'Round and 'Round

  This time of year, our horses seem to be the most fresh. They haven't been worked as much through the winter so they are always excited to get back to work. For many of us, lunging our horses may be needed to help get rid of some of that excess energy.

  It seems though that some of us have difficulty with lunging effectively. So if you are one of those people or you would like to just refresh your mind, keep reading.

  Lunging is a great way to drain some of your horse's energy, to give him exercise, to teach him how to bend on a circle, to check his soundness or even to improve your communication with him. 

  Here is a list of the things you will need in order to lunge:

  • A halter or bridle

  • A lunge line

  • A pair of gloves

  Here is a list of the things many riders may want to use while lunging:

  • A lunge whip

  • A surcingle or saddle

  • Side reins

  • Polos or boots

  Here is a list of things you want to avoid while lunging:

  • Wearing spurs on your feet

  • The reins on your horse's bridle are not tied up and are moving all over the place

  • The stirrups on your saddle are not secured and are knocking against your horse's belly

  • The lunge line is dragging on the floor

  • The lunge line is wrapped around your hand

  • You are walking around with your horse instead of being in the centre of the circle

  Now that we have gotten all of that our of the way, you can now learn the basics of lunging. First you must understand how to control your horse without being next to him. 

  Horses work through pressure and release. Pressure can come from the way you speak or the way you move. 

  Horses also have what is called a drive line. This drive line can be found around the shoulder of your horse. If you increase the pressure behind the shoulder, your horse will increase his speed. If you increase the pressure in front of the shoulder, your horse will decrease his speed. When you keep yourself in line with the shoulder and you are not putting any pressure on your horse, he will stay at the same speed. This is why we make a triangle with ourselves. That way, it is much easier for us to give clear direction with our horses about what we want them to do.

  Please be careful about how much pressure you use on your horse. Some horses are more sensitive than others and they will give you a bigger reaction. Make sure to not always put pressure on your horse either. Horses learn through release. So, if you keep putting pressure on your horse and he never gets release, he will learn to ignore that pressure which in turn means that you need to put more on him in order to get a reaction.

  When you are lunging your horse, make sure that you are not travelling with him. Keep yourself in line with his shoulder and take little steps as you follow him around. If you start to see a slack in your lunge line, that is a sign that either you are moving towards your horse or he is moving towards you. Try to correct this as quickly as possible. If you do have problems with travelling with your horse, try lunging in a round pen. That way, you will be encouraged to stay in the centre of the ring. 

  When you have decided to stop or to change directions, release the pressure behind his shoulder and start walking towards the outer edge of the circle to cut him off his path. You shouldn't have to walk too far before he starts to stop. Once you have moved yourself in front of his drive line, you are already putting pressure on him to slow down.

  I hope that this blog post on lunging was helpful to all of you. As I have talked about pressure and release quite a bit in this post, I will be writing next week's post about it and how we can use it to our advantage. I think it's really important that we all understand the concept of pressure and release as it is the way horses communicate to each other and how we should be communicating with them. With that said, that may mean that there will be more than one post on pressure and release in the future.

  I hope you are all having a great day and are enjoying your weekend. Until next week, I wish you all the best with your horses and that you don't get too dizzy while you are lunging them. Take it a little bit at a time and have fun.