Last weekend Sky and I participated in a group drive with a local driving club. It was her first time driving in a group in about 8 years or so. Mine too actually!
The club, Ten Mile Drivers, have Percherons, Percheron Crosses, Fjords, Haflingers, a black and white team, mules and quite a few people that ride along on their horses. It was the prefect opportunity to get Sky back out there! There was a lot to see and lots of commotion. The big horses all took the minis in stride. Sky was a bit of a basket case for the first two miles. She did NOT like having a big horse behind her and in front of her. Not much choice there! LOL The minis were third in line. We were behind the black and white team who were pulling a nice four seater carriage. I stuck Sky’s nose in the back of that carriage and let it help me keep her in check. She was a bit like driving a freight train in miniature.
The loop was going to be about 11.7 miles but I hadn’t trained Sky for a drive of that length, so I asked if it was alright if we turned around earlier to keep the drive within her fitness level. They said that was fine! My friend, Molly and her mini Goldie joined us as well and decided to turn around with Sky and I. Goldie is a 5 year old mini who is in really good shape, but she hadn’t driven over 11 miles yet this year either! We wanted our minis to have a good experience and over doing it wouldn’t result in them being very happy.
Now how did I go about preparing Sky for this drive? I drove her as many times a week as I could fit into my schedule and as the weather would allow. We drove at night a few times. Then I got a flat tire on my cart, so I had to go back to ground driving her. I brought Zorro along which pushed Sky to go faster. We worked out way up to 4 mile ground drives and when I got my tire fixed we drove 4 miles as often as we could leading up to the big weekend.
- To start I drove Sky in my yard doing lots of circles and figure of eights. This helped to calm her down and prepare her for longer drives.
- We moved out into our pasture and did some driving on the large track I made last year.
- When she was calm enough we moved out to the road and went up and down the road enough times that we were driving a mile or a mile and a half. I have an app on my phone called MapMyWalk that I use when I drive her.
- Then I simply worked up our road drives to 2 and then 3 miles.
- When we were ground driving I pushed up to 4 miles a few times a week and because Zorro was with us Sky would trot most of the time. This worked not only her little butt but mine as well!
- Then I was able to have her pull the cart 4 miles and up the steep hill that is part of my walk.
This all took about a month and a half. Once I got serious and stopped making excuses Sky started to slim down and build stamina!
Molly and I stayed in touch during the entire “training” period. She was able to get in more drives that I did and her mare showed that on the day of the drive. Sky was a sweaty mess (some of that emotional sweat!) and Goldie handled the entire 8 mile drive like a rock star. She didn’t even get sweaty! I was so proud of our mighty little minis. They made a great impression on the group and showed that minis are more than just little pets. They can actually DO something!