Groundwork Activities - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 12-12-2012, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Texas
Posts: 497
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Groundwork Activities

My new lease mare is a pretty, sweet thing.

However, she needs some work on her ground manners. When I first got her she would rush forward as I led her, would not back up, would crowd me, and would not stand still. All of these issues remain, however in just the week and a half I've had her, she is making CLEAR improvement with daily groundwork. All I have to do now to get her to back up is simply say, "back".

It's so nice to see this progress, because in the saddle she backs on command with such ease and willingness when just a week ago she refused to back. When picking her feet I simply say, "foot" and she picks it up without fuss when just a week ago should would dance around. I believe she is very smart and just needs a tune up and reminder!

As long as I keep her attention on me and keep her engaged in some activity, she seems to do fine. Especially in the round pen- outside of it her attention seems to drift more easily. When her attention drifts, she wants to dance around and pull me to the nearest patch of what little grass we have here in West Texas. So keeping her attention is key, as I'm starting to learn more and more.

I've been using Clint Anderson's methods as a general guideline (I'd get more into it, however I'm afraid I'm not willing to spend $500 on a set of DVDs...) and am constantly going to my instructor for advice. I've been working on leading lightly, backing up, keeping out of my personal bubble, patience, being away from other horses, and tying without fussing. All of these things I will continue to work on daily as she still has quite a bit of way to go.

But what are some other activities and fun things (for the both of us) that I can do to keep her attention and those wheels in her head turning while we are in the process of getting to know and trust each other?
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post #2 of 8 Old 12-12-2012, 08:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Nine Mile Falls, Washington
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For backing, my instructor always taught us the "yo-yo game". Its where you wiggle the lead rope, and tell the horse to back. You have to posture yourself straight and confidently while you do it. It will take some time and practice, especially if they haven't learned it before.

For each step back, reward and stop wiggling the rope. Each step forward without you asking, requires the same wiggling to make them back up.

Start with small, light wiggling, and progress until the horse backs up. : )

I personally have the horse wait a minute or two before asking them to come back, so as to discourage them going forward before I say.

Another fun game, once you get the backing down, is to do the "hide the hiney game". If you get someone to do it with you, you could make it a race. How you achieve this, is to disengage the hind quarters one way, while making them back up. It takes a bit of coordination but you get the hang of it soon. After going one way, I like to stop, breathe, and relax and wait before going again the other way. Again, stops the horse from moving too soon.

Have you tried doing side passing on the ground in an "L" pattern? It helps to have poles down for visual reference, too. Jogging on the ground and stopping, jogging over poles, weaving on the ground are all that I do with my lesson horses during practice.

Good luck, and have fun!
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post #3 of 8 Old 12-12-2012, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Texas
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Thanks Deschutes!

I've not tried anything with poles actually, certainly going to add that in! I think trotting over poles would be great for her. Maybe some low (very low) jumps when she's a little more fit. We've done a little trotting in hand when I jogged and click to her, and then stopping. She did it quite well actually!

Tonight we worked on "lunging etiquette". Trotting with voice command until I give the signal to stop, a little cantering, turning inside to face me when I give the signal to change directions (instead of turning with her butt towards me), and sending her left and right with a hand signal- she's getting it nicely so our session was only 45 minutes.

The goof is getting too good at backing though! I say "back" and she quickly backs up... except she didn't stop until I had to go to her and nudge her halter a bit!

As I've noticed a few days ago, the poor girl was a little nervous and sensitive during tacking. I guess someone cinched her up too fast and too tightly in the past so she anticipated discomfort and tried to nip me! I wasn't too upset about it, trying to see it from her point of view. I just pushed her nose away.

So today, though I did not ride, I tacked her up gently and slowly with tons and tons of praise when she didn't show any sign of being bothered by me doing her girth. I had no issue, once she realized I wasn't just going to throw the saddle on and rig it fast and tight.

