Yesterday at Frying Pan Park, I witnessed a horse pulling a red wagon spook. Now I understand why the Driving forum is so rabid –no offense!- about obedience, whoa, and calmness.
The horse had someone walking at its head. The helmeted driver was seated on the right with an empty wheelchair fixed on the left. It was a warm, sunny day at a public park so there was plenty to see: families strolling with loud young kids, livestock, trailered-in riders, agility trial teams dashing in and out of a building, and farm ed program for kids. The team was walking across the parking lot when the horse spooked.
I heard the noise so looked up. Horse was running across the graveled lot toward a group of barns and arenas. Header was running after them shouting whoa. When they hit grass, the wagon bucked and caught air, seeming to hang mid-air for 20 seconds. I thought for sure the driver would be ejected. I don’t know how they managed to NOT hit a row of large rocks that divided the parking lot from the grass.
Then the chestnut & flaxen horse turned around to face the parking lot -perhaps to see what scared it- and again I don’t know how they managed a U-turn in tight quarters coming from speed, a rocking wagon, and a slight downhill grade.
I got to see why you COTH drivers are the way you are about safety and brakes. (I’m not saying the team did anything wrong. I don’t know.)
Last edited by Bicoastal; Mar. 11, 2013 at 04:04 PM.
Reason: brakes mean whoa aids, not mechanical cart brakes
Glad to hear it ended well! Or appears to have, since there were no gory details of bad things.
Brakes won't stop a spook or runaway, but they can help steady a vehicle for a moment, while horse pauses to do Step 2 in starting to run. That is the helpful part, using brakes as an Aid. They are not automobile brakes, will NOT dead-stop a carriage the horse is trying to run with!!
This is where all the OTHER parts of training the equine are going to save you if it is possible. Good basics solidly established, obedience to the commands of VOICE and reins, TRUST in their driver.
I have never used brakes to try to slow a bolting horse- horses can easily drag a vehicle with the wheels locked up- adding that sort of strain to a system intended to roll is just asking for other things to start cracking and breaking.
What role brakes do sometimes play in bad to worse situations- is if a bolting horse breaks his harness... or if a broken harness causes a horse to bolt- in that situation, when the harness system isn't functioning properly- it's very hard to ask a horse to stop- when doing so is just going to cause the carriage to run up on him.
As for safety- it sounds like they did have many safety measures in place- but the fact that they didn't trust the horse enough to drive him without a header walking on the ground- sounds like the horse was very green or spooky and they knew it (and yes- having the header on the ground goes to show that they were pro-activly thinking of safety!) But it doesn't sound to me like this horse was ready to deal with quite so much commotion. Maybe it was their first off-farm excursion as an attempt to get the horse acclimated to a busier and more distracting enviornment- but it doesn't sound like he was quite ready for it- of course you don't know till you try. I hope everyone is OK physically and emotionally- something like that can really leave a person- and horse- with a shook confidence.
This shows my ignorance. I meant "whoa" not mechanical brakes.
Once the cart landed after hanging ten, the horse turned around...I'm guessing of his own accord. I imagine the horse decided it had gotten a safe distance away to turn around to see where the lion, tiger, or bear was hiding.
Once the horse was still, I could hear the driver calling to the left-in-the-dust header. She sounded calm and matter of fact. I might have been more startled than she was. There were lots of families and kids around.
I had a flash that the horse would follow the lane out of the parking lot and end up 1) mowing down kids near the merry go round and 2) galloping down the 40mph road.
I do not know how the entourage [edit: 2 humans 1 horse] moved forward or how long they worked after the spook & bolt.
Last edited by Bicoastal; Mar. 12, 2013 at 10:08 AM.
Reason: 1 horse, 2 people
I think the "team" in question is the two people and a single horse.
Bicostal- your choice of words is tricky for us because we say team for either 2 or 4 horses (and we confuse ourselves with that because different driving disciplines disagree about what is a team) and "pair" for 2 horses and "single" for one.
My mom was hitching up our family pony (who did pleasure, cde and 'trail' driving) to take a friend for a drive. My mom stepped a way briefly to get the whip and put the passenger in front of said pony to act as a header. My dad was behind the 4 wheel antique back to back trap attaching the orange triangle. Said friend decides that she is going to take a close up photo of pony's face. Pony H A T E S cameras, the click, the advancement sound, the flash, the whole nine yards. Camera clicks and the pony takes OFF across the yard (my dad is hanging on to the back axle trying to stop it, way to go dad, but that ain't gonna do it) My mom runs out of the barn yells the pony's name and says WHOA! Pony slowed down, looked behind her figured out she did not have a driver and carefully turned around and walked back to the house!
True story, I was there. Pony earned her carrots that night.
My mom runs out of the barn yells the pony's name and says WHOA! Pony slowed down,...
True story, I was there. Pony earned her carrots that night.
That is an awesome story!
No amount of yelling "Whoa!" was stopping this guy until he decided to do so. You could hear the man (the lost-in-the-dust header) shouting whoa whoa. Fringe benefit was people knew something was wrong and to look around.
About 20 years ago, I had a barn full of students at a little outdoor schooling show. One of my students, in her teens, in the walk-trot-canter class with her brand spanking new OTTB. About 75 percent of the class were my students, on my schoolies. Mr. OTTB decided during the canter, it was off to the races, student was frozen with fear and doing nothing. From the rail, I yelled "WHOA" at the top of my lungs. Except for Mr OTTB, Every Single Horse in the class stopped dead in it's tracks.
I went over the rail, since MOTB had slowed since no one wanted to play, caught him, looked at the judge and said "carry on".
Nothing beats a good school horse with a solid "whoa".