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Crooked/jigging ground driving help/Am I doing the right thing?

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  • Crooked/jigging ground driving help/Am I doing the right thing?

    I have encountered something I have never encountered before ground driving. I have fairly limited experience ground driving, so I haven't seen everything there is to see, but I have driven a number of different types of horses from beginners to veterans, and horses that were crooked, straight, hot, sluggish, etc.

    Mare in question is a nervy sort, but a good soul with tons of talent. She's my eventer prospect. I'm not a driver, but I have driven, and this horse isn't a driving prospect. But ground driving is important and figured you all would be the most knowledgeable on the board re: ground driving.

    I was just ground driving her to warm her up for some long lining (mare is not schooled as well as I'd like with moving up into contact, and has been acting a little barn sour, so figured this would be a great way to work with her on both things).

    I have ground driven and long lined her in the past before. Nothing remarkable ever happened, but I haven't done it in a year or so. When I set off to ground drive her, she immediately started jigging and going crooked (cocking head to one side, and hind on a different path than the front). When I went to straighten her out by touching her with the whip and pulling on the rein she was bulging against, she had a complete spazzed out.

    Now, on spazzing out, what I mean is stopped and started kicking straight back and I was unable to move her forward. The whip only made things worse. She was bucking, kicking, cowkicking.

    This is the sweetest mare I've ever had the pleasure of working with, and at first I thought she meant it out of malice, but when I stepped to the side, she kept kicking straight back at the lines and at the whip. So, at least she wasn't kicking AT me?

    (Keep in mind, she's been ground driven before, and I have laid lines on her all the time and can lay the whip on her any time with out her moving; she's pretty desensitized for an eventing prospect!)

    This happened more often than not while we were working Saturday.

    My thought is that she wants to go crooked and simply doesn't understand when I make her keep her butt between the lines. She's a reactive type so instead of thinking it through, she's just trying to DO.

    To save my face from being kicked in, and to make her be productive when she refused to move forward, I began backing her up, making sure she was keeping straight and between the lines. As soon as she felt good between the lines, I'd ask her to walk on (she knows verbals very well) and cluck. She then immediately strikes off straight — sometimes in a "piaffe"/jig and sometimes at a walk. If she doesn't strike off straight (rare), I back her again and try it again.

    I've ground driven her 3 times since the spazz attack, and she's getting better day by day. She hasn't tried to kick since 2 sessions ago, and now when she starts to get crooked she either fixes herself when I cluck her forward or adjust the rein against her bulging, or she stops against the rein she's bulging against and then backs up a few steps (straight) before I let her strike off again.

    I am picking points near and away from the barn and walking straight at them, so that I know when she's gone crooked or off the line and it also helps me keep straight and weight even in both reins. She's doing better and better. Today, during an hour session, she only stopped at backed about a dozen times. That might seem like a lot, but it is a HUGE success vs. where we were Saturday!

    My question is, am I doing the right thing? She's improving yes, but is there something else more effective for teaching a horse to move straight, into contact and forward?

    And if the backing is bad, how do I stop her from stopping and kicking? I have tried to anticipate by clucking and touching her with the whip, but if she's undone, she stops any way.

    Thanks for reading my wall of text! I look forward to reading some great ideas and solutions!

  • #2
    I'm sure you'll get lots of great responses here. Here are a few random thoughts of mine for whatever its worth

    You have several issues going on at the same time, barn sour, crooked, no forward/balking, over-reaction (kicking/bucking).

    First, I would be sure there is nothing going on with the tack to contribute to any of this. If you're not already, I would strongly suggest using a mullen mouth snaffle and making sure its not pinching on the sides if its not an eggbutt. Broken mouth snaffles can be really overwhelming for a green longlining horse, even if its your go-to ridden bit. Long lines, even short ones, even with a light touch are a whole new category of pressure.

    If you're using a surcingle be sure the lines slide freely through and aren't getting hung up. Also be sure you're using the low rings on the sides and not the upper ones which are for more educated horses.

    Second, since you have a few issues, I would choose ONE AT A TIME to work on rather than overwhelming both of yourselves by trying to fix 4 things at once. Since the overreaction is the worst, and very likely the root of the other three problems, I would start there.

