Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hey, Jimmy, Are You Experienced?

Some times it's good to see things from the driver's perspective.

First off I'd like to say how delighted I am that my friend and former carriage driver, Jumping Percheron's Stacey, has arrived in Korea safe and sound, and unlike her first deployment in the United Arab Emirates, she will be blogging about her adventures this time. During her last deployment her accommodations were a little more primitive and she had very limited internet access, although there was a Pizza Hut on base. She also was not immersed in the culture of blogging then, so she had no fan base to blog to, although I did get an occasional email detailing her dangerous and highly top secret mission, ( Slave Driver winks at Stacey…) and it was nice that I could get occasional updates on her activities. And when she returns home she's supposed to visit us here in Utah. So, YAY!

You can read all about her Korean adventures at 95 Days in Korea

The past week was a long one for me, with late nights and early mornings, and by Monday I was dragging ass, so that's the reason for no post. Sorry, sometimes I do require sleep.

Monday and Tuesday night I had the same trainee. We try not to do that because 1) The seasoned drivers get sick to death of having trainees all the time. And 2) From each seasoned driver the trainee learns different techniques and information. Also we forget to tell them stuff sometimes, or a specific incident, like an appointment being late and how to handle it, doesn't arise. So we switch them around so they may fully benefit from the experience of drivers who have been around for a while. Plus if you end up with the same trainee on consecutive evenings, especially if they have the personality of a wet dishrag, you don't end up committing Hari Kari with a sharpened pencil right there on the sidewalk out of sheer mind numbing boredom.

I was lucky; my trainee's knuckles did not drag on the ground, he spoke in complete sentences, and was entertaining.

For me, having a trainee is twofold; I like driving carriage, so being a passenger up there on the box can be a drag, and 2) we don't get paid extra to train, and part of training is teaching someone to sell. So, even if your trainee, fresh out of the box all new and shiny, is the best damn carriage driver that ever walked drove the earth, if they can't sell a ride they become as useless as tits on a bull. But my trainee was a good salesman, and although we didn't sell too many rides (Monday and Tuesdays are just not big Carriage Ride nights) it was okay.

When I get a trainee, I always ask them what their horse experience is. This usually happens while walking from the barn to the corral. If they say none, I go "Yippee!", because that means 1) I don't have to wipe all that Cowboy Shit off of them and 2) I don't have to re-train their bad habits. This is known as the "We've always ridden our dead horses this way" effect. We have our employees do things in a specific manner, for safety reasons, and I'll take a non-horse person with a lick of common sense over a "Stock Hand" any day. It means less work and arguments for me, so yeah…

Some trainees lie, or inflate their skill level. And in fact I never knew it was possible for a halter to be put on a horse upside down until I spent 10 minutes watching a trainee with "lots of horse experience" actually pull this magic trick off. Of course when she was done I immediately yanked it off and put it back on correctly, but it was interesting to watch all the same. I think this also speaks volumes about how patient and cooperative our horses are. More so than the trainers, I can guarantee that.

"Excuse me, do you know how to work that halter?"

Ro recently spent several minutes interviewing a prospective employee who enthusiastically outlined all her riding experience to Ro. When she'd finished, Ro asked her, "So, what kind of horse do you have?"

The soon-to-be-not-eligible-for-employment candidate answered, "Uh, I forget."

(Cue game show buzzer; Eeeeeeeehhhhh! "Wrong answer!" See, there is a huge difference between a person with no practical horse experience and a lying dumbass.)

When I do get a person who answers the "What horse experience do you have" with anything other than "None" my next question is this: "When was the last time you rode?"

Here is verbatim one of those conversations:

SD: "What horse experience do you have?"

Trainee: "I had a horse growing up."

(Mind you it's almost exclusively an Arab)

SD: "When was the last time you rode?"

Trainee: "Four years ago."

SD: "Did you ride English or Western?" (I'm talking saddle type here. For you non-horsey readers, although there are many different disciplines the saddle type breaks down to two basic styles: English (hunting, jumping, saddle seat, dressage, etc.) and Western (Western pleasure, reining, cutting, roping, etc.)

This is important information for me to know because we direct or "plow rein" the carriage horses, which is more English, as opposed to neck reining them, which is impossible, and an exclusively Western trait.

Trainee: "I don't understand the question."

SD: "Never mind, you've just answered it."

So that tells me the "Horse Experience" they have is zero. Why? Because having a horse as a kid growing up or having grandparents who owned a farm and worked it with a team of Percherons usually means someone other than the trainee got the animal ready to ride, boosted them into the saddle, and let them hack around in the back yard. So their "Horse Experience" is equivalent to sticking a quarter in the slot and "riding" the mechanical horse in front of K-Mart.

