Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back to the Basics: Ground Driving

I’ve gone back to the basics. Ground Driving. This teaches horses, that don’t give to the bit, to give. If the horse wants to fight, then the horse is fighting the ropes and not you. Or more specifically, the horse will not be fighting your hold and pulling on your shoulder, he/she will be fighting against himself/herself. I like to let a horse figure out things for themselves sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times. I feel that if a horse is smart, then they will “get it“ without throwing a big hissy fit more than once. If a horse is bully, they will continue to blow hissy fits for quite a few days. And if a horse is really stubborn, they may blow up! But if a horse is smart, they will raise their head once and feel the pressure of the bit, then drop their head and keep it there. Oh, I like those horses. They want to please!

I always free lunge the horse. I want the horse to get a feel of the arena and see all the spooky places. I want to turn the horse back and forth in the opposite direction to change the horse’s direction and to set up dominance. I want the horse to bond with me. Then we saddle and bridle and free lunge with the saddle on, with the reins tied off on the horn. At no time, with or without the saddle, is the horse allowed to play and buck around. Not with me in the arena. This is a time, maybe to blow off steam and run, but we are still there to learn. And that does not mean to learn to buck and kick out while a person is in the arena with them. If a horse does kick out or start bucking, I quickly change the horse’s direction. And I keep changing the direction often, it gives the horse something different to think then bucking and kicking.

Free lunging also starts to teach the horse how to lunge on a line. To go around in a circle. To stay away from the center. To respect the person in the middle of the arena. To get used to the saddle stirrups flopping on the horse’s side.

I always leave the halter on, so that I can tie up quickly if I need to. Horses are always learning patience by standing tied in their stall while another horse is being worked. Now we attach a lunge line to the halter. The horse already knows how to circle around the handler, so teaching to lunge on the line becomes easier to do.

I attach the long lines to the bit. The line goes through the stirrups and I lay the end of the lines across the saddle until both sides are attached to the bit. I don’t secure the stirrups. I let them loose so they can flop against the horse’s side and the horses becomes used to that feel. Once both of the lines are attached, I stand on the near side of the horse and hold that end of the lunge line in my left hand. With the other hand, I bring the other lunge line down from the saddle and throw the end over the horse’s butt. Sometimes, the horses are scared of the rope as it touches their legs and they kick out and run. I try to keep them in a circle around me, but if they are too scared, I will let them run with the lines loose behind them. They need to become desensitized to the ropes. Once they aren’t scared of the ropes, I ground drive them by standing behind them. I serpentine the arena, by shortening 1 line while lengthening the other line, being careful to keeping the lines in a loose circle while I hold them. Doing serpentines in the arena teaches the horse to follow reining directions by giving to the bit and bending and flexing the neck in the direction that the reins are telling him to go. I teach the horse to go in a circle and to trot and lope in a circle. With the lounge lines on, the horse is beginning to learn collection as he is bending at the poll and withers, while driving with impulsion.

The horse is saddled, bridled, and lunged. The horse is being ground driven. The horse learns to follow the direction of the reining. The horse has already learned to walk, trot and lope while giving to the bit and to change direction. Once the horse is accustomed to this, and drives easily, the transition to riding becomes easier. The foundation and fundamentals have been easily taught. Next training step will be the first ride!

Come along on the ride with me!

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