M i c h e l l e B l a c k l e r E q u e s t r i a n L e c t u r e S e r i e s Online Training
Training the horse to drive involves many different elements: rein cues, voice commands, whip aides, managing draft. Each of these elements involve further details including rhythm, consistency, balance. Ultimately, the horse is a very adaptable creature; all of these elements are useful to the him if the driver also possesses them. To successfully train the horse, begin training the driver.
REINSMANSHIP In driving, the most important aide is the handling of the reins. When astride, the rider has the position and weight of his own body to guide and influence the horse. On the box seat, the driver has only the reins, voice and whip; the combination of which is reinsmanship. Every equestrian is desirous of good hands, but few are able to get to grips with contact in driving: a feel of the horse's mouth to support, signal the horse in draft.
IN DRAFT The Horse presses into the collar to engage the traces to draw the vehicle forward and resists pressure of the breeching to slow or stop the vehicle.
The Relationship of Draft and Contact
There are two circuits involved in driving: draft and contact. Draft is the swingletree, traces and collar. Contact is the bit, reins, hands, arms, shoulders and body of the driver. Draft is easy for the horse; it doesn't change, the horse can trust it. Contact is trickier, it often changes on a whim... Change in Contact 1. driver's posture 2. lengthening/shortening the reins 3. pulling back, throwing away the reins 4. changes in driver's body position The single, most important thing the driver can do to help the horse in driving is to emulate the circuit of draft within contact. Think of the bit as the collar, the reins as the traces, the driver's shoulders as the swingletree, the driver's body as the king pin.
The bit does not need to move at greater angles than the swingletree moves. The shoulders of the driver should mirror the angle of the bit. The closer these components work, the greater the power steering.
The driver's arms holding the reins do not need to get shorter and longer more than they need to maintain a constant length. The arms need to mirror the traces. Effective king pins do not bend in the middle, nor should the driver.
Let's do some algebra! x=draft y=contact 1=length of horse's head, neck 2=distance from swingletree to driver Therefore x+1+2=y Striving to maintain consistent degrees of angles and equality of circuits is the beginning of the driver's responsibility to the driving horse.