Groundwork versus lunging or just getting on and ride
I have found that there is a lot of confusion and misconception in regards to doing groundwork with our horses.
Many people believe that doing groundwork and lunging are the same thing and they are not.
Groundwork consists of a variety of things we do on the ground to get our horses engaging with us. When we ask our horses to do something, it requires them to engage their mind in order to get the body to do what is being asked.
It gives us the opportunity to see where are horses are on that day. Can they focus and be with me, or are they too distracted by other things or perhaps need a moment to be turned loose to run.
The groundwork session is a time for both of us to see where the other is today, what kind of a leader am I today, what kind of a partner is my horse. Yes, we all have bad days even our horses, I want to know that before I get in the saddle or load them up for a long trail ride. If we are connected and together.
Working with my horses on the ground also helps me to be sure I am communicating clearly and they understand my request. I want to know that my horse is willing to bend his head softly to the left and the right. Are they willing to yield their hindquarters without resistance?
All of these things are things needing to be done as a partner once I get in the saddle. If my horse is being resistant in anyway on the ground, I am certain it will not be any better once I get up on his back.
I want our time to be enjoyable and safe for both of us, I do not lead by dictatorship, this is a partnership built on trust, respect, communication and inclusive leadership.
Horses, like humans are holistic beings meaning we have 4 areas that must all be working in harmony within, in order for us to work together in harmony.
These areas of focus for me are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Spiritual being the essence of who we each other, that part of us that connects on an energetic level.
Groundwork gives me the time to first make sure that I am holistically balanced and that my horse is too. If either of us are not, I take the time asking for him to move in circles with his attention on me.
I might ask them to change gaits and see if they can do so without needing to pull buck or protest in anyway that might be showing up that day.
As I remain calm and connected as their leader, guiding them through our session with the only goal being to become connected and communicating with respect.
When I know that my horse is connected and acting like my partner, then we are ready to saddle up and enjoy each other in whatever we have chosen to do that day.
The traditional way of thinking about lunging is to warm up the muscles and get rid of the excess energy the horse may have from “sitting” for too long. Another reason is to get all the bucks and squirrely behavior out of them before putting ourselves or others in the saddle upon their backs.
The struggle that I have with this is that horses are prey animals and we are predators. Most often then not when someone is lunging a horse, they have a long lung whip that cracks pretty easily.
They have the horse loose in a round pen or on a lung line and they set them out on a circle and put them through their gates: walk trot and canter.
The horse knows the drill and goes through the motions and if feeling fresh is bucking and running and acting like a prey animal being driven by a predator.
When the horse does one of two things, either behaves as they are expected to and deemed “ready to ride”.
Or works up a sweat from being forced to run in circle in their sympathetic nervous system which is releasing adrenaline and cortisol the chemicals needed when they are in flight or fight mode.
When they are in this state of being they are not able to think clearly, physiologically it can’t happen, they are in reactive mode.
We are not doing anything to engage our horse’s mind when lunging this way, and we are definitely not doing anything to help them emotionally feel safe, comfortable and trusting of us during this process.
We are simply tiring out the horse and warming up the muscles. Then we can’t understand why our horse is still not acting like a partner when we climb upon their back.
If you would like to learn more about my holistic approach with horses that I train all my mustangs with and teach others to do. Simply go back to my home page and click on one of the Discovery Call button, I would love to talk to you.