You have a variety of subjective
and objective goals to accomplish during your horse's ground training. The work
should be approached so that the horse develops a confident, steady manner with
a cooperative attitude and free, supple, forward movement characterized by a consistent
rhythm. During the lessons, he should accept the bit, respond to the aids, work
relatively straight and show "speed control": extending (moving on)
and collecting (shortening) in his gaits. His frame should be allowed to develop
naturally and progressively from the head up and nose out kid frame
to a gradual rounding of the topline that leads to a collected advanced
frame. Throughout the horses physical development, it is imperative that
you always strive to meet the following criteria:
The horse moves forward freely with reaching, elastic strides.
- The horse
- The horses poll is the highest point of his topline
(not the portion of the neck that is several inches behind the poll as this indicates
the horse has dropped behind the vertical).
- The horses faceline
is appropriate for his conformation and level of training: As much as 30 degrees
in front of the vertical for inexperienced horses; 20 degrees for the beginning
horse; 15 for the intermediate horse; 0-10 degrees for the advanced horse.
This training period can be scheduled in many different ways. It can take place
as a continuous program either year round or from spring through fall. Or the
very beginning lessons can take place during a 30-day period. Then the horse can
be turned out for a few months or an entire winter, and when returned to work,
the training can resume. In total, it will take from several months to several
years to accomplish ground training goals. Each horse will respond in his own
time frame according to his starting point, his natural ability and the ability
of his trainer.
The overall goal is to have your horse do
what you want him to do where you want him to do it and when you want him to do
it. Of course, your requests must be fair and reasonable at all times. If you
make it easy for your horse to do the right thing, he will develop a positive
attitude toward his work. If you set things up so that it is physically or mentally
difficult for him to do the right thing, he may not look forward to his work.
This does not mean that you shouldn't challenge your horse. By all means, he needs
to be challenged in order to learn, but present him with requests that he can
Often what a trainer asks of a young horse is the very
opposite of what the horse would choose to do on his own. A young horse is frequently
unfit, unbalanced, and emotionally unstable. This causes him to travel heavy on
the forehand, crooked, and in a haphazard and erratic fashion. We aim to develop
steadiness in a young horse. First we teach him what he should and should not
do and then we gradually improve his form in these maneuvers. When we define how
a horse does what we want him to do we are talking about the quality of
his actions. To give the most solid base for more advanced work; your young horse
should work in harmony with you, moving freely forward with energy in a rhythmic,
When applied to horses, the word free
can create confusion in some people's minds. Freedom indicates a lack of restriction
and usually brings to mind a horse galloping through a field of flowers on a sunny
day. Yet free is not necessarily synonymous with wild. A well-trained and disciplined
horse can and should move freely. When using free to describe a horse being trained,
it refers to working him with effective aids that result in obedience without
being forceful or physically inhibiting. The freely moving horse shows expression
in his face, body carriage, and the way in which he lifts his legs, moves his
shoulders and uses his back. To be able to work a horse freely yet totally under
control is the ultimate goal of riding, which can be achieved in varying degrees
by all dedicated trainers.
To allow a horse freedom, the aids
must be applied with correct timing, position, and intensity. It takes years for
a trainer to refine the means to influence a horse without restricting or blocking
the energy from flowing around the horse's body.
be harmony between a trainer and a horse in order for the energy to be able to
flow smoothly from horse to trainer. There must always be an open line of communication.
To achieve harmony, on some days you may need to acknowledge your state of mind
and admit when a change in your attitude might have to take place in order to
have a productive training session. Harmony is evident in the expression and carriage
of both the horse and trainer as they work. Poise, confidence and pride in work
are characteristics of horse and trainer harmony. If a trainer is tense, distracted,
out of tune, or in a negative state of mind, the horse's performance will be negatively
affected. A trainer and horse working in harmony are in a state of energized yet
relaxed concentration and make the things they are doing together look smooth
Always observe your horse and determine if
he is responding to you or just reacting. Is he tuned in or tuned out?
Although the greatest amount of new skill acquisition takes place when you first
begin learning to longe or long line a horse, some people and some horses make
only very minor, slow progress on a daily basis. And the more advanced you become
as a trainer, the slower your progress may seem to be. You might be looking for
that breakthrough that you felt when you first began learning. So the best thing
to do is compare your skill levels and understanding today to where you were yesterday.
Keep a standard in mind and note the progress you make.
is crucial that you take time and care when setting your goals. Your success depends
on it. To begin setting a goal, write down your overall goal such as
"Longeing at a trot calmly
in both directions calmly"
have zeroed in on your goal, itemize the benefits that reaching your goal will
Horse owners universally state that the most limiting
factor in achieving their goals is the lack of time. It is a fact that riding
and caring for horses requires a good deal of time. Often, though, when a person
says she lacks time, what she really lacks is quality time. Quality time is characterized
by focused, productive work. It is not how much you get done that is important
but how well you do what you do.
To ensure that the time
with your horse is quality time, don't be in a hurry as you work with him. Your
goal-setting exercises will help you determine what to do. Do first things first.
Its better to do simple things well than bumble through more advanced lessons.
Focus on what you are doing so that you do things right the first time and don't
create large, time-consuming problems. Finish what you start. Be orderly; it will
save you immeasurable time. Have a place for everything and keep everything in
its place. Use written and mental checklists to give you a measurable sense of