Groundwork is a good confidence-builder for your horse and in turn it gives the rider more confidence than you might think. You can you see how your horse reacts to different situations from the ground and it helps you know what to expect.I put a rope halter on my horses and play natural horsemanship games with them. [You can find plenty of information about natural horsemanship on the internet, or from books or DVDs. Rope halters have knots that work on the pressure points on a horseís head.] The basic idea behind natural horsemanship is to help you build trust, leadership, and respect, and the games help you develop that and to gain cooperation from your horse.A very simple exercise to practice with your horse is asking him to follow you. If you run, you want him to trot beside you. If you stop or back up, you want him to do the same. Itís a very simple but effective exercise. Treats are a good motivator and a horse will usually follow you anywhere if you have treats, but donít reward your horse if heís pushing you. Wait until he is standing quietly and not touching you to reward him. Any resistance you encounter on the ground will usually correlate to the same type of resistance under saddle.Other exercises you can work on at home include having your horse move his hind end or shoulder away from you when asked. Horses are definitely responsive to pressure and sometimes all you have to do is wave your hands and theyíll typically step away. If not, try pushing his shoulder or hind end with your fingertips or if he needs a stronger prompt, tap him with a little whip [or a Parelli ëcarrot stickí]. You can use the rope halter to practice making him turn away and towards you and to come forward to you when you ask.I donít just practice these exercises in the barn or in the ring. Once my horses are responding well to the groundwork lessons, I take them out and play with them on the cross-country field. You can get your horse to go over ditches, logs, up and down banks and through water all from the end of a long rope or lunge line before you try it on his back.
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