When I started this blog for the Fraser School of Driving I thought it would be a great way for students to leave comments about their experiences at the school and as a way to show off some of our new horses and other activities. Hopefully our students will use this as positive feedback.
Jeff comes to us from Wyoming. He travels a lot for his job and when he has time off or is close to Deer Lodge , Montana he takes a few more lessons.
He pointed out that I have not been posting to the blog very much lately. He told me he checks it often and it has been a long time since I posted anything new. So, I said – “ok then…, the next one will be about you!” So here goes!
This is Jeff’s third week in a year’s time. It is difficult – no impossible – to teach enough in one week for most people to be efficient in driving. If someone has been driving for many years, we can help to refine what they do and become a better driver. But if some one comes for their first experience driving horses – it is wise to come back as often a possible so we can build on their knowledge and experience.
I didn’t realize until I looked for older photos, that it was almost exactly a year ago when Jeff came for his first week of lessons – October 2010. He drove Benson and Navigator, a nice pair of horses that really gave him a challenge his first day. Jeff learned you have to work at this and not just hold the lines in your hands.
He must have figured it was not too much work and there was an element of fun involved in driving horses, because Jeff came back again for another week in April. 2011. I couldn’t find any photos of Jeff driving the second week – but I made up for it on his most recent visit – because he raked me over the coals for not updating my post more often – here is his reward – or Pay back!
Last spring he drove Nikko and Maverick and wanted to continue his lessons this week with the same horses – I think he likes them!
You may wonder why Jeff is sitting on the left side of the carriage instead of the proper position on the right. Its because he has not graduated yet to be in control of the brakes. We learned a long time ago – that if a student does not know how to use the brakes – it is best not to allow them access to them. You can dump a carriage pretty fast if things go wrong – and people need to learn that brakes are NOT a Whoa mechanism. They are used to assist the horses when coming down hill; also as a reminder to stand still when you stop; and they can help the groom bump the carriage around a tight turn in the Marathon phase of a CDE (Combined Driving Event). But we won’t get into that, now.
Jeff is getting more comfortable with the reins/lines and with the horses. Alex also prefers sitting in the wedge seat. We like for the students to feel comfortable with the lines/reins and have good contact with their horses before we show them the nuances of using a buggy whip. Many people think a whip is a cruel and sever tool of punishment – but if you know how to use one properly – it is just an extension of your hands and legs. If you were sitting on the back of a horse, you use your legs as an aid in turning your riding horse – but when you sit on a carriage seat – the legs don’t help, so you can use a buggy whip to help teach your horses to bend. It can also be used in many other ways but this post is not a training blog and I won’t go there. We don’t use it abusively – is all you need to know.
Jeff finally admitted to us after this trip to the field that he was able to relax more when he was not on the road.
Alex gave him the chance to play for a while in the wide open field.
Then he graduated Jeff to move up to the wedge seat on the right of the carriage. The horses look back to see what was going on…
Feeling a little more confident with their driver and the driver (Jeff) feeling the freedom of the open road…. I mean the open field. He took his first solo drive – alone on the carriage.
He pointed the horses to the horizon and drove off feeling the wind in his face and the horses in his hands. He told me later that he was ready for this solo and he felt that he was really in control.
He walked the horses and then put them into a trot – then brought them back down to a walk. He took them close to the fence line and back out into the field.
Since he was doing so well, Alex put out some cones so Jeff could test his skills guiding the horses between a narrow obstacle or two. In a CDE advance level the cones are only about two inches wider than the wheels of the carriage. But we don’t make our students do that in the beginning – we give them more room.
This exercise is very helpful no matter what kind of driving you want to do. If you only want to pleasure drive – some day you may have to drive between two trees, two rocks, two cars, two ruts… and you will appreciate this chance to practice where to put your horses and carriage without running over something.
Even if you do run over a cone (as Jeff admitted he did) not to worry, even the best world drivers will do the same at some time or the other.
Jeff is learning how to bend the horses on a turn and to line up for the next set of cones. Alex is on the back in position of the groom or navigator.
Alex also gives Jeff the chance to figure out the course by himself and to watch the way he handles the horses.
No, Alex is NOT trying to catch the horses – he is running to catch a ride. Jeff told me I’d better not use this last photo – otherwise he would leave a comment on the blog… so I found that to be a challenge! It’s up to you now – Jeff!!!