View Full Version : In-Hand Work / Pregnancy

Oct. 8, 2009, 02:51 PM
I'm curious how many of you do in-hand work with your horses.

I was discussing this with another rider who's pregnant and is considering options for her horse during the pregnancy. Aside from getting other people to ride the horse when she's not comfortable getting up there any more (whether for safety or just physically!), or turning the horse out for a few months, I thought that in-hand work might be a great option!

Training and conditioning could be continued, and it's a great way to spend time working with your horse whilst your two feet are planted firmly (and safely!) on the ground! When I'm eventually pregnant, it's definitely something I'd like to explore with my horse.


Oct. 8, 2009, 03:13 PM
maybe she should try long reining double lunging? If she has a safe area and her horse is nice and safe.

In hand work safety depends on how well you and your horse work together.

It takes a lot of work to make a horse safe from the ground. or should I say safe enough to feel like your not risking your life much less the life inside you every time you lead it around.

I don't plan on having kids but if I did I would probably feel safe enough to work with my horse from the ground, but we have been at it for quite a while and even then things happen.

They can push throw you and knock you over easy as they are HUGE animals.

I'm sure there are lots of things you can do from the ground but it would be helpful if people know where you and your horse are at.

Oct. 8, 2009, 03:15 PM
I work my mare in-hand on a fairly regular basis, as an alternative to riding - when she's really muddy, when I'm pressed for time, when I haven't ridden for a few days and she has an attitude.

I love it. It's interesting to us both.

Oct. 8, 2009, 03:17 PM
can anyone recommend a good book for in-hand work? preferrably a book with pictures and thorough explanations.

i too am pregnant and plan to ride until i'm uncomfortable. but, some days i'm tired and would prefer ground work.


Oct. 8, 2009, 03:27 PM
For the person who asked where we are at, it is my friend, not me, who is pregnant and this is something that I brought up as something to consider when she no longer rides. I'm honestly not sure where she's at with her horse as we used to ride together as kids, and now she lives in another country! I know she has a great, calm horse though who's very nice to handle.

I am thinking of starting it now myself, as I'm planning to get pregnant at some point after my fiance and I get married in November (yay!), so I am especially interested in the topic.

dbadaro - I was looking on Amazon and found this book, and it looks great! It mentions on the back cover that it's a great thing for people to do with their horses when they can't e on their back, such as during injury (or pregnancy?). http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Training-Hand-Modern-Working/dp/1570764093 Check out the two books they suggest with it as well. They all look really interesting.

keana - Your point about them being huge animals and throwing you around a bit is a good point. I've seen in-hand work by clinicians and they make it look so harmonious, but obviously for those of us just starting out there would be a learning curve! I'm thinking of taking lessons specifically on in-hand work if I pursue it.

I'd love to hear more comments!

Oct. 8, 2009, 04:24 PM
Having been pregnant twice... I dont think i could do in hand work when i got to the point of not being able to ride... Everyone is different, and every pregnancy is different, but its more a balance issue. When you cant see your feet, you tend to forget where they are. So if the most gentle of horses might pull, you pull back, and suddenly they stop, you are on your a$$...

First pregnancy i rode up until 2 weeks before delivery, and only stopped cause i couldnt breath anymore... :) 2nd pregnancy, i rode until month two and had to stop altogether. Most miserable pregnancy ever that left me flat on my back 80% of the time.

I had good intentions that second pregnancy fully thinking i would ride it threw... HA! Sometimes you are doing good just to get a shower that day and catch up on dishes... :) So goals and ambitions during pregnancy, i would keep at a very low minimum and if you exceed them, GREAT! If not, its nothing to stress over, you've got plenty to stress over as it is. :)

Good luck to your friend (And yourself eventually!). I found visiting/working with my horses during pregnancy to be much more frequent BEFORE delivery... After, well i hardly see them anymore and they live in my own backyard! Cant wait for preschool to start! I've only got 4 more years!

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Oct. 8, 2009, 05:19 PM
I work my mare in-hand on a fairly regular basis, as an alternative to riding - when she's really muddy, when I'm pressed for time, when I haven't ridden for a few days and she has an attitude.

I love it. It's interesting to us both.

Also when it's cold, when it's hot, when I want to focus on a specific issue, and as a change from everything else - free lunge, in hand, long lining. Often we do some as a warm up, and then ride. Makes work in the saddle MUCH easier!

Oct. 8, 2009, 10:43 PM
I do a lot of in-hand work and it was invaluable when I first started working with my very fearful guy. Not only did it help with keeping him working til he was ready to be ridden, but it also helped build a trusting relationship. There have been multiple times when he couldn't be ridden that we did ground driving, long lining and in-hand work and I happen to enjoy it. He seems to like it too. I borrowed a tape by Bettina Drummond that had some very good in-hand exercises but I can't remember the name of it. Most of the rest I have learned from various clinicians over the years.

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:30 PM
I'm 21 weeks pregnant now, and am doing long line work with both of the horses I normally ride. It's been helpful for them, and it helps to keep me moving and fit.

Both horses are also being ridden regularly, (I am lucky to have a trusted trainer who will stop by my place to ride on her way home and is skilled with long-lines herself) and we both agree that the long line work has been a great supplement to their regular riding. I watch the horses go about once a week under saddle, and together we plan what to focus on in the ground-based sessions., which I do 2 or 3 times a week with each horse depending on when she can schedule riding.

