Building Forward Motion with GROUND DRIVING
Directing a horse to move forward, while standing behind its withers, is the basis of ground driving. This is an essential and very useful skill. It is the whole key to trailer loading, and it prepares the horse for accepting direction when you ride it. Of course, it also is an essential part of actual driving under harness! (Saddle training and harness training can work together to build a better horse. Michael found that after a day of harness driving, Ruby was much more responsive under saddle.)
To begin teaching Ground Driving: Stand at the horse's side, making sure your body is behind its withers. Stretch your arms out in a "V" shape. The hand on the horse's front end will use gentle pointing pressure to tell the horse what direction you wish to move in, and the hand toward the hind end will apply pressure, perhaps with the aid of a rope or riding crop, to direct the horse to move forward.
Remember to apply only as much pressure as is needed to get the horse moving. RELEASE as soon as the horse takes a step in the right direction.
But be effective: Apply AS MUCH PRESSURE AS YOU NEED to get the horse moving. Then next time, back off and ask gently again.
The sequence is:
1. ASK using the very mild level of pressure you want to use as a finished product;
2. TELL the horse how it's done, upping the pressure to get the desired response;
3. If this doesn't work, Then tell the horse "YOU MUST!" and be as forceful as you need - once - so that next time the horse will choose to respond to lesser pressure.
Always offer the horse the least amount of pressure first - don't always start with the amount of pressure it took last time - that way you avoid becoming heavy-handed.
Needless to say "as much pressure as you need" does not include acts of abuse. But most of us err on the too-gentle side. Watch a group of horses at feeding time. There is nothing a human can do (without weapons) to compare to the force with which the lead horse tells the others to leave his/her feed pile!
The horse may resist at first, simply because it does not understand what you are asking. It may need a stronger, clearer answer than you hope to end up with. But as soon as he learns it, you can go back to asking with very little pressure.
Ground driving is really fun, once you and your horse get the hang of it. Being able to direct your horse's movements from the side adds greatly to one's ability to enjoy working with the horse. It adds a new dimension in ease and comfort in handling, and allows you to go more places, and do more things.
AND, it's building a strong foundation for saddle training later on.
PAGES IN GENTLING AND TRAINING SECTION:
Horse Psychology 101
Pressure and Release
Just Spend Time
Bamboo Pole Method of Gentling
Desensitizing, Rope and Flag Work
Clicker Training & Related Operant Conditioning
and Positive Reinforcement Training
Get Professional Help
Adventures of a Volunteer Halter Trainer
Raising Orphan Foals
Basic Ground Work:
Leading and Standing Still
Respecting Your Space
Shoulder & Hindquarter Control
Working With Feet