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I found riding to be very helpful these past two years for training our young team. Having only experience with driving and no proper riding technique, I approached it as if I were driving them. Using the same commands as if I was driving..clear voice commands followed by light pressure on the bit to get the message across. I first mounted them in the round pen at 18 months old to gain their trust and confidence. Since we didn’t have a harness that fit them until they turned 3 this past spring, I found myself riding them for training purposes more often than driving. We would sometimes borrow a harness for a day or two during this period to do some ground driving work, but otherwise we only owned a custom fit bridle that we had made when they were one, with plenty of adjustment for growth. Also in the midst of all the farm work that must get done, I found that when I had time for training sessions it was often spur of the moment and the quickest and easiest thing to do was grab the bridle and jump on. For instance this spring during some plowing and field prep, I had spent the morning opening sod with the older mares and had a clean furrow running. I wanted to introduce the youngsters to the furrow and since time is always limited in the spring I bridled and rode each youngster, individually, down the the field to walk the furrow during an hour long lunch break. They had never seen the furrow before this and the next day when I hitched one of them with an older mare to have a plowing lesson, he walked the furrow like and old pro and there was no issue at all with this new task. I simply couldn’t have found time to harness him, drive him down, drive the furrows, and then go back and get the mares and still get all the plowing done that day before the rains came again.
It may have helped that I have very little confidence as a rider and so would never allow the horse more than a walk. The working pace I wanted them to get used to.
I still use this to introduce them to new equipment sometimes if Annalisa or Chuck are driving the older mares, I can ride along and slowly approach to carefully introduce the sounds and motions of a new tool, then ride back to the stable and have him un-haltered and back out to pasture in a few minutes leaving me to move on with the work day having accomplished a quick and meaningful lesson. Having the older mares to help and these simple training lessons makes the stress of a new job so much less for these young inexperienced horses.