Building A Better Relationship: Do All Breeds Respond To Groundwork?

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Question Category: Building a Better Relationship

Question: Good Morning,

I need your input! I bought a Rocky Mountain Horse two days ago. He is eleven years old. I also have a quarter horse mare that I have owned for eleven years. I have done a lot of groundwork with her over the years and it has paid off big time. Now for this Rocky, the breeders say that this breed is very easily bored so round pen, arena work can be a problem if you do a lot of it. (I don’t just enough to get their respect)

She said they would rather be heading off down the trail with new things to see and do. She said repetition seems to insult them. Isn’t it true that with any breed of horse you still need to establish yourself as the leader?? I do that by groundwork.

If a horse, like this one, who has never been round penned, I do it maybe for four days in a row for short periods until they “get it” then move on. I don’t just drill and drill. I do not feel comfortable just throwing a saddle on a horse I do not know and who does not know me and heading into the sunset. Am I on the right track?

Are there certain breeds that it is best not to do round penning etc. with?

I would appreciate you advice so much. By the way I have your new video set and it is awesome!

Thanks! Jackie Sherwood

Answer: Jackie,

I agree entirely with what you have said, you are definitely on the right track and I think you should go ahead with ground work. No horse appreciates repetition too much. Once a horse has the idea and is responding the way you want, move onto something else. Certainly if you run a horse around the round pen ad nauseum, he will get resentful and resistant. No matter what type of training I am doing, as soon as I get the response I want from my horse, I move on to some thing else. I don’t think Rockies are any different than any other breed in this respect.

I do ground work with each and every horse that comes into our training barn in order to establish good ground manners and a respectful and obedient attitude in the horse so that he thinks of me as his leader. If he were 100% the first day, I probably wouldn’t continue much with groundwork. But in 25 years of training, there have been very few horses that came into my barn with perfect ground manners and a totally respectful and submissive attitude. I encourage you to do both lead line and round pen work as needed with the horse. Once he has bonded to you, you won’t need to do it any more, except for the occasional tune-up.

The only type of equine that I have found to be different in groundwork is mules. Since burros are not flight animals, many mules don’t have much of a flight response, so working in the round pen can be problematic. I work mules a little differently in the round pen. If I can get them to move off and away from me, I immediately back off; do not run them around the round pen. I will do the lead line work just the same with a mule.

Many people have the misconception that round penning is chasing a horse around until he is tired. That has nothing to do with it. Round penning is done to get a specific response from a horse and to get him to focus on you and take directives from you. Once a horse is doing that, I don’t need the round pen any more. But I will continue to do lead line with him on a daily basis to refine our communication and get more focus and responsiveness from the horse. There are extensive articles on my website on both round pen and lead line work.

I hope you have had success bonding with your new horse and are enjoying him. Glad you are enjoying the DVDs!

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

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