Wednesday, January 11, 2012

fail

Shyloh's first foray into driving with me was twofold. At our barn we have some "home made" driving equipment, since driving is not a major horse discipline there. Since Shy took so well to the harness and the blinders and being ground driven, I decided to try the next step.

There is a PVC pipe contraption, which acts as the shafts to the would-be cart. It is in the shape of a "U" and the end is meant to be drug on the ground to desensitize the horse to dragging something light behind it. I strated Shy out in her full harness, but after her reaction to the PVC piping, I took off her blinders so she was able to see everything that was happening.

I got her accustomed to the piping. At first she wanted nothing to do with it, but it did not take long before we were walking over it and standing in it. Then, Kathy and I put the pipes in the loops (tugs) on her harness. Okay. . .

Then we asked her to move forward. FAIL! Shy bolted forward from the sound of the PVC pipe dragging behind her. We started over again by walking around, over, and through the pipe on the ground. Then we "hitched" her up again. I just had her stand comfortably, then removed the pipes, and told her good girl. We will be working in small steps to get Shy adjusted to pulling things.

The great thing about Shy is that she overcomes her fears pretty quickly and on her own terms. As we held the pipe to her, she wanted no part of it. It warranted a few grunts and some backing up and leery eyes. I put the piping down and Shy approached on her own, grunted again, lipped it, and tried to bite it. After that, she was completely fine with the piping, until she had to drag it.
Two days later. . .

I wanted to practice out ground driving with Shy in harness. First, I let her eat some hay, then put on her harness. We went in the arena to practice our ground driving. FAIL. It was awful and I was getting so frustrated. I know Shy knows how to ground drive, we have done lots of long lining, but today she was giving me nothing but trouble. Stopping, refusing to move, backing up, swinging her butt around. I wanted to pull my hair out!

My only revised goal was to get her past the arena door. I swore I would keep her going if I had to stay until midnight. I her trot (and I had to run) around the arena a few times, but she kept stopping at the door. Finally, I got her past the doors, but she stopped right by the mounting block. Shy was so focused on getting back to her hay and I was not about to let her win! But then I began doubting myself. What if her harness was rubbing? What if I put it on wrong? What if I was doing it all wrong? I was driving myself nuts! 

I was done and much to frustrated with myself and Shy to continue. But, in order for her not to think that she can act like a fool and be done working and go right back to her hay, I put her in the cross ties instead of taking her to her stall. I took off the harness and walked her down the aisle. Then we worked on some ground manners, like stopping when I stop. When she successfully did that, I let her go back to her stall to eat. The hardest part for me is no loving on Shy and no carrots.
Eating so fast she is blurry!

Hopefully next time will be better with that sassy pony and I won't want to scream endlessly. . .or collapse in a heap and cry! 

18 comments:

  1. I know the feeling lol. Don't worry, when you guys do get it right it will make it that much better.

    If you're having trouble with her stopping, try carrying a longe whip with you when you're ground driving. It can get a little difficult so you have to be talented haha, but it makes it much easier to keep them moving.

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    1. Thanks! I was considering getting a lunge whip. I will have one ready with me next time I attempt this!

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  2. Don't worry, everyone has days like that. I've been so frustrated that I was in tears and Scarface had no idea what was going on or why he kept getting in trouble so I finally quit because I was so frustrated and I knew we weren't getting anywhere. Hopefully next time goes better!

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    1. It's a vicious circle! I am frustrated and I know it is no good to keep going, but I don;t want Shy to think she can act however to get what she wants. Ugh!

      Thanks! I hope next time is better, too :)

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  3. : ) It sounds TERRIBLE, but you made me feel a lot better about my frustrating pony-days! We all get them! I've probably quoted this a hundred times, but someone once said "When it comes to horses, the highs are so high because the lows are so frequent". Consider this just a day made to make sure you appreciate the awesome days to come!! Cause they will! Shyloh just wants to make sure you don't take her awesomeness for granted ; )

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    1. That is a great saying! I need to write it down and keep it on my locker!

      Shyloh's main agenda is making me go bald, I think, lol!

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  4. Mind if I offer a suggestion? It sounds like between the weight and the noise she had the crap scared out of her. Now she's associating you, the arena, and the tack with fear. That's why she's acting up even without the PVC, she's afraid it might come out again.

    You might have to start from the very beginning again and work very slowly to make sure you don't scare her. When you introduce the PVC rig, let her see you pull it around a little at a time so she can get used to seeing and hearing it move before it's attached to her again. When you do, go VERY slowly, one step at a time, and reward her like crazy.

    She's a smart little girl, she's just trying to protect herself.

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    1. I love suggestions! I thought maybe she was further along in driving training than she really is, so I do realize that I need to start all over.

      Thank you!

