The education of a horse is a non-stop process. Grooming makes no exception, either you teach respect to your horse or it will teach you! The purpose of this post is to give you some ideas of little drills you can practice during grooming. Your horse should understand pretty soon that respect and leadership are not just for the arena…
You should not try to teach these grooming cues before you worked the Groundwork Fundamentals first. Indeed, your horse needs to know basic cues such as yielding the hindquarters to a pressure on the hip _ which is taught through the lungeing exercise _,and backing up to your hand.
For obvious security reasons, you should not practice this drill if your horse is tied up for the first time. It should have been tied a few times, remaining calm and relaxed, and used to the brushes.
Process - Untracking the hindquarters
The idea is quite simple: you want your horse to cross its hind legs away from your hand. First, make sure you have its attention, as you do not want to trick it but to teach it a new cue. So, as soon as its head is straight, you can raise and wave your hand smoothly by the hip, do not touch it at the beginning. Leave a few moments to your horse to see your cue and respond. If nothing happens, then use the brush or your thumb to put a firm pressure in its flank until it untracks its hindquarters. Later, as usual, repeat the drill on both sides until you get a quick and smooth response.
Process - Backing up
Make sure the rope is loose enough so your horse does not hurt itself when backing up. You can use this cue to put your horse in a more convenient location for your grooming just by waving your hand in front of its eyes. If you have been through the backing up exercise, your horse should know what you want and respond quite quickly.
I always groom my horse before riding to get it clean for the saddle, to check the hooves of course. But I always repeat the complete grooming process after the work too, so it becomes a reward, like a massage I offer to my horse. It will be easier to start practicing these drills during the second grooming as your horse will be more focused on you after a good session of work.
What if my horse does not untrack its hindquarters?
Remember the saying: do as soft as you can first, then as firm as necessary. If that implies that you have to push firmly in the flank with the wooden part of the brush, that’s fine until you do not hurt your horse. Once it has untracked its hindquarters, do not forget to pet your horse, right where you pushed with your thumb or the brush.