Updated: May 23, 2022
I often get messages in my Facebook messenger from professional drivers. These messages nearly always explain to me how I am harnessing Zorro all wrong and I am going to have trouble on my first drive out. I have to laugh when I read these as they clearly do not know just how much we drive.
My favorite one was "Your breeching is too high and the first time you go down a hill it will slip up under his tail." My reply, "When we leave our driveway we immediately climb 600 feet in elevation. What goes up must come down and we haven't had an issue with our breeching yet!"
While I love having people offer me constructive criticism as well as advice and ideas, sometimes people spout their knowledge with zero understanding. I think horse people, especially professionals, often forget there are many roads that lead to the same outcome. And just because someone else does things a little differently does not mean they are wrong or being "dangerous."
Oh! That reminds me. I had someone write me several emails spouting how dangerous Zorro is as a driving pony and how I have no business driving or helping people. LOL! I literally drive Zorro without steering most of the time as he goes where I look and he does things as I think them. That's how connected we are. Dangerous? I think not. But to each their own I suppose!
Why do I harness Zorro the way I do?
If you have read my blog for a long time you may be aware that Zorro has bone remodeling on his face due to possibly being kicked in the face as a baby. (This is highly likely as he was kind of a little jerk when he was little and tortured the other mares he lived with...) From the time I brought him home, at 6 months old, he had violent reactions to having a halter on his face. I "halter trained" him using a soft rope around his neck, just behind his ears. We moved to wearing a halter once he trusted me. Halters don't bother him anymore, as they are wide and sit a little differently on his face than the bridle nose bands do.
The bone remodeling is actually touching the root of one of his molars. We learned this last year when he had some dental issues that required x-rays. I'm sure having excess pressure from a nose band only makes that hurt more! It's obvious because when he has a nose band on his bridle he will shake his head and wants to stop and rub his face on his leg every other step. When people tell me I need a nose band to ensure his bridle doesn't pop off (this is a whole OTHER topic!!!) I just laugh because having a nose band would ensure he would do all he could to remove his bridle.
Keep in mind that he drives in an open bridle, so no blinders to worry about.
Zorro has what I refer to as "sticky" stifles. Especially his left one. Therefore, if I have his breeching set lower his hind legs kind of buckle as he goes down steep hills. Maybe because they are slightly weaker due to his stifle issues? I don't know for sure as no vet has officially diagnosed him with anything. But I am around him every day and know that his left leg will hitch sometimes and when he stands around too long his hind end is very stiff.
This means I need to adjust his breeching a little bit higher for his comfort. Sometimes (or rather ALL THE TIME), we have to be willing to work within our equine's parameters. We are the humans and must make adjustments for them. To say everything has to be one way is just plain ignorant in my experience.
His Breast Collar:
I have tried every breast collar Chimacum Tack sells; the Deluxe style, the Standard Curve, the Comfy Collar, the Collar and hames, and the SuperFlex. In all those different styles Zorro works the best, most confidently and most tirelessly in the SuperFlex. Granted he is pulling light weight vehicles and that really helps, but he is noticeably happier in the SuperFlex.
When people reach out to me to let me know that the breast collar I am using will harm him, cause him to be more sweaty and make him sore, I just laugh. I doubt that most of those people regularly go on 15 mile drives in the mountains with their horses and ponies.... 'wink'
Believe me when I say, Zorro is one of the most sensitive ponies I have ever trained. There is not a mean bone in his body but there are plenty of opinionated ones! He clearly lets me know when something isn't working. Usually, by walking a few steps then stopping to look back at me, then reluctantly walking a few more steps, then stopping to look back at me. Two or three times of him doing this lets me know things are NOT right and I need to step out of the cart and make a change. He does not do this unless there is an issue. He never abuses his right to have a say in his tack or how he is hitched. He is the most honest pony I have EVER driven, meaning when things are good he will perk his ears forward and go where ever I ask him to!
I think this a great time to say:
Please don't look at a single photo or even a series of photos and make judgements against what people are doing with their animals, unless they have asked you for your thoughts.
Everyone I know is doing their best with what they have been given and in most cases, doing it very well!