Friday, February 24, 2012

Potential Harness Horse?

I decided to start Jetta on some basic introduction steps to driving. Why? Well, I've always wanted a horse that I could drive. All of my horses learned to ground drive but I've never been able to afford a cart or harness so that's as far as I've gotten. But I still want to someday get there, so why not lay down the basics just in case? As a plus, it'll desensitize Jetta further. 

Jetta's been ground driving for several months and doing well. She still thinks I'm slightly crazy for standing behind her and booking it to keep up with her trot but its been going well. Unfortunately, I know of no one in my area who drives, though my aunt and uncle (the ones who gave me Katy and Colton) have introduced me to it, since they own a driving business. They've given me plenty of reading material in the past on training a horse to drive as well as teaching me to harness and hitch their horses. I even got to show one of their horses at the County fair one year. Anyways, today I decided to put on the makeshift "shafts" for Jetta to get used to. It went, interestingly...

"Meh. My mom's crazy. I've just gotten used to it."
First we warmed up off the lunge line. Jetta was being a dork and spooked herself when she kicked up a bit of dirt and it hit the arena wall. She then proceeded to do her best impression of a racehorse. After we got all that extra energy out I ground drove her a bit and then grabbed one of my poles.

"I think this qualifies as pony torture..."
 I've done some desensitizing with them, rubbing her all over with them so today I fashioned the most ghetto tugs ever before seen (don't worry, if/when she got scared the poles just fell out, or even if she didn't get scared they still fell out, lol) popped the pole in there and off we went! Jetta was super good at first. She had her ears fixed firmly on that pole the whole time but other than that didn't bother with it. I found out quickly though that if it touched her butt, that it was not okay. So for today we stuck with keeping it on the inside.

I switched it to her other side and she was much more worried about it. I gave her lots of pats and reassurance, but it was a lot scarier on this side. Still not allowing it to touch her butt, she was good. Then for some reason we had an "OMG its gonna get me!" moment whereby she managed to sweep me off my feet, landing me squarely on my back. She scooted a few steps away and stared at me. "Was that supposed to happen? I didn't mean it..." She looked rather contrite. After getting my breath back we tried again but she wasn't having it so I took it out of the "tugs" and rubbed her all over with it. Then I held onto it and we walked forwards and backwards together so she could see that when she stopped, it stopped and no, it was not going to eat her. I put it back in the "tugs" and we did a lap around the arena and called it a day. Originally I had thought to ground drive her during this ordeal but she obviously wasn't ready for it, so I just walked by her head.

"This side's ok, as long as it doesn't touch my butt!"

It was very interesting. I now know some things that we can work on. Do I ever think she'll make a good driving horse? I really don't know. She got rather panicked several times, but it's probably something that with patience we can work through. Another problem that I have is her disengaging her hind end and turning to face me. That's obviously not going to fly if there's a cart attached so I did some quick googling and found this. I love that there's this availability of information on the internet! This woman's methods seem very straightforward and common sense so we are going to work on this.

I also found this great article about teaching a horse to drive, which is basically how I've learned to do it. We are currently attempting step 10, since I do not have a cart to introduce (without hitching her to it) and at this point I don't think she's quite ready to pull a tire. I really like this guy though. I think we do need to go back and repeat step three. This is something I teach all horses when I start them under saddle, but we need a refresher on it and Jetta needs some more desensitizing around her hind end.

Next week we're going to do the same exact thing that we did today and just gradually build her confidence. I also think coming armed with treat will make it better too, as we all know, yummy stuff is the cure for everything :) Jetta definitely earned her reward today and got a nice apple at the end!

What do you think?

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