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Building A Better Relationship: Ground Work Techniques

Question Category: Building a Better Relationship

Question: Hi Julie,

I caught just a minute of your Ground Manners clinic yesterday at Equine Affaire. I have seen this method of twirling the lead (don’t know what it’s proper name is) only once before (several years ago -that was probably you also) and it greatly intrigues me. I tried the respect-my-space when I’m standing in front of you exercise with my ever-so-precocious weanling filly today and boy oh boy, am I impressed! In 30 seconds she was doing the baby-mouth, something I’ve seen far too little of from this baby, if ya catch my drift. Could you give me a quick overview of the method or point me to an article you’ve written about it? I’m wondering what to do to teach her to move sideways with this method, walk on, get off me, stuff like that.

Thanks in advance, Pam

Answer: Hi Pam,

Glad to hear you got some benefit form the presentation on groundwork at Equine Affaire. Sounds like you are well on your way to a more positive relationship with your young horse. As for the twirling rope method, I am not aware of a specific name for this method, but I can give you a few more hints.

First of all, you’ll need at least a 12′ training lead and may use one as long as 15′. You can order my preferred brand of rope halter from my website. I use a rope halter with a 12’ training lead and the brand I like is high quality at a very affordable price.

Twirl the tail of the rope like a propeller blade but point the tip of the rope directly toward the part of the body you want to move: nose, shoulder or hip. The “blade” defines your space and you can make it as small or as large as you like, but always make sure that you are a safe distance from the horse, particularly when twirling to move the hip.

Twirl the blade as you move directly toward the part of the horse you want to move. If the horse chooses not to get out of your way, the tip of the blade will run into her. In very short order, she will learn to move away from your space. I like this method because in short order, the horse will respond just as well when you just point a finger at her and you won’t need to twirl the rope anymore.

The horse will learn to move whatever part of the body the blade is pointed toward. Once you can move the nose, shoulder and hip away from you on command, you can easily use this method to side pass as well by aiming the blade in the middle of the horse and pointing her nose away from you with the other hand.

I like methods that will result in being able to just use a pointing of my finger to direct the horse and this works well for that.

Good luck to you!

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

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