Essential Groundwork Exercises for Horse Training

Groundwork exercises are a set of activities you could do with your horse without riding it. It is essential to train your horse in the basic groundwork exercises so you could easily control it even when you’re not mounting it. During horse training, you’ll need different kinds of ropes to lead the horse into doing the exercises. Once you’ve established obedience between you and the horse, it could easily follow your lead by taking hints from your body language.

Here are the most essential groundwork exercises you should incorporate in your horse training routine.

Circle Work

In this exercise, you’ll lead the horse to move around you in a circle. You could use a lunge rope to guide it around. Once the horse starts moving around you in a circle, gradually teach it to slow down, speed up, stop and even change direction. Circle work is important in preparation for lunging a horse. Once it gets used to circle work, your horse can easily follow your instructions without you walking in front of it.

lunging a horse
Image Source: Pexels

Lead Exercises

This exercise teaches the horse to follow your lead while you hold it with a rope and halter. You could start training your horse by taking the lead in front of it. You’ll walk in front of the horse with a definite space in between. You’ll lead the pace of the walk whether fast, slow or halt. When your horse gets used to this exercise, you could start leading by partner position. Instead of walking in front of the horse, you’ll lead while staying next to it.


These set of exercises teaches the horse to be comfortable with the owner’s touch as well as the objects that will usually be around. First, you could practice strolling the horse with bare hands. Gently stroke certain spots such as mouth, eyes, ears, tail, and even the sensitive parts such as the groin or the stomach.

You could also use objects to stroke the horse so it will trust these objects and won’t get distressed when seeing them. Once your horse is comfortable with your touch, you can scratch and rub places that it enjoys such as around the withers and mane. Horses also love to be scratched on the shoulders, tail and the loins. These exercise helps build trust and friendship between the owner and the horse.

Yielding to Aids

Lastly, you should train a horse to follow aids both indirect and direct pressure. Use soft physical pressure to guide the horse on what you want it to do. Once it starts to understand the aids, you could now start using driving aids through indirect pressure. In this method, you won’t touch the horse but only use your energy or body language in leading the horse.

Once your horse gets familiar with these type of groundwork exercises, training them is now a lot easier than what you think. It becomes more obedient and receptive on the prompts and instructions that you give.

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