I’m a ground work fanatic for quite a few reasons. Firstly, I can see a whole lot more of what is going on with the horse from the ground. Secondly, I take away any unbalance to the horse as a rider. Thirdly, it’s winter and well, it’s just more efficient to work on the ground sometimes. It’s a hard slog to ride through winter when you don’t have an arena onsite, so I’ve toned down our training to just hand walking down the road and some relaxation and bodywork sessions in the past few months.
My horse Lily will be coming back into work soon as the weather improves (and with it my enjoyment of riding!). We can start again on a fresh footing which is always a good place to begin. The first part of riding is getting her body ready again to perform well. I take it slowly after time off – I’ve been there and done that with my own exercise regimes, so I know well that building back up slowly to your former glory is important to avoid aches and pains and a resisting attitude.
Following on from the previous post showing part 1 of the slow movement walk exercises, this video below with Lily shows part 2 of that process. In the first video the horse was practicing balance in small steps with frequent stops. When this is going well then we can start doing a few more steps at a time, keeping the steps small and asking the horse not push, but to lift themselves up at the front to create light steps.
We can also add in slow steps backwards, starting with one or two and then as you see the horse able to step backwards with diagonal pairs of legs, asking for more steps without getting out of sync in the diagonals. Ask lightly and try to avoid the horse raising their head as they step backwards. They still need to lift up at the front when going backwards so that the back and hind can engage and the whole movement becomes connected. When the horse can step backwards with diagonal pairs at the same time then this is indicating a good front and hind connection and engagement.
When these simple exercises are well established then it is time to move into some lateral work, such as shoulder fore or shoulder in, and the haunches in movements from classical training that will strengthen further the engagement, flexibility, and start building up to more collection and self-carriage.