstacle off my mind we went out for our workout on Saturday morning. I was going to push him past where we had trotted to before and put a little more distance on our route. Going out we encountered the garbage truck coming up from behind us (what is it with the garbage truck???) and a bicycle coming at us before we had really even gotten away from the house. I stopped Kat on the side of the road the bike would be on, got out of the cart and stood by his head. Not that I needed to, but I felt safer doing it and once everyone was past us, we went on our way.
We trotted down our street and out to the end of the 'hood where I found we can pick up the side of the road and take off. It is wide, soft and welcoming for driving.  We were trotting along when a suburban pulls up and the woman driving introduced herself and asks if I could come show her how to hitch their mare up for driving. They have the cart, harness and mini, but don't know how to put it all together. She took my number and off she went for an appointment she was late for. Funny thing is, at first I thought she was my next door neighbor. Which caught me a little off guard until I realized she wasn't.
When we came to the corner the first time out this way a driver in their car honked at us. Lucky for me, Kat is not bothered by this. He has also showed no issue with the 4X4 trucks, trucks pulling trailers, motorcycles or any of the other craziness coming down the road while we were out. I almost laughed at the driver as I thought, Is this person really that self absorbed and think that they are really that important, that they must honk to get MY attention, so that I may acknowledge Them for looking at ME? Get over yourself, you could have caused a HUGE accident.
This time as we came to the corner, there was water in the small ditch that we were trotting alongside. There was also mud with some water running across our path and another small stream going as we turned to get up the hill and onto our intended course. Kat was eyeballing the water and wanted nothing to do with it. I figured my muddy boots, was far more safer than an accident in the mud. Sure it would be softer landing, but can we skip it? I got out and led him through the mud. He wasn't happy about it, balked, then scrambled a little, but we got through it. I scolded him a little and told him he drinks the water, plays in it and gets a bath in it too, why can't he go through the water? *eyeroll*  I got back in the cart and off we went.
I have to say he was a bit heavy this time. He didn't quite go forward with the perk and enthusiasm like he had before. He was a bit more cautious and sluggish. Which was all fine & good, but move out there, would ya...  We went past the point we had trotted to before and as we pushed on, there were gunshots out in the desert. Nice!  The first few 'pop's caught him off guard and startled Kat, but he settled right in and kept on trotting as the shots continued to pop off.   We also passed a pile of crap dumped on the side of the road containing a large mattress and other junk- he never gave it a look, just walked on by, happy to have turned around towards home again.
This time as we approached the mud, I thought about going around it. I decided screw it, you're going through it and pushed him on.  Kat was a little hesitant about going over the first part of the water, but it was narrow and he was over it before he knew it. We came down the slight hill and made the right hand turn to where he was facing the bigger section of mud.  He had a major dilemma now. How to get over or through the mud as quick as he could without stepping in it? Hahaha, nice try there bud.
He looked at the growing puddle to the left and that was just not an option. Hooray for that because the road was not far from the water.  He tried to move to the right, but my left rein and a tap of the whip told him he shouldn't.  He balked, danced around, fidgeted and tried to explore any and all options he could think of. I talked to him and told him to just move on and things would be fine. I pushed him on with only my voice, using the whip and reins only to keep him headed where we needed to go.
Finally he leaped forward and to the right towards the bushes and a barbed wire fence. I tried to keep him aimed forward and he managed to land in the middle of the mud and began scrambling like hell to get through it and out of it.  He was running almost in place as he slipped and slid with every step, but we were still moving forward. The right wheel of the cart hit a soft spot and sank, but he was determined we were to keep going.  When he finally started to gain traction and get out of the mud, he was still scrambling for all he was worth. I let him go for a few strides before bringing him back down to a trot.

I chuckled a little as I heaped on the praise. I told Kat how proud I was of him for him going through the mud and called it good. We even trotted a ways down our road towards home and when we got there- he still, no longer had white socks. His legs were brown, the boots were brown and the right side of the cart was covered in mud.  There is even mud on the seat where it flipped off the wheels and landed on the seat as we trotted along.

