Essential Groundwork to Add to Your Horse Training

Want to add groundwork to your horse training but don’t know where to start? Check out these tips to get started.

Written By:

The Pivoriders Team
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Groundwork exercises are great to complement your horse’s regular training. Groundwork helps build mutual trust and improve the communication between horses and riders.


This term is becoming popular in the equestrian world. Horse owners, trainers, and institutions like FEI are more aware of horses’ well-being. Groundwork helps horses to see humans as their partners and herd leaders. It’s all about building a strong bond and being kind and respectful.

Leading and groundwork help to develop a whole state of horsefulness that is healthy and productive for you and your horse.

Groundwork 101

So, what is groundwork exactly? Groundwork helps horses to cope with things they won’t find in the wilderness.

Many people have the misconception that groundwork is for very young horses or foals. Yet groundwork is useful for horses of all ages and levels of training. It’s important to note that groundwork exercises are done using a halter and a lead rope. It’s the next step after liberty training, where the horse is completely free.

Groundwork helps riders understand their horse’s behavior better. It also helps them learn about their horse’s fears, temperament and how to read their mood better. Knowing this makes them easier and safer to ride. 

There are different levels of groundwork exercises. Even the most basic exercises can be very useful. Groundwork requires lots of patience and knowledge. That’s why it’s important to start with the most basic exercises and move on to the more difficult ones as you practice.

Types of groundwork exercises

There are many groundwork exercises, like lead and circle work, yielding to aids, and touching — some of which help to entertain horses, while others improve their balance and focus. Energy release is another positive aspect of groundwork.

Medium-level groundwork includes traffic, double-long lines, riding prep, and trailer load training.

Groundwork offers great tools to improve communication and keep horses entertained and focused. It’s also great for desensitizing them and helping them to build confidence and overcome their fears.

Groundwork you can try with your horse

Lead exercises

These exercises make horses see you as the herd leader. You only need to put a halter on your horse and lead it with a rope to a fixed point. You can start these exercises from the leading position and take the partner position afterward.

You can practice leading at walk and trot, make turns, halts, and backing.

Touch exercises

Stroking, rubbing, and massaging your horse in different zones will teach you how it reacts to your touch. You will discover where are the best zones are to pamper it. For example, you can find where you can rub your horse when grooming it. This will help you strengthen the bond with your horse and make it more confident towards you.

Circle work

Circle work is one of the most common groundwork exercises. It’s a great tool to warm up horses before riding them. You can make them work out without riding them and work on their rhythm at different gaits. It’s a good way to teach them to react to your voice and sounds to make them go faster or slow down. You must be careful because some horses can kick, buck, and romp, which can be harmful to both of you. Depending on the exercise’s purpose, you can do this with the horse tacked up or with a halter. Use a rope of at least 40 feet/12 meters to ensure you don’t get kicked or rumbled by your horse. Besides, it’s a comfortable radius for your horse to walk, trot or canter without a problem.

Teaching physical aids

You should be familiar with aids used while riding, like the legs, seat, and reins. If your horse doesn’t listen to your leg, for example, you can apply the same pressure from the ground. You can re-educate your horse to be more responsive when receiving the pressure. When it reacts to this pressure, you must immediately release the pressure and reward it. You can also teach your horse to walk backward from the ground by pressing gently on its chest to push it back. Immediately release the pressure once you get one or two steps back and praise it. 

Earn your horse’s respect

There are many more exercises you can do. For example, you may have a hard time making your horse enter a trailer. There are many ways you can earn its confidence. But the most important thing is that you don’t use fear to train horses. They respond better to positive reinforcement and forgive but don’t forget abuse. Use groundwork to learn how to read your horses and understand how they read you. Understanding your horse’s body language will teach you much about its personality. You can’t overpower a horse, but you can use your head and your understanding to make it cooperate with you. You will only be able to do this if you have earned your horse’s respect. You want to be the leader and also a good friend.

Want to better keep track of you and your horse’s progress? Look at all these ways that Pivo Equestrian Edition can contribute to your training.