Have Ponies that Need Work? "Rent-a-Kid"!
Ever since we purchased this business, we have realized that we have more ponies to drive than we have time to drive them, or maybe actually it’s the ambition or incentive to do so. When you spend all day “doing” carriage driving, you just don’t have a lot of desire to actually do it in the barn as well. Some people ask if I saw this or that video of some carriage driving competition or read some article that was printed in one of the carriage driving magazines. To tell you the truth, when I am done for the day, I sometimes I just want to play solitaire or read something non-horse related. My other challenge is that we have finished carriage show horses and no incentive to achieve an award we have already accomplished. We do have some green horses that need work, but again, I personally need an incentive to work horses. I have never been the driver/rider who just rode solely for recreation. I’ve always needed a goal to accomplish.
My husband, Chad, loves to go to the gym. If you know him, he is a very social person and gets a high from being sweaty and tired. (Me…not so much! :-) ) Very early in the year, he was talking with one of his fellow gym cronies and found out that she was the leader of the local county 4-H Horse Project. Knowing we had ponies that needed work, he asked if she knew of a kid that wanted to work with horses. We have the trained horses, all the equipment, and the knowledge, and just wanted to share it all with a kid. She immediately thought of a girl in her program who had been riding for quite a while in many disciplines but had recently lost her all-around favorite mare to hepatitis. She had done Western, English, Jumping, Speed, and Trail events with this horse, but buried her a year or so ago. She then purchased an inexpensive project horse, but the challenge was that the new mare kept bucking her off every time she rode. All the other kids in 4-H had a horse to ride, but now as a 15-year-old girl, she was relegated to in-hand events. So, the 4-H leader asked the girl and her family if she would like to work with our driving horses.
Jordyn and her mom came out in March to “test drive” the sport and see if Jordyn liked it. We put her behind our oldest, most experienced miniature horse gelding, who is easy to drive, but not easy to drive well. Almost anyone can drive him safely from Point A to Point B, but if you want to make him look like something, you have to know what “buttons to push”. Early on, it was quite apparent that this kid was not only talented with horses, but a quick learner as well. She took to carriage driving like a duck to water. We made plans to have her come out a few times a week as the weather and her school schedule allowed. Jordyn’s goal was to go to the State 4-H Horse Expo, an event to which she had not been yet in her 4-H career. Within the first couple lessons, we knew that she and the gelding would not only be able to go to the State 4-H show, but do quite well. (The State 4-H show is quite competitive in the riding disciplines, but the driving classes are a bit less competitive than the ADS shows at which we compete.)
We found that our mini was really enjoying the work and was in better shape than he’s been in a while. We enjoyed having a new kid to be able to teach and share our knowledge. Soon, we offered for her to go to the ADS pleasure driving shows with us, but there was no pressure to do so. She jumped at the chance. This meant more practice and more expense, but Jordyn and her mom were all in. After the first show, they were amazed at how supportive the other competitors were of her, especially being the new driver, which was something that they just didn’t feel as strongly at the 4-H events.
Jordyn did so well with our mini that we decided she should probably move “up” to our Welsh mare for at least one show. This allowed her to be able to gain experience with a different type of horse and a different type of driving in the marathon carriage. Whatever we threw at Jordyn, she relished and looked for more. Tighter cones, bigger trots, CANTERING! For this barrel racing kid, that is a popular exercise as she LOVES going fast!
We found with our “Rent-a-Kid” that not only did our ponies get worked to stay better in shape, we had renewed interest in training our horses to get better, competing, and teaching. And it got me out to the barn for something more than feeding horses and mucking stalls!
Some things to consider if you are considering taking on a Rent-a-Kid:
- Is your horse able to be driven safely by someone other than yourself?
- Are you willing to have a green driver work with your horse, or are you going to worry that he or she will screw it up?
- Are you willing to put in the time to work with the kid or are you just thinking they will do it themselves? (Spoiler Alert…new drivers need a lot of one-on-one to make sure they are harnessing, putting to, and driving correctly and safely.)
- Do you have a plan for how far you are willing to go with the kid? Do you just want to drive around the farm or are you looking to have the kid compete? Does the kid want to compete?
- If the kid wants to compete, what are your expectations in terms of financial responsibility? Who’s going to pay for what? Make sure you have that discussion early in your experiences. Some people may be perfectly happy to take on all the expenses just to have their horses worked and shown while others make not be able to financially pull that off. Some families may not have the means to be able to compete at driving shows, and if you want your horse shown, you might have to help them out. Talk about it frankly and respectfully.
- What are your expectations for the kid’s work? How many times do you want to see them at the barn per week? How much can they actually come out? What type of non-driving work do you expect? Cleaning harness and vehicles? Grooming horses? Again, have that discussion up front or as necessary. We feel that cleaning equipment to prepare for a show is as educational as the driving lessons.
- Are you willing to let the kid fail if necessary? (This is a really tough one for me! I found myself going over her harness again after she “cleaned” it because I really don’t think she understood what it meant to be clean for a Turnout class! :-) )
- Can you coach appropriately if she does fail? I found that after a few classes, I had to really work on Jordyn because she would be incredibly hard on herself. I would have to reiterate that we need to move on from a less-than-stellar go to focus on the next opportunity. Of course, I personally find it easier to coach a kid who is an “overachiever” verses the one who is more interested in “just having fun”. Jordyn and I are a great match in this way. (Yes, we still have fun… :-) )
Overall, we love having a Rent-a-Kid! We love to be able to share the sport in which not only do I earn my income but for which we have a passion as well. We love being able to watch Jordyn grow and take on new challenges and opportunities. We love to be able to offer Jordyn the opportunity to meet the fantastic people of the carriage driving community. We love to watch our horses develop in their training and enjoy the occasions to go where they haven’t been. And I love that it gets me out to the barn for something other than chores!
- Myrna Rhinehart