The neighbor? I rode the bicycle over there on Sunday and helped her put the harness on, explained how and why of each piece while making sure it was all in good order and fit right. I ground drove the mare around, then she ground drove her some. We put her to the cart, again explaining the how and why of where the straps went, what their job was and how they should be adjusted. Again we ground drove her mare a little before climbing in the cart.

Within the hour I was driving the mare around in the arena. Her owner was thrilled and was also soon driving her as we went around the arena several more times.  She said watching us go around at the trot and riding in the cart at the trot was a totally different feeling than what she had expected.  She may still need some guidance here and there and until she gets the hang of harnessing up and putting to the cart down pat, but I am happy to help and will enjoy the company out in the desert when we drive together. 

*** Just to clarify things, the mare has been trained to drive, was shown and was used to teach beginners to drive before they bought her. It has been less than six months since she had been driven so the ground driving was to get everyone on the same page, the owner comfortable with things and the mare used to her cues. Above all, when driving it is best to do what you can to keep everyone safe. *** 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Only when you are ready

"Ask and ye shall receive." We have all heard this at some point in our lives, but how often has it happened for each of us?  When you think back on things, you may realize it happens a lot. Maybe not When we asked for it, but rather when we were Ready for it instead...

In joining another Yahoo! group focused on driving, I was emailed by one of their members. Melanie has been a HUGE help to me in ways she may not know yet. She recommended I read the ADS rulebook as advised by her trainer. In there you will find everything. The rulebook has been referred to as your "Driving Bible" and I have been pouring over it since.

A few people know that water has been a big deal for us. The marathon courses for the CDE's usually involve a water obstacle. The first ADT of the year- gate B on obstacle #3 was IN the water. I am glad we skipped it in a way. The Darby course back in August- our first driving adventure/ competition/ fun event- had a water obstacle. It also had a way to go around the water obstacle if needed. Which we did.

Kat had followed me into the water that morning, sans the cart & harness, but he was not getting in the water when we were competing. He just wouldn't and although I tried to get him in, I also wasn't going to force the issue. At that point we had only been driving a few months (4 actually) and had already had our epic tantrum- why risk it again?  He wasn't ready and neither was I really. At least not then.

Since reading through the "Driving Bible" I have found we are pretty much on track for competing at the CDE in March. It is not too far away, either by distance or time frame.  I had taken him out and driven a new area and then gone back with the car to figure our distances. A little over 3 miles at a swift, strong trot, he hardly broke a sweat at all and was not breathing hard at any point during our workout. Overall we had covered a little over 5 miles, with a lot of walking before and after the trotting.

The rulebook breaks the marathon down into three sections. A, D & E. Section A is to be driven at any pace and is to be between 5000m & 8000m in distance. Speed not to exceed 14 kph for ponies.  Section D is a mandatory walk of around a half mile in length (800m-1000m) with a speed not to exceed 6kph for ponies. After section D there is a mandatory 10 minute rest and the horses are to be given water, provided shade and you can walk them around the rest area, but nothing more. Section E is to be between 6000m & 9000m and I believe this is where you encounter the obstacles. Speed not to exceed 13kph for ponies.  The noted speeds- you are penalized per second for coming in Under the recommended time limit as well as per second for going Over the time allowed. This is a pace, not a race, type of challenge.

As for the water?  I had asked a while back about help or training on the course IN the water, before the CDE in October. Everybody asked then who my trainer is and threw out their recommendations of theirs. One person offered to come out and do a few lessons and we could use the puddles along the street in the neighborhood. We have since been making a puddle at home and he is fine with that, but off the property can be another story, with any horse on any given day. 

Then I found this in the rulebook.  For training level in the CDE's, the ADS rulebook states-
Page 157, Article 942, section 3, 3.9

3.9 Where a constructed water crossing is included in an obstacle, the depth must not be more than 30 cm. Where natural water is used the Technical Delegate may allow a maximum depth of 50 cm. The bed of any water crossing must be firm. Where water depth exceeds 50 cm a substantial fence, firmly fixed, must be constructed to prevent horses going into deep water.

