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  1. #1
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    Jul. 18, 2009
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    Default Turning with the Shoulders

    I have a 4 y/o ASB gelding that is just getting re-started driving. We had a bolt accident last summer in the learning process and now we're rehabbing, doing amazingly well, and working with a great driving trainer who anticipates we'll probably be ready to hook to the cart next week. My homework for this week was to get him pushing with his shoulders into the turns and moving his front end around better, but I'm a little unsure of how to do that other than using a whip while working in long lines. The problem is that I cannot use a whip in our current "rig"- not long enough to reach, so I want to figure out if there is any other good method for this other than using a whip.

    We've been working with training shafts and pulling a sled, and he's doing great so far. Today we ran into an "issue" that directly reflects what we were to work on in our homework for the week, and probably has many simple solutions, but I'm just looking for some ideas since I cannot reach his side with a whip from my seat in the sled.

    Today when I asked him to turn around a corner of the arena, rather than turning his body, crossing over his front feet, etc, he just bent and bent and bent his neck and barely turned his body at all. He just kept bending and walking straight forward and ended up bumping the shaft tip into the wall. thankfully he just stopped and stood perfectly calm and I got out and backed him out of the situation, but if he'd turned his body when I asked him to instead of just bending his neck, we wouldn't have had that problem to begin with. He is extremely flexible, but it seemed as though it was worse turning to the right. He used to do this a little bit in long lines, so I started using a very loose elastic set of side reins to hold his head straighter and this seemed to help, but not sure if this would be a good idea while driving him.

    Other than the side reins or just practicing a lot in long lines with a whip at his shoulder, I was also thinking I could just be sure to hold steady pressure on the outside rein as I ask him to turn in so that he cannot move his head side to side as much- but then we just end up with a lot more pressure on the bit than we would realy like. Any other ideas?? How do you teach your horses to lead with their shoulders and follow their head?

    Thanks in advance.



  2. #2
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    Jun. 28, 2003
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    Default

    What you are working on is a standard training issue and dont think you are going to "get it perfect" in one week

    But first understand the concept that you are not turning by pulling on the rein in the direction you want to turn
    You are "releasing" the rein on the opposite side. In order to do this your horse has to be accepting the rein and seeking it - so when you give he follows.

    Our Alex has really gotten this work and its so fun to do spirals in and out just by your hold or release on the outside rein.

    When you just pull the "inside" rein to turn, you are just asking for him to curl his neck in that direction



  3. #3
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    Feb. 16, 2003
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    Default

    Sounds like you don't have the correct sized whip. When driving, your whip, lash or end of stick, should reach his shoulders while you are seated comfortably. No stretching your arm WAYYY out to reach where you want to touch him. This driving stuff is SUPPOSED to be easy for you.

    My single horse whip has a stick of 6ft, with a drop lash of about 24-30 inches. I can add a longer cracker, make the lash almost 40 inches if needed with my VERY long bodied horse. Depending on shaft length, I might need all that length now and then. This length allows me to touch horse from shoulder to rump, depending on what I am asking of him. With time, the trained horse understands better, can respond to those small touches the way you want.

    Sounds like the exercise is to aid horse in turning vehicle, learning to push into resistance of the shaft, while managing to turn and pull his vehicle load behind without tripping and falling down. Some horses need this, especially new to driving, awkward youngsters. Every equine needs to learn how to do crossovers at some point in their life.

    I would NOT recommend using sidereins, they are a gimmick. He has not learned to do what you ask correctly, with the gimmick on. When you take the rein off, your problem will still be there. So then you STILL have to teach him to move sideways correctly. You wasted the time spent with the side rein, forcing him to do things, he didn't LEARN what you want in self body carriage.

    He needs to hold himself correctly without gimmicks or special tack, you need to ask him correctly, with a whip that touches him in the right place.
    I would put him in a halter, do some ground work, whoa, back, walk, jog, halt as our warm up exercises, then walk over to face a solid object. Barn wall, good fence are good to face, and start touching with my finger on the shoulder, to get him moving sideways, with the vocal command. Lots of driving people use "step" for sideways. Some get fancy with "step right or step left", just be consistant with the same word cue used with the touch cue.

