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  • Groundwork

    I know there have been threads about groundwork, but I'm apparently search function-deficient.

    If you do groundwork with your horses, what do you do? I'm not talking longeing to get the yahoos out if you have a horse who needs that sometimes. But actual training-focused groundwork?

    Next week I have my first lesson on in-hand work with someone who is very classically-minded in her work, but at the same time accepts that not everyone else is. I figure working with her will be great for adding more tools to my box with my dressage horse. We'll also be working with my unrideable rescue mare to try to get her using her body to help support her mangled leg. She's the biggest reason I'm doing this - because she wants to work, but as she's not physically capable of any of the type of work I know about, I figure that means I need to learn more!
    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.

  • #2
    It's a whole new world, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

    I can do a fair amount in-hand - shoulder-in, half-pass, TOH and TOF, piaffe - I find it just the thing when I don't have time to ride. We do squares, figure 8s, square figure 8s, etc.

    And then a woman moved into my barn. She has a fabulous older Lippizan in rehab with a leg injury. They've been doing in-hand work for a long time. I just love to watch them work. The movements could be timed to a metronome. What I do is just lower-level work for them. She adds passage, Spanish walk- whatever she feels he needs.

    Just about everything you can do from the saddle, you can do from the ground.


    • #3
      I'm on my phone sp my reply will be short for now. In hand is a powerful tool in fixing foundational training problems, abused horses, evasive, physical rehab. I'll explain more later.
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


      • #4
        I do 10-20 minutes of groundwork before riding: turns on forehand, turns on haunches, SI, reinback, 1,2,3 redlight! There's something about effective groundwork that illicits the horses concentration and attention and you get to see their facial expressions and hug them.


        • #5
          Okay, now that I'm not on my phone I can answer in greater detail.
          One thing I've noticed that seems to be a trend in horse training is trainers trying to undo bad habits, blockages, evasions etc caused by previous poor training by going through the same avenue.
          Example: horse learned to curl to evade contact and be through in his back. New trainer then tries to correct in the saddle, giving forward cues and trying to encourage steady contact.
          What I've found works more effectively for these sorts of issues is to set a horse up in non elastic side reins (which creates a true passive contact with clear release) then send them forward in hand. Here's why I think this has proven (for me) to be more effective. Most people out there haven't "tainted" a horse's mind in hand.... it's like having a clean slate; an image of what the horse would be if they hadn't been screwed up by their previous rider.
          A little glimmer of proof of this is my horse and whips. In his previous life whips weren't a tool, they were a weapon, so in the saddle he'd lose all focus and hone in on the whip, be tense and non responsive to aides. It was pointless to carry one unless you wanted to be riding a sea monster. But in hand, where I have been his only trainer, I can use the whip however I need to. I can give taps to his hocks for more engagement, a tap under his girth for him to unlock his withers, or a tap to even a good whack on the rump for a prompt forward transition with impulsion. He is joyful in his in hand work even with the whip, yet I could hop on after a session with the same whip and he would get tense.
          Now, after several months of in hand work, I'm seeing a significant change in his view of whips in the saddle. We are almost to the point that I *could* carry one in schooling and still get work done. He's not schwungy enough to carry one in competition, but profound change non the less.

          So since this little epiphany I've tried taking this back door approach to solving in the saddle issues, and so far it has proven effective 100% of the time. I'm currently working with a horse that previously was an upper level horse, sat in a pasture for god knows how long,but never truly was through (I'm actually pretty surprised how many horses do make it to this level that aren't through). For him, those high, non elastic side reins and in hand work paired with careful lunging has made a profound difference in just a week in how he moves. His favorite evasion was to swan his neck (yield at the poll and bulge his lower neck). This was actually his preferred neck carriage when at liberty. With groundwork he's sorting out how to move correctly without me having to be on his back. he gets to experience true cause and effect, and after one session was able to lift the bottom of his neck to the left, and rediscovered he has a right lead.

          I've been blessed to learn classical in hand work from skilled masters of the lost art. I do believe that correct execution can not be learned from a book or video, and must be taught in person. Unfortunately there are so few of us still practicing the art [correctly] that finding good instruction may have you driving or flying to get there.
          chaque pas est fait ensemble


          • #6
            In-hand work helped my tb jumper learn to be a little quicker with his hind end underneath him and start to experiment with sitting and lightening the front end.

            he's not a fan of the work but it's much easier to see how he uses his body on the ground and work on that, than to try and fix it from the saddle all the time.
            'What's in your trunk?'
            Free tools for Trainers and Riders


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for all the insight so far!

              I think work on contact from the ground will be helpful for my horse, for the reasons PSJ gave - getting rid of that history. I think it can probably help our lateral work since I am far less than expert - lessen the ways in which I screw it up so he can learn without my weight going the wrong way and causing problems and I can know for sure problems in the saddle are my fault. I'm also hoping to have another tool for minimizing his tenseness at shows.

              I've posted here about my vertigo problems before, and think any time I'm having a bout of vertigo will be a good time for in-hand work. When I can balance well enough to move around, just not well enough to sit properly on a horse.
              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


              • #8
                netg, one thing that took me some time to learn is the timing of it. While riding, the horse is moving you, so timing is easier to notice and simpler to tie into. But walking along is more difficult because you're moving your own legs.

                Now I focus on timing my movements with the horse's movements, so my left leg is moving with her left front leg. This sets up the rhythm for the movement. And to start, just use the inside rein in one hand, whip in the other. Use the wall for straightness or work on a circle. Later you can add the outside rein, but that takes more coordination.

                Think of it as dancing. You will need to lead, with the horse to follow. But the leader can't violate the timing or ask for the impossible. You shouldn't lean on each other - each is responsible for his own balance.

                Have fun!