Before you go riding, spend time on your groundwork. Your rides will be safer and much more fun (for you and your horse).
NEVER go out for a ride if you are worried your horse might not do what you ask. You need to be sure you and your horse have an excellent connection before heading to places where you will likely meet new things and situations.
Groundwork is a perfect way to build this type of connection.
Groundwork DOESN’T have to be boring!
Here are 15 ideas to make your Groundwork interesting and enjoyable for you and your horse.
All these activities will strengthen the communication and bond between you and your horse.
1. Desensitization with different materials
Introducing your horse to a variety of textures and sounds (like plastic bags, tarps, or flags) helps in building their confidence and reducing spookiness.
2. Confidently walk around an obstacle course
This boosts your horse’s confidence in navigating through different terrains and challenges.
3. Line up at a mounting block
Instills patience and makes it easier to get on your horse.
4. Bend around a series of cones at liberty
Enhances flexibility and balance. It also promotes freedom of movement and trust without the constraints of a lead.
5. Backing up through a corridor of poles
Encourages your horse to move backwards with care and precision, improving its coordination, balance, and trust in your guidance.
6. Stand and wait without being tied up
Teaches patience, discipline, and self-control. It’s also a testament to the trust and connection between horse and handler.
7. Follow your movements/dance with you
Strengthens the bond and connection by making your horse more attuned to your body language and movements.
8. Put hoof upon a hoof stand
Promotes patience, and calmness, especially during activities that might be associated with potential discomfort (plus your farrier will love this one!)
9. Be brave when walking through water
Enhances your horse’s bravery and confidence in dealing with unfamiliar sensations.
10. Side pass
Improves lateral movement, flexibility, and responsiveness to cues.
11. Stretching exercises
Increases flexibility and reduces the risk of injuries.
12. Lunging at liberty
Enhances communication, trust, and your horse’s ability to follow directions without the constraints of a line.
13. Target training
Teaching your horse to touch or follow a target can enhance focus, trust, and engagement in the learning process.
14. Bubble play
Blow bubbles around your horse to introduce them to moving, floating, and popping objects. This playful activity helps desensitize them to unexpected movements and sounds, making them braver in unfamiliar situations.
15. Hide and treat
Hide treats in objects like cones or under small hurdles. Encourage your horse to find them using their sense of smell. This activity not only sharpens their senses but also promotes curiosity and engagement.
There is nothing wrong with staying home and spending time doing simple, fun groundwork exercises with your horse. These will do wonders for your relationship, and your rides will be safer and a lot more enjoyable!