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First Hitch


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3-28-13, Blair, NE - For their seventh training lesson the Shires were hitched up for the first time.

Like always, I spent a few minutes reinforcing the previous lesson before starting something new.  After about 5 minutes of ground driving them as a team, I hitched them up to an evener for the first time.  It doesn’t look like it in this picture, but I was actually being careful not to get a hoof in the head. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure that they yet trusted me enough to stand quietly when I hooked up their heel chains to a ‘klinky’ metal evener.  However, they did very well and never batted an eyelid.


You can tell by their posture that they are interested in what I’m doing, but still relaxed and unworried.

I first drove them around for five minutes in their paddock. During this time, they only stepped on the wrong side of the heel chains once. I expected this and it’s a fairly simple problem to fix, as long as they are not connected into the pole of a wagon. By backing up the team a half step, the teamster can either use a couple of fingers in the horse’s flank to reposition the horse, or reach in with a foot or hand to realign the heel chain and evener.  As long as the teamster and horses remain calm it only takes about 30 seconds to realign everything.  Then when the horse steps out again, he no longer has a tug between his legs.

When they were used to the noise and feel of the evener, I drove them out of the paddock and over to a stone boat. As we started out, the draft on their shoulders was a new experience,  At first they were a little nervous, but by talking to them in a calm voice, they settled right down. Another new experience was the noise of the stone boat on the gravel when we pulled out on to the driveway.  Again, a calm voice settled them down.  After crossing the road, I drove the team out into the large field across the street. For a half hour I let them pull the stone boat in a figure eight and get the feel of pulling and turning a load to my commands.


This picture was taken just as a truck went by on the road 20 feet away. The horses are interested, but not startled.  I can tell this by their neck, head and ear posture.  If they were startled, the ears would be sharply forward and the neck would be in a sharp arch.  When a teamster sees that, he has about 1 to 3 second to start hauling in the lines to keep the horses from bolting. At this time, I’m actually talking calmly to them. If I was at all excited, they could feed of my feelings and would probably get excited themselves.

After they were used to pulling a small load, i Jumped up on the stone boat to give them something to really pull.  Because the ground was soft, this resulted in about 300 or 400 pounds of draft on their combined collars. This simulated about half the load they would feel if they were pulling a 12 inch bottom plow. After another half hour, they were starting to work up a sweat and their breath was coming a little short.


For the first time, Ruben and Royal are truly draft horses and they worked to pull my butt around.

It’s always best to end a training session on a good note, so once they broke a good sweat, I told them to “whoa”, and let them rest a few minutes before driving them back to their paddock. 

After receiving about 8 hours of training, this pair of young horses are working together as a team. After another 2 or 3 hours of work, they should have no problem being hitched to a wagon.  They’re still young and completely out of shape, but they have learned to trust their trainer and are completely different horse than they were a few weeks ago!