We have all heard about it, seen videos on the topic, and even practiced some groundwork exercises with our horses.
But we may also be missing a critical opportunity within our programs and that is “checking in” with our horses through groundwork. Here is an example: At Lucky Star Horsemanship, the program promotes utilizing every opportunity—from feed and groom times to leading from the pasture—to round pen work to saddle time, to “check in” with the horse and create situations where the horse “checks in” with the human.
If the human is leading the horse from the pasture, they use a Leading Exercise to get the horse thinking about the human and the safety zone around the human, which reduces crowding and improves confidence. It engages the mind and the body in the horse and creates an opportunity for the human to observe the horse’s mind and body at that moment so as to be able to make the right training/conditioning choices for the day.
When in the round pen working through groundwork exercises, the human can better evaluate the “mood” of the horse, see indications of soreness, nervousness or a lack of focus that can be addressed safely and in a timely manner. By doing so, the horse feels more secure in the leadership provided by the human. Through observation and “listening” to the subtle cues the horse provides in these moments, the human can address concerns and adapt the goals for the day as they consider the horse’s needs.
By practicing a “checking in” approach to groundwork, the human can improve their awareness of their equine partner, improve the subtly of their aids/cues, and be able to more quickly offer the release needed to achieve a soft feel and supple mind.
So the next time you work with your horse, take the opportunity to check in, listen up and adapt your goals for the session as you focus on improving your awareness and the “give and take” within the structure of the partnership you share. Investing in this type of approach mentally and emotionally with pay off in huge dividends in the days and week ahead!
Thanks for reading!
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