Correctly Bending the Driving Horse

How would one go about getting a horse to bend correctly in the shafts since you have nothing aiding the hindend? I have been looking in driving dressage areas but they drive differently so that’s not much help. What I’ve been doing lately is giving and taking with my inside hand and holding with my outside and I get the neck to bend in the correct way but I just don’t know if I’m getting a true bend or just from the neck.

4 Responses to Correctly Bending the Driving Horse

  1. rodmanstables says:

    Yeah, this is an issue for saddle seat driving (and riding) horses, I’ve noticed myself. What you describe with your hands sounds good, but make sure you soften quickly with your outside hand as soon as he offers to bend in the direction you want. Then soften both for a half-second, and start the sequence again, asking for a little more each time, giving releases the second he softens. My Eng. Pl Morgan doesn’t like to bend to the right in harness (or anytime I begin by bending in the stall using treats to get him to bend at different levels (out to the side, downward, and finally in-and-downward toward his point of shoulder.) I feel that this helps losen the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and even ribcage. Then, working in the longlines, walking behind the horse, you can get the same bend (Try a straight-rein so you can really tell what he’s doing…sometimes drawlines
    hide bending problems.
    The bend I look for is when a horse bends his neck to the side, then softly tips his nose down toward the point of should, with his forhead facing that diection to the side and down. (Many horses will “bend” but cheat..just turn their head without flexing soft enough at the poll to to tip the nose and forhead down, which is what my horse wants to do to the right). As far as getting a “true” bend, you may not be able to get a “true” full-body bend as would be the standard for a dressage person, out of a saddle-type horse very easily, especially in harness. I honestly have never seen a saddle-type horse bend using his body that way in the show ring. Not saying it wouldn’t be great, just haven’t seen it.
    Shallow curves in the longlines are good. If they don’t get it in the lines, walk up and work on the bending at a stand still again, then the walk. If your horse isn’t too sensative to a whip, a buggie whip can be used to tap the hip as you ask for the bend with your hands to reinforce, or simply a cluck. In harness it’s hard to correct them, especially because many of them develope the habit of tracking with their head left and body right, or vice versa. In harness, I do spiral-in and spiral-out exercises a lot to help the Eng. Pl horse take it slower and make him bend properly.
    Sorry for the length – Hope that helps!

  2. jmorse says:

    Check out: BENDING THE DRIVING HORSE by Muffy Seaton available here: Everything is clearly explained and what you will learn will help you with every horse for the rest of your life. It matters not what kind of driving you do. The basics are the same.

    Jeff Morse | Green Meads Farm |Richmond, MA
    Carriage Driving & Morgan Horses

  3. Jrchloe says:

    Do you recommend the book or video?

  4. jmorse says:

    Either one. The video is more dramatic and may work for more people than the book. Both are good.

    Jeff Morse | Green Meads Farm |Richmond, MA
    Carriage Driving & Morgan Horses

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