Home Horsemanship Basics How Groundwork Relates to Riding Part 3

How Groundwork Relates to Riding Part 3

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With Mindy Bower

Transitions on Ground Help Transitions Under Saddle

This exercise is all about getting to your horse’s feet before you get on. There are many groundwork exercises that free up different parts of your horse. This exercise is a sort of “extra credit” thing to do with your colt or older saddle horse before you get on. If you get him good at practicing transi- tions on the ground he, will be a lot more prepared once you get on him. If you cannot get to his feet on the ground, you don’t stand much of a chance from his back.

You are going to be making transitions, first simple then more precise, from walk, to halt to back. You will face forward, your hand nearest to your horse on the slobber strap, your forearm parallel to the ground. Your outside hand holds the tail of your mecate rope. If you are working with a colt who is not yet wearing a snaffle, you can use your halter and lead rope for this exercise as well.

Practicing next to a fence will keep your horse from drift- ing away from you. You will start from a halt, and ask your horse to strike off into a walk. When you first ask, if he does- n’t follow that feel and you have to follow up by driving him with your mecate, he might take a big jump forward because he is surprised. Try to go forward with him and not discourage any forward motion. You will work on getting him to stay right with you when you move on to stopping and backing. You will then stop, and then immediately ask him to back.

At first he might try to turn his head in toward you and get crooked rather than move his feet. Just reach up with your outside hand and block that eye from coming toward you.

When the walk, stop, and back feel light as a feather, you can advance to working on transitions within the walk, asking him to speed up the walk and to slow it down. In the slow walk you can work on asking him to flex and get soft at the poll. Basically, you will be asking for a soft feel on the ground. You can also move from the walk up to the trot and then back to the walk again. What you are looking for is for your horse to stay straight from nose to tail and that you can make transitions with prop- er flexion in your horse’s poll, and that there is no resistance at all in his feet. He responds to the quality of the tension you place on the slobber strap, forward or back, and responds appropriately. By the time I’m finished, I want my hand to be sort of open on the rein because my horse is so light.

Practice your transitions on both the right and left sides of your horse. Switch your leading and driving hands when you changes sides.

Photo 1

Photo 1

Hold the slobber strap close to the bit with the extra slack from the rein in your hand, thumb facing down.

Photo 2

Photo 2

Make sure that you are not positioned too far forward. See how she is blocking her horse by being out in front of him.

Photo 3

Photo 3

When you apply pressure on the rein to have your horse back up, he might just turn his head toward you.

Photo 4

Photo 4

You can discourage this by blocking with your outside hand up toward your horse's eye.

Photo 5

Photo 5

Start on your horse’s left side. Push forward with your right hand signaling to your horse that you want to walk off. Be sure that you lean forward a little with your body as well.

Photo 6

Photo 6

If your horse does not strike off when you apply forward pressure to the slobber strap, you will follow up by driving him with your mecate, held in your left hand.

Photo 7

Photo 7

Practice these simple transitions. Walk, stop and back. And then again walk, stop and back. Be consistent with your body position, as you want your home to start preparing.

Photo 8

Photo 8

Again, if your horse's feet feel stuck when you ask him to back, bump the ring of your snaffle against the side of his jaw. Use a side-to-side motion like you're shaking the bit.

Photo 8

Photo 8

When things are feeling good, you will practice making transitions within the walk and then move up to the trot. You will be ready to move on when there is no resistance in his feet.

Photo 9

Photo 9

At the trot be careful not to lose your position and get too far ahead or too far behind. Try to keep your feet timed up in the trot as well.

Photo 10

Photo 10

When you stop, your horse is going to be surprised. When you ask him to stop, apply pressure with your right hand back toward his body. Once he has stopped, release the pressure.

Photo 11

Photo 11

From the stop you will then ask him to back. Start with soft pressure of your hand on the slobber strap. If his feet don't move, use the ring of the bit and bump him on the jaw.

Photo 12

Photo 12

As you start to ask him to go forward, have your body arranged so that you can push forward with your arm. Keep your joints soft and relaxed.

Photo 13

Photo 13

Try to time up your feet, especially in the backup. You want your legs and your horse's legs to be taking the same steps so that it looks like you are in complete unison.

Photo 14

Photo 14

From the trot you can practice a quick stop and backup. Here you can see that the colt is really watching and getting himself ready to stop.

Photo 15

Photo 15

In the backup and slow walk you have a chance to work on flexion at the poll. Reward by slight releases when your horse gets soft and flexes at the poll.

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.3

 

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Mindy Bower
Mindy has been working with horses her entire life. She starts colts and helps riders from her ranch in Kiowa, Colorado. She excels at helping horses and riders of all ages and levels be comfortable and safe. Mindy is a dedicated student of horsemanship herself, and is always looking to broaden her horizons of knowledge. Learn more: www.uhohranch.com