In an earlier post, I mentioned that I'm "borrowing" my neighbor's four miniatures and their pet Belgian. I've also written a post about training a horse to drive. That article also mentioned refreshing your driving horse with the same methods. Well, I'm going to be chronicling my refreshment lessons with these mischievous little fellows and their pet Belgian. Let me tell you, it's quite a process! This is an introduction to the munchkins and their pet.
Three of these miniatures have been trained to drive, two were even purchased as a pair. Kody is the eldest at over 10 years old. Little Bit is the youngest at about 6. SunDance and Redman are of an indeterminate age between these other two. These last two are the ones purchased as a driving pair. Actually, the ages I've given are estimates only based on what I can piece together from their owner. Unfortunately, two of these four minis are struggling with lameness issues. This lameness issue is another project I'm attacking (more on that in another post).
I've never driven a pair before nor have I driven miniatures. While driving is mostly the same no matter what size the horse, pairs are drastically different. The minis' owner didn't hitch the pair much after his initial purchase. It's been so long, that he's no longer sure how the harness goes, nor do the ponies recall being hitched together. So, I have a base to start with, but not much assistance.
Of the four, Sundance is the cutest in my opinion (see my interpretation of him above) and also the soundest. In build, he resembles a minuscule Belgian with solid limbs, strong body, good feet and flaxen chestnut coloring. He is my guinea pig. I've been working him on the lunge and ground driving him two to three times a week. He marches right along like a tiny Standardbred. Perhaps he has some bloodlines back to Roadster Miniatures.
Sundance's team-mate, Redman, is one mini struggling with soundness issues as well as weight issues. In build, he's completely opposite of his partner Sundance. Where Sundance gives the appearance of solidarity, Redman gives the impression of delicacy (except for his weight). Each of his tiny hooves could fit in the palm of my 3 year old little girl's hand. His limbs are finer than my forearms. Prominent eyes with a slight edge of white stare out at you with sweet uncertainty from under his sorrel/chestnut puff of a forelock.. He is the shyest of the four and can be quite skittish. At this point though, he fully trusts me and cooperates with all my requests in such a heartwarming manner he just melts my heart.
Only one other mini is drive-trained, Kody. His nickname is the "street fighter". In build he's similar to Sundance with a bit more refinement. To Sundance's Belgian, he's more like a Belgian/Arab cross. Sturdy, but fine limbs on good feet keep him sound and healthy. His deep chestnut coat is well complimented by a roached mane (do to skin problems) that is only slightly flaxen. At his age, it seems that he's developed a bit of arthritis in his hind limbs as well as a definite preference for lazing about rather than working. However, since Redman struggles with both weight and soundness issues, I've picked him to be Sundance's teammate once I'm ready for driving a pair.
Last, but not least of the minis, is Little Bit. Initially, I chose him to be the 'pony' for my two children because he is the tallest of the minis. Sadly, he suffers from severe lameness issues that I'm trying to eliminate. Since he's not been trained to do anything (to my knowledge), all my work with him is unfamiliar to him. However, he has got to be the sweetest, kindest, and most willing of the minis. He also has the most tricking coloration. From my Internet research I think he's go a good dose of sabino evidenced by his four white socks up and over his knees and hocks and his bald face with one blue eye. With a frosted mane and tail with individual hairs of black, brown, and flaxen, I think he's a silver dapple bay.
Their pet Belgian, King, is truly king of all he surveys. At approximately 17 HH, he's over 20 inches taller than the largest of the minis. With his great size, he is their guard and fiercely protective of his minis. All five horses get in his stall during the heat of the day. Typical of a Belgian, he is flaxen chestnut with a blaze face and exhibits pangare. He is approximately 16 years old according to his owner. He is fully trained as a driving horse and even has a draft sized easy-entry cart. Like the minis though, he has not been driven for quite some time. Eventually I hope to hitch him and drive him down the road. I lunged him the other day and was amazed at his innate collection and grace along with his impeccable manners. He weighs at least a ton (I estimate), yet he lunged easier than Sundance. I have always had a fascination with draft horses and I'm living out my fantasy by handling him.
So now that I've introduced my herd, I'm hoping to keep you entertained enough to read their exploits at a later time.