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I often get asked if when teaching a horse the Fundamentals if you can work on the groundwork and riding exercises at the same time. People often wonder if it’s better to teach all of the groundwork exercises first, and then start to work on the riding exercises. At the ranch, when we get horses in for the Academy training program, we do nothing but groundwork with them for the first week of training. That week allows us to get a gauge of the horse and to establish the basics of respect and communication. By the end of that first week, we’ve earned the horse’s respect and have built his trust in us. At that point, we continue to do Fundamentals groundwork and then start the Fundamentals riding exercises.
The concepts you teach a horse on the ground carry over to under saddle work. If he understands a lesson on the ground, there’s a much better chance of the lesson going well under saddle. That doesn’t mean that you can’t work on the groundwork exercises and the riding exercises at the same time, but I’ve found spending a solid week focusing on groundwork first helps a horse’s training progress faster and smoother.