Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Groundwork’ Category

Leading Him On

On our walks, Milton has graduated from a chain over his nose to a plain leadrope. Okay, the ears are still back, but it’s more ‘Whatever, Dude.’ and less plotting misbehavior.

Milton has also relaxed sufficiently to be on a leadrope at Stepping Stone. Although we always pack a chain leadshank, just in case.

Chain posts
[Milton 2.0]
[Milton’s Moods] Photo source, last year.
[Milton’s Remediation]
[Proper Walk Protocol] Still on a chain in late May, this year.

Does this photo shoot come with cookies?

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Hitched!

Driving Tuesday

Well, that was unexpected.

We showed up for Greg’s third groundwork lesson at Stepping Stone Farm [First, SSF] expecting more of the same. After about 5 minutes, Coach Courtney says, “So Greg, want to hook him?” Um, yes? I guess? We knew Milton would be put to a cart sometime this summer. Today was not on our radar.

Still, Miss Courtney liked way Milton was going and decided to get on with it. That’s why one hires a professional. Technique is the easy part. Knowing when to apply that technique is what takes a lifetime to master.

I dragged out the additional straps. Turns out Greg had been bringing all the gear along in case it might be needed. One of the barn Munchkins brought the jog cart up to the big ring. Greg grounddrove for a few minutes. We hitched. Miss Courtney drove from behind the cart while Greg led. They switched. We unhitched. Everyone exhaled. Milton was showered with praise.

Milton was awesome. Coach Courtney was awesome. Greg was awesome. Greg keeps asking me how Milton looked pulling a cart. I have no idea. I was so deeply, intensely focused on the lack of hysteria that I didn’t really see much else.

Not that the day was without drama. While getting ready, Milton got away and ran around field wearing half of his shipping boots. Then, shifting from long lines to driving reins involved a bridle adjustment. Milton objected. On the way from the covered arena to the big ring, Milton spooked and spun in several circles, taking out spectators and crashing into a truck (horse, spectators and truck are all fine). I would have pulled the plug. In the ring, Milton fussed about the clouds of gnats. In his defense, the bugs where vile.

The one thing he didn’t seem to care about all day was the cart rattling along behind him. Yay! The next step is for the driver to sit in the cart. Then, lots and lots of schooling. While there is still a ways to go before we can consider Milton a driving horse, this was a huge step. As Greg said,

Before Sat, Milton as a driving horse was a hypothetical. It is still hypothetical, but a whole lot closer to real.

No pictures. Deliberately. I wanted to stay vigilant rather than worry about recording the moment. Next time, expect many, many photos.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Group Ride

We have a new feature. We worked both horses in the ring at the same time: Greg, ground-driving/long-lining; me, riding. After warming up at a walk together, Rodney would park and watch Milton, then vice versa. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From a work point of view, not much happened. We milled around, did a few figures, stood.

From a mental point of view, it was a huge success. Rodney was as relaxed as he’s been outside of a dressage lesson (Rodney loves Mr. E.). He’d work quietly, then stand around yawning. For those who don’t speak horse, yawning is a release rather than a sign of boredom.

Demo from a previous session.

It’s good thing. I think Rodney liked the company.

Milton didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton & Me

Still waiting. So, a thoughty post.

All the physical parts are in place: trailer, truck, Coggins. Now we need to have all the people in town at the same time. Our most recent random gesture [Sand Colic?] seems to be working. Milton seems to be settling. I would almost … almost … be willing to try him in the enclosed ring myself. But we’ve waited this long for someone else to get on him first. Might as well stick with the plan.

I can’t envision riding Milton on a regular basis. Seriously, my imagination fails. Is he not the horse for me? Proof that one has to ultimately pick one’s own horses? Or am I so discouraged that I am unwilling to hope? Or am I grouchy bitch who enjoys wallowing in negativity? No idea.

Last weekend, Milton got away from Greg on the long lines. On his way back to the barn, Milton neatly jumped the ring tape [Spooked]. Not what you want to see in a driving horse, but encouraging for a jumping horse. (A storm blew. Greg halted so they could quit. Not fast enough. When we got to the barn, Milton was waiting for us in the aisle, giving us a look that said, ‘Didn’t you people realize it was raining?’)

Although Milton jumped 3′ with his front feet, the trailing lines took the tape down mid-body. Unknown whether his hinds would have gone clear.

What happens if Milton turns in a riding horse and a driving horse? How’s that going to work?

Despite living together for almost 30 (!) years, Greg and I don’t actually share that well. HIS dogs; MY cats. He helps me with MY riding; I help him with HIS driving. Mathilda was HIS horse; Caesar (aka Previous Horse) was MY horse.

What happens when we both have an equal claim on the same horse?

How do we settle show conflicts? Lesson conflicts? How does the level of the show/lesson factor in?

If we haul to Stepping Stone, does Milton drive or ride?

If Greg has a lesson, does he get the days beforehand to prepare? No point in wasting lesson money.

What if driving requires different shoes? Can one jump in those?

What if driving/riding training develops the horse in a way not suitable for riding/driving?

Or do I think too much? This has been mentioned in the past.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton at SSF

We shipped Milton over to Stepping Stone Farm for a second lesson [First].

I’m tickled with everyone.

Coach Courtney has the flexibility to work with us on driving skills without insisting that the horse go like a Saddlebred.

Greg is learning from the lessons and from the opportunity to work in an enclosed space.

Milton improves each time, yet misbehaves just enough that we see value in dragging him over.

Gold stars all around.

The lighting turned Milton into the purple version of the multi-hued carriage horse from The Wizard of Oz.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton’s First Lesson

Coach Courtney long-lines Milton during his first lesson.

My future riding horse had a combined driving lesson sans cart in front of a saddle seat instructor. Gotta start somewhere.

Milton hears the SSF peacocks.

(Photos to be added as soon as my desktop is back in touch with the mothership.)

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Proper Walk Protocol

What is the right way to walk?

I walk. I walk a lot. Mostly around our field. Three+ laps is approximately a mile. My goal is four laps daily [My Two Horses]. I walk for exercise and for sanity [Field Walks]. I usually take a dog or a horse with me [By George]. While I walk, I ponder many things, among them whether the horse and I should be side-by-side or single file.

Side-by-Side

Safety gurus say the horse should be at the rider’s side. When I used to lose Rodney, it happened when he’d slip behind me. It just took a moment. He’d drop back, freak out, pull away, and gallop off. Not necessarily in that order. OTOH, Milton was next to me when he crashed into me and took off [Remediation].

Note: although behavior is much improved, Milton still wears a chain as he gets pushy about who walks on the path and who walks in the grass next to the path.

Single File

Watch horses. This is how they walk. This is the position they naturally assume with me when all is calm and right with the world, Constant insistence on marching alongside would be counter to the relaxed spirit of our strolls.

How do you walk your horses?

In case you were wondering: My shirt says Don’t Panic and Carry a Towel [T-Shirts for the Barn], which led to a shaggy dog tale [Spotted at the Dog Show].

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott