An important tool in my training arsenal is what I call side drive. Essentially, I define this as creating energy from only one side of the horse’s body at a time. This energy can be used for forward or backwards motion. The energy though is generated one side at a time. The reason this is so important is that a horse’s brain does not communicate well between its left hemisphere and right hemisphere. You really see this when something new or unexpected shows up. Because of this, observing side drive in action is much easier to see develop in colts. The side drive tool is not limited to colts. I use it with problem horses and when working to make a broker horses more supple or when setting them up to try harder next time. Here we will look at it as we start with a young horse.
In the beginning, right after the horse is semi-comfortable with a saddle on his back, and before I ride him, I start the side drive. Simply bend their head to you and firmly pat their flank area. Just after the pat, pull their head to you. This creates a forward motion towards you, with their hips going away from you. I do this several times each way.
I step up in the stirrup and half ride the horse. This means I am half way on him. I lean across the saddle so the horse can see with both eyes. Then with my free leg I tap him in the same area that I just patted. As I am tapping, I am lifting on the halter rope to help make those hips roll around. This is not just about hips. It is more about the whole side of the horse. I do this multiple times each side. There are some horses I can “ride” around this way at a walk and trot.
When I am astride the horse and am moving around the pen I use my inside leg and tail of my rein/halter rope to create that energy I just had at the half ride. I feel it is important that I use that leg first then the rein or rope on that same side. From that first ride, I want him drawn to that inside leg and moving forward. In the initial rides, if you bump with that inside leg then hit him on the opposite side (in order to get some forward motion) you often get the horse thinking: left, right, left, right. They show this confusion by rapidly moving their head side to side, switching eyes. It is an effort to understand what is going on. This rapid eye switching will often lead to not understanding what is happening, leading to panic, which often results in spooking or bucking. If I were to tap you on the left shoulder you probably would look to the left. They are the same. By bumping them on the left side I want them to look that way and be prepared to go that way.
If I do this consistently enough it will lead to proper leads, spins, cow draw, body control and suppleness.