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A solid foundation of groundwork is crucial in order to have a joined at the hip horse-human relationship. The huge percentage of horse problems brought to me in my problem solving work are incredibly lacking in groundwork. Most have none.
After so many years in horses I can look at a horse human pair and tell whether or not the two have a solid groundwork foundation.
If I ask about groundwork the human usually glosses over it by saying, "I have no trouble with him on the ground, it's when I'm on his back that I have problems." To the vast majority of horse folk groundwork consists of leading, tying, grooming and the like.
Most horse folk confuse handling with groundwork.
But groundwork is so much more than handling.
Groundwork is being able to direct the horse to do from the ground what you expect to do from its back. Groundwork is actually teaching the horse, from a position of greater control and safety, the ground, to do what you are going to ask the horse to do once you are on the horse or when you are sitting in the cart or carriage actually driving it.
Groundwork strengthens the horse/human relationship by giving a psychological benefit to horse and rider because the trainer/rider's mental, physical presence and strength is solidly presented to the horse. This opens up a strong mental bond and increases confidence and trust.
Groundwork strengthens the horse/human relationship by gradually introducing young horses to being trained to work and accept human direction to accomplish a task. It teaches the recently started horse to accept the trainer, his thought processes (providing they are constructive thought processes) and to learn how to comply with the trainer's wishes.
Groundwork strengthens the horse/human relationship by helping the horse become physically fit. Groundwork develops the muscles that are used by the horse to carry the rider or do whatever work that may be asked of the horse.
Groundwork provides an exercise tool when some condition prevents the horse from being normally worked when the trainer or rider may not be able ride or the horse has some injury or problem that does not allow it to work under saddle or harness.
Groundwork is an ideal way to judge the horse's compliance, behavior, mood and movement before riding. This is especially important with strange horses of unknown or doubtful histories. Groundwork serves as a pre-flight to assess the horse's controls. I'm stunned by the percentage of people who will get on a horse accepting the word of often complete strangers about the horse's training and suitability. Many of the people who contact me for help after an unfortunate incident did exactly that.
Groundwork simplifies the re-training of spoiled and or sour horses by providing more assertive and anchored directions to the horse.
Groundwork allows the handler/rider to observe the horse at work while on the ground. This gives a view of the horse's expression, balance, form and gaits not seen from the saddle.
Groundwork also serves as a tool to introduce the horse to new areas such as another stable or show grounds. It calms the horse by asking it to perform known tasks while allowing it to become acquainted with its new surroundings as it relaxes and calms.
Groundwork is incredibly helpful in restoring the rider's nerve after an unfortunate setback or while fitting to a new horse. This allows the speed of the progress to be more easily controlled by the trainer or instructor.
And finally, the most important benefit of groundwork is the ability to improve the rider's confidence, balance, form and flexibility and improve the rider's understanding and use of thought, weight, leg, rein and voice aids and to sharpen mental and physical feel. Riders often find time on the lunge to be demeaning, a horse person cherishes the time to polish saddle skills, balance and form.
There is a world of difference between being a rider and being a horse person. Riders operate in a very narrow tightly restricted area that leaves little room for flexibility and adjustment. Riders focus on being passengers, horse people develop a wide range of ingredients they can use at will in their riding recipe and groundwork is an essential part.
This video covers the bare basics of getting your horse to go around in a circle and teaching it to respond to simple directions - walk, trot, canter and whoa - in a calm easy manner from the ground . This video is the foundation for longeing, or lunging, lungeing or long reining or long lining, whatever you choose to call it.
My videos are not glossy professional productions. They are shot on location where they happen under a variety of conditions by every day folks with varying degrees of videoing skills. They are not intended to be pretty, merely dispense some powerful information. In fact I call them "Wartznall Productions."
They are what I call "tractor" quality, nothing fancy but they turn over some ground. If you want glitz and gloss, go to your local video rental chain or buy someone else's rehearsed, edited and polished productions at up to ten times the cost.
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