Groundwork, Groundwork, Groundwork February 09 2019
I sometimes hate it when I’m right. I’m also aware of exactly how egotistical that sounds!
Let’s wind the clock back 6 or 8 months. I was teaching at a clinic and had the opportunity to work with a lovely lady who had an equally lovely horse. This horse was very tall, built like a tank and in possession of a fair amount of self-importance. We worked on his owner being able to maintain her personal space boundaries and gaining control of her horse’s feet. I distinctly remember saying to her she may be able to maintain his attention at home but she’ll be in real trouble in a new environment where he’ll have many more things to react to. I suggested she work hard on her groundwork as she moved forward. His work at home certainly wasn’t good enough at that stage to bring him into a new and exciting environment.
A couple of weeks ago I was helping at a show and received a call to ask if I could go and help with a horse. I was told ‘you’ll remember him’. Oh yes I did. It was my friend from a few months ago who was bigger, if that’s possible, and in a very heightened state indeed! There was simply no way you could safely enter the ring for the led classes he was there to participate in. I stepped forward to take him from his grateful owner and as I walked in he spooked at a pram and literally knocked me to the ground. The fact he’d run over the top of a person in his desire to focus on something else was of no interest to him. I brushed myself off, checked everything still worked and took him from his owner.
The grounds had a round yard where I could work on gaining his attention without putting anyone else at risk. It took a good 20 minutes for him to realise I was the person he need to pay attention to. When I brought him out of the round yard we were able to walk calmly around the whole grounds so he could see all the sights but was still being obedient to my aids. Most importantly, he was safe, I was safe and the general public were safe!
I don’t like being right in situations like this. His owner had a pretty bad start to the day, I could’ve been hurt and I guess it’s just lucky it was me he took out and not the child in the pram. I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure your horse is safe, relaxed and obedient on the ground. This work starts at home. If the work isn’t good at home it’s not going to become better when you’re out. Trust me on that one. By doing this work at home you’re setting your horse up for success at outings. Sure you may need to do some low key outings at first to ensure what you can do at home holds up in a different environment but it’s well worth it. No-one wants to feel like they’re flying a 600kg kite at a show, it’s not fun for you, it’s not fun for your horse and it’s not fun for your fellow competitors!
Do your groundwork people! It will make for a much more enjoyable day for all and will even translate to a better horse under saddle as well!