Just Starting Out

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Hi! I am some what new to the forum even though I have been on before but it has been quite a while. Anyway I have been wanting to get into driving for quite a while and this summer was finnaly able to get a cart and harness. I have trained a few horses to ground drive and to pull me in a plastic sled without much trouble so I'm training my 3yr old APHA colt Tarzan myself. I just got started yesterday. Harnessed him up and took him for a short ground driving session in the yard. He got the hang of it after a while and did pretty good with that. So today I took him into my arena/play pasture and ground drove him again and had him pull a tire. He did great, didn't mind the tire at all and even listened to the lines a little better too. So my questions now are...

#1 How soon should I start introducing the cart? I plan on working with him a lot more before I actually hitch him and I will have someone there to help me when I do.

#2 What kind of bit would be good to start a driving horse in? Right now I am just using the hackamore that I normally ride him in. He listens to this pretty well now but I guess I question whether or not it will be enough to control him when he's pulling. I've never herd of any one driving a horse without a bit. Other than that I guess any other advice you can think of will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance! :smilie:

Here's a pic of him from today in his harness!


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Everything depends on the horse. In my area most of the amish use snaffle bits. That is what I used at first on my Haflingers but they would about pull your arms out after 10 miles or so. I switched to Liverpool bits and like them. Some say they are too severe but it all depends on how you use them. It is nice to have the "brakes" when you need them however.

I would give him a few more days on a big tire before hitching him to the cart. Do it in a smaller pen or pasture where he can't get up too much speed if he tries to take off. Some tie something heavy such as the tire behind the cart to slow them down some. You may want to put a "buck strap" on him the first few times on the cart to help prevent him from kicking it apart. Be sure to push the cart toward him him some so he gets used to the britching pushing on him. Have someone lead him too on your first try. Keep a your lines tight and don't let him get ahead of you. Good luck!!

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Thanks for the advice! I had heard about the "buck strap" but not about pulling a tire behind the cart to add more weight and to push the cart towards him to let him feel the britching. I think I'll do that. I'll definitly be hitching him in a pasture the first few times. I think I'll also start ground driving him in a snaffel to let him get used to it. He hasn't had a bit yet so it will be good for him to learn.

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I have not hitched him the the cart yet because the shafts are too narrow in front for him. They were bent in for use on a small pony. As soon as I can get help bending them out I will hitch him to the cart. For now I have been practicing with him hitched to a wooden rig my friend built for me. He pulls it very well and has no problem with the shafts. I have pix of him hitched to it but I can't load them untill I find my adapter for my memory card. I did have one question though. How tight should the crupper be? It doesn't seem to bother him at all but every now and then he will have a small rubbed spot that looks a little sore. He is olny working for about an hour and a half so I'm worried about him getting it when he is getting worked longer.

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It does not have to be too tight it is just to keep the harness from working forward. You do want it up firmly under the tail. Then it shouldn't move around enough to cause a problem.

The crupper is handy too if you ever have chapped lips. There is a lanoline substance under the tail that adheres to the crupper. If you get chapped lips put your lips over the crupper. It doesn't cure chapped lips but IT SURE KEEPS YOU FROM LICKING THEM!!!

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:rotf: Last part made me laugh. Not likely to be doing that any time soon. :rotf: I'd feel like I was kissing my horses butt.

I guess I'll have to experiment a little to find out where the sweet spot is so it doesn't rub him. Thanks for all the advice.

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I guess at this point I would ask you how many times the horse has pulled the tire?

We REALLY think horse needs quite a while in the pulling tire mode, along with dragging

practice shafts, before EVEN THINKING of hitching him.

A lot of this can be done on long lines. Have you tried doing that with him? You stay in

middle while he goes around your. You do move in a center circle, not twirling, while horse

does a BIG circle around you. Our long lines are about 30ft, so circle is about 60-70ft

across. Horse is able to not go so bent, can trot faster and slower, with tire moving

ALL OVER, to give many different feelings to the harness and pull behind.

Long lines give you control of BOTH sides and BOTH ENDS of the horse. You run the outside

line from bit thru tug loop, around his rump to your hand. The inside line runs from bit

thru tug loop to your hand. He should be controllable and not be able to swing to face you,

not swing out the rump going in his BIG circles. You DO NOT want to use the rein rings

up on the harness saddle. He can spin out of control UNDER the lines, you have no body

control when lines are that high. You want him BETWEEN the lines, all parts controlled.

