Icelandic Horse Connection

Ground Driving Your Icelandic Horse

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Learn the Ropes of Ground Driving
By Robyn Hood IceFarm

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

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Before you begin: Place a body wrap on your horse (see "Body ropes and body wraps," Sept./Oct. 1997, p. 8). The body wrap helps keep the horse "in touch" with his hindquarters and helps him feel more secure with the driving lines on his body.
  • STEP ONE: If your horse has never worn a saddle or surcingle or he has a tendency to be "cinchy" or cold-backed, start each session with belly lifts. They will give him a chance to experience pressure under the belly without having downward pressure on the back. Using a folded towel or surcingle (without wither pads), start just behind the elbow; lift slowly until you can feel a contact with the belly (if the horse moves or objects, back off and just lightly make contact). Pause for 6 to 15 seconds, then slowly come down. The coming down should take twice as long as the lift. If you lift to a count of 3 or 4, then come down by counting backwards from 6 or 8. Move back about six inches and repeat. Do this as far back toward the flank as the horse is comfortable with.

    To prepare your horse for ground driving,
    first do some belly lifts with the surcingle
    to encourage him to breathe deeply,
    lower his head and relax.
    This will give him a comfortable
    experience of having pressure under the belly.
    Gently lift, pause, and slowly release.

  • STEP TWO: Before doing up the girth, hold the surcingle in one hand and the girth in the other. Slowly lift with your hand, holding the girth against the belly Pause for 4 to 10 seconds, and then slowly release the lift. This gives the horse a chance to become accustomed to pressure down on the back and up on the belly with release from the pressure rather than just doing the girth up. He will also learn to breathe when he feels pressure from the saddle.

    Lift slightly with the girth
    as you steady the surcingle
    with the other hand. Slowly release.
    This gives the horse a chance to learn to breathe
    when he feels the pressure of the girth.

  • STEP THREE: Starting on the left side of the horse, attach one line to the halter, running it first through a ring, which is attached to a second ring on the surcingle. You can use double-ended snaps to attach the ring, allowing the line to be raised or lowered on the surcingle.

    The snap acts as an extender to bring the line out from the horse's body and serve as a leading rein. Stroke the wand down the hindquarters and leg to accustom the horse to the line. At the same time, ask your handler to give a signal back on the lead and stroke the chest and front legs with the wand, asking your equine pupil to stand still.

    Start out with a single driving line-this way, if the horse is afraid, he can move away from the line rather than bolting. At this point, the handler at -the horse's head is giving all of the commands, so it is essential that both of you communicate with each other for stopping, starting and turning.

    "Do up" the girth loosely at first.
    Use the breast collar to keep
    the surcingle from slipping back.
    Attach one line through the ring
    on the surcingle to the halter.
    Stroke the horse's hindquarters
    and legs with the line.
    The handler at the head strokes with the wand.

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by Robyn Hood, IceFarm, from TTEAM Up With Your Horse (now TTEAM Connections), copyright 2001 (printed here with permission).

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