Those folks are a little more difficult to train, because 1) they have no respect for the animal because they've been "around" horses "all their lives" and 2) they keep wanting to tell me all about Flicka/Sham/Snowball or whatever the hell their horses name was while I'm trying to concentrate on teaching them how to groom and tack up Jerry/Tony/Cletus or whoever the hell we're driving today.

Then, of course, I had a trainee once who wanted to become a carriage driver because his wife was one, although he was afraid of horses.

As my buddy Bill said, "Isn't that like wanting a job as a lifeguard when you're a non-swimmer?"

Of course, sometimes it's a good experience to for the trainee to see things from the horses perspective.

"Walk on, Ro!"


Anonymous said...

Wow--up till now I never knew I was totally cut out for carriage driving! I know nothing, nothing! I don't even know what kind of horse my grandfather & dad plowed the farm with. It was tall and brown and named Jim and completely off limits. What is a halter again?

See? I could be your favorite trainee.

REJEC -- all right, somebody at Google is putting me on, right?

Lisa Deon said...

Yes, Dusty, you could be my favorite trainee, except it'd be a hella'va commute for you...

Griffox said...

When I worked at a horse hospital as a tech, we would get seasonal "techs" for foaling season. We had a few from russia that spoke no english and had no horse or tech experience during the busiest time of the year and with the most critical patients. I still have no idea what the head technicians were thinking when they hired them. I have seen halters put on upside down as well as hoof picks used in a few interesting ways. haha

Lisa Deon said...

What boggles my mind is someone thinking "Oh, sure I know how to do that," when, in fact they don't. Now, I've been a big fan of "ER" for the 143 seasons it was on, but I'd never attempt to put in a central line just because I've heard/seen them doing it on just about every episode.

(Okay, truthfully? I might if it was someone I really disliked intensely...)

But you know what I mean. We tell folks flat out that we will train them, and if they are a good salesperson then that's great; training the sales part in is much more difficult than teaching them the horses/driving aspect of the job.

Hypper: you're kidding, right? That's my middle name...

Belle's personal assistant said...

I know all about the halter upside down and backwards. I was in a hurry and was part of a huge (10) carriage specialty. A trainee was supposed to have my horse ready because I was coming in from my other job. The halter was still on backwards, the wrong harness was on and the hames were backwards. Needless to say I was late for the appointment. The trainee? my now ex-husband. I should have divorced him then!!!

Lisa Deon said...

Whew, BPA, for a second there I thought you were gonna blame the halter on upsidesdownandbackwards on me, but I knew how to put a halter on when I started ( having just retired from the farm where I had 4 horses of my own and boarded several others) however I will admit to putting Tony's tack on Tom once when I was "Helping ~A~ out" and the "ny" above Tony's tack (we use a dry erase) was partially erased. AND I was in a hurry. AND it was Xmas so I subsisting on very little sleep.

Doree DePew said...

I may know not a darn thing about carriage driving, but I am entertained learning it through your words. I never realized that there was a specific way to put on a halter. G

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks!! Oh yeah and combat pay for my liver...*SIGH* guilty as charged. I forgot, YOU don't drink *rolls eyes* LOL

Oh man that's so dead on about "Oh so you had a pony ride on grandpa's old plow beast?" being the equivalent to a ride on a penny pony.

Those kind of stories about horse experience are right up there with people that say "I rode a horse once..." Then it always ends with the story of some trail string and how their horse ran away with them and how they "pulled back" and wow big surprise, let me didn't work right? So then you continued being ran away with and almost getting taken out by tree branches, lions, tigers, and bears right??? LOLOLOL

Or "You have a horse???? Can I ride it??" Now why in the hell would I do something like that?

Anonymous said...

Why's that harness in the pic have team line spreaders on it??

Lisa Deon said...


I don'y drink anymore...I don't drink any less but I don't drink any more...(snicker)

And I will always be the first person to admit that you can drink me under the table any day. Of course you are also 1/2 my age and physically fit...

Team spreaders? Because we've always driven our dead horses that way... IDK, probably because the tack got switched around and it was on Bob/Jim and then it was on Jim/Charlie and then somehow Cletus got ahold of it and ran away, petting it and calling it his "Precious" until the barn gave in and said, "Fine!" and let him have it.

That's my story. sticking.

Carspa; where my Jeep really wants to go.

IrishLassie said...

I think I have the best trainee ever...Dumb dumb girl
You know, you are right, they always had an Arab, and thats not just our trainees.. Ive spoke with alot of people whom had Arabs and only rode western. You know, Ive been told, Arabs are meant to be rode western only..
(shakes her head laughing)

Ive a guess on the hip spreaders. Some of the newer drivers may struggle at first to keep them in their correct place? Maybe that's why.