Horses can be dangerous animals to work with, making groundwork for beginners essential. The groundwork for beginners and pros is an important part of working with and training horses. It can improve the rider and horse relationship, communication, create a training foundation, and decrease some of the inherent risks. Even non-trainers can use groundwork basics to improve their own horsemanship skills and a horse’s disposition.
What is Groundwork for Horses?
Groundwork is just as it sounds- it is working from the ground with your horse. Although still utilizing training methods, none of the work is done as a rider in a saddle.
For some, a major goal of groundwork is to prepare the horse for being ridden or driven in the future. Although some still utilize old methods of “riding a buck out”, this training style has significantly decreased as we learn about how a horse’s brain functions. In addition, the emergence of YouTube videos and training DVDs have helped educate amateur horse owners on safer approaches to breaking horses.
Reasons Why Horse Groundwork for Beginners is Important
Safety is always a priority in any hobby or sport we engage in. When working with 1,000-pound independently thinking animals, the more preventive work we can put in, the better. Desensitizing is a major factor in groundwork and handling safety. Sounds such as halters jingling, stimulants, or actions like a rope dangling, and other common occurrences can be introduced in a controlled environment during groundwork. This sets the tone for future exposure and minimal-to-no reaction.
Basic commands and standard-function abilities such as leading and “woahing” also have a role in safety. This is a good time to work with horses on stopping when equipment becomes loose, responding to vocal commands, and maintaining a respectful distance during work.
Find the Best Equestrian Safety Vests
Just because a horse is “trained”, doesn’t mean he/she has manners. Ground manners are equally (if not more) important than manners under saddle. Day-to-day handling is safer and easier with a quiet and respectful horse. A toddler human with pushy behavior is a very different scenario than a pushy yearling! Head dropping for haltering, standing in cross-ties, and willingly giving feet for hoof maintenance are all important manners for a horse practice. Groundwork can also help improve dominance issues.
· Trust and Communication
Groundwork, especially for beginners, will strengthen the bond (or create one) between a horse and owner, and improve communication. Owners will help horses work through possibly fearful occurrences, and create trust. Groundwork transfers over to saddle work, so clear communication and commands between the horse and rider are essential.
Groundwork is also a workout! In-hand work and lunging both fall into the groundwork category. It can also be prepared for gymnastic work via the use of ground poles and cavalletti use. Aside from physical exertion and muscle development, groundwork provides mental stimulation. Mental and physical challenges keep horses emotionally sound and help prevent boredom.
· Horse Training Foundation
Groundwork is the foundation of all training. Even non-ridden horses need to trailer, tie, and lead. Working a horse while saddled, adding weight, and ground-driving or long-lining also help prepare horses for the breaking process. Some trainers will saddle horses with dummies and long-line from behind- this results in a safer and uneventful first ride. Horses can learn all the riding basics from the ground.
Although it is advised to seek assistance from a professional, there are many resources available to assist in groundwork for beginners. There are books, DVDs, videos, and local clinics/seminars beginners can attend. We recommend researching several methods and choosing what feels like a good fit for both you and your horse.
Have friends with horses? Be sure to share this article!