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.)