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Renolizzie

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I am new to driving. I took a number of lessons for mini horse driving and haven't been able to get back with the trainer for awhile. I bought a mini with help from the trainer. He is a nice horse who doesn't kick or bite. Ten year old gelding who was trained by the previous owner to drive. We seem to do fine on the road most of the time but I have had a few times when things were not going smoothly.

I am concerned that whoa is seeming to equal jumping around in the harness instead of stop and don't move. Also, we are having trouble with turns. Not most of the time, just a few times. I am walking him around the neighborhood and basically teaching him to whoa and stay until I say walk. That seems to be working.

I live in the boonies and haven't been able to get someone out here to help me. I think I can work this through if I can get some advice along the way.

I am thinking that making sure he isn't spooky [which he mostly isn't] by working with walking him on the road so he can hear cars and such would be good. And other types of training like that.

I am definitely making a tire drag from a Toyota [small] tire so I can walk behind him with that until we get on the same page with whoa and reining. I don't know that it is all the little guy's fault because I am new. We have had some fabulous days out on the road and I have loved going out. I think that if we stepped back for a bit and tried this it might be good. What do you think?
 

Renolizzie

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Okay, I talked to one of the people in my area that does mini horse cart driving and she thinks that I should just keep going with the little guy pulling the cart but when he doesn't want to whoa properly to make him move forwards and not let him "get way with" his bad behavior.

She says that once her horses are pulling a cart she doesn't go backwards in training, basically. And, I will say that most of the time the little horse and I are doing quite well on the roads around here. There isn't much traffic and people can see you from a long ways away.

He maybe is trying to test me a bit to see if he can get away with being a bad little horse:) He has been trying to eat grass while I am walking him and I have to be firm to say no. Also, when leading him he wants to get ahead of me so I have been turning around so he has to pay attention and stay by me. I think that is working. Also, I am working on whoa while walking him on a lead rope and he seems to be doing better about stopping and not moving since I am making him go back to where he started and trying again.

Anyway, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

I think I am just having a totally insecure moment.
 

happy appy

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I believe in going back in training if there is something that the horse isn't getting. Whoa would be a reason for me. I want a horse to stand when asked.
 

Renolizzie

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I believe in going back in training if there is something that the horse isn't getting. Whoa would be a reason for me. I want a horse to stand when asked.
That is sort of what I am thinking. I really would like whoa to mean whoa and not maybe I'll jiggle around and step backwards and be fussy. I don't mind taking the time to learn and teach the little guy. I love working with him even if we aren't driving that day. I don't think it is a set back to go back a step or two. I wasn't there when the horse was trained so I don't know what the previous owner thought was acceptable on a whoa and I think I need to work with the little guy so we are on the same page maybe.
 

Reignmaker Miniatures

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My SIL has been having a similar problem with her young gelding. He is green but has been in harness long enough to know 'whoa' and was ground driven for long enough to really get a good understanding of rein cues etc. My advice to you is the same as my advice to her, if you want the horse to stop and stand and they have a habit of fidgiting and trying to walk off, back up, leap forward ...whatever, then keep them going forward until they are tired and want to stop. Don't (initially) ask for a whoa when they are fresh and wanting to move out. Keep them working until they seem to be a bit tired then ask for a whoa. At first just a 10 second whoa is OK, try to ask them to move off again before they break from the stand and gradually increase the time you ask them to stand still. I find it is harder (mostly) to get a horse to move out well and with energy than it is to get them to stand and relax so in the beginning I encourage forward movement as much as possible, I do want it to be my idea tho so try to make it seem that way to the horse. My opinion on backing up a step is, it can never hurt to refresh an old lesson so if he is really antsy about whoa and it is making you uncomfortable then go back to ground work for a couple of day to reinforce the lesson he should be solid on already. You can never tell what part of his training was glossed over because he seemed to get it at the time.When I get a new horse I always treat them as untrained at first. In hand work followed by ground driving and eventually hitching just like I would any horse who wasn't trained yet. If they know their stuff well we'll move along quickly and if not i won't get any unpleasant surprises. Either way I reinforce my authority and leadership and we have a better partnership.
 

Sue_C.

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I guess I am always going "backwards". LOL! I don't consider ground work to be ONLY for green horses. I regularly use it to REFRESH their minds...and in your horse's case, it is very likely something that wasn't done properly to begin with...or he would BE standing still. So many people get too bored with ground work, and throw a horse into the shafts because of it; and this is a disservice to the horse, as it completely passes by a very important part of their basic training.

Myself...I love ground driving, and I take them everywhere, expose them to as much as possible, and stand still with them...a LOT! Personally...I will not even put a horse to cart unless they WILL stand like a statue FIRST.
 

