Mar 27, 2022

Horsemanship Hints: David O’Connor’s Take on Natural Horsemanship and Groundwork

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo.

The 2022 eventing season is full of exciting updates and new additions, one of those being the proposal of a USEA program dedicated to the development of professional grooms for the sport of eventing. Led by USEA President Max Corcoran and top-level eventers Lauren Nicholson and Shannon Lilley, the program was born from the recognition of the challenges in our sport due to a lack of professional grooms available. This program enables these talented young professionals to receive the development and training to be top-class performers and to be acknowledged and rewarded for their accomplishments, as well as to gain access to the resources for expanding their career opportunities.

With each session led by a different speaker, participants had the opportunity to glean wisdom from various industry experts. One such expert was Olympian David O’Connor who facilitated a session over how he incorporates natural horsemanship when teaching proper groundwork practices.

“There are no smart mistakes,” O’Connor said at the start of his presentation. “A lot of the times when people get into trouble with horses is when they do two things: they don’t look and they don’t hear. They could be overwhelmed with so many horses still yet to do at 3:00 p.m., but that horse doesn’t know that. That horse doesn’t know that Kentucky is in six weeks. They don’t know when they walk out of the stall what they are going to do. So just having that understanding and taking the time to understand that and take the time to look and to listen to your horse is huge. They might say something to you and you miss it and then both of you can get hurt. Ray Hunt used to say that 85% of the time the horse is just trying to save itself. Let that sink in. That is all they are trying to do.”

“They don’t speak human,” O’Connor continued. “They don’t speak Spanish, English, German, Japanese, they don’t speak human. So we have to learn their language, it is not their job to understand our language. And we communicate with them by putting pressure on and taking pressure off.”

Some of the topics O’Connor addressed in his seminar included:

  • Leading
  • Tying a rope halter
  • Release to pressure
  • Trailer loading
  • Treating an area such as a stall like a round pen
  • Washing your horse’s face in a wash stall

Watch O’Connor’s entire demonstration on the USEGA and ERA groom’s page or below:


About the USEA Grooms Program

This program is being designed to create a holistic approach for ensuring current and future eventing grooms, the sport’s unsung heroes, receive the development and training to be top-class performers in the role. The program aims for grooms to be acknowledged and rewarded for their accomplishments, as well as to gain access to the resources for expanding their career opportunities. The program aims to provide education and resources for educating U.S. eventing grooms, with a pipeline for future candidates.

May 26, 2022 Education

Rule Refresher: What Will Be Expected of Me at the Beginner Novice or Novice Level?

Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels. You can access this guide by logging into your online services account.

May 25, 2022 Profile

Now On Course: Handing Over The Reins

I’m not one for the spotlight. As the voice of the Association, you don’t need to know my personal views, political, eventing, or otherwise. So despite my byline appearing on thousands of articles on the USEA website and magazine, this is probably only the second time I’m writing about myself (the first was about my love for lessons, and reading it now makes me laugh as I am still 100% addicted). But as I am now just a USEA member I thought I would share a bit of my journey to add to our member spotlight series, Now on Course.

May 24, 2022 Education

Tips for Successful Haul-In Schooling

You’ve likely spent some time scouring the USEA Calendar to line up your 2022 competition schedule. Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to plan some cross-country schooling outings to make sure you and your horse are as ready as possible. If you own or manage a facility that welcomes guests for haul-in schooling, you’ve likely noticed horses and their humans showing up in droves to get their practice in. A successful off-site schooling day has many, many moving parts. From paperwork and payment to safety, these best practices for hosts and guests will help everything go as smoothly as possible.

May 23, 2022 Eventing News

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S

US Equestrian is pleased to announce the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S at CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, from July 1-2, 2022. The team will be led by Chef d’Equipe Bobby Costello.

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