09-30-2011, 08:39 PM
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Preliminary to ground driving the first thing I do is teach the horse to ground tie. I teach my horse to walk, trot, canter, reverse and stop on the longe line from voice command. I want the horse to be able to jog and canter slow and to transition between a slow trot and extended trot and stop at any speed. Using a 15 foot line I teach him to pivot on fore and hind quarters and then to side pass. This lateral work can be done at the same time as your longe line training. I begin with just a halter. When the horse is paying attention I bridle him in a snaffle at first longing him with the line still attached to the halter. When he is accustomed to the bit I move the line attachment to the bit. After he longes well in the bit doing all of the things I have taught him in the halter I bit him up to the surcingle, loosely at first and then progressively shortening the bridal reins. ( I use 1/4 inch nylon rope about six feet long for reins and tie slip knots or put a snap on one end.) I progressively shorten the reins (always with the inside rein a little shorter) until the horse will trot and canter in a circle at a relaxed pace with his head carried at the vertical. If he tries to back away from the pressure at first, don't panic, just work him through it loosening the reins a little if you have to. I may not ask him to drive with his head at the vertical but I want him to submit to my hands when asked. It may take a couple of months to reach this stage. Now I begin ground driving with long lines. At first I drive from the center of a circle as if longing and work on stops. I gradually move toward the horse's flank until I am behind him. I want to be far enough that I am not kicked but not too far away. Six feet or so. I have a sixty foot square working area that I do all of this in. After he is driving well in the bridal at the walk, stopping and turning I apply the breast collar and saddle of the harness and run the lines through the terrets. If there is no problem ground driving in harness I move to the arena. I ground drive him on the rail and do circles and figure eights always working on halts. Next I trot behind him. (Great exercise) I do this for as many days as necessary for him to perform calmly. I have a four foot long piece of 2" diameter steel pipe with hooks welded to the ends. (You can drill holes and use nuts and bolt hooks) An eye bolt is attached to the opposite side of the bar in the middle. I tie lengths of soft braided rope to the trace buckles and attach the ends to the bar hooks with a loop in the rope end. ( I don't want my good traces in the dirt) I drive from behind the bar. If he gets excited and turns in the traces the bar will come unhooked with no harm done. The bar should be on the ground three feet or so behind his legs. When he is good at this I drive him without the bar around and over an inflated inner tube until he is not spooked by it. Then I tie the inner tube to the eye hook on the bar and let him pull it; rail, circles, figure eights, stops. When he is good with that I exchange the inner-tube for a medium sized tire and repeat. Now he is ready for the training cart. Of course, by this time he is 14 years old. (Just kidding) You shouldn't rush any phase of your driving training though. It's a safety issue. Your goal should be to make your horse as close to bomb proof as possible. Besides, it's fun.