Once I started working with horses during my Southern stay, it seemed like everyone I knew had them, and that everyone who had horses knew each other, as well.
The whole driving lesson shenanigans started with Bonnie, who knows my family. For years, I heard she had horses, so I sheepishly approached her for a recommendation for horse driving or riding. Imagine if I hadn't! She's the one who recommended Mr. Pete. Mr. Pete knew my friend Kira, a friend of mine from the dance world, who has a horse and a mule. Kira knew Marcy, with the black Percheron. They also knew Keely, a horse farrier and trainer, who I would also be meeting. And so it went, on and on....
Suddenly, it seemed like it was six degrees of separation from one horse person to the next and yes, indeedy, there suddenly were horses, horses, everywhere. I'd seen more horseflesh in the span of that month than I did in my entire life. Not that I minded, but it kinda makes you think about how much easier this little project of mine would be if--say, I LIVED around here. I mean, this much equine presence would not be happening in the concrete jungle of the city.
In the meantime, there were horses to enjoy one's company with....
Here is Excalibur. He is Bonnie's behemoth Draft/Thoroughbred cross. He's also a PMU baby that was shipped to safety from Canada.
Here is Bonnie's newest addition, Dixie:
Bonnie's mare Star is fine mother of this pixie legged trouble-maker. Don't let that sweet face fool you, she's all mischief!
Besides general horsing-around, there were still lessons to be had, and before I left Florida, I was treated to not one, but TWO days in a row of horse driving curriculum.
The first would actually be the last--I was to meet with Miss Charley, Mr. Pete's wife, for the last in a series of our horse driving lessons. I had grown fond of my teachers, and respected their no-nonsense way of horsemanship. By now, I had experienced some of the pitfalls, and triumphs or riding in this little chariot, and while I knew I was far from being a pro at driving a horse and buggy, I felt more proficient, and definitely more comfortable at that stint.
With each lesson, I was given a little more to do by Charley, and the last lesson proved that rule: she placed a few orange street cones out as a sort of obstacle course for myself and my little charger, Princess the mini-horse (*note: I have been thoroughly corrected by Charley in that I called Princess a pony in my previous post on this story. She would be correct; there are enough differences in the species to classify horses and ponies as different. In other words, Princess IS a very small horse, and that post has been corrected to clarify this).
By now, Princess seemed more used to working with us. For my part, I had gone from someone basically contorting their upper body to get any sort of response from the horse when turning or stopping was required, to a slightly better, slight-of-hand and wrist action. This were the appropriate measures one SHOULD take when attempting to use the lines to communicate with the horse, but I was still raw, still learning.
The cones were not TOO difficult, though at times Princess was basically sidestepping to get around the tight formations that Charley had us do. It was good to be aware to not only angle the horse so that it cleared the obstacle, but also the CART, as this was wider than the horse. We also went around the property a few times, at various paces, so I could become more and more familiar with various driving conditions, and what to do when it all didn't go well (although it did for this round). Overall, I feel like I become a more confident, more aware driver, though I know this is an ongoing story that I must revisit...which I would be doing the very next day, when I would meet Keely Bass, a farrier and friend of Kira's, who was a friend of mine...who was a friend of Mr. Pete, and Charley...well, you get the picture.
In the meantime, Marcy and Bob Grant, had come by and were kind enough to video tape and photograph some of the horse lessons, and so I'll share one with you! Enjoy!
Up next...more of the story, and an update on the Beyond Vagabond Project!