Single Driving Practice
Ah yes, the burden of leadership. Finn knows that well, and I'm sure you remember the difficulty we had with him when he came into "rut" (or whatever it is you call it for wethers). That's a hard thing to work through. Finn didn't like to leave the herd last fall either. How could he leave all those defenseless ladies at the mercy of two lecherous bucks?? We did have some breakthroughs, but it was baby steps. I also had to be firm with him a few times and let him know he wasn't going to ignore me. If he turned his back on me when I was trying to work with him on his tricks, I smacked him on the butt with the whip and let him know he must get both eyes on me when I talk to him.

Don't be afraid to whack Koby with that whip if he is ignoring you. If you're using it so lightly he can ignore you, you're going to end up desensitizing him to it (or just irritating him), and then you have a much bigger problem. You mustn't get into a position where you're constantly nagging him with the whip. It's like the frog in the boiling water. If you try to put a frog in boiling water he jumps out. But if you slowly turn the heat up he'll tolerate it to death. Same principle with the whip. If you nag with it and only slightly increase the intensity, you end up using it a lot more and a lot harder than if you'd cut right to the chase and demanded respect in the beginning. If you touch your goat with the whip he should move away. Period. If he feels the whip and intentionally ignores it, give a firm vocal command and smack him hard enough he can't ignore it. I'll give up to three hard smacks before I go to his head and lead. When a goat is ignoring me, I lead him on firmly at a brisk trot, and I use the whip on his hind legs every time he stops or slows to reinforce that he must move from the whip. We stop when I'm ready and then I reward. I may start and stop several times while leading, using the whip firmly each time we start again so he can't ignore that signal, and then I reward.

I highly recommend using your cart if you can. You can use a cart on your own. Tie Koby to a fence, harness him, and then bring the cart up and hitch. Koby shouldn't be nervous of it, but if he is just go slowly and reward. Take it in small steps if necessary. Just put the shafts in the loops and take them out the first day or two and reward. Once you get him hitched for the first time, just lead him around for a couple of sessions before you try to drive. Ground driving is hard without shafts to help keep the goat pointed in the right direction. Every time Koby turns to face you, you both end up frustrated and he probably gets a little confused. It's also self-rewarding because he gets a break every time you have to reorganize, sometimes he gets a cookie, and he succeeds at staying close to home. Never give Koby a cookie when he turns to face you. Only give a treat if he stands perfectly still when you say "whoa". I wish you could bring Koby with you to the Rendezvous!
That's great advice, thanks Nanno. Oh, I so wish I could bring Koby too ... but it's more important for me to actually see in person for myself how all this is done properly. There is only a certain amount I can do on my own using pictures and videos as a guide (although they have been very helpful). And without Koby there to distract me - as much as I love the young fella - I can totally immerse myself in what I'm learning and soak up all the information like a sponge.

I've really only had the whip with me a couple of times - I stopped using it when it was obvious I didn't know what I was doing Smile So I don't think I've done too much damage there. I do need to use it properly. And you are spot on about the re-organizing/cookie factor!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
Phil and I had another awesome drive last Saturday, but I've been too busy to post about it until now (I'm actually too busy now too, but since I'm going to be even busier for the next week I'd better type this up before I forget entirely).

We went to the golf course as usual, and this time Phil suggested we drive our goats in opposite directions around the loop. I had forgotten our whips, so we had to make do with voice commands combined with clumsy rein slaps, but we managed. Sputnik got balky after a few dozen yards when he realized Finn wasn't going our way, so I got out and led him a short ways to get started. He stopped on a semi-frequent basis at first, but he usually got going with a little encouragement and I didn't have to lead him again. Phil tells me he had a similar experience with Finn. We wouldn't have had issues if I'd remembered our whips, but the problem with rein-slapping is that you lose your steering every time you slap and the goat tends to take that opportunity to turn back toward his buddy. At that point he realizes he might be able to pull a fast one on you and he starts getting uncooperative and balky. But we all got past the difficult part at the beginning, and once we were on the move we did alright.

Sputnik and Finn took opposite approaches to solo driving. Once we got underway, I had to constantly slow Sputnik down. He wanted to trot and canter almost the entire loop. Finn, on the other hand, preferred to mosey along at his leisure. Phil figured that as long as Finn was moving forward he'd take it as obedience even if it was no more than a snail's pace. For that reason, Sputnik and I were back at the truck long before Finn and Phil returned, so we did a couple of jaunts down different side roads to pass the time. Sputnik was being quite good by that time, and I only once had to get out and lead him for a bit when we passed a lawn mower going right next to the road. I also got out and led him past a yard with a very aggressive dog barking from amongst a lot of bushy undergrowth. That was scary even for me! So I got out and held Sputnik's hand while we passed. I successfully drove him past the dog and the mower on the way back (it helped that we were turned toward the truck).

