Archive for the 'Driving Training' Category

Carriage Dogs and Straighter Lines

amywink February 18th, 2013


Lily is making swift progress in her work as my carriage dog and this weekend, we had a good drive together again while I worked on straight lines with Blessing. She has decided that lying across or under my feet is really most comfortable and she is now sleeping during most of the drive with little issue.


She is now waiting quietly tethered to the carriage while I harness (not while I hook–we are safe). Look how nicely she waits here!


For a 10 month old dog, she’s doing miraculously well with all of her training and duties.

Her reward (aside from being with me, which is her Life’s Dream) is a happy romp with Cookie, who now is very eager for our visits.

Lily’s improved carriage ethic has made working on driving more possible and this Sunday I was very pleased with our work on straight lines. Though I could see my tracks in the dry soil of the arena, I couldn’t tell how well we’d done until I looked at my GPS tracks. Granted, the GPS unit is not on Blessing’s bridle but the carriage went straight! and these lines are greatly improved from our last attempt at straight lines


I can tell that we have a little terrain issue on some of our lines because we keep having a wobble at the same place…a place where there’s a noticeable dip in the terrain. We’ll work on that as well but so far, I ‘m quite pleased with this progress. We only have a short drive, just 30 minutes, but even short workouts can be productive. I also worked on myself more, fixing my eyes on a focus point at the end of my line and keeping my hands quiet when Blessing moved correctly into line. I am still working on my hands and keeping the light contact that works for her.

Last Day

amywink December 31st, 2012

On this last day of 2012, here is my list of Best Things of 2012, in no particular order:

Great American Dog Trip
Riding Lessons
Riding Will
Driving Circles
Riding BB
Learning to drive Blessing’s light mouth
Fall Morgan Horse Show
Grand Champion Morgan Mare
Driving with the sleigh bells.
Saturdays at Francine’s
Driving Friends

Sleigh Bells Ring

amywink December 16th, 2012


Blessing and I had our first belled drive this weekend, on her “Commencement Day”. These bells were created by Jim Dingman at Lignite Leather and Bells. They are a graduated set of harness bells, designed to hang underneath the horse’s belly but we have them on the way they fit best on Blessing and the carriage. There are 21 bells on this strap, three #8 bells, eight #6 bells and ten #4 bells. I’d originally bought them for Will before Blessing came into our lives but they sound perfect on her and she was perfect in them.


The videos do not quite capture the delightful sound of the bells in the open air but it does give you an idea of the sound and how it changes with her gait.

Francine is driving while I man the iPhone for the video. I drove her earlier and she was spectacular.

Making Strides

amywink November 18th, 2012


It has been a very busy 2 weeks since my last post. I’ve manage to breach the plateau I had been on for a while and have made significant strides with both Lily and Blessing –and Lily and Blessing together (more on that in a minute!).

First of all, Lily has had a great deal of fun in the last two weeks. Her progress on her “slide adventures” has been phenomenal and she has manage to teach herself how to go up the slide as well as down the slide.

She has also learned “over” and she is now working on (in dog class) learning to zip through the agility tunnel (gonna have to invest in one of those. it’s too much fun!)

At the beginning of November, Lily got invited to the barn to visit while a clinic was going on. She behaved very well in her public appearance and I used the opportunity to work with her on her “barn behavior”. She watched the clinic very quietly from the sidelines, showing herself to be a very well behaved dog when it came to being around horses and she listened quietly to the discussion of whip-handling as well.


We took a few breaks to check out Blessing in her stall–she had the day off–and Lily worked on being inside the barn while I did other things.

This is all important work for her and I was very pleased to see her progress!

Last weekend, I made my own strides with Blessing, finally making a breakthrough in the amount of contact she needs to respond correct. We’d been having some issues with counterbending in her turns. I had been using what I felt was very light contact but since we’d switched to my leather reins, that amount of contact turned out to be fairly heavy (for her). Last week, during my Friday lesson, I learned that instead of a slight movement of my hand, all I needed to do was squeeze the rein between my fingers without moving my hand at all. It’s about the same amount of pressure I’d use to hold a pencil.

The change in Blessing was dramatic and we manage to turn each corner perfectly bent. I’m working now on my consistency and maintaining the light contact at the trot as well as the walk–Blessing is doing fabulous with the change and I feel like I’ve made a huge breakthrough with the contact using the leather reins. I was able to have back-to-back lessons on Friday and Saturday to cement the new contact level with her and this led us to adding a new element to my driving life: a carriage dog. With Francine’s guidance, we began introducing Lily to riding up front so that by the time Blessing comes home (in a month), I’ll have a carriage dog who can ride along with ease.