AtADS-recognized events, Training division must have a dry, measured, legal, optional route through water obstacle gates.

The last part in red has been a lifesaver of sorts. At least it helped me breathe a sigh of relief when I first read it.   I can still work at home on getting him INTO the water or at least through the water, but if need be, on the day of the event, we have the option to go around. The pressure was off about getting IN the damn water.

To be continued...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sticker Shock, Part 3

Well if the first two posts of this series didn't kill ya, this one may be the one to do us all in. If not, well that which doesn't kill us... and all that good stuff.  At least if you are starting out, or maybe WHEN you are starting out- the total cost of acquiring everything can be a killer, just like if you were getting into dressage, jumping, eventing, barrel racing or any other equine sport. If you are going out to compete, entry deadlines and shipping dates can be nerve racking.  Can I afford this before then? What do I need for this event?  Once you have acquired everything needed or required, you can relax and enjoy the ride for a while.

Sticker Shock, Part 1
Sticker Shock, Part 2

Ok so now we have our cart, horse, harness, whip, apron, hat and gloves, so what else is there? Well if you are going the route of CDE's or ADT's, there is still. more. to. buy.

Helmets- Maybe I should have included this one from the beginning? Anyways, our local carriage driving club requires anyone riding on a cart or carriage, at any time, at any of their events, MUST be wearing a helmet. The only exception is the driving show and the pleasure classes. I think the ruling is the same for the ADS at their sanctioned events as well. I might be wrong, but I doubt it. I have also made it a habit to put the helmet on when I drive, even if I am staying home to work Kat.  As we all know, the best helmet is one that fits and is comfortable to wear. Any time you take a spill and the helmet whacks something like the ground (or a pole)- it should be replaced. The price of a helmet is far less than a hospital bill, air medic flight and everything else associated with head trauma. 

Protective vests- When we were watching the video "The Road to Gladstone" at the driving clinic in November, comments were made about how None of the drivers were wearing protective vests on the marathon course.  That was then... Now they are a requirement.  If anyone has worn one and suffered an accident where the vest protected them- they will probably swear by them. They are a reasonable consideration when you think about it. Just like helmets- the cost of the vest compared to the cost of medical care... 

Yet the funny thing is, I have not seen any vests on any of the driving websites.  I think that is kind of strange, but whatever?  Dover, Stateline Tack, Jeffers Equine Supply and several others have them, but none of the driving supply websites. Maybe I missed them somewhere, but I have been looking. They range in price from $95 for ladies sizes, $104 for mens or unisex sizes at Jeffers to a few hundred dollars, depending on the brand you choose and where you buy it from.

I forgot to add this on the last post, but a number holder for the cart is a good thing to have also. They average around $10 for the style to attach to the back of the seat or the axle of the cart made of vinyl with nylon webbing straps. If you want leather, they can run in the ballpark of around $45. These can be used for everything from pleasure classes to the competitive driving events.

For the marathon course of a CDE, it is rcommended you wear an armband with your medical information on it. Shit happens and even though you may feel like you are wrapped head to toe in bubble wrap, who knows what might render you unconcious on the course. The information is there for the medics who need it.  These are available through Dover for $10 and many of the carriage supply websites as well.

Then there is a spares kit. While this is not a requirement, it is recommended. It consists of a small pouch filled with everything you should never hope to need, but might. Rein splices, trace splices, a knife, a leather punch, some leather string, a couple of wrenches, a small hammer, a hoof pick and I am pretty sure I have forgotten something...  Prices may vary again, according to how big, how much and what kind of pouch you want it all in. I have seen them from $75 (CDE below) up to a few hundred in a nice leather case with enough in it for a 4 up hitch.  DEI has several to choose from, CDE has the cheapest so far and NFCS has a spares kit, but also offers the tools separately if you wish to put your own together.

The big one in all of this is entry fees.  For the ADT's it isn't bad. Besides the annual club membership fee (ADCS is $25) and the gas/fuel to get there, entries are $40 per event.  I don't know what other clubs charge, but any comments on that are welcome. Our club holds 6 ADT's per year, the first one in January, the upcoming one in February, one the end of March and on from there.  This year there is one in May in Prescott and one in June in Prescott, then the last one in Paulden has a date still to be determined.

