Monday, August 27, 2012


So this is the 100th post on this blog. Considering I started it about driving Kat and training him for the sport and all, how far we have come in a year and now the 100th post. Looks like everything has come a long way since the beginning. Doesn't seem like it has been that long either. 

A few things about the Darby. Before we headed out from the hotel we had already been busy. We had breakfast in the lobby and I headed back to the room to get organized, packed, loaded up and we would be on our way. Although we had put up the privacy thing on the door, we had a visitor in our room.  No big deal, I could work around that. 

I got everything ready to go and about then hubs came back to help get everything in the truck. I showed him our visitor and snapped a couple of pictures. There was a small lizard on the floor of our room. He was on my side of the bed, right in front of the nightstand. Both of us decided he needed to go outside before we left and the cleaning crew came in. We didn't want the little guy/girl sprayed, squashed or harmed. So we set out to wrangle a lizard. And the lizard didn't want to cooperate!

JR tried to herd the lizard towards the door. The lizard ran towards the wall, but moved sorta that way.  Then the lizard spotted my boots and came back away from the front wall and seemed to hide by my boots. JR had tried to pick the lizard up on a brochure or something but the lizard didn't stay on it long enough to get to the door. When it stopped by my boots, I decided to try. I reached down and cupped my hands around the lizard. It crawled up on my hand and I made my way to the door.


I managed to get outside and one more pic before setting the lizard on the ground and sending him/her on his/her way. Cute huh? JR had a hard time keeping it on the brochure because little things like this move very fast. Once on the ground, the lizard took off to freedom.  I thought of blogger Mikey and some of her adventures. All I could think was- Only in Arizona...

After the Darby we had the pleasure of sticking around to play in the water hazard. Since Kat had been in without the cart, now he needed to go in WITH the cart. Wouldn't you know it, as we headed down off he hill to the water hazard- the wind kicked up, the clouds started blowing in, it became overcast and rain was looming. The wind was blowing across the top of the water and making ripples. Kat thought he was doomed for sure.

He was hesitant and resisted, put up a decent fight of "Oh Hell NO!" but in the end...

L-O-V-E  his walk as he goes into the water.

We went through a couple of more times and even still, unless we went straight in at the shallow end this is what happened-

Unless we were aimed right at it at the wide shallow spot, Kat refused. He was beginning to rear a little and backing up a few steps here and there. Neither is allowed so I had to correct him and drive him forward, using the whip as needed. He got the point and we went through a few more times before calling it good and taking him back to the trailer. As I was un hooking and untacking him, the rain came and started to cool things off.

Over the weekend Kat and I started working. We both need to get into shape before the CDE in Sonoita at Grass Ridge. He was whipping around on the lunge line like a crazy man and working like  nobody's business.  I got a few pics of him afterwards and I have to say- I am lovin' my pony. 

My camera angle wasn't so good here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Darby time!

First off we have the course map. Which doesn't want to load because it is a pdf file and beyond my blogger capabilites of translation or ??? that needs to be done to make it happen.  If anything changes- You will see the map here instead of a lengthy description of what it was.

Enter the Start/Finish gate where your time starts when the horses nose crosses the line. Head straight for a line of cones 1, 2, 3 & 4. Right turn to go through 1, sharp left to come around to 2, sharp right to come around through 3, sharp left again to go through 4 heading away from 5 so a hard right to get back around to go through an opening into Fort Atonna and look for gates A, B & C.

Here we are coming off A and circling around to get to B. I don't know if anyone else went this way during the day or not. The beauty of hazards and obstacles- you get to choose your own course. As long as you are going through the gates in the right order, the right direction, how you get to them is up to you. 

Heading into A there is a big pile of tree branches/small logs stacked up in a diamond shaped pile, and Kat sorta spooked at it. He took a couple of hesitant steps off to one side or another, but hearing me urging him on and forward, got over it and went right on past without another look.

Through the three gates and off to the second set of cones...  7, 8, 9 and 10 were set up sort of  as a square.   If you could manage going through 7 and pull a sharp leftt to go through 8 (we did) then cool. Otherwise you looped around to the right to line up for 8 which the bigger horses pretty much had to do.  Go through 8 and loop around to the left for 9, back around to the left to line up for 10- be careful not to knock down any cones...

Although it looks wide, (horses and ponies have one setting, mini's another) it is still pretty easy to take out a cone or bump it hard enough to knock balls down. 10 second penalty for each ball down. Thankfully we were clean! Last year- 1 ball down.

After going through 10 you are headed back to the water hazard. Gates A & B don't require going through the water, but to get to C quickly- you cut through the water.  Although Kat had gone in the water on Saturday in long lines, adding the cart and two passengers- whole 'nuther story. Nuh uh, not today! He pretty much planted his feet and said "Not happening!"  After two attempts and a lot of urging, we ditched that thought and went around.

