Ground work

Ground work- boring nonsense or varied training opportunity for horse and rider?

A rumour that persists among riders: Ground work is boring.

Let's take a closer look at whether there is any truth to this rumour.

What is groundwork?

As the word suggests, it is work with the horse from the ground. Horse and rider meet here at "eye level". This leads to a much more direct communication with the horse. The horse does not only listen to the rider's voice, but pays much more attention to his body language.

What types of ground work are there and what is behind them?

This is an interval training (alternating load and recovery phases) according to Michael Geitner, which is intended to provide more balance and targeted muscle development in horses. In this lungeing programme, the horse is lunged in a continuous inside position. With the help of blue/yellow foam bars, a square volte on the ground is created through which the horse moves.

 Natural Horsemanship:

Natural Horsemanship is based on natural horse behaviour to gain the trust and respect of horses in the horse-human relationship. This method is mentally, emotionally and physically similar to the way horses behave and also communicate with each other in a herd. The aim of natural horsemanship is to make people behave not like humans or even like predators, but like horses. Fundamental to this are seven games based on the behaviour of a mare with her newborn foal.

Lunge work:

refers to training on the lunge line. Here you can specifically build up the horse's musculature. It is also suitable for improving and working on bending and stance. During lunge work, the horse ideally wears a Cappusum to send fine signals to the horse's head and neck.

Freedom training:

is a communication between horse and rider that works exclusively with hand signals, the whip and guided by the voice and body language of the human. The horse does not wear a halter or other bridle in this type of ground work and is also, as the name says, "free", i.e. without a lunge line or lead rope..

Anti-fright /calmness training:

Here the horse is confronted with everyday situations and/or objects in which it would often react nervously or even panic due to its natural flight instinct. This is how you prepare your horse for rides, for example. Common aids here are pylons, umbrellas, tarpaulins, flutter tape, or a rappelling bag.

Long rein work:

is a great way to train the horse from the ground and to refine lessons that are perhaps not yet so well established under saddle. You can work on and practise all the lessons that the horse can show under saddle on the long rein. This is ideal for horses that cannot be ridden. With this kind of ground work, muscles and coordination are trained and the horse is gymnastically trained. Long rein work is also highly recommended for riders, who can refine their aids and perfect lessons. In addition, the rider builds up physical fitness, as long rein work can be practised at all gaits.

Circus lessons:

are circus lessons for the horse. These include, for example, the compliment, climb, Spanish walk, bow and many other tricks.


Click - praise through treat - Click - praise through treat - this is how the clicker is linked as a positive sound from the human to the horse's head. Through this simple link, the horse finds out what the rider wants with the click sound and the treat, and the rider rewards every positive reaction.


The listed types of ground work are of course only a small selection, because the possibilities are very numerous and varied. Not every horse is suitable for every type of ground work or enjoys the training. Therefore, one should not only focus on one type of ground work, but rather look at several possibilities in order to filter which types of ground work are suitable for rider and horse.

Ideally, humans learn:

  • Understand movements better - how does the horse move in certain situations, in which direction is the horse looking, this information helps us immensely.
  • Interpret body language correctly - from the ground perspective we learn more quickly what the horse is doing and how it "works".
  • Calmness and composure - for many riders, this comes more quickly during ground work than from the saddle.

The goal of ground work

The goal of ground work is to minimise our aids more and more, so that the horse eventually reacts to the human being through hardly visible impulses and performs the individual exercises in a motivated, precise and calm manner. In addition, a strong bond of trust and respect should develop between rider and horse.

What equipment is needed for ground work?

Depending on the type of ground work you choose, there is different equipment.

Here is a brief overview of the most commonly used equipment:

  • Halter
  • Knot halter 
  • Cavesson
  • Groundwork rope
  • Lunge


Optional: crop, whip or horseman's stick

Optional: Pylons and poles, depending on what you want to practise

Optional: "scary" things forcomposure training e.g. umbrella or tarpaulin


So you see that ground work with the horse, besides classical riding, is a very important building block in the work between rider and horse and should by no means be described as boring. Whether it is long rein work, lungeing, equkinetic or liberty dressage. The possibilities of ground work are numerous and yet all pursue the same goal. To create a unique, close bond and blind trust between rider and horse. The many possibilities of ground work enable you to train your horse in a goal-oriented way. Looseness, gymnastics and variety are a nice side effect.