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Direction and Drive Horse Training

How well can you "send" your horse? With Richard Winters

With your horse at the end of a halter and lead rope, can you send them out and away from you in a specific direction? Perhaps you have the ability to send them into a trailer. Can you send your horse over a log or a little ditch? I recently had a young horse that did not want to step onto the wash rack in my barn. Rather than continuing to pull on the lead rope, I stepped over to the side and sent my horse up onto the wash rack.

Let's Start With The Tools
I prefer a simple hand tied rope halter with a 12-foot lead rope that has some good substance and feel. Unlike a wide web halter that horses tend to lean and brace against, the rope halter is more conducive to communication. The 12-foot lead rope allows me to move my horse out and away and keep them at a safe distance. If my lead rope is too short, I'm taking the chance of getting kicked. When sending my horse I think about communicating clear signals for direction and drive. If I'm sending my horse off to the left, I will direct with my left hand on the lead rope showing my horse which way to go. With my right hand I will drive. I often like to use the end of my lead rope in a swinging motion like a propeller. However if you are more comfortable with a stick, flag or whip, that could be fine as well.

The Pass-By Exercise
Pass By exercise

A great way to improve your sending skills, using direction and drive, is to practice the "pass-by” exercise. This can be done along any fence-line or wall. The idea is to send your horse away from you and have them travel in between you and the fence. You can start quite a few feet away from the fence. As you and your horse get more comfortable, you can begin to narrow the gap.

Start with your feet parallel to the fence. The goal is to not move your feet until the horse has passed by and has moved to the other side. Extend your direction arm and begin to drive your horse with the end of the lead rope in your other hand. As previously mentioned, this can be done with the propeller action of the lead rope or some other type of tool. Most people have a tendency to drive the hindquarters prematurely. It's important for horses to move over and away before you start driving them forward. I will swing the rope towards their front end until they step over and then allow them to begin to walk forward. Prematurely driving your horse’s hindquarters causes them to simply keep turning and looking at you and never going anywhere.

Trouble Shooting
One of the most important aspects of the pass-by exercise is the horse stepping away. If the horse begins to move and just brushes right alongside you, he never really yielded to your suggestion. Your body position and the proper use of your tools become critical at this point. If you are back towards your horse’s hip you're in the wrong position. You need to be up at your horse’s neck and shoulder . Now, with your propeller or stick, make sure your horse steps away and creates a large area between the two of you before he starts stepping forward. With this movement you are asking the horse to yield away, just like a more dominant horse would have your horse yield out of their space.

You often see this problem when people try to lunge their horse. They are attempting to drive the hindquarters before the front end moves over. The horse never really moves out and away and just continually stops to look at the handler. At that moment the problem is not the hindquarters. The direction and drive needs to happen at your horse’s front end. Yield the front end away and then drive the hindquarters forward. This will be a tremendous help next time you attempt to lunge your horse.

Keep this simple tip in mind – If your feet are going backwards, your horse is probably training you! Remember, your horse needs to step away from you and out of your space. Often, people are moving backwards in the subconscious effort to get out of their horse’s way. This will be counterproductive and your horse will not gain the respect that he should have for you and your abilities.

This simple exercise will prepare you and your horse to do the practical jobs that you ultimately want to accomplish. If it is difficult to send your horse between you and the fence, you will find it very difficult to send your horse up into the trailer or over an obstacle.
Sending my horse over an obstacle

At the end of this maneuver you want your horse to disengage his hindquarters and face you again. If he is moving forward, his hindquarters are engaged and giving him forward momentum. If you can readily tip his hindquarters out of the way you can shut down the forward momentum.
Direction and Drive into the trailer

If you are driving your horse to the left with your lead rope in your left hand, you can now reach down the lead rope with your right hand to tip the horse’s nose to you. As you tip the horse’s nose to you with your right hand, his hindquarters will yield away and he will disengage.

Leading your horse from point A to point B is certainly a good and reasonable thing to do. However, if you also have the ability to send your horse, now you have more options in the many situations you and your horse will find yourselves. Good dancers certainly know how execute more than one simple dance routine. Having multiple skills will certainly enhance your horsemanship journey.

Richard Winters Horsemanship

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