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  • Writer's pictureDerry Vilcans-Moody

Groundwork - What's the point ?

This subject is huge and I’m not able to cover all aspects on one post …. groundwork ranges from being able to lead your horse to and from the field, lunging, long line/ reining to working on lateral maneuvers with the handler on the ground. To me groundwork is the absolute foundations of which a horse’s success or failures as a ridden, or ‘kept’ horse are built.

Someone once said to me, it is not our job as an owner, or handler to train the horse ‘good’ you ourselves, it is our job to ensure that we train our horses so he is handleable by anyone that may encounter him; I.e vet, farrier rider, groom. I use the word ‘good’ with caution as this implies that horses are good and bad and that’s simply not the case.

Solid basics really are the underpin all successes, does your horse walk on, halt, stand happily tied up and move over when you ask while leading or on the ground, or simply put do you have a stop, start and park and relax. To me these are the essentials, that create a horse that is happy and pleasant to be around, the kind of horse we all want to have on a yard and spend time with.

I’m often asked about how to train laterals from the ground, as I watch the handler wrestling to simply to ask the horse step back as they entered the stable and the same horse spinning around the handler in the arena. Now there is great merit in some instances to ‘keeping the horses feet moving’ but, this does need to be applied in specific situations. In general, we want to be in a relaxed and cooperating place with our hoses, keeping both horse and handler calm and organized. I will always refer back to do we have the basics, of Start, Stop, Wait or Park – it’s much easier to add the additional movements on when you have a calm and arrange situation for all concerned.

There are many options for ground work training, Monty Roberts/Kelly Marks (Intelligent Horsemanship) Tristen Tucker (TRT method) and alike who all have successfully built and developed ‘ground work’ programs many referred to as natural horsemanship.

In recent years, personally, I have adopted Equine Learning Theory principals as presented by Andrew McLean, having been introduced to this at a Ride With Your Mind (RWYM) demonstration about 6 or 7 years ago the RWYM network has adapted this work further. It made complete sense to me and it was like a light bulb moment, train the horse from the ground, for ridden success. I have successfully used these methods with developing the more established horse to be more adaptable; as well as working with our case study horse and rider Kayleigh & Charlie. We carefully taught the fundamentals on the ground and for Charlie, initially, stop was way harder to learn than go; when it came to Kayleigh riding a newly backed Charlie away for the first time, he was confident in a series of ‘signals’ and ‘cues ‘ taught from the ground, but accessible while mounted, that made the start of his ridden life clear, simple and easy for him to follow. Essentially the only ‘new’ question he had to answer was carry the rider, as everything else was there and set up.

Happy horses are those that have clear expectations and understand the questions you ask of them; set them up for success.

Keep things simple and keep them clear, a horse that finds his own solutions, albeit with some sign posting, is largely a happier and more balanced horse overall it his behaviors.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this subject today it’s so vast; watch this space for more.

Keep safe, and have fun with your horses.


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