Groundwork is a way to problem solve and clarify leadership without and before getting into the saddle. I have found with ground “play”, the riding to follow goes smoothly, and I’m grateful for the positive experiences. For some years, I have purchased broke horses, and do my tune up and relationship building starting from the ground. I know this has helped immensely in my transition to the saddle, and I’m grateful to have this tool! I don’t take anything for granted with a new-to-me horse, and I maintain this consistency.
For this session, we played what we called the “catch up to me” game, essentially a leading game. I start out being friendly with the stick. I pick up the lead, and give a porcupine feel on the halter. Whiskey moves softly forward, so I lower the lead and take the pressure off. My hand is open so the lead can slide through, relieving the pressure and staying soft while asking.
With my “inside” hand, I hold the stick on his back. When he falls back, I tap him on the croup to catch up to me, so he is at my shoulder. We do this both ways, both sides, until he consistently stays at my shoulder with the stick staying quiet and the lead rope down with my hand open, pressure off.
I found this to make a big difference with Whiskey self loading! With pressure off, I take Whiskey over to the trailer and send him in, he goes right in, without hesitation or resentment! He’s been hauled regularly in this trailer, but hasn’t had the happiest attitude about loading. This leading “ask” made a huge difference!
Back and forth, to and from the barn, we continue to have success with Whiskey’s self loading. I can leave him loose, or come around and tie him after closing the door. Whiskey transitioned to backing out with a soft pull of a few tail hairs, coming out slowly, with care and awareness of his feet!
How has your ground work affected your purpose with your buddy?
I’d love to know!