You also want to use the whip so he is not afraid, but DOES respond promptly to voice

commands he understands. The whip is an AID, like legs for the rider. A Driver only has

reins and whip to direct driving horse with. A TOUCH is all that is needed if he ignores

your voice, you are NOT beating him with the whip! Whip needs a lash long enough to

"reach out and touch him" way out on the circle. Maybe just adding some cord to your whip

will allow that touching length.

Horse can practice his Whoa and stand, trot to walk, walk to trot NOW, so your various

commands are FAMILIAR and CONSISTANT EVERY TIME you ask him to do something. When he

gets to almost loose rein, obedient to commands, both ways, DEAD STOP WHOA EVERY TIME,

no dancing while standing out there on the lines,he is probably ready for the tire and fake

shafts. We have a person drag the tire in front to start, horse can follow it. When it is

not exciting, you can have helper run a string thru the singletree dragging behind horse on

long traces or traces with string to lengthen them with dragging singletree. Helper holds the string

to keep tire on singletree, but can drop string to let tire fall off singletree if horse is

frightened. We usually drop the tire a few times practicing, so horse stops and has tire

reattached, then goes again. Keeps him guessing, RESPONDING, not on auto pilot. Then we

do the same with fake shafts. We use trimmed saplings about 3" thick, 10-12ft long as the shafts.

Free to us, springy if stepped on, bouncy to drag, easy to replace if broken. Do the same

as with tire, helper holds sapling on horse harness with a string. Sapling thru tug loop,

string to helper's hand. Driver send horse on, helper walks alongside holding string.

If horse gets silly, drop the string, sapling falls off, helper gets horse settled, puts

sapling back in place, you try dragging it again. We do the outside of circle first, walking only,

both directions. Then we do the inside of horse the same way. This might take a couple sessions.

When horse is walking easily, OBEDIENT to the Driver and lines, you attach the sapling

with an easily breakable string. Driver asks horse to move out on the circle drag the sapling

with no helper person. When horse is good with sapling on the outside, both ways, put the

other sapling on, also easily breakable string, so he is pulling both saplings on both sides.

Do KNOW horse can NOT BACK UP with the fake shaft saplings, so don't ask him to.

If the strings should break, horse halts, while sapling is reattached. He learns to ignore falling

saplings, stand nice while you move around him out on the circle. Goes off when ASKED with the

dragging stuff. We add a cross piece when he is real good, turning saplings into a Travois, learn

to drag that. Gives the saplings a different feel, stiffer set up. Again, he gets obedient,

ignores the differnce in feel, is doing as asked, at the speeds you ask, both ways. You can add

the tire if travois is sturdy enough, practice with that, both ways.

By now he is probably ready for the cart.

Check your cart all over before hitching. grease hubs, fill tires if they have air, not shaky if

wooden. I would NOT use bike tires, they bend over on turns, fold in half. I WOULD have a

welding shop check those metal shafts. If shafts have been bent in and out, they may have metal

fatigue. Kind of like bending a paper clip, back and forth, when the wire finally BREAKS OFF.

You DO NOT want the shafts to break, EVER.

You may want to measure cart to fit horse before having cart checked over, in case you need

LONGER shafts. Shop could change them for you. Shafts should end at the point of horse

shoulder when hitched properly. You stretch out his hind leg as far as possible, to make

sure hoof won't hit ANY PART of the cart when going at speed. If he is even "close"

to hitting, you will want longer shafts put on cart. I will second the use of a "kicking strap" for

hitching him. It goes across his hip top, attached to the backstrap where breeching goes thru, or crupper

buckles on, then wraps ends on the shafts. If he should try to kick out, the weight of cart and

driver, SHOULD hold him down and prevent getting hooves over the dash into your lap. Dash should

have some height, not down by his hocks. Too low puts YOU in a danger zone.

I am going to say that this work is going to take at least 30 sessions on the lines, probably way

more with dragging tire and fake shafts on the ground. The odd pulls and jerks, rubbing on him,

have to be ignored by horse, while being obedient to you. Those voice commands are your safety

equipment. He has to KNOW THEM, respond well to them EVERY TIME, before you can tie something

on behind and rely on him to obey!

The other thing with the long-lining is him learning he can depend on you to take care of him!!

