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Teaching ground driving

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  • Teaching ground driving

    So.... just how do you teach a wee pony to ground drive?

    <feel free to be appalled>

    Just to see what would happen, I put the pony in a surcingle yesterday and hitched my long lines to his halter. Led him into the arena, shut the gate, and removed the lead rope.

    "Say whuh?" he said. "I want to go stand by the gate."

    "No, no. Let's walk over here." (I hold the lines under his chin and lead him forward)

    *sigh* "OK"

    "Now can we walk a bit with me 'driving' you?" (I step behind him)

    "How about if we walk back to the gate? I can do THAT."

    "Fair enough." (we walk towards the gate)
    "Whoa." (pony stops & spins to face me)
    "No, no, pony! I need to be BEHIND you." (I try walk around him, attempting to keep the lines from wrapping around his neck.)

    Repeat variations of the above, as I offer thanks that no one was around to witness this.

    We fumbled around for probably 15 minutes or so, and I eventually got him to walk in a crude approximation of a circle, as if we were making a circuit of the arena (~ 25 x 30 meter arena), with me behind him, "driving" him.

    Much praise & cookies ensued.

    So what SHOULD I have done? Do I need to enlist Mr. RAR's help to walk by his head and provide occasional guidance while I "drive" him? Should I not even bother to try this again until we have a bridle?


    The unsuspecting victim... er, student.
    "No good can come of this," says the pony.
    Attached Files
    Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
    "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother

  • #2
    Try starting out "driving" him at the wither, then the hip, then behind, and it could take a few times to get behind. Because he clearly has no idea what you want.

    Learn to use a whip, if you don't have a whip use a long ridden dressage whip, you are standing close to him anyway.

    Lounging, using voice commands is a great way to start too.

    Having a header works well, I have used this in the past. It can give pony some confidence, then the walker can unsnap the lead, and still walk along side, the walker can phase behind the eye, the shoulder, step to the side, etc.

    Do not be afraid to use your voice, command words, walk, trot, whoa, etc.

    End on happy notes, small milestones are better than pushing and the animal not getting it.


    • #3
      When I taught my QH and also refreshed the mini on ground driving/driving, it was an experience. I also taught a warmblood mare years ago to ground drive. I've found one fact that seems to be a universal truth- they do get tangled in the lines.

      Definitely, start closer to the horse's body and more towards the head, I found out quickly that helped a lot, but still, the tangled mess will ensue. Need to carry a good sense of humor, too

      It doesn't sound like you did anything wrong, and you said you ended on a good note, with a sort-of circular shape.

      I have found out definitely that working in short sessions helps a ton, they seem to absorb what you're teaching them in 15-20 minute bursts rather than 30-40 minutes, especially starting out.

      Just my 2 pennies.
      eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
      My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography


      • Original Poster

        Thanks - this makes me feel better

        I did resort to "driving" him from beside his neck & shoulder. Fortunately, he's short enough that that's a piece of cake!

        I also learned not to keep treats in my right-hand pocket

        A friend is coming to ride with me today. She's offered to help, so after we finish with the big boys, maybe we'll take the wee one out for a few minutes of work.
        Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
        "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother


        • #5
          Get help if possible. A horse that is not accustomed to being driven from behind will appreciate the familiarity of someone walking at his shoulder at first while you do the driving. The helper should gradually distance himself from the horse until the horse understands he should walk on and take his cues from you.

          You can avoid getting tangled in the lines if you start out with the lines low along the horse's sides. Don't put them through the rein terrets, just let them lie along his sides. If pony attempts to turn to face you, you can maneuver as needed to keep him straight. You can't do that with the lines through the terrets. My boys tried the 'turn and face mom' move more than once. You have to be pretty agile to get those moments sorted out in your favor but it can be done.

          Settle on the verbal and whip cues you plan to use ahead of time and be consistent with them. My ponies took to ground-driving like a duck to water and I spent many very happy hours walking a lot of miles behind them, long before they were hitched to wheels. It was one of my favorite activities and good training for the boys. And after months of ground-driving I was very fit.


          • #6
            Oooooo! He just is chock full of the "awwwwww!!" cuteness factor!! I'm such a sucker for chestnuts, especially those with flaxen manes and tails.

            Everyone above offered great advice. Hooray for the friend who offered to help. If she's not available, DH can stand in. And do use a bridle next time.

            Let us know how Episode 2 of Ground Driving The Pony turned out!


            • Original Poster

              Day 2 update - much improved!

              Well, I don't have a bridle yet, so we were still in the halter today.

              But I used 2 long lead ropes instead of my endless long lines, and ran them through the rings farther down on his sides - MUCH better!!!

