Keepin’ It Fresh—Equine Advice Column

The Job of Standing Still

Use basic ground control skills to teach a fidgety horse to stand patiently.

By Kalley Krickeberg

A horse came to me for training who was fidgety, impatient and quite a playful character. His owner needed him to stand quietly while she saddled and mounted, so I decided the best solution was to teach him to be ground-tied.

The Basics of Ground Control

To teach this task, you’ll need basic ground-control tools and your horse needs some skills: a long rope, a stick and string or a flag; the ability to generate hindquarter and forehand movement, the ability to circle left and right at all gaits, upward and downward transitions on a circle, and the ability to back up and return to you in a straight line. Speed control is a very important fundamental when teaching a horse to be patient, and that helps them learn to reliably ground tie.

Here are some specific tips to help your horse make the most of these drills:

  • Back up straight
    To back the horse, stand in front of him and wiggle your lead rope horizontally left and right. If needed, use cones on either side of your horse to help encourage him to back straight. When a horse backs up straight, he gives you total access to both sides of his body, so you can easily send him into a circle in either direction. Most horses, however, will not naturally back straight because they have a preferred side on which they’d like you to stand.
  • Speed control while longeing
    When your horse is trotting a circle with an obstacle, slow down or stop your horse as you approach the obstacle by waving the rope vertically up and down.
  • Circle left and right while longeing
    To send your horse onto a circle, ask him to yield his forehand out and away from you and encourage him to move forward. You’ll do that by using your rope to direct him onto the circle; if he doesn’t respond, then you’ll push the forehand more directly with your stick or flag. To stop circling, shorten your rope and yield his hindquarters away by swinging your stick or flag toward his rump so he faces you and stops. Both instances show the horse has completely yielded and is ready to relax or take another direction.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2023 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join