En­hance your bond

How work­ing your horse from the ground can bet­ter your re­la­tion­ship

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

CON­FI­DENCE AND fa­mil­iar­ity work won­ders for a nervy horse, which is why putting the time in to bond on the ground is so worth­while. It means your horse will fully trust you what­ever the sit­u­a­tion. Diane Thur­man-Baker, a clas­si­cal dres­sage trainer, spe­cialises in ground­work. She spent years in Por­tu­gal train­ing with the ‘Mas­ters’ be­fore re­turn­ing to the UK to par­tic­i­pate in the first British work­ing equi­tation team and com­pete in grand prix dres­sage. Ground­work is a set of sim­ple ex­er­cises done on the ground and is also an op­por­tu­nity for your horse to work mus­cles not usu­ally used. “Ground­work means he can use all his back mus­cles with­out the weight of a rider on board,” ex­plains Diane. “You also get to see the range of move­ment he has on the ground.” Watch­ing how your horse moves his feet helps iden­tify any stiff­ness on one side and how he looks when he moves. Cru­cially, work­ing to­gether in this way helps fine-tune the bond be­tween you and your horse. “Part of cre­at­ing a re­spon­sive horse is the method of pres­sure and re­lease,” says Diane. “If all the horses are at a wa­ter trough, they move out of the way when the al­pha horse goes over. To have got to that point, the al­pha horse will have nipped them on the flank first.” Hold­ing a school­ing whip dur­ing your ses­sion en­ables you to recre­ate that pres­sure and re­lease sit­u­a­tion. Gen­tly lay the whip on your horse’s neck to stop him mov­ing, and re­move it when you want him to start mov­ing. Use a voice com­mand, or a click, at the same time so your horse as­so­ciates the phys­i­cal aid with a voice aid. Aim for him to start work­ing for­ward from be­hind, swing­ing through his back to cre­ate en­gage­ment and light­ness. Do Diane’s ex­er­cises for five min­utes on each rein, three times a week. Be­fore you start, lunge your horse in side reins (loose to be­gin with, grad­u­ally in­creas­ing their pres­sure as he be­comes used to them) so that he can ex­pel some en­ergy and work on lift­ing his core. For the best re­sults, you need a bri­dle on your horse, plus a Por­tuguese caves­son, side reins and a lunge line at­tached to the caves­son’s front ring so you can ma­noeu­vre him on the ground.

Just a few ba­sic ground­work tricks will im­prove your ride and en­hance the bond with your horse

DIANE THURMANBAKER has over 30 years of work­ing and train­ing horses us­ing clas­si­cal train­ing meth­ods. She has com­peted to grand prix level in British Dres­sage and her daugh­ters, Sa­man­tha and Joanna, com­pete in­ter­na­tion­ally.

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