Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Ground Driving

The last time I talked about ground driving, I received several excellent suggestions on how to improve my situation, which is that I'm trying to ground drive Gabbrielle bitless from the halter, and she keeps turning to face me. I went outside with the intention of implementing several of the suggestions that came through this blog, but forgot what most of them were by the time I stepped outside. I did remember Shirley's comment regarding using twine to tie the stirrups together before threading the ropes through the stirrups. In fact, I previously knew that I was supposed to do that, but I forgot to do it. This time I remembered.

As soon as I got myself situated behind Gabbrielle and had the ropes gathered at the preferred length, she tried to turn to the right to face me. I immediately pulled on the left rein and clucked to try to get her to move forward. She then tried to turn to the left to face me, so I had to pull back on the right rein. She then tried to turn toward me from the right. I cracked my whip, which I was having problems holding with all those ropes in my hands, and she just kept trying to turn around to face me. I tapped her on the rear and clucked, but all she wanted to do was turn. Finally, the reins got so tight that she started backing up into me while having her head jerked right then left then right then left in an effort to keep her from turning. I realized this whole lesson was a disaster, so I stopped before I could sour her.

I needed to end the lesson on a positive note, so we had to do something she could succeed at. I attached just one rope to her halter and longed her, but instead of standing in the middle of the round pen like I usually do, I stayed behind her just off her hip so that she would get used to having me behind her. When she trotted fast it was hard for me to keep up, so instead of being behind her in that tight round pen, I sometimes ended up beside her, and she then stopped and turned to face me. I figured out that if I squared off my shoulders with her hip instead of her wither, I had more success pushing her forward without any of these sudden stops and turns. Now that I'm back at my computer, I realized that what I should have done is what Browneyed Cowgirls suggested -- threading the inside line through the stirrup and placing the outside line over the saddle while longing her. I put that on my list to try next time.

I ruminated over things for a while and realized that what would really help is to get someone to lead her while I walked behind with the long reins. I consulted one of my horse training manuals, and that is exactly what it suggested. It specifically mentioned my problem of the horse turning to face me. So I had my daughter lead while I followed. We practiced turning left, turning right, stopping, and walking forward over and over until Gabbrielle seemed bored with it. Since that lesson was successful we ended it.

Between that time when I ground drove her and today, I ordered a surcingle. It claimed to be standard and would fit most horses. I figured I was okay as long as I didn't have a Miniature Horse or a Draft Horse. I was wrong. Even with the pegs in the very last holes on both sides, the surcingle hung on my little Arabian filly. I hate having to stand in line for hours at the post office to return things, and I wasn't in the mood to start searching for an Arabian surcingle or pony surcingle, so I attached a breast plate to it to hold it in place, and then crossed my fingers in hopes that Gabbrielle would go through a growth spurt sometime soon.

I tried ground driving her with the surcingle, but without my daughter leading, and Gabbrielle just kept turning to face me, getting the ropes wrapped around her haunches. I then asked my daughter to lead again, but realized that our efforts were ineffective because Gabbrielle was just following my daughter and not paying attention to my cues with the reins. I told my daughter to follow the horse at her head. In other words, I would tell her "left" when I was about to pull on the left rein, but only so that she could anticipate that Gabbrielle would be turning into her. My daughter had to actually wait for the horse to start turning left before she could turn with her. She also had to wait for the horse to stop, go, and turn right before following suit. That way I was driving and my daughter was just keeping the horse from turning to face me.

I then had my daughter detach the lead rope to see if I could now ground drive Gabbrielle independently from behind, but the horse just kept turning to face me. I pulled left the right then left then right to try to prevent it, and she backed into me. I had to throw the rope at her butt because she was ignoring my command to halt. She almost squished me between her butt and the railing. A long whip would have come in handy at that point, but I find that I don't have the coordination to hold both reins and a long whip at the same time. I can hold both reins and a riding crop when I'm in the saddle, but this ground driving is a whole new experience for me.

My horse training manual claimed that most horses catch on to the concept of moving forward with a person walking behind them after one or two times of being led, but it looks like my horse is going to need to be led a few more times before she'll understand. We've got time, though. I still need that next growth spurt before I can ride her. I put my smallest Arabian bridle on her to see if her head had grown any since last year. No such luck. The bit hangs in her mouth and there is no room to punch new holes to tighten the bridle. If she ends up just being a petite horse for the rest of her life, I may have to purchase a pony bridle.

9 comments:

onthebit said...

I haven't done long lining (ground Driving) In years but when I wanted to learn how to do it my trainer made me practice using the reins and whip togetehr. She told me to just sit in front of the tv and have the reins attached to a swivel chair just so I could get the feel of everything. I know Gabbrielle is being a pain but she really is adorable and once she (and you) get the hang of it I think you will both find it fun. Good luck on your next attempt. Just keep trying!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

onthebit - That's a good idea. I was thinking that I really shouldn't be practicing on her until I get my act together. Fortunately, she's a very patient horse.

Rising Rainbow said...

So since your horse is used to working around you with you standing in the center of the round pen, why don't you ground drive her from that position? Once you get her used to your cues that way, you can then move behind her if that's where you want to be.

I always start my young horses ground driving in a circle around me. Since they are used to working around me in a circle they already understand about going forward with pressure at their hip. I start off by lunging. Then I bit them up gradually so they can learn about giving to pressure. (I do this step over several days or weeks even depending on the horse). Once they have reached the place they are moving forward into the bit (or the halter pressure on their nose) and framing up, I then move onto the driving lines. I've never had any problem with them turning and facing me when I have started them off this way because they have already learned what that pressure is about and that I am expecting them to work around me as I stand in the center. From there the transition to driving from behind them seems to be simple to them.

(John Lyons 101 the more steps you can add to teach the horse what you want, the easier it will be for the horse. It is my motto!)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Rising - Thanks, MiKael. I'll spend more time on that. You are right in that I'm am probably making too big of a jump from one lesson to another. I need that transition.

sue said...

actually I was going to suggest the same thing as "rising"... I sort of stated that way with Tonka and after I got him moving forward, just stepped behind him..... she'll get it....

ranchette said...

Thanks for the detailed post. I too am having a few problems with line driving and my little pony. Same business of turning around to face me AND same business about not being able to find a bridle/bit combination so also in the halter. Am out to try again today; hope that you have good with your pretty filly next time!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I had better luck the next day. I lunged her with two lines and the surcingle from the center of the round pen and she had no problem following my cues. I gradually began moving behind her until I hit the spot where she felt the need to turn and face me. It's as if she's afraid of not being able to see me back there.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

She will get it. You must be doing a good job(even if she is struggling a little) because it sounds like she isn't the least bit scared.

Lulu said...

Sounds like Miss Gabbrielle is a bit insecure with moving out on her own!

The best part of reading this is hearing now neither you or Gabbrielle lost your temper in your attempts!!! I bet the lightbulb will go off soon!