Groundwork is an important part of your horse’s training, and the lessons he learns through groundwork can transfer to his work under saddle. Make sure to do these five great groundwork exercises with your horse to enhance his training.
Walk in a Circle
This exercise is a good way to begin your groundwork with your horse. With your horse in a halter with an eight-foot lead, ask your horse to walk in a circle around you. Depending on your horse, you may need to really drive him forward with your body language, or you may need to help him to relax and slow down. Your ultimate goal in this groundwork exercise is for your horse to walk around you continuously without you having to create any extreme pressure.
Turn on the Forehand
Asking your horse to turn on the forehand can help to establish his respect for your presence and body language. With your horse halted, angle your body back toward his hind end and step towards your horse. You may need to add pressure by raising your hands or even lightly touching your horse with the rope, but with practice your horse should readily turn on the forehand in response to you. This groundwork exercise will take a few tries to master.
Turn on the Hind End
The turn on the hind end is very similar to the turn on the forehand. Instead of turning to the hind end, focus your position on your horse’s neck and shoulder. Raise your hands slowly and walk toward your horse, pressuring him to move away from you. Be sure to practice both of these exercises on both sides of your horse.
Lower the Head
Asking your horse to lower his head on command can help to establish focus and to get him to relax. With your horse at the halt, put gentle downward pressure on the lead. Sustain the pressure until your horse gives – even just a little bit – to the pressure, then immediately release. Repeat this process to teach your horse to fully lower his head.
Teaching your horse to back up can help to establish his respect for you. After halting your horse, turn to face him and step towards him. Ideally, your horse should back up in response to the pressure. In order to teach him to back up, you may need to wiggle the lead line some. Wiggle the line, gradually increasing its intensity, until your horse makes any movement away from the line, then let the line go slack and remove the pressure.
Groundwork takes time, especially when teaching your horse new exercises, but groundwork can pay off in big rewards with your horse’s training.