CDE's are a whole different story. I have seen entry fees from $125-$200. This is for the three days of events, dressage, the marathon and cones, so roughly $40-65 per event.  Stalls are anywhere from another $60-$125 depending on the event and the stall. There is also the ADS/USEF membership per year (single $75) or a non-member fee ($30) per event. There is usually an exhibitors party or dinner and tickets are between $25-$35 per person depending on the event. Some events offer golf carts for around $300 for the length of the event. 

Some venues also include a shopping area where you can find clothes with the event logo, mugs, hats, of course carts, harness, whips, buckets, wraps and all sorts of things you may need or run short on at the event...  You guys are on your own with this part.

I won't include food, fuel or lodging since we all pay these if we are traveling to compete, no matter what the sport or discipline, but it adds up and costs roughly the same no matter where you live or which events you are planning on entering. If you are traveling out of state, of course you need a health cert within 30 days and Coggins test within one year of the event, 6 months in some areas. Cost for these also varies by state and sometimes by vet.  It's just the cost of traveling with horses...

So there you have it. The wrap up of driving and the costs involved. If I think of or find anything else, I will add it as part 4. Let's hope we don't have to go there. I don't think the bank account can take much more of this...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sticker Shock, Part 2

Before when I used to go tack shopping, I used to buy a lot of the cheap stuff. I bought it because it was cheaply priced, but a lot of times it was cheaply priced because it was cheap quality crap.  Then I started to look for the better quality stuff, but still the cheaper priced stuff... which many times turned out to still. be. crap.  By the time I brought the WB mare home and realized I didn't have a bridle or a bit that would fit her, I had also come to the point where I am sick of buying a bunch of 'get me by' stuff, cheap because it is cheap crap and settling for less. 

I finally decided that I deserve to have quality tack and since your life kind of depends on it, girths, reins, etc...  It is worth the time in researching brands, materials, etc. and the time saving up to spend the money and buy something nice. With driving being far more expensive than anything else 'horse' I have tried so far, I am learning a big lesson in all this.  Do your research, try things out if you can before you buy them and most of all, spend your money wisely and spend it ONCE!

Buying quality tack, bridles, harness, saddles, carts/carriages, saddle pads, splint boots or whatever, is far less expensive in the long run compared to buying cheapy crap and replacing it several times over because it falls apart. Hopefully when it falls apart, you, your horse and any spectators/witnesses are not hurt.  Another thing about quality, it makes you 'feel' the part. You will exude confidence, knowing your shit won't break mid performance or mid stride.  It still happens now and then, freak accidents and all, but a lot of times, if things are starting to wear out, you should catch it during routine care. 

That all being said, on to the costly part...

Sticker Shock, Part 1- covered carts and harnesses. The basics of what you would need to get started. Part 2 will cover the essentials you need to look the part when you compete in the breed show arena, pleasure driving classes or the dressage arena for the CDE's.

Whips- One thing you need when driving is a whip. A whip should be long enough to reach your horses shoulder. The one I was using to start out with, even for Kat, was not.  It was also green with a piece of white, blue or sometimes yellow baling twine as a lash & popper.  I was stylin' and nobody could touch that! (Not that anybody wanted to... but yeah.  ROFL!)

Gary was kind enough to send a whip down to the show with another competitor and it is awesome! He told me to try it out and if I liked it, send him a check, if not, send the whip back with them.  I liked it and when I asked about the price, I gotta admit, $40 for a whip sounded a new kind of crazy to me. I have never spent that much on a whip before, but it is a very nice whip and I paid him for it without only slight hesitation.  It is by Olaf Nyby which I only recently looked up online. Olaf has done a lot with horses and if his products are something Gary is confident in- good enough for me!  Then I went looking online for whips, because I like to comparison shop and find good deals... Bad move, very. bad. move. 

