Gymnastic Groundwork is the third part of Horsefulness Training and consists of work in hand and lunging. This way the horse is able to carry its rider without problems. The horse no longer overloads because the horse is in balance with the rider on his back.
Does this means that a horse is not naturally able to carry people in such a way that it does not damage its body?
Yes, that’s right! A horse is not “made” to carry something on his back. Yet we still choose to do so…
Every horse has a side with long and supple muscles and a side with short, stiff muscles. Because of this it bends easier on one side than the other. So a horse is either rightbended or leftbended. We also call this “lateral imbalance”. Next to that the horse also has a more pushing and a more carrying hind leg, which you can call an “asymmetry in the hindlegs. And then there also is the asymmetry in the front legs, the horizontal imbalance and the vertical imbalance. So there are 5 main imbalances and asymmetries in horses. This is called natural crookedness.
This is no problem for the horse himself, it even gives him an advantage, but when you want to ride the horse or do some other unnatural activities (like driving) then the horse has to learn to use his body symmetrically. If this doesn´t happen, this can cause al kinds of symptoms and harmful consequences for the horse.
Picture on the left: this young horse on the lunge is not bending on the circle. Because of that he is falling on his inside shoulder and is unable to relax the back and stretch his topline.
He can not swing his hind leg forward enough under his body, towards the point of gravity. But especially that is necessary if the horse wants to carry his rider in a proper way!
The solution to natural crookedness
There is only one solution for this: doing specific and logical exercises! I call this Gymnastic Groundwork. Gymnastic Groundwork exists of suppeling, strenghtening and straightening exercises without a rider on the back, this makes it easier for the horse. Later, the rider does the same exercises under saddle.
With these gymnastic exercises the horse will learn to bend on the circle, bringing his neck and head in a forward-down position. The abdominal muscles will then thighten while the back muscles will relax. That makes it possible to swing the inside hindleg forward. When a horse is further up in the education the horse will learn to carry more weight with the hindlegs and to collect.
A lot of riding problems are the consequence of natural crookedness. Luckily this can be solved or prevented by doing Gymnastic Groundwork, the third elemement of Horsefulness Training. The benefit of this is, that the horse first learns to supple and strenghten his muscles and straighten his body without adding the weight of the rider. Afterwards you will continue to gymnastize and straighten your horse under the saddle.13 November 2013