Ground manners are how a horse acts when you are working it on the ground. This includes leading, tacking, grooming and clipping. A horse that doesn't have good ground manners bites, kicks, pushes or doesn't stand still. Any horse, even trail or pleasure, can be dangerous if it doesn't have acceptable ground manners. Respect is key to establishing a working relationship with your horse. Consistency reinforces the ground rules and manners you establish.
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Assess which ground manners your horse needs work on by leading, grooming, tacking, lungeing and clipping. If your horse invades your space, bites, kicks, throws its head, yanks on the lead or rears during any of these tasks, your horse does not have acceptable ground manners. Once you have assessed its ground manners, you can proceed to correcting them.
Leading your horse is essential to be able work with it. It should walk next to or slightly behind you without yanking, rearing, biting or leaping. To teach a horse to do to this, use a lead rope with a chain on the end. Put the chain through the halter and over its nose to the other side. Lead your horse around in a fenced-in area. Whenever the horse goes to yank the rope or act up with you pull hard on the lead rope until it stops. Repeat this several times until the horse stops. When it walks several yards without any misbehavior stop to pet and praise it. If your horse is invading your space or trying to drag you around, stop and back the horse up by pulling on the chain and pushing on its chest. Walk a few yards and repeat several times. Once your horse walks several yards without invading your space, stop to pet and praise it.
Grooming and tacking are important tasks when working with your horse. During grooming and tacking your horse should stand still without kicking or dancing or pawing or biting. Either tie or crosstie your horse. Keep the lead rope attached to its halter so that you can pull on it. Begin grooming. If your horse starts dancing, pull on the lead and tell it to "stand" in a firm voice. Continuing pulling until your horse stands. If your horse kicks at you, tap it with a crop on its hindquarters and tell it "No." Continue tapping it until it stops kicking at you. If your horse bites, tap it with the crop on its nose and tell it "No." Continue to do so until it stops biting you.
Clipping is another important ground manner. Introduce the clippers to a horse so that its not scared of them. Hold the clippers against its body so the horse can feel the vibration before you try to clip anything. Pet and talk to your horse if its scared of the clippers. If you are clipping legs, it is helpful to have someone else with you to hold up one of the other legs while you clip one. This discourages the horse from picking up the leg you are working on and helps it to stand still. If you are clipping the head area, put a chain over the horse's nose and pull on it when it begins to misbehave. Be sure not to let the clippers get too hot because they will burn the horse.
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