I shared with you a few months ago that I did an in hand clinic with a natural horsemanship trainer. It made me realise how much training Gracie needed on the ground. Luckily for me since I have moved stables I now share a paddock with a very good friend of mine that I have known for nearly 20 years. She is an ex riding instructor and she knows her stuff when it comes to ground work and she has been teaching me what to do with Gracie. It really has changed mine and Gracie’s relationship for the better. Ground work really is magic!!
I have been around horses for years and years. Since I was 4 years old in fact. I have always been a confident rider and always preferred the fizzier ones to the plod alongs. My first pony Cassie was a very stroppy little mare and she was very aggressive. She would kick and bite. She was broken in very young and sold to a riding school which did not suit her at all. I then bought her and she had a much happier life with one person. Looking back her aggressiveness did not bother me at all. At the age of 12 years old it didn’t frighten me what so ever. I just got on with it. Handling her gently and asking her to do things rather than telling her.
However, over the next years after my second horse Stanley passed away I rode other people’s horses. As years went on I became less and less confident on the ground. After sharing a horse that I absolutely adored riding called Bert, he dragged me around one too many times. I was pulled around something wicked by that horse. He had to led in a chifney at all times and was just so so difficult to handle. He was 16.2hh too which did not make things easier. Then with frequent breaks between horses and then my most recent shared horse Mya being pretty difficult to handle too. I realised I really wasn’t that comfortable at all with horses that weren’t calm on the ground.
I realised this when I bought Gracie but this was something I didn’t want to admit to. Me the horse lover frightened of handling horses?? I couldn’t quite believe it myself.
Then I realised I have had so much riding tuition. But I have had next to no tuition on how to handle horses on the ground. With Bert, we never did anything to solve his behaviour problems. His owner would just jockey me onto him when he was getting too much. Much like a racehorse, he would be moving and we would just run next to him and leg me up as everything would be ok when I was in the saddle. I wasn’t frightened of him when I was on him so this suited me well.
However when I bought Gracie last year. I realised that Gracie had not been taught many manners on the ground. She started barging me, trying to run off with me and even biting me. I tried to train her to stop. This is what led me to do the natural horsemanship clinic as I realised that I needed help as I didn’t really know how to train her on the ground. The clinic was massive success and I learnt all sorts of ways to help control her and relax her. My friend who I now share a paddock with was a little shocked at how difficult Gracie was to handle still when we moved stables a month later and offered to do some ground work in the round pen with her for me. This was a complete game changer for Gracie & for me.
My friend basically trained her to be a very controllable polite horse in a week. 1 week of ground work and she was like a different horse. But in every regard. It was like magic. Gracie seemed to not really know her place in her new paddock and we thought that perhaps she was trying to look after herself rather than seeing us as role models and the ones that tell her what to do. That changed as soon as we started ground work with her. She grew to respect us more as she had simple interactions she could follow and learnt very quickly.
At first we worked on leading Gracie. We taught her clicks and noises to respond to when we wanted her to reverse or move forward. A different click noise for each. We did some Monty Roberts style join up with her and now we are starting to work on her turning on command to back up my leg aids when I ride her. She learns so quickly and she seems a genuinely calmer happier horse. Our training is always calm. Absolutely no shouting or smacking. No punishment at all actually.
As this is the first time I have really focussed on doing ground work with any of my horses I can not recommend it enough. In my opinion it really is magic and it has changed my relationship with my horse for better.
This has made me realise that lots of people really rush to the finish line with their horses. This has been me too in the past. There are so many horses that I know that really could benefit from ground work training. But it seems dull. It takes time and effort. If you are like me, I didn’t even know where to begin. But I found and surrounded myself with people that did! For that I am so grateful to them for helping me with Gracie. For me I heavily relied on my friend to teach me how to train Gracie. She has given me my confidence back and I feel so much happier for it!
This has also pushed me to educate myself more on what I could do with Gracie. I have subscribed to Miri Hackett’s patreon which has really excellent videos on ground work and working with young horses, she also does ride along podcasts . I watch videos online from different horses trainers and cherry pick the advice I like. One of fave horse trainers is Sophie Seymour Equestrian on Facebook. Another brilliant video I watched this week about water training was by Your Horsemanship Jason Webb who I will be sure to check out more of his videos.
As they say Rome wasn’t built in a day. This stuff takes time but I am so willing to give it time and train Gracie to be the best calmest, happiest horse she can be as she will remember this for the rest of her life. It’s easy to want to race to the finish but if you take your time and have a bit of patience you will still get there. But have a better chance of succeeding as you will have a very controllable well trained horse and you will feel more confident knowing that.
To check out my blog about the natural horsemanship clinic I did click here.