Renolizzie

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My advice to you is the same as my advice to her, if you want the horse to stop and stand and they have a habit of fidgiting and trying to walk off, back up, leap forward ...whatever, then keep them going forward until they are tired and want to stop. Don't (initially) ask for a whoa when they are fresh and wanting to move out. Keep them working until they seem to be a bit tired then ask for a whoa. At first just a 10 second whoa is OK, try to ask them to move off again before they break from the stand and gradually increase the time you ask them to stand still. I find it is harder (mostly) to get a horse to move out well and with energy than it is to get them to stand and relax so in the beginning I encourage forward movement as much as possible, I do want it to be my idea tho so try to make it seem that way to the horse. My opinion on backing up a step is, it can never hurt to refresh an old lesson so if he is really antsy about whoa and it is making you uncomfortable then go back to ground work for a couple of day to reinforce the lesson he should be solid on already. You can never tell what part of his training was glossed over because he seemed to get it at the time.When I get a new horse I always treat them as untrained at first. In hand work followed by ground driving and eventually hitching just like I would any horse who wasn't trained yet. If they know their stuff well we'll move along quickly and if not i won't get any unpleasant surprises. Either way I reinforce my authority and leadership and we have a better partnership.
Thanks for the thoughts. I will try this when we go out again. He generally gets a little anxious to be trotting right away when we go out. I try to get him to walk for a few minutes to get him warmed up. Maybe I need to learn how to lunge him to warm him up and then just let him trot as soon as possible when we get out on the road?
 

Renolizzie

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I guess I am always going "backwards". LOL! I don't consider ground work to be ONLY for green horses. I regularly use it to REFRESH their minds...and in your horse's case, it is very likely something that wasn't done properly to begin with...or he would BE standing still. So many people get too bored with ground work, and throw a horse into the shafts because of it; and this is a disservice to the horse, as it completely passes by a very important part of their basic training.

Myself...I love ground driving, and I take them everywhere, expose them to as much as possible, and stand still with them...a LOT! Personally...I will not even put a horse to cart unless they WILL stand like a statue FIRST.
I like the little guy and spending time with him. When I first got him we did walking around the neighborhood, then long line but he wanted to get out and get moving so I hooked him up to the cart with Hubby as a header a couple of times, then I hooked him up and we went out on our own. He is actually doing good. He likes trotting. I want to see if I can get him to be more comfortable with cars passing him [motorcycles and trucks with rattling trailers kind of make him shy sometimes] and I would like him to whoa and not fuss.
 

Performancemini

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Reignmaker's advice is solid (and I am going to use it myself on a horse with the same problem-especially since he doesn't like to stand once they start announcing awards in the show arena!). We have a friend that drives Draft horses. He says that the most important training of all is "whoa" and standing-standing-standing, also just walking, walking, walking. I respect that from him as he is handling a team of horses of what - one ton or so of horseflesh?!!!
Another trainer of Morgan horses uses ground training all the time for all ages and levels of her horses. She says all of them need a refresher of the basics occasionally. So, backing up is OK!
 

shorthorsemom

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Backing up and retraining for a more solid response is great. Whoa is the most important "gait". If you are green you may be signalling something that is confusing him without knowing it. My trainer gets on me about maintaining contact on my outside rein in a turn. When I forget, my guy gets buggy on his turns. In other words, I am causing the confusion in my hands and he is responding. Also, on halts, when I was very green and would forget to "give" when my boy did his halt, my boys response was to jig around and not stand quietly... again, training of me. I still work with a trainer, there is so much to learn.

On the topic of work them until they are tired... there is one drawback I remember my trainer telling me... she said that you can work a horse until tired, but if you have a horse that is unstable in certain areas, what you get is a horse that is fit and strong and able to fight you longer.. she told me to separate each training issue into a compartment and work on that... My proper trained hands, equaled good stands... etc. Hope this helps. I knew it was me because when my trainer drove my boy, he was awesome, and when I drove he was trying to get away with things and even looked like he needed training when in fact he was a very sensitive boy that was excellent at picking up my mis-cues and poor signals. We get training whenever I can get her out, can't beat having somebody experienced work with you. best wishes. PS, I do a lot of time on my feet when I my trainer is too busy to come, helps build a great relationship with my boy.
 

Sandee

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Yes, tiring him out is not THE answer but it is a quick fix for the problem. If a horse has been stalled for a long period, say a show etc., then working him before hitching is good as it stretches him and lets him get the tense/tightness out of himself and allows his mind to start working. If you have to do it everytime before you hitch, then it's a training problem and it's never backward to correct a hole in the original training.

