Monday 29 July 2019

Ground Lessons

Phantom gave another beginner lesson this weekend. This time though, it wasn't for riding - it was for groundwork.

After being around horses for 30 years, it's easy for me to forget how hard it can be for beginners to learn how to control a horse on the ground. There is so much body language to figure out, and that doesn't come naturally to a lot of people.
Pretty sure that her fly mask isn't supposed to look like this. That's an ear hole, not an eye hole.
A lady at my barn just bought her first horse for her and her tween daughter. I had helped her a couple of nights earlier with treating his sunburned nose (we smeared it in zinc oxide cream) and she was looking for some more help. She found that he was pushy on the ground and didn't know what to do.

I had the daughter bring Phantom into the arena at the same time as their horse. I don't know much about this new horse, so I figured a second pony might allow him to relax a bit more in the arena. But mostly, I wanted to use Phantom as an example of how they should expect their horse to handle.

Phantom has always been quite well mannered on the ground. I've never needed to put a ton of work into her ground manners, just some simple fine-tuning. She also really watches your body language, especially while lunging, so she is great to use to teach people. If you are in the right position, she'll do things easily. Get yourself out of position, she'll turn and stare at you. She's also quite low energy so people who are unsure around her quickly get comfortable.
So sure of herself.
As I expected, Phantom was able to give a masterclass on how a horse should lead. Walk quickly, she jogs next to you. Walk slowly, she'll amble along. Turn towards her and walk into her neck, she bends away from you and moves her shoulders around. On both sides of her body, with a loopy lead shank.

She did a great job of explaining to the mother and daughter what they are looking for with their horse.

They were able to make some significant progress with their new horse. I think that he has had some good training in the past, but he's done nothing for the last three years while his previous owner pursued higher education. He remembers his manners very quickly if I have control of the lead shank, so now that his new owners have some tools and expectations, I think that they will quickly make progress.
The almost perfect pony.
Lunging might be a different story though. I find it difficult to teach people how to lunge - it's hard to stay out of the way, when things go wonky they have a hard time moving fast enough to reposition themselves, and newbies are just so awkward with the whip and lunge line. Learning to lunge is really a skill that takes a lot of practice, and again, it's easy to forget how difficult it is to a beginner.

We did a few minutes of lunging with Phantom. The mother had the right idea once the horse was out on the circle. Getting her out there was a bit of a problem. As anyone who knows how to lunge knows, the hard part of lunging is getting the horse to head out on the circle. If you aren't positioned properly, the horse can easily do the turn and stare at you and you have to finagle with the lunge line while trying to move your feet towards the back of the horse to try to get them moving in the desired direction.

I'm pretty sure we'll be working on this next week too. And maybe the week after.


  1. It is so kind of you to help them. It will save them a lot of grief and I hope that they appreciate it!

    1. I'm not that kind - it was a formal lesson so I did get paid for it!