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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  • STEP FOUR: Walk the horse forward and allow the single line to touch the hindquarters and move down the leg. To teach the horse to override the flight instinct when something gets around his lower leg, slide the rope down the leg and when it touches just below the hock, ask the horse to stop. Then reward your horse with a stroke from the wand and perhaps a small bite of grain.

    If your horse is unsure about the driving lines, a bit of grain will also encourage him to relax and breathe. Use a flat feed pan or a Frisbee with just a handful or two of grain spread around the pan. This way the horse has to feel around for the grain rather than just diving into a bucket and thinking only about the food.

    After a couple of times of being asked to halt when the line gets below the hock, your horse should begin to slow down whenever the line goes below the hock. This is a lesson in safety; should your horse ever become ensnared in wire or brush, he is much more likely to stop and think instead of acting instinctively in flight. At this point, if your horse is afraid of the line, have the person at the head stop the horse. Then (assuming you are controlling the driving line), come up the line toward the horse's head with the grain.

    If your horse is at all nervous about the lines,
    you can dispel some of his anxiety by walking
    up from behind and giving him a bite of grain.
    Or go back a step, taking the line off the halter
    and tying it around the neck as you do in neckline driving.

  • STEP FIVE: Invite the horse to turn his head and reach back to eat the grain. When a horse is afraid he will often stiffen his neck and become rigid rather than bend his neck and look back with- out moving his hindquarters. Walk the horse for- ward and stop several times. Walk up from both sides to be sure the horse can turn his head back in both directions. Take him into the labyrinth and star poles to help him relax and focus as you go through these steps.

    Cross the single line over the horse's back
    so that it rests on the off side.
    Then stroke the horse's hindquarters
    and leg with the rope. Continue the lesson
    by walking the horse through the obstacles.
    Add the second line and cross it over the horse's back.

  • STEP SIX: Take your single line and cross it over the back to let it touch the horse on the opposite side. If your horse is nervous when the line is on the right, have your handler move over to this side of the horse (rethreading the chain through the opposite side of the hatter rings first). It is always safest for both people to be on the same side. Even if your horse does not seem to be afraid from the left side, it is worthwhile to take a few minutes to see how he reacts to the right side. Some horses are perfectly quiet with the line on the left side and become terrified when it goes over to the right side. Lead the horse through a few pole exercises before proceeding to the next step.

    Now uncross the driving lines.
    You can now give the signals to turn and stop
    from your driving position behind the horse.
    It is important for you to communicate clearly
    with your helper at the horse's head;
    this also is the most challenging part of the exercises.

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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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