Also you don't say how long you've had him. If he's new to you or the property, he needs an adjustment period to accept his new surroundings and maybe a bit jumpy for a while.
 

circlesinthesand

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ok I've never really had this problem with a cart horse because most of mine learned to ride first and since I ride reining horses, whoa is one of our most important maneuvers to learn. You simply can't slide without a GREAT whoa. We really start with this from day one with weanlings and yearlings. We do it on the lead then under saddle so that whoa is always respected. I only use whoa when I know I can get a stop. Otherwise I use 'easy' to just slow a horse down.

I'm having to do it a tiny bit differently with the mini's but it's still the same principle for me, I'm just doing it all in a ground driving situation with some modifications.

But here are some things I'd do if whoa was a big issue. Some might disagree and I'm not saying you have to do it this way. But it would be what I'd do.

Whoa is taught as a back. I want my horses immediately thinking back when I say whoa. Not only does it help them learn whoa, it teaches them to gather their body in the stop. With my reiners, we do it with three different cues and we test them independently. I want a horse stopping off the rein, off the voice and off my seat, independently and together or in combination, sometimes just voice and seat, sometime just reins and voice etc. But I proof that whoa to where it's there for all of them and in all 3 gaits. Obviously you'll eliminate the seat, but I still want the other two to be responded to. The horse needs to come back to just your hand and he needs to stop with just your voice, independently and together.

So when I do ask for the whoa I always back a step or two sometimes more depending on how quickly the horse responds. General rule of thumb is for every step they take over my stopping point, they have to back to that stopping point. The quicker they learn to back with a whoa the quicker they'll learn to down shift those gears and eventually they start to relax into the stop and you won't need to back. Most horses don't really WANT to back at first and a tense horse will have a hard time doing so. Once you get them thinking back anytime you ask for a stop, whoa is hardly ever a problem again because it gets them to think first and in turn to relax. The body position for stopping is the same as for backing, so they need to learn to get into that position. The transition into just stopping without any steps back isn't that hard to achieve and one tiny step back never hurts anything. My reiners will stop so fast that they often have a foot in the air that they just change directions mid stride. It's really kinda cool when you get that, because then you know your horse is ready to move up to a faster gait and eventually slide. Of course you won't really need this kind of precision in the back but I don't find it hurts. You can always 'lazy up' the stop so that it's slower and gentler. They learn that much quicker than they learn to shut it down completely ;)

Also, I practice my whoa when they're good and tired and ready to stop. I don't bother trying to get it at the beginning of a lesson if they're amped up. With the riding horses they always start the day with a back. I've started doing this with my minis when I'm ground driving as well. We don't just RUSH to take off. They learn to stand to start because we're not going anywhere until they're relaxed and the first thing we're going to do is back up. Then once I start moving, I don't really bother with whoa until they're good and tired. The whoa becomes a reward, a rest from the work we were doing. My horses learn to enjoy stopping and resting
They nearly always drop their heads and just relax, they know if they don't take the opportunity to relax, they'll be in for more work. I also practice transitions, over and over and over. W-T-L, T-W, T-L, L-T, L-W, W-L, W-T etc, All of them, over and over. so that they're comfortable with them at any stage. I find the downward transitions easier than the upward transitions but they need work on all of them in addition to the whoa, it helps establish the downward to the walk, and eventual stop as a ritual thing for a cart horse. When I go places if the horses are amped up our warm ups consists of transitions, over and over.

Also, I don't know if you're doing this or not but it's a common mistake so I'll mention it, but make sure you're not hanging on the horse's face when they do stop. I see this with alot of newbie riders and even some very good riders, they think that more pull equals a better stop and they think they need to hold the horse in place. It's not the pull it's the release. Reins that are too tight or jerked too quickly will make a horse jig especially with a sensitive responsive horse. They feel the tension and they get nervous. Soft slow tension on the reins with a quick release as a reward for standing still will achieve more than if you haul back on the reins with all your might and expect them to shut it down. It's not like a car's braking system where you have to apply pressure and then hold them there. Soft hands with a good feel rule! Even horses who are on the bit need a release for stopping nicely. You want your release to be much quicker than your cue at least 3x different. Pull back slowly, count it out one-two-three don't jerk then release quickly as soon as his feet have stopped. Allow him to stretch his neck and relax then find the contact again when you pick up to take off again.
 

