I'm taking a quick breather to type this amidst a plethora of Groundwork Test Sheets - it's been amazing to see how enthusiastic everyone has been about entering our new Groundwork Tests!
🌈 We had a super-impressive entry for our first Groundwork event... All shapes and sizes of horses and ponies, and handlers ranging from just 3, up to 16 years old!
I ended up splitting the classes down from more than just our original 'Assisted' and 'Unassisted' entries. The Assisted class won definite 'cute points', with six tiny tots all younger than 5 years old, starting to show some fantastic independent leading skills with their gorgeous little ponies.
Our Unassisted entries were as huge as some of the horses entered.... These have been split down into THREE age sections - 7 and Under the smallest section with 12 entries, a whopping 24 entries in our biggest 8-10 Years section, and 17 entries in the oldest 11-16 Years age bracket.
Although our 'Groundwork Test 1' was a fairly simple pattern there are a number of benefits. The pole channel helps teach the handler where the centre line is (😂) the halt transition and backing up between the poles helps with straightness. The halt before the poles after the turn gives pony and handler a reference point, and that the pony must wait politely their side of the poles until invited to join the handler. The slalom is a good test of suppleness as well as obedience in leading. The pony has to show good manners whilst the handler halts and picks up an object, and it's a very basic 'spook-busting' exercise that they are then happy for the object to be dropped in a bucket. Back onto the centre line is another test of straightness and that the handler has got the pony walking out positively again after the stop-start nature of the object-exercise. The final halt with front legs one side of the pole and hind legs the other ensures the handler is precisely in control of the pony’s feet - this shows respect from the pony, and precision of aids from the handler.
The pony in our demo video is 22 with various physical issues so exercises like this are a lovely gentle way to work her that doesn’t always mean riding. The whole thing also helps teach the handler to learn and remember a series of movements, just like learning a Dressage test. They also have to plan and execute their turns and lines independently which is a valuable skill for riding both on the flat and over jumps.
*Disclaimer: obviously our demo video is not perfect, the handler is 6! 🙃 I hope this explanation just shows you some of what we were looking for in marking, and that Groundwork can be an extremely valuable part of training, not just 'something to do instead of riding' 🧡