If your horse does not respect you, it does not give you full attention. And if you do not have the attention of your horse, you have no control. Having no control puts your life and health at risk. Groundwork is the first and basic method to establish your leadership position. Through groundwork you receive the attention and respect of your horse thus gaining control. If you do not have your horse’s attention and respect whilst doing groundwork, things are not going to change for the better when you are in the saddle. Most of the time, the opposite happens – things get worse.
Thus, groundwork is very important for the preparation of the horse as well as safety and pleasure during riding. The more things we teach the horse to on the ground the easier it would be for him to understand our cues when we are on his back. On the other hand, groundwork is also a powerful tool for the human to learn the psychology of the horse, his behavior patterns and manner of thinking, due to the fact that groundwork requires an adequate two way communication.
This type of communication is an inborn ability for the horse, but something we have to learn. We have to know how, using their language, to receive what we desire. In other words to act in such a way, that the horse would choose to give us what we want. Our actions have to be precise and timely. And for that to happen we have to learn to read the language of the horse correctly, to understand it, and to teach our bodies to ‘speak’ in the right way with them, because this is the language they read best.
Groundwork can be a very helpful tool, in case something goes wrong during riding. Horses are big and heavy animals, with their own thoughts, feelings, fears and instincts. Their sharp senses and high-strung nature has to be taken into account. The change in their surroundings, the movement they feel and sounds they hear often go unnoticed by humans. Sometimes they have reactions, which are not very good for the riders. (It is only fitting that we do not blame the horses for their nature, but instead learn to observe and correctly interpret their behavior, giving a timely reaction in a way that would arouse confidence, by proper aids on ground and in the saddle.) Having this knowledge a person can always stop riding and return to the basics – return the respect, attention and control of the horse. To once again restore your leadership position through groundwork.
Groundwork is one of the elements of training, used in Natural horsemanship, mainly because it is based on things natural for the horse:
- In horse relationships one is always the leader, who is trusted by others to guide
- The leader has the right to require certain behavior
Doing groundwork you gain tools for:
- Correction, check and training of the horse
- Restoration of your leadership position
- Understanding of the horse
Also, correctly done groundwork teaches the horse to use the ‘thinking’ part of the brain instead of the ‘reactive’ part, which contributes to a safer and more pleasant ride.
At Adgor riding stables we don’t allow horses to be ridden, when they are using the ‘reactive’ side of the brain. The partnership with the horse which you can build by groundwork will help you develop more advanced levels of horsemanship and experience the enjoyment of working with the horse offline. At that point you would already be confident that you have a partner, who is ready to follow you wherever you lead.