Foundation groundwork is the basis on which is built all the rest of the saddle work and fine tuning.
This groundwork section is divided in two parts: groundwork fundamentals and foundation groundwork.
You can practice these exercises in different orders. This one (desensitizing > backing up > lungeing) is the basis I use three times out of four. Yet, sometimes, you will have to adapt to the horse and change the order:
- start with backing up if the horse is dominant and tends to crowd you all the time
- start with lungeing if the horse does not pay attention to you and your cues or is stiff for instance
- focus on desensitizing only when you begin working with a spooky horse
These are the first exercises I practice with a horse, so it will remember for a long time that first experience: great or a wreck!
Touch, throw the rope, tap the flag and carry it over until the horse stands still and relaxed.
Once you have mastered the fundamentals, you can move on with more Foundation Groundwork. My understanding of “mastered” does not imply that you have to be perfect with these first three exercises, but you need to have had results with your horse so it respects you, leave your personal space, remains calm when you are by its side, etc.
For this, I work at least two to four exercises at the same time!
The body should be bent and the nose tipped in. Do not pull the horse.
Yield the hindquarters first, then move the forequarters through.
Refined Backing Up
Jiggle lightly your hand to back the horse up.
Tip the head outside to back in circles.
These exercises are designed to confirm your leadership and to establish the “bubble pressure”. That bubble is the zone within which the horse always have to yield to the human.
It should never get behind you.
Raise the lead rope first, then bump gently if necessary to bring it in position along the fence.
There should always be slack in the rope, as you are not supposed to drag it.
Now that you are doing well on the ground, it is time to mount up and enjoy a bit of riding. Keep in mind that you can (and probably should) blend groundwork to saddle exercises at the beginning.