Ground Work - the building blocks for confidence

August 28, 2014

 

Compared to her mare Sugar, Hannah is kinda small.  But size doesn't seem to matter too much for Hannah now that she's learning all about the basics of ground work.

 

Some people call these techniques 'natural horsemanship.'  While I was growing up I just called it horse sense.  Either way, learning how to read your horse's behaviour and use body language to direct them is crucial to your safety, success, and enjoyment when horsin' around.

 

One of the first skills I like to teach students is to plant their feet and make their horse do the moving.  In the herd, the horse who moves their feet the least while influencing others around them usually becomes the boss or the leader of the group.  When it comes to humans and horses my rule is that the human needs to become the leader, especially when that human is Hannah's size!  This is what makes horsemanship safe for humans.  Otherwise we risk injury at the hands of a horse who is just being a horse after all.

 

So the next time you head out to ride your horse, take a few minutes to warm up with some ground work.  Focus on asking your horse to move along with you or around you without letting things turn into a push, pull, and drag show!  Plant your feet and arrange your lead so that you have a head and a tail - just like your horse. 

 

 

In this picture Hannah's right hand is her head.  It does the asking or leading when she wants Sugar to move.  When she wants Sugar to speed up she will extend her right arm out to the side.  This helps point Sugar in the direction Hannah wants her to go.

 

In Hannah's left hand she is holding a small carrot stick or whip.  This gives Hannah a tail that she can swish toward Sugar (just like the lead horse in a herd might do if they were directing another horse).  Once Hannah 'asks' with her head, she can then insist with her tail.  As a result, Sugar decides she should probably listen to her leader and get moving.  (This is a big deal for Sugar who usually has more Whoa than Go)

 

This process worked especially well for Hannah once she stood still and stopped moving her feet.  Notice how one of Sugar's ears is pointing at Hannah attentively while the other is focused forward.  Great work Hannah.  Way to be a great leader for your horse!

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