              And my friend walked along beside his head, whereupon he said, "Oh, I know THIS game!" and marched quite enthusiastically along.

              We practiced some turns (perhaps a little less fluently than we might have wished, because my friend is Deaf, so when she's in front of me, I can't communicate with her - but we managed), and even walked through the low cavalletti that live in the middle of the arena a couple times.

              Again, a very short session, but it was much improved from yesterday's solo attempt.

              Thanks for the suggestions & encouragement
              Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
              "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother


              • #8
                I ground drive / long line all the horses and ponies I start - for riding or driving. I start by teaching them lunging first. Walk and trot on command around me. Whip keeps them out - they learn to move away from it.

                Next step is lunge in a saddle. Get them used to that. Pull stirrups down so they're at about the middle of pony's sides. Tie the stirrups together under tummy.

                Thread long lines / lunge lines through the stirrups and onto halter. I always start them in a halter - usually use a rope halter, but webbing if nothing else. I go on using the halter until they are used to turning their heads when I put pressure on. I rarely have any issues when I change to a mullen mouth bit.

                When I am ready to ground drive, I start pony off in the yard or round pen. Let them lunge with the outside line coming around their outside, sitting above hocks, about where breeching would sit. Its good training even if they are nver going to have a cart behind them. As they move around me I begin to ask for an outside turn. Then I usually get the lines in a tangle. Once I've sorted that out, we're sometimes on the other rein.

                Then I just keep going from there, once we have got some changes of rein, I move myself more and more behind until I am behind him and can steer him in either direction. Its great fun. From the sounds of what you are doing, you're not going to do any harm. And he can learn to walk out on command, go past different things without having a leader etc. I don't get them to trot now with me behind (I'm too old to do all that running) but I do get them to trot on the circle while I am "double" lunging.


                • #9
                  That is a seriously cute pony.

                  I agree with poster above. Your pony needs to lunge well before ground driving. Part of the idea is to have to pony understand working with you not touching him directly.

                  Needs to walk and trot, change direction, slow down, speed up etc.

                  Next you move to double lunge with reins going to tug loops or lower surcingle rings along middle of side. Outside rein comes around his rear and back to you. Do this in a regular bridle then move to driving bridle when you have one. Horse must again do all gaits, change speed, stop and stand etc. Learn voice commands, change direction smoothly etc.

                  THEN you are ready to ground drive from behind, and yes a helper who can be beside him for the first few times to help him understand is a good thing.

                  It really becomes fun when you are good enough to 'drive' an obstacle course where sometimes you are behind him and sometimes send him through the cones, around the object with you at longer distance.

                  Like learning to play piano... you have to learn your scales before you can play songs.


                  • #10
                    Forgot one thing. Looks like you are using clothesline for long reins. You may find it helpful to use something more like a lunge line or at least have something more rein-like for you to handle at your end.

                    DO NOT use single weight nylon web. Too easy to have the pony pull it through your hand and get injured.


                    • #11
                      lurking here to check my own progress...

                      RAR: I too am re-training a pony to drive.

                      As a Pretty Clueless (about driving) Newbie, I agree 10000% (not a typo) about:
                      1 - running the lines through the lower rings on your surcingle to prevent pony dervish
                      2 - getting pony listening by longeing/longlining first before ground driving
                      3 - using a bridle AND
                      4 - getting some thicker lines.

                      I invested $35 in a pair of beta lines sized for a pony with clips to attach to the bridle.
                      Much easier on my hands and less to tangle around my legs!

                      Using a bridle with blinkers also helped me a lot. Pony seemed to listen better, especially to Whoa
                      Longeing & longlining worked with just a halter, but much improvement for me when pony wears a bit.

                      Your pony is a cutie!
                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                      • #12
                        ^ "pony dervish"...great visual.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RidesAHaflinger View Post
                          ^ "pony dervish"...great visual.
                          uh, yeah....
                          add mental pic of OldLady facing pony pretty much nose-to-nose
                          The Learning Curve can be amusing
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                          • Original Poster

                            Just a note about the lines - those are my long lines from LaSalle harness. It only *looks* like I'm driving with clothesline
                            Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
                            "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother


                            • #15
                              do your hands a favor, get beta, biothane or leather lines.
                              SO much softer for you

                              I tried using my "clothesline" horse-sized long lines for pony but gave up for two reasons.
                              Not fond of ropeburn (even wearing gloves!) & excess length
                              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                              • Original Poster

                                I'm no longer using the too-skinny-too-long-lines ;-)

                                Until I can get some real lines, I'm using a couple lead ropes.

                                You're right - MUCH easier on the hands (even with gloves) and much less chance of ending up with something wrapped around an ankle.