Carriage Driving Essentials has them in categories by price- $25-$65, $65-$99 and $100 & over. But the prices don't stop there. Another website, Driving Essentials, Inc. has whips starting at $12.95 and going up to $650 for a holly whip for driving a 4 up hitch. $650 for a whip? Seriously???? But if you are driving 4 horses, have spent a ton of money on horses, carriage, harness and everything else to get there, what's another $650 for a whip? ACK! New Farm Carriage has whips for $25, $70, $80 and 'Call for pricing'. That's okay, I will skip the call and stay with what I have. Thanks.

Gloves- When driving, just as you must carry the whip at all times, you are to be wearing gloves. And don't think you can 'wing it' and use your black gloves from showmanship or riding English. No, No, NO!!! For carriage driving, the proper gloves are to be brown. Just as russet reins are correct even if the rest of the harness is black, your gloves are to be brown, not black.  CDE has them from $25-$109 and DEI has them from $11 - $120.  NFC has gloves for $45 in two different leathers.

Personally I like the SSG marathon gloves for $30 from CDE, but I may go with the SSG Pro Show leather gloves above them for $40.  Otherwise I may go with the gloves from NFC. If money were not an issue there is a pair for about $100 that I like the look of, but I just cannot justify in my own mind $100 for gloves... Am I the only one here on this one?  (I hope not!)

Driving Aprons- Just as holding the whip and having brown gloves on are a requirement, your turnout is not complete without a driving apron.  I made mine from a piece of cotton fabric, a strip of wide nylon webbing and Velcro. All totalled it was under $20.  I think it turned out quite well, but then I do need to make another one since mine is black and when you are dressed in all black, you look like a funeral procession... Not the look everyone is going for, but black does go with everything.

CDE's and driving show classes- they are a must.  CDE has aprons for $144 unlined or $159 lined. Of course you can get them monogrammed and in several different colors...  DEI has them for $45-$150 and NFC has them for $55 which is not unreasonable at all, in standard colors that are reversible.  If you can sew or know someone who does- you can always make your own or have it made for you too.

Hats- This one is a killer. For pleasure driving classes at breed shows, dressage competitions at CDE's and driving shows in general, you are to wear a hat. Otherwise most competitions require or call for helmets.  Driving turnout advice is to find the proper hat and build your outfit around it. At the driving show there were a couple of nice hats which were the same color as the ladies jackets or otherwise complimented their outfit while tying in the apron as well. Quite the nice look I gotta say, but when you are talking price and limited budgets, you might be shopping the closeout sections or discontinued items.

While neither CDE or DEI have a big selection, $250 for a hat seems way out of range for me and probably a lot of other people too. Of course there are special order hats, available through DEI, but the part about call for pricing tends to scare me off. NFC has some beautiful hats, but $150-$200 is still a bit much for me to justify for a single hat. I did find two hats at a local antiques shop and will post about them soon. I got quite the deal on them and can work with them to change things up for more than one look.  One will be taken apart and used as a pattern since the color just doesn't work with or for me. 

Clothing- For women a nice blouse should work for breed shows, but a coat is a more finished look for your turnout in the dressage ring and formal driving classes. Men, it's pretty simple. Shirt, tie and coats pretty much cover it no matter which show ring you are going in. (So not fair, I know!)

So there we have another mind boggling and checkbook draining portion of the "Must Haves" for driving.  Since it covers both the breed show requirements, driving show requirements and the turnout/dressage portion for the CDE's, we can move on to other things for different events in the next section.  Remember this is supposed to be fun.  Don't forget that part. FUN!

*Since driving Kat over the weekend and having issue with his bridle slipping off I was looking at the buckle on top for the piece supporting the blinders and the teardrop decorative piece. The blinder strap was on top of the teardrop piece and I wondered if switching them, putting the teardrop piece on top, would make a difference?

Well it did. It allows the browband to slide down a little further, almost in the correct spot for Kat and the bridle stayed put even though he was shaking his head a lot during our workout last night. Who would have thought? Such small things can make the biggest differences.  If this doesn't work, I will be trying a gullet strap, which is another low cost option.*

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weekend update

I wanted to give everyone an update of how we are doing as we are gearing up for our first CDE.  I checked the omnibus for the event and the marathon course is 11km, nearly 7 miles in translation...  The dressage is on the first day, marathon the second and then cones on the third for those not familiar with CDE's. It is similar to 3 day eventing only with a carriage.