You can see the cement in front of the mermaid statue. Those red PVC poles protecting her? Kat took them out on Saturday, trying not to get his feet wet. They are designed to come apart to prevent a bigger wreck.  We were not the only entry to go around the water instead of through it. The horses a few of the minis and Kat, had other ideas that day and water was not included.

Once we went through C we headed off to the other side of the property for hazard 12, more cones and hazard 18.  Going through A, B & C on the hazards, you can go back through a gate to get out, which in this case would line you up for a straight shot at cone 13. In a Darby, the hazards, once you go through a gate it is now 'dead' and you can go back through it to get to another. Cones are never dead. Cutting through a set of cones to get to something else- elimination! 

Straight through 13, loop around left to get to 14, right  around 13 and loop to get to 15,  another loop around to the right and past 16, hard right to come back through it, sharp right loop to get back around and go through 17, line up to go through the poles of 'Paulden Forest' for A, around a pallet box to go through B and straight out through the 'forest' again through C and back to the other side of the property...

The cones for 19 and 20 were right by the start finish gate. 19 was headed away from them while 20 was headed back the same direction as the finish gate, but further away from it.  We wound our way through both of them and through the finish gate. Kat was a bit pooped and had slowed to a walk a few times on the course. Having too much time off didn't do him any favors in the fitness department. Looks like we will both be working on that before the CDE in October. At least we have some time to ease into it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Splish, Splash!

Anyone who has been following this blog knows the Darby last year was Kat's debut event in harness. To think this past year has already gone by is kinda crazy, but it has been Fun! The weather in Northern AZ is cooler, but not by much in some areas. It was averaging around 100 degrees and I still get sunburned but at least it wasn't 110 or more as it was in the valley of the sun over the weekend.

We arrived in Paulden early in the afternoon. The course had been set up on Friday and was open for walking. The dressage arena is always there for use and there were also several cones out there, but I had different plans. I had brought my long lines and was going to try to get Kat in the water, without the cart.

The last time we went to Paulden for the Darby, I had taken Kat in the water on the end of a lead line. I went in with him, we went in the shallow end and he took very little coaxing to follow. This time it was time to step it up a few notches.  He would be wearing part of the harness and would need to go in on his own. Time for Kat to grow up and start acting like a big boy.

My paparazzi was a bit distracted so we didn't get any pics. I was trying to drive Kat forward into the water, but had forgotten my whip in the truck or my 'accelerator' as Gary later called it.  I had the lines run through the tugs on the surcingle and Kat was being responsive, but at the same time, he was having none of it on this whole idea of getting IN the water.  Gawd forbid he get his feet wet... 

We tried walking back and forth past it, then turning sharply and directly into it as hubby suggested. That wasn't working too well for us and Kat was trying his best to evade the water and succeeding. We tried on the shallow end, the sides and the deep end and little man was having no part of it.

I finally dropped the lines and went to his head. I had led him in last year to start, I would lead him in again if that's what it took. Kat trusts me and will usually go willingly wherever I lead him. He still resisted a bit, but eventually he got in the water with me.  Of course he took a few hesitant and unsure steps that resulted in a bit of a leap and him bumping into me, but I stayed on my feet and we were both IN the water. We also happened to be near the deep end. Not so good on the planning on my part, but at least we got there.

Now that Kat was in the water, you would think getting him back in would be a piece of cake. Nope! Leading him in, he had me as a security blanket of sorts. With me behind him driving him forward into what was surely the abyss- he didn't want to go.  He balked, he tried going left, he tried going right, he tried to escape every way he knew how. Every time, every turn, I used the reins to block the intended exit route. I kept clucking, kissing and talking to my pony and still he did not want to go forward.

Mary Jane and her horse Mack were on the course with Gary as a navigator. They drove past us, into the water without a flaw as Kat stood on the banks and watched. He could care less if the horse went in, he wasn't about to budge.  After unhooking Gary came back down the hill and helped. First thing he asked- "Where's your whip?" 

As it was, and I noticed this early on, a few times as Kat started to go forward and as I used the line to slap his butt and push him forward, he also got a tug on the bit and it translated into "Go forward, but no don't." This is why the whip was essential in giving clear, concise commands without adding any extra confusion.  Gary also told me to shorten up my lines and keep my hands closer together. Something I noticed in the pictures I don't always do.  

After a few unsuccessful attempts to get Kat back in the water, Gary took hold of the nearest rein and coaxed him along. He was the new security blanket and although Gary never went in the water, he got Kat in there.  Once Kat was back in the water, I kept him there. I circled him around to the left and to the right. Stopped him in the middle and patted & praised him. Kat relaxed enough to drop his head and drink while he was standing there.  The water was deeper this year and had filled my boots as I stood there next to my pony.

After that I took him out the shallow end, turned him around and headed him right back in. He hesitated a little but dropped his head and slowly walked into the water again. We went in and out of the water a few more times before Gary had to leave. By then, we had gone in and out at both the shallow and deeper ends of the water. Kat was relaxed and comfortable about doing it. Was he happy about it? Maybe, maybe not, but he was still going in and out of the water. 