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  5. I hate it when I have a bad day with either one of my guys. The only thing good about a bad day is usually, in comparison, the next day is better!
    Megan has a point about the whip. I'd twirl the lash around the shaft, perhaps leaving a loop hanging by the tip. Use the whip on her sides, not her butt. The whip replaces your legs. Oh... and that thing with the cowboys slapping the reins on the horses' butts to get them going.... nawwww - not fair. Think how that would feel on your mouth if you were the horse! You can also buy inexpensive driving whips for about $20 - or, cut the lash off of a lunge whip, leaving the lash the length you need and wrapping the end with tape or lashing so it doesn't unravel. The whip should be long enough that you can touch either of Shy's sides with ease and reach slightly to touch her shoulders. (It's easier to reach her left side when you sitting higher in a cart.) The problem with the cheap whips and the lunge whip as a 'make do' is the weight. Usually they are heavier than good driving whips and unbalanced. In a perfect world you should be able to hold the whip in your right hand and have it balance on your thumb, with only slight pressure on the palm of your hand. You might have to move your hand up the handle to do this. You can also add weight to the end of the handle to create the balance you are seeking, if you don't mind carrying something heavier. (Does any of this make sense?)
    Blinkers are used so the horse doesn't see what is behind him - you already figured that out. Without blinkers, in a normal situation, if a horse walks away from something, she leaves it behind. If the thing isn't left 'behind' she might decide, I need to go faster to get that thing off my tail. If the thing still follows, it might just be construed to be some sort of horse eating monster, by it's behavior, and worthy of full bore panic. That being said, I have seen horses who have learned to pull without blinkers, but they are in the minority. I know the pipe thing you are talking about! I've used one, with a trainer, with my guys. Having Shy 'see' the pipe monster from all angles is good, but seeing it and having it on her heels may be two different things to her! Since you didn't have such a great experience with it, you may want to have someone drag it behind Shy the next few times so she becomes accustomed to the sound without feeling anything on the harness. Then, when she's doing fine with that, attach it to the tugs. My trainer also had the horses pull a tire, but the tire wasn't 'attached'. He had a rope tied around the tire, then passed the rope through links he put on the end of the traces. Another person walks near the 'driver' and holds the end of rope, which goes from the holder, up through the links and back to the tire that is somewhat in front of the driver and helper. If the horse panics, the rope can be let go, the tire will stop moving as the rope feeds out through the links. In this way, if all hell breaks loose, the horse doesn't have that tire 'chasing' her.
    I hope this doesn't come across as bossy. I'm a novice myself, and I'm simply passing on what I've learned so far.
    Good luck. Can't wait to see pictures and hear more about your progress!

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    1. Whewwww..... that's one heck of a comment!!!

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    2. That IS one heck of a comment! But I appreciate it! Not bossy at all, I need all the help I can get :)

      Seems like a whip is in order for me! Now I just need to get my coordination together holding and steering reins, holding a whip, and walking!

      I plan on using the tire, but I wanted to get her used to having "shafts" in the harness before she actually pulled anything. But we still need to work more on ground driving and getting her comfortable in the gear while driving.

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  6. Uh, oh... it's me again! I just wanted to add that when I am grooming my guys, and ground walking them, I am very busy with the whip, gently 'swatting at flies' so they are used to it touching them everywhere. Doc is very concerned about the whip, so I do a lot of 'friendly games' with him and the whip. The Amish tend not to use whips for driving so if Shy was Amish trained, she may not be accustomed to a whip giving her signals.

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    1. Good idea! She is fine with a lunge whip, she is not scared of it at all, but she does know what the signals mean from lunging her.

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  7. Dreaming has so much knowledge to share, while I have never used a harness in my life - so I won't add any advice . . . just wanted to say that Shyloh looks so darn CUTE with the harness on!!! She's a cutie!!

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  8. Everyone has crappy days like this (you just read about mine lol), but it will get better. I'm completely familiar with the vicious cycle of frustration. Can't continue because you're frustrated, but can't stop because they learn that hissy fits get them out of work. What I've learned works is to stop doing whatever it is that's causing the frustration and work on something completely different (that's something they already know and is a little easier), such as longeing. Have them trot a few circles, transitions, changes of direction, etc. It will be easy for you so you have a chance to calm down, but keeps them working so they won't think freaking out got them out of work. Especially if the freak out was about wanting feed. Then I would take them back to the barn, take off the harness and tie them up for an hour if need be. However long it takes her to calm down and stop being bratty about getting back to eat (no pacing, pawing or neighing, must be standing still and quiet to get returned to her stall). Then she learns that trying to stop at the gate doesn't get her fed, it gets her tied up and she will quit. Good luck!!

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    1. I have started to get back into lunging. Even though it is boring for me, I think it is good for Shy, so I will have to suck it up.

      She is not bratty in cross ties, even when she has hay in the stall, she is so patient. She makes no sense!

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    2. That good about the longeing. It can be a handy tool. Weird about the cross ties though. I guess she's cool with it because it's a break, which means the longeing is probably your best bet for when she gets bratty since she doesn't want to work. She's a good girl. You'll figure it out in no time. :)

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