Titan is brushed and ready to work
I had a lovely day out on Wednesday;
it was my birthday treat to me from me.
Although my birthday is in December,
that's NOT the time of year for an outing like this.
Lots of straps & buckles make up the harness. That's me putting the back strap over.
The man in the pictures is David Lawless;
he owns the company and was our teacher for the day.
The day started off well; we went to McDonald's for a breakfast wrap - very tasty.
Showing me just what he thought of it all . . .
Nearly done; just the blinkers & bridle to go . . .
Then on to the farm.
We had to bring the horse, Titan (14 years old and,
at 17-3/4 hands high, a veritable tower block of a horse)
in from the field, brush him down
(I needed a stepladder to do his mane & forelock),
clean out his feet (I got him to lift his huge foot up and
balanced it on my legs; he tried to lean on me,
but realised that I was so low down he couldn't lean
so he had to stand). I was shown how to do his feet;
I do my dogs' feet - trimming & clipping -
but have never had a horse's foot in my hands before.
On the long reins learning to drive him . . .
I was just about to pull off what I thought was a lump of mud
when the girl stopped me; it was part of his foot,
like a leather tab on the back of boots to pull them on with.
Oh dear; now I was scared in case I crippled the horse by
poking at something else that looked like a stone or mud.
The weave . . .
Feet all done and feathers washed,
I had to learn about putting on of all the harness;
there are about 30 bits to it.
Titan is a shire horse; his full-time job is pulling wedding carriages or coaches
for official parades like the Peterbourgh Lord Mayor Procession.
Next was the health & safety talk.
Well, that was a bit scary:
"Learn to think like a horse," the trainer said,
I know how an a'dale thinks, but a horse?
I haven't got a clue.
I had to guide this huge animal out of the stable.
He had blinkers on so I had to make sure he didn't get
too close to the doors or the cars parked nearby - particularly mine.
Approaching the village . . .
Once out in the yard,
I had to walk him round in circles using long reins
to guide him and it had to be done the old-fashioned English way,
which means the hardest and most uncomfortable way.
The reins are wound around your fingers so you can drive with one hand
(I need the other hand free for the Royal Wave
as I pass the general public on street corners).
Going up the lane to pick up a passenger . . .
After mastering the round & round and about-turning
and going the opposite way, I moved on to manoeuvring between cones.
Easy, I thought; I've done this with Mr Mac (weeeave, Mr Mac, weeave).
It is very different trying to weave two tons of horse that can see
the stable door and thinks it's lunch time.
Heading home . . .
The owners put on a lovely spread of cold meats, cheese,
salad & cream cake desserts.
On the road back to the farm, you can see how nervous
my passenger was when I took one hand off the reins
After lunch, because I had done reasonably well,
it was time to hook up the waggonette and drive out of the farm gate
down through the villages & leafy lanes.
Now that was the scary, pleasant, very scary, pleasant, and even scarier part.
But overall I did enjoy it.
I've driven cars & lorries for a long time now,
but put a big horse in front of a wagon that is bigger than my Shogun*
and ask me to do left or right hand turns in narrow roads with
lots of oncoming traffic . . . well, that IS scary.
You can see we had to hold the reins correctly;
no slouching or inattention to detail.
Then nobody told me that the horse would actually change up a gear
and instead of plodding up a small incline, he broke into a fast trot.
To make matters worse, the small incline was a
tiny humpback bridge with a left-angled curve.
No problem to negotiate in a car at 20 mph, but at 3 mph,
with Titan leading rather than me driving, was much harder!
I had so many things to think about:
Bend my hand the right way to steer the horse;
remember to let go the right side rein when turning left;
don't be rough with the bit;
and all this whilst thinking the horse is going too fast
and he's going to jump over the river.
Back home time for a rub down and dinner (for the horse, not me) . . .
Then there were the speeding cars, barking dogs,
tractors & parked cars in tiny roads!
You can see he'd been working hard
After we got back to the farm,
we had to wash the horse down,
saddle soap all the harness
and put the horse to bed;
well, shut him in his stable and then we had tea & cake.
He has that know-it-all grin; I think he can smell his dinner . . .
Oh, and nobody told me they bite!
I was holding on to the horse while the shafts were strapped into place
and he kept trying to bite my hands.
I shouted at him to stop and he lifted his head very quickly,
which took my feet clean off the ground.
I appear to be on the menu.
Would I do it again?
Probably yes; it might not
be so scary next time around.
Want to run with the Big Dogs? Go HERE
* Shogun . . .