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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

Groundwork is just as much of a skill as riding

People are often shocked at how difficult even the simple-looking groundwork stuff is when you first start to try it, especially when we are wanting to start to improve the horse’s posture and movement patterns but we can’t even seem to get the horse to walk in a straight line. I actually think, in some ways, groundwork is even more difficult than riding as the horse isn’t carrying you along with him, you have your whole body positioning in relation the horse to worry about as well as everything else.

I think many of us are introduced to lunging as standing in one spot and driving the horse with a lunge whip, pretty easy for anyone to pick up and not much nuance to it. Getting a horse to move around you and go forwards is one thing, developing the skills to be able to recognise and influence their rhythm, posture and straightness is something else entirely. 👀

I work both close to the horse and at a distance on a line, lots of straight lines and travelling more parallel to the horse so I can encourage them to stay straight rather than constantly bend around me. When you learn to work together like this it opens up so many different options and patterns to work with rather than just the same old circle over and over while your horse falls out of balance.

People are often surprised by how unaware of their body they have been when they start training like this. Finding it difficult not to move their feet, giving loud cues without even realising it and not being able to focus on controlling more than one body part at a time. Add an unsure/reactive horse to the mix and it can feel overwhelming. 🤯

It takes patience, discipline and a good eye from someone else to help you learn and become more aware of what your body is doing. Filming yourself is great for learning once you know what you’re looking for. 📹

Its going to be messy at first, learning is messy! But, the more in tune you become with each other the more subtle the communication can be. I communicate with my horses mainly through vocal cues and small hand cues at this point but it didn’t start there.

Learning to work a horse effectively from the ground is an absolute game-changer, you can completely transform your horse’s way of going and build up their strength and fitness so they’re more comfortable in their work. When you do this kind of work you become so much more aware of how your horse is moving it will improve your riding too. 🐎

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