I have a couple long lining questions. Training is going really well with my mare. She is pretty solid on her verbal commands and her whoa/stand as well as working handily in the long lines at walk, trot, canter and doing figure 8s at walk/trot. Her biggest hump is that she is uncomfortable when I am standing or walking directly behind her. I think it is her wanting to keep her eye on me to see what I am going to ask of her, so not fear per se but she does start to fret when she can't see me. At the walk, she tries to angle herself so that she can see me out of the corner of her eye. When standing, she pings back and forth between me and my hand. She is better if I wait and move behind her once she has settled into her work a bit. I have been having her stand and then will walk back and forth behind her and then to and from her. I know that it will just take time, but are there any training exercises that you utilize to help the horses develop confidence with you being directly behind them? She is working in a bridle without blinders at this point.
The other question is how do you keep the long lines from catching on the back strap buckles when passing back and forth? Our problem is I am very short and she is very tall.
For starters, we use long lines down along her sides, run thru the loops holding the shaft of harness saddle. No flipping lines over her back, PLUS you have better control of her rear end, to push forward, no swinging the rump out.
We do our walking behind horse (ground driving) going places besides circles in the long lines, like down the side of arena, trail walking stuff, with handler out to one side of rump. We never do directly behind driving, because handler can't see horse head or how body is being held, how hard the reins are on horse mouth for fast releases, when handler is behind. The other thing is that FEW people can walk with a big moving horse or pony, so when they are behind they are HANGING on his face to keep up. Horse is NOT having fun, no rewards for being good, giving to the bit, if handler never SEES what horse head is doing. Sure can't feel it with those long lines and trying to keep up with equine.
You need to get some kind of blinkers on your animal, see if she can get used to them or if she just won't. Some animals don't accept blinkers, or losing sight of the driver/handler, so they may not make driving candidates. Blinkers need to prevent horse from seeing directly behind him. This so horse doesn't read your body language and MAKE choices FOR YOU. Very dangerous to let horse make choices in Driving. Blinkers can be wide open, give horse a lot of view, just not behind them. Racing hoods have a selection of blinker cups to choose from, if you go that way to start her.
Sorry, until horse is going in blinkers sometimes, obedient to the voice ONLY wearing blinkers, you really can't improve her, do more advanced training, at this point.
I HATE to say horse might not be as good with voice as you think, since she is wanting to see you at all times. She might be NEEDING your body language as part of the vocal cue. Have you tried using a blinker bridle at all yet? Some folks use the blinkers on alternating days, to get the horse used to them. Racing hoods could be a beginning step if you don't have a blinker bridle, fits under a riding bridle.
I put duct tape on the buckles and rings that I wasn't using so the lines would slide better.
I second the blinkers. I always started out with a hood that I could remove easily if the horse became upset. I led it at first with the straps, buckles twined around the cheek pieces of the bridle. Gradually I would move back, out of side but ready to move back up if need be. It didn't take long for them to listen to where I was.
I agree that she is probably watching me and trying to read my body language. I hadn't started with the blinkers yet as I was trying to have her solid with each step before moving on. Yes, I have a blinker bridle and I can see how she does with it tomorrow. We have a racing supply store in town and I can pick up a hood if I need to.
I will also move the long lines through the loops on her sides. This is where we typically run them with a saddle or surcingle when starting the riding horses, so will be more comfortable for me, too.
I guess directly behind her was the wrong phrasing. I am doing most of her work with her on a circle with transitions and change of direction and then break it up with walks down the long side or on the roads. Anytime that I end up behind her rather than off to the side even with her hip, she starts to get unsure. It doesn't matter if I am dead centered behind her or behind her and a bit off to the side, she seems to be bothered by me being back there. The farther back I am, the more it seems to bother her. I will try the blinkers and maybe that will help.
Really astute advice that the horse is relying heavily on body language.
I will come from a different angle however, given my background before driving was mainly working with horses with people issues.
Something you may want to consider OP is the concept of "changing eyes". Not many people ever give changing eyes a thought, but for me personally its very important to have a horse that is OK about me spending time in, or dealing with a commotion in their blind spot.
In a nutshell, you work a horse back and forth until they grasp the concept of you going from one eye to the other and then they become more comfortable about you being in their blind spot.
One thing that is very very interesting to observe with horses is which eye they prefer you in. When you approach a horse, if they are at liberty, notice what eyes they look at you with. If they are really happy to have you there, they will look at you with both eyes, its an invitation to be with them. If they look at you with one eye pay attention which eye. You might think its random but its not. Horses have "sidedness" - as we all know - but what we often don't realize is that they will position themselves to look at you with the eye on the side they are most comfortable having you at... or least uncomfortable in many cases
If your mare is keeping a watchful eye on you because she's a bit unsure (you mention she seems to fret) then she sounds very kind hearted and willing to trust you despite being uncomfortable. I personally would spend time working on changing eyes.
I spent a lot of time changing eyes with my driving horse and getting him comfortable to activity in his blind spot. He's a flighty kicker by nature and I didn't want him to be one of those horses that has a meltdown one day and decides to kick the crap out of the big noisy thing directly in their blind spot, blinkers or no.
There was a video posted here a while back showing a team, a young horse one of his first times out matched up with an older solid horse for comfort. The young horse suddenly had enough and was uncomfortable with what was behind him. He kicked out (caught a passenger in the face) and tried to leave, but the wise older horse put the brakes on and wouldn't let the young horse bolt. Young horse had a meltdown because he could not deal with the situation any more and kicked the carriage to smithereens.
I saw that video just as I was striking out with my driving horse and it left an indelible mark on me. I put a tremendous amount of time into changing eyes and eventually causing big ruckuses in his blind spot in preparation for work in blinders.
Just my 2¢ fwiw.
Ask yourself: "Can I do anything about this?"
If you can, do it. If you can't... then you can't and leave it at that. Worrying achieves nothing but stress.
Thank you so much! This mare's natural instinct is to always turn towards people and she is really wanting to spin around and face me. She is quiet comfortable with people being directly behind her, but she is struggling with me being very far behind her. Hopefully, her willingness to work will over come her insecurity with this. If not, she may not be suited for driving. I will try getting her comfortable with her blind spot, changing eyes, and working in blinkers, then we will see.
The advice was a huge help. She was super today in the blinker bridle and it made the world of difference. Instead of following me with her eye, I could see her radar ears following me, but she seemed much more secure. We will see how tomorrow goes. Hopefully, she settles in and this wasn't a one off day.