With our lovely January below zero temps, there is plenty of incentive to skip out on stirring up any dust. When you can’t hardly see in front of your own breath cloud and your frozen fingers have the dexterity of a paralyzed seal, checking out groundwork can be productive and meaningful, without working up a sweat. With a little creativity and patience, you can spend your winter developing two-way feel from you to your horse, and trust that will carry you through your spring and summer rides.
Here Trish works on teaching Taylor to follow the feel in his rope and pick up her foot.
As she begins to hook on to that feel, Trish can ask Taylor to pick up her foot and eventually lead by it. In time, Taylor could lead forward, backward, sideways, wherever, because she is relaxed enough to think, listen, and follow the feel without resistance.
In this exercise, it is important to note that Taylor is leading forward by the feel presented directly to her front leg, not by the halter lead rope. This is a new feel for her and she is being asked to think about the meaning of the feel being presented.
Leading forward by a front foot
Once she sets the left front down, Trish waits for the other 3 feet to catch up and starts again by asking her to lift and set the same foot forward again.
Picking up a hind foot, and asking Taylor to set it down with her toe pointed, keeping that leg light.
It’s important that Taylor set her foot down lightly so that she does not develop the habit of taking or kicking her leg away. We want to encourage her to be buttery soft through her body, in the saddle and on the ground.
This is just one of the many, many things you can do without ever having to swing a saddle or take off your carharts, and even though it’s freezing cold, cheer up! You are furthering your relationship with your horse, developing lightness, willingness, and thoughtfulness in your horse, as well as working on your timing, and especially your patience! Because after all, without patience, all your work is for naught!