Sunday I worked Kat and took him out in the neighborhood for a drive. I have since driven the route in the car and clocked how far we went overall and how much of that was trotting... Nearly 3 miles at the trot and 5.4 miles overall.  That was just what was outside the driveway gate, after lunging him before harnessing up and then working a bit in our large front pasture. Now mind you he was not breathing hard at all and barely broke a sweat, only two places under the breeching.

He did keep stopping and stretching out like he had to pee and I would let him stand for a few minutes each time, telling him to go ahead and do it already, guiding him into the dirt to prevent slatter, etc. The things we do for our horses... *shakes head* When we got home I unhooked and unharnessed him quickly and tied him up in the dirt so he could go. He finally did pee and it had to feel better afterwards.  

One of the things I found funny was along our 'route' there were these big pipes sticking up out of the ground. They were about 6 feet tall and had a 'hook' on the top where they bent over and down. They were about 6" diameter and black. I think they are attached to the sewer lines as 'breather tube's' but who knows.  As we trotted past the first couple of them, Kat looked with interest and 'wobbled' a bit in the lines. He wasn't too sure about going past them until my voice of reason kicked in.

I told Kat, "You have got to be kidding me. We go to these competitions and trot in, around and through stuff, bigger stuff, taller stuff, longer stuff, brightly painted stuff, all with no fuss, no muss and you just blast on through it all without a problem. Yet you are giving these a long, hard, second look? Man up! For gawd sakes already." After that he paid them no attention what so ever. He also didn't pay any attention to the door laying on the one side of the trail, the cactus pieces laying IN the trail or anything on or along our way down the road...

Once we hit the part of the trail where he could trot, I let him go.  As long as he kept it at a trot and as long as he wanted to, we trotted.  When he did finally stop trotting on the first part of our outing, I had him keep walking. I found a tree a little ways ahead of us and picked that as our place to turn around to go back towards home.  We walked to the tree, turned around, walked back to where we made the transition to the walk and I stopped him. I wanted to make a few adjustments on the harness.

One of the issues we have been having is once Kat has been working and maybe sweated a little, he shakes his head and the bridle will slip off. Usually it is one ear, but this time as I was adjusting the harness, he shook his head and slipped it off both ears. The bit was hanging low enough to still be in his mouth and he was playing with it, but at least he still had the bridle on.  He stood like a rock and let me fix it without a fuss, but still. WTH! It slipped off one ear about 6 or 7 more times on the way home. Each time we were at a walk, each time I stopped him, jumped out and fixed it and we went on our way, but I am not liking this crap at all.

I am thinking it is an issue with the browband, because everything else fits and is adjusted as it should be, which is as small as things will go and allow, but the browband doesn't lie flat on his forehead like they do on regular bridles.  Maybe it's just me, but with the crown slipping off over his ears with the throatlatch still buckled, that just doesn't seem right? It may also involve the blinders and the straps & buckles on top of them helping to hold them up where they should be.  They go through the loop on the underside of the browband, but split in a spot where the browband can not go any lower where it should... I am getting way too well versed in fit issues with things. Too. Well. Versed.

Once the harness was adjusted and the bridle back on, I climbed in the cart and off we went again. Kat willingly slipped into a trot and I let him go again. The only corrections to be made was keeping him at a trot and not letting him break into a canter.  The whole time we were out, I was not concerning myself (or him) with tipping his nose to the 'inside' or anything else. I just let him go, let him do his job and he did. He was light and responsive as ever with the slightest touch or tug of the rein.  Which tells me to just say "Screw it!" as far as worrying about his nose while working at home.

When we got back to the spot where we get on the side of the road and can trot, he was still fresh and willing to go. He kept on trotting so I let him.  We got almost all the way down to the corner where my friend Michelle lives and we make our turn into the neighborhood towards home.  There were some big sage brush bushes that had been dumped right in the middle of the trail so as we approached them it was a good time to slow things back down to a walk.

