Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who knew?

On one of the driving forums I frequent, someone suggested using old milk containers as cones for practicing. Between us, my mom and my sister, I have amassed a large collection of milk containers. Almost 20 of them so far and I have been waiting to use them...

Sunday I got my chance. Sort of. I gathered my containers in a large tub to keep by the gate. I put water into each one- about halfway or so, to give them a bit more stability and keep them from blowing away.  I measured my cart, (walked it, 2 steps. Really technical I know)  and set out to design my course...

I set up a line of four as a serpentine to weave through, seven strides apart. Usually I can get through the first two without issue, the next one is a bit tricky.  The half gallon jugs worked well for this.  On the east end I had two sets of jugs as if a pair of in-and-out fences if jumping. They were slightly angled inward one this way  \ , one / that way.  There were another three sets of jugs/cones, one set as a straight pair, then the other two, staggered off to the side. On the far end I had one set of lone jugs. It sorta looked like this...

                  X                                                                        X

                       X                                                           X



     X                                 X           X

     X                                                  X         X





As it was set up, I could take them in either direction, use them in different order and alter the course as we went. I set them 3 steps apart, which turned out to be a bit wide, but it was all in fun so the good news is, I only wiped out 1 when we were driving the course. Knocked it over is probably more like it, because it will live to see more use. It was one of the jugs in the serpentine line. There was plenty of room to go wide, and use the rail, slip between each 'gate' and go on the the next as well as going through the two offset gates at an angle and straight line through them both. 

The serpentine could be woven from either direction, starting on either side, making it in-out-in or out-in-out. I could also go in the first pair, skip the middle one and out the last pair in a bigger, sweeping turn, instead of weaving it tightly. The two on the angle- I could take them in order or by themselves.  None of this I really had in mind when I set it all up. I did realize though, I need more milk jugs. I have 2 more to add to the collection already.

The beauty in all of this, I have some of the white plastic milk jugs. The shape of them lends easily to using a big, black marker and putting the dressage letters on them. Then I can set them out in the proper order and work on dressage too. I have also considered, draining the water out of them and using dirt instead. It wouldn't turn green and funky after a while so I will most likely do that.

It was almost dark when I finally got into the cart. What took me so long? Well, I had gone to pick up hay, pulled the truck around back and left the driveway gates open in the process. Stopped by the house to grab the harness and was intending to drive Kat. As I was lunging him, Betsy (the heifer we have) strolled over towards the shop where we keep the hay.  I tried to pull Kat up and we walked back over in an attempt to ward her off, without getting her wound up... but it didn't work.

Betsy wandered over to the ope gates and lit up. He tail went up in the air as she took off!  She bolted down the driveway towards the street as I clipped Kat to his lead rope and started walking after her. The neighbors cows have been moved to the other side of their property to let the grass grow and she was missing them. Betsy has been bawling her head off day and night the past few days calling to them.  She has a beautiful moo, but not so much at 3 am. She ran over to their place to see them. 

It took me a good hour to get her home. I had to get their cows into the barn aisle and contained, Betsy into their pasture and then headed back out into the pasture between us. From there it was another 20 minutes or so trying to herd her towards the front of the property and the gate going into the back. I have to say- she is a quick little heifer and will gladly run away from you rather than at you.  I hope it stays that way.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Coming home from the CDE was not in any way a let down. Sure the fun was over, we had made our share of mistakes, learned a few things, but for the most part- we had a great time, met a lot of wonderful people and know what to expect at the next one. The next one is in October in southern Arizona. 

Since buying the new bit, I have yet to try it out. I got in one drive between the CDE and the next ADT we attended last weekend. I am not one to just change things up without giving both Kat and I time to adjust.  Seeing as how the new bit has a curb chain on it, it will have a bit of a different effect in use. I bought it from Gerrard of Ideal Harness, who is a very helpful and knowledgeable man when it comes to driving.

We now have a mullen mouth, loose cheek, butterfly bit as pictured below. Kat has never worn a bit without a broken or jointed mouthpiece and since has also never had a curb chain on either. It will be like driving a car without power steering or power brakes, then driving one with both.  I am going to ground drive him first, before putting him to the cart, giving us both a feel for it with far less chance of an accident.

Wait a minute... didn't I mention another ADT? Oh yeah. That?  It too was a blast. Held at the same facility as the CDE, a lot of the stuff, scenery and obstacles, were the same.  Lucky for us, they skipped the one hazard where we overshot our entry point and rearranged the alphabet...

The dressage test was a bit different, Test 2 is a slight bit shorter than the other one, but the movements were much the same.  The judge was incredibly generous in scoring, but her notes were dead on. Our score was 40.50 and although it was on the same field, it just didn't have the same feel as our test at the CDE three weeks prior. I did salute the judge correctly this time though!

The thing about the driving events, and in talking to several others this seems to be something felt across the board no matter what level you are competing at- the whole thing seems to go by way too fast.  This was not just at the ADT either, but all three portions of the CDE as well. You harness up, go through the safety check, warm your horse up, hit the ring, the cones, the obstacles or marathon course and before you know it, you are finished.  You hope for a clean round, good scores, no errors, no eliminations and find you want to do it all again because it happened so fast.  The horses are also a bit amped up and could easily go again if we let them- I know Kat often is....  

A few of us at the CDE were talking about this very thing. We came up with an alternative way of doing it all.  This would be all about FUN and not much else... I changed the text to Italics because this is NOT how it is to be done, just something we came up with for the sake of fun.

Dressage- you get two chances at the test. Your scores are noted for each movement on both. The higher score for each movement is taken from both tries and that score is what you get.  If you need to correct the horse, you can on one test, because the other one should have a better score and will be the one to count. 

Marathon & Obstacles (CDE's & ADT's) again you get two chances to do it. One for time and one to make sure you went through the gates in the right order, the right direction and did things like you are supposed to. The faster time is the one to count, the right order & direction portion counts. If you can do both in one shot, you still get the second chance to improve your speed.

Cones- This one is a little different since you would get three chances to go around the course. The first time around would be based on precision.  Leave all the balls UP!, go through everything in the right direction and make it look nice & Pretty... No time penalties to be incurred. The second chance at it would be based on time alone. Sure you have to go through everything the right direction, but time is all that counts here so GO! The third time around- how many balls can you knock down? That's right. Switch it around and knock them all down. Penalties for leaving them up. Now that would be FUN! Your horse is already jazzed- let them have fun too. Extra points for knocking down the balls on both sides- without using anything like your arm or whip- sticking out of the cart.

One of the driving forums I am on frequently, someone suggested using plastic milk containers for 'cones' in the arena at home. They are cheap, readily available, can be filled with sand or water to weight them down and easily replaced if you wreck one. If you do- toss it in the recycle bin and get another. So far I have 4 and counting... 

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Easter and the kids find plenty of eggs to fill their basket.