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Confidence Issues on the Ground: Part 3
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Confidence Issues on the Ground: Part 3

Hopefully the last two parts were helpful! Now I am going to give you some more tips and breakdowns for groundwork exercises you can work on with your horse.

A topic previously discussed was energy, it was a major topic to keep in mind, so here is your reminder - I tell people to build up their energy when asking for groundwork maneuvers by using the racing example. If I put a million dollars cash in the middle of the arena and told you all to race towards it, the energy built up during "on your mark, get set, go" would be what you need when doing groundwork and asking for the horse to yield.

Please remember to ALWAYS seek professional advice when having training issues on the ground or under saddle!

Equipment

My preference is a simple rope halter with four knots rather than two, as well as no snap and a 10-foot line, some prefer a 12-foot, either works.

Yielding the Hindquarters

When yielding the hindquarters my basic directions are as follows:

Step back to where your girth would hit, then step away from your horse. The larger your horse the larger your step needs to be and focus in on their hip closest to you while using your energy as if you were going to ‘bite’ it. From here your horse should yield their inside leg and have it cross over the far leg, if not then twirl your lead rope towards the hip, if that does not work then a pop - not a nag - should be applied. If you give one good pop, it is better than a thousand nags! If your horse has yet to respond then use rhythm with those pops and get them to yield their hind end bringing their head back towards you. Hopefully they are respecting your ‘bubble’ at this point, if not then address backing next!

If your horse is threatening to kick or has ever then use your inside hand - hand towards your horse not twirling the rope - and lift it upwards. Doing so will help them with the pivoting action on their forehand. This will also keep them from having the ability to lunge towards you, and stepping away from your horse out of biting and kicking range is always a smart decision.

Backing

There are plenty of different ways to back a horse from using the halter close up to waving a stick at your horse and making them move. My preference and basic directions are:

Keep a safe distance away from your horse! Imagine yourself having a bubble or electric fencing in a circle around yourself, another way to envision the size is have a dressage whip and do not be able to touch your horse’s chest at the very least, if not their face. From here focus your energy on their chest and only look at that, not their face or their feet. If they do not at the very least flinch their chest when you ask them for backing then you need to up things. I coach people to wiggle their lead rope back and forth while verbally asking their horse to back, if this is not getting your horse to back then use your dominant hand to twirl underhanded and pop them in their chest. If this does not work pop your horse repeatedly until they step back. At this point you increase your energy and pressure, you want really large or quick steps (if you can both) for respect. Remember to release for a good step, then steps, increase your goals! Keep in mind you really need to change your energy as well so they understand the difference in backing and just approaching your horse. 

If your horse is threatening to strike, rear or bite or has ever then please seek help. Groundwork is NOT a game to horses, the horse that moves their feet in the field is their leader so if you can move their feet they will view you as leader. It is less frustrating and more productive to seek professional assistance for both you and your horse if you are having issues. I would suggest videoing yourself and ask for help if you have sought training or lessons on how to improve your technique!

Lunging

There are plenty of different ways to lunge a horse from using a stick and string with you, to having a lunge line, to just using your 10 or 12 foot lead rope. My preference and basic directions are the following:

Start lunging your horse by facing your horse – keep in mind you need to have a bubble around yourself. Now choose the direction you want to send your horse then lift the hand holding the lead rope or line closest to your halter and point. Use your opposite hand to drive the shoulder away from you that will be the inside shoulder, meaning the shoulder facing you while he or she is lunging around you. When I say to drive the shoulder away from yourself I coach people to take their rope, twirl it overhand and if your horse is not moving to pop in rhythm until they step in the direction you want them to go. Eventually your goal should be to have your horse moving off when you ask, as well as maintaining whatever pace you put them in all while staying soft, supple and under control with no attitude.  To stop your horse you can yield their hindquarters, just asserting yet again that you move their feet!

If you do not understand these basic concepts or have tried them with issues or failed then please seek professional advice, save up and invest in your horse! A trainer who is worth it can and will help you. Good luck to you all and remember to stay safe, but to also have fun and enjoy your horses!

Previous Tips:

1. If you are still having issues then save up and get help from a professional. Ask to video your lesson or training session so you have something to go back to refer to. This will help you if you then follow up and video yourself to see the discrepancies.

2. Consistency is key with training your equine partner. Try to have some consecutive days to work with your horse or horses and remember to keep it simple. Horses view things as black and white; they need you to give them their boundaries, clear directions and releases so they see you as leader.

3. Revisit what your horse does well and then go to something more challenging. This will help both you and your horse build in confidence and trust together. If you keep practicing and thinking of it as re-building a foundation you will make leaps and bounds.

4. Stay safe!

5. Remember you are already ahead of the game because you are trying.

6. Horses learn from the release of pressure, so look for the release. Even if you can only reward them for a small try, then do it.

7. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Take your time with it. Horses are better off if you are smoother and methodical with your movements, so go slower, be smoother and your horse will often be less reactive and more respectful.

8. Sometimes you have to let the horse make a mistake in order to teach them what is correct.

9. Remember to have some fun with it. If you and your horse are bored, try learning a new technique or working on "free time" where you remove your halter and allow your horse to work with you without anything encumbering them, this gives them the option to truly be with you or leave you. It will tell you a lot of where your relationship stands with your horse. This can really build on your foundation. You can also gain confidence for yourself and with your horse using obstacles on the ground. Being with them rather than "pushing" them via riding.

10. Breathe! Remember to breathe! A lot of people forget to do this simple thing and it just gets you in more trouble. If you are so tense that you keep forgetting then try singing. If nothing else, bring someone with you enjoy talking to while you are with your horse and ask him or her to distract you.

11. Let go of the past. Horses are living in the moment; take a lesson from them and try the same. No matter what your past experiences were with a particular horse that is making you nervous, or with any horse, do your best to let it go.

12. Release your tension. For me, I imagine blowing out bees - they make me tense. I envision blowing them out and away from me so I can relax as best I can. Try envisioning the release of something that causes you tension and just feel it lift or fall away.

13. Have fun! Yes, that's right, I said it, have fun! Whatever you are doing, whether it be grooming your horse and getting all of those loose winter hairs off or racing a friend through an open field, live a little and have some fun. We are blessed enough to be here now and should really enjoy it

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  1. BiologyBrain
    BiologyBrain
    Good tips! I voted. Could you read and vote for my latest post? Thanks!
    Log in to reply.

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