Notes on Morgen’s Driving Training

By June 13, 2014 Horses

IMG_0050Klaus said that you get what you expect. If you expect nothing to go wrong, it won’t. He so fully believes in the horse and the human, we start to believe it’ll be all right too. He calls Morgen docile. He has said that I did two things right. One was to buy her. The second was to decide not to sell her.  And sell her, well I almost did a year ago.

H142786She and Tessie were fighting to injury. Every time I tried to work with her she hassled me.  Several trainers, a vet, my riding buddies, all confirmed I should sell. Think of the horse. Don’t put any more money into her. Just cut your losses.

But Bruce saw my tears and said, You are not selling her. You can’t bear it. A friend of a friend said don’t you dare sell that horse. She is very bonded to you. She loves you. You don’t get that every day. The old saying, this horse could hurt me, melted because I realized she had not. Our relationship changed. I saw, I saw, I saw that while she seemed unpredictable to me, I’d been unpredictable to her.

We started driving training last fall and picked it up again this spring over in Freeport, with Klaus Biesenthal, who believes in making friends with your horse.  And I am amazed at how she likes this work, how she will throw herself into the harness going up a hill. She has started to swing her hips instead of dogging it. But then again Klaus said I could continue my positive reinforcement work because it’s how I will work with her at home. I have shown him how she will back into the shafts. She has settled enough so her sides have lightened, she has started neighing again, there is bounce in her walk.

Yesterday a kid let lovely German Shepherds loose in our field. They swooped up to us. Though Morgen looked, she kept walking, kept her head. The other day Klaus threw a rock in the weeds and Morgen jumped so hard she lifted the front end of the carriage off the ground. She startled in place and settled back to an ear flopping walk. Klaus says I am a cool customer. But what I like about driving is that she doesn’t smell the fear on my breath. What I like is that I don’t feel her fear shooting up through my body. I can speak peace to her. I can breathe. I can think what to do.

IMG_0001This mare listens so well, she is moving off my voice into a trot and into a whoa. She will turn right and she will turn left when I speak the words. We are good friends, I tell you. If positive reinforcement training did nothing else, it made us friends. It gave us a conversation while she grew up.

Klaus is pleased with my reflexes, but those come with practice from riding Tessie, from flinching when the wind catches a branch. They come from watching the smallest sign of a startle.

We’re teaching Morgen to follow her nose and I’m learning half halts on the outside rein and holding her to the inside rein so she walks straight. I give slack when she walks straight. It’s not often I am this good at something, without hard, tear filled work. I can feel myself relax as I lean back against the seat.

IMG_0059He says she is the perfect horse for me, a horse he would trust with his life. And so I will trust mine to her and hers to me.  I think about the old words that offer ointment for blindness, and how I have begged to see straight. Thank God I waited until my fear cleared and Morgen settled.

She is a whole different horse than last year–calm, happy. I’m told I’ve done something right. Both of us are drawing confidence from Klaus, liking this work, listening to the creak of the carriage like God’s footsteps on wood.

 

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