9:10 We're back at it at Doc's Natural Gait workshop. Just finished breakfast and everyone is sharing new revelations and asking questions from yesterday's workshop. The first question was about teaching the horses "gee" and "haw," and Doc is explaining how to use a fence to block the opposite direction. The head is heavy, he explained and if you turn the head, the horse will have to move a foot to support it. You can use this to get great precision and teach the horse to move a foot sideways instead of forward. Beak it up into tiny baby steps, he emphasizes. If they take one step forward, you can stop them, but it would be better to have them back up and take that step away. Then pause so they can consider what happened. If you "give" them that step, they will learn to take ten steps to get over to that grass they want.
Harley asked a question about Charlie slacking in the lines; Charlie's perfectly happy to let Tom do all the work.
"Driving horses is a waltz, not a polka."
"When we train a horse with force and punishment, it will work only until we encounter something the horse fears more than the punishment. "
10:03 We are teaching every moment we are with our horses. It's a concept we can't be reminded of enough.
Doc is discussing boundaries and how never lets a horse touch him with its head. Consistency is key. "If we're going to be the boss we have to be the boss all the time. We have to think and act like the boss. A horse that respects your space will respect your leadership. This is incredibly important for safety."
"Paying attention is the difference between people who have wrecks and people who don't. My mentors were all phenomenal horsemen, but I learned there was a category that had wrecks and a category that didn't. The guys that didn't have wrecks paid attention to details, they wanted everything just right and they required their horses to follow the rules."
Steve: "One of my pet peeves is the mantra: If you drive long enough you're going to have a wreck. The difference between a fast drive and a crash is that you've got an escape route planned. You've got to always be looking ahead."
10:20 Doc and Steve are both emphasizing the need to look at our own emotional barometers. If you're in a hurry, it's not a good day to drive. You have to set it aside. Time is a huge thing in our society, but horses don't share our concept of time.
"You can't have a romantic notion that driving is easy."
"Riding is to driving like football is to soccer. They are kind of alike, but they are nothing alike!"
Everyone is commenting about how helpful it was to drive different horses yesterday.
11:15 Folks are out by the outdoor arena taking turns driving different horses. Below, Jim takes a turn with Tom and Charlie.
Steve helps Karen with the lines:
1:50 Those who brought horses have them out in the arena right now. For some horses are practicing how to stand quietly. Doc is checking bridle and harness fit again for others. Jane and ? are ground driving their horses.
Below, Theresa and Harley instruct Sherry on ground driving. Sherry has never driven before, but she is in good hands with Tom and Charlie.
Look what a great job she's doing.
In the meantime, we also hear that Mo may have made a love connection with Barb.
3:05 Folks are hauling carts into the arena. It looks like some horses will be hitched under the watchful eyes of Theresa and Doc. At events such as this, it's always helpful to have an expert check your cart, harness fit, and most import . . . your horse's attitude.
I wonder where Steve is. He must be in the outdoor arena letting folks practice driving with Val and Cole, his best team.
4:35 Just checked in from the arena where Val and Cole were tied to the fence while Steve helped drive Larry's pair of gaited horses. (Breed to come.) On my way back up the the indoor, I saw Doc heading Lisa's horse. There's a potluck at 6:30 pm, but horses will be worked until it's it time -- by their clocks -- to stop.
(Sunday am) Didn't finish posting last night, but I need to include the last horse, Paige, here. Paige is a gorgeous paint mare with a lot of "issues." She belongs to Karen who sent her to Steve for training last November. We don't know a lot about her background, but her recent history includes an auction and three owners in one year. For a young mare as beautiful as Paige is, that in itself indicates a problem. Steve characterized her as one of the angriest horses he has ever worked with. Her progress was very slow. She would not allow anyone to stand near her hindquarters or pick up her hind feet and she would not bend her neck in one direction. When asked to stand still, she would have a fit.
In her determination to rehabilitate Paige, Karen has been willing to try alternative therapies. She recently engaged a woman who does healing touch massage and healing touch. The healing touch practitioner was able to release her hind end so that she would allow her feet to be picked up and she encouraged Karen to have an equine dentist look at her.
The dentist found hooks on the back molars that were rubbing her cheeks raws. She was given a short break to heal after her teeth were fixed. When Steve started ground driving her again, the healing touch practitioner asked to watch her work. When Paige would freeze up, the practitioner would do some body work to help her release. Finally Paige was making real progress.
Karen also asked Steve to speak with an animal communicator about her. Steve was skeptical, but willing to comply with his clients requests so he made up a list of questions, being very careful to not give out much information. I think he was surprised at how much sense some of the answers made.
Steve brought Paige to the workshop and last night we got to watch her pulling a stone boat in the indoor arena. He wasn't even sure he'd be able to ground drive her past the outdoor arena. She was nervous, but held it together, and as she worked in the arena, she began to relax.
Even Ross, Steve's 22-year-old son, was amazed. "I've never seen her do anything but breathe fire," he remarked.
Karen nervously drove her with the stoneboat while Steve headed her.
Afterwords, Paige held court in front of the Mercantile.