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Groundwork Exercises for Gentling (Part 2 of 3)


You can do this exercise with a folded feed sack, lariat, or slicker. Start by folding your feed sack into a small square and rubbing your horse’s neck with it. Allow him to move away if he gets anxious but try to keep the sack in contact with his neck. Continue until he stops or slows down, then remove the sack from his neck and pet him. Once your horse stays calm and relaxed with the feed sack at his neck, move the sack to different parts of his body. If he moves away from you, keep him in a tight circle around you and, when he stops, remove the sack from the area of concern. This teaches your horse to move his feet in a controlled manner rather than simply bolting away from you when he is afraid. Once your horse is totally comfortable with you rubbing the folded up sack all over his body, open the sack to its full expansion and slap it gently all over his body. You can repeat this exercise with any similar item that frightens your horse.


Even if you never intend to rope off your horse it’s still a good idea to do some rope work on and around his body. Rope work ensures that your horse won’t panic if he gets caught in a fence or if the saddle slides back causing the back cinch to slap him in the belly. Begin by making a loop with your lariat and swinging it gently while standing next to your horse. Toss the loop near your horse, and then pull it back in. Be careful when you draw the rope into the blind spot directly below his nose because he may paw at the rope. When your horse is comfortable with you swinging the rope near him, toss it up on his back and let it drop over his hindquarters. Again, if he moves off let him go in a circle around you but try to keep the rope on him until his stops. When he stays relaxed with the rope draped in his hind end, allow him to step through the loop so that the rope runs between his hind legs. Repeat this maneuver on his front legs with the rope around his neck.

About the author

Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy. Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinay Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. She has authored several books and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Holistic Horsekeeping.”

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