What exactly is a stone boat you ask?
A stone boat is basically a horse pulled wood sled sort of thing with steel runners. Or aluminum barn siding runners in my case because it's what I had and what I could bend.
Excuse the half light half shadow. I could not see what I was taking a picture of because of the sunlight.
Anyway, about this stone boat. It's used for hauling rocks, wood, dirt, whatever you can put on it and make the horse pull it, including yourself on a bale of straw. Mine does not have a lip or sides YET. Only because I cannot find a piece of wood I can use. Soon, soon.
So we have been picking up rocks in the field that will become some sort of pasture hopefully soon AKA a flat place for me to ride/drive. We have quite the pile of rocks going out behind the calf barn (the little barn Indigo and Sheba share for shelter that used to house the calves).
So a stone boat is a lot different than a carriage. A stone boat requires constant pulling, unlike a carriage that starts rolling once the horse pulls it.
A stone boat will teach a horse many important things such as:
How to pull. There is constant pressure on the traces because there is constant pulling. Especially if there is a heavy load. A horse really has to throw his weight into the collar to get a heavy load going with wheels but once the wheels are turning it kind of rolls along. A stone boat is deadweight; it requires constant effort.
How to stop. Because of the constant pulling after a wile of heaving away, especially with a heavier load the horse will want to stop and take a breather rather than have constant pressure.
How to stand still. This one is probably the hardest thing to teach a horse. Sure horses will stop but they are prey animals. They want to keep moving constantly. By pulling a stone boat they need to work. If you let them pull and work for a wile then offer the break a good majority of them clue into this quickly and take the opportunity to rest.
Indigo has discovered all three of these.
First the loads started getting heavier because of the rocks. She would go "Holy crap must back up to relieve tension on the tugs" and get a tap from me telling her she had to go forward. She caught on and heaved her weight into the collar.
Then I had to ask her to stop so I could pick up rocks and pile them on. She would stop balanced and right on cue without even a touch of the reins when I so much as uttered a woah.
Lastly she learned to stand still. Hauling rocks is hard work. We need to stop and start and stop and start and even though shes not moving fast it's hard work pulling. She caught on about the third trip to the rock pile that if she stood wile I unloaded I would drop the reins and leave her be wile I tossed rocks off, which also made the load lighter when she started again. She also learned that taking one step back relieved the pressure on the tugs. If you watch the video below you can see when she stops the second or third time she takes a step back.
The thing that really got me, why I love this horse is she acted as if she had been pulling the stone boat all her life. A stone boat scrapes along the ground. When I pass over the driveway and it made an awful scraping noise she didn't even flick an ear. Most horses, even ones who have been driving for a wile would have jumped ahead and gone "what the heck is going to eat me!?".
Then theres Indigo, the horse who didn't even know what a carriage was 3 years and a bit ago when I first decided she would drive too. She just takes what I throw at her and adjusts with a very accepting attitude.
So here is a video I took today of me riding on the stone boat.
Excuse the random ground/leg/feet I was driving with both lines in one hand and videoing with the same hand at the same time wile trying to wrestle my straw bale that I didn't quite put all the way on. It fell off.
I feel like we have accomplished a lot this year and I am glad. What have you accomplished this year with your horses? What do you still hope to accomplish?