Ground Driving

Wiley learning to ground drive
Wiley learning to ground drive

At 2 years old Wiley is too young to be ridden, so he is learning to ground drive. Here he is on day 2 of this adventure. Wiley already has all of his basic ground work done, so this was the next logical step. Notice that he doesn’t have a bit in his mouth. He still had his wolf teeth in place, so no bit until they are removed.

Wiley isn’t a very forward horse, so his big challenge was keeping him in front of me just enough to keep the slack out of the lines. Any slack, and steering is impossible. It took him awhile to stay in front of me. We were all over the arena on day 1. But by day 2, Wiley was able to drive around the ranch. Now we are starting to adventure to more scary places. So far, he is proving to be one of those horses that recovers quickly from a spook. My favorite kind!

Traing a Horse to Ground Drive: The Basics

Once a horse is taught to lunge, ground driving is a pretty easy transition. I like to first teach horses voice commands on the lunge line (walk, trot, canter, whoa and easy). Then it is easy for the horse to understand what  to expect in new situations (driving and riding). I start by lunging in a surcingle with the long lines attached but I am still in the middle. I make sure the horse is comfortable with the lines around their hind end. When a horse is OK with that, I teach them to give their head to rein pressure. by pulling on one of the  lines. Next I ask the horse to back (I have already taught this in halter, so it is an easy transition as well). With that mastered, it is time to start driving! These steps can take days or weeks depending on the horse.

To move forward, I shake the lines and ask the horse to “walk on.” If he doesn’t move, I can pick up the whip and let the lash gently fall on his behind. Since some horses can kick out, I always stay at the very end of the lines. With a horse like Wiley that isn’t very forward, I have to constantly remind him to move on, or I will end up in striking distance (thankfully Wiley has never kicked). I teach the whoa by first pulling on the reins and then giving a voice command. Since Wiley already knows what whoa means, the rein pressure acts as a pre-cue. eventually he will stop on the pre-cue alone.

Why Ground Drive A Horse?

Training a horse to ground drive before you break them to saddle is by no means a necessity. However if you have the time, it sure helps things go smoothly. By the time you are in the saddle, the horse already knows how to steer, stop, back and any other moves you want to put on them. Also, it is a good way to find out how your horse will react to new situations before you start riding. Wiley is ground driving around the barn. I already have a feel for how he responds to scary things.

4 thoughts on “Ground Driving

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  1. We seem to have similar horse training philosophies! I started my blog back in February when I bought the long 2-year-old called Firefly. Check us out. 🙂 I love ground driving and absolutely swear by it.

    1. I read your blog and I just couldn’t believe your Halloween pix. I have a picture of me and my old horse Tucson that is identical. He was a thoroughbred and went as “Bud Lite” the skinny Budweiser Clydesdale a year ago Halloween. He had the feathers, a draft braided main complete with stand up roses, I even gave him a mud flap for a tail! He passaged around the arena on the long lines to make him seem more Clyde like. He won first place. Too funny.

      1. That’s awesome! I’d love to see pics! What did you use for feathers? I wanted to get those stand-up roses but I settled for red ribbons (easier to find than the roses). 😉 That’s exactly what we called our costume … “Bud Lite”! 😀

      2. This is so funny because I thought I was being original!

        I used white leg wraps as the base and made the “feathers” from white fur from the fabric store. I actually bought the real draft braiding roses and ribbons online and taught myself how to do a draft braid. Unfortunately it was drizzling the morning of the show, so I hurried through the process and it doesn’t look great. It started raining right before the class which is why the pictures are bad. I always thought I’d redo the costume so I could get some better pix, but sadly I had to put Tucson down earlier this year.



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