The Cart – Step Three!

The Cart - Step Three! - www.theessentialhorse.com

Today. Was. AWESOME!!! I had a busy day, running to town, then walking the dogs (we walked 4 miles!) then working on Bonnie, oiling and massaging her, trying to help her manage the pain, then harnessing Sky and driving down the road!!! She was so ready for this. She has been wanting to just put her head down and trot from some time now. Both of us were so happy!

SO happy!!

I didn’t want to ask her to do something that was unfair at this early stage, so I didn’t drive her for very long and we stayed on the flat part of the road, driving back and forth in front of my house, past our driveway. She would trot very fast whenever we were turned towards our driveway so we have some barn sour stuff to work through. But I was thinking about it and I don’t think my mom ever drove her alone! I think we always drove together. So Sky is a bit unconfident when it’s just her out there. She definitely likes it more when Bonnie is with us. Hopefully Bonnie will heal up soon so she can join us!

We are going to work up to driving down to my neighbors house this week and next week. We will have to drive past some horses that Sky has only seen once and then down their driveway with 4 big dogs, 3 miniature horses and about 30 chickens, ducks, and geese! So I want her a bit more confident before we tackle THAT!!

My set up! Those tires are wonderful. We have some rough country with sage bushes and big rocks so I’m thrilled with the spokes and the big, wide tires. Big tires make the cart easier to pull! I am really looking forward to getting the sliding back band with a tree from Comfy fit harness as well.

I love love my curved shafts! I love how they help balance the cart. I love that they make the shaft loops sit at a certain spot making it so they don’t slide forward and back and the best part is when Sky turns her head to visit with me her rein doesn’t get hung up on the end of the shaft!! Also when turning the shaft ends do not interfere with her shoulder at all. When we are a bit smoother I will video that for you! I have a few adjustments to make with the shaft loops but everything seemed to work together very well today.

Sky is such a pretty, smart girl. We were both pretty proud of ourselves today!

Cantering with the Travois

Cantering with the Travois - www.theessentialhorse.com

Sky has been doing so great in the travois that it was time to canter with it on! I like to have my ponies canter while dragging the travois so they get used to the feel of doing so inside the shafts. I’ve witnessed ponies that have never cantered in cart or the travois, then they spook and canter in the cart and completely panic. This is a way to set them up for success later!

Sky was a bit of a maniac today. She didn’t like being out on her own without Bonnie, but Bonnie is too sore to walk right now. Sigh. She got a little bit of the tiny green shoots growing in the dry lot and has foundered again. I made the dry lot smaller and am going to make the entire dry lot a paddock paradise this summer. (I’m also going to have Zorro gelded next month! Then all the ponies can be in together. I’m very excited about that… Both Captain and Zorro encourage more movement because they play so much. They will get the two girls going more.) Anyhoo… as I was saying it was just Sky and I out in the 5 acre field and then we went down the road a bit. She was on fire! It was a bit like flying a kite. She really worked up a sweat. I was looking for a nice quiet walk about but got  something a little different. LOL!

After her excellent canter with the travois and all the silliness that went on everywhere else I knew she is ready for the cart! So Thursday is my goal-day for hitching her up and going for a drive. I’m so happy about that! It’s going to take some time to get her in shape, so I’ll support the exercise with oils and call my favorite equine body worker, Heidi Chretien to come and give her a once over. (Bonnie needs some work done was well after all this soreness with the founder. I can see all the tension in her neck, shoulders, back and hips.)

So onward!!! We are going to get so many miles under our belts this summer. Both driving and hiking. I’m so looking forward to getting our butts into the MOUNTAINS!!!

Perfect Peace

Perfect Peace - www.theessentialhorse.com

I loved this quote when I ran across it while reading my bible the other day. It reminded me so much of Bonnie who really looks to me for feelings of peace and calmness. If she feels stressed or afraid she will look to me first and if I’m alright and tell her she’s alright, she trusts that I know what I’m talking about!

I love watching her prepare to spook or run, then respond to my voice saying “Good Girl” with NOT moving her feet. If I reassure her she will plant herself where ever she is and trust that I will not steer her wrong.

She also responds well to my voice when we are out on the road and run into scary things like horses rushing up to us on either side of the road, for sale signs blowing in the wind, trees blowing in the wind, Samson running up behind us with a TREE in his mouth, (that one scared me a bit!!) Sky spooking, cars driving up behind us, cars driving past us from the front, strange dogs approaching us, bags blowing across our path, and on and on! If I tell her she is fine then she is!

It really is all about getting to the mind. If you have that, then you have the entire horse!

Travois – Step Two

Travois - Step Two - www.theessentialhorse.com

Normally I wouldn’t move through step one so quickly, except this is more of a re-start, as Sky has been driven so much as a younger horse. We drove her in shows, in parades and many many miles on our back country roads. So this is just a refresher to check her foundation for holes and give her a chance to settle back into the harness. She is doing so great! And I’m proud to say that my step-by-step process for training a horse to drive is solid!! We used the very same process that I wrote about in my book to start Sky and here it is nearly 7 years later and she is sliding back into harness without any trouble. I’m so proud of her!

