What to do on a warm winter day?

How about some groundwork play with ponies?

Last week, I took advantage of a brief warm snap to ride, do some property maintenance and play around with my horses on the ground.

In his retirement, Bear mostly likes to spend his time walking between hay piles.

Sometimes, though, Bear still likes to show off his groundwork moves in exchange for a treat or two. Without my asking, he will prop himself up on one of the two tire pedestals that is in the horses’ paddock. Then he might go through his little repertoire of “salutes” or “bows” with my giving him a treat after each maneuver.

Shiloh will see what is going on and usually come on over to get in on the action. He’s always up for treats.

A “new to me” groundwork exercise that I just started playing around with is the “stand your horse lengthwise over a pole”. I got the idea from the blog, Equine Ink, in a post that referenced an article in the Canadian Horse Journal at


Here is a video on Facebook of the exercise:

The article and video are by Jec Aristotle Ballou of 101 Dressage Exercises and 101 Western Dressage Exercises fame. Definitely one of my favorite horse training authors.

I’ll let the article link and the Facebook video link above tell you about the exercise, but in my practicing it with Shiloh, I will say that I was impressed with the challenge.

Shiloh did manage to straddle the pole with two front hooves but was very careful to keep both hind hooves on the right side of the pole. No straddling of back hooves for him just yet. I could see Shiloh carefully thinking through the placement of his hooves and immediately recognized the potential benefits of the exercise that the article described.

A lot of Jec’s exercises are like that pole straddling. Super quiet and low key. Easy to set up. And yet with surprisingly deep benefits for the horse. It’s definitely something I can easily play around with over Winter while I’m not riding much at home. I haven’t practiced pole straddling with Bear yet, but it is on my Winter to do list. I’ll have to see if I can snap a photo of one or both horses with all four hooves straddling the pole!