I've picked up skills over the years from various clinicians, and I worked on a Belgian breeding farm for awhile in high-school. I learned basic ground driving skills there, and the long lining skills just sort of fell into place after that.

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:41 PM
I rode until my third trimester, and I had good intentions of doing ground work when I could no longer ride. However, when the time actually came I was far too clutzy/short winded/exhausted to actually do it. Luckily, thanks to CoTH I was able to find someone to ride my boy for me. It worked out so well that she couldn't say goodbye and now half leases him. Worked out great for me too because I know she loves him as if he were her own and I just don't have as much time to ride these days

Oct. 9, 2009, 05:38 AM
I think it's a very bad idea to recommend in hand work as the only work for a horse during some months of pregnancy. If 'ground work' means jogging an uber-quiet older horse on a loose longe line for 10 minutes in a halter, or supplementing that quiet, easy horse's work on a day the leaser can't come out, doing something the horse is well trained and reliable to do, and is something the person already knows how to do with equipment she's accustomed to using and knows how her horse will react, I can see it. Otherwise no.

I think it's a very VERY bad idea to assume the pregnant woman will be able to do it or be safe or healthy doing it.

Especially if it's something she's just learning, she's very likely to wind up taking just as bad a fall or kick as she would off the horse's back, or worse.

In some ways, ground work is far more tiring and risky than riding, especially for someone who is just learning it. Not recommended and not a good idea.

Also not a good idea to assume every pregnant woman will have a perfectly easy, trouble free pregnancy that involves a lot of ANYTHING. Most of my friends have had very easy pregnancies, but some have spent much of their pregnancy fighting high blood pressure or blood sugar or both, and being very careful to restrict what they do.

I think it's far, far better to do what most people do - find a person to free lease or lease the horse, go out to the barn and keep an eye on things and get a little light exercise, but don't take up anything new. I had a 23 year old friend who ran a marathon while she was 3-4 months pregnant, but she ran marathons all the TIME. That was normal for her. The advice to not start anything new is very, very good advice, as is the advice to expect to get to a point where one really isn't comfortable with a lot of activity.

Even the fittest people I knew got to a point in their pregnancy where they had had enough. What month that point is in, varies, but for most people, by five or six months, they are starting to want to do a whole lot less. Some people, well before that. I would not count on being an exception.

Oct. 9, 2009, 11:44 AM
If your friend has a very good trainer who's experienced with ground work, I'd suggest she take some lessons and see how she likes it. It's not an easy thing to do well, and it can be dangerous for reasons slc stated. Also, it can still be pretty taxing unless you have a nice round pen and don't have to work too hard at staying with the horse (meaning, you need a quiet horse or one that's been worked this way quite a bit in the past). I've never been pregnant, but I'd imagine I'd much rather be on a horse's back the majority of the time than trailing after a horse that's not very well versed in ground work, haha. So maybe if she can get her horse working politely from the ground by the time she gets further along, it'll be a good thing.

If she has a quiet horse who has some background with ground work, I would certainly encourage her to look into that option. However, I don't think this is something you can learn as easily from books, so I'd strongly suggest finding a good trainer to help (at least initially). Another option to long lining is work with side reins and a surcingle in a round pen or on a longe, but, again, that also has its dangers if the horse is unaccustomed to that type of work, and it can really set back a horse's training if done improperly (like anything, haha).

Anyway, it's a good thought, but I would definitely enlist some professional help for a few lessons before embarking upon ground work as a good safe option to riding. It may turn out to be a wonderful option for her, but she may also find it to be more taxing and riskier than riding = )

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:26 PM
I think people have widely varying concepts of in-hand work, or use ground work and in-hand work interchangeably.

When I work in-hand, one hand is on the bit ring or rein, and the other holds the whip and (usually) the off-rein. The horse is always under my direct control. A fence can help maintain straightness for some movements (rein-back and piaffe, for example) but it isn't necessary. Certainly a round pen is not, and there's never any trailing behind.

As to safety, I think most horses trained well enough to ride are safe to work in hand. If a horse can piaffe under saddle, it should be safe to ask him to piaffe in-hand. Training may be a different risk, so I don't think I would start training movements in-hand, while pregnant.

I've never been pregnant, but I can imagine a pregnant woman would be fearful of becoming off-balance and falling. Or shoved by a horse and falling. Again, a horse that a pregnant woman would consider riding, is probably trained well enough to be safe to work in-hand.

Most movements are not strenuous for the handler. It's walking. Some half-pass type movements are a little more strenuous, because the handler may need to reach over the horse's back with the off-rein. You're also working closer to the horse's body and against the bend, so these movements would be more difficult for someone with a lot in front. But shoulder-in work, ToF, ToH, piaffe, rein-back, etc. are not more strenuous than walking. It's slow work, all about asking the horse to engage his mind and to balance himself. Handler must balance herself, too. Neither should lean on the other.

It is a language of touch, so I agree that it's difficult to learn from books or videos. I don't think it's something someone can simply begin on her own when she's ready to stop riding.

A fellow rider is due in about 10 weeks. Saturday I watched her ride her Percheron. She's still comfortable, although dismounting is a struggle for her. She's using the mounting block. She works her horse some in-hand, but she'll ride as long as she can, then free-longe him. He may get a few months off.