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Golden Rules 3 & 4, Ground Training, Lynn Palm



LynnPalmandDogGolden Rules #3:   Do Not Pull

One of the best ways to avoid getting into a  pulling competition with a horse, a competition  you will never win, is to keep the longe line loose  in your hands while working on ground training.    I  often see handlers trying to steer, stop, and get  the horse to go forward by pulling or pushing the  horse’s head from the bottom of the halter.   This  violates all of the Golden Rules!   The more you  pull on the lead, the more the horse will learn to  lean against it.   This desensitizes him and  increases the physical and mental stress on both  of you because you get less response from the  horse.  A loose lead allows your horse to be  independent.

The more the horse learns to keep  his own space, the more he will be able to  concentrate and obey your commands because  he will not have anything to lean on or resist  against.  If your horse gets too close to you while  teaching ground training maneuvers, push his  head away with your hand on the side of his  head rather than pushing it away from beneath  the halter.   Another way to get him to move  away is to shake the longe line toward him to  encourage him to maintain the desired space.  If, however, the horse resists coming towards  you, put a slight tension on the lead, but release  it the instant the horse moves closer to you.

Try not to lag behind your horse’s movements  when teaching ground training maneuvers.  Do not pull to slow down his natural  movements.  When the horse is first learning  to respond to you, you should stay up with  his speed.  Once the horse is responsive,  keeping his space, and leading without pulling,  you can increase the difficulty by asking the  horse to perform the maneuver at different  speeds.

I use voice commands, in addition to my  position, to reinforce what I am asking my horse  to do.  A deep vocal tone tells a horse to “do it  now” or “respond and react to me.”  A mellow tone  is rewarding and soothing.   I also introduce the  cluck as a signal that means “move.”

Golden Rule #4:   Reward Progress

This may be the most important rule of them  all for success in building a partnership with  your horse.  Ground training takes time so be  patient.   You may need to spend several days or  weeks on one lesson.  Make your sessions short  to keep your horse’s attention, and find a way  to end each session on a positive note so that  you can praise your horse.

Remember that  rushed or impatient handling now will affect your  future training sessions.   Ground training is not mentally or physically  fatiguing for a horse so it is something you can  do every day as long as you keep the lessons  short and interesting.   This is a must for young  horses.

For older horses,  ground training offers variety  to your schooling, and it is  another opportunity to spend  time together.    Every minute  you spend with your horse is  a learning situation so do not  let your guard down and let  him get away with such bad  behavior as rubbing on you  or invading your space in  any way you do not wish.   Your horse will remember  any lapse!

Reward any progress  your horse makes no matter  how small.   Praise him with  your voice and with touch.  If your horse is not  used to being petted, start by gently touching  him.   Once he accepts a touch, try stroking him on  his neck, then along his back in the direction that  his hair grows.   Horses usually love being stroked  on their foreheads, but some horses are head  shy so go slowly.   A treat of carrots or apples and  a good brushing after the lesson will encourage  your horse to look forward to the next lesson.

No matter what the age of your horse,  investing the time in thorough ground training  will make him a more responsive and obedient  partner.  To learn more about  these and other fine training products as well  as information on our courses, go to

[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue 1.]


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