Connecting Ground Work to Riding

One of the challenges in offering instruction is to communicate clearly with students AND horses. As I overhear, read or watch many “horse training” sessions/clinics I find that there’s a general lack of “connection” in the student’s ability to understand how the “here and now” in their ground work relates to their riding in the future. Often students come to me because they can “talk the lingo,” sounding like they’ve seen a lot, and go through steps or concepts, but are still having problems with their horse. This is usually because they unknowingly do not understand the connection between how and why their ground work affects and influences their ride.

I’m surprised when a student has an “Aha” moment from some casual comment I make, when it seems as though they had already been “getting it” throughout the session. My seemingly small comment can sometimes be the catalyst that triggers a domino effect in the student’s brain that finally connects the “links” from what they’d first addressed on the ground to what they are now using as tools to communicate with when they ride. As a teacher this is always a highlight!

It’s a reminder to me how clear I must be not only in presenting information to the student but also to confirm from the student in their own words what concept exactly did they understand and how it relates to them and their horse.

Too many students want to imitate “how it’s supposed to look,” or a specific exercise, task, etc. with no concept as to what the point is of what they are doing. In my opinion this eliminates putting the responsibility on the student to focus on being “present” in the “here and now” in order to address what is happening in “real time” with their horse.

I find it as easy for human students to get just as distracted or “lost” as their equine partners often do. People tend to see, or wait to see, the physical movement of the horse, rather than searching within themselves to offer the clear communication necessary that will allow them to present a “big scenario” but in seemingly small (mental and literal) pieces.

I continually explore a “better way” to explain my theories and concepts from my own hands-on training with the horses and my sessions in working with people. Each year I tend to start to hear myself say certain “catch phrases.” This summer that “theme” was the following:

Don’t challenge your horse into “getting it right,” but rather support him to be successful in the scenario you present.

I like to explain the how, why, when, etc. so that I’m not just sitting in the chair “instructing” every movement and decision in a session to a “brainless” rider, but rather to offer stimulating ideas that will help “arm” the rider with the ability to assess and become aware of what their horse is offering in order to communicate effectively.

My teaching theories are based on the underlying concept that says:

In order to achieve an ideal physical response from my horse, I must first influence a mental change.

I love hearing feedback from students and have discussed with many why certain “key words” or phrase(s) suddenly triggered it to “click” for them.

I believe that just like horses people learn in different styles. For me, it’s a reminder that even if I’m saying the words and explaining what the student is seeing or feeling from the horse, whether on the ground or in the saddle, if the student’s brain is “overloaded” or perhaps “ahead” of where they are physically at, distracted, unclear, etc., (yes they share this affliction just as many horses do,) they will not be able to really HEAR what I’m saying.

So even if I think I’m being clear, I have to remember that just because I offered the information, does not mean it was received by the student as I had intended it to. Oh how this relates to our horsemanship!

Many people get frustrated when attempting to communicate with their horse. Just because the person offered “something” to their horse, does not mean it was received as they had intended it to be… Have you ever experienced or watch someone try to ask something of their horse and then move on, without ever “checking” to see if the horse clearly understood? Later when there is“disobedience” from the horse- usually due to a lack of understanding, the person is frustrated saying, “But I offered the horse a., b. and c. Why are they not getting it?”

Perhaps this blurb might help make it start to click…