Since we had headed out kind of late as we were coming home, the sun had already gone down and we were losing daylight. Thankfully we were already in the neighborhood, on the quieter streets and pretty close to home, because it was getting cold. Or at least I was getting cold. I drove almost all the way home one handed with my other hand in my hoodie pocket. Even though I had gloves on, my hands were cold.  I still had to jump out a few times and fix the bridle, but each time Kat was patient and it almost seemed like he was irritated with the bridle slipping off too. 

As we came into the driveway I was feeling quite pleased with how things had gone. I knew our outing before had been 3.5 miles and we had walked the whole way, but now we  had added a big chunk to our trip and were trotting most of it. I am thinking the CDE in March may be a reality for us.  I am hoping so anyways. In the next few weeks I will have a better idea and will be adding more distance to our workouts. Entries close February 20th so I need to make up my mind one way or the other! 

The next two parts of the Sticker Shock series will touch on some of the things needed for the CDE's while some of them also carry over to the breed show requirements as well.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sticker Shock!!!

I have pointed out before about how different the sport of driving is from the ridden events. Well the money part of it is completely different. Aside from the cart & harness, which can run from one end of the spectrum to the other, there are many other things involved IF you are going to compete with the big boys.

I will start with the basic things and move on as we go to things you need for the different types of competitions.

Carts- Most people start out with an easy entry type cart for a few reasons. One being they are reasonably priced (usually around $500 and up) and are a great starter if you just want to dip your feet in the water. They are also pretty light weight and easy to transport. Stateline Tack even carries carts, for those wondering...  One of the downsides to these type of carts, they may not be very durable, but the flip side of that- replacement parts can be easily attained and switched out.  Also as you progress, the spoked pneumatic tires are only allowed in the lower levels.

If you are going the route of breed shows, then different carts are required there as well.Some of the two wheeled versions seen in the ring are the simple show sulkies starting at around $2,045.00 through Jerald for the stripped version in pony size and then the nice 4 wheel version, the Viceroy for $5,150.00 in pony size.  Horse sizes for those interested, $2150.00 for the sulky and $5150.00 for the fine harness buggy or $5250.00 for the Viceroy respectively.  These are typically what is seen in the Arab, QH, TWH, ASB, Shetland, Hackney and miniature horse showring rings.

For the competitor who may be competing in events with obstacles, ADT's & especially CDE's, a more durable and sturdy cart is a definite requirement, such as the Sprint Driving Carts by Frey Carriage Company. They start at around $2700 for the mini & small pony size, going up to $3000 for large horse, $3100 for draft size respectively. They offer a lot of standard features on the basic models and of course for a fee you can customize your cart to whatever extent you choose. 

Sometimes you can find used carts online for sale at a more reasonable price, since the seller may be moving up to a different type of cart, different competitions, downsizing or even getting out altogether.  I found my cart on CL for a fraction of what they went for new, and considering the changes that have been made, I am still managing to come in under the retail price when they were still being made. 

If you want to go the route of a 4 wheel carriage or marathon type vehicle, expect to pay more since there is more materials and labor involved. One of the big differences in the 2 wheel vs. 4 wheel carts, while the 4 wheel cart may weigh more- it's weight is distributed on the wheels and not the horse, where the 2 wheel carts- the horse bears some of the weight through the shafts & saddle of the harness. The 4 wheel carts also usually have brakes where the 2 wheel versions don't- relying on the breeching as your braking system.  The different 4 wheel marathon type carts tend to start in the $5,000 range and go up from there and some of the carriages are right there with them in pricing. 

Harness- We all know about the cheapy nylon harness available for a little over $100 through most tack catalogs and sometimes they come thrown in with a cart. I now have 2 of them. While they may fit some horses ok, for the most part, their best use is when getting started, letting the horse get accustomed to straps flapping around their legs, the crupper being on, the breeching being there, the breastcollar, blinders and maybe some ground driving.  If you have one, great, use it for what it's worth, but if you are going to spend the money, skip the nylon harness and go for a decent synthetic (see below). They may cost a little more, but like all things, with proper care, you can usually get a decent return on your investment if you decide to sell it later on. 

