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Team Driving Practice


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3/27/13, Blair, NE - Another good day of training for the green team of Shires owned by Taunia and Don Kurtti.  Before hitching them to an evener, I felt the horses needed a couple of hours of ground driving as a team.

I started the boys out in their paddock to make sure they stayed sane and didn’t act up. It only took a few minutes for them to start responding well to my commands. They still hadn’t figured out how when making a turn, as the outside horse has to walk faster than the horse on the inside, but they acted like they were willing to learn.


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Since they had only been worked two days before, it didn’t take long for the lessons learned on Sunday to be reinforced.  Within five minutes, they were right back where I left them two days ago.  Since they are now 4 year olds, the optimum lesson lasts 2 to 4 hours and can be repeated every day. A younger horse has a shorter attention span and shorter lessons are better.

Once I knew they wouldn’t try and bolt on me, I opened the gate and drove them to the field across the street, where I had more room to work with them.  Figure 8’s are the best to teach them turns, with “whoa’s” every few minutes to get them used to this important command. A little note - “Whoa” is the most important command that a teamster has.  It should only be used to stop a team dead in their tracks and should never be watered down by being used to slow a team or for other reasons when you want them to stand still.  “Whoa” means stop now.  The only thing that should have more emphasis than this is the “Whoa Damn-it” command!

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Walking even is a very natural act for two horses, especially ones that have bonded socially.  From these pictures it looks like I have special skill as a Teamster in making them walk even, but it’s really their natural instinct.

Once I had them driving pretty good, I had Taunia take the lines and drive them for a while. By now, they were used to my hands on the lines, but their training was sufficient for them to quickly adjust to the pressure of her hands.  For about a half hour, Taunia learned to drive a team and the horse learned to respond to her commands. Both the team and the teamster did real well.

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It’s very important for the novice teamster to always remain calm. Horses can sublimely sense the emotions of the teamster.  If the Teamster gets excited, they will as well. Here, Taunia is doing very well and you can tell it by the relaxed posture of Ruben and Royal.

Over the years, I’ve found that it is easier to teach women and children how to drive. The horses respond well to them, as they generally don’t try to overpower the team, and apply an even pressure to the bits with the driving lines. Women and children have a tendency to be sensitive to a horse’s mouth.  When I told Taunia, “feel the horses’ mouth with the driving lines”, she didn’t think she knew what I was talking about, but she was already doing that, subconsciously.


This was a good day of training, one that made huge steps in training both the team and the teamster.