    Halter and lead keep him facing the wall, so his "open place" is away from me. Going into the open space to get away from persisitant "irritation" of me on the other side. Most horses are very cooperative with this method, quickly move away from the shoulder poke, in a sideways fashion. You say WHOA when he has stepped over a step or so, controlling the motion. Praise him and repeat the motion and command for sideways. Treats not recommended, you will never be giving him treats while driving, bad habit to develop.

    Then you do the same thing, face the wall, poke his other shoulder, to go the other direction. You say he is better one way than the other, so do a bit extra work on his poor side, develop those muscles better. Lots of one-sided animals, just need more practice on the poor side. A few sessions of this poking practice, will help him understand how to please you. Then you do the same thing harnessed on the lines, with the whip touching shoulder you want him moving away from. Again, do both sides of horse to gain his understanding, develop skill in sideways movement.

    You are going to need rein handling improvement for your self. Your whip hand must be working independently of the reins, no whip/reins, in the same hand while asking sideways of horse. You would be giving him VERY conflicting signals with the rein while flicking the whip, so he will be extremely confused. So YOU must develop skill with the whip, in both hands, while reining horse having both reins in the opposite hand to keep horse straight facing your wall.

    With the long stick whip, dropped lash, you can make circles with lash and just keep that irritating flick touching shoulder, vocal command firm, not mean, to get him moving away from touch.

    When he is good on the lines, then you drive him around on the lines, practice sideways without the wall in various places. Get him good with you on the ground, before asking from the driver seat.

    I will say here, that I do not think you can get a "true bend" in a long shafted vehicle. Horse is constricted by the shafts reaching point of shoulder, really CAN'T bend, despite what Heinke Bean and Co. say about bending in the books. Horse will push shaft over to turn, but that is not bending the body. His spine is pretty darn straight, unless maybe a small horse is in draft sized and width shafts. I am saying this so you are not discouraged, sometimes things we want are just NOT possible in certain settings. Not you OR the horse who is wrong or stubborn, just not possible with this vehicle.

    With the above ground work practice, horse should understand what you are asking, will start trying to respond correctly in the cart to allow sidestep improvements as you go on.

    You need to find and purchase a whip that is going to allow you to HELP him, by touching him in the shoulder when you ask for sideways. I like the whips with a dropped lash. Lash seems to be more flexible in use, training, than a stick-only buggy-whip style. Buggy whips just don't do sideways flicking well. Measure how far it is from your hand while seated to his shoulder, that is the length you need to make whip work for you.

    Good tip from Drive NJ, about rein pulling. Horse IS DOING what you are asking, you need to ask differently.



  4. #4
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    Jul. 18, 2009
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    St. Paul, MN
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    Default

    My driving whip will be able to easily reach his belly once I get him in the cart. But in our current set up, I can barely touch his butt, and I'm pretty sure they don't make a 12 ft whip, so I either have to work on it while long lining and not pulling any weight, or find a way to turn him without using a whip. either that or I have to wait to work on it further in the cart, which I'd rather have him turning a little better before getting in the cart.

    I know it isn't going to be perfect instantly, but I just want to improve it for the time being so that we can continue to make progress safely.

    He is trained under saddle and can leg yield and pivot on the haunches easily, both from under saddle and he can also pivot pretty well from the ground, though we haven't worked on it from the ground as much as under saddle. So, I think it shouldn't be a big deal for him to figure it out with a whip, I'm just going to have to work on it without any load to pull behind him.

    I'm just interested to see if anyone has any other good methods for teaching him this without the aid of a whip. I do like the "release" idea. In the past with horses that tend to go around with their heads towar the wall, I have used constant light pressure on the inside rein with intermittent pulsing on the outside rein to ask them to move toward the rail without bending and this has worked pretty well, so perhaps I'll try it again. I'd love to hear any more suggestions. Thanks!



