Monday, October 24, 2011

Do You Lunge?

I had a brief conversation with Trainer #1 last night about how the Princess lost her adorable little mind last night.  She said that this is why she does not lunge, because the horses just end up losing their focus and it's much harder to get them back.  Trainer #1 does groundwork such as disengaging the hindquarters instead.  Most of the time though, Trainer #1 just gets on.  Did I mention she's fearless?

I totally see Trainer #1's point and think she's on to something.  I'm not the world's most competent person when lunging and spend a fair amount of time just trying to make sure I'm not getting tangled up and reminding myself to put my hand down.  For some reason my hand that is holding the lunge line likes to float waaaaay up in the air, especially when the pony gets a little crazy.

On the other hand, I see why Trainer #2 is having me lunge the pony first.  Even if a spook on the lunge is a 100 and it would only have been a 10 under saddle, I'd rather have a 100 spook with me on the ground than a 10 with me on the saddle.  Mostly the pony ran around like an idiot, but she did get sweaty and tired enough that I was able to get on her.  Plus, when I've tried to do the groundwork that Trainer #1 does I don't feel like I have calmed the pony down any and I don't feel any more confident about getting on.

So, I'm wondering what you all think about lunging horses and the pros and cons?  Do you lunge your own horses?  And what are your tips for getting them focused back on you when they are tearing around in a tizzy?


  1. Thanks for following my little blog space!

    Lunging... Topic that many people have many different opinions. You may have read my post "Fire Breathing Dragon Does Chestnut Pony Impersonation" - if not you should. Bonnie is a Paint/QH type mare. She's 18 years old, I've owned her for 6 years and bought her from a good friend who had her even longer. I knew the mare before I bought her - is the point I'm making.

    At 18 years old she still breaths fire at me and needs the snot lunged out of her at time or two. It also teaches ground manners which are necessary! Control the horse from the ground you have a better chance at controlling from the saddle.

    My 6 year old, still green, percheron x belgian mare I do not lunge any more, but I still begin EVERY SINGLE RIDE with ground work and establishing respect.

    When I do lunge I don't do mindless circle after circle with them. I do figures, I cover the entire arena. I do all three gaits but they must be snappy gaits. I change directions a lot. I also have a small cross rail jump I put in. If they insist on gallop when I ask for trot and will not rate down, I don't let them stop the canter/gallop when they offer.

    I am an experienced rider - but I won't ride my redhead with an attitude right now so don't worry that you aren't comfortable riding your hot, over reactive young Arab mare.

    Ok.. long comment but one more thing. The bit about saddling - that sounds like a pain reaction. It could be saddle fit , it could be internal - ulcers.

    By the way - my first horse EVER was a 2 year old Arab mare I broke and trained. I was 13 years old. I know about the Arab teleport spook, it is the breed, and it will be at the silliest of things.

    I also suggest a blog "A year with horses". Kate is an excellent horse woman who is as much into the science of things as she is into riding her three horses. She has a lot of great articles on her side board.

    ~ Jeni

  2. I like to longe. I think the secret is not making the longeline a play place but a work place. I rarely let Dee play on the longeline. I think it's good for her. It helps get her mind in the right place. It is a great warmup, too. When I do get on we can really get down to work. When we longe we might work over poles or cavalletti. We change gaits. We change directions. We change speed. I also make sure I use a particular setup for longeing...not just our usual stable halter...she knows when the cavesson goes on it's work time, too. Consistency in everything.

  3. I can certainly understand why people lunge, but I almost never do - it's a stage of training for my horses and once we're done with it we're mostly done with it. I do use it to "check in" when I start working again with a horse who's been off for a while, unless the horse is reliably low energy. With a horse in regular work, I may do some leading/in-hand work as a check on where their mind is.

    I think if you do lungeing, it should have a purpose - transitions, changes of direction, that sort of thing - not just mindless running in circles. If your horse needs to run in circles/buck/burn off energy, then it's likely either your feed is too rich or your horse isn't getting enough turnout - or the horse has been trained to run around like a maniac on the lunge. My horses are on all day turnout, and are on a low-carb high forage diet, therefore no need to lunge.

    Like Story, if I do lunge, I do it with intent and purpose.

    I also second what Jeni says about possible pain on saddling - could be ulcers, could be a chiropractic issue, could be saddle fit but it's probably not nothing (sorry for the double negative!).

    (Thanks for stopping by and following along.)

  4. Thanks for all the feedback! Tessa is currently finishing up a very expensive round of ulcer medication so if it WAS ulcers, they are gone now. The saddle seems to fit, though I am going to double check with Trainer #2 since the pony's body has changed over the last few months as she has developed more muscle.

  5. I rarely lunge, and only to check soundness or something I need to see from the ground. Otherwise, I ride.

    I hope your new trainer can help you with her. The only thing I'd worry about with lunging before every ride is that she's going to get fitter from it, and that might create other issues.

  6. Steph-
    I couldn't agree more! I think (though I've only had the one lesson so far..) that we are only lunging for me to get a handle on my anxiety and see where the Princess' head is at that day. Ideally, I won't need to lunge and/or it will be short. I'm not a fan of endless circles anyways; I get too dizzy. :)

  7. I lunge at shows to get some energy out and give him a chance to start paying attention to me. One of my showgrounds has a roundpen and I use that instead when I'm able.

    At home I lunge for fitness (ie I AM too lazy to post endlessly), so I can watch for lameness/soreness, and I do it occasionally to remind him how it's done. When I got Junior he was a complete idiot on the lunge racing around and changing directions without request. It took a LOOOONG time for him to realize and accept that I was in control. Round penning helped immensely with that which surprised me. At this point he doesn't need it to burn off energy (mentally in a much healthier place) but I work on changing gaits by voice command and it helps practice discipline. When I see he's listening, obeying, and is relaxed on the line I know he's "with" me and that helps our partnership.

  8. : ) I find this post kinda amusing. You'd rather have a 100 spook on the ground then a 10 spook in the saddle. I assume your experience tells you that saddle spooks are WAY more dangerous and scary.

    Ironically, I'm the polar opposite. The other day my horse was pretty nervous leaving the barn and where most people would happily continue to lead him on the rope feeling more 'secure', all I wanted to do was mount up where "I" feel more secure! It's often all about experience.

    You might come learn that trainer #1 feel more secure and in control from the saddle then on the ground with a lunge. I've been barrelled over on a lunge and would MUCH rather fall off in the sand ring then have my arms yanked off by a bucking, rearing and kicking pony on a lunge!

    We all have our own unique fears. : ) Find where YOU feel most secure and stick with it. In the end, the horse only knows when you are and when you're not feeling safe, and makes his judgement based on that. : )