Driving Lessons
Yes, those horses were pretty amazing. We haven't had any glitches for a while now (touch wood). Not since our initial forays with the garden wagon. The cart is so much better than the wagon!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Hi Nanno (and others), I would appreciate some tips regarding how to keep driving lessons interesting for Koby while we are in the paddock and trying to improve our skills. I feel like we have reached a bit of a plateau and because he is very clever I need some ideas to stay one step ahead of him so he doesn't become stale. This is where we are at right now:

We can still only manage about a lesson a week - I'd like to increase this when the weather improves.

We are not ready to go out on the road - I feel this would be dangerous at this point (see below).

Koby seems quite comfortable walking, trotting and cantering. He does these mainly on command but sometimes he stops and refuses to go forward. Nanno, I have been following your advice re: whip in your driving article on your website and when Koby doesn't "listen" and move forward after being asked a few times, I get out and lead him. After re-reading your article I think I need to lead him at a trot so he realises it's more work to be obstinate rather than move forward like I originally asked him to. Am I on the right track?

He is still somewhat obsessed with treats and will sometimes "hold me to ransom" until he gets one. If he does the right thing he will get a treat, however I am trying to ask him to do more until he gets one (i.e. space out the frequency of the treats).

Koby is not quite used to how wide the cart is and will sometimes go too close to trees and fences. What is the best way to get him more accustomed to the width - should I put out some cones and get him to go around them or do I need to be more proactive with my turning aids (i.e. guide him away from obstacles before he gets too close in the first place)?

He is very strong and whilst I have never been out of control, I sometimes feel like it is a battle of strength if he decides to go somewhere I don't want him to. Do I need to sort this out before I try him in a bit, or would a bit help sort out this problem? I am used to riding horses so I know about using bits generally but the last thing I want is a hard mouthed goat caused by my ignorance regarding how and when to introduce a bit (if at all).

Thanks for any tips you can provide!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Sounds like Koby is doing well. It sounds like he knows what all the commands mean but is sometimes testy about obeying them. I think it would be fine to start him in a bit now. It will give you more control and it will make Koby think twice before leaning into the pressure and charging off. It's not like he's a clueless newbie at this any more--he knows what rein pressure means.

I think introducing cones is a great idea. There are so many things you can do with markers. You can steer around them, between them, weave, circle, and trot or walk between this or that, etc. It will give you something interesting to do so you and Koby don't get bored in your familiar setting. Koby is more likely to act up if he's bored, and these exercises will help keep his mind and body occupied. They'll also help you with precision and timing of your aids, and they'll help Koby learn to respond promptly and accurately. Just make sure to start simple and work up to harder maneuvers so Koby doesn't get discouraged or confused.

Understanding cart width is something that comes with time, but you'll find that some goats just plain don't care about bashing the cart into things so it's good to be proactive and steer well clear of potential obstacles before you get near enough to crash. On the other hand, it can sometimes be helpful for your goat to learn by experience (provided it's safe enough to do so). Unless you think he'll damage your cart, let him scrape it into a fence or run the wheel against a tree. Then let him stand there and figure out what went wrong. If he's run the cart up against a tree, he'll probably have to back up a little before he can move forward, and this may be a great learning experience. I've let my goats back our carts into ditches and run over curbs and rocks when I thought it was safe because it was a good way to show them that they made the wrong choice without me having to do anything except help them figure out how to fix it. Sometimes that means having to get out of the cart and lead them, which leads me to...

Yes, if you have to get out of the cart to make Koby move on, make him work! Keep the whip in your outside hand and give him a smart whack on the hind legs as you get him moving. Let him know that standing there acting dumb isn't going to convince you to end the lesson. He should not look forward to any time when you have to get out of the cart to correct him.

One of the hardest things to do is to stop when all is going well. Sometimes the best way to teach an animal is to make sure the best lessons are also the shortest. Always end on a high note. If the whole lesson is a high note, cut it short so Koby remembers it for next time. It sounds like you guys are making great progress. Good work!
Thank you, thank you, thank you Nanno for taking the time to provide this advice.  It all makes perfect sense.

You are right in that Koby seems to understand the commands now and is definitely not a clueless newby; he just tends to do what he likes at times.  I do think he acts dumb sometimes (stops and stares into space), to try to get out of doing what I ask when that doesn't suit him.  I'll make him work harder when I have to get out to lead him.  

How best should I introduce the bit? Should I let him out in the paddock with his bridle on and the bit  - supervised of course, and not with the other goats - so he can get used to the feel of it before I ask him to work with it in the cart?  Or would it be better to just put it on him without a fuss and see how he goes in the cart?

I don't have any cones but I have some tall red buckets with lids that I could half fill with dirt (to add a bit of weight) and set them out to make a course.  I'm thinking I should probably make them light enough that they will tip over if a wheel runs into one with enough momentum, as a cone would do. 

There are also a couple of shallow ditches in the paddock where we have our lessons.  I've been avoiding them so far but after reading your advice I think I'll let him drive into them so he can get used to some uneven terrain in a "safe" environment.  I might also ask Mark to drive slowly along inside the paddock to get Koby used to "traffic" while in the cart  Smile. He is used to the odd car passing us when we are hiking but he'll need to understand that he can't just shimmy sideways onto the verge when he's hitched to a cart.

We definitely always end our lessons on a high/positive note and I generally keep them less than 20 minutes.  

Thanks again for your pointers, I can't wait for our next lesson!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
I'd just put the bit on him with no fuss (or as little as possible) and then drive him like you always do. He may shake his head and protest a little at first, but then again he may settle right down and accept it quite happily like ours did. Finn and Sputnik were very resistant to being bitted the first few times, but they were fine once the bit was in place and drove better than ever. Sputnik was definitely more comfortable in the bit. They didn't like the idea of having to hold a piece of metal in their mouths at first, but once they realized the bits weren't hurting them and that they could still accept treats, they settled right down.

Using buckets as markers is fine. You could also use largish rocks.

Once you start driving along the road, Koby may decide to run onto the verge to avoid vehicles. That's not a bad thing as long as he doesn't bolt. Let him go on the grass or in the ditch for a while and I can almost guarantee that after a few times, he'll decide it's much easier to stay on the smooth road. We had that problem with Finn for a while last summer. He didn't even need the excuse of a car driving by. He would veer off into the ditch for no reason and Phil couldn't seem to get him back on the road. I told Phil to stop trying and just drive him in the long grass. It took Finn less than five minutes to figure out that it was a lot of work to pull the cart through all those weeds. He got back onto the road on his own initiative and only strayed briefly about two more times before giving up. He walks on the road now. Wink
OK thanks Nanno. I'll try the bit soon! And I'll see how we go in the paddock for a few more weeks before we venture out onto the road in the "real world" Smile
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap

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