  5. #5
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    May. 3, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Samigator View Post
    My driving whip will be able to easily reach his belly once I get him in the cart. But in our current set up, I can barely touch his butt, and I'm pretty sure they don't make a 12 ft whip, so I either have to work on it while long lining and not pulling any weight, or find a way to turn him without using a whip. either that or I have to wait to work on it further in the cart, which I'd rather have him turning a little better before getting in the cart.

    I know it isn't going to be perfect instantly, but I just want to improve it for the time being so that we can continue to make progress safely.

    He is trained under saddle and can leg yield and pivot on the haunches easily, both from under saddle and he can also pivot pretty well from the ground, though we haven't worked on it from the ground as much as under saddle. So, I think it shouldn't be a big deal for him to figure it out with a whip, I'm just going to have to work on it without any load to pull behind him.

    I'm just interested to see if anyone has any other good methods for teaching him this without the aid of a whip. I do like the "release" idea. In the past with horses that tend to go around with their heads towar the wall, I have used constant light pressure on the inside rein with intermittent pulsing on the outside rein to ask them to move toward the rail without bending and this has worked pretty well, so perhaps I'll try it again. I'd love to hear any more suggestions. Thanks!
    There's absolutely no point at all trying to properly train him if you've got him put to incorrectly. If he's that far in front of you neither the horse, nor you, has a cat in heck's chance of getting it right.



  6. #6
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    Default

    gee thanks for your help Thomas. I guess I'll have to wait until he's in the cart to ask for any help around here!



  7. #7
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    Default

    You're very welcome. I'm delighted to save you time and trouble.

    If for no other reason other than the sake of the horse, get the right equipment BEFORE you go messing up again.

    You probably also need to understand that on the internet you get advice for free and you don't get to choose what you get and whilst you might not appreciate what I'm saying as helpful, trust me you're well advised not to mess about without proper equipment and the horse properly put to.

    I thought you'd have learnt that by now having had an accident but heck some folks tend not to learn from mistakes and seem intent on terminal stupidity.



  8. #8
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    Jul. 18, 2009
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    Default

    Wow, thanks for the insults. I really don't know how to be that mean, so I'm not even going to respond to that attitude further.

    FYI I do have the appropriate equipment, we just haven't hooked him to the cart yet. I was looking for a way to improve our turning so that he'd have a start on that before adding in the extra element and confinement of the cart.

    Today we worked in long lines with a whip at the shoulders as recommended and he did great, stepped right around with the front end. I think he took to the idea easily since he is already trained to do it under saddle, and I was glad to see him not over-react to the whip, as he is rather sensitive to it under saddle. I think this lesson will translate nicely once we get him in the cart.

    And, I know that he will be a much better, more desensitized driving horse than most out there because we have worked through and overcome our issues rather than avoiding them.



  9. #9
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    May. 28, 2006
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    Default count me as not understanding your setup

    I've been trying to visualize why you would be so far behind your horse that you cannot reach him with your whip, and just can't get there. Can you clarify?

    I'm glad you had a good experience today, but again, I'm not sure what "whip at shoulders" means... just having a hard time seeing it in my mind.

    Can you help?



  10. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MySparrow View Post
    I've been trying to visualize why you would be so far behind your horse that you cannot reach him with your whip, and just can't get there. Can you clarify?

    I'm glad you had a good experience today, but again, I'm not sure what "whip at shoulders" means... just having a hard time seeing it in my mind.

    Can you help?
    because right now I don't have him in the cart yet, I have been working him essentially in a stone boat that I've been using to get him used to some of the elements of driving before hooking him to my cart. I put PVC poles over a set of ropes to use as false shafts to keep the sled traveling behind him and keep the "traces" off of his legs, but they're longer than the shafts of a cart would be. My whip can reach his butt, but it can't reach all the way to his shoulder. Since it's a temporary device to get him used to the sound, the feel, and the idea of pulling against resistance, I'm not going to change the shaft length as I don't intend to use this set up once we're going in the cart. The sled set up is really nice as I can break it down and introduce each element independently (shafts/weight/sound), then combine them as he is ready. It isn't great for finishing work- but it does a pretty decent job getting a horse introduced to some of the elements of pulling a cart before actually being hooked.

