Retraining/Refreshing the Old Mare
 
 

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Retraining/Refreshing the Old Mare

This is a discussion on Retraining/Refreshing the Old Mare within the Driving forums, part of the Riding Horses category
  • Older horse that needs refreshing
  • Retraining a broodmare

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  • 1 Post By ButtInTheDirt
  • 1 Post By Taffy Clayton
  • 2 Post By ButtInTheDirt
  • 1 Post By ButtInTheDirt

 
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    05-28-2013, 12:12 AM
  #1
Yearling
Retraining/Refreshing the Old Mare

I have a nineteen year old broodmare who has been a full time foal factory for most of her life. I don't mean it in a bad way as she's given me an awesome filly, and has had numerous wonderful foals, and it hasn't been hard on her in the least. I'm sure a few of those foals have contributed a few gray hairs, but other than that, she is a healthy enough mare and keeps weight so raising a foal doesn't take much out of her. We were told she had driving training, and to what extent we have no idea. She is also broke to ride, but I'm thinking she never was more than a trail or plod around horse. I might be wrong, I really haven't a clue.

I've started working with her more, and have ground driven her a few times this year. One time was today, and she did absolutely wonderful! I started the day at the hitching post after pulling her out of the pasture. Did some grooming, and she stood perfect while I put our breast-collar driving harness on her. I took her into the round pen, and we did some 'lunging' type ground driving. Essentially, I ground drove her in circles, then worked on switching directions, stopping, and stepping over. I took her outside of the round pen, back to the hitching post and tied her while I fussed over the bridle. I put the bridle on her, adjusted it, and we began to ground drive some more. I noticed the bit was pulling through her mouth, which always seems to be a problem with her in particular, so I got some bailing twine and fixed it. (The bit is the right size, and she even holds the bit well, but it must be the shape of her mouth that doesn't work well.) After that she was doing very well. She was doing good today, anyway, but with the blinders she seemed even more focused.

I went up and down our driveway, the road, and a dirt lane that goes back through the alfalfa fields on our property and runs right next to a creek. Our horses are pastured right next to the road and the driveway, and were quite wild today. My gelding, notorious troublemaker, got everyone stirred up and running around. Tenakee, the mare I'm driving, just walks every so steadily where I want her to go. It is apparent she can hear them, their hooves aren't quiet not much less their whinnying. The worst reaction I got from her was stopping and looking at them. She was an absolute superstar! She walked in straight lines, and stayed on the side of the road I wanted her on. Her turning could use a little bit of work, but from the last time I ground drove her, she has improved greatly. She even held contact well, with little shaking of her head, which was a pleasant surprise.

I plan on ground driving her more, and hopefully, if all goes well, start dragging stuff behind her and hook some shafts to her and teach her or reteach her how to move into them. We have a nice two wheeled easy-entry cart that my father built, and hopefully she'll be ready for that in a few weeks when they pull first crop off of the hay field. I hope to get her hooked up and take a stroll around the field. If that goes well, we'll continue doing that for a few days out in the field, then move onto the road and do some traffic proofing. What I'm hoping from her is she'll be able to team up with our other mare, Scarlet, who has been out training with an Amish man who has done wonders for her. We're hoping to be able to cut hay and the like with the both of them. I am excited! These past few weeks we've been thinking we'll have to go out and get another horse if we want to put together a decent team, and people have told us that an old mare would never want to come back into work.

Things are really looking up, and not only was she good today, she enjoyed it! Our first driving mare, a now 23 year old Morgan, was a prime example of bringing an older horse back into driving after a few years off. Tenakee is a smart horse, and I think she'll handle it. At least until her daughter is old enough to start her debut in the field. But I thought I might as well share my success! I'll try to keep updated if people are interested in hearing more about this. Also, for those wondering, Tenakee is a registered American Bashkir Curly horse.

