Ground driving is important because it teaches the horse to give to rein pressure while changing gaits at the walk, trot, canter, and through stopping and backing without a rider being on his back. After teaching a horse to longe, ground driving is the next step in his ground training.
TAKE YOUR TIME! Introduce ground driving slowly to your horse, and take gradual steps to insure that he does not get confused or afraid. The feel and sound of the longe lines dragging behind him is a new experience for the horse, and it may take two to three sessions for him to be comfortable with it. Be patient and reward any progress he makes!
Before proceeding, it is important that the horse is totally comfortable with the longe lines being in contact with his body. To accustom him to the feeling, take some time and “sack” him out with the longe line once he is saddled and bridled. Start by shaking out a longe line near to him so he gets used to the sight and sound of the line. Toss it out behind him, but do not touch him with the line yet. Neatly recoil the line and toss it again and again until he accepts this.
The next step is to touch his body with the loosely coiled line, concentrating on his sides and hindquarters. Gently toss the longe line coil all over his hind legs, sides, and rump. Watch his reactions carefully and continue doing this until he accepts the longe line’s touch and shows no sign of anxiety.
Next, snap only one of the longe lines onto the bit. Start with the line on his right side. Thread it through the right surcingle ring or stirrup and let it extend out beyond his hindquarters in a straight line. Drop the line and reposition yourself to lead him on his left side by gently grasping the bridle in your right hand. Give him a “cluck” to ask him to move forward a few steps. Ask him to “whoa,” and evaluate his reaction to the line dragging behind him. Try a few more steps forward. If he shows acceptance, make a gradual turn to the left so that the longe line touches his right hind leg as it drags behind him. If the horse shows some fear at this point, remove the line, reposition him so he is between you and a fence, and try again. The fence will help to keep him straight and give him more confidence.
If the movement of the lines still upsets him, go back a few steps to sacking him out with the line until you get his acceptance. If he does not move when you are sacking him out or dragging the lines behind him, it means that he is accepting what you are teaching him.
When he accepts the feel of a single line, attach the second line to the bridle and thread it through the other surcingle ring or stirrup. Extend both lines behind him, and lead him a few steps forward. Add gradual turns to the right and the left so he gets the feel of both lines on his hind legs. If he shows any sign of concern, back up a few steps in this training progression until he accepts the sight, sound, and touch of the line.
Be sure to praise any progress he makes.
Learn more about this subject with the section in my Longevity Training Visual Series, on “Ground Driving.” It is available with other fine Palm Partnership Trainingâ„¢ products at www.lynpalm.com[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 5, Issue 2.]