horse in a fiel with a trainer

Don`t do groundwork with your horse before you read this

There are a few things you should know before you start practicing groundwork.

The first things you should know is why are you going to be doing groundwork in the first place. What do you want to achieve?

I do the groundwork for two main reasons.

  1. The first reason is that groundwork is great for preparing your horse for work from the saddle.
  2. The second reason is to establish respect

A horse that respects you, is also going to feel safe with you. When you ask him to do something he is going to do it willingly. Horses follow, respect and feel safe with those who are “above them in the hierarchy of the herd”

a horse in the pastureThe system of the hierarchy is very important to every horse.

It is kind of like with people, you upgrade your house, get a fancier fence, nicer garden or a nicer car than your neighbor so you feel “above him in the social hierarchy” You work hard to get promoted in your job and so on. Most of us are “programmed” to try to climb through the social hierarchy. We are programmed to respect and to listen to the ones who are above us and to not really listen to the ones below us.

If the president of your country came to you and asked you to go on a mission that you might not return from, there is a higher chance you would say yes, than if a random sketchy looking person on the street asked you to do something dangerous for him.

Horses work in the same way, the first time you meet a horse he is going to start figuring out whether you are above or below him. However, a horse is not going to judge your social status based on the car you are driving, he is going to start testing you in very subtle ways. Most of the people do not even notice it when their horse tests them.

Here is how you can try it out for yourself

For example, go see a horse in the pasture that you do not know yet. He might be eating grass and minding his own business, then he looks at you, starts walking towards you. That’s the perfect begging. You stop and wait for the horse to come to you. He stops right in front of you and he shows no aggression. You did a little step back, you didn’t even realize it. You just wanted a bit more space between you and the horse.

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From your perspective everything is fine, the horse is nice and he is not aggressive in any way that you can perceive.

From your horses’ perspective things are going well, he noticed your little step back and he acknowledges it as you “telling him” that you respect his higher position in the hierarchy.

A tiny detail can land you in trouble

I am talking about this because every little thing matters. It might seem like something that is not important at all, a tiny step back when you go see a horse in the pasture.

Your relationship with your horse is being created at all times. It is not just when you are riding on him, or working with him in a round pen.

Horses take these little signals seriously. It is based on which they judge your position in the hierarchy. You can be “telling” your horse either “I like you but you have to listen to me” or “I am below you, I will listen to you.”

The problem is that a lot of people send their horses a confusing message. They pick him up from the pasture and clean him while allowing him to bump into them, or they even back up infront of him, clearly sending him a message that they listen to what he wants. Then they get into the saddle and they all of a sudden change their message to “ok now, I am the boss and you need to listen to me”

So how does your horse perceives this?

Most likely kind of like this “that person is weird, for a while he is acting like a boss, but then all of a sudden leaves it up to me” Most of the horses will somehow deal with it, and you will be able to co-exist.

However, when your horse gets scared, for example on the trail, or he really doesn’t feel like doing something (for example loading into a trailer) you will have issues. In those situations, your horse will just be deciding by himself.

In the worse case, he might become aggressive. Just like some people with a higher social status sometimes feel entitled to get aggressive to those with a lower social status that get in their way.

Your horse will keep trying whether you are “above” or “bellow” him in the hierarchy more and more, most likely it will no longer be just him stopping really close to you, he will bump into you and then most likely show and more aggression to see how you deal with it.

I believe that it is very important to understand how horses think before you start working with them from the ground. You should have an idea of how horses perceive your behavior and what it tells them about you.

If you want to learn more about respect take a look at my Free Training Series and claim your 4 free training videos over here.

Don`t do groundwork with your horse before you read this
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