After that I took Kat out to a big open area and let him trot and blow off some steam. He had plenty of energy and enjoyed stretching his legs and getting it out of his system.  After a few minutes of working both directions and Kat being more relaxed- we headed back to the water. We went in and out a few more times.  A couple of times, I stayed out of the water while he went in. He also felt so good about himself that he trotted across the water once or twice. He went in and out with no hesitation and I stopped him in the middle, waded out to him while my boots filled with water again, praised him and called it good.  The next day we would be trying it with the cart...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Murphy's Law

There should actually be two versions of Murphy's Law-
Things never go as planned
Everything that can go wrong- Will!

I think everyone is pretty familiar with both of these, although the part about never going as planned may happen more than everything falling apart.

How this applies to my horses- I have not gotten a chance to put the mare in long lines yet or ground drive her. In fact the new surcingle hasn't even made it out of the bag, except for me taking it out to look at it when it arrived. It did make it as far as getting out with the rest of the tack, but that's it. Still hasn't seen a horse yet.

My mare- well she needs her feet done and I have been treating her for an abcess on the front left. If she can't stand on it, how am I supposed to trim the other one?  Horses are enough to make us all nuts sometimes, aren't they?

I did get Kat trimmed a couple of weeks ago and the cart was finished and brought home... We managed to slip in a couple of drives, but it was in the small turnout since the cows have been in the back trying to eat down the weeds. Why not drive in with the weeds? Seriously they are taller than I am. I tried ground driving Kat through them. What a joke!

I figured it would be good for him to learn to go where I point him if he can see or not. He needs to trust me sometimes and just do it.  He went in the weeds all right, but the weeds are stalky and very unforgiving. The traces although fastened up over his back- were caght in the weeds and tugged at. The lines trailing behind me kept snagging on stuff. Kat kept trying to grab bites off the weeds, although he is far from starving(!) and the bugs, did I mention the damn BUGS? Holy crap! I had sprayed him down good with fly spray before we started, but it did him no good. I was also being dive bombed and swarmed. Forget that idea. First chance I had to turn him around, I did, because by this time we were at the far end of the pasture of course. 

Once we moved over into the small turnout, thins were fine. I ground drove him a touch and he was awesome. I put him to the cart and he did great. We managed about 45 minutes of good solid work. I had closed off the one panel to keep the cows out so then I could open the big gates to the weed patch and drive through them. One of my friends horses thought we were the Devil in carnate and out to get him. He wanted no part of us going past his stall, but settles in pretty quick since none of our horses were bothered. Still he kept a watchful eye on us.

I fell we are more than ready for the upcoming Darby. This is the same event we went to last year as our first outing in harness. It's tough to believe a year has gone by already. Crazy I know.  There will be fun to have, new friends to make, people we know to see and maybe I will be able to convince Kat to get in the water, proving to him it is ok to get his little hoofies wet. I will be taking my long lines with us for a 'start without the cart' training session and option. Once he is going in and out, I will hook him and lather, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat... 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

While I am at it...

The last post talked about backing up in training and getting it right before going on. That applies to riding horses as well as driving horses. Sometimes you need to back up, get off the horse, ground drive or long line them and 'fix' them before you get on and try it again.

Which is what I will be doing with Aruba. I have been riding her (not as much as I would like to) but the last few rides we were having issues going to the right. Serious issues. And they were all me. All of it.

Going to the left I was fine, she was fine, we were good. I was relaxed, she was too, my hands were soft and following, she was bent to the left and we trotted big sweepy, effortless circles. I even posted some which made me able to last a bit longer. Then we turned to the right. Walking was sorta fine, but I was beginning to tense up. I had my hand on the first tab on the reins, but that wasn't enough release for her. Our circles were anything but big let alone 'sweepy' and trotting only lasted a few strides at best. I leaned forward, essentially putting all my weight on her front end and forcing her to do the same. Any wonder the poor mare was confused?

It was put to me to put the reins in my left hand, on the buckle. Put my hand out over her withers and even her neck if I had to. Sit. up. straight! Which all translated to me as "Ride her like a damned western horse and neck rein if you have to... "

What happened next? I wasn't completely relaxed, but the mare was. She was soft and not so much bent to the inside, but we trotted. Big. sweepy. circles. And for "riding her like a western horse" yeah, those girls post sometimes too, and so did I. I sat up straight, my mare was balanced and life was once again GOOD!

So I ordered up a new surcingle from Valley Vet. It came in today! I gotta say, for the money- it is really NICE! It is also quite soft and well built. I love that it has nice BIG rings on it and no metal eyelets on the billets. I will be ground driving my mare this weekend to fix the things I have started to unravel by riding her. I also think she would make an elegant driving horse. Time will tell on that though... If she goes that route- talk about horsepower! She has it.