He will wait for you to fix things, talk him thru the scary feelings with new equipment. That

dependance on you, is not built in a couple days. Takes time and work, which happens with those

many lessons on the lines. Of course things go faster with 3 to 5 works a week. But if you

can't get him worked that much, track his sessions on a calendar, so you KNOW how much he really

has experienced as you train. It can easily blur over long training time, spread out to one or two

lessons a week in bad weather.

There really is no time schedule where you can measure his progress. He has to show you that he

TOTALLY understands the lesson, demonstrate his understanding, before you can do the next step.

These basics, instilled very solidly in him, are what he will use when stressed in new driving

situations in other places. His relying on you to control the things happening will be huge, and

if you let him down, could cause an accident. A horse hitched too quickly, doesn't have any depth

of knowledge, experience, to refer to when the unexpected happens. Could be just a bumpy stretch

of road, but he NEVER felt the shafts jerk before!! Pretty scary, could start a run. Not like

the animal who had the tire slinging behind him on the lines, practice shafts jumping as they dragged

across the frozen tire marks of his circles. Again, not a "30 day or 60 day" training situation.

A 3yr old has not done much in his life, to have experience to refer to. Really easy to upset the

best minded animal with strange new stuff. And such a young horse will have short attention span

to actually learn things in. Taking your time, stretching lessons into many sessions of repeated

GOOD response from him, is a better method, safer for both of you in the long run. Does he ride

much yet? Doing his riding training, showing him new things, yard ornaments, strange dogs, farm

animals, while under saddle will let him be a bit silly without being dangerous with the cart

tied on him. I would MUCH prefer to spook thru a ditch with a saddle under me, than try to drive the

cart behind that spooking horse jumping across the ditch harnessed!!

We do the cart the same as beginning the tire and fake shafts. Helper holds the shaft in the

tug loop, NOTHING TIED ON HORSE, while Driver walks behind the cart with longer lines. If

horse gets scared, helper drops the shaft and cart falls off horse. Driver goes around cart,

stops horse CALMLY, pat him, put shafts back in place, and helper holds shaft while you try walking

off quietly again. Do NOT get excited, horse smells or hears you, responds badly. Stay calm, keep

trying to get him walking with cart behind, stiff shaft rubbing his side. That should be PLENTY

for him to think about for a couple sessions. Then tie cart on firmly, WITH breeching, kicking strap

and walk him off. Helper at the front with lead rope, but driver only, giving voice directions.

Try to end on a good note, praise him! Calmly unhitch cart while helper holds him and end the

SHORT session. Repeat many times, leader getting discarded, adding length to session. Hop

into the cart when you feel confident he will obey. Helper can be leading for that first time

or two.

You also will want to practice him in the blinder bridle, out on the long lines. Maybe put it on

every 4th or 5th session and use his riding bridle the other times. You WANT him seeing what is going

on around and behind him. He is NOT afraid of those objects. Blinker bridle is for when the cart is

hitched, so horse can't see DRIVER. Horses read body language, whip signals, so they want "to HELP you,

anticipate the voice command" and respond wrongly. Horse MUST WAIT for the voice command, he gets

NO VOTE in when to walk away or speed up. Blinkers will focus his attention forward, not allow so

much distraction. He STILL knows things are behind him, didn't go deaf when he was harnessed!!

Blinkers are a safety feature for driving. Should be put in use after the first or second hitching,

he has seen the cart, now needs to focus on his forward and commands.

Doris Ganton wrote a training book, something like "Training the Driving Horse. Book has good photos,

shows the progressive steps you need to take. Usually can be found used on Ebay type sellers. You

want your horse to LIKE driving, enjoy going out with you. If things go bad driving, the wrecks

can be AWFUL, horse tied to the vehicle makes a BIG swath of destruction. Nothing like a runaway

saddle horse! Seldom can drive that horse safely again, they have no confidence in their people any more.

We call our horses "green" when they have been hitched and driven 100 times. They still have LOTS to

learn about driving and being dependable. For us, our lives can depend on horses being INSTANTLY obedient

and doing as asked NOW. That means they have much time and work put into them to reach those

high standards.

Not every horse WILL drive safely! You can hitch them, get in some cart time, then things start to

go bad as horse gains confidence. They are NOT having a good time. Some horses just don't drive,

not your fault or your methods. They are not MENTALLY suitable, so they need a DIFFERENT job under

saddle. If you force the driving issue, they will "get" you at a later date. We have had half sisters

and out of 4 nice ones, two drove WELL enough to keep. One drove for 8 hitchings before her brain

fell out and she wrecked the cart. She was sold on, made big money jumping fences. The other never

got to the hitching stage. Her first response was ALWAYS a big spook when scared. Can't have that

in a Driving horse. You can't change a horse's basic response to fright, so she went on to a lovely

life as a Dressage horse. We have about a 50% wash out rate. The ones who stay are here for life.

