Horse Training Exercises – Groundwork Basics

Horse Training Exercises

When discussing horse training exercises, groundwork is very important. The process often consists of different exercises that you do together with your horse as you stay on the ground, leading your horse with a rope halter, neck rope or cavesson, as well as a lead rope.

This type of exercise is very important in terms of horse training. There are several groundwork exercises that exist and they can also be divided into 5 categories.

Groundwork Basics

Here are the 5 basic categories of groundwork:

1. Leading

As suggested by the name, the exercises under this category involve leading your horse. The exercise covers leading your horse from one point to another using a halter and rope. Here are some basic exercises in leading:

Leading from lead position

This can be done by walking in front of your horse, clearly identifying your space. With this, your horse starts to understand the need to respect your personal and intimate space.

At the same time, you can also work on your leadership skills, since in all of the lead exercises, you always determine both speed and path.

However, in some situations, you can also choose to less clearly identify your space, which may also mean going along with your horse, especially in terms of speed or direction.

Leading from partner position

This can be done by walking near your horse’s shoulder. Your horse starts to learn the need to stay right next to you, both while trotting and halting, walking backwards and waiting, as well as while turning to the left or right.

From this position, you can both lead and drive your horse, which you can practice both on the horse’s left and right side.

Most of the time, you only perform this exercise once you have already established leading from the first position. Most of the advanced leading exercises may also include lead exercises starting from third position, leading using a neck ring.

2. Touching Exercises

Under this horse training exercise category, you touch your horse. This part is very important in order to make sure that your horse learns the value of acceptance and trust, thus enjoying your touch ultimately.

There are two general touch exercises that you can do:


With stroking, you stroke your horse throughout its whole body using both of your hands. It is also important to pay attention to your horse’s sensitive body parts.

Aside from your hand, you can also stroke your horse using a stick, a whip a cloth or a bag.

As you do this, your horse will start to put trust in these objects, thus learning to deal with the different sounds around its body, such as the sound produced by a rustling plastic bag.


With a grooming exercise, you start by scratching and rubbing the specific places that your horse loves. This is usually around its mane and withers.

A lot of horse’s love being groomed in areas such as those around the tail, on the loins, and on the shoulders.

The aim of grooming is to show the type of friendship that you are willing to give your horse. At times, this can also be used as a reward.

Massage is an exercise that can also be categorized under grooming. If you want to go this path, it is very important to identify first whether your horse allows to be stroked, and whether he or she is relaxed and calm while stroking.

Yielding to Aids Physically

With this type of exercise, direct pressure is required, as it teaches your horse to easily go along with physical pressure. Here are some basic forms of exercises that you can try:

  • Head down: with this exercise, your horse yields to your slight downward pressure towards the back of the ears, thus lowering his or her head.
  • Nose to flank: slight pressure is directed on the side of its head, and as such, moving its nose to its flank.
  • Backwards to the nose: as slight pressure is applied on the nose, the horse gives in and takes a step backwards.
  • Forwards: slight pressure is applied just behind the ears, and responds by taking a forward step.
  • Backwards on its chest: with this exercise, your horse gives in to slight pressure on its chest just by taking a back step

As you start, you may just work on focusing a single step. Eventually, you increase it to taking several steps.

Circle Work

With this type of horse training exercise, you simply ask your horse to move in a circle around you.

With the use of body language, you easily teach your horse to begin the circle, slowing down, speeding up, halting, and changing direction. With this, you are being attuned to more.

You may also be able to use circle work for the following things:

  • To prepare your own horse for lunging.
  • To get your horse to overcome certain obstacles without having the need to walk in front of your horse
  • To calm your horse by making sure that you don’t force him or her to stand still.
  • To show your horse the need to exhibit dominant behavior.

Why The Need

Perhaps you are wondering why there is a need to focus on ground work as a vital part of any horse training exercise.

For one thing, it helps in strengthening and keeping the bond stable together with your horse. With this, you can also learn how to offer good guidance, as well as showing leadership especially in situations that are often considered as difficult.

Ground work will also allow your horse to cope and adjust with the human world, through exposure to daily care and contact, vet treatments, hoof trimming, as well as trailer loading.

This will also make sure that your horse overcomes some fears, allowing it to become more open to learning more exercise techniques.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *