- December 17, 2012 at 3:16 am #44309
Well, Eddie the donkey’s third trip on the fore cart did involve a little bit of a close call. In general I like to control variables. I believe this is how accidents are avoided. Of course there are also things we don’t account for. We were having a good outing and had been hooked up about fifteen minutes. We had crossed the road and an open field to hook up to a trailer plow. I wanted to tow it home and it would add a little something behind the fore cart. Not plowing. When I got to the road I considered that the lug wheels on the plow might make a racket on the road. I thought that might interest the donkey a little, but I knew I would stop a couple times and he would except those sounds OK. Sure enough that is what happened. Unfortunately, I also have two nasty dogs that belong to the neighbors and like to cause trouble when they can. They chose this moment to stalk and a run up barking at the mule and donkey. As a result, we went about forty feet down the drive way at an “extended trot”. Not too bad really.
I only offer this here to show both how hard it can be to plan for every possible thing, and how other work and plans can help offset the unexpected events. These dogs have caused trouble for my horses before and I should have been more careful about putting the donkey there. The mule was bitted with leverage and the donkey was not. These bit adjustments allowed me to control and stop the animals with my hands. I don’t think I said whoa until we stopped. The donkey and the mule get along and are well matched for size, but working him with one of my other horses might have given less of a reaction to the dogs. I wasn’t using anything like a buck back strap or anything like that. With the mule as a partner the buck back strap does no good ,because the mule goes along with the donkey. I have waited much longer to hook the donkey to a forecart than I would most horses. This was just intuition telling me when he was ready and also training him when I wasn’t in a hurry.
Being in a good solid fore cart with a bus seat and front railing make it much easier to deal with incidents like this. Preferably I would be in a large field where there is room to turn if need be.December 17, 2012 at 11:34 am #76222Carl RussellModerator
Thanks for sharing that Donn.
I knew a man, who I bought my first horse from, who had been working horses his whole life basically, who had a severe accident with his steady logging team because of neighbor’s dogs chasing him. That is one variable that is extremely hard to control.
I also appreciate your comment about the safety of the forecart. Just recently I spoke to someone who was trying to suggest that using a forecart to condition a learning animal was foolish and more dangerous. Obviously there is work to be done prior to hitching, but there are significant features, such as you describe, that make a forecart a very valuable and safe tool for this endeavor.
Also, I have found that some times these weird little rodeos offer some learning opportunities that you just can’t create any other way.
CarlDecember 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm #76230
I think you are right about the learning opportunity. A difficult learning opportunity for beginning teamsters, I am afraid. It is difficult to teach until someone has experienced it. I actually had a young woman with me and it was her first time on a fore cart. I just told her to hold on. The difficulty for the beginning teamster is that with out a quick, calm, and strong response from the teamster; we are down the drive way in a flash. Banging plow the whole way.
Recently, I have been experimenting with saying less and less to my animals, and in this case I think I said “it’s alright” or something equally meaning less when I saw the dogs coming. After that I don’t think I said a word until they decided to stop. I am beginning to rely on this less verbal communication. These animals were both open face and can see me.
Another thing I could have mentioned in the original post was I saw it coming. I had already predicted that the plow might make a little noise and the animals might react to it. I was on the look out for these dogs and saw one in the road and one in the field and could tell they where about to pounce. Seeing what is coming and being aware of all the things that your animals will react to is an important teamster skill to develop.December 18, 2012 at 1:17 am #76236jen judkinsParticipant
I love this thread, short as it currently is. There are so many variables…the seasoned horse/mule who gets wigged out by a new exposure or a young horse who knows nothing and freaks out..understandable, to the day to day noise.
So, I think the main take home message should be……latch on to a great teamster! Donn made this sound like a disaster, but the truth is, he had the skills to mitigate the potential runaway. And no one was hurt. These episodes can be dangerous. Learning to provide leadership to your horses/mules is a learned process and a mentor is required.December 18, 2012 at 1:34 am #76239
@Jen Judkins 38305 wrote:
…Learning to provide leadership to your horses/mules is a learned process and a mentor is required…
And there is nothing better to focus your attention than finding yourself in a tight spot.December 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm #76223Carl RussellModerator
@Jen Judkins 38305 wrote:
….. Learning to provide leadership to your horses/mules is a learned process and a mentor is required.
This is so true, but one of the reasons I replied to Donn on this is to show that these situations occur even with seasoned teamster/mentors. I also want to encourage him, and others, to expand on this event, and the parts of it that made it only “a close call”, and not a fiasco.
In the last two weeks I have spoken with folks who have been working with “mentors”, people who have been described as very experienced trainers. Granted primarily riding horse experience, but none-the-less experienced enough to put themselves into a mentor situation with a novice teamster.
I tend to allow folks to make their own mistakes, rather than trying to disparage someone whom I have no experience with, but it seems clear to me in both of these situations, EVERYBODY involved is leaving way too much up to the horses to decide for themselves how to react, and in both cases little disturbances led to real run-aways. The take-home in both cases was more severe bits, and quicker and more powerful holding techniques.
Under the assistance of these trainers, the teamsters are not given guidance about being better leaders, and the emphasis is placed on how the horse needs more work with an experienced teamster to become more educated about the work, instead of how to develop effective communication skills in the novice…….
CarlDecember 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm #76231
Hi Carl, I think you are 100 percent right. My ideas for training a teamster are coming together around this. If you want to be a teamster you must also want to learn to understand horses. You must also except the challenge of becoming their leader, and their teacher. A simple example may help. How many times have we heard my horse won’t stand (ie. what is wrong with my horse; or I just need some one to train my horse). In reality, the horse will stand, and there is nothing wrong with it. It is awaiting leadership, and we can and should be trying to teach that. not to the horse, but the budding teamster. As much as I enjoy training a young draft animal, I find the beginning teamster much more interesting, and fun.December 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm #76250Kevin CunninghamParticipant
I know that the ultimate goal is not to have any of these close call moments, but they are a training oppurtunity in themsleves. I know that I have benifited from my run away experieinces with my steers. It seems like it might just be the begining of the sight and foresight that prevents bad situations from getting dangerous, but I am starting to see the begining of runaway. I have not had another bad runaway with my steers for a while now, there have been a couple of times when I can see it starting to ramp up and have been able to stop the situation.
Seeing what is coming and being aware of all the things that your animals will react to is an important teamster skill to develop.
I had no idea that this was something that I needed to develop in myself when I was starting out. I thought it was all about my control of the animals, and it is, but what a mentor can hopefully do is show you how important something like this is. I still have the thread about my steers runaway printed out and read it again and again, because the only mentors I have are right here.December 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm #76251Billy FosterParticipant
From the rookies standpoint I see it as having enough time using horses to be able to keep your head when it does happen. It has happen to me twice (run aways), both times I got them stopped and both times I could have prevented it. I believe I have since had many times when it would have happen and I was luckily calm enough to end it before it escalated. I can finally “relax” and am able to think while working; hopefully seeing problems before they occur or I create them. I can remember in the beginning how terrifying just ground driving them down the driveway was, so many things going on at once. I remember telling someone that it is kind of ironic how something as “boring” looking as driving a couple horses down the driveway can actually be so scary for the green teamster. I never had the pleasure of someone to teach me about working horses but I can see where having an experienced teamster would keep it safer until the rookie gained enough experience to be able to at least think.
BillyDecember 19, 2012 at 2:13 am #76235greyParticipant
People who are going to be handling horses in any capacity really should have horsemanship training. The difference between a successful teamster and an unsuccessful one is horsemanship.December 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm #76245mitchmaineParticipant
Horsemanship. Kind of a zen thing, isn’t it? The endless journey to the unreachable goal. No matter how many steps we have taken on the path, there is always one more. The goal is horsemanship. We can trade tips and advice and stories and such, but any experience and wisdom gained, is ours and ours alone. Non-transferable. We can’t sell it or even give it away. Everyone has to make his/her own journey. If it has no end (this journey), only death, then presumably, it has no beginning either, so if you try and set a point when your horsemanship training started, we’d all have to say at birth, and everything we have learned in our life about human needs and interaction, body language and so on, are all effective tools in the life long process. Enjoy the trip.December 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm #76252Billy FosterParticipant
It is interesting you saying it that way Earl. I think about how much my time racing sled dogs and growing up working with dairy cows has helped my now with the horses. I believe it is as you have said.
BillyDecember 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm #76240
Yes, I would say becoming a good teamster requires drawing on everything you have learned since birth.December 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm #76246mitchmaineParticipant
Thanks billy and tim, I had been thinking about the subject when it popped up in this thread so I thought I might just add that bit. I have helped out at the lif workshops up in unity. And when you take on the job of teaching someone horsemanship, you darned well better have some. That said, I was wondering what I actually know about the subject, and it is hard to evaluate just what you know. Compared to what? What you don’t know? and then be able to articulate just what it is you think you might know. It gets confusing quickly. That prompted the remark about the experience being yours alone. We can trade anecdotes and stories about runaways, and that is important stuff, but until you have one, or get through one, more importantly, the communication gets foggy. A shared experience creates much better understanding. And I am not saying a runaway is a necessary tool for understanding horsemanship, but it might keep you on your toes and offer some anticipation, or the two seconds you might need to keep the next one from happening. I just don’t believe in bad horses, just poor communication. I have never had a horse ask me for anything, but I continually ask my horse(s) for something so ……..sorry, still thinking about it. mitchDecember 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm #76241
Probably no one knows more about working horses, oxen or mules than those with 6 months experience, prior to their first wreck, runaway or disaster. Then they begin to realize that the longer they stick with it the less they know.
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