The non-drivers are very nice horses, suitable for other disciplines, so they get sold on. Enjoy life

under saddle.

Again, our standards for Driving are very high, we expect MUCH from them when they get hitched up.

They forgive us when we make mistakes, don't go berserk. Hope you can use this information. Take

your time in training, make sure horse totally understands whatever you are asking of him. A

good mind and time, are your biggest tools to successful driving training.

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Forgot to add that you don't want your beginner horse trying to pull a lot of

weight. He doesn't know how to manage a big load, will try to quit on you.

We drag a tire that came off a dually pickup. You just want resistance,

not weight. You have to gradually teach the driving horse to be brave, by

only allowing him to be successful in moving slightly heavier weights as

you build their fitness. Pony probably should only have a mini sized tire,

like the fake spares in a small car.

Hitching them to a tractor type tire will probably create problems. Too much

weight along with big resistance as they drag the tire over the ground. Horse

starting out, gets VERY discouraged moving a big load, never gets any reward.

Horses can definately feel when you add weight to the cart after pulling less!!

Some need to be lead again to start, then learn they CAN move that extra poundage,

praised for trying and being successful! Builds their success, confidence in YOU

because those pounds didn't hurt. Probably will be more willing to try other new

things you ask of him.

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My amish friends don't make that big of a deal out of green breaking a horse. Hitch it with another horse a few times. Then, if it is level headed, hitch it single and start putting a lot of sweat miles on it. Sweat under the collar is the best training there is.

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goodhors - Thanks for your advice. He did get quite a bit of experiance riding and I have had him since he was a baby and I have been doing ground work with him for a long time. He has been ridden in large groups, in lots of traffic and has even been trailered to a fun show and out camping. He has done very well with all of this. He has a very level head and does extreremly well with new things. I would definitly rather have a horse spook undersaddle than hitched!!! I have done quite a bit of research on how to start a driving horse. I've talked to a few different people also and have gotten lots of advice. Sometimes it's nice to talk to someone with experiance because some questions aren't answered in the books. I've also seen step by step video's on training the driving horse. Unfortunatly I don't have a helper for the most part but Tarzan and I are doing just fine on our own. He has been ground driven quite a bit, has pulled the tire a lot, and has been hitched to the fake shafts quite a few times now too. I have also been slowly introducing him to wieght and he has been doing well. He has given me little to no reaction to all of this. He knows and responds to his commands very well. I will have someone to help me when he is finnaly hitched to the cart. I am a big believer in preperation. I believe the more you prepare a horse the better chance you have a a successful pleasant experiance for both of you. There are also amish people in this area I have talked to some so I understand and am somewhat farmiliar with both techniqes of training and seem to fall somewhere in the middle. :-) Thanks again to both of you! :smilie:

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:jump::jump::jump: He did it!!! :yahoo::yahoo::yahoo: He did it!!! :yay::yay::yay: Tarzan pulled the cart today for the first time and even gave me a ride in it!!! I am soooo proud of him. He did very very well. He didn't bat an eye the entire time. He listened very well and even backed the cart...with me in it. I wasn't able to get someone to help me but Tarzan and I managed just fine on our own as usual. The shafts are still a little to narrow in front for him but luckily he didn't mind. lol

Here's a pic of him hitched. I wasn't able to get any pictures when I was driving him or ridding in the cart since I was alone and all I had to take pix was my phone. It seemed to be easier for him to pull than the fake shafts.



Here is a pic of him hitched to his fake shafts. Since I was finnaly able to load my pix I thought I'd post these right away too.


There are boards on the back that I stood on to get him used to pulling more wieght.


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Cool, cool, cool. Good job so far and hurray for a cooperative horse!

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Good job!

Reply to Rod 44. Driving in a pair is different than driving single. Having the shaves on the body sides are alot different, the horse needs to bend with them. Driving in a pair, there are no shaves. The horses bodies can bend more freely.

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Chino Valley - I was refering to how they are started driving. First double and then single. After 40 years of driving horses single and as a team I realize they turn differently. This a good safe way to start them. Finish them however you would like.

Edited by rod44

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been a dead thread for more than 2 years. These people aren't even here any more. Why don't you join the "living"?

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