Horse Training

Groundwork: Less Is More

April 7, 2009

We can take a good horse-training technique and run it into the ground.

Curt Pate works with a young horse on the ground. Journal photo

From America’s Horse

By AQHA Professional Horseman Curt Pate

Keep groundwork to a minimum.

By this, I mean, do what it takes to be safe, but don’t overdo it.

In colt starting, for example, the young horse needs to be comfortable with his handler on the ground before the handler steps into the stirrups.

But too much can dull a horse. And why are we breeding horses with all this athletic ability and all this try, if we take it out of them with our training?

Make the most of your horse’s athletic ability and try by following Curt Pate’s training concepts. Keeping groundwork to a minimum is tip No. 6. Get all 10 tips in detail by downloading your copy of Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship, With Curt Pate.

Longeing is a great example. I’ve studied the classical methods used by the Spanish Riding School, and two people were used to longe a horse. One used the whip to maintain momentum, and the other concentrated only on handling the longe line.

The horse wore side reins or whatever was required to keep it straight – not leaning in on the inside shoulder or going crooked. Everyone involved was focused, and it was quite an undertaking.

Compare that to some of the scenes you’ll see at today’s shows. The handlers are talking on cell phones and passing the longe lines behind their backs as the horses go in mindless circles, dropping shoulders and fighting to stay in balance on a small circle.

A horse often learns to escape through his shoulders in groundwork. In cases where he’s bent around, say to the right, he’ll escape through his left shoulder. And when we’re ground driving a horse, we often find ourselves pulling on him because he’s going too fast.

That pulling encourages him to lean into the bridle and be heavy on his forehand.

Don’t encourage your horse to lean into the bridle or allow him to take up other incorrect habits. Curt Pate’s Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship teaches you to work with your horse to achieve mental and physical balance. Get your copy today!

I’m not saying we need to do away with groundwork, and I’m not saying we should start using two people to longe a horse, but we do need to get serious about how our horse goes on the longe line.

If he’s going to do it, make sure he is going correctly – don’t undo things that you want him to do while you’re on his back.