Part 1a Why
From: Vicki/ladywife <ladywife@b...>
Date: Sat May 27, 2000 12:25pm
Subject: Why ground training?
I know ground training seems like it takes a long time and it bores you
tears but the alternative is a big splat and a loud oomph (and hopefully
Ground training isn't about establishing dominance over the animal. It
isn't about repeating the same things over and over and over until the
trainer and the animal are both zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Ground training is about establishing the cooperation needed to build a
strong and lasting partnership based on trust and reasonable expectations.
Ground training is the bonding experience that CAN save your life someday
when a tent awning breaks loose in the wind and you sitting on top of your
horse/donkey/mule are right in the path. That happened to me at the Circle
G Saddle Club horse show in the mid-80's. We had just completed the second
360 degree spin of the reining pattern when the Elephant Ears concessionaire
tent ripped loose from the pegs and became airborne. It happened so quickly
and behind me I didn't even see it coming. Out of a clear blue sky (a tad
windy that day) the Jet Deck super-charged 3 year old colt and I were
enveloped in this whipping, clammy, stinking blackness (smelled like rancid
grease from the deep fryer). If I had not taken the time to development
that colt's confidence in himself and in me by ground training I have no
doubt my family would be putting flowers on my grave this Memorial Day.
was only a 12x12 canvas tent topper but the ropes and pegs were still
attached to it and the wind wrapped it around us like saran wrap. I had
momentary flash of panic I was going to suffocate before help could get
us to get us out of it. There wasn't room to dismount since the ends of
tent wrapped around Tears legs. I had to sit there and wait. That colt
stood like a rock and this was his first show experience. He nickered
softly as if asking "What the Hell is this?" But he didn't move. Add to
the confusion of loud paniced voices and the pounding footsteps of a hundred
people jumping the arena fence and rushing toward us. I might add that
everyone was in their show finery and no one had a SHARP pocket knife in
their pocket except me and I was plastered to the colt's neck and couldn't
reach my nose let alone my pocket. A quick-thinking show farrier grabbed
a handful of hoof knifes and passed them out but still it was a slow,
methodical rescue cutting the tent into pieces to get us out from under
I tried to scan the photo from the newspaper of the accident but it is
grainy and looks more like a picture of an elephant surrounded by ants.
That is what ground training is all about. Saving your hide when the
unexpected (and sometimes bizarre) happens. When you are trail riding
through the woods have you ever seen a squirrel knock loose a walnut and
lands 2 inches in front of your mount? Have you encountered a bear on the
trail? Or a moose? A yo-yo riding a Yamaha with the baffles taken out of
his muffler? A family with 3 youngsters riding bikes with training wheels?
Ground training isn't just for your own safety. It is for the safety of
everyone who may encounter your horse/donkey/mule.
As a trainer I would rather someone bring me a wild 7 year old who has
been touched by human hands than to bring me a 5 year old they have been
riding for 2 years. 99.9% of the time the problem isn't a problem horse
is problem people. No matter how calm and sweet natured the animal is,
it hasn't had basic training of ground work someday something will happen
and it will blow up and there will be a disasterous wreck.
Just because SweetFace will let you climb on her back, it doesn't mean
should. She may let you sit on her but she doesn't know what it is all
about. You can pull her head this way or that way and whop her ribs with
your heels until she takes a step, but is that pleasure? It definitely
isn't for her and I would think it would be frustrating and aggravating
the rider too.
It really doesn't take that long to do the groundwork. Beginning this
spring due to a broken ankle that was slow to heal, (tripped over a cat
the porch steps in February) I have changed my way of doing things. I no
longer allow the owner to drop the horse/donkey/mule off and leave it for
to train. Now I hobble around on my cane and train the owner to train the
horse/donkey/mule. It was tough going at first until I could find a way
explain the "why you do this because this is how you want the animal to
respond". It was a learning experience for me as well. Because I already
knew the whys, hows, and wherefors, I had a tendency to be impatient when
owner just didn't get it. There are a couple I suspect will never get it
but at least they are learning calm, gentle ways of handling their horses
and how to ask respectfully for the horse to perform.
The most frustrating part for me is the number of owners who are so
ding-dang impatient. They expect instant results. In my opinion instant
anything is never as good as the slow and steady kind. Instant pudding?
Yuck. No thanks. I'll take cooked pudding slowly simmered and stirred to
bring out the rich texture and flavor. Instant pie crust? That frozen
stick stuff that looks like a cake of lard. Sure it is fast. It is easy.
But it just doesn't hold a candle to flaky scratch-made pie crust that
in your mouth. A rushed horse/donkey/mule will never be as much pure fun
and sheer pleasure as a developed riding partner.
Oops this is getting long. I'll continue in another post.