As the Winter session approaches we would like to take a moment to share one of fellow PATH Registered level instructors insights on the benefits of Horsemanship and Groundwork Skills.

There is so much we can share with our students off the horse and Cindy does an excellent job of touching all the key benefactors and opportunities we can explore when the weather makes it difficult to ride.

Cindy. (2012).Lessons in TR Blog: What to Teach. Horsemanship and Groundwork Sills,

The following can be taught with or without a horse.

Horsemanship (Horse Care) Skills

  • The horse’s senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, sense danger and peoples’ moods.
  • The horse’s instincts – herd animals, pecking order, follow the leader, routine, naturally excitable, courage and laziness, etc..
  • How a horse communicates – body language of ears, legs, tail, head, hindquarters, vocalizing, moving, etc.
  • Types of grooming tools.
  • Types of bridles.
  • Types of bits.
  • Types of saddles.
  • Types of extra equipment such as boots, martingales, pads, etc..
  • Types of riding styles.
  • Parts of the horse.
  • Parts of the bridle. Take one apart and put it back together.
  • Parts of the saddle.
  • Horse colors and markings. Go out to the pasture and have them identify the different ones!
  • Horse feed (show the different kinds, have them help feed the horses).
  • Horse stabling – stalls, pastures, bedding, cleaning, safety, etc.
  • Horse showing (hold a mock show in the arena on foot – it can help to practice on foot before in the saddle).
  • How to do an emergency dismount, perhaps off a low barrel with feet into pillows.
  • A horse’s vital signs.
  • How to tell a horse is not feeling well.
  • Horse first aid.
  • Horse parasites and deworming. Show them how to deworm, even have them help!
  • Horse diseases and prevention.
  • Horse’s teeth care – floating. Have a vet come out and let them watch.
  • How to tell a horse is lame. If a horse turns up lame one day use it as an example.
  • How to tell a horse’s age.
  • How to measure a horse’s height and weight.
  • The gaits of the horse. Put different colored leg wraps on a horse and lunge it to demonstrate the gaits.
  • How to train a horse – pressure and release, reward vs. punishment, consistency, etc.
  • How to handle behavior problems – nipping, biting, kicking, bucking, spooking,etc.
  • Horse shoeing (watch a farrier shoe a horse).
  • Teaching Horsemanship Without The Horse

Teaching Horsemanship With The Horse

It is easy to incorporate horsemanship into horseback riding by creating a game or activity out of the topic you are teaching about. Such as by sticking word for the body part on the horse poster. While doing the activity, the kid also gets the benefits of riding on horseback and can practice the skills they are working on!

Horsemanship skill taught: the grooming tools.
Groundwork Skills

The following should be practiced with a horse.

  • How to catch and halter a horse.
  • How to lead a horse – stop, go, turn.
  • How to have control of a horse on the ground when leading and when tied – how to ask to move over, back up, pivot, etc.
  • How to groom a horse.
  • How to saddle a horse.
  • How to bridle a horse.
  • How to lead the horse to the mounting block.
  • How to mount with help / without help / from the block / from the ground / from the wrong side – for off horse work use a barrel with feet.
  • How to dismount with help / without help / to the wrong side – for off horse work use a barrel with feet.
  • How to lunge a horse.
  • How to roundpen a horse.
  • How to give a horse a bath.

Teaching Groundwork

Groundwork is a great opportunity to increase the student’s confidence and encourage their bond with the horse. Many students go straight to the horse’s back without getting to know their equine partner first, and without understanding how to read a horse. Incorporating horse handling and behavior knowledge can help build confidence.

Additionally, giving the student time to groom and just be with their horse helps them bond with the horse and offers another aspect of physical and emotional therapy, from working on walking around the horse to becoming comfortable around such a large animal.