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Used my new harness for the first time!

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Kendra

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I got this harness in December, but only just got it on a horse! First it wouldn't fit around him when he had hair on, then I didn't get it oiled til yesterday, but FINALLY got to try it out!

I've spent the last few months talking about changing it to wrap straps from open tugs, but I wanted to try it out first ... I was pretty impressed though, the shafts really do "float"!


The shafts are too high, I need to drop them down, but I'm curious to see if they'll ride as smoothly there. Also, my cart doesn't have footmans loops, so the breeching is kinda juryrigged. And the bridle is still pretty stiff, needs more oiling to make it fit his head.







I love this last photo, shows how well he's tracking up, working under himself, which is a big accomplishment for us!

I'm pretty pleased with the progress he's made through the winter ... here's one taken when I first started working him, and he was feeling pretty goosey (from the breeching, which is a new experience for him) and spooky (from the wind and rain ... luckily it stopped!). He'd reverted to his old self ... neck sucked in, head way high and stuck at a weird angle, all strung out and hollow.



I'd still like to get his nose in a bit more, but I'm not sure he's capable of doing it with his thick little neck, though it's gotten a lot better. Ah well, I'm pretty happy with how far he's come, he's also got his head on straight, which was a huge problem of ours last year.

Thanks for looking, suggestions and comments are welcome!
 

ClickMini

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Hi Kendra, nice little horse you got there! You definitely do need to let the tugs down to where the shafts are level to just above that. You will feel more comfortable also. This type of cart people rarely use breeching, it is a different setup. I believe that if you continue using the breeching with this, it will rub the paint of your cart. Get yourself some thimbles or else a shaft stop to keep the cart from going forward on your horse.

Best of luck to you and enjoy your driving! Lookin' good! :D
 

hobbyhorse23

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Heeeey, Kendra, nice turnout!


You already know what needs to be fixed or adjusted on the harness so I won't comment on that for the moment. You're right that your horse (Hawk, isn't it?) is tracking up much better and has really improved! I know you've been working hard with him all winter so congratulations and "Good job!"
I see that you're driving him without a check and I know that's typical for you so I don't know if his remaining neck stiffness is due to conformation, natural tendency, or having been originally trained in a check perhaps by someone else. It looks like the type of inflexibility caused by check-only training, but of course it's hard to tell without knowing his history and seeing him in person. The only reason it matters is because I'd suggest different things for stiffness caused by training compared to stiffness due to a thick neck or discomfort. I'm going to go with the training theory and ask your forgiveness if I'm wrong.


The thing it looks like he's really missing is an understanding of his own suppleness. He's decided there is one place for his head and one place only and it simply isn't occuring to him that he is physically capable of putting it elsewhere. You've got him beginning to soften a little and realizing he can use his back instead of dropping it down and resisting but what we need to do is show him he can move that neck and move it a LOT. There's lots of exercises you can do but I'd start with some frequent soft transition work to get him gathered up and softening, then feed him rein (I mean MILES of rein!) at a walk and ask him to stretch down, down, down. We want his nose practically on the ground. If he won't do it gather him gently back up and go back to work until he feels like perhaps he'd like a stretching break. The minute he starts to stretch that neck out and down we are going to praise like crazy and feed even more rein until the moment he pops back up on his own. Every time he pops up we ask him to stretch again and if he won't then we quietly go back to work. This is not to punish him but to make it clear that as long as he feels like stretching he gets to just walk and stretch but if he's too silly to take advantage of the opportunity than the opportunity will be removed. Any time he wants to stretch down at any gait, let him and reward him no matter how inconvenient it is at that moment. He needs to get the idea that he CAN use his neck and that in fact he will be praised for doing so. At some point he will push down with his neck, his back will pop up for a moment and he'll have a couple of really powerful strides before his head comes up again. That can be a eureka moment for some horses as they realize how much more fun driving is when they get out of their own way.

We want stretching out that stiff neck to be a good thing, a desirable thing. The more he learns to stretch and flex the better he'll feel and the more he'll be inclined to use his neck properly while driving. Due to his conformation (or maybe just his current weight?) he'll probably never be comfortable tucking his head in but if we can get him using the root of his neck it'll open that angle and make it much easier for him to round his entire front end. Along with the stretching work I'd be doing a lot of lateral work with this horse to soften his shoulder area and teach him to yield and elevate there. I'd also be standing next to him in-hand and encouraging him to stretch his neck to the side and down in as many ways as possible and to hold those carrot stretches for longer and longer. I can think of at least five different flexes that would probably help him but I'm not sure how to describe them here.
Just do anything you can think of or find in a horse magazine!

I'd want this horse essentially learning to walk around with his nose to the ground in an active stretch and bending while doing so to supple the muscles of his back on the opposite side. Once he's learned to do that exaggerated engagement it'll be much easier to ask for elements of that stretch while driving and get him truly using himself. Right now you're trying to teach him to release a lifetime of tension and of course it's slow going; it's easier instead to teach him a new way of moving and let the old method simply fade away!
The good news is that correct self-carriage is self-rewarding. It's easier and more comfortable for the horse to travel correctly so once they discover that fact they tend to become enthusiastic partners in learning to do it better. Your job is to get him through that tough muscle-building, habit-breaking phase so he can get there.


ClickMini said:
This type of cart people rarely use breeching, it is a different setup. I believe that if you continue using the breeching with this, it will rub the paint of your cart. Get yourself some thimbles or else a shaft stop to keep the cart from going forward on your horse.
I haven't heard of that as a problem with any of the people I know who use show carts for CDE but if you're concerned about it you could wrap some vet wrap around the shaft to protect it while you're practicing. I do that on my Hyperbike because the brass from the holdback buckle liked to rub off on the shaft although the shaft itself was fine. Safety is far more important than paint and I was very glad to see you using breeching with those open tugs. On the flat you can get away with thimbles or a good tug stop but it looks like you've got rolling terrain and it really would not be safe to use open tugs there without breeching.