One funny incident was that I asked Sputnik to walk across a puddle in the intersection. Since the puddle lay across our return route, Sputnik didn't hesitate to turn right into it. He was trotting and this time I allowed him to carry on instead of asking him to take the water at a walk as I've always done in the past. Sputnik acted as though he would trot right across, but just as he got to the water's edge he put an extra spring in his step and leaped across! It was about a four-foot span and he cleared it without a splash. I was pretty impressed! The cart jolted forward and landed smack in the middle of the water but the goat stayed dry. I got a good laugh out of that one.

Phil especially had a great time on this drive, which really makes me happy. He and Finn weren't in sync there for a while and this drive really helped Phil realize that training is a journey with ups and downs, but consistency eventually produces good results. Phil's favorite part of the drive is taking Finn up and over the narrow golf cart bridge, which he did a couple of times that day.

The hard part now is convincing our boys to be caught when they see us open the truck tailgate and walk toward them with halters in our hands! They don't like being dragged out and made to work, so today Phil and I loaded them up and just took them walking around the lake. We don't want every excursion to be a grueling workout. Driving solo is stressful for both of them right now, but I think if we keep at it they'll eventually figure out that it's not scary and the rewards are worth it.
When my in-laws were here we had a great time taking the boys out for a drive around the golf course! Finn and Sputnik were on their best behavior. Jim drove Finn without any help at all! Lois, on the other hand, preferred to let me do the driving while she enjoyed the view.  
There was a palpable Ben-Hur spirit in the air. There were several times along the route where our drivers got competitive and encouraged their charges to pass. 

Contestant #1 - "Jumpin' Jim" and "Fiery Finn": 

Contestant #2 - "Lopin' Lois" and "Speedaway Sputnik"


"Speedaway Sputnik blasts out of the gate to take a three-length lead over Fiery Finn!"

"They're around the clubhouse turn and Fiery Finn has closed Speedaway Sputnik's lead! It looks like Sputnik's leader is starting to flag! That early burst of speed has taken its toll!"   

"Into the homestretch and Finn flies around Sputnik on the outside to take the rail! 

"And Fiery Finn crosses the finish line to win by a length and a half! What a race, ladies and gentlemen!" 
That's awesome! Your in-laws look like they had a lot of fun!
Goatberries Happen!
Happiness is a baby goat snoring in your lap
We had a great drive today! We went to a neighborhood we haven't visited since last summer so it all felt new and exciting. My cart had a low tire so Phil and Finn headed out while I pumped it up. Sputnik wasn't happy to be left behind and cried pitifully. He threw a slight temper tantrum when we got going, but he soon sorted out his emotions and went obediently (if rather noisily). The worst thing about Sputnik complaining is that he sounds like someone is torturing him. He has a horrible voice! When Finn is noisy he at least sounds like a goat.

Phil and I spent some time driving our goats in different directions around some loops in the neighborhood, but when we met up things got very exciting! We had our first race today! We used a road sign as our starting line and picked a mailbox a short distance down the road as the finish. Phil said "go" and we were off! Sputnik immediately claimed the early lead but set the pace at a leisurely lope. For a while it seemed that Finn would be content to trail along behind at a trot and there would be no contest, but with a little more vocal encouragement from Phil, Finn suddenly broke into a read run and passed Sputnik like he was standing still. I shouted and whooped and Sputnik leaped into a gallop and slowly caught up to the fleet-footed Finn just as we crossed the finish line. It was a photo finish, but since there was no photographer we called it a tie.

It took a few minutes for the boys to settle down. They've never been asked to run before and the didn't want to slow down. I think both of them were under the impression that they were running from something and were scared to stop. We took the time to stop them gently and then we got out and reassured them and let them catch their breath. The rest of our drive was done at an easy walk. With occasional practice the boys should learn that running doesn't mean running away. We put our whips away for the race. We won't be allowed to use them in Tennessee and we also don't want to accidentally get carried away in the excitement of competition. So any time we're running, our whips will stay in their sockets.
Because of the relentless afternoon rains, it's been almost a month since we've been able to drive. Usually Phil works in the morning, but today he wasn't busy so we decided to beat the weather and take a drive before noon. The boys did okay considering how long it's been since we've been able to practice, but Sputnik had a meltdown near the beginning. We drove the boys around a cul-de-sac with two big barking dogs in the yard next to it. The dog yard surrounded almost the entire circle so the boys got the barking treatment all the way around. The dogs were contained with an invisible fence, so it looked like they could attack the goats if they wanted to.

