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Ground work now - a good time to start.
Now is the time of year that weather prohibits us from riding our horses as often as we would like. I see it as a golden opportunity to do work on the ground. More often than not we neglect this aspect of horsemanship. To me, it is the most important one. If learned correctly, it is also one of the most enjoyable.
It is a chance to observe your horse, its movements and characteristics. Youíll find that many problems that you encounter on the ground are also encountered in the saddle. If you practice the exercises that I suggest, your relationship with your horse will be better, more subtle and more rewarding for you both. Any groundwork is a study in movement and body language. It will become a beautiful dance.
Ground work begins from the time you put the halter on your horse. Other exercises include loose round pen work, longeing, ground driving, suppling, hind quarter and forehand pivots.
When you work on the ground you want to use your body language in such a way that it encourages your horse to relax their neck and lower their head. Horses seem to respond better to the pressure of a ďropeĒ halter vs. a flat webbed type one. You will also find it easier to use a longer lead rope than you normally use. Ten to twelve feet is nice.
Ground work involves putting pressure on your horse and then taking pressure away when they respond in a positive way. The main reason that this works so well is partly because it is the way that horses interact with each other in a herd situation. Itís familiar and easy for them to understand the movement and body language.
I truly believe that the way to a horseís heart is not by hand feeding them treats but rather letting them know that you truly understand who they are and that you understand their means of communication. Remember that they learn the best by consistent repetition, so be patient. There may be some ďahaĒ moments where you think they get it but you need to keep repeating things until it becomes easy for them.
If you want to use verbal commands with your horse such as walk, trot, canter, whoa, back, etc., you can do so. If you are going to use them remember that if you say trot you must then physically show them what that word means. Not by you yourself doing those things of course! But by putting pressure on them to do it. They can learn verbal commands but it takes many, many, many consistent repetitions. Also, keep in mind that the less you get into a conversation with them the better things go.
Ponying a horse is one of my all time favorite things to do. Many of you know what it is and have done it. For those of you that donít it is when you ride one horse and lead another. Itís a valuable training tool and also a very practical skill to learn. Itís also great for a horse in the rehabilitation process or recovering from an injury. My personal favorite is ponying the young ones in preparation for riding.
Have fun with ground work. If you need a specific exercise explained further, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org., attend one our clinics or workshops or consult a local, reputable trainer that enjoys and sees the benefits of ground work.
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