Driving Multiples: Advice from HorseDrivers
We asked a question on the horsedriver.com Facebook group about driving multiples! We got some great answers, and thought we’d put together a few key thoughts for anyone interested in learning to drive multiples!
How many of you drive more than one animal at a time? What is the trickiest thing about learning to drive a pair? (or more!)
Several folks made mention of the importance of groundwork. Groundwork is an essential part of training your animal to drive. Sometimes called long-reining or long-lining, this ground-work technique is one which many trainers and drivers use to start a horse or to introduce new elements. It is far superior to lunging in terms of training.
Ground drtivingallows the animal to become familiar with the many components of their harness, how it feels to wear, how it moves or doesn’t move on the animal. This preliminary ground driving work will make hitching and pulling and ultimately driving, all the easier. This is one of those investments of time that simply cannot be short changed. When you use long lines – generally – it gives you the flexibility to ground drive, double lunge, or work in hand. That’s because with this technique, you have a rein attached on either side of the bit or cavesson, which allows you to influence the inside/outside contact and bend; it also allows you to release the contact so you have a more elastic connection. Your horse gets to try new movements without also balancing the weight of a cart or driver, so often you can make some real breakthroughs.
Some long-lining groundwork tips:
- Stand six to eight feet behind your animal, and off to one side. If you’re planning to make a circle or turn, stand to the inside. This positioning will put you out of range of flying hooves and also gives you more control if your trainee decides to bolt.
- Let your horse get comfortable with the feeling of the long lines on its sides and over his rump. During some turns, the line attached to the outside of the bit or cavesson will be on your horse’s rear, which can cause unaccustomed pressure – that’s the point, actually. To help your learner get used to lines, turns and where the signals are coming from.
- To keep your horse from getting tangled in the lines, be sure never to let the lines travel lower than the hocks.
- Ask your horse to “walk on” using both voice aids and a driving whip. As when driving, maintain a light contact with the bit. Too much contact and your horse may stop; too little and he may wander.
- Start simply by practicing walk/halt transitions, then progress to turns. Some folks choose to start with working along the rail in a ring, as it can help to have a barrier. Other folks enjoy getting familiar with trails by choosing a nice open field and working up to trail walks.
- Practice, practice, practice!
One woman commented that the biggest help she found was a super trustworthy leader. “And a great friend to be a side-walker when I started out. With the four, I spent a lot of time with my barn version of a rein board. Then made sure my ponies were all comfortable with their neighbors. I drove them for a week before going to a three day clinic with them. I watched the clinician’s hands and spent each night practicing with a vision in my mind. I probably sound like a nut. But really, practice, practice, practice. And although I don’t get huge amounts of time with trainers, I think it’s extremely important to get good instruction!”
Another contributor said: “I love driving multiples! Pair, tandem, four in hand and even five. I’m still learning so much driving my four of minis. It has been the best learning experience ever. Great way to sharpen your reinsmanship!”
One customer added: “I am new, but getting two to pull evenly with a rope singletree.” If you’re new to driving you might not know about single trees. Here’s a recent post focused just on single trees and eveners: https://chimacumtack.com/singletrees-eveners/
Daniel Crider ads, “I started driving a pair two years ago. We had known years earlier that we wanted to drive a team so these two had been kept in the same pen and the same stall at shows for 2 years before we started driving them as a team. As a result they are very comfortable working together. This year we are going to four – both in a 2×2 for wagon and a 4-abreast for chariot. The 2 new girls have also been “roommates” for 2 years. When our trainer starting training horse #4 to drive for us last year she knew our plans. So when “Stormy” was learning to drive single the trainer always had another horse “pony-ed” next to her on her side. As a result the newest horse took to team work extremely rapidly – with the new team reaching a comfort level months earlier than our first team. Hardest thing for me so far is driving 4 in the 2×2. I had a lot of trouble at first keeping the front team in line with the wheel team. What I needed was more pressure on the reins – a constant contact that I had not used while driving a pair. Also had trouble with “Gee” and “Haw”. Still working on improving that. What I have come up with is a “wagon simulator”. I found a way to mount a team pole on the trailer hitch of my pickup. Now I hook a pair to the pole and stand in front practicing Gee and Haw. It’s not like they are going to move the truck. Then after doing this in front of them I sit on the tailgate and hook up the reins. We work on the full 180 degree rotation of Gee and Haw with me sitting behind them like in a wagon. We are still working on this – but so far my “simulator” seems to be helping.”
Ann Craig has driven 4-in-hand, unicorn, and pairs through the years. She says, “For me, a unicorn hitch was the most challenging. I had the best leader in the unicorn and she was mostly voice trained and made driving the 3 much easier. And when she would turn and face me, she was cooperative in moving back to front. Learning to hold 2 reins in each hand for the 3 and 4 and which rein belonged where. Some of the best fun and learning I driving I have done.”
Tell us about your multiples experience below! We’d love to hear from you.