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Why Groundwork? Part 4 - Performance 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 💃

In part 2 I looked at Foundation Groundwork and in part 3 Fitness & Function Groundwork. For this final blog in the series, I’d like to look at Category 3️⃣ ....

Performance Groundwork 🎠

Have you seen beautiful demonstrations of liberty or in-hand work? This is where groundwork makes the transition from teaching something for a purpose to an art form.

The images that spring to my mind are The Spanish Riding School with beautiful demonstrations of high school movements (haute école) and performers such as Jean-François Pignon with his incredible displays of multiple horses at liberty.

Demonstrations of this level while wonderful to watch can lead you to believe that Performance Groundwork is not relevant to you and your horse. However for us at home performance groundwork might include teaching fun things at liberty like circling, changes of direction, sideways, bowing, and tackling different obstacles like weaving in and out of poles/barrels.

These sorts of tasks are within easy reach for most people and their horses with a bit of preparation. They can be great fun if you enjoy groundwork with your horse and want to take it further or if for some reason you can’t ride.

There are even competitions such as Horse Agility for people who would like to test their groundwork skills and some horsemanship centres also put on tournament days or ‘play days’ for owners and their horses to come along and play with the obstacles. These can be great for getting young horses out to ‘see the world’ or for older retired horses to have some variety.

I have also known riders that have no wish to tackle a cross country course ridden take their horses to a course on the ground (with the course owners permission of course 😉)

In Summary

Whatever you do with your horse I hope I have given you a little insight into the world of groundwork and that there are loads of options for things you can do with your horse. Whether your goal is to improve your horses manners, his physical ability or to teach him something new groundwork has something to offer!

The video below is of me and my TB mare Maddie from 2011 playing with some of the idea's discussed in this blog, hope you enjoy it!


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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