Icelandic Horse Connection

Learn the Ropes of Ground Driving

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By Robyn Hood, IceFarm

You can safely teach your horse the building blocks of training before you ever place your toe in the stirrup.

When most people think of "breaking" a horse, they think of saddling, bridling and riding that horse. And while many skilled trainers can accomplish this in just a few sessions, it takes a great deal of skill and timing. Many people overlook the opportunity to teach a horse from the ground the basic building blocks that will be needed under saddle. Teaching these skills from the ground minimizes the risk of injury to either horse or handler.

When my sister Linda Tellington-Jones was 12 years old, she discovered that ground driving made young horses much easier to start. In the 1960s, when she taught seminars to amateurs at the University of California on starting young horses safely and quietly, ground driving was an integral part of the process. In the May/June 1999 issue, we described the steps of neckline driving, a valuable TTEAM training tool for both young horses starting their training and older horses who
  • exhibit fear of things behind them or kick
  • travel above the bit, behind the bit (over-bent) or are ewe-necked
  • rush through narrow spaces or swing around to face things they are afraid of
  • are afraid to cross water or jump ditches
  • are blind in one eye or are losing sight.
While neckline driving can be used on its own, it is also the ideal preparation for ground driving. Driving teaches horses the "building blocks" of training, including turning, stopping and going forward to a signal from behind. It can also serve as an effective refresher course for older horses. No matter what your horse's level of training, ground driving can help teach him to
  • stop from a light signal from the rein, turn in any direction, and stop in balance
  • overcome a fear of things behind him or of going through narrow spaces
  • improve his response if he is overly sensitive or unresponsive to the leg
  • be self-confident and flexible on both sides of the body
  • have a 360-degree "view" of his body improving balance and self-image
  • load into a trailer without difficulty
  • prepare for work in harness.
  • flat nylon halter that fits correctly; i.e., not too loose or low on the nose
  • wand (four-foot stiff whip) and lead line with a 30-inch chain
  • a helper
  • two driving lines, each three-eighths inch (7 mm) and about 21 feet long
  • surcingle with breast collar or rope
  • body wrap (two elastic bandages or polo wraps tied together).

We start ground driving from the halter rather than from a bridle and bit. Carrying a bit changes the horse's balance, giving him another new thing to deal with. And when you ground drive, the distance between the horse's head and your hand is 15 to 18 feet, which puts a lot of weight on the bit and lessens the chance of clear, consistent signals. Working from the halter will also keep the horse's body in a lengthened frame and keep his head level. (Please review the steps of neckline driving in the May/June'99 issue before proceeding.)

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by Robyn Hood, http://icefarm.com, from TTEAM Up With Your Horse (now TTEAM Connections), copyright 2001 (printed here with permission).

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