As a kid, I got my first horse when I was 8, Gypsy. Gypsy was a 12 year old Polo Pony from Argentina. Needless to say, she probably wasn’t an ideal first horse for a timid, beginner kid. Gypsy is 36 this year and is happily retiring right outside my window ❤️. Things with Gypsy were tough looking back. I remember not being able to ride down to the arena because we’d get to a certain spot and she’d spin around and go home. No matter how quick I thought I was going to be, Gypsy was always quicker, so I basically just rode her in her paddock to avoid the drama. When it came to obstacles, forget it! She was excellent at locking up and refusing to go anywhere near anything that bothered her. I hate jumping to this day because of Gypsy! I can’t tell you how many jumps she ran out on or stopped at that I went over it and she didn’t. But I’m thankful for everything that horse did for me….
The whole I wish I would have known then what I know now, is so true. To know why Gypsy did what she did, to understand her point of view and to have the tools to help her through that would have been so much less frustrating.
My revelations lately have been a game changer for me. I have come to realize that being good with horses (I’m not claiming to be good with horses), isn’t about the horse, it isn’t about the trainer, and it isn’t about the sport you ride, but its about the person/horse relationship. There’s a saying “the horse is a mirror to your soul” is such a true thing to me and it has helped change how I look at working with horses. Our true selves come out in our horses and in order to improve the horse, we must work on improving ourselves first.
The majority of my day is spent rehabilitating problem cases that have been dangerous to people in the past. And its funny because I am not a dare devil, I hate when a horse spooks, bucks, rears and bolts undersaddle, it gives me a knot it my stomach knowing that I have to ride these dangerous creatures. But its not like that. The problem horses are lost, they are confused, they are scared and they need help navigating the world again. Every horse I work with, I develop a relationship with it, not intentionally, but it something that happens when you put yourself in the animals shoes and try to understand where they come from.
People that have gotten help from me KNOW I’m all about groundwork. Ground work, groundwork, groundwork and guess what, more groundwork. To be perfectly honest, groundwork is boring, groundwork is not very fulfilling given how much work it is but groundwork has saved my ass more times than I can say in this little blog. I’ve tracked my steps when doing ground work… there was one day that I walked 8 miles just doing groundwork with the horses in training. That’s insane!!!
Groundwork is vital in my program to stay safe. The horses I get, are usually at the end of the road for the owner. The owners are scared, frustrated and at the end of their patience with their horse. Groundwork safely works out the majority of issues with horses, problem cases or not. Once I started to understand the power of groundwork, every horse has and education in groundwork whether they “need” it or not. I won’t go into all the benefits, but groundwork saved a horses life a few years ago when she got her leg wedged in a fence, the vet was shocked that she didn’t pull her foot off. But the 2 year old mare was educated in the groundwork and did exactly as she was taught and stayed out of trouble until she could be cut out.
Groundwork is the learning of a language as well as the beginning to life’s important lessons. The handler learns how to communicate with a horse in the way that is the easiest for the horse. Its not the horse’s responsibility to get along with us, it is our job to get along with them. Body language, principles, timing, feel and discipline are paramount skills to learn with horses. The most important of those 5 things is discipline. Discipline is our ability to be consistent and thorough every time we work with a horse. The most common mistake I see with people, is they get bored with groundwork and they choose to go do what they want to do instead. Good training is boring, good training lasts a lifetime and good training makes the journey with your horse a lot more fulfilling.
My epiphany recently has been that life is a journey. The journey is the destination. There is only 1 end point and that is when we are no longer living on Earth. There is no endpoint to anything else, you can always do more, learn more, try harder, and dig deeper no matter what you set out to do. My path is my path, and my path is not everyone’s path. But my path is my journey, its my passion and its what helps me be the best version of myself everyday. And groundwork is just a small piece of my journey with horses, I’ll share more soon for those who want to read about it