Lunging tends to be our “get out of jail free” card when the winds blowing a gale or we’re too tired to ride; we don’t have time to ride, or our horses are fresh. I lunged Otis on Friday because I needed a day off from riding and he needed exercising.
It’s really easy to fall into the trap when lunging of just trotting round and round in circles. With the side reins or Pessoa. Then you have a quick canter and change the rein.
I’ve drawn up a list of exercises for you to try out next time you’re lunging.
- Transitions between trot and canter. Rapid, balanced transitions between the two beat trot and three beat canter are very good at building abdominal muscles and improving your horse’s core stability. Otis knows the word “canter” very well so I really utilise my voice commands for this exercise.
- Spiralling in and out. This exercise is useful for improving suppleness and teaching leg yield, however you need to be careful your horse doesn’t just fall out of the smaller circle, he needs to stay straight so that his inside hind comes under and takes the weight of his body.
- Transitions within the gaits. I found lunging very useful for teaching Otis to lengthen his trot. I took him off the circles and half ran parallel to the long side of the school to get him lengthening his stride. I find that clicking the two beat rhythm encourages Otis to stay in trot. Smaller circles also help teach collection.
- Polework is invaluable on the lunge. I did a lot of cavaletti with Otis a couple of years ago, and it really strengthened his back muscles, but when I came to do cavaletti last week under saddle I realised that all my work lunging over raised poles had never taught him to balance himself with me over cavaletti so we had a couple of dodgy attempts! Back to lunging; raised poles are super useful, and they can either be on a curve or a straight line. Poles on a curve are more strenuous as the inside hind leg has to work harder and be stronger.
Asking multiple transitions on each lap on the lunge can speed up your horse’s reaction time and responses. It also helps keep their attention, which is very useful for when another horse breaks free and you’re left holding onto something which has doubled in height, has their tail so high it is flicked over their back, and is piaffing whilst snorting like a dragon … Mentioning no names Otis!