    By whip at the shoulders, I mean- I long lined him, walking basically at his hip, or right behind him where I'd be in the cart. When i asked him to turn, I used my whip on the outside shoulder to ask him to yield his front end around the turn. Hope that clarifies it a bit.



  11. #11
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    May. 3, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samigator View Post
    Wow, thanks for the insults. I really don't know how to be that mean,
    You think......

    Quote Originally Posted by Samigator View Post
    gee thanks for your help Thomas. I guess I'll have to wait until he's in the cart to ask for any help around here!



  12. #12
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    May. 28, 2006
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    Default

    Okay, that's clearer. And I think you've already solved part of your problem yourself -- by breaking down the job into more manageable chunks. Best to work on the bending issue without also working on the stone boat thing, as you have discovered. If the two of you aren't yet established in your reins, then he's not ready for the stone boat anyway.

    One thing I'd suggest you consider is that if you pull on the inside rein, you are pulling the horse onto the inside fore, the exact opposite of your intended effect. There's an admittedly delicate balance between asking with the inside rein and directing with the outside rein, but if you focus on the withers rather than the head you will find it easier, I think.

    More importantly, please take your time. He's only four. And if he's had a bad experience early in his driving career, then he's not even four emotionally. If he were mine I'd be bringing him along in very small steps, being sure to establish each chunk of learning before moving on to the next. I know it's seductive to think that you are "retraining" him, but in truth it could be that he was not ready for the carriage last summer when the bolt incident occurred. I'd be starting him from the very first step on the ladder, and not even be thinking about putting him to carriage until he's ready. From what you're saying, he's not ready.

    But he will be if you take your time! Have fun, be patient, and let us know how you get on!



  13. #13
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    thanks mysparrow,

    Yes that makes perfect sense about pulilng him onto the front inside foot of the turn if I do it that way. Of course if you support him with the outside rein a bit that will lessen that effect. I do like the "steering the withers" idea.

    I was thinking back to why I added in the side reins before and I think I put them on when I was working on a lot of high speed work in long lines (and I long line in my tennis shoes so I get a work out too running around the smaller inside loop of the arena). I was working on canter transitions so that we can improve them under saddle and he was wanting to drift off the rail at times and over-bend. Well, since there was no way in heck I was going to be able to keep up with him at a canter if I ran within whip's range of him, I added that to help- and it did, for that purpose.

    Going back to our accident which is a long story- basically it was a spook that was my fault (could have avoided it) and was not managed properly by the header or myself at the time. We have spent many months desensitizing him to the sounds that spooked him, and re-introducing the elements of driving from ground one- starting with just simple long lining for several months, then adding in the shafts, the sight/sound of the sled, etc, one at a time, then starting to add them together. The driving trainer I'm working with has said that he's hooked a lot of horses that were less desensitized and less prepared than my gelding is now. I have to believe he's had far more thorough preparation than most driving horses out there.

    Also, I think I figured out why we had our turning problem to begin with last week- the training shafts that I use aren't shaped like shafts on a cart, they hug the body really closely all the time and I think my gelding was getting conflicting messages between the shafts restricting him and my asking him to turn, and we hadn't really worked on turns that tight before- all of the turning we had done in the stone boat had been much more gradual in a big outdoor ring. We just have to teach him to push into the shafts when we ask him to turn and I think he'll figure that out quickly now that he's understanding the idea of the whip. Of course this will also be different once we get into the cart as both shafts probably will never be touching his flanks at the same time like they are in this set up.



  14. #14
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    You are making it more complicated than you need to. Making things up as you go along is not the best method. Have to say that a stoneboat isn't going to be helping you either. Doesn't move or turn like a cart, nor does the heavier drag help his action or encourage forward.

