Besides Riding: Exercising Your Horse from the Ground

As a horse owner or enthusiast, you may already know that riding is essential to exercising your horse. However, did you know many other ways to keep your equine companion fit and healthy from the ground? Exercising your horse from the earth has unique benefits and can provide an excellent opportunity to bond with your horse on a different level. This article will explore various ground exercises to help keep your horse in top shape, mentally and physically.

The Importance of Ground Exercises

Ground exercises are an excellent addition to your horse’s routine as they offer numerous benefits beyond riding alone. Here are a few reasons why incorporating ground exercises into your horse’s training regimen is a great idea:

  • Physical Fitness: Ground exercises allow your horse to develop strength, flexibility, and coordination, which can improve their overall physical fitness.
  • Mental Stimulation: Engaging your horse in different activities on the ground can help keep them mentally stimulated and prevent boredom.
  • Bonding and Trust Building: Ground exercises allow you and your horse to connect, build trust, and develop a deeper understanding of each other.
  • Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention: Ground exercises can benefit horses recovering from injuries or those needing rehabilitation, as they offer low-impact options for conditioning.
  • Preparation for Riding: Working with your horse from the ground can help establish a solid foundation of obedience, respect, and communication before getting in the saddle.

Ground Exercises for Your Horse

Now that we understand the importance of ground exercises let’s explore some activities you can try with your horse:

1. Lunging

Lunging is a popular ground exercise allowing your horse to stretch muscles and burn excess energy. Using a lunge line, you can guide your horse in circles at various speeds and encourage them to work in both directions. Lunging is an excellent cardiovascular exercise and can help improve your horse’s balance and response to commands.

2. Long-lining

Long-lining, or ground driving, involves working your horse from the ground using two lines attached to the bit or a surcingle. This exercise mimics the aids and steering that occur when riding, giving you more control and allowing you to focus on specific training objectives. Long-lining can help improve your horse’s suppleness, collection, and response to rein cues.

3. In-hand Work

In-hand work refers to exercises such as leading, halting, backing up, and turning your horse while you walk beside them. This activity helps reinforce your horse’s obedience, respect, and ground manners. In-hand work is an excellent way to establish a strong foundation of groundwork and build trust and communication with your horse.

4. Ground Poles

Setting up ground poles can give your horse a fun and engaging workout. You can place the bars on the ground in various patterns to encourage your horse to lift its feet, engage its core muscles, and work on balance and coordination. Ground pole exercises can be beneficial for improving your horse’s stride length and teaching them to navigate obstacles.

5. Carrot Stretches

Carrot stretches involve using a carrot or treat to encourage your horse to stretch its neck, back, and hindquarters. These exercises can help improve your horse’s flexibility and range of motion, reducing the risk of stiffness and injury. Introducing carrot stretches slowly and gradually increasing intensity is essential to avoid straining your horse’s muscles.

6. Hand Grazing

Hand grazing is a simple yet beneficial exercise that involves allowing your horse to graze while you hold the lead rope. This activity offers a break from routine training, allowing your horse to relax and enjoy downtime. Hand grazing can also be an excellent opportunity for bonding and building trust as you share quiet moments.

7. Tack Desensitization

Tack desensitization exercises can help your horse become more comfortable with various pieces of equipment, including saddles, bridles, blankets, and fly masks. This process involves introducing the tack gradually and positively associating it with treats or rewards. You can ensure a more relaxed and cooperative riding experience by desensitizing your horse to tack from the ground.


Exercising your horse from the ground is a valuable addition to their training routine. It offers numerous benefits, including physical fitness, mental stimulation, trust building, and injury prevention. You can keep your horse engaged, healthy, and happy by incorporating ground exercises such as lunging, long-lining, in-hand work, ground poles, carrot stretches, hand grazing, and tack desensitization. Always approach ground exercises with patience, consistency, and a focus on positive reinforcement to achieve the best results. So, grab your halter, lead rope, and carrot treats, and start exploring the world of ground exercises with your equine partner!

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