The 3rd Time

I’ll preface this with: This is MY opinion. This is what I notice when I am training/working minis, ponies, horses. This is something I’ve noticed for a long long time with my own horses. I’m not saying this is going to happen with your horse. This is what happens to me.

Is it me and a hole in my training program? Yes! I’m certain it is! But it’s been this way for so long and I’ve beat myself up for so many years about it, I have now come around to accepting it for what it is and just moving past it.

This picture wasn’t from today. But he is so cute in this photo!!!

We did a 4 mile walk today with the travois, bringing Zorro’s total miles for the month, to 36. So that’s pretty significant. It would seem that he would be an old hand at this walking thing.

It was his third time dragging the travois. He was a perfect gentleman when I hitched it to him. He walked right off without a problem He walked nearly a full 2 miles with nary a bobble…

Sometimes the 3rd time isn’t the charm, or maybe that is exactly what it is! I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

My Hubby and youngest son went with us because they are getting ready to run the 12 mile Beast in the Spartan Race this year. So they were tussling a little bit as we climbed our third significant hill, at the same time Zorro chose to do a little off roading on the uphill side of the road, wading off into the sage bushes. He came back down off the hill JUST before it got really steep and as he lined back up in front of me on the left hand side of the road he “saw” something coming out of the bushes to kill him. There is no doubt in my mind that he was certain he was about to die based on his reaction which was to bound across the road to the right and proceed to try to leap off the side of the road!!! The only significant snow we have is on that very steep hillside. Under that hard packed snow are quite a few dead trees, you can see their branches sticking up out of the snow. The snow is probably about hip deep to me there. There was absolutely no way he could go off the side of the road right there.

Sometimes things like this happen when you are dealing with horses. He was calm and connected and enjoying his walk right up until that moment when he thought he was going to die. Then all bets were off. Now I’ll share that I find the 3rd drive, either the 3rd ground drive, the 3rd drive with the travois, the 3rd drive with the cart, to be one where things kind of fall apart. For some reason it seems that the 3rd drive is when you find out where you are in your training. This is also a great time to see how your horse is going to handle himself when the sh@t hits the fan. Apparently Zorro was going to go superman off a cliff and pretend to be Danny from Man From Snow River.


So though I never never want to have to do this, I had to lean all my weight on the right rein and basically drag Zorro around me to the right, to prevent him from leaping off the side of the road to his death or a very messy rescue situation. I never want to have to use the bit that way. But when it’s literally life or death, which it was in his mind and quickly became that in my mind, sometimes we have to do things we would never normally do.

After this happened he was a spooky mess for the next 2 miles. Very strong on the bit and not responding very nicely. Every time Samson would run up he was worried, he would spook at Angus as he trotted by. We had to whoa a lot as we made our way back home. He started to relax as we walked and walked so I liked to see that. He started to listen to my voice and I quit needing the lines so much. But once we were home and he was tied up he was very spooky about Mikey racing around the track and my Hubby walking up the field some distance away. He was spooky about me taking his harness off, but relaxed when I started brushing him and was fine by the time I trimmed his feet a little bit. By the time I took him in and let him go he was back to his normal self.

If I didn’t know that for some reason the 3rd drive always goes this way I would be very near to deciding that Zorro can’t be a driving horse. However I have found that the way this 3rd drive is handled is the key to the next day. And also it’s very important to go back out the next day! I do not give them the day off after a drive like this!

Another important thing to this equation is that I did not put him away while he was still tense and anxious and scared and worried. I just kept working around him. I didn’t unharness him right away like I usually do. I tied him for a little while in his harness. When I did unharness him I did it slowly and methodically. Then I took my time brushing him, it really helps that he loves to be brushed. Then I took my time trimming his feet. I would stand up and walk around a little bit. I would haul some of our stuff back into the garage and hang out with him. I gave him the time he needed to be calm again. Then I put him away. End on a good note. It was dark by the time we were done, but at times like this there can’t be any time line except the horse’s time line.

I just thought I would share this because training horses isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes things are hard. Things don’t go as planned. Horses are thinking, feeling and reacting beings and though it would be nice we can’t always work in conditions that are stress free. They have to learn to cope and zero in on us when the sh@t hits the fan. And if I handled today well, next time Zorro will look to me first before losing his mind. That’s the ultimate goal and one that you can work and work on in controlled situations but the true relationship is developed in the heat of the moment. And do I always respond in a way that will build our relationship? NO! Then I am so mad at myself. But it’s important to move on and keep moving forward. It’s hard to develop a relationship if I am always beating myself up for things I’ve done wrong.

So onward and upward!!




  1. Hi Mindy, my 3rd day always is the same as yours. If I bring my mount (horse, pony, etc) out of goof off time and back into work, the third workout is always the worst, whether I am lunging, driving, riding, whatever. The first time is perfect, the second has a couple of hiccups, nothing serious, and the 3rd time is always the worst. Like you, when we go out the next day, everything is copacetic and all is well. Keep up the good work and you and Zorro will be fine. Personally, I don’t know how you do it in the wind and cold of Montana. It’s hard enough in Kentucky, but up there, brrrrrr.

    As always, I enjoy your stories.

    1. Thank you Vicki!! I have found that many people have this happen. It’s so funny that horses across the country choose the 3rd time. I think they are comfortable enough to be naughty a little bit and push the boundaries. Since I know that is going to happen sometime, I don’t take it personally anymore! But for a long time I was heart broken when the third time fell apart. LOL!

  2. Mindy, I can so relate to your experience with Zorro. When I was breaking my first mini to drive we were at the point where he was pulling a tire. Everything went really well the first couple of times. I was so pleased with his progress. The next time we were out, all was going well, when, for no apparent reason obvious to me, he suddenly “lost it” and swung around to the right and ran in a circle for what seemed liked an eternity. I managed to hold on to him, which was no easy task, until at last he stopped and ended up facing me. It took him a while to “settle” after this, but we worked through it and I spent way more time with him than I would normally, unharnessing him, grooming him and waiting until he was calm, quiet and relaxed before turning him back out into the paddock. I felt do despondent after this experience and worried so much that he would not be a suitable driving horse. It left me feeling insecure about working with him again, but I managed to find the confidence to continue working with him. He has been driving in the cart for over a year now with no issues. Fingers crossed! I love all your stories and videos. Thank you.

    1. Yes this is very typical behavior I’ve found over the years! I have had this happen with the horses I was training to ride and nearly every driving mini, pony and horse I trained. It’s such an interesting phenomenon! I’m so happy that you made the decision NOT to give up on your boy and that he is doing well in cart. That is awesome. Sometimes we just have to out persist our ponies 😉

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