    Really can't visualize what you have cobbled up with the shaft idea. Sure does not sound safe as a step towards cart work.

    Have to go back to that basic in my other post, whip needs to reach horse!! You obviously don't have a long enough whip to reach him, even out on the long lines, your BASIC training start. So just add some gimmick like sidereins because YOU are not doing things correctly. Whip can't reach him for corrections or encouragement. Horse is surprised each time when you FINALLY do touch him, and butt touches at this point are more likely to get him kicking. Glad YOU are getting a work out in long lining with your sneakers on to run fast! But I would be willing to BET that you have no reliable contact with his mouth, so that is the main reason he "drifts" towards the fence. Looking for limits, which YOU are not providing as you run along with a useless, short whip.

    Maybe you should get some CORRECT long lining lessons, before you try to progress further?? You can't teach him if you don't know the process. Yes the handler with the lines moves inside the circle, but handler has contact to steady the horse, TEACH him to give and take the bit. Handler may run a few steps with directional changes, but NOT all the time. Horse WHEN READY, should be able to canter on the lines and follow direction. The more I read of your posts, the worse I feel for the horse.

    Sorry, sounds like you don't want real information, just agreement that you are doing things right, which I won't give you. You went with totally another method, SORTA got his shoulders over. Skipping the basic method I put before you, which is 99% foolproof for correct sideways, and easily transfers to work on the lines. Your choice, but skipping steps, leaving holes in horse training, WILL come back to haunt you later. He will have holes where he has no idea what to do in situations. Can't do that with Driving horses, they have to KNOW how to respond when asked ANY time or place.

    Without the correct length whip, in the long lines, in front of whatever you hitch to, you have no TOOLS, no AIDS, to help the horse understand. Kind of like going riding with no arms to direct the reins. Some horses might work with you, but most have NO CLUE what you want without a touch. Your voice and strong-arming the reins is NOT doing anything for this horse!! He already has issues from previous poor choices on your part in training steps.

    Another wreck/incident, and you will probably have horse beyond driving safely, despite going to get professional help. You don't like hearing it from Thomas, but he has seen your situation several thousand times, and knows a bad ending is approaching. We all hate hearing about wrecks, and one seems to be coming your way with your attitude and training methods.



  15. #15
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    ^ Excellent posting and not a word I'd take exception to.

    Except I couldn't be bothered to say it all earlier.... had a strong feeling it wasn't what was wanted... and was proven right!



  16. #16
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    I just had 4 lessons this weekend. 1 lunging with side reins, 1 long lining and 2 driving. My horse was also rubber necking and I learned that if I drop my shoulder the horse does also. How I moved my body really helped my horse stay between the reins and helped my turns. Can't stress enough the value of quality lessons. This picture was after our lesson and about our 6th time driving. Well I would have attached a picture but I couldn't see how??



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodhors View Post
    Sorry, sounds like you don't want real information, just agreement that you are doing things right, which I won't give you. You went with totally another method, SORTA got his shoulders over. Skipping the basic method I put before you, which is 99% foolproof for correct sideways, and easily transfers to work on the lines. Your choice, but skipping steps, leaving holes in horse training, WILL come back to haunt you later. He will have holes where he has no idea what to do in situations. Can't do that with Driving horses, they have to KNOW how to respond when asked ANY time or place.

    Without the correct length whip, in the long lines, in front of whatever you hitch to, you have no TOOLS, no AIDS, to help the horse understand. Kind of like going riding with no arms to direct the reins. Some horses might work with you, but most have NO CLUE what you want without a touch. Your voice and strong-arming the reins is NOT doing anything for this horse!! He already has issues from previous poor choices on your part in training steps.
    I don't know what you mean when you say I went with another method, I did take your advice, thank you very much, and he is turning much better now. You don't know that he is "sorta" moving his shoulders over, you haven't watched us work, you're assuming things again. You all jump to so many incorrect conclusions. . .