                                A different friend (hearing this time, so it was a bit easier) helped me work him today. He's not big on the whole stand-still-after-"whoa" thing, but he's getting there.

                                Little tiny baby steps.
                                Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
                                "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother


                                • #17
                                  Wanted to say thank YOU for starting this thread and keeping such an entertaining diary about your adventure! (Your pony is buckets of cuteness too!!).

                                  You're going to be an inspiration to others who are curious to try learning on their own, but feel overwhelmed at getting started.

                                  Please keep it up!!

                                  And if you need long lines I have a couple pairs of 14' leather ones I'm not using, though I mostly used a set like these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Very-Nice-Co...item231c0c2e7c

                                  and a cheaper set of 14' cotton web ones I found on ebay that don't have a rolled front part. The rolled front part is nice though especially if the D's on your surcingle like to lay down, flat cotton web gets caught up sometimes and doesn't slide very nicely.

                                  And, I recently started a membership with Barn Sweet Barn DVDs and I'm really happy with it, they have a huge collection of driving and ground driving videos.
                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                                  • #18
                                    I have 30' long lines from Dover, I've had them for years, and I love them. Never had a case of rope burn. But I do always use gloves when I ground drive with them. I prefer the long length for ground driving, especially when I am unable to physically manage to jog along with the horse for trot work. The buckles do not fit through my pony/mini terrets, though, so I stick carabeaners on the terrets and run the lines through them. lol.


                                    The only thing I can attest to, at least for me that I found, was that when I first started long lining Chewbacca, and not using the saddle terrets, I just had the lines on his side, and actually ran through the shaft loops, I found that I had a very hard time trying to keep the outside line from not sagging down to his hocks, especially on a circle. It was really hard to keep the line up near his rump and across his tail doing turns. Maybe it was just me.
                                    eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
                                    My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography


                                    • Original Poster

                                      We did something different today, just with the lead rope, no surcingle & lines:

                                      1. We practiced Getting on the Bus. He's actually been on the bus before, when he came here from his foster home, but that was 3 years ago this August (has it really been almost 3 years? ). Since then, he's poked his nose in every now & then, but I haven't been serious about trying to *load* him per se. So today we practiced that. Walk on with me, have a bite of hay ("Hey! There's FOOD in here!!! Wahoo!"), get scritches and praise, then back off.

                                      The 2nd time in, he stopped with his hind legs on the ramp and reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeached for the hay, but couldn't quite get it. With a little encouragement from me, he stepped all the way in.

                                      We did that a couple more times, and he waltzed right in like he belonged there, then we took a break from that. Later, we ended our "work" session with another visit to the bus, and after he backed down the ramp nicely, he got a cookie on the ramp. (I've stopped giving him treats by hand because he seems to think that any time he can see my hand, there should be a treat in it. So now I put them on the ground in front of him, and he picks them up from there. So far, that seems to be working better.)

                                      2. After the first trailer loading session, we walked around the arena some, practicing our "whoa". Then we went out on the dirt road in front of the house and practiced some more. He's much more forward outside the arena. We practiced some hawing and some geeing - I don't know that it made any impact on him, but I felt kinda cool

                                      So... a nice little low-key 20-minute session. He'll have the weekend off - and possibly tomorrow, depending on how time goes - and then we'll see what next week brings.
                                      Approved helmet: Every time; every ride.
                                      "When a sport gets to be predictable it ceases to be fun." - RAR's wise brother


                                      • #20
                                        Awwwwwwwwwwww! You guys are having so much fun! There are few things I love more than paling around with a pony going here, going there, checking this out, etc. So. much. fun. So happy for you both.

                                        You can break the habit of him thinking every time you move your hand its offering a treat quite easily:

                                        Stand to the side of his head at a normal distance as if you were leading him. Enough space that he can respectfully keep his head out of your space but you can still easily reach his muzzle.

                                        Hold up a treat in your hand and and allow him to get all excited about it thinking he's going to get it. Don't taunt him, just hold it up. Without letting him get seriously rude, allow him to sniff and reach and beg and try to get that treat from you, don't get mad at him, but also don't give it up until he turns his head away from you... he eventually will in frustration. As soon as he turns his head away "good boy!'' and give the treat.

                                        Keep it up, hold up another treat, wait for him to turn his head away from you, and "good boy!" and give the treat. Using a verbal really helps as its split second timing that drives the message home.

                                        I've never had a horse take more than 4 or 5 treats to get the idea that as soon as they turn their head away, they get the treat.

                                        Once the idea is solid, in the future, when you go to give him a goodie and he tries to mob your hand, just reprimand "eh! eh!" and he should put his head in "treat receiving position" so he can be fed respecfully.
                                        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.