Monday, May 16, 2011

Back-Seat Driver

Back when there was snow on the ground (not that long ago for some of us!!), I carried a sleigh bell in my coat pocket. Every time Gem would trot, you could hear its musical jingle. It was just loud enough to be heard and add some seasonal ambiance, but not too loud to be annoying. LA liked the sound and commented how it made her smile.

After a mention of the bell during one of our lessons, our conversation snow balled (pardon the pun!) into talking about the Canadian Horse and how versatile the breed is. It is a tough and hardy horse and was used for everything from pulling logs, farming, carriages and pleasure riding. The Canadian Horse is one of the strongest breeds and "has more power per hundred pounds of body weight than horses of any other breed" according to the Canadian Horse Breeders Association. Well, it certainly feels like that to me when Gem is resisting my request!! :-)

LA: He looks like black velvet against the white snow. I could see him pulling a sleigh with bells on the harness.
Me: Yeah, I could so see that!
LA: He's from GL's breeding farm, isn't he?
Me: Yes. Cool, eh?
LA: I am sure Gem would be started to pleasure drive if he came from GL's.
Me: (eyes widening) Really????
LA: You should find out.
Me: I could sit in a little red would have to be a red sleigh to match Gem's black coat....with a black and red checked blanket across my lap and maybe ear! my mohair beret! I would wear my "Marlboro Man" coat with gloves and go up and down the road waving at people as we go by and .....
LA: Whoa!! Wait a minute!!! Slow down! First, you need to find out if he can drive before you start planning your sleighing outfit and accessories!
Me: Of course! (to myself) Geez, that LA sure knows how to be a joy sucker....

So, I immediately contacted GL and sure enough he starts all of his horses under saddle and for pleasure driving. How cool is that?!!! Wow! Gem is trained to pull a cart! When I asked what I could do to re-familiarize Gem, GL suggested that I contact the local driving club and attend a clinic. He told me that it wouldn't take long to get Gem used to a harness, but the most important thing was that I would have to "put the miles on". I did contact the local group, but no one got back to me. :-( The thought of Gem pulling a sleigh melted with the snow.

I had my 2nd anniversary lunch with STA a couple of weeks ago. During our sometimes loud, boisterous, belly-laugh 5-hour luncheon, I mentioned Gem being trained to drive. STA immediately mentioned Brenda, the mother of one of the girls that has a horse boarded at LA's. Brenda has minis and has trained all of them to pleasure drive and competes with them!! What a stroke of luck.

Brenda happened to be at the stables on Sunday and I asked her for some hints on how to re-familiarize Gem with driving. One thing led to another, and she has offered to bring out some equipment that we can use on Gem!!! Cool, eh? I know what you are thinking....minis, could any of her equipment fit at 1300 lb. horse. Well, apparently we will be starting with really long reins attached to a bridle and running on either side of Gem's body with one person leading and the other walking behind him and steering him, using verbal commands, to reacquaint Gem with the concept. Initially, there were a lot of raised eyebrows from some of the other boarders when I used verbal commands with Gem (walk, wait, back, stand, whoa, come), but now I am glad I stuck with it! I think it will be quite easy to re-introduce "Gee" (right) and "Haw" (left) to him.

There's more! Brenda's best friend and neighbour has four Canadians that she competes with!! Brenda has offered to introduce me. Sadly, this friend may have to downsize soon. This may be an opportunity for me because she may be willing to part with some equipment that is already fit to a Canadian horse. :-) Gem + driving was meant to be, I think. What a great option to keep His Smartness on the ball and engaged. I will definitely keep you guys updated. You never know..... he and I may have driving or sleighing in our future!!

My Husband rolled his eyes when I told him about the potential additional equipment - in fact, he said "wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy a snowboard and have Gem pull you??" Ha, ha,...funny man....ha, ha. But, the way I look at it is that it may be an absolutely required expense to keep Gem happy and bored-free. Right? Right?....Work with me here...!

What was I thinking....?


  1. Of course, it's the only way to go to keep Gem un-bored in the winter months. And how cute would you look in your red sleigh and mohair cap and Gem in a shiny harness with bells that jingle-jangle-jingle.

    But let's not mention winter again just yet, what were you thinking...?

  2. GHM - LOL! I cracked up with your winter comment. Sorry!!

  3. I want to have a horse that drives one day! Hubby's grandpa used to have driving horses so he's got everything i'd ever need to get started. From the harneses to little pony carts to cutter sleighs and even a great big horse drawn grain wagon. I was eying up a little single passenger sulky cart the last time we were up at the farm.
    Maybe you'll have to get a little cart to practice with in the summer months too!

  4. GTR - Wow, if you have the equipment, you should do it!! :-) Brenda says she has a cart that we may be able to use! So, yes, I am hoping to be able to have Gem harnessed up and practicing through the summer.