    Also I don't agree that my horse has "issues." he had a single event in his past, which we've worked through and he shows no signs of any remnant "issues" or anxiety from that whatsoever, if anything he's far more confident and unflappable now. We've been working with the stoneboat to make sure that he's okay with those sounds before we put him in the cart, so that he'll be more prepared to be able to deal with them if he encounters a strange sound in the future.

    Don't know about you, but I don't like to long-line young horses in small circles, thus I use very long lines and work lots of straightaways- and that requires running if you're going to keep up at a trot or canter, no way around it. I do that for conditioning, not to perfect our reinsmanship. Yeah, so I took a shortcut for a while with the sidereins, so shoot me. He's not in them anymore and I'm not using them to drive in.

    I'm sick of everybody making assumptions and criticizing without understanding or making an effort to clarify the situation. If you don't have anything constructive to add to my question of turning/pushing with the shoulders (and by the way I am not asking for critiques nor reinforcement of the training tools I've used), then don't add anything at all. I appreciate your concern, but I do not think it is wise to assume, so please stick to the topic at hand.


    Thanks China Doll for that tip- something interesting to pay attention to, I will have to watch and see if he feeds off of my posture. I don't see where you can add a picture either- but you could put in a link to it if you'd like.



  18. #18
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    Samigator, forgive me, but you have just blown off advice from two of the most experienced drivers around -- not just on this forum! Both Goodhors and Thomas1 are highly respected in the driving world, and I for one would not just decide they're not worth listening to because I might not like what they have to say.

    It could be that you are using terms that are not common in the driving world, nor for that matter the dressage world. Perhaps what you call a stoneboat is not what the rest of us would call a stoneboat? Maybe you could tell us what it is that you are using?

    It could also be that the ASB world uses techniques that are not used in driving. For example, with miles and miles and miles of longlining and ground driving under my feet, working with youngsters and made riding horses alike, I can't recall an occasion when I had to run to keep up (other than for a change of rein, as Goodhors indicated), nor would I longline a horse for the kind of conditioning you seem to be doing. These things are perhaps common to ASB people, but they certainly are not common among driving and dressage people, nor eventing, nor trail.... not, in fact, in any of the horse disciplines with which I am personally familiar.

    What we do know a great deal about is the process of preparing a horse and a driver for the discipline of driving in its many formats. If the experienced people on this list are asking questions about your process, it really is worthwhile to listen to those questions and at least consider them in light of the choices you are making for your horse.
    Last edited by MySparrow; May. 3, 2010 at 11:29 PM.



  19. #19
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    Thank you Mysparrow, for not jumping to the same conclusions as the others. I understand that both Goodhors and Thomas are very experienced, well respected drivers, and I do appreciate that they are here to offer advice. But, niether of them asked any questions to clarify, but rather just assumed the worst.

    I'm happy to report that our lesson tonight went great and he definately has improved his turning immensely. Our trainer helped us with some exercises for this and Louie definately had a lightbulb moment tonight about crossing over his front and hinds together. So, since my trainer felt quite confident that he is ready, and he moved about between the shafts around turns quite comfortably, we hooked him to the cart for the first time. He did fabulous, and our turning is much much better with the cart and whip. As long as we continue to progress in the cart, we shouldn't need to use the stoneboat anymore unless we need to step back and work on something else. So, I don't anticipate having much trouble with that now that we're in an easier set up. Thanks for the help.



  20. #20
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    So I'm still confused: why is it important that he cross fronts and hinds together? Are you working in very confined spaces, or very tight figures? I do arena, road, cross-country and cones work on a regular basis with my horses and ponies, and have to say that "crossing over fronts and hinds together" is just not one of the big priorities. It has its place and is important sometimes, but it is not one of my criteria for deciding when a horse is ready to work to a vehicle. Steering, yes. I want the horse to turn when and as I require it. Whoa is a biggie. But crossing fronts and hinds together, not so much. What am I missing?



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