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Willow Flats

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We went to the Andy Marcoux clinic this morning. All the participant's lessons were individual so I got very detailed instruction!!! I stayed and watched some of the lessons that came after mine so I learned a lot!

I'm not sure who it was on the forum that mentioned they lived near Andy from Coachman's Delight, but I highly recommend taking at least one lesson from him. Everything I learned will really benefit my horse.

FYI- I had made a rein board trying to get a feel for good contact, but I only had a 3 lb weight on it. 5 lbs would be more realistic. He had me hold on to his hands and then also the reins as he created the tension so I could feel the amount of contact he was talking about.
 

Willow Flats

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I drove Rocko today putting into practice all the things I was told at the clinic. After only 30 minutes I am not sure who was more tired! Rocko was doing the work but I was also having to work at my part.

He said when you are driving a two wheeled cart you don't just sit there because the two wheeled carts have a lot of movement so you are supposed to be fluid too. He had me scoot up and sit at the front of the seat moving my hips up I guess you would say and kind of leaning back using my core muscles. (You mean the ones I don't have?) ;) Anyway it was a bit like riding and it made total sense but it takes some effort at this point and I lost all my leg room. He said to use a wedge which will have me higher, get some leg room back and be easier to stay in form. Then he had me driving with my hands close together. We are operating a 3-4" bit and our hands are usually way out wider than that which makes sense too. (He had me driving with my thumbs touching to start.) Then there is the added contact so I had a lot to think about for now until it becomes muscle memory and I won't have to think about it so much. The other thing was looking way ahead of where you are going to turn. Everything he suggested, especially my new level of contact worked really well today!

My trainer friend also did the clinic. I wasn't there when she had her lesson, and of course she is at a different level than me but he had her driving with her eyes closed to get a feel for some things! So glad that wasn't part of my lesson.
 

Abby P

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Thank you so much for posting this! Not sure how I missed the first post. I'm the one (well, one of them, at least) that lives near-ish Andy and if my life ever gets less crazy then I really want to get to him for some lessons.

Contact is something I have always struggled with, I've always tended to have very "permissive" (ahem, floppy) hands. So the increased contact with driving, even beyond what would have been good contact while riding which I always struggled to achieve, is definitely a learning curve for me but Rowan does not go well at ALL without good consistent contact, in fact he basically just doesn't go because he's unsure. He's a good teacher. 🥰 It feels like a lot of pressure but someone, can't remember who, told me it isn't as much as it feels like because the lines are going through at least one if not several sets of rings before getting to our hands plus there is extra weight in the lines themselves due to the longer length. It is definitely tiring though!
 

Kelly

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Next time we are going to NEED to see a video of the entire lesson 😘💕….. and of your trainers lesson too😊…. Driving with your eyes closed, Im gonna try that this week …. And hope we don’t hit a tree 🤣

I completely understand the “looking way ahead of where you are going to turn”, we have been practicing this lately and boy what a difference it is making 😍

Glad you had such a wonderful lesson!
 

Willow Flats

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It seems counterintuitive to be holding that tension when you want them to move out huh? But it creates energy that you lose when you give too much. One of his lesson plans purchased a while back described it like those phones you make as a kid. Two tin cans with a string between them that you hold taught and talk to each other but if you hold it with the string loose you lose your connection.

He is really good at explaining things and giving helpful illustrations. He lets you know the why. He was easy on me because I kept my mouth shut, listened and did everything he asked as best I could. Watching some of the other lessons, I noticed he doesn't sugar coat it! Lol. Which is good because you are there to learn.
 

MajorClementine

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@Marsha Cassada what a journey to find Midnight you had and what an amazing little driver you have turned her into. Especially during a noisy parade like that. Then to give her a few weeks off and still have her be such a good girl. And yes... My little one loves the horses. He's way more into them than my older son ever was. He's even scooping poop with me twice a day using his own bucket and full size poop rake. At 20 months old!!!

@Cayuse can't wait to see the spotted harness. So sorry your other harness broke. Always a bummer when a beloved piece of equipment is retired.

