When you see all the problems in horse training and the so-called “problematic” horses, you might be under the impression that horses really don’t like to be trained, also not in groundwork. It could make you think that horses prefer to just be with their equine friends in the field and graze all day long.
Some people even decide to quit training their horse for that reason. They think: my horse doesn’t react well on the training I offer, my horse pins his ears from the moment I ask something of him, he runs away when he sees me coming with my halter and lead rope, or another reason.
These people love their horse so much, that they prefer not to train at all to be sure they’re not causing any discomfort or pain (emotional or physical). They feed and groom the horse, trim their hoofs and hang out with their horse in the field. They enjoy those things a lot and they enjoy spending undemanding time with their horse, but that’s where it stops…
However, deep inside these people would like to do more, starting with groundwork. They dream about doing fun stuff together, but they are convinced that their horse doesn’t like that as much as they do. So they try to accept that from now on groundwork training doesn’t belong to the possibilities anymore.
Causes that horses start to resist groundwork training
There are several causes that horses can start to resist groundwork training or show irritation and frustration during groundwork.
Let me name a few
- The trainer starts with exercises that are too difficult, instead of starting with the basics. This way the horse feels demotivated from the beginning on. At one point further learning becomes impossible for the horse. You can’t read a book if you don’t know the alphabet yet…
- The trainer skips important steps, and at one point the horse just doesn’t understand it anymore. Again, the horse will start to feel demotivated and frustrated.
- There’s not enough variation in the groundwork training. The horse starts to feel bored and loses his interest. He’s more focused on his friends in the field than on his human.
- The trainer is afraid to take his horse out of the comfort zone. Because of that, the horse stops learning and growing. To be able to train the horse successfully, you have to help him reach the growth zone where there’s optimal alertness. That’s where the horse is alert, concentrated and open to learn new things.
- It’s also possible that context changes are made too soon, which makes the horse unconfident and doubtful about new situations.
- There’s not enough praise and reward, there are not enough brakes or undemanding moments during the training.
- The trainer doesn’t take into account the individual personality of the horse, but follows a strict method without room for adjustments. The horse starts to shut down or on the contrary, starts to resist the training.
- The body language of the trainer is not correct and incongruent which makes the horse feels confused or irritated.
- The trainer has a negative mindset and gets frustrated when things don’t go the way he wants to. The horse can feel this negative energy and tries to get away from this negative energy field.
I could go on with more causes why horses don’t like to do groundwork, but the most important thing here to remember is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
I’ve trained horses that, from the moment someone came into their field with a halter and rope, would run away as fast as a fired missile.
But by taking time for the basics first, helping your horse to grow and learn at a pace that fits him you’ll see rapid and positive change. It’s also about finding out what your horse likes and what makes him feel confident, joyful and motivated.
So it is possible to build up a mindful and progressive groundwork routine that both you and your horse enjoy. You just have to know which steps to take and take into account the personality of your horse.
So to answer the question: do horses like groundwork training?
Yes, they do!