Well, it’s that time! The ADS recreational driving hours were due, which means I’ve “officially” closed the books on the 2014 driving season (well, sort of!) Maybe if the weather plays nice, the horses might get hitched up and out for a drive, or at the very least pull the toboggan around for a bit, but that’s debatable.
As I have been doing since the very first day I ever put Chewbacca on long lines, I have been meticulous about keeping track of his driving sessions, what I do, how many minutes he works, how many miles out on the roads or trails, and his accumulative totals.
I’m not as rigorous about keeping track of Luke & Jesse’s hours, but I have a general idea of what they are, because pretty much Luke & Chewie work the same schedule, doing the same things, for the same amount of time. Jesse is less than that since I don’t work him quite as much.
Mostly, they’re all too broke for me! LOL! I have hit a “pony plateau” as far as what I can do with them and what I can teach them (which is pretty much nothing at this point). I am definitely looking forward to getting (yet another) project pony to bring along in 2015, but that will be only if the Wallet Gods are willing. It would be nice to have a new one to work with.
You know, speaking of hours… recently, during a comment thread on driving on Facebook, someone mentioned that it takes 500 hours before a driving horse can be considered “really broke”.
To me, that seems like an insane, and very arbitrary, number. If you worked a horse 1 hour a day 6 days a week, it would take nearly 2 years before the horse hit 500 hours.
Who works a horse like that? I don’t know about you, but my horses only work for an hour on one weekend day, assuming I have enough time. If I really have enough time, I’ll work them for 1 1/2 hours each. Otherwise, their normal work load is 30 minutes in the arena or trail, and 30 minutes for a 3 mile drive, or 45 minutes for a 4 mile drive. In 60 minutes, I can go 5 1/2 – 6 miles.
All that said, my point is, I considered my horses “really” broke by the time they had about 60 drives on them! LOL! Seriously. By the time Jesse had 30 drives, was already working as a leader in tandem, and doing great. By the time he got to 60 drives ( and that’s 30 minutes 2-3 days’ a week, skipping the coldest months), it was May, the year after he was trained, and he was already being shown and winning.
Chewbacca went to his first away clinic with only 26 drives on him, and had less than 80 drives on him when he did his first show, although I would have to say I think I started to considering him “really broke” probably around 160 drives or so, when he did his 3rd show. Even though that’s a big number of drives, if you think about it, the vast majority of those drives were less than 1 hour long, which means he hadn’t quite even gotten 175 hours of harnessed time before I felt like he really knew his job and started blowing me away with his performance.
Now I grant you, Luke has over 600 lifetime drives just since we’ve owned him (so he is the closest to hitting the 500 hour mark if he has not done so already– but that’s in 8 full driving seasons!!!), so there is a WORLD of difference between the way he drives and what he does and knows versus Chewie who has less than half the driving experience, and Jesse, who has even less. Yet, I consider all 3 really … really broke.
I guess the whole thing depends really on your definition of “really” broke …. to me, that’s a horse that has been there, done that, can do it with eyes blindfolded, while he’s sleeping, and has 2 legs tied up, while you’re not even holding the lines. LOL! In other words, it’s a horse you can put on a trailer, haul to whatever outing you want to go to, and not readily expect to die. It is a horse that is light to the cues, responsive to aids, and truly knows his job, not one that just goes through the motions. It’s a horse that can walk, trot, canter, (mostly) without acting up or showing uncertainly or lack of training. I think by 500 hours, a horse would practically be a Grand Prix dressage master with the right training!
I definitely think that a horse can be considered “really” broke long before that. Maybe they mean general training, although this conversation was entirely about creating a broke driving horse. I would say 500 hours of handling and general training; everything from being halter trained to basic ground manners to walk/trot/canter under saddle or in harness and do it safely, quietly, while knowing how to be supple through the body, flex, bend, give to the bit and understand subtle aides – all with 500 hours of time put in, would put a young horse at around the age of 6 before he sees 500 hours of time, assuming it’s worked 3 days a week, accounting for time off during weather or layup issues. But I have known plenty of horses that were well older than 6 that couldn’t do any of those things, so I think the training isn’t necessarily about the number of hours, but about the quality of the training sessions.
To me, I suppose it is just too hard to put a steadfast number on how long it takes for a horse to be considered well trained, since they are all so different, and so is the quality of training, and each individual’s definition of “well” trained.
So, anyway, here are the 2014 year end driving totals for my “really broke” horses that got handed in to the ADS.
Chewbacca in 2014 racked up 55 drives. (he was driven 70 times in 2013! My what a difference!!! Yikes…)
He put in 47 miles on the roads, 38 miles on trails, and brought his lifetime total drives up to 259.
Most of his drives were 30 minutes, several 45, a couple 60 minutes, and 2 90 minutes drives, putting his annual driving hours totaled at approximately 40 hours actually hitched and working. (And that’s in a YEAR! He started driving on March 30, and ended on Nov 9.) … See why I think getting 1 horse up to 500 hours of working time is so far fetched?! Chewie, since taking his first drive in July 2011, probably has only actually worked maybe 200 hours totaled… in 4 seasons! And I definitely consider him very broke!
Luke and Jesse;
I’m not as neurotic about writing down each of their drives, although I do keep track of the hours *I* spend driving in total, I don’t log the miles & drives of either of these 2 like I do Chewie’s. Still, whenever Chewbacca works, Luke usually works, too, so it would be a safe bet to say that Luke has had around 55 drives, too this year, probably with very similar totals on the roads & trails. They both got hauled to 1 trail this year.
Jesse doesn’t get driven quite as much; most weeks, he only gets driven once, but I will work him twice a week when I can. Jesse spends quite a bit of time out on trail, because I prefer the grass under his feet instead of the sand arena for his little frame to pull the cart through. I would guesstimate that Jesse has probably done 30 drives this year, including 2 shows. He is a little roadmaster, with realistically about 20 miles on the black top – let’s face it – it takes him longer to go 3 miles than the bigger horses, so I usually don’t end up having a ton of time to drive him that “far”. Most of his drives were on trails, so I would guess he’s probably done 40 miles on trails this year.
For me, all totaled, that brought my 2014 driving hours up to a whopping 87 hours. My typical annual hours are usually around 130. I really cut back on the number and length of drives with everybody this year, and it shows. My hours are hurting bad. Hopefully next year I can add another green bean to the mix and help get my hours back up.
– — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –
Saturday’s weather was really quite nice. Although there was a strong wind and it was a bit chilly, it was a rare 45 degree treat, and I did manage to get in a full work out with all 3. No one has been worked at all since Nov 9, so it has literally been 3 weeks since I hitched anyone. I took Jesse 2 miles down the road and back in 1/2 hour.
Chewbacca was a little up, so he mostly walked his drive, and ambled along at a measly rate of 3 miles an hour, of which we did 3 miles and were gone a full hour. In a way, I think that was good for him.
Luke ended up doing a bit more trotting, but was still gone an hour for a 3 mile (well, just a tad over) drive.
Since I already sent in my 2014 hours, I guess these will count towards 2015. Yay! An extra 2.5 hours of driving time I didn’t think was going to happen! It was nice enough to draw out a couple other boarders, so while I went out with Jesse alone, I had 1 person for company with Chewie and then 2 people for company with Luke. How fun!