Today was a repeat lesson on shaft training- repeating to be sure that he's still okay with the whole concept- which he is.
We did the same drill as yesterday with warming up, then slowly hooking up the shafts, walking and trotting off, this time with slightly less high-pitched shrieking "Good boy!" We got to where we left off yesterday rather quickly and comfortably, so I thought we'd take it a step farther. So today I clipped the shafts to the brest plate- "eh, no big deal," thought Louie.
Okay, I thought, how about if I intentionally steer him a little bit too close to the wall. Rubbing up against the wall with the cart is an inevitable event that will likely happen at some point, so why not try it when all we have attached are some little plastic poles. Louie trotted up close to the wall, the bottom of the shaft rubbed against the wooden wall, making a little different sound, but no matter to Louie, he just trotted along as relaxed and calm as can be.
Okay, how about if I pick up the shafts, hold them closer together hugging the haunches, and ground drive from behind. Okay, no prob. The only difficulty this brought was turning in tighter circles as his neck ran into the front of the "shaft." This really wouldn't happen in a real cart as the shafts point away in the front, so we're not really going to worry too much about that. He passed that test with flying colors too- shafts bouncing around his butt and all.
Next I thought, okay, I'm going to put a little bit of weight on the traces/shafts. Well, Louie didn't think it was a big deal, and didn't have any real reaction to this concept, but he wasn't quite sure that he was supposed to keep moving forward against the resistance. So with some convincing, we eventually went around, me pulling back a bit on the traces/shafts and steering with my index fingers. This actually worked out really well! So just a few laps around at a walk and trot and I was fairly tired from all this running. We went in the middle, stopped (and with the stop, I pushed the shafts forward a bit as to simulate what happens with a cart stopping suddenly- no reaction), unhooked, and called it a day.
Good boy Louie! He is just too smart, this is all coming so easily for him. :) At this pace he'll be driving next week.