Friday, April 1, 2011

Black Prong, Spring 2011

"Camping" at Black Prong was an amazing experience. If you have never been there and you drive, one day you should treat yourself and go. Black Prong is set up for the driver; it has a number of hazards -including water hazards, cones courses, dressage courses, miles of driving trails and has cabin rentals, (with attached stalls and paddocks) as well as camping options. It is truly Disneyland for driving horses and their human partners. The grounds are meticulously maintained and cared for, the landscaping is exquisite and North Florida in the early spring is heaven on earth.

Robert and I took Joanna and Eleanor to drive as pairs (full sisters but Eleonor is three and just started driving). We had a blast with them. The pair learned more about driving together in one week! By the time we left, they were going through the hazards, in and out of the water courses, through the cones and practicing in the dressage ring.

We went with a group of friends from Georgia, as well as Tennessee. Rod and Ana from GA came with us, and shared the cabin we rented. We had so much fun driving, talking and partying. Ana, who is a gourmet cook and I did a lot of cooking and even threw a dinner party on Saturday night! Jim and Judy Talton, as well as Chris -who all live in Florida, joined us for the party and we had a lively time. We set up tables in the horse aisle (did I mention the barn is nicer than my house?) and we all just had fun!

And of course, we did lots and lots of driving. Those mares must have done twenty miles a day! Robert and I both gave impromptu lessons. So, Jim, Judy, and Rod all got to take lessons to either begin to learn to drive or to practice their driving skills. Rod got to drive a pair for the first time -which he took to like a duck takes to water. He is a natural. Jim learned that driving with Robert is always an adventure!

Robert spent a lot of time in the hazards courses with the mares. They learned so much about taking direction, moving together, driving in water and being brave. They went over bridges, through a tunnel, on a maze course, on major roads, through forest trails and through so many hazards. They listened, were level headed and joy to work with! I just love those mares!

One of the things I am really enjoying about this pair is that they work in harmony and modulate their trot naturally. They can go from a lovely extension to a "big" trot and down to a jog trot effortlessly. At Black Prong, I spent hours in the dressage course -just practicing. Earlier in the year, I had been working with Joanna to passage while being driven and my goal is to teach her to piaffe in cart. As she offers many different trots, it makes it very fun to teach her. She is a very willing partner, which makes driving her very fun. She is also extremely forward and loves to go. While in the ring, I discovered the pairs still has a lot to learn about bending and making accurate circles. We will be spending a lot of time on this in the coming months.

Finally, it is worth noting that we also got to spend a lot of time with our friends in the Georgia Driving and Riding Society, as wells as friends from TN. Most people had RVs and camped. Our combined groups share meals, drinks, laughs and campfires everyday. Camping and being with these great people is truly a communal experience and one not to be missed. I feel very lucky to be part of such a great group! People are caring, considerate, intelligent and just "get along" with each other. It is truly a unique group of people!

Below is what the group camp site looks like. If you have never horse camped with 30 of your best driving friends and all their dogs (as well as horses), it is a experience not to be missed!
I can't wait for the next drive!