The importance of Ground Driving

I haven’t fallen off the face of the blogosphere, I’ve been incredibly busy and quite frankly, as a result I have nothing to blog about.  Kidd is still fat, happy and incredibly adorable.  It’s fully winter now, Christmas is just around the corner, and my husband and I are going ham on working on the Cabin.  We are having a holiday party just before Christmas and our goal is to have all the walls and flooring installed and complete prior to then… or at least a big chunk made in it.  The tricky thing with the cabin, like most things in life, is we just pick away at it as we can afford it and as we have time – both resources are limited and therefor result in this project being slow… although, moving forward is still progress, even if it seems like it's at a snails pace – just like riding.
Kai has been majorly on the back burner and I’ve been questioning why I bought a horse in the late fall.  I know what our seasons are like and I knew what a full plate I have, so I don’t understand why I thought that would all go away when I bought a new horse…. But never the less, I did. I’m disappointed, but only in myself and I need to make more of an effort to work consistently with her for the time being.
I think a lot of people assume that because I both live and work here on the farm, that I can just run outside and play horsey when ever I want.  Sadly, that’s not the case.  While I have a small outdoor arena and access to a heated 4-stall barn that is fully occupied from about 10AM – 8 PM, I also have a full time job, a husband, multiple major projects (the cabin, the sport horse club, etc), and a social life – although meager and certainly not my priority. Add that on top of a major lack of daylight this time of year it makes it really tough to get anything accomplished.  My weekends are filled with go-go-go’ing on projects from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep and as a result it’s damn near impossible to make progress on the Kai front.  That being said, I keep reminding myself that this is okay – she’s only 3, and I should be in no rush.. but I just want to get on her so bad! 
I feel like a lot of her ‘issues’ all go back to the same roots.  Lack of confidence, lack of experience, and lack of boundaries thus far.  All of this can be accomplished with time, patients, and reward.  In my honest opinion, there won’t be much difference in doing this from the ground, and doing it from her back.. I think time can be spent equally with the same results, however I am not one to swing a leg over any and every horse that can carry a saddle. I want to get on her with confidence.  I said earlier I really want to get on her, but that doesn’t mean I’m confident with getting on her yet.  I have no doubt she will spook, and there’s a good chance she will buck, but I feel like a year of groundwork won’t change that at this point – I feel like she truly just needs hours and hours in the saddle making it black and white, rewarding her for her efforts and giving her the confidence boosts she needs to continue progressing.  That being said, I feel ground driving a more useful tool than lunging in this case, at this moment in time.  Kai’s lunging is no where perfect, but having her go in endless circles doesn’t do either of us much good at this point.  Ground driving, however, allows me to have a better feel of her mouth, and feel how she responds to the bit in ‘iffy’ situations.  To put it plainly, she’s never bucked and leaped like she does on the lunge line, while driving.  She has spooked, but it was nothing more than a split second tense-up and casual step sideways, she has also considered breaking to a trot when ground driving down the long side at a walk, but bit pressure has her deciding walking is a good idea.  It also gives me insight on her reaction to the bit in general.  Her previous owner proudly told me she likes to carry her head quite low, but I’m experienced enough to know to take that with a grain of salt because it can mean a number of things.  While it may ‘look nice’ to the naked eye, chances are they’re either leaning or on the forehand, or most often both.. simply due to biomechanics and how they come into play it’s very hard to have one without the other.  Kai is proving this theory.  While she absolutely does like to carry her head quite low and her nose tucked in for the most part, it’s very fake and heavy in my hands.  I could see how this might make me a little weary once I got on her since, in most cases, they can’t buck unless their head is low... in ground driving her first, it’s helping me understand her before I get on her and lower the chance of developing [perhaps] untrue theories based on my natural tendency to worry about what ‘could’ happen... had I not ground drove her first, I likely would have walked off and thought “oh shit, she’s really heavy on my hands shes probably going to buck”. Now I can get on her knowing that’s just her natural tendancy due to an improper way of going in general and while she may still want to buck me off, it’s not going to necessarily be the foremost thought in my mind.  Either way, it would be really great if I could force myself to brave the elements, get out there and put in the work this week and hopefully swing a leg over this weekend.  My goal this week is to do lots of figures and halt/walk transitions.  While I already make an effort to do some halt/walk transitions throughout our driving sessions (granted, this was only the third time), I would like to continue to build on her length of patents while halted as she is fidgety - also something typical of OTTB's.

She's developing some herd bound behaviors and keeping her active and continually building her confidence should help. I honestly think she's just becoming bored, so today I turned her out in my arena from about 11 - 5.  I was able to sneak out of work around 4:30 to work with her, but it was so cold I opted to just catch her with the bridle and get right to work. I didn't even pull her blankets off.  Tomorrow I will likely just leave the gate at the back of her paddock open. This way she can go into the alley behind her paddock and into the arena.  I would leave her in the arena, but the reason she's in the smaller pen is due to it having an automatic waterer.  I'd much rather utilize that, than have to haul water and deal with it freezing every day.  My intent was to turn her out with the 4 younger mares she shares a fence line with, but with this new behavior I'm hesitant.
Halting and waiting for me to unhook her.  I realize the blanket is massive on her, it's a 80" so cut her some slack!

Comments

  1. I have zero experience with ground driving so I find people's posts about it fascinating. It seems like a fantastic tool

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  2. Haha Thanks! It's an invaluable tool in my opinion. Typically I would run the lines through stirrup irons to avoid her stepping on them or getting tangled if she fell for some reason or something but to be honest, I was being super lazy with this cold weather!

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  3. We need more pictures of Kai's beautiful face!!!

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