Ground-driving from the Girth.



I too find that it can be productive to just slip down and ‘lead’ through at times with any horses where you come to obstacles that might make them bunch and balk.  In the end it can just be a better conversation to slip down and get them through and beyond a first time or two, where feeding an obstinence by trying to ‘ride’ them through might be the longer way around.



I have done a lot of ground-driving work horses and driving horses where you just have the reins, your voice and your presence to control, finesse & contain a horse even in stressful moments.  With ‘ground-driving from the girth’ there is a lot of a ‘vice-grip’ that can be had with just these things of voice, reins and presence on even a big horse that might be losing it at a moment.  Sometimes leading a horse through something is all that is needed to confer a confidence then and for the next time.  Same thing then also with getting off and just ‘ground-driving’ a saddle-horse around something.  In practicality there is no sin necessarily in this, though the ‘tough rider’ thing would have you believe you should just ‘ride it out’.  I’m too elderly for that riding now and this works great otherwise.


Some while ago I took a training and riding clinic with an Icelander, Hrodmar Bjarnason.  He is a guy who is thoroughly grounded in practical processes of classical riding and also totally credentialed at the classical Icelandic schooling.  He is a PhD otherwise so in a nature taking a riding clinic from him is much like taking college seminar, layered in theory and practicality. 


One tool that I learned from him which I use repeatedly now is a type of ground-driving of horses from the horse’s side at the girth.  It is not unique to him as a technique; I also found it written about in an 1862 US cavalry drill book as a training technique which was then probably taken from the French and Prussian earlier in the 19th Century given how the US cavalry version of the drill book came about.


Anyway, it is described here in some notes I made from clinics that I have taken.  It is something I use a lot in method.

   It works great for either really nice trained horses or the young or rank ones.  Either way, using it, they think you are over them and in command without your having to be on them.  I like it too because working at their sides, unlike with ground-driving from behind you can watch what is going on in their eyes and their head as you apply things to make them goe, and it is way more subtle than just ground-driving or just lunging a horse.


Once you get the hang of it you can simply fluidly assume the position, gather contact and go on.  It can be very powerful and useful in situations as needed but incredibly safe with a lot of control.  It takes some coordinating and getting used to how to employ it but…


Ground driving from the horse’s shoulder (Hrodmar)  Take reins with normal direct contact in each hand while standing next to the horse and standing at about the horse’s girth area.  Whip in the outside hand.  Use the whip as surrogate for your outside leg and your hip in to the horse as the inside leg.  Your inside leg calf or ankle can also be used directly flicked on the flank side against the horse as needed. 


Green horses or fresh horses think you are on them without your having to be.  With adult trained horses, you can tune up their collection and how they carry the bit from the ground and you can also watch them and assess them with the bit as they go along in hand.  Much of the supple-ing work can be done from the ground in hand in this fashion.  You can go along with them walking or easily move out in gait with them and have them in complete control.  This is an incredibly useful training aid to master the use of.  Use it to break horses or use it to tune-up trained horses.  (This ground driving from the shoulder is also described in a 1861 cavalry drill manual on training horses)’


-Doug, in Iowa


p.s, this is where you can also instill verbal commands as you go along.  To do that, pick some words & be consistent.  Don’t use a lot of sentences that drowned out what you are doing.  Pick specific words, like ‘walk’, or ‘ho’ for ‘start’ and ‘stop’.  If the horse is jumpy pick a different word from ‘whoa’ like, ‘easy’ if all you want is for the horse to settle down.  Be consistent.  Use something like, ‘Good’ for fussing over them or rewarding when they do what you want.  Keep your paragraphs spare when you are training and you will have effective commands when you are finished.  They learn quick and can have quite a large working vocabulary.