I’m happy about our driving this week. Today Chroi plodded around the paddock like she was half asleep, so we opted for a change of scenery.
The drive to the ranch was recently re-done with a nice deep layer of gravel. Not pea-gravel either; this gravel has big chunks of rock, thick and crunchy! The first time I drove (my car, haha) on it my very first thought was “I need to drive Chroi on this, for the experience!” So today that’s what we did.
The walk out to the main drive was uneventful, but when we got to the road Chroi’s demeanor changed. Her head came up and her ears went forward and she became a lot more ‘active’ between the shafts.
The gravel was loud and there was a lot of drag on the cart. I could feel Chroi really getting into the harness and pulling. She skittered a bit about a third of the way down so I started to gently ask for her attention by doing light half-passes back and forth.
I’m so pleased, because although Chroi was clearly uncomfortable and tense in this new situation, she remained attentive and stayed at the walk. Her header- our trainer and moral support extraordinaire, Casi- and I kept a plan handy for potential shenanigans but we also kept on with confidence in order to give Chroi confidence. What I’m most pleased about is that I felt like Chroi trusted us, and that is a valuable and necessary thing in a driving horse that we’ve gently cultivated for the past months. I fully believe that many of the issues we’ve had have come about because I lacked confidence and therefore wasn’t able to be trusted.
It sounds silly in a way, but it’s what it is. A driving horse has to have some measure of trust in its human in order to move forward while essentially blinded and being “chased” by a metal and/or wooden horse-eating death trap. And a driver has to be worthy of that trust.
Chroi worked hard today physically pulling our little cart through deep, thick gravel; and mentally, fighting against her instincts to spook and putting her training to the test. It was a wonderful way to stretch our wings a bit.