Help with training an old newbie




as some of you may know im schooling a newbie, shes a 12 year old mare, whos apparently has never been ridden!! i understood to begin with she'd been sat on and plodded around the farm, but no! shes never been ridden, only driven, and for the last 3 years done nothing :eek:

Anyways ive started a couple of weeks ago now riding her, due to the nights not being very light and the appalling weather conditions recently ive only mangaed about 3-4 hours work in total with her!

She is quite a handful, can turn on a sixpence and turn herself inside out!, unfortunately as shes been driven has learnt to ignore anything along her sides, but she does seem to be picking up little squeezes of my legs to mean forwards/faster etc.,

im struggling though, she doesn't seem to understand that when her body goes round a bend her head should follow and the head remains straight and the legs & body go round the track (am i making sense?) she also seems to have a dislike of the outer track in the arena, and trys to cut all the corners off, despite me trying to push her into the corners with my legs etc.

yesterday i managed 30 minutes on her in walk & a little trot, she CAN flex, just doesn't when im asking her to flex on a bend! and can spin a real tight circle (candidate for western maybe???:))

so any hints and tips, i prefer ridden work to ground/lunging as i feel more in control up on board than on the ground! dont know why


Active Member
Oct 1, 2002
Wiltshire, UK
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Hi Joy70
She sounds very much like my boy was on his left side - i.e. very stiff. I don't know anything at all about driving ponies so have no idea whether this is common with them, though thinking logically about it I suppose they don't need to bend in the same way as a ridden one, do they?

Luca would 'lock up' so that he was always looking to the right when we turned a corner on the left rein - and would also battle to avoid the corners of the school on this rein as being 'too hard' :rolleyes:

I got around the problem by nicking a traffic cone :eek: , putting it in the middle of the school and just spiraling in and out around it, first in walk and then in trot, keeping an open inside rein (hitch-hiker's thumb) to encourage him to look in the direction of the turn and lots of half-halts on that inside rein. The cone gave us a focus (so stopping him from getting too bored) and stopped our circles/spirals going pear-shaped (as it were)

I found this really loosened him up and still do it regularly.

Hope this is helpful


I know exactly what you mean about keeping the head straight and the body going round, thts how she would have gone round corners in the trap. I had a spell of riding a haflinger mare mainly used for driving and found she was very 'stiff' through her neck compared to most riding horses.

I would suggest lots of circles as sooty said. It will be alot harder as she is not very responsive to leg aids, but as she gets more used to them I'm sure your communication will improve therefore you'll be able to give her clearer directions.

Could you not get someone to lunge you both? I mean with you riding obviously:D This might help as she would have to go round in some sort of circle.

Good luck with her, I'm sure the long proccess will all be worth it.

Just out of interest is she quite a heavy horse?


New Member
Dec 1, 2002
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hello joy70,your newbie having been driven only will only know how to move in straight lines and pull her self along rather than push from be hind ,at the stage you are at i would not worry to much about pushing her into the corners at the moment because she will not understand about moving her ribcage away from your leg aid .
i would consentrate on asking her to go forward and halting and working on transitions over a larger area to make the bending less demanding to start with .
a driving horse does work from the back end but also learns to pull them selves along in front as they put their weight in to the collar or plate.
some horses when they are driven go along with the body straight but their head and neck either to the left or right and they drive like this as the driver thinks it keeps them from going into the road or curb.

i am sure lots of ppl will give you advice on the problem you have
all i would say is be patient and you will reap the reward in time .


:D Thanks for your replies

Im battling on with her, shes a lovely mare, and seems to be very intelligent, as ive said shes already getting the idea of moving off from my legs, and last night when i took her in the school she started to give a little on the bends.

I understand the stiff neck and head is due to the fact shes being driven and im well prepared for it to take all summer if necessary to get her going well :) but have a feeling it wont take her long at all!

At the moment im not overly concerned with getting her working on a proper bend or in an outline etc., and im sure that in time the transitions will be smoother, she has a tendency to pull/push off as if the carts still behind her

Gemma16 - she is quite a heavy set horse, but not overly heavy if that makes sense, she is quite broad in the chest and is a wide mare with thick legs & some feathering, she is heavier than a TB or warmblood but not as heavy as an Irish Draft or Shire, i spose shes a typical irish cob :rolleyes:
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