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Teaching team horses (percherons) to go single

Hi all,

My boss recently got two sets of Percheron teams (he is new to teams but not new to driving or horses by any stretch) but we are hoping that we can get them to go single as well. I have already separated them from each other and they seem to be coping. However I have tried one single, who ended up being scared of the training cart and refused to turn or stop once we got walking. We have a wide track a bit less than a mile around. He started speeding up and would not respond to my commands, going in the opposite direction that I was steering, and completely ignoring the bit despite it being a straight curb bit. Ended up having to bail out of the forecart. I had ground driven him before and he was fine, though he spun around a bit.

Anyway I tried one of the other ones for riding. She tolerated a rider no problem, but despite the shank bit I used (this was a snaffle shank bit as opposed to a straight bar) at various degrees of leverage, she ignored my command to turn the opposite direction of the herd she could see. Other than that, she did nothing wrong. So it seems to be some kind of trend that team horses don’t turn well (?)

I realize that it is probably easier to get single horses and put them in a team rather than buying a team that is always a team but I didn’t have that choice in this situation.

Does anyone have any advice for training these team horses to go single? Do I need to start from scratch training them to drive?


Did they not turn at all or only not turn in one direction.

I once drove a borrowed horse who had a terrible time turning left. Even in an indoor with the wall approaching and me hauling on the left rein.

Later, I mentioned to the owner who said “Oh, well I’m not sure he’s been driven single, usually he’s part of a pair”. I asked which side.

He was on the right side, so he only turned left when his other half went left. He turned right just fine. Would be interesting if the other half of the pair didn’t turn right.

But I would say yes, you may need to do a lot of re-training as it sounds like they aren’t very schooled.

How do they go as pairs?

I guess I would go back to basics, get some steering on each horse, OBEDIENCE to the word commands, before hitching them single to drive. As you have found, you can’t “muscle” a large draft around, even with a big curb bit. You have to get cooperation in their thinking to have a safe drive.

Driving them in Pairs, means they ALWAYS had a friend to help them be brave in facing things. Doing that alone means they need practice, gain confidence that things won’t hurt them. Single driving is a whole different ball game than Pair driving is. We trade sides with our Pairs for each hitching. That prevents horses being one-sided, not developing muscles on both sides of body. I know lots of Draft folks never change sides with their Pairs, but if horse MUST go on the other side, he has a very hard time of it with the change. Better to do that changing and get horse used to it happening. That way if he gets another partner, hitched to a new vehicle, is out at a show, there are not so many changes to deal with at one time. We say if there are more than 2 new things done in one day, horse will probably have a little meltdown, so be ready for it. That is even with little things, especially on green horses. Our guys are “better” horses for being changing sides daily, more flexible, less reactive on their “bad” side with time spent being there.

Not sure if extra bending exercises, carrot stretches to both sides, touch where girth would be, down between his knees, can help loosen muscles,. Should make horse ABLE to turn in both directions with reins better. Can’t hurt for use, but is done out of the vehicle, apart from other training activities. This is in case horse tries to move rump over with short, stiff neck muscles in trying to reach the treat on his side. His entire body should stay in place, only head and neck REACHING for the treat, so horse gets more flexible with time.

Hard to know what handling was put on a horse before purchase. They could have all been trained Single, but maybe only for a short time, not experienced at it, WAYYY back when they were first trained. They then were never USED Single since being Paired up with a matching horse. Horses usually prefer being in Pairs, like having a friend along. Lots of folks driving Drafts don’t notice if horse is TRULY steering with the reins, partner horse moves him over as needed. If horses aren’t heavy on your hands, go where aimed, “They are a nice Pair to drive”. I see that a lot.