When you see our horses working downtown, you see horses that are relaxed, confident, and know their job so well they could probably complete the route in their sleep. Have you ever wondered where they came from, or how they learned to do their job so well?
Our horses come to us from all over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. They come from varied backgrounds, but all of them are experienced driving horses. Many come from a farming background, particularly from Northern BC and Alberta, where draft horses are still heavily relied on to get work done around the farm. Some have been show horses, competing at local fairs and larger exhibitions such as the PNE and the Calgary Stampede. Some have done some commercial work already, working in smaller towns or doing private events and parades.
When a new horse arrives on our farm, it will be at least a couple months, and in some cases up to a year before they actually come downtown. No matter where they have come from, they enter into our industry-leading horse development program, where they must successfully pass several levels of training to ensure that they have all of the skills and knowledge necessary to work downtown with ease, confidence, and enjoyment.
Despite their previous experience, when we begin working with a new horse, we assume that they know nothing and start from the very beginning: this allows us to carefully assess what they do know, and fill in any and all gaps along the way. It also ensures that they have a very solid foundation, and also allows us to develop a trusting relationship with them which is a key factor for success downtown.
The foundation work is all done from the ground, and includes a number of different activities, each intended to develop certain skills. We then move into driving, and gradually introduce the horse to the different sights and sounds he will encounter downtown. Developing the horse’s foundational skills is discussed in Part 2.