Leia
 

Asia

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Leia

I just love how you answer harnessing/driving questions... So carefully and detailed.

I have cut/paste soooo many of your answers to a "driving" folder.

I love how you respect the person asking the questions, never pointing a finger at them.

You are a true treasure on this fourm.


Sue
 

ClickMini

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Good catch Leia, I didn't notice that she was using open tugs. Should have read more carefully. I would never recommend using open tugs and no breeching. Sorry about that!
 

Reignmaker Miniatures

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Way to go Kendra. You've obviously been 'practicing so hard we'll think you're lucky' ;) (Love that phrase)

Leia I too learn so much from your carefully thought out answers. I love finding a thread on driving where you and ClickMini (Amy?) discuss your ideas. I always pick up some little tidbit (or a big one) to file away for future reference. Thank you.
 

Kendra

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Thanks guys, especially Leia, for the feedback!

We raised Hawk, and I'm the only one who's ever taught him anything, so whatever he is, it's my fault/accomplishment! LOL! That's always been the only way I want it, with any of my horses, even when it's not going well.

He's been shown quite a bit, so he's spent some time in an overcheck, but it's always been as loose as I could get away with.

Here's the thing ... he LOVES to stretch down at the walk, any time I offer to let him stretch, he reaches his nose right down to the ground and will even stretch by reaching his poll back and forth a little. I start and finish every work doing this, and try to give him a break any time he does something I'm really happy with, or just when I think he needs one.

He is, kinda, maybe, starting to reach down at the trot ... any time he offers to really drop his head, I give on the contact to try to tell him that's a good thing.

Just as an aside, he's not actually as chubby as he looks in these photos, I was surprised when I saw them. Not that it matters, really!

We spent the first year of his driving life working on bending so that he could go in a straight line without his head cranked to the side, this is the next challenge I guess!

He's already had some success as a Roadster/Single Pleasure horse ... my thought is that if I could just get his head down and relaxed, I could start to bring it back up in a much more comfortable frame.

Everyone think my harness is appropriate for the showring? I'm just curious ... I'm really happy with how comfortable it seems for the horse, and it was super cheap, which is always a bonus! I'll be taking off the breeching (and using wrap straps
) ... I was tempted to leave it on, I would for sure if he was a country horse!
 

hobbyhorse23

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Asia said:
LeiaI just love how you answer harnessing/driving questions... So carefully and detailed.

I have cut/paste soooo many of your answers to a "driving" folder.

I love how you respect the person asking the questions, never pointing a finger at them.

You are a true treasure on this fourm.


Sue
Aw, thanks! I was given so much helpful mentoring on here by Minihgal and others that it seems only right to try and pass it on.

Kendra said:
Here's the thing ... he LOVES to stretch down at the walk, any time I offer to let him stretch, he reaches his nose right down to the ground and will even stretch by reaching his poll back and forth a little. I start and finish every work doing this, and try to give him a break any time he does something I'm really happy with, or just when I think he needs one.
He is, kinda, maybe, starting to reach down at the trot ... any time he offers to really drop his head, I give on the contact to try to tell him that's a good thing.
Okay, good! So if he's got those beginning steps down then it's time to do it at a trot. After he's had a good warmup and has established a rhythmic, relaxed working trot bring him back into your hand almost as if you were asking him to trot in place. It's hard when you don't have leg aids to assist you but try to push him forward into the bridle with strong voice aids more than pulling back on the reins; we want to collect his energy for a shortened trot, not snatch at his mouth. He'll fight you at first, wait him out until he stops resisting or stills for a moment then feed him rein, say "Trot on" and ask him to go go go! You don't want to dump him on his forehand but your hand should suddenly become soft and invite him to take up rein as he lengthens frame and stretches. Speed is not the goal here, we don't want him hollowing out and rushing. If he does, get him back in your hand and try again. If he breaks to a canter that's okay. They all go through that phase so simply pull him back with an "Aahhht, trot!" and make him do it again. What we want to establish is a lengthening of frame where he expands like a released spring all the way from his nose to his tail. Regular drills of shortening through corners and lengthening on the long sides or diagonals can do wonders for creating a powerful working trot and teaching them to use their backs.

Make sure also that your bending exercises are as effective as possible. Half-halt him on the outside rein going into every corner to warn him something's coming up then hold elastic tension on the outside rein and half-halt the inside rein in time with his leg to establish the bend. Once the horse is arched to the inside, remember to release the outside rein to allow the turn and to look where you're going with your shoulders square and upright. Turn your entire upper body as if your navel is a flashlight you're shining at your destination. Breathe softly and deeply through these turns and see if that doesn't help him relax too. You should be able to gently massage his mouth with invisible motions of your fingers and coax him to stretch out and down even at the trot. The more you do it, the better he'll get at it!

Everyone think my harness is appropriate for the showring? I'm just curious ... I'm really happy with how comfortable it seems for the horse, and it was super cheap, which is always a bonus! I'll be taking off the breeching (and using wrap straps
) ... I was tempted to leave it on, I would for sure if he was a country horse!
Cheap is ALWAYS good! *LOL* I think it looks fine although you might check if the blinkers need to be raised a little bit. It's hard to tell on a dark horse but it looks like they might not be quite centered over his eyes.

Leia
 

tnovak

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I got goose bumps when I saw these pictures........looks exactly like "Bella" with her cart, from many moons ago!
 
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