So, for our first ride up front, Francine drove Blessing while I managed Lily, helping her learn to balance herself on the moving carriage. After a bit of adjustment, she settled right into place.

Is this a happy dog?


And this week, we kicked it up a notch. I drove and Lily sat in her soon to be regular place. We are going to have to work out a few details but after a little confusion, she rode like a professional.


Getting to Good

amywink October 29th, 2012


October has been a difficult month. I haven’t been able to keep a regular schedule and accomplishing anything beyond the immediate emergency has proved very difficult. My own schedule has not coincided with any one else’s so I’ve had a rough time getting out to see Will for about the last 6 months. Blessing has all his driving stuff too so I can’t drive him at this moment. Lily needs work, Blessing needs work, Will needs work. The house needs work and yet everything seems to disrupt what I want to do and my motivation disappears into vapor. I admit to being stuck in the depressive mire of “this will never work!!”

As much as I have worked with Lily, she needs more work and I fret about how I will manage to create the dog I imagine she can be. She is currently having a few issues with “frustration management”, particularly when she can tell I am leaving to do something and that makes me a little frustrated, especially when she yanks up the new iris bulbs I planted and races around the yard playing keep-away. I have now built a heavy wire cage to surround the irises and am working on keeping her focused on other yard play. My own frustration management needs work too.

Of course, she’s just 6 months old and she is actually doing really well, as I can see when we go to dog class and compare her to other dogs. She’s quite sound sensitive but she’s not aggressive or barky and she does calm down when we do calming exercises–down, etc. So the problem really lies with me.

Dang it.

So this week, I have tried to do a few things differently. I’ve tried to give her new exciting things to try–thus keeping her mentally active as well as physically active. We’ve gone to the neighborhood park, where she has greeted children and parents very well and learned that playground equipment is fun and enjoyable, not frightening.

She barked at the swinging babies the first time, but overcame her uncertainty with the second visit. She’s learned to love the slide–as her video attests–and this morning even actually *slid* down it on her belly, rather than run down it. She’s done a good job of “down/stay” for a few minutes on the basketball court too.
Though we are having issues with breaking the stay after about 3 seconds.

But these are all pretty simple training sessions. I have been fretting and fretting about how to manage Lily at Taipan Station. How to manage her and the TS Pack? How to manage to get Will in the pasture and how to manage to deal with dog and horse at the same time. Fret, fret, fret….. (sounds like “can’t can’t can’t)…..


But the weather was nice yesterday and I decided there wasn’t any other way to get her trained to do what I wanted than to train her myself and it wasn’t going to happen unless I actually got started. Will is my best bet, of course, because he’s such a good horse, quiet and tolerant and already trained–unlike Blessing, he likes dogs and has always liked dogs– so, time for Uncle Will to train his canine niece how to act around horses.

We headed out to TS and started our work. Thankfully, Will came up when I whistled and so we were able to go into the pasture close to the barn. Lily did well with “with me” and both Will and Windy just looked curiously at Lily, who was pretty excited on her end of the leash. We got back to the Standing Tree with little issue, though Lily was a little unnerved by the clomping noise Will made behind her as we walked over the concrete pad by the stable.

Then came the hard part for Lily: tethering. I used the lead rope around the tree and her leash attached to the harness by the handy ring at the end of the lease.

Now, this was by no means cruel. I was about 2 or 3 feet from her but she needed to be stationary and controlled. She also has to work in “frustration management” but I think you can see her concern from this photo.


Now this is not concern that there’s a very large animal near her. It’s concern that I am very near the large animal and not near her!! But eventually, after not getting what she wanted through a series of antics–whining, standing on her hind legs, whining, standing on her hind legs—she eventually decided that she could lie down while I brushed Will.
and since it wasn’t really that exciting, she might could even sniff around a bit while I brushed him.

She was rewarded with the discovery of horse hoof trimmings, a canine delicacy!!

Will was a very good boy and just watched her sleepily mostly of the time, and curiously some of the time.

He even let her get really close and didn’t offer to move or anything, not a flinch, not a step, nothing. He’s going to be quite the helper in my training of Lily and it’s going to be him who I use on her first carriage ride in the driver’s seat.


It looks like we’re on our way. Whew.

And Congratulations go out to Lily’s Aunt Alice (Avedonn’s Ruby Slippers) who finished her Championship this Saturday in Ohio!!

- Next »