what exactly does ground work mean

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what exactly does ground work mean

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    07-05-2012, 10:38 PM
Post what exactly does ground work mean

Everyone here does some form of groundwork.ive seen countless threads mention it.but what exactly do you do with your horse?i know ground work to be getting the horse to walk with you correctly when you stop they should stop getting them to yield their hindquarters but surely theres more to it.What do you do as ground work with your horse?
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    07-06-2012, 12:34 AM
Super Moderator
Groundwork is simply any schooling exercises that you put a horse through while you are on the ground instead of mounted. You can make it as simple and basic as just to include basic manners or as complicated as to do complete trail classes completed with a horse 'in hand'. It can include jumping entire courses while on a longe line and negotiating complicated obstacles, but it should always include such simple basic things as standing quietly for a bath, standing quietly for a farrier or Vet, loading in a trailer, etc.

As a general rule (but not always), professional trainers do a lot less groundwork than backyard owners that have one or two horses. The better a person rides and trains horses, the less they depend on groundwork to get a horse's respect. Their horses just HAVE respect for them in everything and every situation.
    07-06-2012, 11:37 AM
^..? what lol I think clinton does a LOT of ground work ,so does Stacy Westfall. I see a lot of reg owners,that hardly do any ground.
    07-06-2012, 12:04 PM
Green Broke
I, personally, will not get on or even toss a saddle up until I can getthe horse to do whatever I ask of it onthe ground the first time. I know I'm going to have a lot less issues mounted if I have complete respect on the ground. While I'd much rather be riding, I can generally do whatever I want with a horse on the ground before I give myself the reward of riding.

The groundwork I do generally consists of: walk/trot in-hand, 360* pivots, yielding of fore and hindquarters, backing without yanking on the lead or shoving the horse, picking up all 4 feet without complaint, desensitisation, and (after we've created the utmost respect and leadership, usually after some riding) leading off lead. I don't generally lunge, because a lot of horses I've worked with just don't know how, and I've always gotten satisfactory results without it. Eventually I'll train my personal horses to lunge, but I'm not too worried about training too much extra with lease horses. If I want to show them in something (such as games), I'll gladly train them in that, but most horses I've ridden are generally far enough along in their training that they're balanced and have decent transitions.
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    07-06-2012, 12:13 PM
Green Broke
I use groundwork to start all my young horses but my older horses don't get as much. Once in a while to get their focus back on me or work on a specific issue that has come up, but for the most part my older ones are jump on and go.

My ground work includes: Yielding forequarters and hinds which eventually leads into things like a sidepass on the ground, backing up, standing patiently, lunging, "sending", go through and over obstacles, leading properly (no hanging back or trying to charge forward or invade space), ground driving, pulling things behind them, desensitizing to scary objects, and even walking the woods and down the road in-hand for the young ones to get them used to different things. I'm sure I'm missing things here, but this should give you an idea.

As to who does more ground work - professional vs. backyard owner - I really don't think anyone can make a general comment on that. It really depends on the theory of training/horsemanship that the person subscribes to. I believe (and I may even be wrong on this) that it is safer to say a trainer who is a NH trainer is going to do a whole lot more ground work than say a classical dressage trainer - just for an example.

One thing to keep in mind with trainers though - they don't magically have their horse's respect. It may seem like it to the casual observer, but they have to earn it just like everyone else. But they have enough experience communicating with a horse and knowing what the horse needs that they can do it faster than the average horse owner. Think of it like two people going to a different country that speaks a different language. One is fluent (the trainer) and the other has taken several classes and has a good understanding but is not yet fluent (backyard owner). Both will be able to communicate on their trip, but who will be able to do it faster and more effectively? The fluent one of course. Same concept - only we are dealing with horse body language. But that is why they are professionals and why we pay them, is it not?
    07-06-2012, 12:19 PM
Definition: Groundwork; Preliminary or Basic Work
That's what it is. Just work on the ground. There are countless things you can do on the ground. Lunging, yielding hindquarters, yielding forequarters, sidepassing, etc.
In order to do anything impressive undersaddle, you have to be able to do it on the ground proficiently.
    07-06-2012, 07:11 PM
Super Moderator
In order to do anything impressive under saddle, you have to be able to do it on the ground proficiently.
This absolutely is not true. Most trainers that show competitive horses in about any event will do most of their training while mounted. We do this because we can. Our horses are respectful because we don't take crap and are 100% consistent. We do not need to teach very much on the ground because we ride well enough to get the point across quickly to the horse. If I teach a horse to properly yield to leg pressure and rein pressure, he will side-pass, disengage hind quarters and move his shoulder over the very first time I ask. He will do this with less than a week of riding. We do not need to do it on the ground because our timing and feel and proficiency at using 'pressure and release' are good enough that we do not need to. It is kind of like round pens -- round pens are for people -- not necessary for training horses.

