Last Updated on January 29, 2022
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.
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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.
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How do you groundwork with your horse to gain respect?
One of the most popular exercises to teach your horse to respect is to disengage the hind-end so the horse is facing you. This will give you the opportunity to stand still and face the horse. Have him walk by you, then stop and turn around. Have him come back to you by your side, then walk away again. Have the horse back-up and out of your space.
Another very common exercise that can help you teach your horse to respect you is to put a halter on him and move him up and down while he is in your pasture or paddock. Once you get him to walk with you, have him stand still for a minute and walk past you. Then, have him back up and turn around. Keep going back and forth like this until your horse is calm and relaxed.
Can a beginner train a horse?
It is a fact that any horse can be trained if you are prepared to invest the time and effort. However, to train a horse can be quite a challenge for the beginner as there are so many factors involved in training horses, from the type of horse you have to its temperament and the environment you live in. Most horses have a natural tendency to learn and they are very forgiving. However, there are some horses that require a little more effort. If you have a horse that does not respond to a rider or does not understand basic commands, you may need to work harder with your horse. As a rider, you must be able to read your horse’s body language and respond appropriately to what your horse wants. You should also be aware of your horse’s temperament and look for help from more experienced trainers who can teach you required skills.
How often should you do groundwork with your horse?
Besides the basic two to three times a week, you can try different amounts of time and frequency to figure out what works the best for you and your horse. The most important thing is to be consistent as most horses learn better through repetition and regular handling. However, the exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous every time you are doing the groundwork. If your horse isn’t used to the exercises, you can do them slowly. As you get better at doing them, you can add some harder moves into the exercise to help strengthen the muscles that your horse is using.
How do you start groundwork with a horse?
The groundwork is the first step in training a horse. It’s also a very important part of training a horse in any discipline because it teaches you to use your body in a way that will give you the best chance to help your horse accomplish whatever goal you have for them. The groundwork is the basis for the next steps in training, whether it’s riding, dressage, eventing, or jumping. If you don’t have a solid foundation, then you’re going to have a hard time training a horse for anything else. Some of the best groundwork exercises to start with are: train your horse to stand still, train your horse to lead properly, train your horse to flex and soften to pressure, train your horse to go on a circle, and train your horse to move the front-end and hind-end.
Equestrian, Marine Corps vet, and Morgan horse enthusiast.