We had an Introduction to Driving clinic at Infinity Farm last weekend. It was a fun group ready for a new experience. Our schoolmaster donkey-boys taught the clinic, along with me and Lisa.
Participants asked my favorite question about driving. “What do you do if you have a runaway?” The traditional answer, passed down from generations of teamsters, is enjoy the ride.
I had a decent runaway when Ernest and I were still green. There was an explosion of sound behind us, and we bolted down a narrow alley. As the wind whistled past my ears, I remember a pristine feeling of being out of control that was pure as an air raid siren. No reason to grab the bit and panic him more, perhaps flipping the cart and injuring both of us. Nothing to do but stay focused and trust him to come back.
I am not sure if a driver is more helpless in a runaway than a rider, or if it just feels that way from the cart. After a breath or two he did come back- to generous praise. A few moments after that we were entering the show ring.
It’s a crazy, unpredictable world. At the same time, each half of the partnership is getting better or worse with each ride/drive. The best insurance is a strong foundation of consistent training and trust. Training is a on-going conversation with our equines, hopefully resulting in a tendency towards improvement.
Our tendency improves by being consistent in small things. Taking the time to train good ground manners shows patience and respect on both sides. Requiring a cheerful response to the aids on a quiet day increases the amount of responsiveness that will carry over in a challenging situation. Dealing with fear issues when they are small is a safer, easier time to let our equine know they can trust us to lead well.
Consistency is a kindness that’s easy for an equine to understand; knowing their parameters relieves stress and relaxes a horse or donkey. It works on their humans too.
Maintaining standards when they don’t seem necessary is the easiest way to have them when you really need them.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu
Any runaway begins with a single step, too. It is our decision which direction that energy will take us.
Meet Hobbit- a young rescue pony from RRHR. He is here with me to begin his training journey. He isn’t very confident right now, but I am preparing him to save a life one day.
In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the ride.
Anna, Infinity Farm.