How old can you be to learn to lunge properly? In one of my clients’ case, seven is the answer.
After falling over and cutting her knee at school she couldn’t put jodhpurs on over her large patch which stemmed the bleeding, so we decided that I would lunge the pony, who needed exercise anyway, and once he had settled, she would have a go.
I lunged him, working on getting him into right canter as he seems to have an aversion to it at the moment, and after my little client had watched for a bit she came into the middle to try.
Holding all the lunging equipment can be tricky with adult hands, so I gave her bits at a time. Firstly, I showed her how to hold the lunge line, correctly looped up. Then she led her pony out onto the circle to start the lunging. I held to whip and kept him walking, whilst she made sure she was standing in the middle and he had enough lunge line.
Once we’d established a bigger circle and the lunge line was still organised, she used her little voice while I gave a wiggle of the whip to ask him to trot.
We spent quite a while practicing trotting on the lunge, with her noticing him slowing down and reacting to it. Making sure she was standing still, pivoting and facing her pony’s shoulder. Then I handed her the whip so she was in complete control. I stood behind, obviously, ready to help her if needed because she’s only tiny!
Then we changed the rein, which involved correctly gathering up the lunge line, and swapping the lunge line on his bit. I started off holding the whip again, and on this rein the pony was a bit faster so I explained how to use the lunge line to steady him. Once he’d settled, she carried the whip again.
Since she was getting the hang of all the equipment, I laid out three trotting poles, and we then had a go at trotting over the poles. This was tricky for me because I had to subtly position the pony to go over the poles whilst telling my little client where to move to! The first time, the pony cantered over the last pole, pulling my client forwards a couple of steps. I guess it’s like me holding the end of the lunge line when the half Shire canters off when I’m lunging him. Anyway, the rest of the poles went smoothly and I even left her alone in the middle for a few moments whilst I adjusted the poles.
After doing the poles in both directions, I asked if we should try cantering. She was game, so we changed the rein onto his good canter lead. By now I was just holding the whip while she did it all. We moved him onto a bigger circle and then asked for canter. Once he was cantering, she took hold of the whip and started controlling him with her little voice.
By the end, most impressively, her lunge line was as organised as it was at the start! I thought she did really well, and seemed to understand how to use the equipment and the purpose of lunging is. I wouldn’t leave her to lunge solo, with no one in the middle to assist if there was a problem, but she is definitely well on her way to being able to lunge confidently and safely!