It is that time of year when we are starting a lot of prospects, so what better time to get some training tips for getting those youngsters started. Once we have done the basics, teaching the young horse to accept a saddle and understand the basic round pen work, we then start teaching them to ground drive. The purpose for ground driving the young horse before getting on their back is so when you get up there for the first time you will have some kind of guide and steering.
You can teach ground driving in a snaffle or with a side pull. I like to start one ground driving with a side pull or a pencil bosal. I will start some in a smooth mouth snaffle if I have had their teeth checked and their mouth looks OK to accept a bit. I do not want to put a snaffle in one’s mouth if they have sharp edges on their teeth because the snaffle will push on their cheeks and rub them against their teeth. It becomes uncomfortable and that is not the way I want to introduce the bit. If you have not checked their teeth and do not have a bosal or a side pull then you can use a halter. Just attach the driving lines to the sides of the halter, this will work the same as a side pull with just a little less bite on the nose.
The first thing that you have to accomplish when driving is to get the horse to go forward. If you have done your round pen work then you have a place to start. The easiest way to start driving is to start in a round pen with you in the center. Just the same as if you were going to lunge the horse. For example lets work the horse in a circle to the left. To start you will encourage the horse to go forward by using the right driving rein to bump the horse on his rump to get them to move forward . You will use the left driving rein to help keep the horses head looking into the circle. Your position in relation to the horse should be behind the shoulder but not directly behind the horse. If you are directly behind the horse you will end up doing just a much work as the horse and will probably poop out before they will. If you are positioned behind the shoulder you can work the horse around you and not wear out before they do. Once you have gotten the horse relaxed, walking then trotting and loping in both directions you are ready to teach them to stop.
When teaching the horse to stop on driving lines you will find out quickly that you are not strong enough to pull the horse to a stop. Instead use the round pen fence to teach them to turn and go the other direction. To do this you will encourage the horse to go forward and start guiding them to work closer to the rail. While they are on the rail you will slowly turn the nose toward the fence, eventually they will stop and go the other direction. Just remember to allow this to happen and not try to make it happen. The more you let the youngster do this naturally the more they will have time to figure out how to position their body correctly to perform the maneuver correctly.
Ground driving is a great tool to help get your youngster going along faster once you are in the saddle. Here is a important tip to go along with ground driving. If you are not the most coordinated person make sure that you keep the excess driving reins from becoming coiled around your legs. Especially if you have spurs on. I have seen people get tied up in their driving reins and get drug around a pen. I prefer driving reins that are one piece or connected in the middle, this way I can just keep the driving reins over my shoulders and nothing is left dragging around in the dirt to get caught up in my feet. Have fun with your babies!