Ground exercises to improve steering - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-09-2019, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
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Ground exercises to improve steering

My horse has been coming along really well, but I'd like to improve his steering. What exercises can I do either in hand or through ground driving can I do to improve that?

As of now, he has a pretty darn firm grasp on the very basics. He can do upwards and downwards transitions on voice alone, and he does give to bit pressure easily. My problem is that whenever I cue him to turn, there's a 50/50 shot he just does a circle rather than changing the direction he's going. The chances of him turning a little vs doing a circle don't seem to be influenced at all by where "home" is, is it possible that there's a much slower release of pressure because of the driving lines?

It's a vast improvement from the first time I tried to ground drive him and he would only do circles, but I'd like to refine his steering. I've found some good resources online, but they all cater more to the riding crowd and involve a lot of trotting, something I'm not going to do much of if I'm running behind him. Many of these people also say that doing these exercises at a walk would be ineffective.
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post #2 of 6 Old 10-09-2019, 08:57 PM
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ok. you're ground driving . . . . explain your set up, please ( how tacked up)


Why does he circle? is it confusion, or is he trying to get you in a position where you are not in the driveline? Is he trying to get you to stop driving him?

When you ask him to turn right, do his ears and eyes look that way a bit? Does he keep going, then, too far right, and if so, is he bending to the right, but walking forward, leaking through his left shoulder? Does he 'lean' on one rein or the other?


We need more to be able to picture your situation.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-10-2019, 06:08 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
ok. you're ground driving . . . . explain your set up, please ( how tacked up)


Why does he circle? is it confusion, or is he trying to get you in a position where you are not in the driveline? Is he trying to get you to stop driving him?

When you ask him to turn right, do his ears and eyes look that way a bit? Does he keep going, then, too far right, and if so, is he bending to the right, but walking forward, leaking through his left shoulder? Does he 'lean' on one rein or the other?


We need more to be able to picture your situation.
I mean, it's a pretty standard ground driving setup. He has a surcingle, open bridle and lines. I'm standing directly behind him.

When I ask him to turn, he bends into the turn, ears and eyes facing far that direction, and he just way over shoots it. It seems way more like confusion than an evasion.

Occasionally when we first start working on steering exercises, he will bend in the direction I want him to turn while still walking forward, but he pretty quickly works out of that. Usually that only happens the first time I ask, and he doesn't do it again.

I find it helps immensely if I'm trying to steer him to an objective, like between two cones. He seems to get it if I'm steering him towards something, but if I'm turning just for the sake of turning with nothing to point him at, he does a doughnut, if that makes any sense.
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post #4 of 6 Old 10-10-2019, 07:39 AM
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This has more to do with effective rein use and overbending. He should never be able to circle unless you are asking for a circle. I don't do circles when ground driving until they are well versed in turns then the turn progresses into the circle. Serpentines are good for this as you are alternating turn direction. Make them even, deep enough there is a significant straight way and large enough to be comfortable for him. Ground or saddle - doesn't matter. Your inside rein will cue the direction and the outside rein is your support. It becomes your preventative when he doesn't heed the cue to straighten.Pinky halt to let him know a new cue is coming if he is attentive to pressure. Reinforce your rein use with verbal.


I use an area the size of a dressage arena. With the drafts three serpentines are enough until they are solid. The younger and more agile though can do 6 loop easy. With a driving horse I work on smoothness and don't do a lot of hard turns but you can also do box turns in the serpentine.


Walking or trotting turns I find should make no difference.
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post #5 of 6 Old 10-10-2019, 07:46 AM
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From your description...are you trying to turn him while he is not walking forward?
I don't understand what would be the point of that exercise. I only have horses turn while walking or trotting when I am ground driving. It's always forward motion unless I'm telling them to whoa. If you want to work on exercises that don't need forward motion, they would be better accomplished when not ground driving.

I'll assume you are cueing with both reins when you want to turn? Usually you just need to increase the pressure on the outside rein if the horse begins to turn inward too sharply. Sometimes it feels like you are applying more pressure when ground driving than you do under saddle. This does not seem to apply (in my experience) to a horse needing more pressure when ridden.

If you are training to actually drive the horse, turning from a standstill would come later after the horse was used to having shafts added to the harness, and then you teach the horse to push into that pressure to turn while moving sideways.

If you wanted to teach a turn around the forehand or haunches, I wouldn't do that while ground driving but would just begin when the horse was on a lead rope and wearing a bridle or halter.

Another question: I assume you are running the lines through rings or a part of the surcingle? That helps keep bit cues more clear.
If he is stalling out from forward motion when you ask for the turn, sometimes you need to add more driving cues (with the whip or whatever you are using) to keep the horse going forward through the turn. And/or decrease your bit pressure if he is taking your cues as "whoa."
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-10-2019, 10:25 AM
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You said that you want to work on his steering? He's not the one steering, you (and your tack) are. Make sure your driving reins are through the side rings, not the top rings. Otherwise, we'll assume the tack is staying out of the way and address what might be going on here.

He circles 50% of the time because, 50% of the time, that's what he thinks he's supposed to do. Why does he think that 50% of the time? Because 50% of the time, that's the cue you (or the tack) is giving him. And maybe, 50% of the time, he got to stop after circling, and stopping (pressure release) is a reward.

In ground driving, a horse will make a sharp circle when he receives a strong rein aid from one side, and little/no rein aid from the other side. Strong rein left (with no right rein) = sharp turn left. Strong rein right (with no left rein) = sharp turn right. That's what he is supposed to do, particularly if he has very little 'forward' momentum. Imagine if you were dancing with someone and all of a sudden they let go of your right arm and put all of their effort into pulling your left arm. You're going to comply by 'giving' to the left, right? So regarding contact with the bit through the reins -- steady contact with subtle left or right pressure differences is far more pleasant.

Okay, so, let's imagine that instead of 100% left rein contact, 0% right rein contact, you have 60% left rein contact, and 40% right rein contact? That's only a slight turn to the left, so what does your horse do? Stop? Try to circle and get confused by the pressure on both reins? If so, he's forgetting or doesn't know a very basic concept: "Forward, accepting gentle contact with the bit."

(One way to develop "forward, accepting gentle contact with the bit" is to lunge with sidereins. If you start your day with this, and then try steering/turning, you're very likely to have more success.)

And finally, remember that you dictate when a 'turn' is complete, otherwise he's supposed to keep going, and will continue in a circle. So if you have 60% left and 40% right, and you're making that shallow left turn, simply adjust back to 50-50 for straightness, and then gentle pressure on both reins to have him halt. Then drop the reins, give him a pat and tell him he's a good boy.

You can also halt him from taking too sharp of a turn by putting your lunge whip on the side he's turning towards, effectively 'blocking' him. This doesn't work for every horse and can cause a real hassle.
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