The winter is by and large a very tedious time. It becomes increasingly difficult to fit any time for riding into your day, once you have battled through the mud, the weather, the incredibly short-day length. And if you do get as far as the saddle, you are then faced with an under-ridden horse in sub-zero temperatures with a bracing wind. Hardly the perfect scenario. However, there are ways that you can enjoy time with your horses over the winter, without riding, which will improve your relationship with your horses, strengthen your bond, and give you both pleasure till Spring comes along.
Groundwork is a fantastic way to spend time with your horse, without riding. Groundwork in itself is incredibly rewarding and a richly diverse way of working with your horse. If you do ride your horse, then the groundwork is an excellent framework on which to base your ridden relationship. Groundwork has the advantage that you can do 5 minutes every day, which you can fit in around the light/weather/winter-generated-inertia conundrum which afflicts you in the winter.
Many of the problems that people face in their riding, stem from a problem on the ground, and indeed can you expect a horse to listen to the rider on their back, if they don’t listen to their handler on the ground? Your horse should be able to stand still at the end of a 12ft line without moving for up to 10 mins. If you want to set yourself a winter challenge practise this. It is surprisingly difficult, but achievable with good groundwork, and has the potential to transform your relationship with your horse.
I’m sure we have all seen horses that won’t load and seen the frustration that this can cause. Interestingly if you watch a professional work with a horse that is difficult to load, they often spend quite some time away from the lorry or trailer working with the horse on the ground. In some cases after a period of time doing groundwork, the horse will simply follow the handler up the ramp quite willingly, as the issue had not been with the loading, but rather with the communication on the ground.
You get such a good return from investing time in your groundwork. Horses that are a pleasure to handle are such a delight to have around, horses that back away from you willingly, move across at a slight pressure, offer their feet nicely for picking out, all of these seemingly simple moment combine towards creating a horse that is a joy to look after. So much of the time with our horses is spent simply being with them in and out of the stable, tending to them, leading them, that how well-trained the horse is on the ground is in some ways the marker that will make the biggest difference to our enjoyment of our time with them. So, this winter spend some time doing groundwork and you will reap the rewards in the summer.
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