  5. Two winters ago my dad's landlord built us a sleigh and we spent the winter cruising around in it. Last summer he built us a wagon, but he finished just before it snowed so we haven't been able to use it yet. I absolutly love being in the sleigh. I'm too chicken to go riding most days in winter (I can't help it, I get way too cold sitting in the saddle) I would never pass up a chance to go in the sleigh.

    It's a great way to keep him entertained and in shape during the winter. And Canadians are great for it. They're strong so pulling is no problem for it, and they usually have the right attitude for it.

    The thought of winter makes me want to cry's only been two weeks since our snow melted, and since May long is coming up...we're all expecting more.

  6. I had a friend years ago in my old horsey life who had Canadians which she used for driving. They looked so beautiful in harness!

  7. Cjay - You only got rid of your snow TWO weeks ago???!! Good grief, what province do you live in? :-) Cool that you ride in a sleigh regularly.

    Story - I have only seen pictures of Canadians with carts. Looking forward to seeing the real thing. :-)

  8. Oh what fun...
    it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!

  9. I have a couple of sleigh bells on L's saddle. It's mostly to let the wildlife know we're coming on the trail but it's very charming in the wintertime.

    I recall reading somewhere that Canadian Horses were highly prized stagecoach horses in the middle of the 19th century.

    One of the reasons the breed became endangered was because they were so extensively crossbred towards the end of the 19th century. At one point they were almost exclusively crossbred and the purebred bloodlines almost disappeared.

    Have you driven at all? Driving is tons of fun! I'd love to teach L to drive.

    You're in for a real treat if you take up driving.

  10. Dreaming - :-)

    ltd - I have read that too, that the Canadian was prized as a stagecoach horse because of its endurance. And yes, they have almost become extinct a few times. They were crossbred and the Morgan, Tennessee Walker and Standardbred horses all carry Canadian blood. One of the biggest impacts on the breed was the American Civil War. Because they of their strength, endurance and being easy keepers, thousands and thousands were shipped to the U.S. to become horses of war. Pure bred numbers were depleted and recovery was slow. No, I have never driven or even been in a cart or sleigh! :-)

  11. Haha, yeah. I'm out west and when Hades was born, there was snow everywhere. A week later when Artemis was born, there was less snow, but we still had some on the ground. We thought winter was never ending, and like I said, with May long coming up, we'll probably get more. It always snows on May long.

  12. Cjay - We can have rough winters where I am in Ontario, but we got rid of our snow mid-April! I hope your long weekend does not include snow!! :-)

  13. Oh yes! I can so see you in your red ensemble; doesn't LA realise a gal's gotta plan?! ;o)
    Sounds like a fantastic plan though, especially as Gem's already been trained to drive and with all these people seemingly lining up to help, it does sound like it was meant to be.
    Btw, your hubby's comment sounds just the sort of smart-alecky thing my hubby would say!

  14. Im so excited for you!!! Sounds like your going to have fun.

  15. My father has a canadian stallion here in Oregon. His horse was champion in Oregon for driving (in his class) last year. Definitely get Gem driving. It is a lot of fun ( you can take friends) and Canadians shine as driving horses!

  16. Joy - It's all about the glam!! ;-) Re My Husband, we have been together 25 years and he still cracks me up!

    JPS - Thanks! I am hoping that Brenda and I can connect soon and start some exercises.

    Hello Anonymous - Welcome! Wow, a champion at driving?! Cool! I am very excited about getting Gem involved with this, even if its just to take a cart or sleigh around the property. He's smart and likes a challenge!

  17. Ooh, do it, do it, do it!!!

    Now, for some reason, I also want to carry bells around in my pockets.

    "Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes."

  18. Shannon - LOL! I am excited!

  19. Sounds like fun for you and Gem!

  20. I am hoping so, Detroit Dog! :-)

  21. Hi Wolfie, thanks for reading my blog! I am so glad I came accross your blog! I started reading from the beginning last night until the wee hours of the morning. I have been contemplating alot about getting "back in the saddle" again and waffling back and forth about it for quite some time, I'm staring square in the eye at 49 and figured I was too old. Well, you have inspired me greatly! My financial situation is extremely tight right now, however, there is a barn not too far from here that works with disadvatanged/disabled kids and because of you I'm going to inquire about volunteering there. They need the help, and I figure that will be a good start, I am so out of shape it's not funny. I haven't ridden in 25 years, but before that, horses were a very important part of my life and I truly miss it. The kids are gone, the husband had his own "mid life crisis" and is gone, so I figure, why not! The world works in mysterious ways! Thank you! Gem is a gorgeous animal, and he seemsd like a great fit, I hope some day to be so lucky.

  22. Hi Mary! Wow, I am blushing! :-) Do it! Get horses back into your life! Volunteer at that barn. You won't regret it.

  23. Sounds like a fantastic idea Wolfie. I'm excited and its not even me who's thinking about doing it!

  24. I know, Jooles! Crazy, eh?!

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