Also, feel free to critique the harness fit as well as our other work within reason. I figured it isn't super important in the ground driving stage, but once we start pulling weight it will be a different story. And I know I don't really need the breeching or breast collar on there, but as long as I am not getting the lines tangled up in everything, I'd like to have her get used to as much 'stuff' as possible. Once we get a bit more serious with our work, we have a fitting collar and another harness that is actually her's and made for pulling and does not have much of a saddle or a crupper. (It is one out of matched pair we bought.)
Attached Images
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littrella likes this.
     
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    05-28-2013, 07:43 AM
  #2
Yearling
Looks good! Keep us updated!
     
    05-28-2013, 08:04 AM
  #3
Started
She is darling!! She looks like she is enjoying the work to me, so I know it will be fun for you to get her going again!

Nancy
     
    05-28-2013, 05:39 PM
  #4
Green Broke
She looks great!!!

Your breast collar is too small for pulling anything,
Your breeching looks like it fits, but the breast collar looks like it is for a very small horse.
So glad she is doing well. You will be driving in no time.
I can't wait for more photos!
michaelvanessa likes this.
     
    05-28-2013, 10:29 PM
  #5
Yearling
Thank you everyone for your kind words. I will try to keep everyone updated with pictures and news.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Taffy Clayton    
She looks great!!!

Your breast collar is too small for pulling anything,
Your breeching looks like it fits, but the breast collar looks like it is for a very small horse.
So glad she is doing well. You will be driving in no time.
I can't wait for more photos!
That harness is on its last holes and Tenakee is on the threshold of what it will fit, so yes, definitely made for a much smaller horse. It is just less cumbersome than our other harness so I opted for this one. It is good so far for what we are doing. I'm hoping to start putting our heavy harness on her, assuming one of our collars will fit her. I'm glad I at least have most of the harness adjusted correctly. :)
     
    05-29-2013, 12:22 AM
  #6
Yearling
Today did not go quite as smoothly as it did yesterday, but in the end it all turned out very well. I did not work her in the round pen at all, which might have contributed to her little extra energy. She wasn't hog wild, just tried to spin around on me a few times and didn't want to stay to the right side when I was dragging a tire in front of her. Just simple things, but I did not let her get away with plodding around just anywhere. I when she would get worked up and start spinning around I would make her stop, whether it was getting her to move around a bit then asking her firmly, or just asking her right away. I would give her a few minutes to simmer down, and once she stood in place well I started again. I wanted to reinforce rather than reacting rashly to too much stimulation, she instead stop and think it through, or be confident to react calmly.

Today was mostly spent introducing her to dragging around a tire, so I drug it in front of her, behind her, and beside her until finally I had her drag it. Before this I had her drag two brightly-colored lead ropes attached to the traces (tugs?) so she could see them, then I looped them and hooked them at a pretty good distance away from her to the evener. We went up and down the driveway with just the evener, took a break, then did the same with the tire. She was a bit unsure at first, but was fairly confident with it by the time we were done. This work was done without the blinders, as I want her to know what is going on behind her to better understand it. Since she accepts the blinders well, once she accepts the noise and movement behind her, I will then start working with the blinders. I am not using them as a substitute for letting her know what is going on behind. They should lessen distraction if anything, but not be a crutch to block out the mechanics of what is going on around them, in my opinion. I am still very impressed on how she holds contact and takes direction well. Most horses without that training will feel claustrophobic from being held on to even if it is to guide them. She collects her head nicely and carries it level, which is absolutely lovely.





