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Why Groundwork? Part 3 - Fitness & Function Groundwork

Good groundwork leads to good manners, self carriage and good ridden work = good horses 😊

Groundwork has been taught for centuries as part of the preparation for the ridden or driven horse. These days there are loads of different programmes that teach different forms of groundwork. In this blog series I have attempted to categorise them to show the benefits of each type 1️⃣2️⃣3️⃣

In Why Groundwork? Part 1 I looked at the different categories of groundwork

Category 1 - Foundation Groundwork 🔤

Category 2 - Fitness & Function Groundwork 💪

Category 3 - Performance Groundwork 💃

And in the last blog I looked at Category 1️⃣ Foundation Groundwork

In this blog, I’d like to look more closely at Category 2️⃣ ....

Fitness & 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.

Lunging and Loose Schooling 🔄🔀

Lunging when done well can be incredibly beneficial and fun for you and your horse, it’s also a great way to exercise your horse without the weight of a rider.

I try to give my horses at least 1 but preferably 2 days a week when I work them from the ground. I usually include a bit of loose schooling (liberty) for fun, some lunging for fitness and strength with transitions, changes of direction and some poles.

This type of training also gives you a chance to look at your horse and see how well your training is working. Is your horse developing his natural self carriage? If so, they will display this naturally on the lunge or loose.

Long Reining & Double Lunging

These take a little more skill to get going and usually need some practise dealing with all the ropes 🥴 Long reining is a wonderful skill to have and as well as the physical benefits is great for young/green horses or horses that tend to nap ⛔️

Long reining teaches the horse to go out in front of you rather than following when you lead and is a bit more like riding. It’s also great in the early stages of rehabilitation when walking in straight lines may be called for.

An easy way to start long reining if you’re not used to it, is to ask a friend to lead your horse while you drive from behind and get used to stopping, going and steering!

For more ideas on how to prepare for long reining watch my video...

Double lunging is a natural progression from long reining and not only does it enable you to teach your horse to work on a contact with two reins but done well you can also ask your horse to use the hind end more by using the outside rein round his hindquarters

When you get really sophisticated you can teach your horse to do Lateral Manoeuvres like leg yield, shoulder-in, travers and even half pass from the ground which starts to lead me more into the next topic in the series - Performance Groundwork 🎠


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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