Groundwork for youngsters

There's a large variety of groundwork to help your youngster and we have a great collection of videos on Horse Hero. From lunging to long reining, work in hand to tricks training, all help to improve communication with your horse and prepare him for work under saddle.

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Lungeing a young horse, with Laura Bechtolsheimer
Laura lunges her new 4 year old, Stepdance (known as Step), in preparation for riding him. She explains why she does this and shows the Bechtolsheimer's preferred equipment for lungeing, which is both simple and unusual! Laura talks about how she uses body language, why moving around the arena with the horse is important and how being on the lunge has helped Step go from 'trotting for a 10' (he was trained to do this for the sales in Germany, where they recently bought him) to being able to just chill!

Dr Bechtolsheimer long reins a youngster
"A cool head and patience" is what's required, says Dr B! Demonstrating on the lovely 5 year old Step, he explains how long reining helps youngsters to understand the contact and by using transitions and the half halt, how they are encouraged to carry more weight behind, all without the hindrance of a rider! He shows us how and where to attach the reins and offers some clever tips with equipment. Dr B also explains when to use a roller or a saddle and shows the places from which the right contact for each horse can be established. In time, he says, long reining can be used to prepare pirouettes, piaffe and passage. His calmness is a tonic!

Gridwork - Julie Tew Starting a 3 year old with long reins
Irish show jumper Shane Breen is a master at long reining. Shane says this traditional form of ground work is a vital part of his young horses' education. It helps to familiarise with surroundings and also start their school-work, teaching them balance and even flying changes. This pony hasn't yet been backed but has been driven around Hickstead and is being schooled for the first time in this video. Shane explains his tack, show how to use the reins, where to stand, how to change direction and deal with any napping. Though green, the pony is accommodating and not only canters on long reins for the first time but even manages a flying change!

Lunging & work in hand with a young Lusitano stallion
Classical Portuguese dressage trainer Francisco de Braganca starts the five year old stallion Alecrim (meaning 'beautiful flower') with work in hand. "Groundwork is a Pas de Deux between horse and rider", says Francisco. "Working face to face, you see the whole horse and he understands the man." Francisco explains what lunging gear he is using and why. He moves the horse around using the long sides as well as the circle. He then starts lateral work in hand. "Groundwork is preparation for acceptance of the rider", Francisco says. He moves the horse with the whip in place of the leg and achieves shoulder-in as well as leg yield.

Getting a young horse used to plastic and poles
Dr Diamond Maker (Beau) is a slightly spooky three year old Quarter Horse. He's come to behaviourist Sarah Fisher for some early education with poles and plastic. Sarah uses a body wrap to help Beau be more aware of his body. She explains how to lead and allow the horse to halt to improve his balance which is a little awkward as he is croup high at this point in his development. Polework consolidates his learning. Beau is introduced to plastic and bravely walks on it too! Sarah demonstrates hows how to teach a young horse to pick up its legs. She also points out subtle behaviour often missed in training which shows us how the horse is really reacting.

Teach your horse some tricks
Tricks trainer and performer Rosie Howard from Jive Pony teaches Aristo, a young unbroken stallion a few tricks. Aristo quickly learns to kiss, cross his legs and shake his head, on demand. Rosie says it's about using your imagination and that of your horse, creating a strong association between a cue and an action, then repetition, consistency, patience and reward! According to Rosie, "tricks are a great way to enjoy your horse and enhance your relationship with him; they are also a clever way to get focused quickly when you need to at a show!" Rosie demonstrates the fully trained tricks on her obliging youngster Caspar!

Advanced work in hand with Francisco de Braganca
Classical dressage trainer Francisco de Braganca works in hand with his Advanced six year old Lusitano stallion. "Ground work is the best preparation for riding" says Francisco, who demonstrates his training method combining a cavesson and a bridle. Moving the stallion with a hand on the shoulder and using a traditional Portuguese stick behind the girth, Franciso creates an understanding of bend, simulates a light contact with the mouth as well as leg pressure. He shows lateral moves including shoulder-in and travers on a straight line and on a circle, plus leg-yield and the start of half-pass. He also stresses the use of voice.

Greg Drummond uses natural horsemanship to start a racehorse Greg Drummond uses natural horsemanship to start a racehorse
Natural horseman Greg Drummond works through his programme for starting youngsters, with the 4 year old Mauve at Horses First Racing. He says that "having a vocabulary of techniques enables him to assess each horse as an individual and decide how to break it in". Mauve is on day 10. She is allowed to express herself at liberty before Greg challenges her with a dragging lead rope. A flag on a stick is used to desensitise her visually. Greg has been mounting up bareback from near the start. Keeping Mauve's head bent is a safety position which avoid bucking. Greg gets off quickly to reward Mauve and then long reins her on the gallops.

Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 1 Vicki Thompson-Winfield trains four year old stallion Exquisite: Part 1
Olympian Vicki Thompson-Winfield starts the 4 year old dressage stallion Exquisite on the lunge before riding and to allow him to burn off any excess energy. Exquisite starts in walk then, in trot, he must show a forwards intention. The whip simulates the leg and the lunge line is the rein aid. Vicky explains how to apply both correctly from the ground. Once rhythm is established and the neck is relaxed, Exquisite works forwards and downwards and covers more ground. "Good habits such as correct transitions, active gaits and square halts are established on the lunge" says Vicki. The aim when riding is to mirror what is achieved on the lunge.

