by Ann Pringle
I’ll admit that when I gave Hal the signal to ‘walk on’ I was more than a little nervous. Now over these many years, I’ve probably read more articles and books on driving in my role as an editor than many drivers. I know about half-halts, the inside and outside reins, balance, bend, impulsion, but at this particular moment, all I was hoping was that Hal would know how to whoa.
It didn’t help that we weren’t going to drive in a smooth, enclosed arena. Oh no, we were headed for the Walthour Moss Foundation – thousands of acres of rolling sandy trails, a million pine trees that all looked alike, deer and all kinds of other spooks and goblins that I was sure would turn Hal into a runaway.
Within the first few strides, Craig Kellogg, who had stepped onto the back of the vehicle, said “Trust your horse.” This he repeated several times in the next several minutes. Then he said “Pick up a trot.” Trot??? I was just starting to get comfortable at the walk. The path wasn’t straight. It wound around the long leaf pines, over roots, bumps, and under low hanging branches. The only thing Hal didn’t like was rustling plastic Craig had told me in the barn when I accidentally brushed against a plastic bag. Just ahead was a huge blue plastic tarp covering a pile of hay several stories high. Craig laughed a slightly wicked sounding laugh, “Last week a couple of Mexicans came out from under the tarp and Hal didn’t like it much.” Ok, trust your horse, I told myself.
Obviously I survived my first real driving experience in two decades. And by the end, not only did I trust my horse, I decided to trust Craig too, who has a very strong self preservation instinct. He talked me through every turn, instilled a bit of confidence in me, and by the end, I was actually somewhat relaxed. Of course most of the credit goes to Hal, who never made a misstep or gave me a moment’s worry. He never got a tad stronger when we were headed for home. However, a word of advice to instructors – us beginners can only absorb so much instruction at one time. You can tell us all you want, but only about 100th of it is going to sink in.