A horse without ground manners is an extremely dangerous animal. They should be the first thing taught to a juvenile or unbroken horse. Any adult horse that has not yet been taught ground manners should learn them. With good ground manners, a horse is easier and safer to handle and is better prepared to take the saddle.
Horses are large animals and can easily overpower a human. Training a horse to stay out of your space will help prevent crowding, keep the horse from jumping on you, and prevent the horse from stepping on your feet. A bold horse that is always in your space is not only dangerous but also very frustrating. Many serious injuries can be prevented if the time is taken to teach a horse to stay clear of your space. Training a horse to lead properly and move its hips and shoulders away from you will keep a horse a safe distance away and prevent injury.
Proper horse care and training are impossible if a horse disallows people from touching any part of its body. Many serious health issues go unnoticed if you cannot touch and check all parts of your horse's body on a regular basis. A horse should stand quietly while tied, without pulling back, allow things to be put in its mouth and willingly lift its feet for inspection. Tolerance is critical so that the horse is prepared for vet visits, farrier work and grooming. Behavioral issues develop when a horse is not frequently touched early in life.
Ground manners and many ground training exercises can prepare a young or unbroken horse for the saddle. When a horse learns to move away from finger pressure on the ground it is much easier to teach it to move away from leg pressure in the saddle. If you want your young horse to turn swiftly on its haunches, turn on forehand, back-up, and move off your leg, teach the exercise on the ground first. If a horse understands this on the ground, training in the saddle will be much more relaxed.
- Do not teach more than one ground training skill at a time.
- Keep training sessions brief so as not to lose the horse’s attention.
- Conduct all training sessions in a safe area with even footing.
- If you become frustrated during training, take a break and regroup.