Borrego and I have been working on driving as a goal for much of 2011. We’ve progressed from ground driving to dragging a tire to ponying off the back of a carriage to finally two weeks ago pulling a cart for the first time. I’m interested to learn about driving because the challenges it presents for a horse psychologically are great… a horse has to really understand and respond to the direct pressure of the bit while ignoring the “pressure” of the pull of the cart, he has to accept the claustrophobia of being straight between the shafts, he has to tolerate the restriction of his vision by the blinders even while he hears and feels the cart “chasing” him, etc!
This weekend at Aiken’s own Katydid Farm was the National Combined Driving Championships and I got to scribe for the dressage phase. It was really interesting to see horses at the level of not just being comfortable and relaxed pulling carriages but performing physically, mentally, and emotionally at such a high level. The dressage was quite good… fewer horses than I expected were tense or stressed, no accidents at all, and only a few “scary” moments with horses getting upset. Lots of gorgeous movers and really good performances. Scribing of course I got to hear what the judge thought of each test. My favorite moment was when she said, “Write ‘impulsion’ followed by the um… you know… the slash with the strident dot!” Being from Holland with English as a second language, she had forgotten word for exclamation point!
On Saturday was the marathon phase, and I returned as a spectator. The upper levels were very fast and it was breathtaking to watch how well many of the horses partnered with the drivers and anticipated the turns through very complex hazards. It is truly amazing to be reminded of the capacity horses have to learn a job and perform at a high level in many disciplines!
Borrego and I have a loooong way to go!