@Willow Flats such a great opportunity to learn directly from Andy. Sounds like you learned so much. And then being able to apply it in your driving after the clinic, good for you. That is where I always struggle.

Perry is still at the trainers but he's pulling a cart now. I'm going up next week to take a few lessons with him so I can see where he is at and what he needs going forward. She said he's still pretty young mentally so it's all about keeping his focus. Hopefully I'm up to the challenge.
 

Marsha Cassada

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It seems counterintuitive to be holding that tension when you want them to move out huh? But it creates energy that you lose when you give too much. One of his lesson plans purchased a while back described it like those phones you make as a kid. Two tin cans with a string between them that you hold taught and talk to each other but if you hold it with the string loose you lose your connection.

He is really good at explaining things and giving helpful illustrations. He lets you know the why. He was easy on me because I kept my mouth shut, listened and did everything he asked as best I could. Watching some of the other lessons, I noticed he doesn't sugar coat it! Lol. Which is good because you are there to learn.
I found taking lessons exhausting, mentally and physically. I do apply some things I learned, but mostly it was too hard to keep up. I think if one went regularly to classes it would be easier to maintain, but since that was not possible for me, I have lapsed a lot. Some things become part of one's intuitive or trained muscles, though. I do find that I am a lot less tired, physically, after driving Midnight in the cart because I am sitting up straight, keeping my elbows in, hands together, and a nice tension throughout my body. With Dapper Dan, I am inclined to be slothful.
 

Abby P

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It seems counterintuitive to be holding that tension when you want them to move out huh? But it creates energy that you lose when you give too much.
Right, it's like you're shaping the energy. If you don't give it any shape then it just goes into the ground. And contact isn't the same as pulling and I don't think that when it's done correctly the horse feels it that way (as pulling). At least Rowan seems to view it as support and needed give and take especially while he's hitched - you're just there with them. Interestingly it's much harder to get a good "conversation" going when I'm long-lining or ground driving but that may just be because I also have my own klutzy feet to worry about. Plus it's easier for me to ask him for things like engagement which is much harder for him so he's more likely to suck back or for the energy to go out the back instead of where it's supposed to go.

I have always found that lessons are super helpful but I like a lot of time in between to practice and work on things on my own. If you always have someone telling you what to do then it's harder to really figure things out. Plus, like Marsha, I find them very draining and so have always preferred at the most every two weeks, preferably every 3-4 weeks, with several practice sessions by myself in between.
 

Willow Flats

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@MajorClementine
So good to hear what you are up to! Didn't know Perry was at the trainers. Let us know how it goes when you get out there to drive him!
Also, cannot believe your baby is already 20 months! He sounds like he is going to be a good ranch hand.
 

Cayuse

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Abby, My Cappy sounds like Rowan, when I was driving Cappy I found he need so much more contact than I was comfortable with at first. It felt like I really had a lot of weight in my hand, but he would come "round" and was so much more relaxed with the contact. He needs the support emotionally, I think, as he's a nervous dude he finds it comforting. The only downside is that he can get heavy on the forehand and "lug" if I'm not careful. On the other hand, if I took that much contact with Peanut we'd have a Lippazan moment, his energy goes UP UP UP mentally and physically. They are polar opposites.
I learned to keep the contact soft by driving through my elbows, which is hard and I lapse alot. But is makes so much difference, they tell remind me when I lapse.

