Someone asked me the other day- what are some of the things I have either discovered or remember from the early part of training my pony to drive as I was learning the game myself?
Your flaws and mistakes in riding can and often DO carry over. Waaaay back in the days at one of the Arabian horse farms I worked at, the trainer asked me one day if I had ever ridden a bicycle? I had a tendancy to hold the horse with both hands. I asked for the turn with one hand, but didn't release the other hand allowing the horse to turn. I thought I had fixed it, but figured out I was doing it again with driving, just before our first clinic in the driving club.
I can remember doing BIG circles in the beginning. Lots of big circles in both directions. At one of the CDE's I believe, I was standing around near the dressage arena and remember hearing one of the upper level trainers say how much harder it is to do big circles than it is to do the smaller ones. I thought he was crazy. We had done a Lot of big circles. They seemed easy to me. Big circles is one of the things I feel helped me to win the reinsmanship class at our first driving show. Moving up a level, I always made sure to work on all size circles.
The value of ground driving and long line work is priceless. It is an art form in and of itself. I figured that once I put Kat to the cart, we didn't need to do anymore long line work. Ever. I could not have been more wrong on this. At one of our first ADT's I think it was, the woman who was consistantly beating us in dressage and then in turn the outcome of the day, told me that she probably does more work in long lines without the cart than she does with the cart and actually driving. She was beating us so there had to be something to it, right?
Although Kat is smart and tolerant beyond all means, while I have been treating him as a 'Point & Shoot' pony for the most part, he needs me for guidance a lot more than I have been there for him. At one of our last ADT's I realized that I may set him up for a cone, but usually we are a ways off. I line him up and expect it to happen. Seriously. Kat doesn't know his numbers, the pattern of the cones or probably that red cones are supposed to be on the right. But I expected him to perform and do the job, given half the information of where to go.
Trust is key. He trusts me to keep him safe, show him where to go and allow him to do his job. In turn I trust him not to do anything crazy, to behave himself and to listen to me as I try to be the herd leader he needs and respects. Sometimes one of us doesn't trust the other enough and things start to fall apart....... Like at a couple of the ADT's at different times, places and always in the hazards. Little man doesn't think I'm making the right choice on where or how to navigate a gate. For a moment or two it's a battle of wills to decide who wins. This usually ends with him almost doing a faceplant or smacking into a pole or something. You know, we just come really close to crashing into something. Next time around? Little man is submissive and relents, puts it all in MY hands to not blow it. He doesn't want to get hurt having a wreck. Neither do I, so we agree on that.