Grace67

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I agree with everything circleinthesand said as I learned to ride working cow horses and cutting horses when I was younger and all my horses are instilled with "whoa" all the time, no matter what the task. Last night I haltered up my new little gelding to move him from one turnout to another and we had a "whoa and stand lesson" as he wanted to rush through the gate and I wanted to take the time to work with him on it. Expect it every time, all the time and eventually you will get it. The biggest problem I had when learning lower level dressage is that they want the horses more forward and don't want the stop/whoa to mean stop on the haunches, its more of a down transition and then ready to move out forward again as if it was just a brief pause so I would get marked down for my "stick the butt in the ground stop"


I also showed a lot of showmanship with horses (and other animals) in 4H and FFA and that gets the horse to working with you and anticipating your next request just by your body language, it all comes into play in your every day work around them too. Safety is key so "whoa" and "stand" are vital to minimizing accidents. I would go back to ground work on all of this and remember that each time you work around your horse even when feeding and cleaning stalls you are interacting with him and can use it as a lesson.

I'm taking notes of the other information on this thread as well as I'll begin ground driving my new gelding soon and its going to be a new adventure for me as well
 

Renolizzie

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Backing up and retraining for a more solid response is great. Whoa is the most important "gait". If you are green you may be signalling something that is confusing him without knowing it. My trainer gets on me about maintaining contact on my outside rein in a turn. When I forget, my guy gets buggy on his turns. In other words, I am causing the confusion in my hands and he is responding. Also, on halts, when I was very green and would forget to "give" when my boy did his halt, my boys response was to jig around and not stand quietly... again, training of me. I still work with a trainer, there is so much to learn.

On the topic of work them until they are tired... there is one drawback I remember my trainer telling me... she said that you can work a horse until tired, but if you have a horse that is unstable in certain areas, what you get is a horse that is fit and strong and able to fight you longer.. she told me to separate each training issue into a compartment and work on that... My proper trained hands, equaled good stands... etc. Hope this helps. I knew it was me because when my trainer drove my boy, he was awesome, and when I drove he was trying to get away with things and even looked like he needed training when in fact he was a very sensitive boy that was excellent at picking up my mis-cues and poor signals. We get training whenever I can get her out, can't beat having somebody experienced work with you. best wishes. PS, I do a lot of time on my feet when I my trainer is too busy to come, helps build a great relationship with my boy.
Good point about making sure I am backing off the reins quickly when he stops. I think I am doing that but will make sure. Good reminder there.

I do think that I am so new at driving that I could be causing some confusion in the little guy. I am trying to get back to taking some more lessons but the trainer and I have not been able to get together.

Thanks.
 

Renolizzie

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Yes, tiring him out is not THE answer but it is a quick fix for the problem. If a horse has been stalled for a long period, say a show etc., then working him before hitching is good as it stretches him and lets him get the tense/tightness out of himself and allows his mind to start working. If you have to do it everytime before you hitch, then it's a training problem and it's never backward to correct a hole in the original training.

Also you don't say how long you've had him. If he's new to you or the property, he needs an adjustment period to accept his new surroundings and maybe a bit jumpy for a while.
I have only had him for about 9 weeks.
 

susanne

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I would ESPECIALLY advise that you not drive a horse in traffic until you have that solid whoa. Minis may be easier to handle than big horses, but they are just as capable of stepping in front of a car or truck, and once you are in the cart and your feet have left the ground, without a good whoa you aren't going to stop them. (I'm sure you're aware of this -- just a PSA reminder...)

Practicing whoa is part of every warm-up, every time we drive. Mingus has always been the type of horse that likes to test us, so this is just a reminder that whoa means whoa, and that you don't get dessert (trotting) until you eat your vegetables (whoa).
 

Minimor

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I would caution that a harness horse isn't quite the same as a reining horse...I don't ever want a harness horse that in any way associates 'whoa' with 'back'. I've seen too many wrecks with harness horses backed up instead of standing still...if my horse is hitched and fusses about standing still I allow him to move forward before he thinks back up and I don't ever want him taking even one step back unless I ask him to rein back.

I expect my green harness horses to have a good whoa, but for me a good whoa means stopping and standing still long enough for me to get to his head. I do not ask for nor expect extended periods of immobility--that comes with lots of miles and experience and yes, they will stand still longer when tired than they will when fresh.
 

Sue_C.

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When I first got him we did walking around the neighborhood, then long line but he wanted to get out and get moving so I hooked him up to the cart with Hubby as a header a couple of times, then I hooked him up and we went out on our own. He is actually doing good. He likes trotting.
When I say ground drive, I don't mean necessarily, just walking behind the horse. I guess what I really mean is "double lunging?", but it is with the long reins atached to the bit or cavesson, and the horse W-O-R-K-I-N-G around me...not just sauntering around. You can teach a horse all of the gaits this way, including the "whenIsaywhoaImeanwhoa". LOL!

