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Basic Groundwork Checklist

lunging remi 2Here is a guideline to all of the Basic Groundwork Exercises. This checklist will tell you the order of the exercises, how long you should work on each exercise, and when you should move on or add another exercise.



  1. Catching – Every day or to correct as needed until he can be caught easily with a pleasant expression on his face.
  2. Leading – Every day or to correct as needed until he walks behind you or with his head even with your shoulder while giving you plenty of space. He should stop when you stop, back up when you back up, and walk when you walk.
  3. Desensitizing to the Rope – 5 to 7 days or until he is comfortable with the rope all over his body then during groundwork exercises such as lunging or as needed when the horse becomes unbalanced when he is nervous and forward.
  4. Desensitizing to the Stick or Whip – Same as desensitizing to the rope, however only desensitize the horse during groundwork lessons once he stands calmly after desensitizing him to the toss of the rope.
  5. Further Desensitize Overhead and Side to Side – 5 to 7 days. I usually only teach this exercise once then only go back to it when encountering a problem.
  6. Picking Up the Feet – Allow the horse a week to learn how to properly and safely lift his feet and hold them for cleaning. Whenever you run into a problem repeat the lesson.
  7. Tying – Again it should take the horse a week to learn how to tie straight to a blocker tie ring. However teach the horse to tie in different locations and cross tie in steps. After the horse is comfortable tying straight, tie the horse straight in different locations, then cross tie him using two tie rings. Eventually you can tie the horse anywhere with or without a tie ring.
  8. Grooming – Continue to make the horse stand still, pay attention to you, and mind his manners every time you groom him. Always be aware of your horse’s body language.
  9. Backing – This lesson can be one of the ones that take longer to perfect. It usually only takes 1 to 3 sessions to learn but once the horse gets the concept it may take a month or more to get the horse correctly using his body while backing up.
  10. Yielding the Hindquarters – 3 to 5 sessions. Once the horse understands the lesson it will be used in conjunction with other exercises such as the lunging and sending lessons.
  11. Lunging Lesson – 3 to 7 sessions. This is one lesson that I always go back to and perfect. I use it to prep before riding to get a lazy horse forward and a forward horse relaxed. However, the goal is to not have to prepare your horse at all before riding. I also use the lunging lesson when introducing obstacles.
  12. Yield the Forequarters – 1 to 3 sessions. This again is one of the lesson that I use combined with others and usually not by itself.
  13. Moving Away from Hand Pressure – A horse should learn this lesson in one or two sessions. Remind him by moving him often instead of walking around him.
  14. Flexing on the Ground in the Halter – 1 to 3 sessions. After the horse grasps this lesson I will move on to flexing the horse with the bridle unless he is having trouble with the bridle, then I may come back and review it once or twice.
  15. Sending Between You and the Fence – 1 to 5 sessions. Once the horse understands going between you and the fence start sending him between objects and over obstacles.
  16. Sending from Side to Side – 1 to 3 sessions. Once the horse understands the lesson use this exercise to introduce the horse to a new arena or place.
  17. Desensitizing to Plastic – 1 to 7 sessions. Some horses are really quiet and aren’t bothered by the plastic bag from the very beginning, while other may take a full week to understand that it won’t hurt him. Once the horse is desensitized to the plastic, I only repeat the exercise if the horse is becoming spooky and needs to review how to deal with stimulus.
  18. Bending/ Yielding while Lunging – 1 to 3 sessions. Usually the horse doesn’t need to be taught this lesson separately as he learns to bend his body around the circle and step his inside hind leg up underneath his body. However if your horse is having trouble doing so have him do a few small hindquarter yields while still moving forward will get him bent on the circle.
  19. Hosing/ Washing – 1 to 7 sessions. The type of horse you have effects how much desensitizing you will need to do before teaching him to be washed. If your horse is really quiet then it may only take you one lesson to hose him in a wash rack or it may take a week with a horse who is a hotter type. With this type of horse do more desensitizing before even attempting to wash him. Once you do, start in the open and gradually get him used to being in a confined space.
  20. Trailer Loading – 1 to 7 sessions. The horse needs to lead and lunge well in order for him to learn how to load in the trailer.
  21. Everyday Practice (Leading at a trot, backing around the barn, sending around the trailer, step over during grooming and saddling.) – Add these exercises into your everyday routine to get your horse easier to maneuver and handle.
  22. Sending over Obstacles – Horses should pick this exercise up in one lesson. If the horse is having trouble going over something scary let him walk over it before increasing his speed. If he refuses to jump increase the horse’s speed before he gets to the obstacle.
  23. Lowering the Head – It should only take one session to teach the horse the concept then continue to use the lesson everyday while bridling or haltering.
  24. Bridling – Once the horse understands what you want it should only take 1 to 5 lessons to teach, then perfect the lesson each day.
  25. Flexing with the Bridle – 1 to 3 sessions. If the horse is flexing well in the halter it shouldn’t take long for the horse to understand the lesson in the bridle.
  26. Responding to Rope Pressure – 1 to 3 sessions. This lesson teaches the horse to get off of halter pressure as well as rope pressure on his sides and hocks, which prepares him for ground driving.
  27. Desensitizing to Tarps– 1 to 7 sessions depending on how sensitive the horse is. If you have an extremely sensive horse you may need to go back to practicing with the plastic bag before trying the tarp again.
  28. Desensitizing to Fly Spray – 1 to 7 sessions again depending on how sensitive the horse is.
  29. Groundwork Outside the Arena – Work on groundwork exercises on the way to and from the barn, in the pasture, on the trail, and over obstacles.  Doing groundwork in different locations often keeps horses fresh and improves your cues.
  30. Ground Driving – 1 to 5 sessions. Most horses catch on pretty quickly especially will all the other exercises building up to ground driving.

I don’t have a time frame when it comes to how long I work on each exercise per day. What I do instead is work on the lesson until the horse has made progress and end on a good note. I know when to stop schooling the exercise when the horse gives me the correct answer three times in a row on both sides. I usually work about four groundwork exercises during each session. When one exercise is solid I then add a new one and so on.

A session is about 15 to 30 minutes long before a ride or it may take longer if the horse is struggling with an exercise. If so I won’t ride that horse that day. I will put the horse up once he makes an improvement as a big reward. I also don’t ride until the horse can do the groundwork decently. Once I feel the horse has a good understanding of an exercise I will move on and teach him another, however if the horse comes up with a problem I can always go back and review a lesson to fix a problem. I want to always keep teaching the horse something new or adding variety to an exercise that the horse already knows. Eventually, once I’ve taught the horse all the groundwork I won’t do any before a ride, as that is the goal. But, again if the horse starts having a problem the groundwork is where you are going to fix it. Remember it is very important that you do not drill the same exercises over and over. The horse will get sour and you will become bored. Keep your training fresh and interesting for the horse and he will continue to perform well for you.