Here is the harness that I am currently using and the other stuff that I have been using, for reference of anyone who may be trying to do this themselves. This breast-collar harness is a pony/cob sized leather harness, made for horses smaller than Tenakee, but for ground driving and a bit of dragging stuff it works. It is more of a harness for pulling carts and light things, which is what we use it for with our little Morgan mare. It is lighter and less cumbersome than our other harness, so I am using it for this initial part. I also use a buggy whip for cuing on the sides, much like where a rider's leg would contact a horse to move them. I keep her halter underneath her bridle, mainly if I have to tie her and go fuss around somewhere. I keep multiple lead ropes around, as you can see they were used in this instance for more than leading. I used them as stand-in extensions for the tugs so the evener wouldn't be hitting her on the legs and she wouldn't feel trapped or chased by it. Not in this picture my lines, or reins, that you use in ground driving and driving. Mine are leather, and go with the harness I'm using. I like the weight of them over some lighter lines NH trainers use for ground driving. I don't like a lot of weight on the face, but I do like to feel the lines in my hands without fear of them slipping out of and burning my hands.



This is what I had her pull, and we made it ourselves out of what was essentially spare parts and scrap. The evener was made out of what I'm assuming is steel pipe, and the tire is just some junky little thing I pulled off the pile and sunk and eye-hook into. It was quite economical, and I have two different tire sizes depending on what difficulty I'm looking for. I affectionately refer to the little one as the 'confidence tire' as it is lighter and therefor instills a bit more confidence in the horse pulling it. I probably should call it the 'diet tire' as I had to switch to it after pulling the heavy one around to desensitize her with it. Now I know why it is nice to have the horse pulling the tire instead of me.



Tenakee ended her day with a well deserved rest away from the other horses. I put her in the stall with a flake of hay and a little bit of grain to munch on. I opened the door outside and she was surprised to find a bit of grass growing up underneath the fence and got to munch on it some.

michaelvanessa and greentree like this.
     
    05-29-2013, 04:37 AM
  #7
Green Broke
She looks great! Thanks for your info.
Nice draft horse harness too.
In the third photo, What is the flooring in your barn? It looks interesting.
I love the curly hair. Do you have a photo of that awesome filly out of her?
     
    06-02-2013, 12:33 AM
  #8
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taffy Clayton    
She looks great! Thanks for your info.
Nice draft horse harness too.
In the third photo, What is the flooring in your barn? It looks interesting.
I love the curly hair. Do you have a photo of that awesome filly out of her?
Our flooring has grooves in it because it used to be a dairy cow barn, so certainly has an interesting look. I guess I'm just so used to it in all the barns; I was actually confused at your question at first. Lucky thing is, it is made to fit a skidsteer in for easy cleaning with cows. It helps lots with the horses, too!

I attached a few pictures of her at the end. Her personality is just stellar, and her built is very solid and sturdy. I've had people tell me she has the attitude of an old broodmare rather than a weanling. She is very calm, smart, and takes things in stride. But she does have some killer movement when she wants to.

Back to Tenakee; I worked her again today, and this time 'work' is a very well-deserved verb, as she actually broke a sweat. First we did a few circles in the arena, then ground drove outside a bit before coming back and hooking onto the tire. We drug the lighter tire around, then switched to the heavier one and went about a mile or so pulling it. I also worked on trotting, which was the only thing that was a bit sketchy. I tried to get her to trot and she veered off into the hay field. We reset, then I lead her and got her trotting in a straight line. After that I ground drove her at a trot in a straight line. She got a little worried with me sprinting full-boar behind her, but she was doing her nice extended trot so I just kept sprinting instead of punishing her for that to-die-for gait. I also tried trotting in the end a little bit with the tire pulling behind. She didn't exactly understand it, so we didn't do much.

In summation, things are going well! She doesn't seem bothered by the dragging noises behind us, even though last time I couldn't even drag the tire around her without her having a fit. After our first come to Jesus (sounds more severe than it actually was,) meeting I haven't had much large scale problems. I plan to continue pulling around the tire, and hopefully do some arena work with side passing so she moves better in the shafts. I want to get her dragging something with wheels on it so it pulls a bit easier, but is heavy enough where she can't just fly away with it. It is too late at night to figure out these things, but I thought I ought to update with some pictures and answer questions.
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greentree likes this.
     

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