In my previous blog (read it here) I already mentioned variation in training your horse to keep things interesting. I also suggested ground work. It has many benefits if you keep your goal in mind. For me it is very important that what I am doing on the ground is an extension of riding. That the aids you give, on the ground or when in the saddle, are the same for the horse, or that he can connect the dots between the 2. Think about leg and rein aids. If I start a young horse, I want the aids I give from the ground are the same as from the saddle. There are a million different ideas and ways to train. Choose whatever works best for you and your horse.
With my young stallion I have already done some training sessions and my gelding will be turning 16 this year. So, heavy training 5 to 6 days a week is really no longer an option, especially since he has arthritis. I would like to keep him in one piece so we can have fun together many years to come, keep competing and get some more teaching degrees. So we have started with some ground work sessions as well.
He is a super quick study and knows really quickly what is expected from him. I noticed that he is a bit stiff in front, shoulders and neck mainly. Hind is supple and flexible, mid-section could be more, bit pretty flexible too. So, the exercises where he has to move his hind leg beneath his body go very well. But when he was to drop between his shoulders and place his front legs in a balanced way, he struggles. Mainly because he has to weight on his hind legs first. That is our biggest challenge also during riding. Moving the weight to the hind legs and suppleness on the front. Something we will slowly train and all this has given me insights I can use while riding.
Working from the ground can also help strengthening your bond or building it after a traumatic experience. Might sound extreme, but falling off hard or having a horse knock you over can leave its marks and create tension. What are horses sensible to? Exactly, your emotions, your tension and insecurity.
A different reason I started ground work with my gelding is to get him more flexible, and to see if I can teach him to manage tension himself. He can be a bit autistic with objects and build up a lot of tension which I cannot always manage for him. Especially when the training gets more difficult. So keep in mind that it is always worth it looking into new things and approach something differently.
Besides doing work with him on the ground I also adjusted our training schedule and keep evaluating it every 2 months. Being critical at what you are doing and if it is the right thing to be doing. Just doing it the way we have always done it, well, my opinion is it might not get you the results you want. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and learn new things. Something we can only grow from, right?