At this time I was sorta working for PetSmart. When I say "sorta" It means what they had promised me was going to be a full time position was in truth not even part of a part-time job. This gave me a lot of time for mucking around. The first week I mostly spent grooming him, walking him everywhere on the grounds, hand grazing in the paddock, more grooming, and lots and lots of petting and snuggling. I was around nearly every day, for most of the day, and longer than R was on any given day. I lunged my horse in the afternoons, R had given me approval, and had told me the pattern that I was to work on the lunge line. 1 complete circle at the walk, 8 trot, 8 canter in each direction. All his horses lunge like this.
Before I go much further I feel that I should tell you that while R is a fair and competent horseman, he also has OCD.
Lunging Fame was not difficult. I clipped the line to his halter, I stood, Fame walked a complete circle, trotted 8, cantered 8, I stood holding my line. Oh what a brilliant horse I thought I had! After several of these lung sessions I was quite convinced that all the warnings I had received about the nature of my horse were false. They told me he hated being ridden, that he was spazzy, that he was nervous, wasn’t good for amateurs, etc. How could they be true? My horse could lunge himself. He was a genius!! I had also convinced myself that all of his previous riders were certainly not like me, and I wouldn’t know if I could ride this horse until I tried.
I wasn’t totally stupid in the way I approached riding Fame, I made my roommate, who is by far a more experienced rider, risk her neck first. She put him around the arena a couple of times before sliding off and declaring, "You’ve got yourself a rocket!"
Now it was my turn. Knowing that I was a novice rider, that this was a horse that had only been driven for the years pervious, and that I knew very little about him, I decided to take it slow, at a walk. The motion was more akin to a typewriter than a true four beat walk, but at least it was kinda slow. I couldn’t keep him in a straight line, but I was up and not dumped in the dirt. It was a start, and gave me the confidence to keep getting up.
We had several other rides like this, Fame did his hoppy walk and I poked around on his back, experimented with my seat, my legs, just trying to figure out what worked for us. But I was a driver, this was the first horse I had ridden in several months, and driving has very little to do with seats and legs. Mostly I drove him from his back, at least we both understood that.
May had begun and it was time for Fame to officially go back in to training. By this time I could keep him in a straight line, and turn him. I wanted to be there for his first official training session since he got back from his year long vacation, unfortunately it was one of the few days that I actually had to work.
Monday’s are walk/lunge days at the barn. Hunter horses are lunged and the saddle seat/driving horses are put in harness and are driven from the ground(no cart) at the walk outside.
I may have missed it but you can be sure the second I got off work I was twenty over the speed limit on my way to the barn. I got there around three o’clock. R was just putting away the tack and cleaning up.
"How was he?" I inquired.
R laughed. "Naughty."
"How naughty?" It was mind blowing that -my- perfect horse could have been bad.
R went from sniggering to seriousness, he answered me honestly, "About what I expected from him. He wouldn’t walk and he was stiff in the poll."
"He has never liked to walk Janell, it was main reason I let him go. He’s a lot harder than Girla. Girla is good even on her bad days, when your horse is good he is excellent, and when he’s off...well I’m sure you’ll get to see some off that for yourself."
For the first time since he’d come from Oregon, I felt doubt, fear, perhaps a bit of and ache. The news of his clubbed foot on my second day of ownership hadn’t even hit me this hard. What if it didn’t work out? What if Fame wasn’t my perfect match? What if I couldn’t succeed? What if I had ended up with a dangerous horse? I was already crazy in love. The concept of possible failure hadn’t crossed my mind. I brushed my horse, let him stand half asleep with his head on my shoulder, then I went home.
I was at the barn bright and early the next day, five in the morning. I breezed through my stalls and my duties. I spent a small eternity grooming my horse and, when Jacq arrived at 9 I helped with groom duties too. The faster the chores where done the sooner they could work horses, -my- horse.
Tuesdays are driving days, most of the saddle seat horses are being cross trained to drive but only a few are far enough along to actually be hooked to the cart. When we first introduce a horse to the concept of driving they must first be able to be ground driven in full harness. Phase two involves them being able to tolerate confinement, and pressure on either side. To teach this we start with two lunge lines attached to each side of the breast collar, and a "volunteer", usually me, holding onto them at the end out of kicking range. R drives from the ground. Once the horse tolerate the lunge lines at his side the volunteer starts adding resistence teaching the horse to pull. The volunteer also pulls the hip in on the corners teaching the horse to yield it’s hip like he will have to when he’s actually in the cart. If the horse is okay with the lunge line he will be upgraded to the PVC pipe. If the horse will do all the aforementioned this with the pipe, then we have more volunteers take items like trash can lids and mucking forks and pretty much anything on hand and scrape them against the wall. We call this the nerd parade. If the animal tolerates that we bring out the buggy, we walk it beside the horse, if the horse is not concerned we will bump him and rub him with the shafts. After this he is ready to hook up. The whole process is done over the course of weeks, maybe even months. R is big on not putting the cart on the horse until the horse is ready. Buggy accidents are bad news, for the horse, the cart and potentially the driver.
Since Fame had done all this before and had been driving well when he left, we started with the PVC. R struggled to get him to walk, but he would pull and he would yield his hips without any fuss.
Wednesday is a day off.
Thursday is a riding day for most horses unless, like my horse, he was in for driving only. We did the nerd parade. We looked nerdy, Fame jigged.
"R, I think he may need another day at the walk," I said as a strained, digging my heels into the dirt, providing as much resistance as I could.
"He hates walking, he’ll be better in the cart. We’ll hook him tomorrow."
This is a little driving video from back in Augst. Enjoy.