The what and why of groundwork with horses

Groundwork is the second training component of Horsefulness Training. Groundwork is the collective term for all exercises which involve the horse being led and guided by a rope + halter or neckrope. This is different than Liberty, where the horse is “free”= he’s not held by a rope.

During groundwork exercises you continue to work on mutual trust and clear communication through which training will not only become safer, but also more fun and fluent.

A big part of Groundwork is “training” the horse

Liberty Training according to the Horsefulness philosophy is based on the natural way of connecting and communicating of horses. So it’s not “training” the horse, as we’re not teaching the horse something unnatural or new (something he doesn’t know yet). In Groundwork however, you do teach your horse things that aren’t so natural anymore.  So that’s why Groundwork is about “training” your horse.

Let me take the example of “yielding to physical aids”. The horse needs to understands this concept because in the human world there will be a lot of unnatural physical “pressure”. Think about pressure behind the ears when tied up to the wall, aids from the riders legs or bit/bitless bridle, stepping backwards off a trailer when the handler gives slight physical aids on the nose or chest, holding the hoofs by the trimmer, etc…

Getting your horse used to the trailer, to traffic, to a saddle, … is also training. Because these are all situations which would never occur when your horse wouldn’t live with humans, but in the wild. That’s why we have  to help the horse understand all this.

Life in the human world

So an important thing Groundwork does for your horse is helping him to better deal with life in the “human world”.  In all of these acts the horse has to know how to cope with it, accept it and hopefully also enjoy it as much as possible. You’re the one who can make sure that’s the case!

Above all groundwork will contribute to an even better communication, because now you can also ask your horse things he wouldn’t naturally do or choose for.

It’s enjoyable to watch the penny drop for a horse and see him think: “Ooooh, now I get it!” And from that moment on your horse just understands what you ask of him or he understands what a certain situation is all about.

I like to compare this to learning the alphabet when you’re 6. If no one teaches this to you, you can be perfectly happy and not lack anything, but if you know how to read and write your life in our society will be so much easier .

Horses are forced to live in a “human world”, no matter how naturally you house and take care of them.  That’s why a good groundwork training is essential, because some groundwork exercises are a little bit like learning the alphabet when you’re 6. It makes your horse’s life easier and more comfortable.

leading your horse with a leadrope-groundwork with horses

These are the reasons do to Groundwork:

  • Continuing the friendship and connection you‘ve developed during Liberty
  • Learning how to give good guidance and show leadership, in situations that are more challenging (think about traffic training or taking your horse to an unknown place)
  • Learning how to define boundaries in a respectful way when the horse is on the lead
  • To help your horse understand the human world and human wishes (such as daily handling and care, being attached on the wall, trailer loading, traffic, vet treatments, dentist…)
  • Helping fearful or traumatized horses overcome their fears/traumas
  • Preparation for Gymnastic Groundwork
  • Preparation for riding
  • You develop yourself to be the best trainer possible!
  • It gives you and the horse much more variation in training
  • Helping your horse to remain balanced, fit and happy on every level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (this is soooo important!)
  • And very important: it’s fun to do for both of you.

Groundwork: where to start?

When you want to do Groundwork you should start with Basic Groundwork.  Basic Groundwork exists of lead exercises, touch exercises, yielding to physical aids, yielding to driving aids and circle work.

This is something every horse, also your horse, should now. It’s the basic communication of groundwork training.

You and your horse need it, you really can’t do without if you want to be successful in training your horse on the ground and if you want to have a safe, happy and balanced horse.

What’s next?

When this Basic Groundwork goes well, you then start Continued Groundwork which is the logical continuation of Basic Groundwork. Continued Groundwork exists of obstacle training, groundwork with the neckrope, trailerload training, the double long lines, traffic training and preparing for riding.

fear training in groundwork with the neck rope
horsefulness training groundwork course online

Sounds a lot to you?

If this sounds a lot to you, then don’t worry, you don’t have to do it by yourself!

In my Horsefulness Groundwork Program I coach people from all over the world to make groundwork a succes! So if you want to, I can help you too.

Check out this page about the Horsefulness Groundwork Program to find out more details.

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Free e-book Horsefulness Groundwork Training with horses

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An Introduction to Horsefulness Groundwork

  A walk through the Basic and Continued Groundwork

How to have a horse that is safe, happy, coöperative and confident during training

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