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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.

Groundwork with Horses

Time spent on the ground with our horses has enormous benefits. It enhances our relationship with our horse, helping us understand and trust each other more. It prepares your horse for riding. We can teach skills horses require from the ground, so when we ask for the same thing from their back, they understand and are confident in their responses. Groundwork can be used to exercise and athleticize horses, by asking them to use their bodies in a variety of ways. This develops the horse’s proprioception and self-awareness, helping them to be sure footed under saddle. There are many types of groundwork such as yields, circles, walking, liberty, stretches and even meditation. I’ll briefly touch on each of these and explore the benefits. Yields – are fantastic to create suppleness through your horse’s body. They help the horse learn to respond to the lightest pressure and follow subtle cues. They also help the human to develop 'feel' so they can be subtle with their rein aids. While still on the ground and with nothing else to focus on it's a great way to practice these aids. The horse learns to move each part of their body separately in all directions, a great skill for them to have under saddle. Yields can also be used to accustom a horse to a new piece of equipment, such as a bitless bridle. Circles – are fantastic for creating connection. Done correctly there is an enormous amount of body language conversation between horse and handler. The subtleties of communication create a deep bond and allow for a deeper understanding of each other. Circles are also used for exercise and to develop steady gaits. Care must be taken not to do mindless circles; the communication needs to be always present. And circles can be used to create Join-Up, a meeting of human and horse in harmony. Walking –Many people will take a dog walking, but don’t think of doing this with their horse. Horses love it as much as the dogs. It becomes a fun time that you share with your horse. It prepares your horse for where you will be riding them, removing newness and potential fear. When you take your horse for a walk you have eye contact with them as you're at the same height, it’s very different to riding. When walking, if something scares your horse, they will look to you for support and safety. This deepens their view of you as someone they can trust and who they will be safe with. Liberty – is a fantastic way to develop relationship and connection with your horse. Without any ropes the communication through body language reaches a whole new level. The horse has a chance to express who they are and how they really feel. To be with your horse without gear increases trust, communication, and connection. Stretches & Massage – have huge benefits. The horse learns to relax, to give various parts of their body and trust you. Touching and moving your horses body using your hands creates an intimate closeness. Stretching legs requires the horse to let go and soften. A supple, trusting horse is a happy horse and these develop that suppleness. They also help you identify changes in your horses’ body, so you are more aware of potential injuries or problems. Meditation – Horses live in the present moment more than us. If we meditate when we are with our horses, they absolutely love it. If I sit in the garden and meditate, I’ll usually have a cat or dog come and sit on me, they feel the energy of being present. Meditating in the paddock with your horses can create a magical connection. They will sometimes go to sleep or lay kisses on your cheek. Even short moments of doing this will deepen your relationship with your horse. With so many wonderful ways to interact with your horse from the ground, it’s surprising how it’s only in recent years that it has become popular. When I was a child growing up, I never did any of it, I just rode, that was how things were then. The new way of being with horses is better for both human and horse, it’s great to see the evolution of the relationship between these two species. Enjoy your groundwork, Happy Horsing, Suzy.

Suzy Maloney BEqSc

Lismore, NSW, Australia

Ph: 0401 249 263

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