    Find out what is causing her to overreact and kick out and buck and fix that. Don't worry about barn sour, or crooked in the meanwhile, just get her solid about whatever is freaking her out. If you think she is reacting to the feeling of the lines on the side of her body, work on that. Start of course by desensitizing, but then advance to being able to lead her while the lines flutter along her sides and follow behind. Don't get behind her and start asking her to drive until she's rock solid about having this stuff touch her sides and drag in the dirt behind her while she walks and trots.

    When you figure out whats causing her to flip her lid and you fix it, you will find the other issues will start to melt away, because they are all related actually... she's frustrated, unsure and mentally leaving you. Fixing something that is freaking her out will give her a reason to want to stick around and see what else you have to offer.

    When she's no longer freaking, go back to the single longe line and establish W/T/H verbally. This is important because when, in the future, she feels the need to jig you can change her mind without getting into a war with her mouth. This will save her brain and minimize melt downs.

    Very likely she wants to go crooked because she's not understanding all that is happening, or isn't completely okay with it all, and she's trying to leave as politely as she can. Its a precursor to the freak out. Trying to wriggle away, can't, freaks out.

    Straightness is challenging in the long lines, its a skill that has to be learned and taught and comes with time, strength, balance and coordination. I wouldn't worry about all that until she's confident enough to be happy and content and listening and not trying to wriggle away and get back to the barn.

    Hope that made some sense!

    And fwiw, I've been in your shoes with the exception that mine *was* trying to kick me.
    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh, regarding backing, I'm sure others have different opinions, but I am NOT a fan... especially on a horse with forward issues. Backing can become a horrible vice SO quickly.
      Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

      Comment


      • #4
        Guess I would back up, do some long lining going around me, with her before going ground driving.

        First, how are the lines run from bit to your hands? How long are those lines? What kind of tack is she wearing? How long is that whip, stick and lash length? Does she actually know to MOVE AWAY from a whip touch?

        I want my horse pretty good on the long lines, obedient, so they already KNOW the word commands and expectation of FORWARD, before trying to aim her down a trail or along the farm lanes.

        Some animals retain previous training quite well, but other equines just don't. She might have mostly forgotten her previous training with lines, add in a crabby mood, and she is disaster waiting to happen when you asked her to do this "new idea" in work.

        I also wouldn't be backing her up much or at all, if you can avoid it. Possibly stopping to avoid the fight, then a 90* turn right or left, changes her view and mindset enough to get back to FORWARD again.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          OK, first, thank you all for your great suggestions! I took them to heart.

          I want to clarify that she is fantastic long lining, lunging, free lunging. Knows all her verbal commands and is always nicely forward. I can do all of that with side reins too so she's used to moving up into pressure.

          Today, I decided to address the bit. While I was ground driving in a soft riding bit, Buck's words made me think, so I switched it out for my rubber mullen. The mare was much less reactive and balky with that bit, but still jigging/piaffing like crazy.

          At one point, she was literally shivering all over. I stopped her, and just started petting her and talking to her. She immediately relaxed. Since she was so undone, I figured I'd do some long lining for a few minutes before trying again (since she "gets" that and likes it) when I had an epiphany ...

          This mare responds to touch (not soothing voice) when she's overwhelmed. She has ZERO confidence except that derived from her rider (silly I know for an event horse, but so long as I'm committed, she never says no to any obstacle). She loves long lining, but I decided to try something different, the in-hand stuff I've seen Arabian and other folks do, where I'm right up against her side so I can pet her while we're walking.

          I switched sides a few times doing this, and for the first time was able to slide behind her (literally almost touching) and ground drive her on a relatively loose rein. Any time I felt her start to get nervous (about every 10-20 seconds), I'd talk to her, touch her and then slide to the side and begin in hand.

          She went from insanely upset to quiet as a church mouse in just a few seconds.

          I'm so stupid. She couldn't think she was so scared and became over-reactive. I wish I had before and after video. She went from a prancing giraffe to a seasoned stock horse as soon as I started doing it.

          I love this mare so much. I can't believe I scared her so badly.

          Re: length, good. I think my lines are 60 foot lines, but am not sure. Typically, when ground driving, I hold the lines about 2 feet off the area where it goes from black to tan (so I believe that's 14 feet?) to keep a safe distance. When long lining, I usually have them out 50 feet or so, and sometimes will spiral them in and out.

          My "in hand" trick, I only had about 6-8 feet of line, but I was walking right next to her flank/end of rib cage. She also was poking her nose out finally and not balled up.

          And since you mention crabby! She definitely just went into season yesterday. And while she's fairly good for a mare in season, I think everything was just too overwhelming for her Saturday.