You say he "likes to trot", and of course he does...that is what HE wants to do...but walking is the absolute most important gait for any horse, but especially a driving horse. Walk-walk-walk...

and I too, disagree with teaching the reining way to a driving horse. I do not ever want my horses to associate whoa with back. I hardly ever back a horse unless asked to in the ring, or once in awhile out of the blue on the rail in the middle of something else. In any show, or at least any that I have been associated with...you will be penalized if at the halt, your horse wobbles or backs of it's own accord. Add to that, as already mentioned; it is a dangerous habit.

When I say WHOA...I DO mean WHOA.
 

Renolizzie

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When I say ground drive, I don't mean necessarily, just walking behind the horse. I guess what I really mean is "double lunging?", but it is with the long reins atached to the bit or cavesson, and the horse W-O-R-K-I-N-G around me...not just sauntering around. You can teach a horse all of the gaits this way, including the "whenIsaywhoaImeanwhoa". LOL!

You say he "likes to trot", and of course he does...that is what HE wants to do...but walking is the absolute most important gait for any horse, but especially a driving horse. Walk-walk-walk...

and I too, disagree with teaching the reining way to a driving horse. I do not ever want my horses to associate whoa with back. I hardly ever back a horse unless asked to in the ring, or once in awhile out of the blue on the rail in the middle of something else. In any show, or at least any that I have been associated with...you will be penalized if at the halt, your horse wobbles or backs of it's own accord. Add to that, as already mentioned; it is a dangerous habit.

When I say WHOA...I DO mean WHOA.
I have to agree with the posters that are saying that backing up a step or two is not what I want when I say whoa:) I got to thinking about it and he always has been a bit of a bobbler with the whoa. I am going to keep working on it.

One other thing I have to try to remember is that when he isn't listening, it is best to get him moving and then try again.

We always start out our drive on a walk to warm up and then we always finish up our drive on a walk to cool down. Usually we do some walking during the drive, as well. Then I get the harness off and lead him around a bit to make sure he isn't sweaty.

We are trail driving. There is a bunch of dirt roads out here but sometimes we have to go on the paved road for a quarter of a mile. Usually there are little to no cars. I also have a dry lake bed to take him out on.

Looks like the trainer and I might be able to get together in a week or two. I will get some more pointers.

In the meantime, I am going to be working on making sure he doesn't mind cars going by him. I am going to lead the horse and Hubby is going to drive our different cars by him and he is going to drive the truck with a rattling trailer by him. That way we can get him used to it more and see how he is reacting and I can be sure that the vehicles are not coming too close or going way too fast since it will be Hubby behind the wheel.

I can't take him out to the river until I can be more certain that cars and trucks aren't a bother for him. I'll be working on whoa while he is on the lead rope. I may get the cart back on my little horse and have Hubby walk with us on his day off. I hate to give up over one bad day:)

Honestly, the little guy and I have had numerous great days in the neighborhood. I just think that when we have a bad day, I am trying to figure out what went wrong.
 

shorthorsemom

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Could you post photo of your boy in harness with hook up? There also could be a hook up reason for your boy acting up... collar too low, or too high, britching too low or high.. cart too close, shaft fit etc. There are terrific ladies here than critique your set up and help you there too in case you might want to make some harness or hook up adjustments, tug height etc...

Love this forum for hook up assistance and advice based on photos.

Be very careful, you don't want to invite a big wreck by trying to move on too quickly. Until I had a solid whoa on my boy, my trainer didn't let me out of the round pen. Also.. there is WHOA and there is also a STAND. I had to do a ton of work on my boy for both, he was getting away with murder on the halts and he had a run away in his past, so we constantly work on that.

I do not ever want my boy backing up after a whoa either. I will teach backing as a separate exercise. Countless problems and danger if you boy would be trained to expect backing a few steps with a halt. You can get backed into a ditch, into a car... I live in amish country and the roads are loaded with horses that don't have a good halt or stand and I have seen the results and scary results from horses backing in harness when they should be standing. best wishes, thanks for bringing to the forum... Line driving can be a great way to work halts and stands. have somebody watch your hands too for the "release".. take care, go slow, you can not go wrong by taking your time, but tons can go wrong rushing ahead.. Don't worry, you are smart to step back and evaluate.

photos can help, sometimes your horse is acting up trying to tell you something about the hook up, too long shafts can poke on turns, problems with collar and britching can make him be holding the cart with just the saddle and it is uncomfortable, britching keeps the cart from going forward down hills etc...Not saying you are doing anything wrong, but I know that I have made quite a few harness adjustments (directed by my trainer) to make my guy more comfortable.
 
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