My own harness is from Amber Hillside, formerly Ron's Horse Tack in Canada. One of the things I liked most about their harness is the quality shown in the comparison photos and their double guarantee. They were also incredibly helpful when it came time to order the harness and with advice on how to make the alterations needed to fit Kat, since nothing seems to fit him off the shelf or out of the box... They have a synthetic harness for under $200 and their leather harness is under $500.00 for minis to draft sizes.

If you are going for the gusto on a harness and money is not an object, believe me, there are some pricey harnesses out there. Smuckers and Zilco come to mind since they are seen a lot and mostly what I have heard of in the horsey circles I have traveled.  Smuckers synthetic harness starts at around $550.00 and their leather harness start at $895.00 From their website here- Smuckers Harness.  Zilco Harness is available through local distributors and from what I have seen of them on Advanced Equine, their pricing starts around $500 and goes up as well.  I have seen harnesses going for $1200 and up, for a single horse, so it all depends on what you want and how much you are willing or more like able to spend.

So there's the beginning of the 'sticker shock' series from the drivers seat. Wait until we look at other stuff like hats, helmets, whips, bits, protective vests and entry fees... If this one didn't blow your mind, maybe some of the other stuff will?? Just remember to breathe and we should all be fine. 

To help your breathing...   Extreme Carriage Driving 

Oh Yeah!!! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The competitive edge

The drive to compete, yeah, it runs deep in a lot of us. I didn't remember to listen for my time on the course at the Darby when they announced it at the driving club Christmas party. All I remember really, was taking accolades for being one of the few who messed up somewhere and was eliminated.  I have kept checking the website for my time and the results page to be posted for all the world to see.  It was actually posted in the January newsletter which I have sent to my email inbox every month.  

Remember, in a Darby, the winner has the fewest seconds from time on course added to penalty seconds:

Competitor                  Total Seconds           Place
Training - Mini

Jessica Zamboni                     237                      1
Laura Pfeiffer                         304                      2
Shirlee Callahan                     204E                   3

Expert - Mini
Patti Huling                             181                      1
Tim Callahan                          201                      2
Craig Zamboni                       215                       3

Training - Pony
Loralee Wuertz                       279                      1
Sheri Kalfas-Jaggers              293                      2
Linda Hirsch                           273E                    3

Expert - Pony
Bruce Huling                           219E                   1

Expert - Horse
Kim Dean                                252E                   1

There it was in the Training Pony division.  Considering we smacked into a pole, coming to a complete stop after gate #1, stopping in front of cone #14 before plowing it over, stopping again in gate #18 before hitting another pole then circling around cone #20... I think we did pretty darn well.

First place was 279 seconds on course and second was 293 seconds. Our time was 273.  Had we not gone through cone #9 the wrong way- we would have not only had our first clean round in a competition- we would have been first for our division (even with all of our mishaps).  If we had not run into things, had the narrow mishaps and skipped the added circling, our time would have been even quicker.  Remember in all of this though, this Darby was for FUN! No entry fees, no prizes, just do your best and have a blast at it.  Which we certainly did have a blast and made note of where improvements are in order...

For anyone who may be wondering, the Expert division is where you can allow your horse to canter or gallop through the course at will. The Darby's only offer the two divisions- Training or Expert.  For the regular Darby's, half of the competitors do the scoring while the other half compete, then there is a quick change and the other half compete while the first half does the scoring. 

When you see people blasting through the course at full speed- it is inspiring and may bring on an adrenaline rush just watching.  We may get there eventually, but for now I pass along a video sent to me from another blogger who used to post as
"the farmer's wife" from our days back on Fugly.  Hopefully I will get to meet her in person soon.  That promises to be fun!

*Edited to add this- Watch the team at 2:08 as they come up out of the water and make a left turn. The front outside horse is literally bouncing straight up and down.  Cracks me up because some of the horses really do enjoy their job.

Also the appy makes a very brief debut coming down the hill on the marathon at 1:25, then you see them again going through the cones at 2:33. This is a sport that is definitely open to ALL breeds!*