Ask the Expert: Groundwork Tips for Unridable Pony

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A little background info before my question. I have recently started looking after a small welsh mix pony a few days a week. He is really sweet and I love him to pieces but would love to be able to do more with him. He is about 10hh (so riding is out of the question as I am an older teen) he is definitely on the fat side of healthy so stuff that includes moving is great and eating not so great. I have access to an outdoor arena and plenty of paddock space. What I am would like is more ideas of ground work activities that we can do together I already hand walk/run him but would really like to have varsity?  Thanks in advance.

  • Emily H.



There are so many wonderful groundwork exercises that you can work on.  Most importantly, get creative, think of it almost like you are creating puzzles for your pony to figure out.  This will activate the thinking side of his brain and reduce the risk of him becoming bored.  For example, if you are working on sending him in a circle, don’t just send him in endless circle; work on changes of direction by sending in semi-circles while focusing on him moving his shoulder over and maintaining the circle as well as staying out of your bubble.  Another thing you can add to the sending would be some sort of obstacle…poles, cones, barrels all work well; you can send him over, around, and through.  You can check out our Release to a Jump exercise for inspiration.  Yet another thing you can add to the sending exercise would be a destination; for example, sending him through a gate, into a horse trailer, through a puddle, onto a bridge, etc.  This type of creativity gives your pony purpose rather than just teaching principles.

The other thing to remember when working on groundwork activities is the balance of your pony.  Work on exercises that focus on all the different directions and all four feet: forward, backwards, and sideways.  One of my favorite warmup exercises that focuses on this idea is a sequence that combines sending, with the four corners exercise, and backing.  Start by sending him in a circle, once you are happy with his movement, disengage his hindquarters (for example, if you are sending to the right, step towards his hindquarters, asking his right hind foot to cross underneath him).  From there move his opposite front foot over (the front left in this example), you should be able to smoothly transition from one to the other while you yourself maintain the same direction of travel.  This is then followed by backing him on the same circle.  Then send him the other direction and repeat the steps with the opposite feet.  If you would like to see video of this, we may have one in our Excel With Horses Facebook group or on our Steve Rother Horsemanship Facebook page, as we understand following the words may be confusing.


Special Thank You to Steve Rother, Steve Rother Horsemanship


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