Groundwork are warm-ups you do on the ground. They get your horse's attention and focus on you. If you can't control your horse from the ground, there is no way you will be able to on his back. I would always recommend groundwork to do before you get on your horse.
There are many different types of groundwork, here are some of the groundwork I do.
1.) Backing Game - or also known as yo-yo back.
Stand in front of your horse , with the tail of your rope in your hand. The tail should be touching the bottom of your wrist, and the rope above the tail should be held between your thumb and fingers.
Stand tall and square, with your hand in front of you. Look at the hind or front feet of the horse. Start by wiggling your finger and saying back. If he doesn't make a move back in 5 seconds of that, start wiggling your wrist softly. Continue saying back through this procedure - if you'd like, but it isn't necessary once the horse gets this down. Count to five, and if he hasn't made any movement, then wiggle your wrist harder. Count to five, then if you need to start moving your forearm back and forth softly. Then harder. Then if you need to - which I don't think you will and I would not do if there is hardware on his halter - sweep your whole arm side to side.
As soon as he adjusts his weight back, stop completely. Then start again from the finger and work your way up. After he takes a step, release. Then two steps, release. Then three steps, release, etc. Do not move your feet either. This is teaching the horse to get out of your space without you having to move. It can come in handy for lots of other things as well.
2.) The Circle game.
Back your horse up to where you would like him to be circling around you - lets just start with three or four feet away. And lets say you want him to go to your right.
Hold the leadrope tight - but not pulling or restricting - in your right hand, and the excess lead either on the ground or in your left hand. Sometimes it is easy to teach the horse this game with a carrot stick with a little rope on it.
Raise your right hand and asking him to go forward. If you need to, swing the rope in your left hand at his shoulder. Do this until he goes forward. He may go forward a bit, then stop and turn to you - this is what our new horse does. All you need to do is keep your right hand up and swing your left hand. If you need, stop what you are doing and walk to his shoulder. Then ask again. Just keep repeating this until he goes at least one full circle around you. When he does, point towards his hind and walk towards it - make a "sh sh sh" sound if that helps to disengage him. When he disengages to the right, his hind left should cross over in front of his hind right.
Don't let him circle around you more than four times, and no less than two times. If you circle him over and over and over in the same direction, he will start to get bored and sour and not listen again. If you do it too less, then he won't get his mind working as well and won't be focusing as well.
3.) This is a way to turn the horse around if you have no room to get on his other side and continue walking or something.
Stand at the horses shoulder/barrel area. Swing the rope - gently - around his face and on the other side of him. Bring the tail around his behind and gently pull until he turns around. Now, obviously you wouldn't want to do think if he kicks, but it can be a helpful tool.
4.) This moves his hind over, which can come in handy if he steps on you, if you need him to move for another horse, or if you need to get between him and a fence and also help learn to disengage.. And to start we will be on the right side of the horse.
Hold any excess lead in your left hand, and place it loosely on his shoulder - but don't press on it. Make your right hand into a soft fist, with your thumb pointing out on top of your first finger. gently rub his flank with the tip of your thumb, then gently place your thumb on his flank, touching just the hair. If he doesn't make a move sideways, then press into his skin. If he still doesn't make a move to the side, press into his muscle. Still no movement, press as hard as you can. Sometimes it is easier to use a hoofpick if you know you have to go to that stage. As soon as he makes any movement to the side, release and rub him where you were applying pressure.
Then start again, starting with the hair. Go until he makes a step, release. Two steps, release, etc.
5.) This one is just leading your horse. You don't want your horse to charge ahead or drag behind and you want to lead with as loose of a lead as you can.
Here is how to lead a horse who likes to get ahead or crowd your space:
Lead on his left side, with the lead in your right hand. place that hand on your hip so your elbow is sticking out - so if the horse wants to crowd you, he will bump into your elbow. Hold any excess lead in your left hand. If the horse gets farther ahead of you than you would like, then swing your left hand in front of the both of you. If the leadrope hits him, it isn't your fault - you are telling him that he is getting too far ahead and needs to slow down. Try keeping your elbow out at all times, so he doesn't crowd too much.
Here is how to lead a horse who likes to drag behind:
I am guess that if the horse drags behind he won't crowd you, but if he does then just keep your elbow up.
If the horse gets too far behind than you would like, take any excess lead and swing it all behind you so it hits him in the shoulder. Do not slow down or look at him as you do this, otherwise he will get very confused. Continue swinging the rope behind you and at him until he speeds up to where you would like him to be.
This helps with leading any horse, it gets his attention on you and focused and eventually you should be able to do this with a very loose lead.
Walk your normal pace with the horse. As you are walking, randomly slow down or speed up with your horse. Your horse should copy you - when ever you speed up or slow down, so should he. If he doesn't speed up, swing the rope behind you until he does. If he doesn't slow down, swing the rope in front of you until he does.
6.) Here is another way of backing up - it's not as efficient, but it works in case you need to use it.
Stand next to your horse, with his throttle in line with your shoulder. Swing the rope in front of him and starts slowly walking backwards. If he doens't go backwards, eventually the rope will hit him and that tells him to move away from the pressure - move backwards. Continue doing this for as long as you like.
7.) Here is another way to back your horse, hehe! :)
Stand in front and to the side of your horse. you should be facing the opposite direction of your horse and if you are standing on your right of him, then your left shoulder should be in line with the left side of his throttle. Reach your inside hand down and place it on the knot of his halter or where the halter and leadrope connect. Slowly but firmly wiggle it back. His head should go down a little bit and in a little bit. This helps him to back easier sometimes. To start just, move him so his weight adjusts back. Then one step back, release. Then two, etc.
Here is a link to a lot of helpful videos with a lot of things about horses. I will be trying to get some threads and videos up showing how to do different things - that way people may understand them better. HorseQuest Instructional Videos - eXtension