Working with horses from the ground, or in-hand, is almost a lost art in our modern world of equestrianism and horse training. This centuries old technique for training, conditioning, gentling, and gymnasticizing the horse has long taken a back seat to other methods of starting and training horses, methods which would appear to be quicker and more efficient, yet sadly, have proven in the long run to create generations of horses that are prone to be unsound in mind, body, and/or spirit - horses that are tense, nervous, stressed to the point of being unwell, plagued with ulcers, and with a short working longevity.
Any horse of any age or experience level can benefit from working in-hand. This work can be performed with mature horses at any point in their training, and is an excellent foundation for starting young horses. And, very importantly, let us not forget to mention the benefits for the human! Working from the ground offers us humans an entirely different perspective of our horses: their strengths and areas of weakness. It gives us a deeper understanding of our horses’ balance and imbalances.
Working from the ground places horse and human at the same level, both literally and figuratively, and through this platform of equality, the bond between horse and human can flourish in ways that are not even imaginable to those who have not experienced it. When working from the ground, horse and human build an entirely new and improved language and level of communication and can establish a trust that can only enhance any other equestrian activities one chooses to pursue, mounted or unmounted.
As when exploring any new equestrian discipline, starting the work in-hand can feel clumsy and awkward for both human and horse, but with patience and perseverance, continuity and commitment, working in-hand quickly becomes an extraordinarily satisfying and holistic workout for both horse and human. Many find that working in-hand is so enjoyable, beneficial, and satisfying that they often will choose working in-hand over work in the saddle. Whether you chose to use the work in-hand as a supplement to your riding, or as a discipline on its own, working from the ground offers the human a canvas to create a true work of art with their horse, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, heart to heart.
Please enjoy my student's testimonial below, as she talks about her in-hand journey.