From checking-up, longeing, and setting, your horse has become well-acquainted with the hackamore and now should be giving humbly to pressure on his nose and jaw. Before you step aboard, however, test how well you’ve prepared your horse for riding by driving him. If you’ve completed the groundwork thoroughly, culling vices and alleviating stiffness along the way, this exercise flows smoothly, proving that your horse is ready to ride.
The best way to simulate riding while you remain on the ground, driving your horse allows you to bump and rock the hackamore in much the same way you do when you take the reins from atop your horse’s back. While using the driving lines, should you encounter resistance as you maneuver your animal through turns and stops, it’s time to put a little more thought into where things have gone wrong, and then take the necessary measures to fix any problems and eliminate resistance. You might have to go back to the bitting-up and hard-setting exercises combination with ground-driving for a time. These exercises further instill the fundamentals your horse must have before you mount him to ride.
When driving your horse, reverse him by relinquishing your hold on the inside line as you take all slack from the line outside, increasing your bumps on the hackamore until your horse turns through the reverse. You then can help drive him forward in the new direction by slapping the line he’s moving away from against his side, to mimic your leg when riding.
Ground-drive your horse in each direction, stopping, turning and backing until he follows his nose laterally and gives vertically the way you would like when he’s being ridden. Do not expect perfection the first day your horse is in the driving lines, though there should be no signs of rudeness or opposition either. A horse tells you when he’s ready to ride, so be mindful and appreciative of your horse’s small advances and build on those from day to day.
The trainer who hurries doesn’t cheat time, only himself and his horse. The era of the vaqueros is called “the land of manana” for this very reason. “Manana” means tomorrow or an unspecified future time, and that word should be part of the anthem for every training program. Good training takes patience—there always is tomorrow.
Al Dunning is credited with 32 world-championship and reserve-championship titles. The knowledge and passion he shares in his clinics, videos, and lessons have molded not only average students, but also some of today’s most successful professional horse trainers. Dunning’s ability to reach people comes from his love of horses and out of respect to the mentors in his own life. For more information go to www.AlDunning.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 1
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