          I'm so happy to have figured out how to make her happy in the lines!!! I welcome any more advice. I've never had formal training with ground driving so am loving hearing all the good wisdom. Most of what I've learned is through trial and error, and occasionally asking questions when I find a good expert

          Comment


          • #6
            I just saw a great article in Horse Sport (Canadian Magazine - the May 2013 issue) on long lining the dressage horse. It had some great pointers and advice. I'm not sure if you can pick it up somewhere?
            I'm glad you guys are working it out I'm working on long lining my young guy and getting him used to contact, so it can be challenging but fun

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by AzuWish View Post
              I have encountered something I have never encountered before ground driving. I have fairly limited experience ground driving, so I haven't seen everything there is to see, but I have driven a number of different types of horses from beginners to veterans, and horses that were crooked, straight, hot, sluggish, etc.

              Mare in question is a nervy sort, but a good soul with tons of talent. She's my eventer prospect. I'm not a driver, but I have driven, and this horse isn't a driving prospect. But ground driving is important and figured you all would be the most knowledgeable on the board re: ground driving.

              I was just ground driving her to warm her up for some long lining (mare is not schooled as well as I'd like with moving up into contact, and has been acting a little barn sour, so figured this would be a great way to work with her on both things).

              I have ground driven and long lined her in the past before. Nothing remarkable ever happened, but I haven't done it in a year or so. When I set off to ground drive her, she immediately started jigging and going crooked (cocking head to one side, and hind on a different path than the front). When I went to straighten her out by touching her with the whip and pulling on the rein she was bulging against, she had a complete spazzed out. I suspect you may have too much contact with the issues you are describing

              Now, on spazzing out, what I mean is stopped and started kicking straight back and I was unable to move her forward. The whip only made things worse. She was bucking, kicking, cowkicking.Are you using the whip on her side or rump? They may kick out if you smack them on the rump but what you have descrobed sounds extreme

              This is the sweetest mare I've ever had the pleasure of working with, and at first I thought she meant it out of malice, but when I stepped to the side, she kept kicking straight back at the lines and at the whip. So, at least she wasn't kicking AT me? Has she been desensitized to ropes and such around her legs and belly? This to me is a high priority so she feels safe

              (Keep in mind, she's been ground driven before, and I have laid lines on her all the time and can lay the whip on her any time with out her moving; she's pretty desensitized for an eventing prospect!)

              This happened more often than not while we were working Saturday.

              My thought is that she wants to go crooked and simply doesn't understand when I make her keep her butt between the lines. She's a reactive type so instead of thinking it through, she's just trying to DO. It is usually driver error, keep her next to a fense and that will make going straight easier.

              To save my face from being kicked in, and to make her be productive when she refused to move forward, I began backing her up, making sure she was keeping straight and between the lines. As soon as she felt good between the lines, I'd ask her to walk on (she knows verbals very well) and cluck. She then immediately strikes off straight — sometimes in a "piaffe"/jig and sometimes at a walk. If she doesn't strike off straight (rare), I back her again and try it again.

              I've ground driven her 3 times since the spazz attack, and she's getting better day by day. She hasn't tried to kick since 2 sessions ago, and now when she starts to get crooked she either fixes herself when I cluck her forward or adjust the rein against her bulging, or she stops against the rein she's bulging against and then backs up a few steps (straight) before I let her strike off again.

              I am picking points near and away from the barn and walking straight at them, so that I know when she's gone crooked or off the line and it also helps me keep straight and weight even in both reins. She's doing better and better. Today, during an hour session, she only stopped at backed about a dozen times. That might seem like a lot, but it is a HUGE success vs. where we were Saturday!
              with every thing you descirbe I feel like you have too much contact so she can't move off and jigs, stops or backs.
              My question is, am I doing the right thing? She's improving yes, but is there something else more effective for teaching a horse to move straight, into contact and forward? Yes. I would suggest a DVD or book by Muffy Seaton about bending the driving horse

              And if the backing is bad, how do I stop her from stopping and kicking? I have tried to anticipate by clucking and touching her with the whip, but if she's undone, she stops any way. I wqould encourage any forward movement even if you didn't ask for it and get her used to moving off briskly

              Thanks for reading my wall of text! I look forward to reading some great ideas and solutions!
              Answers embedded.

              Comment


              • #8
                Oh and make sure the lines are low on her side and not up high.

                Comment

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