Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Hard to Drive Straight

It's hard to drive straight and accurately.

 These tracks down the centerline (yellow) show the difficulty a new driver had in:
  1. finding the centerline
  2. driving straight. 
And she was trying *really* hard to do it right.

The white arrows indicate the widest tracks in her attempts. If you look carefully you can see she was able to generally hone in on X but getting there and leaving there were harder.

This represents about 4 attempts at Training level 1 and 4 at Training Level 2. We'd expect this to improve with more practice BUT......

I have noticed in this ring after 2 weeks of drivers practicing and trying HARD to drive straight, there is a pretty wide variation down this centerline.

A judge sitting at C has an easy job of assessing accuracy: if a 10 is perfectly straight, then anything less than perfectly straight has to be something less than 10. 

So, how is it that this man can 'drive' so straight? Would he get a 10? 
Practice, practice, practice!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

All Holes Are Not Created Equal

Harness Holes

These holes in the leather were originally punched round. 
Over time they have molded and shaped to the tongue 
on the buckle as it lies at an angle in the hole. 

Oval holes punched in synthetic material allowing the buckle tongue 
to lie in the strap without wearing and tear in the hole as it is being used under pressure.

Note in the two photos above: the end of the buckle tongue is made 
by the buckle manufacturer by flattening the round tongue slightly. 
As a consequence, that makes these tongues a little fatter in width
 and actually *wider* than the punched hole it has to repeatedly go thru.
 Not all buckle tongues are made this way. Look closely when you buy!

This is the end result of using round holes in synthetic strapping. 
This is ugly but actually serviceably strong because the strength of the strap comes 
from the inner nylon core strapping not the outer finish covering. 
Had the holes been oval punched originally as in the shot above, t
his would look a LOT better over time.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Teaching Tidbits

Teaching Tidbits

I love taking a driving lesson. I love auditing lessons for either riding or driving or just about anything having to do with horses. I love listening to equine professionals...vets, dentists, chiropractors, acupuncturists...who explain the how's and why's of what they are doing with a horse.  I ALWAYS learn something I didn't know or have something I thought I understood confirmed by someone more knowledgeable than myself.

And that something doesn't have to be, and usually isn't, a long involved body of knowledge or a long and complicated explanation or demonstration of technique. It's almost always a boiled down tidbit that sticks with me forever.

If I take an hour long lesson in driving and I get one valuable tidbit, it was worth the price. Why? Because I'll use it forever and on every horse I work with from then on.

Two tidbits I received in the last 2 weeks;

From Bill Lower, top notch carriage driver: 
Never be sloppy on your corners.

 A sample of Bill's style

Sounds simple and obvious enough but one thing a lesson with Bill is so good for is not the big gross techniques of driving but the tiny ones that dot the I 's and cross the T's and separate  good from great and are SO important and critical to get right for every horse if you want to get the most out of their performance.

What he was talking about is to ALWAYS set your horse up in advance for a trun...well, not "a turn" but *EVERY* turn...every time. Don't get sloppy. And it is SO easy to get a little sloppy and be satisfied with 'good enough'. It will pay huge dividends in Combined Driving Obstacles and Cones and Dressage and just everyday driving.

How often have you heard it's not always the shortest route that's faster? It's the smooth route that allows your horse to maintain his balance and speed that ends up with the fastest time. Have you ever watched a good driver through a CDE Obstacle and they don't LOOK like they are going that fast but you check their time and wow, is it low? That's the well prepared, smooth, balanced, efficient and economical route getting the job done.

Your horse can not be balanced and fast on turns unless he is prepared in advance. If you get sloppy, your times will suffer and your horse will suffer physically and mentally. Prepare him in advance so he trusts you just that much more and his anxiety level will be reduced and his joints and muscles will be ready for the change of direction and all the forces associated with it.

Thank you, Bill!

From Dr. Anne Christopherson, endurance & combined driving veterinarian: 
Most people do not spend enough time walking their horses. 

Walking and walking and walking is something I have always instinctively known and generally believed was very good for my horses. Fortunately, I like to walk them. IT doesn't bore me. It was nice to have my sense confirmed by someone who is such an the field of conditioning and soundness as Dr. Anne.

It is so easy to cut the walking short. If you are involved with galloping breed or trotting breed, it is so tempting to get right to those gaits because your horses like them and it is easy for them. It's what they WANT to do. BUT..... there is probably nothing worse than riding or driving a horse that does not like to walk. And it is one of at least two things you can not MAKE a horse do: You can't make a horse stand still and you can't make a horse walk. You can only create a situation where they *want* to walk or stand.

Most people do not walk their horses long enough or often enough to even experience all that walking does for the horse. They never get to experience the long, swinging, relaxed, efficient, ground covering ,unhurried, self carriage walk. They get satisfied with good enough. It's a has four beats. It's not trotting. ....Oh, but there's so much more.

The horse that LIKES to walk (that's different from a horse that walks because he doesn't like to trot, btw) ..the horse that understands that a good efficient walk is just the way the World works, will be healthier mentally and physically for a longer time.

Thank you, Dr. Anne!