Video Series; Horse and Rider Basic Groundwork

Ground Work Ellen Terray

Video Series; Horse and Rider Basic Groundwork with Ellen Terray – Part 1

Part 1 of the Ellen Terray horse and rider groundwork series with Everything Horse includes; leading in hand, circles, way of going and bending.

Groundwork offers horse and rider the benefit of building a relationship before climbing on board. It’s an essential part of the horse’s early training that will help when being backed, in his or her working career, and even for simple daily tasks such as when being turned out.

Training a horse is a 51%/49% percentage-based relationship, with the handler having the 51% and the horse (of course) holding the remaining 49%. Why? The relationship between the horse and the handler should be mutually respectful. When one becomes out of balance, the relationship is tested, and things tend to go wrong. An overly strong handler can make the horse associate the experience as a negative, and equally a handler that is too laid back can lack authority and cause a horse to become overly strong and pushy.

In this article and video, Ellen takes a look at groundwork foundations that can be done in hand with your horse to help build a relationship, understanding and respect.

About Ellen

Ellen Terray is a professional trainer from Malmesbury in Wiltshire. She specialises in producing horses of all ages and abilities for dressage and eventing and uses a system that combines her classical training with aspects of natural horsemanship to produce well mannered, happy athletes.

More information about Ellen can be found here:

Horse: The horse used in the video is named Darcy. He is owned by, Nikki Hand, and list 2 judge, Tessa Thorned.

In this video, we start with some basic groundwork that is very useful to do before you ride and will give you some fun training to do together. Our horse for this video is Pauli, an event horse. Pauli is used to doing these exercises so remember to build up very gradually with your own horse.

The video steps explained

Exercise 1. Start by leading your horse in hand:

– if she drags behind, touch her with the whip to keep a good marching rhythm;
– if she pulls you forward, stop and ask for a few steps back by touching the front legs below the knees with the whip;
– if your horse answers your question, praise her by stopping and having a short break;
– repeat on each rein until it feels easy and the horse is noticeably calm but reactive.

Exercise 2. Lead/turn your horse on a small (8-5 meters) circle in each direction:


– look out and assess whether your horse is willingly bending the whole of its body in either direction;
– work towards your horse easily yielding towards or away from you;
– your horse should be willing but not taking charge;
– incorporate exercises from number 1.

Exercise 3. Check if your horse is genuinely relaxed and happy with you by asking it to lower its head and keeping it there willingly whilst standing completely immobile (important!):

– do it by either applying the slight but firm pressure with your hand on the poll and taking it off immediately(!) when the horse’s head drops slightly. Like this you can gradually ask for lower and lower stretch;
– use the reins by applying the same principle as above.

Exercise 4. Ask the horse to bend its neck each way:

– the horse must not move, if it does – go back to previous exercises;
– gradually ask for as much bend as possible. You have to have a feeling that the horse is completely happy to bend and it’s not you who “holding” the neck;
– don’t hurry, take your time!

Part 2 includes; Turn on the Forehand, leg yield along the wall, leg yield along the school and mounting!


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