Groundwork exercises are an essential component when it comes to building trust and creating a solid bond between you and your horse. By working with your horse from the ground, you can establish a foundation of mutual respect and communication that will translate into the saddle. 

 Gain Horses Trust with Groundwork


Working Safely with Horses on the Ground

It's important to remember that working with horses on the ground can be just as dangerous as working with them under saddle. Here are some tips for staying safe while doing groundwork:


    1. Be aware of your horse's body language. Horses communicate through body language, and reading the signs your horse is giving you is essential. Watch for signs of tension, fear, or aggression, and adjust your approach accordingly.
    2. Use a rope halter and lead rope. A rope halter and lead rope provide better control and are less likely to break under pressure than a regular halter and lead rope. Ensure the halter fits properly and the lead rope is the appropriate length.
    3. Wear appropriate footwear. Closed-toe shoes or boots with a heel are essential for working with horses on the ground. Avoid sandals or flip-flops, as they offer little protection for your feet.
    4. Use a designated training area. Make sure you have a designated area for training and that it's free from hazards such as sharp objects, loose wires, or uneven terrain. Always make sure someone knows where you are and what you're doing when you're working with your horse.
    5. Start with simple exercises. Don't expect too much from your horse too soon. Start with simple exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your horse becomes more proficient.
    6. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Horses can be unpredictable, so preparing for the unexpected is important. Stay alert, maintain a safe distance, and be ready to react if your horse becomes frightened or aggressive.


By following these tips, you can minimise the risks associated with working with horses on the ground and enjoy a safer and more productive training session.


Here are some practical groundwork exercises that you can use to build trust with your horse:



Leading exercises are the foundation of groundwork and an excellent way to establish trust and respect with your horse. To begin, ensure that your horse is comfortable with you standing by their side. Then, lead them around calmly and confidently. Use your body language to communicate your intentions and maintain a consistent pace. This exercise can be practised in a halter and lead rope and at liberty as your relationship develops.



Desensitisation is designed to help your horse become comfortable with new and potentially scary objects or situations. You can use a variety of objects, such as tarps, plastic bags, and poles, to create a controlled and safe environment for your horse to explore. Begin by introducing the item from a distance and gradually bringing it closer to your horse, encouraging them to sniff, touch, and interact. Always praise your horse for their brave behaviour and provide plenty of breaks during the exercise.



Lunging is an excellent exercise for building trust and communication with your horse. It allows you to work on your horse's balance, rhythm, and relaxation while allowing you to observe their movement and behaviour. Begin by teaching your horse to lunge in a circle at a walk, and gradually increase the difficulty by introducing trot and canter. Use a properly fitting lunge line and maintain a safe distance from your horse.



Ground-tying exercises are essential for building trust and teaching your horse to stand calmly and patiently. Start by asking your horse to stand still while grooming or adjusting their equipment. Gradually increase the time your horse must stand, and be sure to reward them for their good behaviour. This exercise will teach your horse to trust you and remain calm in potentially stressful situations, such as at the vet or farrier.



Backing exercises are another excellent way to build trust and communication with your horse. Begin by standing in front of your horse and asking them to step back with their front feet. Encourage them to take small steps and reward them for their effort. Gradually increase the difficulty by asking your horse to back up over poles or other obstacles. This exercise will help your horse develop coordination and trust in their handler.


Obstacle Courses

Obstacle courses are a fun and challenging way to build trust and communication with your horse. Set up a series of obstacles, such as cones, poles, and jumps, and guide your horse through the course. Encourage your horse to engage with the obstacles, and reward them for their efforts. This exercise will help your horse develop confidence and trust in their abilities and improve their coordination and balance.



Yielding exercises are designed to teach your horse to move their body away from pressure. For example, you can place pressure on your horse's shoulder to ask them to move, or on their hindquarters. This exercise will help your horse become more responsive to your cues and improve coordination.


Ground Pole Exercises

Ground pole exercises greatly improve your horse's balance, rhythm, and stride length. Set up a series of poles on the ground and guide your horse over them at a walk, trot, or canter. This exercise will help your horse develop better proprioception and coordination.



Liberty exercises involve working with your horse without physical restraint, such as a halter or lead rope. This exercise will help your horse develop trust and respect for you as their leader. Begin by working in a small, enclosed area, and gradually increase the difficulty by introducing new exercises and obstacles.


In-Hand Exercises

In-hand exercises involve working with your horse from the ground but with more precision and attention to detail. For example, you can teach your horse to perform a shoulder-in or leg-yield while being led from the ground. This classical approach will help your horse become more supple and responsive to your cues.


Desensitisation to sound

Desensitisation to sounds and noises is essential to the groundwork, as it will help your horse become more relaxed and confident in different environments. You can use various objects, such as plastic bags or rattling cans, to create sounds your horse might encounter daily.


Building Confidence Over and Under Obstacles

Building confidence over and under obstacles is a great way to help your horse develop bravery and trust in their abilities. You can use poles, jumps, and other obstacles to teach your horse to step over, through, or under them.

Incorporating various exercises into your groundwork routine will help you build a stronger bond with your horse and develop a more well-rounded partnership. Always remember to work at your horse's pace, reward good behaviour, and keep things fun and interesting for both you and your equine partner. Look at Le-Trec for ideas.

Further Resources

  1. Books: There are many excellent books available on horsemanship and groundwork exercises.
  2. Online Courses: Many experienced trainers offer online courses and tutorials on groundwork exercises and building trust with your horse. Some popular courses include "The Fundamentals of Groundwork" by Warwick Schiller and "The Horseman's Academy" by Ken McNabb.
  3. Clinics and Workshops: Attending a clinic or workshop with a reputable trainer can be an excellent way to learn new skills and improve your horsemanship. Look for clinics or workshops in your area or consider traveling to attend a training event with a well-known trainer.


By exploring these resources and seeking out opportunities for education and training, you can continue to improve your horsemanship skills and build a stronger bond with your horse.