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Ground Driving Questions and More?

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  • Dangers of riding before ground driving

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    10-08-2013, 01:12 PM
Green Broke
I have started horses with and without ground driving, and I think ground driving is a very effective tool when done correctly. I agree with what has been said about getting a horse used to giving to the bit before driving. I ALWAYS start a horse in a bit, typically a single jointed or double jointed full cheek snaffle. This type if snaffle wont pull through the mouth and gives simple, clear directional cues. The odd time I might find a horse that really prefers something else, but 99% its a good bit to start with. Even if you never intend to use a bit, you want to spend the rest of its life in a hackamore, bosal or side pull, starting with a bit is important. Years down the road you may have to switch to a bit, or the horse may have to be sold, in which case a horse that can ride in a snaffle already is important.

Before ground driving my horses always respond appropriately to pressure, know basic ground work, like being able to send your horse forward, as Cherie mentioned, basic lunging(although I lunge my horses very little), are comfortable with a bit, saddle and all other appropriate tack(always a fully rigged western saddle with breast collar and back cinch), and have been round penned at a w/t/canter with it on. They are familiar with how a bit works, flex side to side, stop, back and turn with bit pressure. Then I ground drive. First in a small pen, then out in the open, in a variety of scenarios.
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    10-08-2013, 02:42 PM
I agree with everything Cherie posted, except I always drive mine high on the hip, like she said, and with the driving lines through the stirrups....I feel that this gets them started on a lower headset and it also gets them thorougly used to ropes and things around their lower legs....This is usually the last thing I will do prior to getting on the horse.
    10-08-2013, 09:00 PM
Super Moderator
I started out driving horses using a surcingle, so I started with the reins running through a ring at the horse's shoulders. This was very satisfactory -- no problem at all.

Then, I decided I wanted to drive horses with a stock saddle so I could switch to riding them mid-lesson. At the very first, I, too, liked the idea that horses carried their heads lower. Only thing was, when I rode these horses, I had a terrible time getting any actual collection and getting them to round their backs and use their hind ends the way I wanted them to. I had problems with getting collected 'reverse bend' and a LOT of trouble getting nice, slow lead changes. I fought horses wanting to 'give' in the middle of their necks instead of 'breaking' at the poll like they should.

I finally figured out that the 'nice low head-carriage' was actually a horse being dumped over on his front end. I spent 1 week ground driving with the reins that low and then had to spent 3 months trying to get the horse off of his front end. When I finally made the association, I went back to driving with the reins closer to shoulder high and all of the problems with front-heavy horses disappeared -- again.

After that, I started watching horses that other trainers were driving through the stirrups and they had a lot of front-heavy horses. Some had to get really rough trying to get horses stopping on their hind ends and even more trouble getting horses to round their backs and TRY to stop rather than have riders pulling on them and stopping them.
    10-08-2013, 11:40 PM
You don't really stand behind them either Kylie - you stand back and to the side
I do both. I want them to learn to be driven from whatever position I'm in, be that beside, behind, even a bit in front, etc. But for training specifically for riding or driving in a cart, I do it from directly behind. Narrow bushy trails are also difficult to ground drive on unless you're directly behind too!
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    10-08-2013, 11:41 PM

PS. Don't ask me why there're italics!
    10-09-2013, 08:02 AM
Super Moderator
I also drive directly from behind once they are accustomed to being driven.

I am really 'picky' how a horse drives -- but then, I am a 'detail oriented' trainer.

I am very picky about where a horse carries its head. Many horses want to 'lean' or depend on one rein. This means that they will only go in a straight line with a slight pull on one rein. A horse like this will quickly learn to travel with its head off to one side. [This is not an unusual problem in ridden horses either, especially when a green rider rides a green horse.] I like a horse to learn to stay 'centered' before I ever ride it. I sets a horse up for going straight and not leaning on one rein or one leg of a rider. It can be very difficult to teach a horse NOT to lean on a fence, a rein or a leg or even a longe line. I like to start out with them willing to go straight forward -- anywhere.

I am very picky about always driving horses places they really do not want to go. Early on, I like them to learn that I am in charge and they MUST go where I want. I want 'forward impulsion' to be very solidly ingrained in their minds. They MUST go forward when I ask them to. I think this is one of the main reasons I never have a problem with green horses 'stalling out' and refusing to go where I ask. They learn that FORWARD means FORWARD before I even get on one of them.

They learn that they MUST follow their nose. They learn that when I shorten a line and ask a horse to look 'slightly' one direction, it MUST follow its nose and go there --- not drift shoulder first the opposite direction or continue on in a straight line. Whatever response I get when I drive a horse is exactly the response I am going to get under saddle.

This is also why I go back to driving a horse when it presents a problem. It is also why any newly acquired horse is taught to drive before we start riding it. I want to know that it is not going to rear or run backwards when it does not want to do something. I will find the holes in its previous training before I put myself or anyone else in danger. I
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    10-09-2013, 08:55 AM
Cherie, I see where driving them for awhile with the lines through the stirrups would cause the issues you described. I only drive mine twice, usually ... once with a halter(I attach the ends of the lines to the halter after running the line through the ring of the snaffle so the horse gets to feel some bit pressure, but not only the bit pressure) and the second time with the snaffle only...then I hop on them and usually never drive them again. I have, on some more "boneheaded" horses, taken them back to the round pen and drove them again, but never enough to encourage/start them on the issues you saw.

I am glad you put that out, I do have a horse I am going to retrain that already has a lower than I want head set, I may not drive them with the lines throught the stirrups.
    10-09-2013, 11:59 AM
I read everyones post so I'm going to try to answer everyones thoughts.

To start off with, this horse was halter broke as a weanling with ten others and they trainer had no issues with him. I watched many horses cause horrible problems with the trainers. I trained him as a yearling for in-hand trail and prepared him to be sold. He has been sacked out with anything in my hands. I take any possible moment to turn it into a training moment. I haven't found anything that spooks him yet. I've ran a long cotton lead rope around his legs, back, neck, face, everything. He lunges perfectly, except he can be fat and lazy and want to stop but knows better. I have also lunged him with full tack and a bit in his mouth over his halter.

Like I said, he loves to work and I want to work with him. Thus why I want to start with ground driving. I want him to be prepared for anything, without me on him. I feel its more dangerous to be on a horse, then off a horse.

I will have to look at all the links posted, but here is a few more questions.

Is it better to start in a halter? I know some of you prefer a bit, though I've been seeing halter is better to start in? With that there is less room for error and for the horse to become bit sour or hard mouthed.

I want what is best for this horse, I would love to just jump on him and start, but I think ground driving is a good place for us both to start.

I also seen no thoughts on the wolf teeth causing a problem with a bit.
    10-09-2013, 10:04 PM
Super Moderator
If a horse is not having a problem with wolf teeth, I do not mess with them. Most times, when we geld a colt, we check for wolf teeth and if they are big enough, we take them out while the colt is down. Fillies, obviously, don't ever get laid down. If a horse has a fussy mouth, I take wolf teeth out and/or go to a 3 piece snaffle. If they are still fussy, I go to a Mullen mouth or a ported snaffle.

If a horse is VERY light, I drive on the halter for a while while the horse is carrying a bit. Some cutting bred colts are really light and need to be driven and even ridden on a halter or a side-pull for a while. I just let the colt tell me.
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