Working Through Anxiety on the Ground

For a while now I have been feeling like maybe I prefer to do groundwork over riding. I felt like I found reasons not to ride so that I could stick to the ground work. However, I realized that that isn’t true at all. It’s not that I prefer groundwork over riding. In fact, I would much rather just hop on a wonderfully trained, well-prepared horse. However, those aren’t the horses I have in my program.

I cater to problem horses and young horses. Those aren’t horses that you can hop on unprepared. So I end up spending a vast majority of my time working on the ground and getting them ready. Sometimes I don’t even get on them because the preparation was so long or so intense that I want to leave it there instead of overwhelming them, and I know that is the right thing to do.

I’m learning to not only accept my unwillingness to ride, but embrace it and promote it. Another light bulb moment for me was that even if my clients think I should be riding, I can make their rides so much better by sticking to the ground work. I don’t need to get on the horse to work through the problems most of my clients are having. If I work through the groundwork, the problems often go away. Addressing the root cause – tension, anxiety, or bracing – is way more efficient and effective than “training” the horse not to exhibit the issue.

It’s not that I haven’t know what groundwork could do all this time. I knew that if you fix all the bracing, tension, and anxiety on the ground that you will have a much better horse under saddle. My own horses always end up being so easy that I often hop on them without groundwork despite crazy weather or unusual activities. The reason my horses get to be this way isn’t because they have amazing minds. It’s because I didn’t rush and I took the time to get the groundwork solid. I end up with a horse that is dependable and reliable.

With my clients horses it is a bit harder to do this. I might not have an agenda for my horses, but my clients almost certainly have an agenda and a timeline. It can be hard to convince someone that the groundwork and slow work that might not look like anything special is really what is going to fix their horse.

In that sense, I am failing my clients. I know better, but I haven’t always been doing better because my clients don’t see my point of view. I have taken the approach that it is better to at least make some progress with a horse then watch it go to someone else that won’t understand the horse at all. However, that’s kind of a backwards way of looking at things.

I have a lot of exciting new things happening with my business and one of those is that I’m no longer going to be balancing the desire of the owner with the needs of the horse. Horses that come into training with me will get the exact same treatment as my own. They will be given the time and space they need to work out their own issues so that they can truly be the reliable partners everyone wants. I am not going to just get on because someone wanted me to get on. I’m not going to skip the groundwork because an owner thinks that riding is more important.

I’m going to train horses placed in training with me how I think they should be trained. I’m going to fix all of that stuff on the ground so that under saddle we can actually work on getting the horses more engaged, more balanced, and more competitive in the owner’s discipline of choice. There’s no need or reason to fight through the bracing, anxiety, and tension under saddle when you could have taken care of it before you even swung a leg over and you can be so much more effective at it.

I hope all of you guys will support me in this decision and continue to dive deeper into groundwork with me. After all, there is always more to learn. Stay tuned for more exciting news in the next few weeks!

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