First hitch - we made it!

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Well-Known Member
Nov 27, 2009
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Cameron, NC
Well, if you have followed the Training post (its been awhile since I've seen any one post to that one...) - i did several stories on two of our young fillies...

They both didn't have much done with them as 2 coming 3 yr olds in 2012 - some but not a lot.

Last week, I was determined to get them both going again - and get them to all the way to being hitched and driving (and then drive them enough in 2013 to get them some serious experience). Well, I started with re-introducing ground driving in our new round pen. Worked them each 3 days in a row before "life" (a series of dr appointments that took way too long each day!) got in the way...

Then, on Monday and Tuesday this week - I worked 4 other ponies - not getting to these two young mares and decided to start with the girls during and after feeding. How? Well, KoKo is pretty quiet and ground driving very well. The single tree behind her doesn't bother her and she just "goes". She seems to really like "working" - not the spooking she was doing when I'd last had her pulled up and ground driving...

I had to put out small square bales as all the rain has left our place "drowning" and I haven't been able to get big round bales into the fields that need them. I'm tired of hauling small squares - 2 at a time in the wagon (A Gorrilla from TSC). So it's crazy - it has wheels and no brakes -definitely not what I should be thinking about for a 3 yr old mare who is just ground driving to pull! Maybe on a drag w/ no wheels would be fine - but I don't have one at the moment to use... So, I do 1/2 the feeding and when KoKo is done eating, I pull her out and hook her to the wagon. She's not too sure about the weight - so I step up and use my hand on the curbstrap of her open bridle to step her up again and then ask her to continue pulling. She takes one, then two, then three steps. She sees the wagon move behind her and it's not a problem. I ask for whoa and praise her. So then I step back and ask her to move while I actually ground drive her - not a problem until I ask her to halt. She stops and stands for about two seconds, but she wants to move right back out. We are moving uphill with two bales of hay on the wagon and it's just muddy enough to hold the wagon steady on a halt w/o rolling forward (part of the reason I so crazily decided to do this - plus a "feeling" that it would be OK). So, OK. I head her to the fence between the two pastures getting the hay, halt her in front of a post and hold her steady while she decides to stand quietly and stay put. Then I move up to her head, remove a line from the bridle to her halter and tie her up. Open the first bale and put part of it out - then rehooked the line, and drove her and the wagon alongside of the fence - this time getting the halts allowing me to throw hay over the fence into the pasture.

Long story short - she and I put out those two bales and returned to the barn and got another two. Put those out in other pastures. Returned to the barn, unhooked the wagon, put it away and took her to turnout. I don't have any pics of this... Turned other ponies loose in her pasture and moved Kechi into the roundpen. Then I finished feeding the rest of the ponies.

Returned to the round pen with harness and grooming tools, caught Kechi and harnessed her up. Started with just ground driving - covering previous lessons. No problems and great responses! The mini harness she is wearing is almost too small now (It was too big in previous posts of her) - will see about letting the straps out some more but not sure I really have any more adjustment...

So I go on - with each step I practice for a while then move on to next one. Went from pulling one pole ("shaft") to pulling two, to holding the cart shafts and pressing them against her sides. I was comfortable and so was she.



I'd had the cart out, she'd driven over the shafts and I'd backed her between them and lifted them up around her the previous week. She'd been nervous and not really accepting - though she did stand. This time, she stood quietly - lowered her head and blew out quietly. Progress. Dropped the shafts and moved her out ground driving some more and circled back. Did it again. On the third go - I slid the shafts into the shaft loops and ground drove her a while around the 50' roundpen. At one point, got too close to the edge of the round pen and asked her to turn and she "got stuck" - so I stepped forward to grab the shaft on the inside and held it away enough for her to figure out how to walk around towards me. She did ok. So we stopped and I finished the hitch (later I would discover I hadn't fully done up the off side wrap strap, but it was attached to the shaft loop so it did it's job). She stood quietly during the hitching process.

Throughout this time, our 3 barncats have been in & out of the round pen - weaving between her legs, climbing her tail at one point (that gave me the shivers - she hunched up and almost sat but then relaxed) and jumping up on the seat of the cart. After hooking the cart up we did another round of the round pen and stopped where I could open the gate and circled again so we could more easily angle out of it (I've never driven a hitched pony out of my round pen - not the easiest to do with a green pony who doesn't know how to push into the shafts/turn the cart. She got a little upset and I just stepped around to her head, stopped & held her and waited quietly until she calmed down. Then I stepped to the side and ground drove her the same as I'd done before hitching. Then as she made a big round curve, I moved behind the cart and we went to straight lines. I think we did this for maybe 10 minutes and did another break.


I asked her to move forward again. Asked for another halt on firm, non sandy ground. Then I stepped into the cart, sat for a second and got out again. She stood so I went to her head and praised her. I almost wished I had treats... Got into the cart again, took up my lines (25' long for ground driving) and asked her to walk on. She took a moment to figure out how to move the cart - but she got us going and the squeaking of the no-air tires didn't bother her at all (I need to find out if they are supposed to squeak like that or if I need to grease them...). With lots of breaks - stopping to blow, me moving in & out of the cart and moving around her pulling on her harness, she's still very touchy about her legs so I handled them too, rubbing her neck and hips - we drove for about 30 minutes. I unharnessed, groomed her and turned her out just before it started raining pretty good (it had been misty/drizzly off and on while feeding working the two girls). Just 30 mintues later it started pouring!


From the driver's seat!

YAY! YAY! YAY! 2 days later - I'm still flying high. The weather on Thursday was still pouring rain - with Winter Storm Iago heading our way and sno predicted for as low as Raleigh just 45 miles from us... So no one got worked - just fed. Friday dawned cold but clearing and by the afternoon had warmed to a balmy 40*... But we were very, very wet so...again... I just fed again. Hoping to do a 2nd and 3rd work with both of them this weekend.

Here's some pics - taken with my phone of all things. I was by myself and trust me - I wanted to be as careful and as "solid" as i could be before hitching her... She's a funny one - I may go to pulling a tire or something - maybe have her pull hay(not on the wheeled wagon!) for a while as I expect she might have an explosion lurking somewhere. I hope I'm wrong. But Wednesday (was a "feeling")was a great start and it's so exciting.

I am thinking that I need to lower the breast collar on her and also to lengthen the hold back straps. You can't really tell anything until she's hitched to the cart.
Great job, Paula! I too have done some slightly risky things with a green horse when I have that feeling everything will be okay. You've got to know when it's okay to push and when to take it easy, and you obviously have that sense.

thanks to all! After spending several hours with the farrier on Saturday and feeling blah (I never did really come down with a bug this weekend - but was definitely "off") on Saturday - I didn't feel it was a good idea to work with either young mare. They could have used it, but I felt it was a bad idea - that carried into Sunday. Baahh - not a good way to get ponies trained - but when you work by yourself sometimes a good thing to go with those feelings (ties into those same ones that led me to handle them the way I did on Wednesday).

Well, today, Monday - had another poster from the forum come to my farm for the 3rd time. Just to suffice it to say - it went great having a helper. I'm doing another post to write up today.

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