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The Comprehensive Guide to Ground Driving: From Basics to Advanced Techniques

Ground driving, also known as long-lining, is an invaluable training method for horses of all ages and experience levels. This technique offers a plethora of benefits, from enhancing control to building a trusting relationship between the horse and the rider. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of ground driving.

Why Ground Drive?

Safety First

Before you even consider mounting a horse, it’s crucial to establish control over its direction and speed. Ground driving serves as a foundational step in achieving this, thereby ensuring a safer riding experience. 


Ground driving is a versatile technique suitable for various training needs, from refining movements to preparing a horse for advanced training. It’s not just for young horses; even experienced ones can benefit from it.

Preparing Your Horse for Ground Driving

Ground driving is an excellent way to train your horse, but preparation is key to ensure a smooth and productive session. Proper preparation involves not just physical readiness but also mental conditioning for both you and your horse. Here’s a detailed guide on how to prepare your horse for ground driving.

Physical Preparation
  • Grooming:
    • Thorough Cleaning: Make sure your horse is well-groomed, paying special attention to areas where the harness, saddle or surcingle will sit to avoid irritation.
    • Check for Injuries: Use this time to check for any cuts, scrapes, or signs of discomfort that might affect the training session.
  • Hoof Care:
    • Ensure that your horse’s hooves are clean and free from stones or debris.
    • If your horse is shod, make sure the shoes are secure.
  • Equipment Check:
    • Inspect all equipment for wear and tear, ensuring that everything is in good condition.
    • Make sure the bit is clean and the harness or surcingle is free from any dirt that could cause chafing.
Mental Preparation
  • Desensitization:
    • Before you even attach the lines, make sure your horse is comfortable with them. Drape them over its back, let them touch its legs, and allow it to feel them against its sides.
    • This helps the horse get used to the sensation and minimizes spooking during the actual ground driving.

  • Calm and Focus:
    • As with working with any horse always keep calm and focused on the tack and the the horse you are working. 
  • Voice Commands:
    • Think about the voice commands you will be using. Working with a horse that will go on to driving you will use different voice command that working a horse to prepare for riding. Consistency is key, so make sure to use the same commands you plan to use as the horse progresses in training. 
Equipment Fitting
  • Bridle and Bit:
    • Fit the bridle and make sure the bit sits correctly in your horse’s mouth. If you are driving a young horse you may be driving off a halter or other equipment.
  • Surcingle or Saddle:
    • Attach the surcingle or saddle and ensure it’s neither too tight nor too loose. Make sure it sits correctly on the horse’s back.
  • Long Lines:
    • Initially, just lay them over the horse’s back without attaching them to get the horse used to their weight. 

I like to use these lunge lines for starting a horse driving. They are comfortable in my habds and I feel the give good communication to inexperienced horses learning to drive. 

  • Safety Check:
    • Before you begin, double-check all buckles, snaps, and attachments to ensure everything is secure.

By taking the time to properly prepare your horse for ground driving, you’re setting the stage for a successful training session. Proper preparation can make the difference between a frustrating experience and a rewarding one, for both you and your horse.


Techniques, Tips, and Best Practices

Basic Steps for Ground Driving

Step 1: Attach the Lines

  • Positioning: Stand to one side of your horse, near its head.
  • Line Attachment: Attach one line to the bit or halter. For the initial work I prefer to not run the reins through the saddle or sursingle rings or sturrips. This allows for 2 things, for a horse never ground driven I can start from a lnging position then work my way to a driving position and if in a driving position and the horse starts accellerating I can move to a lunging position to regain control of the horse. Repeat on the other side.

Step 2: Position Yourself

  • Initial Position: Start from a lunging position just as you have lunged the horse before. The only difference is the you now have 2 lines attached. At this point the outside line is attached but not doing anything yet. 
  • Safe Distance: Maintain a distance where you can control the horse but are out of kicking range.


Step 3: Basic Commands

  • Forward Movement: To ask for forward movement using whatever forward movement cue you intend to use. Use the lunge whip if needed.
  • Stopping: To stop, gently pull back on both lines while using your voice command for “halt” although I am well into driving with the horse already knowing how to turn both direction before I ever ask for a halt.
  • Turning: To turn, apply more pressure on one line while releasing the other. For example, to turn right, pull the right line while releasing the left.

Step 4: Advanced Commands

  • Back Up: To ask your horse to back up, stand still and apply even pressure on both lines while using your voice command for “back.”
  • Serpentines and Circles: Once basic commands are mastered, you can start working on more complex movements like serpentines and circles.
Tips for Effective Ground Driving
  • Consistency: Always use consistent cues and commands.
  • Start Simple: Begin with basic commands and short sessions, gradually increasing the complexity and duration.
  • Safety First: Always be aware of your position relative to the horse to avoid accidents.
  • Regular Rewards: Positive reinforcement can make the training more effective.
  • Observe and Adapt: Pay attention to your horse’s body language and adapt your training methods accordingly.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: If you’re new to ground driving, it might be beneficial to seek the advice of a professional trainer.

By following these steps and tips, you’ll not only improve your horse’s skills but also deepen the bond of trust and understanding between you two. Ground driving is a versatile training method that can significantly benefit horses of all breeds and disciplines. You can watch the video, Big Girl learning to steer, to see me ground driving a percvheron mare and teaching her to steer. 

