Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Driving’ Category

Guest Post: It’s Let’s-Wear-A-Helmet Day!

When I feel like a vox crying in a helmetless wilderness, I always know there is one person on my side. Been There, Done That and I have been horsing together for, well, enough time to have the stories to show for it. (Really, my eyes weren’t covered for that long, and the road was empty.) She wears helmets. She writes about wearing helmets, The Chronicle of the Horse: It’s Only Your Brain Afterall. For International Helmet Awareness Day, I asked her to talk about her plan to wear a helmet in a discipline where I’ve never seen a competitor wearing a helmet. Ever. Welcome BTDT.

My father rode jumpers internationally. When I was a horse-crazy kid, he made me promise that I would never, ever get on a horse without a helmet. I have kept that promise for over 50 years.


I finally quit riding (that’s a long and not-very-nice story with which I shall not bore you) after 35 years as an on-again off-again professional, and discovered that I still wanted to stay involved with horses in one fashion or another. The Rodney’s Saga blogger, whom I have known for ages, lured me into the world of driving the American Saddlebred. This is a whole new world.

I got very lucky, in that her trainer has some of the nicest and most tolerant school horses I’ve ever run into (and I’ve run into quite a few), and a good many of these are ride/drive chaps. I got involved in the Academy section of ASHA shows (Academy is designed as an introduction to riders who are new to the sport, who aren’t sure if they really want to show; gives them a chance to get their toes wet without undue expense or travail).

Very few competitors in ASHA shows wear helmets. When a specific venue mandates that juniors must wear helmets, the outcry astonishes me. By the time I’d participated in a couple of shows, I was the only driver wearing a helmet consistently. Most of the women drive bare-headed, with a fascinator, or with a straw picture-hat; the gentlemen wear porkpies.

Since I am now considering moving out of the restricted and into the open ranks (where looks and presentation do count), I started looking around for a way to wear my helmet without appearing glaringly out-of-step. So I got in touch with Debbie Navelski of RodeApple Hats (she works through Etsy) and she made me this!

It fits right over my helmet and will go perfectly with my suit and dress!

Close-up of brim design.

Previous IHAD Posts on RS
2016 Ride PHAT for International Helmet Awareness Day
2015 Networking Like A Boss, scroll down
2014 #IHAD

Every ride, every time.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

The Family That Drives Together

Driving Thursday


We borrowed from WHF (thank you!) a breastcollar with a deep V that rides higher on Milton’s shoulder and lower under his neck. Freeing up the shoulders freed up the whole horse. We are now ordering one of our own.


My driving Milton is not a policy statement. It was an effort by husband and coach to get me in motion so that I stop whining about my recent uselessness. (Good luck with that.) At the end of the video, I am trying to aim Milton through a pair of cones. Video by Courtney Huguley.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Why Watching Milton Drive Makes Me Cranky

Enough about them [Maiden Voyage!, Milton Drives On], what about me? When we get home from a drive, I am exhausted; partly physical, mostly mental. I said as much after Kentucky [Repercussions]. Here’s why.

Base Emotions
I have never gotten clear on the difference between envy & jealousy. Maybe it’s neither. I don’t want what he has. I don’t want him not to have it. It’s more along the lines of seeing someone eat a candy bar and thinking, ‘That’s looks yummy. Can I have some?’

They Also Serve
Running around being Wonder Groom reminds me that I’m good at what I don’t want, and not good at what I do want. As a career, I should have been a barn manager, or an operating room nurse, or a theatrical dresser. You know, the person working quietly behind the scenes to make sure the rider/doctor/star has what they need to perform. Unfortunately, I have too much ego. I don’t want to be unsung support staff. I want to be center stage, whether or not I have the talent.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Milton is a big, gray reminder of my failure. I want to be happy that he likes driving, but he was supposed to be my riding horse, d*mm*t.

Bottom Line
So that’s me. Perky on the outside. Petty on the inside.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton Drives On

I promise, I won’t make a habit of miscellaneous schooling videos, but I want to document the first few days. Below is days 2 & 3, at Stepping Stone Farm, under the watchful eye of Coach Courtney.

Day 2
Us: So now that you know what’s going to happen, are you still willing to pull a cart?
Milton: Sure!

Trotting a diagonal on day 2.

NB: Most of the head-tossing on day 2 is from Milton going mad – mad, I tell you – from the gnats attempting to carry him off, as on day 0 [Hitched!]. More fly spray & better weather on day 3.

Day 3
First cones & first equipment mishap. Handled both beautifully.

Milton’s first set of cones.

One of these things is not like the other.

The pin holding the trace to the cart broke. I mention it because Milton behaved so well. We all heard the pop. The trace flew off. Milton’s head flew up (I assume from a large leather strap hitting hit him in the leg?). Yet, Greg was able to bring Milton to a smooth, quiet stop in a stride or two. (Insert shudder for what might have happened.) Good boy!

Goals for 2017
Introduce more cones.
Introduce portable obstacles [Alvin’s Big Green Obstacle].
Introduce dressage figures.
Add britching and kicking strap to harness.
Stop borrowing Coach Kate’s fancy driving bit & get him his own FDB.
Consider switching away from his special snowflake food [Feed Adventures].
Bring on the 4-wheel cart.
K drive.
Graduate to driving at home.

Day One: Maiden Voyage!

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Fate Speaks

Call it Fate.
Call it God.
Call it the Universe.
Call it the human ability to find patterns in random noise.
Call it whatever you want, I can’t help but feel that I’m being sent a message.

Saddle seat? Absolutely. How much ya want? There are enough lesson horses at Stepping Stone Farm that I could ride a different one every day this week and still ride a new horse in the group lesson on Saturday. Suit? If I gave the word, Coach Courtney would have horses for me to try within days. Shows? I could be showing my heart out this year, if it wasn’t for …

Driving? No problem. How about two different styles in three states? Four, if you count vicarious driving in Kentucky.

Riding my horse? Riding in my discipline(s) of choice? Well …

Progress has been stalled by the horse, e.g. Rodney’s fear of his leather halter [Here We Stand]; by external circumstance, e.g. when my stirrup leather broke during Milton’s rodeo demo [Did I Piss Off the Universe and Not Notice?]; and by internal demons, e.g. my inability to cope with a second set-back [Milton Deconstructed].

The latest in the litany of obstacles.

Milton. We finally (finally, finally) get him to a contained space, only to have the driving going so well (Yay!) that we don’t want to introduce riding just yet. Greg has put in a huge amount of work with Milton. It’s only fair that he gets to reap the benefits for a while.

Rodney. Jump? No? Okay, how about DQ? So, we find a dressage instructor who works well with Rodney and who Rodney likes, only to have Rodney get problematic about shipping to lessons.

Lessons. At the few h/j barns that give school-horse lessons, there is heavy pressure to upgrade to having a horse in training. I don’t know of any event barns that have lesson horses. Even if they did, I don’t want to trot around in circles, hopping school horses over crossrails. To paraphrase Larson’s vulture, Patience my ass, I want to jump something.

BTW, That’s why the ASBs work. I don’t know from saddle seat. Therefore, the equivalent of trotting over crossrails is still amusing.

Bottom Line. I want to ride and show my own horse, one who I have worked and trained (with help) and built a relationship with. That seems to be the one thing Fate/God/the Universe is resisting.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Letter Art: Wheels

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Maiden Voyage!

The non-video version
Step 1: Courtney drove while Melissa led.

Step 2: Courtney drove.

Step 3: Greg Drove while Melissa led.

Step 4: Greg drove.

Praise and gratitude to Courtney Huguley and Melissa Croxton for their help.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott