Horse Training

Drivers Ed

September 6, 2011

What potential pleasure drivers need to know before they show.

Drivers education is not just for cars anymore. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

When looking for a pleasure driving prospect, first and foremost seek a quiet and sensible disposition.

Conformation styles may change, but the horse’s movement should described as a long, flat- kneed trot with a naturally level top lines.

The horse must have athletic hindquarters and be able to get up underneath himself when he works.

Size is important. The size of the stride should be “big,” but that does not mean every pleasure driving horse has to be over 16 hands. The horse just needs to have the right look.

Ideally it is best to break your horse to the cart early, as a yearling or early 2-year-old. But it is never too late.

Whether you want to ride off into the sunset along a dusty trail or down the rail, there are some essential handles that you first need to have on your horse. In this FREE report, Horse Training Fundamentals, AQHA Professional Horseman Ken McNabb walks you through his process of how to train a horse.

A good, solid foundation can be laid both mentally and physically for a young horse by teaching everything from voice commands to lead changes, all while driving and saving a lot of wear and tear on a youngster’s growing skeletal system. Than switching to riding is a minor change.

You can be amazed how well a driven colt will ride the first time or two!

If you have found your horse, it is time to get the equipment. First, you must decide the type of driving you will do (cross-country, show ring or competition). This will determine the style of cart needed.

Properly fitting equipment is a must in order to be safe and successful.

When hooking your horse up for the first time, employing the services of an experienced trainer can make things go much smoother. The first impressions are usually the lasting ones, so employing a good professional will be well worth the expense.

Long-lining and ground-driving your horse first can be helpful, but do not overdo it. Young horses will become bored and can develop bad habits.

There are three simple goals to achieve during line-driving:

Once your horse can do this, you can move onto a cart.

Transitioning a riding horse to a cart horse:

When you are driving a horse, you are limited to just two aids: voice and hands. Voice influences motion and gait transitions. Hands provide lateral control — your hands have now become your legs.

Help your horse make the transition by being conscious of your hand when bending or turning while riding. Use a little more hand and less leg, so your horse becomes less dependent upon your legs. This is not saying “don’t ride with leg cues,” it is a matter of teaching your horse two different signals for the same maneuver.

In Horse Training Fundamentals, you’ll see that a strong foundation is key when training your horse, and you’ll learn exactly how to build this foundation with advice from AQHA Professional Horseman Ken McNabb.

All horses should be comfortable cantering in the cart. They know by voice commands what their gaits should be. Teaching your horse to come down from a canter to a trot is vital to recover from a break or to “fix” a bad step before it turns into a break.

Avoiding accidents is not always possible. But you can minimize your risks of pleasure driving accidents with these tips.

When your horse is hooked up to the cart:

  • Never leave the horse unattended;
  • Never unbridle the horse
  • Never unhook the driving lines; and
  • Never stand up in the cart.

Take time to properly prepare for a driving class. Most horses do other events, and often the driving receives the least priority in the practice ring. Make sure your horse is prepared for the situation you are about to drive you horse into, and you will have a much safer trip.

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