Sarah Fisher builds Taz's confidence: Part 1 Sarah Fisher builds Taz's confidence: Part 1
Sarah Fisher returns to work on Taz's self-confidence. His body language suggests he's nervous of his environment. Using a versatile zigzag exercise with raised poles, Sarah says "Taz crowds the handler which is a balance issue, and this will help to create separation". Walking over the poles in an 'S' shape, Taz has to pay attention to his feet and lengthen his frame. Sarah explains, "by unlocking one joint, you unlock all joints"! Adding new dimensions such as rubber matting, Taz's body language changes which indicates his levels of self-confidence. "The aim is to help him make his own appropriate decisions", says Sarah.

Fiona Price rides Taz for the very first time! Fiona Price rides Taz for the very first time!
The arab pony Taz is nearly 7 and destined for the sport of endurance. He came to Fiona with a bolting issue but after several months of groundwork, the moment of truth has finally arrived and Fiona is ready to get on Taz for the first time! Before she does this, she shows the progress he has made in hand which has been vital in building his strength and balance, suppleness, trust and obedience. He now walks in his own space, stops on command, backs up and is adept at lateral work. Using a particular configuration of the rope on the lunge, Taz is no longer tempted to run off, and a celebrity helper is on on hand to assist when Fiona finally climbs on board!

Sarah Fisher teaches Taz steps to chest-line driving Sarah Fisher teaches Taz steps to chest-line driving
Taz has made noticeable progress since Sarah's first visit. But he has a pattern of bolting in hand and on the lunge, so Sarah tells Fiona Price she will teach him to stop with his body, rather than his mouth. "Chest-line driving' will help to create body awareness" says Sarah who explains that a horse's physical balance affects his mental and emotional balance too. She adds "explosions come through the build up of little anxieties". Taz accepts the body wrap and works through the labyrinth but is anxious about the chest line, as indicated by his increased pace, his worried eye and flapping lip. He remains focused though, and eventually understands!

Jason Webb starts the 3 year old dressage mare Fly: Part 1 Jason Webb starts the 3 year old dressage mare Fly: Part 1
Australian horseman Jason Webb prepares the 3 year old dressage mare Fly for her second ride. Jason takes us through the process Fly has been working on for a week. The first step is 'catching'. "This is where the horse comes to you" says Jason. "It's a way of getting the horse to focus on you and not run away, which is important when riding" he adds. The next step is desensitisng, in hand and when tied up, so the mare can tolerate frights and step forwards rather than running back. Jason also prepares Fly to see him from above her eyeline, as this will be new for her when he climbs on board. (Jason concludes the process in Part 2.)

Jason Webb starts the 3 year old dressage mare Fly: Part 2 Jason Webb starts the 3 year old dressage mare Fly: Part 2
Now that Fly is quiet and calm after ground work exercises (Part 1), Jason teaches her to steer, turn and stop using long-lines. When turning, Fly must step under with the hind end to create a fluid, soft movement. Jason ups the pressure to check he still has controls, before getting on. "Fly must learn I am the one who will help her out if things get scary" he says. Having put all the building blocks in place for a successful ride, Jason shows his mounting process which "is like landing a plane". With the help of someone on the ground for the controls, Jason repeats what Fly has learned on long lines. He says "I am a passenger for now".

Jason Webb backs the three year old Lucky: Part 1 Jason Webb backs the three year old Lucky: Part 1
Australian natural horseman Jason Webb uses astute observations of horse behaviour to back the three year old Lucky. Bred for eventing, "Lucky has something about him" says Jason, who prepares to ride him for the third time. In the safety of the round pen, Jason familiarises Lucky with the saddle cloth and uses ground work training techniques to ensure he can move Lucky around, and that he can stand still in an open space on a precise spot! Once the saddle is on and lightly girthed, Jason lets Lucky get used to the feeling which he does with an athletic display! In part two, Lucky is long-lined and Jason leads him off another pony before mounting up.

Jason Webb backs the three year old Lucky: Part 2 Jason Webb backs the three year old Lucky: Part 2
Having done ground work in the first video and saddled Lucky up, Jason now long reins in preparation for getting on. Aiming to make riding this sharp horse as safe as possible, Jason uses long reins to teach him basic steering and stopping with the bridle. He says, "if Lucky is nervous when ridden, I need to know he can be directed." The sequence of requests is also important, eg. voice then bit, and Lucky must go forwards into a stop as well as back up. Jason then rides another pony and leads Lucky to let him get used to seeing a person above his eye line, also to simulate riding by putting some weight in the saddle. Now Lucky is ready to ride!

Diane Thurman-Baker teaches 4 year old Zazu to work in-hand Diane Thurman-Baker teaches 4 year old Zazu to work in-hand
After lunging the 4 year old (in another video), Diane Thurman Baker puts side reins for in-hand work. The whip on Zazu's shoulder means 'stop' and a touch to the hind leg means 'forwards'. "Introducing ground-work early on increases suppleness, co-ordination and balance and prepares the horse for the rider's aids" says Diane. Zazu understands to move away from pressure in shoulder-in and leg-yield and when Diane puts him back on the lunge, his paces have improved. Zazu also learns the Spanish walk and backing. Finally, Joanna sits on top and the ground-work is repeated, allowing Zazu to re-adjust to the balance of a rider.

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