Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ground Driving Your Horse

A computer crash did away with many questions people have sent to me along with pictures and videos that I intended to use to try and answer with. Someone wrote to me several months ago about ground driving their horse, which is basically moving and controlling your horse by using reins from a position on the ground and behind your horse. The first time I saw this was maybe 8 or 9 years ago when Craig Cameron demonstrated it.  It made sense to me then and ever since I have it in my tool bag to use when I think the horse can benefit from it.

Ground driving is something that can help a horse that is troubled by rein control under movement or having an issue with someone his back and trying to accept direction from pressure on the reins. It can be good preparation before that first ride or a tool on a horse that is still a little troubled after the first couple rides.

Using long lead lines or lunge lines, you feed the snap end of the line through the stirrups and connect to the halter. I would not use any bit when ground driving because there is a lot of rope to handle and an increased chance that the horse may get into trouble like stepping on the line and cutting his tongue. So I use either a halter or a bosal and I'll clip the bolt snap of the lunge line to the cheek piece of the halter or to the bosal just above the heel knot. I'm using 25 foot long lunge lines that I make from 1/2 inch diameter yacht braid rope putting a brass bolt snap on one end. Twenty Five feet is a pretty good length for an all around lunge line/driving line but some people ask me to make them shorter ropes in the 20 to 23 feet length,...just personal preference, but it needs to be long enough to allow you to stay at a safe distance from the horse's rear feet.

Before you start ground driving your horse be sure that he is okay with ropes across his butt, hocks and lower legs. Before I get to the point of ground driving a horse, I would have already sacked him out on ropes around his legs, hocks and butt. But it's important enough to check that he is good with it again before you ground drive him. If you have reins attached to a bosal like I do, either remove them or tie them up securely so it won't be an issue coming loose and having the horse step through them.

Make sure when you pickup the ends of the lines that you are far enough away from the horse not to get kicked - sacking him out on ropes across his butt and rear legs will help minimize a reason to kick, but be careful nonetheless. You are only really using one line at a time. The idea is to keep a loose line only putting a little pressure on one line to get his head tipped for a change of direction and using one line to flick it against his barrel, like you would use leg pressure, for a cue to go forward or to increase his gait. Start off at the walk and don't go to the trot until you and your horse are good at changes of direction and stopping at the walk.

Remember that if you or your horse gets into trouble at any time, let go of one of the lines and bend your horse to a stop with the other line.

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