No trip to
would be complete without spending time with Xanthe and her horses and mules, they feel like my nephews and nieces now. Since we were last over, Xanthe has bought a new Comtois mare called Uta, a four
year old trained to drive. Our aim this time was to prepare her for starting
and to sit on her for the first time and this was easily achieved in just two
sessions. She's an extremely pretty girl with a gorgeous temperament and felt
as solid as a rock when I sat on her. On our last day, Xanthe took me out for a
drive around the lanes.
We also did some driving work with Jeca (pronounced Hekka) who must be the most fantastically marked horse in the whole wide world. In time these two horses will be driven together.
Next it was time to visit the mules, Xato (Jeca's son who has dapples like snowflakes), and the two Appaloosa crosses Tomeu and Jordi. We did some more preparation for starting work with Xato with me leaning over him. Xato is a sensitive soul and it was great to see just how calm he has become over the last year and he accepted my weight without demure. Tomeu and Jordi were nervous with good reason having been treated badly in the past. With time and careful training, they too are much much calmer now, coming up to be caught and accepting the long reins and other equipment in preparation for being driven. Continuing the theme from last week, Xanthe and I worked on asking them to acknowledge communication through the bit by softening or taking a step back before teaching them to short rein. The mules are as bright as Arabian horses and got it within three repetitions and it was good them working out what we wanted them to do rather than devising ways of getting their tongue over the bit. Mules are strategists and it is important to make 'the right thing' very clear and easy they will simply find a very sensible solution to any pressure that they feel. Xato has a neat line in placing his left fore on top of a hander's foot in a very deliberate way – time to short rein from his right hand side then!
The mules reward for their work is to be allowed to graze under the fig tree for all the windfalls. We also used a fig to say thank you for accepting the bit. Must taste glorious.