I’ve spent the last month preparing Z for ground driving. I held off actually doing it because her gash on the right leg would have been placed exactly where the line might have struck during the work, causing her pain or discomfort. However, that has healed up now so it’s time to move on.
I’ve continued working her in the Round pen and getting her used to the idea that I can be behind her and she moves forward. Also, that the line itself can touch her sides, hip, and legs and she doesn’t need to get concerned. Even when we’ve done walks outside to graze, I’ve done it with a long line and moved about in different positions, getting her familar with me being there and the long line moving over her side, back and hindquarters.
It’s important you take the time to get your horse familiar and comfortable with the feel of this. I stress this because when you actually start the horse, if they panic they can get pretty tangled up with two long lines – causing more fight and panic.
In this photo I am quite a bit away, but throughout the work, I will close the distance, paying attention to her mood. I also move the rope against her side and ask for the walk and whoa cues aided with the whip and voice.
Prepartory work is getting the horse to respond to voice cues – especially WHOA! Training like this can settle a panicked horse and help them wait until you can rescue them out of their predicament. Anyone who has had to cut a horse out of wire wrapped around their legs knows what I’m talking about…
In previous sessions, we’ve worked a bit on side rein pressure (lateral yields) too using the shorter, detachable reins:
If she feels like you are getting too close she might threaten you by angling her hips to you and striking out with her hindfeet – she prefers the left. So working in this area is a challenge that needs to be consistently done but also sensitive to how she is feeling.
With that in mind, I worked her with the surcingle on a free lunge in the RP. She was not happy but we worked through it until she was ready to behave appropriately. Considering how hot it was this (105, 57% humidity, heat advisory) resistance did not last long.
Next I put one long line on – through the side circle of her surcingle and then attached to her sidepull. We worked one line for a few moments, making sure she responded to whoa and walk, letting her get used to the tension that the surcingle provides to the line as well as how it brings it more parallel to her ribcage and rump.
From there I moved to the second line. Again, prepatory work was teaching her to stand still and let me attach stuff to her. Having a horse that is calm through this procedure (i.e. tacking up saddle, bridling, putting on surcingle, tightening girth) allows you to get both lines attached without a tangled blow out.
Because I didn’t have a second person to help me out by leading her, what naturally occurred is that she felt the tension and started turning to the inside, wrapping the outside line around the length of her body.
SIDENOTE: With a horse that was more spooky or not as calm as Z, we might have gotten into a lot of spinning and eventually trouble.
The tension on the side lines, supported by the surcingle rings, at first confused her. She either wanted to turn to the pressure or to back up. I just quietly stepped to the back and kept asking her to move forward.
It took her a while to figure out what I wanted but when she did I gave her a lot of verbal praise and her favorite scratch on the belly.
Once I felt she had her AHA moment, I stopped her, removed all the tack and took her out to graze. Afterwards, she dropped her head in my arms, eyes closed completely EXHAUSTED!!!
I HAD TO USE MY BRAIN, MOMMY!