We had a blizzard on Sunday and so I wasn’t able to get to Benvelle Equestrian Center to ride my mare, Joon. I was disappointed, but wasn’t about to try and brave the elements with heavy snow, high winds and very low visibility. But now there’s a great layer of snow and I’m eager to spend next weekend at the barn, hooking Joon up to the sleigh to go “dashing through the snow!”
The last couple of summers, my friend had spent some time teaching Joon to drive in the arena outside at Benvelle, but we just didn’t take the time to drive her consistently. So, although she was broke to drive, she didn’t have as much experience as I would like. I haven’t done much in the way of driving a horse hooked to a cart (as opposed to merely long-lining), therefore I need to have a horse that has spent many hours in harness.
Last winter I wanted to send Joon off to someone to finish off her driving training. I picked a man who raises and trains Percherons, Mike Schubert of Schubert Percheron Farm in Brainerd, Minnesota. He did a wonderful job and I now have a great driving horse.
It was fun to see pictures of Joon’s beginning lessons with Mike. Joon is mostly Arabian and stands 15 hands tall – since she was double-harnessed to an 18-hand Percheron stallion she had no choice but to go along! What a contrast in both size and color!
When I first picked Joon up, Mike said that she was hesitant about leaving the yard when hitched - he figured it was a confidence problem as the only times she had been driven were in an arena. He only hitched her to Spike, his stallion, for about a week and then she was fine with going alone. He uses Spike, even though he's a stallion, because he is Mike's "trainer" and calmly goes where he's told whether or not his teammate wants to. He stays calm and focused on his job no matter what shenanigans his teammate pulls, or whether it's a mare or gelding.
I’m gaining a whole new world of knowledge, just putting the harness on Joon – correctly! – is a challenge. I’m learning to feel her through the reins instead of through her body language while on her and learning to guide her with just small movements instead of dragging her around with strong arm movements. Driving not only broadens your experience but that of your horse, as well.
Driving is just about as much fun as riding and I’m loving it!