We have seen this big craze in doing ground work because we now have dozens of the clinicians that have found it more lucrative to train people than to train horses. They are trying to work with people that are somewhere between novices to inept and completely incompetent beginners with little or no experience and little or no natural aptitude or ability. They have found a way to keep them safer -- they just keep them on the ground until, hopefully, they learn a little more about the nature and responses to expect from a horse and can, hopefully, get a little respect out of 'Poopsie' before she kills them. Some of these beginners never get on their horses and you find the PP disciples that never get past the ground games or the CA disciples that never get past the constant flexing. All of this is to keep the neophytes safer and keep them from ruining as many horses. Meanwhile, trainers that can actually ride well AND teach and train horses, are riding their horses and are light years beyond needing a lot of ground games and exercises and round pens.

Personally, I want a horse to move lightly and quietly every single time my body language and/or a soft smooch asks him to. It takes me about an hour to get what I want from a green horse that is partially gentle when I start him. Then, I teach them to longe (without a round pen) and I ground drive every horse I start. I am really 'picky' how they are longed and driven.

After that, I am able to teach everything I want them to know from their backs. They are all respectful and they all step over or back without ever tightening the lead-rope. They all side-pass and they open and close gates with one week or less of riding. They cross creeks and ride out in rough ground (by themselves) with less that 1 week of riding. I cannot think of anything that more ground work would improve.
    07-06-2012, 08:09 PM
Every horse needs basic ground work to make them safe to handle, but in hand work can be raised to an art form. There are many haute ecole maneuvers that are best taught in hand. I have seen a few talented trainers who focus almost exclusively on ground work, not because they are not skilled as riders, but because they love working their horses in hand.

As for Cherie's assertions that good trainers do not "need" to do as much ground work, I agree, but some trainers do it for the love of in hand training. If there were no value to ground work the Spanish Riding School of Vienna would not have 2-3 months of ground work mandatory for every horse before any riding is done with that horse, and they do insist on perfecting maneuvers in hand before doing them ridden, not only to teach the aides but also to help the horse to have the muscular fitness to perform with a rider.
    07-06-2012, 08:16 PM
Everything I teach my horse under saddle, I teach on the ground first. This is my basic rule - I find it makes the transition from being in the saddle alot easier for horses when they really already know what I'm asking them, they just have to get used to me being "up there" instead of on the ground. All horses learn differently and all training methods need to be adjusted per horse.

A few things I teach on the ground:
Lunging, turn on the forehand, sidepass, spins, collection, flexion, moving off body language (ex, if I walk into them, they walk back), ground tying (this obviously needs to be from the ground anyways), and the biggest one - Whoa.

How much time I spend per horse doing each thing really depends on the horse. Sometimes I spend a few days, sometimes I spend a week - my schedule flexes per horse.
Skyseternalangel and DoubleS like this.
    07-06-2012, 08:16 PM
I practice "sending" my horse with and without a leadrope/halter. It's kind of the babysteps up to free lunging. It just kind of solidifies your working relationship and increases trust.

Ground driving with driving lines is another groundwork exercise that comes in handy. Allows the horse to receive the aids without the hassle of having to balance a rider.

Anything you do on the ground will help a horse to understand it better in saddle. But that's not the end of it.. you have to do it under saddle too because while it's great they can do it without a rider, adding a rider in the mix will change how well your horse can do it (until you keep on practicing it every so often.)

Does that make more sense?

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