The groundwork focused on leadership, trust and safety, consists of a number of exercises that are taught in a logical order (for the horse).
The goal is to build a basic communication between you and your horse.
The video below gives an impression of the fine cooperation that can arise and the endless possibilities …
The video below shows how I built up basic communication with Beau (training horse) in 1.5 weeks of training
Step-by-step plan for basic groundwork exercises
Next to the horse, at first you start building trust by letting the horse get used to our touch all over his body. First with your hands and later with other things such as a halter, a rope, but also with the touch of a whip or stick, cavesson, bridle, saddle but also sail, plastic, umbrella etc.
As soon as the horse accepts our touch (also with all kinds of materials), you can also learn that it learns how to respond well to pressure. This is also referred to as giving way to pressure. In the entire handling of the horse it is necessary that the horse responds appropriately to pressure. Consider, for example, being tied, being lead, “handling” while brushing, responding to leg pressure and reins while riding, etc. Almost every interaction we have with the horse is related to respond well to pressure and not to push against it.
There are two forms of responding to pressure: giving way to equal physical pressure by means of a direct contact, for example, via our hands that moving the horse to the other side when brushing, or through rhythmic no physical pressure, for example by using a stick or whip tapping the ground in front of the horse so that the horse stops or even moves backwards.
It is then important to balance going forward and backward. Many horses move forward easily, but less easily backward. When you restore the balance between forward and backward, the horse is easier to control even in stressful situations, it learns to respond to light signals and it also becomes more straight in its movements.
If the horse can perform previous steps with confidence you can teach the horse to walk on a circle. This is important for lunging the horse later, but initially walking on the circle helps to make the horse understand that it is his job to keep walking (in the same gait), to keep going in the same direction and at the same time to pay attention to where it goes and where you are. It creates responsibility for the horse. At a later stage you can add gymnastics by lunging the horse and make it a full body workout!
The following exercise focuses on going sideways. This teaches the horse to straighten itself and easily yield laterally with respect and flexibility. This improves the balance and can also be used at a later stage for the further gymnastics of the horse.
The final exercise focuses on good handling of the natural claustrophobia of the horse. Horses are prey instinctively afraid of many things (water, bridges, stable doors, trailers, gates) because they are narrow or narrow spaces and because there they might be caught by predators. If mother nature had not built this into horses, then horses would already be gone. So fleeing is often the best resort for horses, but when we drive the horse into a narrow space, the horse loses its best defense mechanism and feels threatened. The only thing the horse can do to save itself is to fight by fearfully kicking around, biting, prancing, etc. Understanding the horse’s fear and channeling it, ensures that the horse can handle it confidently with all kinds of objects and narrow spaces.