Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Driving Lessons

Emma and I have started taking our first tentative steps towards driving.  Actually, This is an exercise that I do with all of my horses whether I go on to teach them to drive or not.  All that is needed is a halter, lead rope, a cheap plastic sled on a rope and an equine who knows how lead. 

Step 1.  Introduce said equine to the scary sled.  Make sure they can see it dragging on the ground all around them.  Once you can move it all around your horse or donkey (including under their feet) without fear, go to the next step.

Step 2.  Lead your equine with the sled trailing you.  Expect and be ready for a fear response at first.  Provide lots of positive reinforcement and go slow.  You'll want to start out with the sled rope in your outside hand, move it to the inside when your four-legged friend gives the OK.  Eventually, hold to sled rope on the animal's shoulder while you walk.  Depending on your equine partner, this can take as little as five minutes or as much as a week.  Just keep at it until your equine is completely bored with the process, then switch sides and repeat.  Then do it a few more times just to be sure.... 
Eventually, once your horse or donkey is completely bored with all aspects of dragging a sled around, attach the sled to a breast collar (either on a harness or a saddle breast collar).  At first, just tuck the rope under the collar with no knots so a gentle tug will release it.  If your animal EVER gets really frightened, just let go of the sled and stop.  Go back to the beginning and start again.  Don't ever let the sled "chase" your horse.  Once you get to the totally bored stage, you can move up to adding a single-tree, then adding weight.  From there, go on to pulling a tire around.  If you happen to actually own a harness and a cart, you can then start thinking about attaching the cart to your four-legged friend.

Even if (like me) you don't actually have a harness or a cart yet, this is an invaluable lesson to work through.  Especially for riding horses.  Just teaching your equine to cope with all the ropes, noise and the things dragging behind will make you and your horse safer.  And if you are struggling with the miseries of winter, this is an excellent way to work your way toward Spring.  At least that is what I keep trying to tell Emma.  Do you think she believes me?....

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, I do think Emma believes you. In fact, I think she believes you more every day! :)

    (I've been coming back to this post again and again. Guess I'm addicted to your blog in general and your description of your interaction with your four-leggeds in particular. AND the photos, of course. Thanks for sharing!)

    Best wishes always, em