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
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
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.
YOUR "TOOLS" FOR GROUND DRIVING
flat nylon halter that fits correctly; i.e., not too loose or low on
wand (four-foot stiff whip) and lead line with a 30-inch chain
two driving lines, each three-eighths inch (7 mm) and about 21 feet
surcingle with breast collar or rope
body wrap (two elastic bandages or polo wraps tied together).
DRIVE FROM THE HALTER
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.)