Nightingale is my five-year-old Morgan filly. She is very friendly, but has a mind of her own. She has not been as easy to train as my gelding, Mr. Smith (Rogue Hill's Skybird). Mr. Smith will do anything I ask him once I figure out how to ask. He jumps, pulls logs, pulls a cart, trailrides, herds sheep... whatever. Mr. Smith is 14 and I hope that Nightingale will be able to take over his many tasks when he is too old to do them. But she has not been so easy to deal with. By the time he was four, Mr. Smith was pulling a cart, pulling logs, etc.. He is very smart and very willing. Granted, he was my only horse when he was young and I spent a great deal of time with him. Night has not had so much time spent with her. But... she also has a different personality. She wants constant attention, but on her terms. And she's a bit, well, excitable.
Yesterday, in the lovely afternoon sunshine after my chores were done, I rode Mr. Smith briefly in the arena, working on keeping a consistent outside rein connection, a bugaboo for me. If I do my part correctly, he bends correctly and stays on the bit. If I don't, he doesn't. We're getting better. Or, I should say, I'm getting better which allows him to be better.
Then I groomed the filthy dirty Night and worked a bit on her very long, thick, wavy... and tangled mane and tail. Night is a big girl. My training surcingle does not go around her broad girth... so I used the Wintec dressage girth on the surcingle, put one of my driving bridles on her (which fits her nicely, thank goodness) and ground drove her. I have been riding her but would really like to teach her to drive so I could hitch her with Mr. Smith as a team. I wanted to get her used to the feel of reins across her rump. That turned out to be no problem. Then I let her loose in the arena and pulled the training cart out. Problem. She was terrified of it.
I spent much time walking around the arena, pulling the cart behind me while she spent much time running away from me and my cart. Johnny came out and asked if Night was training me to pull a cart. Eventually, Night calmed and put her head down to eat grass. It was rather boring standing behind her so I asked Johnny to lead her while I followed. I wanted her to get used to having the cart move when she did and stop when she did. That went pretty well... after a spell of dragging Johnny faster than he wanted to go.
Next time, I'll fasten our home-made drag to her and get her used to pulling something (me). Each step with Nightingale seems to take an age. But I suppose that is just in comparison to Mr. Smith. He was never worried about the cart and never really had to learn to pull... I just hooked him up and off we went. He spoiled me.
Nightingale is teaching me patience, which I've not needed with Mr. Smith. Night's mother, Jessie Anne, teaches me yet other things. Jessie Anne is much too tall to team with Mr. Smith, so I have not tried to hitch her. Unlike her daughter, Jessie Anne is very sensitive to touch. Hypersensitive. Rather than give a half halt before asking for anything, I have to just breathe in and out deeply. That's enough to set her "Omigoodness what's happening" nerves into overdrive. If I used the same half halt and whoa signal on her that I use on Mr. Smith... or Nightingale, she'd stop so abruptly I'd fly over her head. Each horse is different and they each have lessons for me. Working through each of their idiosyncrasies will teach me to be a better rider and trainer. I keep telling myself that as I gnash my teeth over how long it takes to get anywhere with Nightingale.
But oh the satisfaction there will be on the day when my team of Morgans is happily walking down the lane, pulling the buckboard or a brace of logs... or a lovely buggy that I might buy if I had a team to pull it... But, one step at a time...