I must say, while on one hand I think it was dumb, and kind of arrogant of me, to think I could train Chewie to drive on my own with no experience and no guidance especially considering all my past horse experience (and how *well* they’ve gone), I have seen remarkable improvements in him over the last week, which I am very happy about.
He is moving much more forward readily. He’s still a little slow on the uptake when I say “walk on”, but he is quickly learning that if he doesn’t move he hears the whip. He’s also learning that once he hears the whip, the next thing that happens is he feels the whip.
He is also getting darn close to 100% consistency between forward gait and flexed poll. He has these moments of brilliance where he’s moving long and free and stretching his head and really working, and those moments are getting looooooooonger and more frequent. It’s really a thing of beauty.
These are pretty much the 2 most major things the trainer told me he needs to improve upon – pace and flexing. I dare to say we are making major steps in improvements in those areas, and even better, he is remaining long and low and forward through circles, figure 8’s, and changes of direction – all areas where he used to slow down and toss his head up (as recently as 2 weeks ago).
The trainer said a green driving horse should be worked 5-6 days a week. I really don’t have time or energy to do that. I need to have some days that aren’t barn days, and I strongly feel that not every time I go to the barn should be a work day. So right now, I’m striving hard to work Chewie 4 days a week, and day 5 is just a play day in the arena with the ponies where he doesn’t have to worry about working. That’s what I’m planning on paying the trainer for – to work him every day! LOL.
So anyway, after we start out with a regular long-line warm up around the arena, we take a pause and I add the tire….
Now, it’s only been 5 times that he’s pulled the tire. 2 times were just with the tire alone, and this week, he’s pulled the tire 3 times with the wood block in front of it for a little added weight. I have decided that it weighs about 40 pounds, and when I drag it through the arena, it’s very easy. I need to add more weight, but I want to wait a few more times.
Still, though, he’s really really getting it and there are marked improvements with this set up just in the last few sessions alone – the head, namely. He is also walking out much more long strided and forward. He doesn’t mind the sound of the wood & tire dragging, and it does get noisy.
Not that he ever seemed uncomfortable with the tire, but he just seems more comfortable now than he did last week. The head is more consistently flexed and down, and the pace is steady and active.
And with all the walking and running I’m doing in the arena, I’m sure logging in the miles too! LOL. And on the AMAZING side, my feet have not hurt at all. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks clocking mile after mile in the arena, more walking than I’ve been brave enough to handle in the last 3 years since my surgery and inability to walk, and I’m so happy to say I don’t hurt!!!! Maybe a 5k run isn’t all that unrealistic. Of course, I need to see if my feet hold up to running on pavement as opposed to sand, but still…
oooh… doesn’t he look good there?! And yes, if I do say so myself, I can see the weight loss reflecting in these images. Although I’m stuck again at 28 pounds down, and can’t quite seem to get moving forward. Ugh.
Oh these pictures are just getting prettier and prettier, arent’ they!? LOOK! A working horse!!! This spot he’s going over in the picture above is the slight incline in the arena. I do mean slight, but it is enough that if you look at the arena from a level view, you do know you are going up an incline in this spot. THIS is the sticky spot. When I’ve had him in the arena with the cart, or with the seld, THIS is the spot where he stops, backs up, and will not go forward. It is IMPOSSIBLE (ok, well… highly difficult and extremely uncomfortable) for a horse to pull up an incline with its head up. In this spot, he used to throw his head up, and that’s where he’d get stuck. Now just look at him… pushing into the breat collar and dragging the burdensome load up the little incline with his head doooooowwwwwwwnnnnnn !!! woot!
And the consistently dropped head continues on. You know, his head and my weight aren’t the only thing that have dropped lately. I have also suddenly become aware of the loss of muscle Chewie has now a days. He isn’t being ridden, he’s not jumping, and he really hasn’t done anything remotely construed as hard, muscle building labor in the last 3 months, so the big powerful butt and super shoulders and even the muscles along his back are just kind of withering away.
Which probably makes it all that much harder for him to push a 300 pound cart, and all that more important to build the weight up gradually by adding a tire here a bale of hay there, maybe a person towards the end of June.
And it also probably accounts for moments like:
LOL….. where’s that head supposed to be??? Hey, we can’t have total perfection, now can we??
Oh, and my husband’s interest in picture taking at this point had been lost, but I thank him for doing what he did. After this little moment of head uppiness, Chewie and I went on to trot 2 full laps around the whole arena. With tire in tow. TROT! And yes, his head was where it should be (well, part of the time anyway). I’ve been gradually introducing trot work, so the head shoots up, but a little reminder and he drops in and plugs away, and he really is moving along like he’s got places to go. It looks really nice from the end of the driving lines. I’ll have to get my husband to take pictures of that so I can see him from the front! haha!
Well, how’s that for progress? 28 driving sessions down.. about 15 more to go before training begins. Oh boy….