I’m not riding much these days for two reasons: one, I have been spending as much time as possible working on music; two, I don’t have a saddle.
That’s totally okay, though, because there’s no such thing as too much ground work!
Actually, I’ve been thinking about ground driving Chroi for quite a while but I’ve never tried it. Until today.
I was sans kids this morning so today was the day. I started with Chroi in the arena on a lead line. We walked, trotted, halted, stood, turned, and backed. Then we did it all again, this time over ground poles. I started with two ground poles and added a third, then a fourth. She trotted them alongside me as if she’d been doing it her whole life. I was really pleased with her rhythm and way of going.
I added a surcingle, bridle, and long reins. I have actually never seriously ground-driven a horse with the intention of progressing to harness, I’ve only ever used ground driving as a tool to help teach a young or green horse cues before it goes under saddle. It’s also been a very long time since I’ve ground-driven and it felt very awkward.
Things to work on:
1. Straightness. A horse is going to have to be straight in the shafts, so just walking a straight line while ground-driving is a fantastic exercise. With Chroi today I used the ground poles to assess how straight she was going. It was a great way to see just how badly I was steering.
2. Thinking ahead. Driving is very different from riding in that when you give a rein cue it has a lot farther to go top get from your hands to the horse. That means that if you want to approach the centerline you have to plan ahead for how you and your horse are going to get there. In my case, I wanted to approach the ground poles with Chroi, and I always either over- or under-steered her so that she turned too early or too late. And then we weren’t straight going over the poles.
3. Trust. It’s really quite a feat to control a horse with two thin lines while you’re standing in prime kicking territory. It’s also quite a feat for a horse to trust you enough to go where you guide her. I’m looking forward to seeing how our relationship develops as a result.
I can’t wait to see how we progress from here.