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Building a Solid Foundation: Effective Groundwork Exercises for Horses

Groundwork Exercises for Horses

As any equestrian would know, groundwork is an essential aspect of horse training. Ideally, groundwork should be done before riding, and it is an effective way to establish a strong relationship between the rider and the horse.

In this article, we explore a few simple yet effective groundwork exercises that can help improve your horse’s behavior and response well.

Basic Maneuvers

The primary aim of this exercise is to get the horse to respect your presence and understand that you are in control. Start by standing beside the horse’s hindquarters, facing the same way as the horse.

Then, tap the hindquarters gently with your hand to get your horse to move its hindquarters away from you. Repeat this until the horse is responsive to light touches, and you can get it to move away with ease.

This exercise is a great way to establish a basic understanding of horse behavior.


Lunging is an exercise that involves working the horse while it is on a long lead line. This exercise helps the horse to develop respect for their rider while improving their behavior, balance, and transitions.

It also teaches horses to work off of verbal commands and makes it easier to control them while riding. When lunging your horse, your goal is to maintain control and respect in every phase of the exercise.

Backing Up

Now, we come to an exercise that will help your horse understand the concept of liberty. With your horse by your side, use a combination of nose and chest pressure to encourage your horse to back up.

Alternatively, you can use your finger to touch its chest, which should signal it to back up. If your horse responds immediately, reward it with a treat.

Over time, you will notice that your horse will start taking a step back, then two, and eventually start backing up on its own. This exercise helps with confidence and gets horses to respect boundaries.

Yielding Forequarters

The goal of this exercise is to get your horse to yield its forequarters and move in a circle around you. When done correctly, the exercise can help improve your horse’s balance and lateral movement.

To begin, stand by your horse’s side, just past its shoulder, and hold its lead rope in your hand. Then, use your other hand to apply slight pressure near its forequarters, asking the horse to bend around you.

Then, lead the horse in a circle around you, repeating the exercise until it can do it smoothly. One of the benefits of this exercise is that it helps horses learn to bend around their riders while going clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Trick Training

Trick training is when you teach your horse to do unusual things beyond the basics. It helps build trust, confidence, and a deeper relationship between horse and rider.

One of the most interesting tricks to teach your horse is to shake their head when you give a verbal command. Encourage them to say ‘no’ when they don’t want to do something, which trains them to be honest and communicate better.

Another trick that is popular is to get your horse to fly, which involves jumping over obstacles such as barrels and poles.

Obstacle Training

Obstacle training helps develop a horse’s confidence and prepare them for trail riding. The more obstacles you work through, the less likely your horse will spook when confronted with unfamiliar objects.

Start with simple obstacles like a tarp, then move on to more complex ones like bridges and water. Use your voice to encourage your horse as you walk it through each obstacle.

Start at the beginning and work your way up, and you’ll soon find that your horse is much more confident and willing to take on new challenges.

Improving Groundwork with Resources

Education is a vital part of horse training, and there are many resources and tools out there to help improve your ground training techniques. Many professional trainers host clinics and offer resources on various topics, many of which are available online and in DVD format.

Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics DVD set is an excellent resource with easy-to-follow instructions and many practical exercises that you can try at home. In addition to clinic resources, there are also many articles available online with a wealth of information on various topics, including DIY horse obstacles and budget exercises to improve your horse’s groundwork.

Final Thoughts

Groundwork is an essential part of any horse training program and should be done regularly. The exercises discussed in this article help to improve the relationship between horse and rider, while building trust and respect.

Never underestimate the value of good groundwork in improving your horse’s ability to work under saddle. Understanding the basics of horse behavior and using the right resources can help improve your horse’s behavior and bring out its best potential.

Groundwork is essential for horse training and is necessary to establish a strong relationship between the rider and the horse. Basic maneuvers such as lunging, backing up, and yielding forequarters help to improve a horse’s behavior, confidence, and transition, while trick training and obstacle training encourage the horse to communicate better and overcome obstacles.

It is important to continue learning and improving groundwork techniques through education, resources such as Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics, and relevant articles. The article emphasizes the importance of good groundwork and the ways to improve horses’ behavior.


1. Why is groundwork necessary for horse training?

Groundwork is necessary for horse training because it helps to establish a strong relationship between the horse and rider, improving the horse’s behavior, confidence, and transition. 2.

What are some basic groundwork exercises for horses? Some basic groundwork exercises for horses include lunging, backing up, and yielding forequarters.

3. How can trick training benefit horses?

Trick training can benefit horses by helping them build trust, confidence, and communicate more effectively with their rider. 4.

How can I improve my groundwork techniques? You can improve your groundwork techniques through education, resources such as Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics, and relevant articles.

5. Are there any resources available for improving groundwork techniques?

Yes, there are many resources available for improving groundwork techniques, including Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics and online articles covering various exercises and approaches.

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