Hopefully all continues to go well. I noticed when I have patience and stay calm, and accentuate the GOOD things this horse does by tons of "good girls" and rubs, everything goes smoothly.
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post #4 of 8 Old 12-12-2012, 10:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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You have to opens, one is free, the other is very low cost. Google Meredith Manor then open Articles. There are two sets, one in the saddle and groundwork. Read carefully each one and follow as Ron has written and you will make terrific progress with your horse. The low cost is the book on Horse Agility. If you google it on you tube you will find out what it's about. The book also has recommendations on how to handle your horse, use of halter and which lead. It's about $25. The obstacles in horse agility help you fine tune the groundwork.
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post #5 of 8 Old 12-12-2012, 10:37 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Nine Mile Falls, Washington
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Good, I'm glad! Have you tried a verbal cue to get her to stop backing?

If she's still nervous, maybe repeating the cinching process till relaxed will stop that.
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post #6 of 8 Old 12-13-2012, 07:26 AM
Join Date: Oct 2012
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I also suggest the yo- yo game for backing up, but would like to go into a little bit more detail. As I have been taught, there are four stages in the reversing part of the yo-yo game.
The first is the finger- Stand straight, body language is very important in the game. Point your finger right between your hoses eyes and wriggle your finger, careful not to move the lead rope. Count to four. If your horse has still not backed up you move onto stage two;
The wrist- Don't change the position of your arm or posture in any way, but start moving your wrist as well as your finger. This will create a pressure that your horse will want to move away from. As soon as they lift their feet, STOP MOVING THE LEAD ROPE! It is important that the pressure has been released by the time your horse has moved back the desired length. If your horse is still not moving backwards, progress onto stage three;
The elbow- Start moving your elbow from side to side, this intensifys the pressure. Once again, as soon as your horse lifts it's feet to move backwards, release the pressure. You want the pressure to be gone as soon as they have done what you have asked of them. You always need to be two step ahead of your horse, because they will always be one step ahead of you!
If this pressure is inadequate move onto step four;
The WHOLE arm- Move the lead rope from side to side with all your might! Continue this until your horse moves backwards, and trust me, this stage, given the correct body language, WILL move your horse backwards.

The next part of the yo-yo game is to bring the horse in to you. It is simple, you lean down low, and call you to your horse. Smile at her, talk baby talk, whatever! At the same time as doing this, reel her in using the lead rope.
However, put no pressure on the lead rope. You are merely running your hands along it. When your horse comes to you, give lots of praise and pats. With practise this is a good way for you to catch your horse in a paddock. After some work you should be able to just do the actions as you would when the horse has a lead rope attached, and she will walk right over to you!

I personally love this game, it helps your horse to learn respect of your personal space, and to always be listening you your body language. When I first started NH, my horse did not have any respect, on the ground, and you couldn't ride her without her bucking and rearing. After about a month of hard work from my tainer, my horse, and myself, my horse now has perfect ground manners and I have even ridden her without her bucking, rearing or bolting.
Even in such a short amount of time this game can help to bring out the best in your horse.
This is only one of 7 games and if this is helpful or if you find it interesting, I suggest you look the rest of them up.
I hope I have been of some help :)
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post #7 of 8 Old 12-13-2012, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2012
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Oh and I think I forgot to mention; hold the first three stages for four seconds each, and the fourth stage for however long it takes for your horsse to back up.
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post #8 of 8 Old 12-13-2012, 08:22 AM
Join Date: Oct 2012
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I did ground work with my guy for a year before I could ride him. We did the following:

1. I would set up barrels and we would first weave through them together, then I worked on sending him thru them by himself by driving first his front then his back. Can do figure 8's, whatever with this game.
2. We did a lot of work with the squeeze game. I made many obstacles that he would have to squeeze through. Put items close together and have your horse walk through by driving them. I changed the items all the time to keep him guessing!
3. I would set up cavalletti's in weird designs that he would have to walk through and then back through.
4. I would set up hay bales, barrels, whatever for things for him to walk over.
5. I would put tarps, boards, trash bags, anything that I could find on the ground for him to walk over. I then set them up so he had to walk under.
6. Play with a ball, so much fun!
7. Water obstacles are fun too. I made large puddles for us to play in.

We did all these things on line at first, and then in the ring without a line.
All these things will work on ground manners, relationship and confidence for both you and your horse. Have fun!
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