Fun Groundwork Exercises for Horses

Jessica McDaniel
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Groundwork For Horses Basics

Groundwork is one of the most important things to do with the horse. Without groundwork, horses cannot be prepared for safe and successful riding. Groundwork is muscular and to a certain extent, mental preparation for the horse.

When we use groundwork as preparation for the horse to be ridden; we are creating a link between the horse and its rider. The groundwork must line up with the horse's abilities and limitations. Groundwork helps establish the training foundation and prepares the horse for the rider to build upon.

Groundwork prepares the horse to accept the commands for the rider's seat and aids the rider in controlling the horse by using basic cues such as halting, flexing, and stepping in. Groundwork also assists in developing the horse’s physical preparation.

There is a method to what we do in groundwork. It requires planning and coordination with the horse's or horses' limitations. These limitations are established from the horse's capabilities, past problem histories, temperament, and potential.

It is essential that the groundwork is creative, varied and fun for the horse. The groundwork we do directly correlates to and is a reflection of the horse's willingness and comfort level.


Horses can get bored easily and often need mental stimulation for preventing boredom. One of the things you can do is to teach your horse tricks or fun lessons. That way, she will be challenged mentally and have something interesting to learn.

Focus Exercises for Horses

{1}. When you’re teaching your horse a new trick or something new, be sure that you focus with her on the new thing that you teach or show her.
{2}. For example, when you want to teach your horse how to stand and stay in one place while you stand close to her and ask her to face a wall, you’ll need to stand close to her. Show her where you want her to face and take a small step towards her to get her to move. You can do that over and over again while you stand close to her preferably with a clicker and treat. Your horse will eventually know that one step toward the wall will mean a click and treat. She should learn not to move after she’s gotten the click and treat for staying put.
{3}. You should gradually give your horse more space in between you and the wall.
{4}. Another focus ground exercise for your horse is to have her stand on an exact spot for placing things that she needs to get use to. This helps her ground awareness as well.

Groundwork For Horses: Moving Away from Pressure

All horse games begin at the ground. Playing at the ground level is great for the horse because it is an environment similar to natural environment where the horse is very comfortable.

Since the horse can stay at the individual level, he can learn to step away from pressure and build a more secure relationship between his body and our body.

Horses naturally want to step away from pressure. But since everything that applies in nature applies in riding, and this is not natural for them.

After some time, the horse loses trust in his rider and steps away from pressure. Before becoming a masterful rider, you need to learn how to build this trust with your horse.

The most effective way to build this trust has to be through groundwork: since it is a natural environment, the horse feels comfortable, and the exercise really gives the rider the chance of fine tuning into the horse and the ground.

Here are some groundwork exercises for horse games:

Groundwork For Horses: Verbal Commands

Groundwork is an essential part of any horse's training program. Whether you have a horse for your own pleasure or for use in work situations, it's important to establish good communication skills with each other. Groundwork can start as early as the foal's first week on the ground, and it's essential that a solid foundation is laid right from the start.

Groundwork exercises to start your horse out on the right hoof include aural (listening) cues. One of the earliest commands you can teach your horse is “whoa,” and it serves the same purpose that it does in every human language: to indicate that you want it to stop.

While this may seem like an incredibly easy concept to convey to a horse, humans can't simply tell animals to stop speaking in their native tongue, and you give whoa verbally in order to convey this idea to your horse.

Next on the grounding agenda is the "giddyup" command. So you can understand what a “giddyup” is in horse speak, you'll have to focus on the wording, not the actual word. You want your horse to walk forward, so tell him to move forward by saying "go." He'll be sure to get the idea.

Jumping Exercises

How often do you include jumping exercises in your horse training sessions? Probably not often enough.

You have probably heard the old adage, "practice makes perfect."

Well, it certainly does.

Jumping is fun, and while it's not useful in every equestrian discipline, it's a must-have in the early training of your young horse. It also helps improve your horse's confidence.

He'll feel more at ease when he jumps and does it with ease and efficiency, so you won't have to push him around every time you go riding.

As you continue to practice jumping exercises, and your horse grows to understand he can easily clear a jump, he'll be more likely to enjoy the activity, and you'll find that you can achieve success in the show ring, field, or trail.

Groundwork For Horses: Obstacles (bridges, stairs, etc.)

If you get on a horse for the first time, you'll be surprised by how awkward things feel. It's so natural on two legs, but jumping on a horse and then getting used to moving and communicating with the animal are completely foreign things.

They are completely necessary, but most people don't practice much and get a bit frustrated with the process. And this is totally okay!

Take it one step at a time. Before jumping on, try to get the horse to 'stand' and/or 'steps' as a ground exercise. This is helpful for mounting or dismounting later. Also, before you move on to actual riding, start working on your communication skills with the horse.

Try different body positions and looking for a way to get the horse to execute these without touching it. This builds a foundation for your actual riding skills.

Once you learn how to do the previous tasks, the groundwork exercises below can really add a fun element to your training.


Everyone wants their horse to be able to work happily and safely around people. But when is your horse ready to go out with the public, move past the beginner phase on the trails and show ring, or take part in therapeutic riding?

Making any kind of rider progress, requires just the right amount of time, correct training, and a lot of work. And because of this, professional help is often the best option to know if your horse is working safely with you. There’s a lot more to consider than the basics of safe horsemanship.

With that said, there are some fun exercises you can do at home, to let your horse work with you on the ground before you interact together.