This post is all about groundwork for equestrian mamas, a topic useful to all horse owners but one which may be beneficial to all equestrian mamas, new or old. Time with our horses isn’t all about riding. There are many other things we can do with them when we aren’t able to ride, whether that be due to illness, age, time, circumstances etc.
Groundwork consists of teaching your horse on the ground and if done well these skills should transfer to under saddle. It is important to take time to do this correctly and not to rush. I am going to work through with you some groundwork which has helped to improve my horse and the bond which we have created.
No 1. Leading:
This may be an obvious one but we have all seen those horses who walk through people or bounce around on the end of a lead rope like a kite. This can be dangerous for both horse and rider, add into the equation children and your heading for an accident.
When I first had my horse he was very young and spooky. I remember only too well when one of my kids made him spook coming out the field and he pulled me over bolting off down the field. As he’s grown and learnt to trust me he would never dream of doing such a thing and even if he spooks now he would never run into me and tends to now spook on the spot.
It is important that good handling occurs from an early age. If your horse isn’t as good as you would like then you can always return to basics and restart from the ground upwards. It is important for the horse to learn to walk behind you, they really are too big to be walking ahead and dragging you along. If you also have children who want to get involved you want a well-mannered horse who will respect your little person leading them.
It is always advised that when leading a horse it is done from the left. On researching this, it is thought to be a myth and goes back to the times when riders, often soldiers carried a sword and needed to mount from the left. These days we don’t need to carry a sword so it is advisable to handle your horse from both sides and expose them to things from both sides.
No 2. Lunging
If you are unable to ride your horse but would like to keep them in work then lunging can be an option. This is a way for horses to learn gaits without being ridden and can learn voice commands which can then be transferred to under saddle.
Lunging can be completed with basic equipment or you can include various pieces of equipment, which can make your horse work more specifically. Horses can learn voice commands or respond to certain sounds to make lunging work well. These sounds can then be transferred to under saddle if you use the same sounds for both. Check out these useful posts from Your Horse and Horse and Hound for more on how to lunge your horse and the equipment required.
No 3. Grooming:
Groundwork can take many forms and grooming is a lovely way to relax and bond with your horse. This can include brushing, pulling mane, clipping, bathing and picking out feet. However, to do all of these things it is important for a horse to learn how to be tied up and stand. A horse who pulls back when tied up is a danger to himself and others.
By building his confidence in the surroundings he will be less likely to panic. Teaching him to yield from pressure on the back of his head, will increase your chances of him tying up normally. For more information on teaching a horse to yield click here, for a useful article by Horsefullness training.
I’m lucky to have a horse who will stand all day tied and falls asleep. I know I can leave him unattended and he will still be in the same position as when I left him.
No 4. In hand walks:
Ok, so you may not be able to ride your horse but you still want to keep them accustomed to their surroundings. Inhand walks are good for horses if they need light exercise or are youngsters. Especially, if the horse needs to be exposed to new things, to help with desensitising ready for riding out.
I have previously done a lot of walking out, especially when moving to a new yard, as this would help him to get accustomed to his new environment. I nearly forgot about this activity, until one of our Mama equestrian group members Steph, reminded me. Steph enjoys in-hand walks with her horse, they enjoy going to the beach and she states it is “a nice bonding time and we can both have a paddle”
No 5. Free schooling/Agility:
One of our other members Kelly enjoys doing horse agility and states “it is fun for both horse and person”. I have not tried equine horse agility and is something I had not heard about. We have however tried some free schooling and Fred enjoyed having a blast around off the lunge line.
We have also tried our hand at liberty work which we have had fun with and enjoyed. Liberty is simply working your horse loose, without ropes or reins. Liberty gives your horse the choice to work with you at liberty because it is clear, fun and rewarding. Positive reinforcement or clicker training is a really easy and effective way to this. For more information on this, visit Connection training, I recommend reading this article.
Member Rachel shared that she enjoys, putting her horse in a smaller turnout. Setting up everything to clean tack, while he grazes loose around her. Rachel also enjoys working on hands-free leading around the ring, with him adjusting the pace to match my body. “Halting promptly when I stop my body, and turning both towards and away from me to change direction or circle”.
I once saw an old cowboy that said, “his horse needed to walk with him no questions asked. If there was a fire (so fast) or if he was a feeble old man (tiny slow steps)”.
This has proved super useful when my toddler wants to help lead”. Rachel Johnson.
No 6. Rider care:
This next item is groundwork for yourself as a rider. Equine blogger Vanessa from Nutty Nags shared a thought with us female riders in how to reduce breast pain. You may recall Vanessa recently featured in our new blogger interviews, if you missed it you can click here to read it. Vanessa has given me permission to share one of her posts with you all on breast pain:
This is one for all the ladies out there.
Boobs – do you suffer breast pain when riding?
I had to visit my GP because I have been in agony with mine, always best to get things checked out, right?
I have probably either bruised my ribs when I fell in the mud or I have aggravated my muscles, but it’s ruddy painful.
My GP gave me a lecture, on how, when doing any high impact sport, the breast moves vertically and you can damage the coopers’ ligament, which is like the sling that supports the breast as well as causing other problems.
A good sports bra is a must have, it should be a.high impact one and must fit you correctly.
On doing some research it has been proven that 40% of us ladies experience breast pain when riding.
This now makes sense to me, I always have had pain on and off over the years, but never put it down to this, and I also use to run a lot.
Research has shown sports bras reduce the “bounce ” by 80% normal bras only by anything up to 38%.
So, what benefits does wearing the correct bra have, apart from breast health, it also encourages you to sit tall with better posture, & horses are so in tune with their rider they can sense tension and discomfort, so it will help your horses way of moving.
If we are tense, we don’t also breath properly, therefore blocking our horses’ way of going.
Get the right fit, make sure the straps are not too tight or slip, the band should fit more firmly than an everyday bra and not ride up your back when moving, and a full bra coverage is better than one that exposes cleavage as it is more supportive.
I have just been and got professionally measured and ordered 2 bras. I have opted for the “shock absorber” make, but there are plenty out there.
So many times, when I was teaching, I use to have ladies say “I have the wrong bra on I am bouncing” or “I will just have to adjust my bra strap its slipped”.
Vanessa got lots of comments on this topic indicating that many of you have problems with your boobs and riding. Thankfully, not being so lucky in the whole boob department, I have never had such an issue. However, I found the topic of interest and maybe something I still need to consider!