How we work with horses, our expectations of them are a product of our experiences, observations, training. The kinds of horses we use, see in action or work, also will color our reactions to horse situations. Farming work with working drafts, half-drafts in fields, woodlots, have a different horse mindset than show horses or daily driving animals exposed to busy streets, sudden noises, traffic.
Beginners who are just learning to drive need to learn the correct way to do things to keep themselves, their equines, as safe as possible. It is too easy to miss a step during hitching, unhitching, not practicing basics like standing, with other distractions around you. As confidence grows, people often get sloppy, not actually focused on what they are doing. Working around him holding the reins can be awkward, so they start shortcutting. Tones of doom from Trainer who has seen bad things happen quickly, are trying to instill a warning to use a better process of doing things. Experience in the driver, good routines in the proper order, will build their confidence in themselves. Only time and practice, using their horse, will teach them his usual reaction to things lIke giving slack in reins while standing. Horse is learning or unlearning each time you drive him.
Maybe he USED to have a solid Whoa, but driver is not firm about making horse stop. Or they use Whoa for slow down, so horse ignores it now, goes by rein pull to stop. Reins in hand can make the stop happen, when saying Whoa from the ground, no rein cue, means nothing.
I deal with a lot of beginners in our Club things, have to help them learn to do things correctly to set them in good habits. No one retains 100% of helpful words, but you hope they remember many of the ones that are most important to their safety.
And even VERY experienced drivers have “oops” moments, so we look at each other, check their harness as we pass at group activities. We SPEAK UP if we spot something wrong, though we try to say it in a calm voice! Leave panic, tones of doom out of your voice. “Stop your horse, I need to fix something for you!!” If they have a groom, we let them fix it themselves or help while their groom heads the horse. We reassure beginners that this is “” A training opportunity! You are practicing stand, out here in the open! A good moment oF learning."
We drive Multiples most of the time, so being safe gets more complicated. LOTS of things to deal with, plus horse personalities. We do not want horses “trying to help” in making decisions. Only humans get to make the decisions!! They are being driven all the time they are hitched, keeping them in draft together, working equally, feeling them on the bit but NOT pulling your arms out. Stopping and standing for a while in new locations. Stand quietly for a long time on a slightly loose rein is one of the best things a driving horse can do.
You make your own choices about how far you trust your driving horse. Then YOU live with the results. Maybe nothing ever happens trusting him…until it does. We are not driving fiction story horses in daily life, with an IQ higher than Einstein. They are just regular horses, small brains, reactive to their surroundings. So drivers and handlers need to be in charge, look out for possible problems that can be prevented.