This is only semi connected to driving. There is an older man that is a member of our driving club, well, besides me I mean. Actually, one member is in her nineties. She drives a Haflinger mare. Anyway, I think he joined because he's lonely since his horse doesn't drive and was barely rideable. He takes riding lessons at a place between my daughter's house and here. She is also a trainer. We have laughed together because when we have passed during a lesson a group of people were trotting around with their hands held about as high as their nipples and spread 18 inches apart. I know all of the people there and when I stopped to watch one day I noticed that John was having a problem controlling his horse's head. In a subsequent lesson he put on a nose band with a standing martingale without longing the horse to make sure she was all right with it. When he mounted the horse went ballistic and almost unloaded him. The trainer then mounted the horse and the same thing happened to him. Sensing that John needed a little individual help with his horse I volunteered.
We began with a ground tying lesson and then a lateral flexation exercise. What I learned right off was that the mare was over-sensitive to any kind of stimulus but also very kind and willing when she understood what was being asked of her. She is also very intelligent and affectionate. John asked me if I would ride her and I told him that I never rode any horse without doing the proper preliminary ground work. I ended up free longing her with just a halter and line. She had been longed before so getting her to move was not a problem. Transitions, stopping and reversing were a little different story.
When I first put a surcingle on the horse and bitted her loosely she ran backwards once before moving forward. When I gradually tightened the lines she stopped and backed away from the pressure a few times before giving into it. Her trot was inconsistent. She slowed, sped up or stopped until she learned how to flex at the pole a little and submit. She was working her mouth but in a nervous and not relaxed way. Typical green horse stuff. Meanwhile, I dropped by to watch John's lesson. Standing under a pine tree next to the trainer I remarked that John's horse was really a pretty nice mare. His reply was. "She's a bitch!"
By the third day with the surcingle the mare was going around calmly at the trot with her nose vertical to the ground. She was trotting and stopping on command. All I had to do was raise my leading hand slightly and nod my head and she reversed. I told John to put his saddle on her. We put my running martingale on her and after longing a few minutes I climbed aboard. At first when I applied any pressure at all she over reacted and skittered sideways or backed. I doubled her around and she went in a small circle until we were both dizzy. It was then that I was able to stop her and laterally flex her until she submitted and touched her sides with her nose. It wasn't long before we were walking calmly in a fifty foot wide circle, reversing and stopping. What was most surprising was the sensitivity of the horse. Put a slight pressure on the snaffle and her nose dropped. Put a little leg pressure on her and she responded. I would have thought she had some prior training but she didn't really know anything. She didn't know how to move laterally off my leg or how to pivot on her hind or forequarters. However, she was so responsive that it wasn't long before she was doing it all.
The next day she was doing perfect 20 meter circles at the trot and figure eights. I took her to my arena and she stayed on the rail at the trot and kept her head vertical with only the slightest encouragement. What a wonderful light horse she is going to be. I asked John her history. She is a fourteen year old roan Qtr. Horse. She was his daughter's horse before she moved and left the horse with John. The horse hasn't been touched for six years. John knows nothing about horses but wants to learn.
Five years ago after a pulmonary embolism I didn't think I would ever ride again. I didn't for five years. Then I found myself starting my Qtr/Fjord cross at age 69. (Mine not his) I told myself, "Well this will be the last one." I built a large paddock for him and then a stall and finally a 180 foot square arena. During the winter I constructed a training cart. After a year of driving him in a nylon harness I just received notice that his new Comfy Fit harness with the deluxe breast collar, contour crown headstall and quick release shaft loops is on the way. When you have it you need somewhere to keep it. The hand poured 8'x10' slab for the tack room is awaiting framing. Meanwhile, I watched John lead his horse two hundred feet to my arena the other day. The whole time he was on the off side of the horse. Oh, well. It says a lot for the horse. I may have my work cut out for me. John doesn't remember everything too well. My horse? He's the exact opposite. I could slap a horsefly off his eyelid and he wouldn't blink. If I puched him with a Mexican roweled spur he would ask himself, what was that, before responding. He was a bugger to train but so far is a great cart horse. He responds to voice commands, is lazy and hates to canter except that he will move out at the trot. One last comment about advancing age. KEEP MOVING IT OR LOSE IT! I've got to go build something now.