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.
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.