The Expanded Benefits of Ground Driving

Whether you’re working with a young horse that’s just starting its training journey or an experienced horse that needs some fine-tuning, ground driving can be a game-changer. Here are some of the key benefits:

Enhanced Communication and Understanding
  • Two-Way Communication: Ground driving allows for a more nuanced form of communication between the horse and the trainer. It helps the horse understand the trainer’s cues better, and vice versa.
  • Non-Verbal Signals: This method teaches the horse to respond to non-verbal cues, such as the tension on the lunge line, which is crucial for effective riding later on.
Improved Control and Safety
  • Steering: One of the most significant advantages, as emphasized by Tim Anderson, is the improvement in steering. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with strong breeds like Percherons, where control is paramount for safety.
  • Speed Management: Ground driving helps in establishing speed commands, enabling the trainer to control the horse’s gait effectively.
  • Desensitization: The horse becomes accustomed to the feel of the equipment, such as the bit and the saddle, reducing the chances of a startled or skittish reaction when ridden.
Versatility in Training
  • Adaptability: Ground driving can be adapted for various training needs, from basic obedience to more advanced techniques like dressage.
  • Skill Refinement: It allows for the refinement of specific movements and postures, offering a more targeted approach to training.
  • Transitioning: It serves as an excellent transitional method between lunging and riding, ensuring that the horse is more prepared for the saddle.
Building Trust and Emotional Well-being
  • Trust Building: The close interaction during ground driving helps in building a strong bond of trust between the horse and the trainer.
  • Confidence: Successfully following cues and commands boosts the horse’s confidence, making it more willing to try new things.
  • Stress Reduction: Ground driving can be a less stressful introduction to training compared to directly mounting the horse, making it easier for the horse to focus and learn.
Physical Benefits
  • Muscle Development: The various gaits and movements help in the even development of muscles, contributing to the horse’s overall physical well-being.
  • Stamina: Regular ground driving sessions can improve a horse’s stamina, preparing it for more strenuous activities like jumping or long trail rides.
  • Flexibility: The exercises can enhance the horse’s flexibility, reducing the risk of injuries.
Problem-Solving and Correction
  • Behavioral Issues: Ground driving can be used to correct specific behavioral issues, such as kicking or resistance to commands. If you need help with basic behavior issues from the groiund the blog, Working with a Pushy Horse: Finding Balance and Establishing Respect, will be helpful to you. 
  • Immediate Feedback: The trainer can provide immediate feedback and corrections, making the training more effective.
Convenience and Accessibility
  • Space-Efficient: Ground driving doesn’t require a large space and can be done in smaller arenas or even round pens for initial training.
  • Equipment: Minimal equipment is needed, making it accessible for trainers who may not have access to a full range of horse training gear.

By incorporating ground driving into your training regimen, you’re not just teaching your horse new skills; you’re also laying the foundation for a strong, trusting relationship that will make future training and riding a more rewarding experience for both of you.

Variations and Techniques in Ground Driving

Ground driving is a versatile training method that can be adapted to suit various needs, from basic obedience training to more advanced maneuvers. Here are some variations and techniques to consider when ground driving your horse.

Basic Ground Driving Techniques

  • Single-Line Driving:
    • This is the simplest form of ground driving where you use just one long line attached to the bit or halter.
    • It’s excellent for teaching basic commands and is often the first step in introducing a horse to ground driving. You can watch the video,  Like driving a dump truck without power steering!, to watch Tim using 1 line driving to teach a very resistant percheron to steer.
  • Luging to Driving Transition:
    • Your lines can be attached and used in a way that you are between lunging and driving using the benefits of both exercises.
    • This is especially useful for horse with not much forward movement or to work through other training issues.

Advanced Techniques

  • Serpentines:
    • This involves guiding your horse in an ‘S’ shape pattern.
    • This helps improve the horse’s flexibility and responsiveness to the bit and rein aids.
  • Circles and Turns:
    • Practicing various sizes of circles and different types of turns can help your horse become more agile and responsive.
    • This is particularly useful for dressage training.
  • Transitions:
    • Work on transitions between different gaits (walk, trot, canter) to improve your horse’s balance and responsiveness.
    • This also helps in building muscle and improving stamina.
  • Obstacle Course:
    • Setting up a simple obstacle course can help improve your horse’s focus and desensitization.
    • This is also a fun way to break the monotony of regular training.

Variations for Specific Disciplines

  • Dressage:
    • Use ground driving to practice complex dressage moves like pirouettes, side passes, and leg yields.
  • Horse Starting:
    • Useful when starting young horses to teach steering before you get in the saddle. 
  • Western Riding:
    • Ground driving can be adapted to teach skills specific to western disciplines.
  • Correcting Training Issues:
    • Driving can be uses to correct many training issues while keeping the trainer safe. 

Safety Techniques

  • Directional Control:
    • Make sure you have established clear and distinct commands for direction and speed control. 
  • Distance Management:
    • Learn how to manage the length of your lines effectively to maintain control without getting tangled.

By incorporating these variations and techniques into your ground driving sessions, you can create a comprehensive training program that not only improves basic skills but also prepares your horse for more specialized activities. Always remember to adapt these techniques to suit your horse’s level of training and comfort.



Ground driving is an essential skill that offers numerous benefits for both the horse and the rider. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced equestrian, incorporating ground driving into your training regimen can significantly improve your horse’s performance and your safety. With the right approach, equipment, and techniques, ground driving can be a rewarding experience for all involved.

All of the valuable information I have learned through 25+ years of horse training and showing, I share with you to help you to improve your equestrian knowledge. For more in-depth tutorials, check out Tim Anderson’s Horse Training videos and blogs


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