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Bel Joeor Sale and Giveaway!

Amanda from Bel Joeor is hosting a big sale on her Etsy site and a giveaway on her blog!  She makes beautiful saddle covers and bags.  I highly recommend checking out her shop and entering her contest.  

Groundwork exercises

I have been around horses long enough at this point to know that while I could never religiously follow any of the natural horsemanship "salesmen" out there, I do believe groundwork is an important part of a horse's education.  There are so many things that can be taught on the ground before asking under saddle, and it seems silly to not utilize groundwork with every horse.

I am definitely not an expert by any means, but I have audited and participated in a number of clinics over the years with a wide variety of horsemen, taking bits and pieces of what I think works and incorporated it into my personal equine philosophy.  My roots are classical dressage and balance seat, so I closely follow the training pyramid with my horses.  My ultimate competition goals may be dressage and eventing, but my overall horse goals are to create a partnership with my horse based on trust and to evolve my horse into a versatile and content partner.

After spending the majority of my childhood and most of college on Morgans, I have ridden exclusively Standardbreds since 2003, when I first got Dreamy.  Now that I have Ellie, it is funny to me how much Standardbreds truly are super calm and laid back.  Ellie is smart and curious, but boy oh boy, she is a flighty thing LOL!  She has the typical Morgan overreaction followed by the no-big-deal reaction.  Now that I have owned her for six weeks, I can see her trust building with me to the point where she often will stop and think and look before having a reaction, which I like much better than when she used to want to flee.  Alternatively, my Standardbreds were so handled and exposed at a young age that much of the groundwork I did progressed quickly because they didn't care and were truly unflappable.  The most important groundwork with my Standardbred mares was teaching them what pressure on the girth area meant, because while they understand rein and voice commands easily, the idea of leg aids were totally foreign.

I say all of this because despite the fact that I knew I wanted a young Morgan as my next horse, I do miss the ho-hum Standardbred attitude.  I know Ellie will get there eventually, but sometimes it cracks me up how silly she can be.  It is just going to take time and time and more time before she decides to be an unflappable horse herself (like maybe in ten years LOL).  I can totally understand how easy it would be to turn her into a crazy energetic saddle seat horse.  ;-)   

I dug out my ancient rope halter (with the foolish lead rope that I hate but I cannot seem to find the nicer 14 foot lead with a clip I bought at one time.....will keep looking haha).  We have worked on all the basic stuff like yielding fore/hindquarters, carrot stretches, and head down command.  She lunges quite well and I can easily point/send her with just my hand/arm.  She is calm about the barn cats in the ring, which is annoying yet helpful; both cats like to walk/run/lay down/hide under jumps while I ride.  I guess if we are ever doing a dressage test and a cat comes running out in front of us, she will be calm and we won't lose any points LOL!!  ;-)  She has her moments when it is hard to focus (like yesterday when the two newest/smallest calves were turned out for the first time and were being morons in the round pen), but she tries really hard to do the right thing and trust me instead of bolting.  She also still is skeptical of the calves because they are obviously the devil, but she has calmed down about them quite well since her first day here!  I was super impressed with her manners with the calves, because they were partially obscured by the tree line that separates my ring from the barnyard, and she could have easily had a meltdown about their noise. Instead, she worked through her worry and we ended up having a good ride.  I don't know that she will ever be totally unflappable like her Standardbred sisters, but I think she's such a thinker that she will learn to think before she reacts.  I like that just as much.

Last week, I asked my husband to haul out the wooden platform that he sets over his livestock scales.  I figured asking her to walk over a bridge is a good idea, plus I do like to weigh the horses every so often.  I fully expected her to need a bit of time to decide walking over the plank was a good idea.  I walked her up to it and sorta waited at the side, thinking she would need to sniff and get a good look at it.

She literally walked right over it despite the fact that I didn't even ask her to. Oh OK LOL! How funny the things she deems super scary and other things are NBD.

I did it a few times from each side and then asked her to halt on top of it, since that is what she will have to do when actually being weighed.  I couldn't believe I was able to snag a pic LOL!
Not scary
Then, I hauled out a tarp the other night, which proved to be slightly scary but really intriguing.  She shied a bit at the crinkly noise but wanted to taste it and paw it at.  We practiced walking over it and having it touch her sides.  She wasn't quite ready to have it draped over her, so that will be next time.  Maybe I should try a plastic bag to sack her out first, then move onto the tarp.  

She's sleeping haha ;-)

I still have a few other things I want to work on from the ground, such as a flag (you never know when you might be asked to carry a flag LOL) and moving over when mounting.  She tends to want to swing her hind end one step away from me when I step onto the mounting block anyway, so we have been working on that every ride.  But I think I will just teach her a command to move a step (or two as needed) towards the block and it will help cure this.  I also need to do more work with ropes and such around her legs and then eventually hook her to a drag, because while she will ground drive, I want to eventually hook her to a carriage, so the next step is finding a whiffletree.  I also ought to practice opening and closing a "gate" (rope between two standards) and eventually use one of the actual metal pipe gates here at the farm.

I used to have a noodle curtain but it fell apart when I moved years ago and now I am not even sure where it went to, which is a bummer.  What else am I missing?  Any groundwork exercises or obstacles I should add to my list?


KateRose said…
This is such a timely post as I just asked for more ground work exercises too! You already do way more than me haha (going to steal some of yours :P)
Hahahahaha I pretty much just wrote the same thing on your blog post! ;-) Great minds...!
TeresaA said…
This all sounds like fun. Other things I do with Carmen are: walking on the road, grazing under laundry on the clothes line, staying in step with me- forward, back up, sideways (all from the way I move).
TheFoxRider said…
Everyone is doing groundwork lately, and I am loving it. I might need to inflict a tarp on Arya!
She is super cute! I worked on having June side up the fence and it worked great. It was a much larger area than a mounting block, and I could sit up there until she was completely parallel to me, then do whatever I wanted. I just felt like I had more control from the fence. Have you worked on sending her into the trailer? When that clicked I felt like I'd won the lottery!!
Oh yeah, totally loving the laundry on the line idea! LOL! We don't have a line, but I could make something so she has to walk underneath it!
Tarps are great! Just enough crinkly scariness haha!
Ohh that's a good one, and I do have a small round pen that could work. And yes, self loading is definitely a must!
emma said…
Lots of fun stuff! Sometimes I wish I had done more stuff like this with my Arab mare bc I think she would have LOVED it! Charlie has done some practice but not much lately. He needs it tho - turns out gates are SUPER hard for him haha
Martidoll said…
Ground work what is that? LOL I havent done ground work in eons. But yes with babies it is a must. I look forward to more torture of Ellie (I mean training, definitely meant training)! She will turn out great I am sure with your patience. (But this reminds me why I dont usually do babies :)
Right?! Haha I am not really a groundwork kinda girl, but I know by doing all I can now (and throughout the winter when there is 576' of snow in my ring and I am super sad and cannot ride...) that it will pay off in the end! I am hopeful she will become level headed as she ages! Though she is a redheaded Morgan mare LMAO! ;-)
Groundwork could be a good way to do things with him as he is healing, too!