Today was the second day in the travois. Yesterday we made circles around our 10 acre field and took a short jaunt down the road. Today we went over 2 miles on the road, walking and trotting and Bonnie came along! I was happy to see that Bonnie wasn’t phased by the travois at all. She looked at it and paid attention, but when it would bounce off her feet or get between her legs a bit she didn’t mind at all! Sky had a big spook and spun around, lifting the travois in the air and swinging it around both Bonnie and I and Bonnie stood like a statue. (Sky came right back down when I did a one rein stop and was willing to listen to me. So that was good!)

Here they are just walking down the road together!

 

Ground Driving – Step One

Ground Driving - Step One - www.theessentialhorse.com

Sky is officially back in training to be a driving horse! It’s been quite a few years since she was harnessed up- and yet when she is in harness she is all business. No silliness. She listens to my voice when I ask for a walk or a trot and if she does get a little tight, I simply say “eeeasy” and she slows right down and relaxes. I’ve noticed that she feels more confident when wearing blinders and having a bit. Some horses are like that! I’m wondering if Bonnie will like an open bridle so she can see everything around her. She is not very spooky and takes everything in stride, but some horses like her prefer to be able to SEE. Then they can respond appropriately. I love having two girls that are so different!

Several years ago I wrote a little book called “Step-By-Step Guide to Training a Miniature Horse to Drive.” Then two years ago I re-wrote that book and put out the second edition. I am very proud of my little book and all the people it has helped over the years! I love getting emails from people who never thought they could train their own horse but found the confidence to do so after reading my little book. (You can click on the picture of my book over there on the right hand side of my blog and it will take to you Amazon where you can purchase your own copy!)

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Step-By-Step Guide to Training a Miniature Horse to Drive

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My book collage.

I am using the same steps to re-start Sky and my process is definitely standing the test of time! Ground driving is the first step. We started in just a halter and moved back into the bridle and harness this week.

Both the girls and I are having a blast with this process! And I am getting some butt-kicking walks in!

Standing patiently after  I asked her for a “whoa.”

 

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning - www.theessentialhorse.com

Today was a great day for some spring cleaning around here. The morning was pretty nice, just a bit breezy and quite warm. It got windier and colder as the afternoon came along, but I was on a roll! Seven hours later I had accomplished, a clean shed…

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TWO relatively clean dry lots…

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Two ponies with freshly trimmed hooves, two ponies groomed within an inch of their lives… AND we went for our first walk of the season!

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The girls both did so well on this walk. We have quite a few new horses on both sides of the road that were running and bucking and whinnying as we went by and though Sky got all worked up, Bonnie stayed steady and unfazed. You would never guess that Sky is 16 years old this year!!! She is soooo ready for the harness and the travois. And I’m so ready to have her pull me in the cart sometimes. She ran my BUTT off today!

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Sky on the right wearing her teeny, tiny Cavallo boots. Bonnie on the left wearing her Easyboot mini hoof boots. Both seemed quite happy in their footwear!

Bonnie still has her good days and her bad days since she foundered in December. I am feeding her 3-4 flakes of hay in a slow feed net once a day, 1/2 cup of Crypto Aero Whole Food once a day with a scoop of Remission, the only thing missing is exercise! So we are back to our daily walks. Bonnie didn’t take a lame step today. She wasn’t spooky at all on the walk, she would trot up when I asked her to and follow politely when I needed her to. She was totally and completely responsive for the entire walk. I could not be happier with these two girls! The wind was howling and it was COLD and they just walked and trotted right out!

I have been touching Bonnie when I feed her every day. I run my hand along her side, or place my hand on her back as we walk to where she eats. Then I’ll run my hand along her side and around her hind end. These are things I could not do last year and if the rope touched her side or hind end she would race away and turn and face. Today the rope could be along side her and when Sky would run around and end up behind her with the rope tight around Bonnie’s butt she just stood like a statue! Ready to wear a breeching? I think so!

When we got home they followed me everywhere looking for more attention. They were so happy to be out and about in the neighborhood! I was happy to have them out.

Tomorrow I’ll trim up the boys and give them a good grooming. They are muddy messes as boys seem to be!

 

Be Humbled

Those who exalt themselves will be humbled those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12 - www.theessentialhorse.com

How many times have you went to your horse with the idea of “teaching” him something, only to have him turn around and “teach” you a thing or two? If we are in the right mind set, this will happen all the time. Even when we aren’t in the right mind set, this can happen, though in that case we may fight it. The session can lose all beauty if we are reluctant to opening our minds to learning from our horses.

This blog is full of lessons I’ve learned from my horses over the years. Time after time my horses have humbled me, all the while showing me how to be a better leader/partner for them.

Don’t just show up… show up with passion. Show up with intention. Show up and mean it! When you show up to your horse with honesty – tell them how you are feeling – then open up to them teaching you something – your world can change in the most amazing ways!

When you humble yourself to learn from your horse there are no boundaries to where your partnership can go.