You put it on..........no you put it on........no you put it on!
Those are the words that ran through my head after I first removed my new harness from the bag it came in. I sat staring at this spaghetti works pile of leather at my feet and I wondered where do I start? It can't be that terribly hard to put this apparatus on, people have been doing it for 100's of years. I am a relatively smart person, I can figure this out. Really!?
I am fortunate that my horse is patient. It took me about 90 minutes to put this "thing" together the first time I used it. I am a rider and I believe less is more.....a harness has way more "things" to it than I thought necessary.
I put on the surcingle first and then I toyed with the girth and loops and multiple straps for attaching it to my horse's body. What strap is supposed to be tight and what strap should be left loose? Then there is the breast collar, which is absolutely useless if you are just ground driving. Then there is the breeching straps and the crouper....again, more useless leather. But my thoughts were that my horse should get used to all this "stuff", but how? If I have no cart to pull, where do you attach all this extra stuff! With the blinker bridle on, Casper could not see all the crap drapping down his body...if he did see it, I am sure I would get a look of "WTH Mom!".
We spent the fall together at this "Harness Thing", he has dragged a lot of stuff and he is getting good at listening to me. I have him on a rubber bit for now, 'cause I am just not sure what I am doing. I do get instructions now and then from my Judge friend who has driven horses. She comes over as I am, do we still say "tacking up?".........and tells me what I am doing wrong and how to fit the harness properly and what piece of leather does what. I can now "harness" Casper in less than 15 minutes and we work for about an hour. I can drive him from behind or from either side. He is staying put on the track he is on and is no longer trying to "huddle" up to me when we drive. When I am behind him (thank goodness he has a cute butt, I wonder what folks who drive with ugly butted horses look at?) he moves out nicely, trots on voice command and turns left and right in a smooth and slow manner. At first, it was very awkward and thank you lord I do not have a cart yet, 'cause it could be quite scary when your horse gets confused during the learning stage! I am sure if I had a horse that knew nothing I would be getting "dragging" instead of "driving"! Yep, beginners need to learn harness driving with a quiet and safe horse. I am sure that as I progress with this new discipline that we both will get more comfortable with it, but for now, we are still in the learning stage and I am grateful Casper is easy to work with.
My first cart is just around the corner and man, people will sell you anything! People will build anything and attach it to their horse. I have a friend who I have sent photos of carts I think might work for Casper and I, and she puts the kabash on them. Then there are some that even I wouldn't attach to a horse. Metal shafts are OK, but wood is better. Nice seating and a platform are great too, but a little suspension would be good. Balance is also important, a cart that is heavy on the shafts is not going to be comfy for the horse and then you don't want the cart to also be light on the shafts, threatening to flip your horse upwards.
So, there is a lot to this driving business. With winter coming, visions of that one horse open sleigh have taken on new meaning for me. I no longer think Santa and snow fairies, I think smooth long turns and quiet easy stops.
I am going to have to get some photos taken of Casper and I while we are "working out". He is going to make a very cute driving horse, he has good knee action and a nice determined "get there" expression on his face!
(I wrote this last fall, then winter hit. And winter hit us hard! So no cart then, but stay tuned, I have my own sweet training cart now and I will blog about it soon!)