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Groundwork activities for horses & ponies.

Girl in blue eventing hoodie walking her horse

As you may have guessed from our previously blogs, we use a lot of groundwork with our ponies. I find it really valuable to to teach manners, basic skills and to educate with new and scary things.

After our recent poll on instagram, it seems that you would all love a few more ideas for groundwork too.

So here are 5 more great ways to use groundwork with your horse or pony.

  1. Use poles. This can be done in hand or ridden. Scatter poles randomly where you are riding, get their brains working, use them to weave and snake around. Get them going over the poles at different angles, slightly raised and in different gaits, this helps with their co-ordination and balance. Simple activities like this gets them using their bodies in different ways, using their brains and becoming more aware of their own bodies and spacial awareness.
  2. Teach them touch. Teaching your horse or pony the command of touch through positive re-enforcement is a great way to build their confidence and curiosity. This was an amazing tool we used with a pony we had previously who was very shy and spooky. It was a way to building up what she was capable of in a controlled way that she felt safe with.
  3. Long reining and lunging. So useful for teaching movement, fluidity of movement, how to hold themselves, move through gaits, encourage them to burn off steam, move forward without support on the ground and so much more. Make sure as with anything you gain advice from a professional if this is something you or your horse/pony hasn’t done before.
  4. Be less fearful. This can be done in hand or ridden but is best done in hand to start to give a reassurance. Add some ‘scary’ objects around the field or arena and start to show these to your horse or pony, allow them to explore at their own pace giving confidence to them and not forcing them to investigate. Start with less scary objects. You can even place these object at a safe distance from them in their field so they can go up to an explore and investigate in their own time when they feel safe to do so. Allowing exploration in a safe, controlled way at their speed ensures these items scare them less when you are out riding. I was so grateful mine were not scared on flappy England flags during the euros as every other house in our village seemed to have one.
  5. Standing. This is general manners but often over looked. Being able to stand for you to mount, stand while you open gates, have a chat, wait for traffic to pass. This is a vital skill, start with an easy stand, keep it short and lots of praise, starting non ridden or if ridden even having someone on the ground if needed.

Everything with our horses needs to be done slowly with baby steps, allowing them to achieve and build their confidence before moving onto the next step and also focusing on one thing at a time, remember they need time to process and make sense of things, the same as we do when learning something new.

I would love to hear your favourite groundwork activity.

Hayley x

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