Groundwork is the key to bonding with your horse and building a relationship with them. When you build a relationship with them you will find that they will respond better to you when you get in the saddle.
If done properly it will get you a safer more respectful horse and put a solid foundation on them. It helps the horse to understand what you want and it is safer than being on their back.
Groundwork is not just for horses that are going to be ridden it is also for those who are going to be used for carriage driving. It is also about spending time with the horse just being around them and grooming them. Those that don't do this are missing out on the opportunity to bond with their horse. Make sure you talk to them during this time as horses will get to know your voice and your smell.
Groundwork starts from the time you walk into the barn and also during feeding time, grooming or walking the horse from pen to pasture. You are constantly training your horse when you are around them.
It is a great way to help your horse mentally and physically and is something that can be done year round. It also builds confidence in the horse and the handler.
Here are a few things you can teach your horse from the ground that makes it easier for when you get in the saddle or are driving them:
Backing it is so much easier on you and the horse if you teach them how to do this from the ground. If you try it from the saddle and the horse doesn't understand many times you will see them start to rear up. This is a bad habit to get started so teach them from the ground first.
Moving the forequarters you want your horse to understand how to move their forequarters independently from the hindquarters otherwise when asked they will be confused and try to back, move sideways or possibly rear.
Disengaging the hindquarters when teaching this from the ground make sure you touch them in the spot where your foot would go so they have a good understanding when you are on their back.
Side-passing this is a task that can be confusing for so many horses so it is better to teach it from the ground. When teaching this, you need to make sure your horse fully understands how to move the forequarters and disengage the hindquarters then you can put it together for a side-pass.
Stopping you can teach a horse to stop on the ground several ways. When leading them anywhere stop periodically asking for the stop saying whoa and if need be put pressure on the lead. You could also make your lead into reins walk beside them then pick up on the reins say: whoa and see if they will stop if not pull the reins until you put pressure on the halter.
Groundwork is something that should be done for as long as you have the horse as it is a great way to communicate with them. It really helps the horse as they don't have to be worried about a rider on their back.