My spotted harness arrived :). It fit with some tweaking (what harness doesn't need that?) I have not used it yet as every day I've had the chance to drive it's rained.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Drove Dapper Dan today and ponied Midnight. We went through the neighbor's grassland. The scary metal thing we saw the other day turned out to be a large target object. It is mounted on poles about 8 feet tall with an expanded metal base with two welded metal loops to attach to a tractor to move it. They are bird dog trainers. It's still pretty warm in the afternoon so we tried to go a little early. I was feeling kind of blah, and feel much better now after being outdoors and with the horses. The sky is so beautiful with the fluffy clouds in this season.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Marsha, how do you work it when you pony one and drive the other? Do you tie the ponied horse off to the cart somehow or just hold the rope in your hand?
On the cart, I cross tie behind the seat, one lead rope on each side of the seat back. On the sulky, because it is low and I'm so close to both horses, I just tie on one side. I use my whip to cue the ponied horse to stay back. Doesn't take long for them to learn to stay back. The only time when there could be a problem is when something startles the driven horse and he backs up in a hurry. This has happened to me a few times and the ponied horse never seems any the worse. I do not pony horses behind a horse that is questionable. I did put Dapper Dan behind Midnight for the first time recently; I felt she was ready to be safe.
Leading does not work. Tried that.
The ponied horse needs to learn to be tied on. When the driven horse has towed him a few times, he learns to give to the pressure.
I did have one youngster bite the back of the seat once. But after ponying for almost 20 years, I've not had anything serious. Not to say that tomorrow something catastrophic couldn't happen, but horsing around is full of small risks.
 

Abby P

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Thanks! That makes total sense. I guess if you just work a bunch with the horse to be ponied on "leading up real free" as Bill Dorrance would have said, that goes a long way. I can't imagine trying to drive and also hold the lead rope in one hand, that seems beyond my coordination level. I guess the one thing I might consider doing is wrapping the lead rope around the cart frame and then sitting on the end - vs. tying it off hard. That way if things go sideways you could always let the horse being ponied loose relatively easily.

I toy on and off with the idea of a second, but driving a team is far far away from my current capabilities, so ponying would be essential!
 

Kelly

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Not to say that tomorrow something catastrophic couldn't happen, but horsing around is full of small risks.
So true! Or in my case big risks 🤣

I can't imagine trying to drive and also hold the lead rope in one hand, that seems beyond my coordination level.
Me either! & me too!



When I first got started ponying horses I thought the same thing….. how do people do it? Is it safe? And will it work for me?

I pony behind the seat of my cart too, right in the middle of my cart is a bar I can tie on to. I use a quick release buckle to tie up the horse being ponied. I have found that this needs to be a short tie, otherwise my pony horse ends up on the side, in front of, or by the wheels of the cart, which I don’t like and feel that it isn’t very safe. All my cart trained ponies are questionable 🤣 at this point, but I don’t care, we just keep on ponying. 💕 I always practice with my cart horse backing up, so my pony horse sees we are backing up. I don’t know if this makes a difference or not, but we do practice it for my own piece of mind. I’ll post a pic soon of my set up, hopefully tomorrow 🥰😍



PS. Anytime I tried to use a lead rope, I was always fighting the ponied horse as their heads were in the grass!🤪
 

Marsha Cassada

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If one tries leading a ponyed horse, even with the lead wrapped around something, it doesn't work. He needs to be cross tied behind so he can not come up beside the wheel on either side. Just short enough for that but not so short he is left without movement.
Trying to lead causes all kinds of problems, such as wrenching your arm out of its socket or getting too distracted to pay attention to the driving horse.
A ponyed horse quickly learns the rules and is really no trouble.
But as Hershey comments, when left at home alone they can get plenty of exercise, running around like maniacs!
 

Willow Flats

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We did some work today using a new pattern that Andy gave to one of the other attendees at the clinic. Rocko really enjoys doing something new and is a lot more engaged. Before I went to the clinic I was excited, but at the same time thinking why do I need to do this if I'm just driving for pleasure, but now I can see everything I'm working on is for his good. For both his comfort and better communication.

I have gone to audit a clinic before too and you can learn a lot by just watching the trainer instructing other drivers. And it's a whole lot cheaper! ☺
 

Kelly

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This is how I pony my pony 😍

4CC5993E-D4B7-422E-A623-1B34F5669578.jpeg
I use a full size horse bit that I have laying around and loop it over a bar on my cart. Then I attach a quick release buckle to that, I use a trailer tie since those are pretty short.… a bungee type one would be even better IMO. The only reason I use a horse bit is because the quick release buckle won’t attach to the bar on my cart, the bar is too wide for the buckle.


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And OMG!! Breezy is soooooo stinking cute!! Love him!!




I was gonna have hubby take our pic tonight, but he was too busy building my barn 🤣🤣♥♥
 

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