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Driving As A Team


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3/24/13, Blair, NE - Sunday was a very upbeat day of training for the Shires.  This was their fifth lesson.

Before proceeding on to something new, I always like to reinforce learning that took place in the previous lesson. Both of these young horses have soft mouths. Because it’s necessary to drive them with some pressure on their bits, I had to start out by giving them a tap with the buggy whip when I say, “Get-Up”. After a couple of figure eight’s they learn quickly that a minor amount of bit pressure doesn’t me “whoa” and I can set the whip aside. If a trainer takes a little time to explain what he wants, horses catch on quick.

Ruben Lesson 5 3

Once they learn what the trainer expects of them, training becomes a game to the horses.  They start to relax, quit stopping to squeeze out a nervous poop and start having fun.  In this picture, I can tell by Ruben’s head and neck position that he now understands single driving and is comfortable and confident with the game.

After fifteen minutes of refresher training for both horses, they were ready to move on to a new game - team driving.  Like anything new, the lads were at first a little nervous with this too, but quickly got the hang of things.

Royal Lesson 5 1

You can tell by Royal’s stride and the arch in his neck that he’s having fun too.  Notice I have just enough tension on the lines to allow him to instantly feel a change in bit pressure to a corner of his mouth. 

When I first starting out driving the boys as a team, I didn’t use a lead rope to join their halters. I just had one on their butts to keep them from swing their rear ends around.  Since they didn’t yet grasp the concept of walking together, this resulted in a minor rodeo as they got tangled up.  So I wouldn’t end up with any sore mouths, I just released my hold on the driving lines and let them relax a bit. Like any good, ‘sane’ draft horses, they just stopped and gave me the look which says, “What now? Would you please fix this mess?”

Quickly sorting things out, I tied their two halters together with a 2 feet piece of rope. When we started out uneven again, the lagging horse was pulled up next to his brother with the lead rope instead of relying on cross lines to pull on the bit.

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To start them off, I had them follow Taunia as she did a few figure 8’s in the paddock.  To their way of thinking this is a natural behavior, similar to following the example of more senior members of a horse herd.

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After just a few minutes, they figured out trick of walking together and how the cross lines affected the bit pressure. - now they’re a team.

Horses can instantly feel when another person has their hands on the driving lines.  So I didn’t confuse them too much in one day, I did all of the driving today. However, the next time we go out, Taunia will do a lot of the driving.  Just as important as training the horses, is training the Teamster.  Today, Taunia had the opportunity to harness and unharness both horses (with a little help).

You might have noticed that I hitched the shorter horse, Ruben, on the left and his taller brother Royal on the right. This is so that when they pull a wagon, the crown of the road will make them appear more like a matched pair.

With my time in Nebraska growing short, I’m going to start working this team during the week, before I go to work. With another five or six training sessions, they should be broke pretty well before I head to Oregon.

Spring is a little farther along back in Valley Falls, OR. I’m anxiously awaiting the time when I can load up the truck and head west!