Our goats were actually pretty good about the dogs. Finn went right around and barely hesitated. Sputnik and I took the circle in the other direction and Sputnik was okay with the dogs, but as soon as we passed Finn going the other way, he threw a magnificent temper tantrum and refused to continue around the circle. I was able to get him going again, but as soon as we were underway he tried to take off in a dead run to catch up with Finn. I decided that this behavior needed work, so while Phil and Finn waited patiently a little way down the road, I made Sputnik go around the circle again. I had to make him go around several times before he minded his manners, and I had to get out of the cart several times and lead him to get started. The biggest problem was always coming around the circle toward Finn. That's when Sputnik would dive his head down toward the pavement, lean on the bit, and take off as fast as he could. He flung his head, bucked, leaped, and even nosedived into the asphalt once. By the time he finally decided to calm down and behave, we were both a bit worn out and Sputnik had blood on his face. I jumped out to make sure he hadn't been injured. He had slammed his nose several times on the ends of the shafts in frustration, whacked his muzzle on the pavement, and had lunged all his weight into the bit a few times. I was afraid his mouth or tongue could be hurt and we'd have to end our drive. But it was none of those things. He just had a slight bloody nose, which is something Sputnik is occasionally prone to. I think he snorted so much he burst a capillary up there because I found no external injuries or problems with his mouth. I wiped the blood off and no more came so we continued our drive and there were no more theatrics.

After the anger management episode, we had a very nice time. The boys were calm and happy to walk or trot along together. Sputnik liked to move ahead and tended to keep up a brisk pace. Whenever Finn got in front, our speed decreased considerably. We tried racing along a short stretch, but neither of the goats was really into it. Sputnik was tired out from our fight earlier and Finn was feeling lazy, so we "raced" at a fast trot with the occasional leisurely canter. Sputnik led from start to finish. Hopefully we'll be able to keep up our practices this month. Sputnik is a fast learner so I don't think it would take him very long to figure out that if he behaves the first time when asked to do something he doesn't like, he'll only have to do it once. If he misbehaves he'll be made to repeat the exercise until he does it without drama.
I took Sputnik for a drive around the golf course today. He was very excited to get going and wanted to trot the whole way, but I had our young friend Geronimo with us, so I had to keep Sputnik mostly at a walk. Sputnik's bridle was in the bag with his other harness (which is currently set up for teams), so I drove him in a halter. I also forgot my whip. But Sputnik is so good with voice commands that I really didn't need it. Geronimo had a lesson in leading. I tied him to the back of the cart and he came along very nicely. He hit his pack on the wheel of the cart a few times at the beginning and spooked himself (and the noise spooked Sputnik too), but he soon learned to avoid the wheel. He learned about traffic a little today too. It was a good training session for Geronimo. 

Canon National Bank sits at the edge of the golf course and I had to deposit a check today, so what better way to get to the bank than by goat cart? Unfortunately, they don't have a hitching post or a parking spot for goats. Shame on them! So I tied Sputnik to a lamp post out front. He was very patient while I went in. Someone in a pickup truck pulled into the bank parking lot and sat there for a while just to stare at the goats tied out front.  

We were almost back to the truck when we encountered some potholes in the road. I attempted to steer Sputnik around them, but he had his eye on his ride home and unexpectedly threw a fit about turning off of the direct route. He'd been so good for the whole drive that I was caught completely off guard by this sudden rebellion. I decided he needed a lesson in obedience and spent some time doing figure-eights in the road. I had to get out of the cart and lead him a few times when he adamantly refused to turn back the way we'd come, but eventually he saw things my way and complied (grudgingly). My way involved cookies, so it wasn't TOO bad. He thought that since I had no whip and he was only wearing a halter that he could maybe get away with disobedience this one time. Hopefully he learned his lesson. Aside from the one hiccup at the end, his behavior was stellar and he seemed to enjoy himself for most of the drive.
Very few live in an area where you can do the awesome things you and Phil get to do with your goats! I love reading about your adventures. You're a talented writer and should definitely write a book!
Goatberries Happen!

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