Monday, November 30, 2009

Driving Mr. Marley

I've not had any time to post because I have been so busy with Marley.

Let me catch up...

I had a couple of nice lessons at Driving Pro's ranch while Marley was there for training. The first one went very well as I drove around an open field with Driving Pro beside me in the cart.

The second lesson went well too, but there was a chilly wind and Marley was a little spooky. A horse trailer went by on the road and the horse inside stomped its hoof and Marley jumped forward. I pulled back and said "Whoa!" Driving Pro reminded me that Whoa means Whoa, and only Whoa, and to reserve that word for stopping & standing. When Marley got a little jumpy, he instructed me to pull back on the reins smoothly and say "Easy". I got to practice that at least 6 more times because it was a very blustery day and the wind was carrying many strange noises.

Prior to driving, while we were harnessing, Driving Pro advised me not to be so wordy when working around Marley. I tend to talk to my horses a lot and use their names often. Verbal commands are useful aids when driving, so Driving Pro told me not to use Marley's name so much when I'm harnessing. For example, I should just say a simple "Whoa" when I'm harnessing him and want him to stand still - not "Take it easy Marley, Whoa Marley, That's a good boy Marley, I'm right behind you Marley, yada, yada, yada." Driving Pro said using a driving horse's name usually gets their attention and is followed by a command to move. Like, "Marley walk" or "Marley trot."

Marley came home after our 2nd lesson. We went back the following week for lesson #3 which was a small group lesson with my friend & neighbor and her Haflingers. Driving Pro had disassembled his large round pen and used the panels to fence an area between several of his out buildings, giving us a very safe and confined area in which to drive.

We drove around and around and did figure 8s at the walk and trot between some orange cones. It was great fun and very enjoyable. Marley behaved perfectly, although he was a little lazy. Mr. OnceUpon teased me about "feeling the wind in my hair" as we plodded along at a snail's pace.

Lesson #4 was at home where Driving Pro showed Mr. OnceUpon how to harness and hitch. Driving Pro doesn't want me to hitch the cart by myself yet; he wants Mr. OnceUpon to help so we can bring the cart up to Marley together and each put a shaft in the shaft loops on either side of Marley. Driving Pro said the majority of accidents happen during hitching and unhitching, so he wants us to hitch together to be safe and efficient.

All harnessed and hitched, we began the driving lesson.

We started out by driving around the property and up & down the road a couple of times. Then we ventured onto a paved road where we encountered a few surprised motorists who slowed down and waved as they carefully passed by. Marley was great; traffic didn't bother him at all. Then we turned onto that road Misty mentioned in her last Monday Muse where all the horses live and Marley got excited and Driving Pro had to grab the reins. I stepped out of the cart at the end of that street and Driving Pro schooled Marley vigorously with figure 8s at the trot and then had him trot up and down the street past all those horses that I now call "the cheerleading squad". I was really spooked by the incident but he made me take the reins on the way back home. Along the road we met another neighbor on horseback who road along side of us for awhile and all was well. Whew, we arrived home in one piece. Driving Pro said any horse could get excited in a situation like that where a bunch of horses run up on both sides of the road. He said the way to handle it is to "drive through it" and steer and stay on the road. But my skills aren't quite there yet. I'm so glad Driving Pro was with me. He gave me a homework assignment to take Marley back to that street the next day (ride him or lead him in halter) and do ground work with him in the street near the cheerleading squad. I did that and my fickle pony showed no interest in his adoring fans.

Last Wednesday Mr. OnceUpon helped me hitch and I drove by myself, out in the open, for the first time.

My cart is a Haflinger sized forecart made by Pioneer Equipment Company. It's not a fancy cart, but a farm cart; we can hook a harrow to the back of it and do some real work. It is solid and stable and good for a beginner driver like myself and ideal for going off road and driving on the prairie.

I drove around our property and up & down our street. Then I asked Marley to trot up the street. He trotted nicely but abruptly stopped as we neared our driveway entrance. I urged him forward, but he tried to turn left into the driveway. We had a little discussion that involved right rein, a tap of the driving whip , left rein, right rein, another tap of the whip and "Marely trot!" I was a little clumsy at steering and using the driving whip as an aid. He finally started trotting forward, but stopped at the next driveway entrance. We had another awkward discussion, but moved forward again. I tried trotting him the length of the road a 2nd time, but had the same issue at the driveway entrances. Each time Marley was trying to turn back toward the barn. Uh oh. Red Flag. We do not want this behavior to take hold, as he has had some serious barn-sour issues in the past. I got him beyond the driveways and into a trot to the top of the street and decided to stop on that good note and we walked around the property some more before unhitching. I was concerned though and called Driving Pro right away and scheduled another lesson.

I was worried and a little scared (which grew into 'a lot scared' as I thought more about it the next couple of days). The combination of the bolting incident by the cheerleading squad and a little trouble on my own Wednesday wore heavily on my mind.

I'll share those thoughts and lesson #5 in my next post.

My good husband is preparing dinner now and I really should help him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

I'm going to tattle on Marley.

Marley gave My Lady quite a fright on Saturday when they were driving through the neighborhood. This was their first time out & about on open roads. They turned onto a street where a lot of horses live and suddenly things got lively! Curious horses on both sides of the street ran up to the road and pranced along the fence lines. Marley got VERY excited and started calling to his fans and then he wanted to run and show off. My Lady nearly fell out of the cart. Fortunately the Driving Pro was with her and he grabbed the reins and saved the day.

Cart driving can get a little dicey at times.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One of Those Days

I was in a rush to get to work this morning. After caring for horses, I went straight from the barn into my car. Half way to work I'm still smelling that familiar barn bouquet when I realize I forgot to change my shoes! So here I am stuck at work all day in my muck shoes. I washed them off in the ladies room (cleaned the sink well afterward), but it is still like Misty and Marley are right here with me in all their pungent glory. Oh well, maybe folks will keep their distance from me and I'll have a peaceful day.

Some days I wonder why I even bother to wash my hair and put make-up on. If I don't arrive at the office with hay on my sweater, it's manure on my shoes.

Ever have those days?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cooking, Cleaning, and Cart Driving

Last week was very busy. We hosted our dinner party last night, so Friday and Saturday were full of grocery shopping, house cleaning, and cooking. My menu was assertive & challenging, but everything turned out well. I made another huge mess of my kitchen and the popovers came out of the oven 3/4 the way through dinner (wish I had 2 ovens), but everyone had a nice time and enjoyed the food. One guest went home with the recipe for the tenderloin rub and another wants the butternut squash soup recipe. It's a nice compliment when your guests ask for your recipes.

Prior to the weekend I had 3 interesting and productive driving lessons with Marley. I love that pony! I think he enjoys pulling a cart more than carrying a rider. He's built and bred for pulling. I will post details and more pictures later in the week.

But now, after preparing a Spaghetti Pie to cook for our family dinner this evening, I'm going to put my feet up and rest.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

Hey la, hey la, my boyfriend's back!

Sunday morning - 08/Nov/2009

Marley had a good week at driving school, but I'm glad he's back.

Life is better, when we're together.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

I'm lonely. Marley left this morning to attend boot camp for fat ponies. Actually, he's gone to boarding school for a week of driving training. But he'll have to exercise every day at school, so it will be like boot camp for him.

I miss my fat pony already. I will need extra attention from my people this week. And carrots.

Yes, lots of carrots. Carrots will ease my lonely heart.