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Why Groundwork?

Have you ever noticed that if you take a horse out on a hack by any other means than riding, even riding and leading, you will inevitably get asked why you aren’t riding your horse? 🤷‍♀️

I once got asked on a bridleway while riding and leading 2 horses ‘why don’t you ride the other ones?’ I refrained from saying that I hadn’t developed the capability to ride 3 horses at once and quite honestly I’ve never had the desire to try Roman Riding and just smiled instead 🙃

I find it interesting that from a small age we are taught at ‘Riding’ Schools and that horses are for riding 🏇 Many of us don’t learn about groundwork until much later on when horse ownership dictates that we must 🤓

Isn’t it also interesting that most horse advertisements include good to load, shoe, clip etc, all groundwork skills that have nothing to do with riding. Why? Because we all know what a pain it is to have a horse that can’t do those things 🥵

Added to this quite honestly (and I’m no different) many of us enjoy riding our horses more than we enjoy groundwork.

So what’s the point? 🧐

In my mind groundwork divides into 3️⃣ categories and there are a number of reasons for each.

Category 1️⃣ - Foundation Groundwork 🔠

This is the basic communication and skills that every horse needs to be easy for everyone to handle and includes leading well, farrier, vet and clipping prep, loading, and basic communication of moving your horse around you right through to basic lunging and early loose schooling or liberty.

Category 2️⃣ - Fitness and Function Groundwork 💪

This includes lunging, long-reining, double lunging and in-hand work to develop your horses fitness and physical ability to carry a rider. Also used for rehab after injury and can include things like polework.

photo courtesy of

Category 3️⃣ - Performance Goundwork 💃

This is where working with your horse on the ground becomes a discipline or art form and includes advanced in-hand work, ‘haute école’ and liberty work.

To my mind the first 2 are things every horse should know and the 3rd is personal choice based on what you like to do with your horse. Groundwork isn’t the most glamorous thing you’ll ever do with your horse and you’re unlikely to get given a rosette for it, but, having good groundwork skills will help you and your horse have more ‘Good Horse Days’ 🦄💕


Before trying any training technique it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.

If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on


Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.

Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK.

See or email for more details.


All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible for to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them live. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.

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