10 tips for adding variety in groundwork

  1. Attention exercises – When you start with groundwork, it is important that the horse pays enough attention to you and is responsive when you ask something. To achieve this you can start with the so-called ‘attention exercise’. The goal we want to achieve here is a horse that walks beside you and follows you respectfully and calmly, stops and goes backwards when you ask. This is the basis you need to master before continuing with the other groundwork exercises. 
  2. Tempo changes – If leading your horse is going well, it can be a nice change to switch gears or gaits while leading your horse. You could think about transitions from walk to trot. A tempo change refers to a change of pace within a certain gait, so for example from an extended walk to a collected walk.
  3. Walking over poles – Ground poles make an excellent addition to your groundwork exercises, they make your horse more aware of where he puts his feet. They can also help in suppling your horse. 
  4. Mikado – If working over ground poles is going well, you can also choose to lay down the poles randomly at different heights, distances and angles. This way your horse learns to look carefully where he puts his feet and to pay attention to how high he has to lift his legs.
  5. L-shape – When you and your horse have mastered the attention exercise, you can start with more extensive groundwork exercises such as steering your horse between poles. For example, you can create an L-shape with four poles and walk your horse through it. This can be done either forwards or backwards. Make sure you always train both sides evenly. 
  6. Other shapes – Is the L-shape going well? You can expand and vary the exercise by making endless different shapes. Let your creativity run wild. This is not only a great way to gymnasticise your horse, you yourself can also learn a lot about how you can steer your horse. This can work to your advantage if, for example, you want to back your horse off the trailer. 
  7. Slalom – The slalom is a series of objects that you zigzag between, for example cones. With this exercise you strengthen your working relationship with your horse, and you also work on your horse’s lateral bending through the turns left and right around the obstacles. If you have mastered the slalom forwards, you can also try it backwards! 
  8. Ball – Working with a ball can be a first step in preparing your horse for, for example, horse football. In addition, it is also good training to teach the horse to get used to things moving towards him. You can vary endlessly with the ball exercise! 
  9. Turn on the forehand or haunches – Turning the forehand or hindquarters is an exercise that you can use to teach your horse to yield to pressure and to gymnasticise your horse at the same time. Doing this exercise refines your communication with your horse. 
  10. Sidepass Lateral work is not an easy exercise for your horse, but it is a useful and fun exercise to do. From a ridden perspective, this is direct preparation for teaching the horse to yield to leg aids. Even if you do not have any ambition to compete, it can be useful to teach your horse to sidepass, for example to open a gate when you are out hacking. 


Have fun with the training!

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