Yesterday I was riding Brasilia do Summerwind, a green 3 year old mare. After the ride, my husband John said “You know I watch her move under saddle and she moves exactly as she does when she is running at liberty in the pasture”. What a compliment! All the energy, enthusiasm and beauty
of a natural moving horse was still there! After basking in the praise (I assumed it was for me), we talked about how we had gotten there.
We believe it is the ground work we do. We work with the foals from the time they are born, so it is easy to know the horse inside and out - how it will react to learning new things or new places. Training on the ground lets you and the horse develop a relationship of trust and a way of communicating.
We can teach almost everything a horse needs to know on the ground, and at any age. So, when we get to starting the young horse under saddle, it is just another series of steps in a life-long process.
The time spent with a young horse is especially important. What they are learning during the first 3 years of their lives set the foundation for the rest of their careers. This is time and effort well-spent and well worth whatever time it takes.
With Brasilia, I learned that the horse can also be the teacher. Here is what we learned from our smartest mare:
• Start training with gentleness, not dominance, lots of pauses and lots of enthusiasm for the smallest of
• Look at yourself and your actions if she didn’t get it right. It was almost always my miscue.
• Apologize and start again no matter who got it wrong.
• Always check in to see that we have a connection a level of trust and respect before continuing or starting something new.
• Make sure you are both ready to learn that day.
• Dominance is not the same as leadership.
• Breathe, relax, lick your lips!
For those people who don’t have ground training as part of their regimen now, there are self-help DVDs from all of the world’s great trainers. Stay Natural! Or, you can go to a clinic in your local area or practice with a friend until you get comfortable on your own. The reward is a partner for life –
before you ever put a foot in the stirrup.
As we get older, there may come a day where riding is no longer an option. Ground work or just spending time hanging out with a horse may be it. That would still be a great day!
Teaching from the ground is a safe way to develop great partnership and communication with your
horse. It sets the stage for work under saddle; it’s safe and you can do it year-round no matter what
the weather is or how much time you have. Here are some of our favorites.
Lateral flexion. Lateral flexion teaches
the horse to give their head and relax
their neck. It’s the key to a one-rein stop,
sometimes called the emergency stop.
Leading with manners. Teach your horse
to lead without pulling on a lead rope, to
stop when you stop, to backup when you
ask or if you back.
Desensitizing. Get your horse to relax
and stand quiet while you throw the lead
rope over his back, around the legs or
crack the rope on the ground. Noises or
other items may be used as well.
Circling. Walk, trot and canter in a 20
meter circle and stop when asked. The
horse’s job is to keep the speed you ask
for the number of circles you decide.
About the Mangalarga Marchador
The Mangalarga Marchador (MARCH A DOOR) is an outstanding saddlehorse breed that descends directly from ancient Iberian stock. This gaited horse is known and bred for its smooth step – the marcha – and is the National Horse of Brazil. The breed has a gentle temperament, intelligence, stamina and a comfortable ride,
Because of the long tradition of the inspection process, the Marchador has solid conformation, a lot of bone and good feet, plus that wonderful personality. The Mangalarga Marchador stands between 14.2 and 16 hands, averaging 15 hands and weigh between 850 and 1100 pounds. Gray is prominent, but chestnuts, blacks, bays , buckskins, palominos and pinto horses may also be found.