It’s been a few weeks since we brought Austin back to Hanaeleh, and it was pretty obvious that our big boy needs a job. His feet have finally grown out and he’s feeling great! We have been working him in the round pen, but that was getting boring for him- unfortunately with his blindness in his left eye he was uncertain in the arena, and we didn’t want to try to have him run in the bigger area where he was uncomfortable. Because he has such a stoic personality, however, we thought it might be a good idea to teach him how to drive.
Last week we harnessed Austin and walked him around the arena. Emily stood at his head and walked with him as Elizabeth drove him from the back. We worked him in an open bridle (basically, a bridle without blinders) because we weren’t sure if taking away more of his vision on his right would make him even more uncomfortable. At first, Austin was hesitant, and while he walked well while Emily was next to him, he was uncertain when she stood in the middle and he had to listen to Elizabeth’s cues. Once he realized that she was not going to steer him into the side of the arena, however, he seemed to perk up a little and even trotted a little, which shows that he trusted us and was comfortable going a bit faster! We were very happy with his progress and decided he was ready to start pulling something.
This week we had Austin pull a tire around the arena. We started again by driving him around without pulling anything, and he seemed comfortable and walked wherever we steered him. We hooked him up to the tire, and again, had Emily stand at his head and walk next to him around the arena for a few times so he felt more secure. He seemed comfortable and was just fine when Emily walked back to the middle of the arena and he had to listen just to Elizabeth. In fact, he trotted for a few minutes on his own (his little Quarter horse trot is so slow that Elizabeth just had to walk a little faster). After several trips, figure-eights and circles around the arena, we let him stop, and he seemed very satisfied with himself. We were more than just satisfied- we were so thrilled that he took to driving so readily! We will continue to drive him while pulling the tire for a while, then we will call on our friends who are more accomplished drivers for help in hooking him up to a cart- we may even hook him up with another horse and drive him double a few times to get him comfortable with the idea.
Although horses enjoy just hanging out and eating, some horses like Austin do much better when they have a job to do. We hope to continue to work with Austin as he continues to progress on his journey of learning an new discipline!