Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lungeing Helped

Today was really beautiful - temperatures in the 50s and sunny. The mud in the turnouts is still awful (up to my ankles in places) and the arena is a soggy, unusable mess. But the grassy area behind the barn was dry enough to use as a lungeing area, so I lunged Maisie before I rode to improve our chances of a good trail ride. I don't usually do a lot of pre-ride lungeing; I usually just get on and ride. But lately Maisie's been pretty hot, as well as somewhat barn sour, and the hotness makes the barn sour harder to work on because she is so wound up she can't focus well on what I'm asking. So we lunged for about 15 minutes or so - with a horse as unfit as she is right now that was quite a workout. We went to the left first - her easier direction. She was pretty good about following directions - we did a nice forward walk for a bit before we trotted. Then we trotted for a while and also worked on some transitions, which she did pretty nicely.

When I lunge, I don't stand still in the middle of the circle, and I don't use a lunge whip. I just use the fuzzy-nose halter and a lunge line - no side reins either. I move with the horse inside the horse's circles, and we also do some straight lines from time to time. I walk slowly in a small circle when the horse is walking, and walk much faster in a somewhat larger circle when the horse is trotting - I try to match the energy level I want the horse to use. So, to slow down, I slow down myself and lower my energy. After we worked a while at trot to the left, we reversed and went to the right, walking some so she could stop huffing and puffing. Then we moved up to trot. Going to the right is harder for her - she often wants to pop her shoulder in and tilt her head to the outside. So I worked on keeping her head slightly to the inside, which was hard work for her. Just as we were working on this, my younger daughter, who had been grooming Dawn just outside the barn, took her back inside. I think the combination of Dawn leaving and having to work hard going to the right set Maisie off - there were a couple of minutes of galloping and huge bucks (glad I didn't have to try to ride those!). I asked her to halt - she was on full alert and very excited.

We hand-walked around for a few minutes so she could calm down, and did some crazy walking so she would start to focus on me again. Then we walked back to the lungeing area and did some more trot work to the right; that went well. Then I took her down to the mounting block, put on her bridle and got on for a bit of trail riding.

It went pretty well. We didn't go too far from the barn - a couple of hundred yards in a couple of directions - we'd go away from the barn, back again and past the barn and then away in a different direction. We did this for about 20 minutes. She was forward but controlled. On the way back towards the barn, when she wanted to speed up she was able to respond to my asks to slow down. At the very end I asked for and got several yards of trot. It wasn't high-quality trot, but it was trot and I was happy with that.

I think that, until she settles down a bit, we'll do some lungeing before riding just to take the edge off. My younger did get in a brief ride on Dawn (she hasn't ridden her since the end of last August) - she only rides Dawn bareback - they walked around a bit and were done. Dawn thought it was pretty exciting, but was reasonably well-behaved.

We're supposed to have nice weather for the next several days, so I'm hoping for more rides.


  1. I am an active lunge-er too. I like to match energy with my horse like you, and I like to make my circles a bit larger for joint saving. I also think it is a fun way to get a bit of exercise for me!

    Sounds like Maisie is really feeling saucy. Glad to hear you guys are already making headway on the bit of barn sour she has though.

  2. lunging can be a great tool to use. I use it because when I am not riding, i want to get the horses some exercise. I don't have a round pen or an actual arena. They are on 24/7 turn out but they don't always take advantage of that if ya know what I mean.

  3. I'm not sure if what I do is lunging, really. It's a bit of round penning without the pen, mostly to see where my horse's attention is really. My horses seem to be able to fake it, if you know what I mean.

    I never get on completely cold back. It may just be two circles at the end of a 12' lead in each direction or it may be more complex maneuvers. Lately it's taken very little time, maybe 3 minutes. But I have to have that ear before I get on any horse, even steady Lily.

    My previous horse had to be round penned for 15 minutes at a minimum. And he was STILL a mess. But at least I had a sense of where he was at. But I'm sort of a ground work geek. Too much parelli during my impressionable stage, probably.

  4. I never lunge Panama before I ride, but I do like to turn him out in the arena first, particularly when he's had several days off. Sometimes it seems like it backfires, though. I swear there are times when encouraging him to romp first actually makes him more excitable for our ride.

  5. I'm not a pre-ride lunger either, but in some cases it seems to be the better way. Taking the edge off needs to be done for a safer ride in some cases.

    Isn't it nice the weather is turning and we can finally get out and do some riding. It sounds like it won't be too long before Maisie is not barn sour anymore and perfectly fit for longer rides. Have fun.

  6. I think it's wise to set her up for success like that. I usually lunge Mosco for 5-10 minutes or so before riding to guage his mental status for the day & burn off any crazy silly energy (which he rarely has). It sounds like she did a great job on the trail.

  7. I like to longe even older horses if they have had a lay off, not so much to take the edge off, but to refocus them on the task at hand.It seems to kind of wake them up to working mode before you get on them. Sounds like it worked well for you

  8. I do everything from free lunging to lunging with the Pessoa using poles on the ground, and everything in between. And long-reining, in fact I prefer that to lunging. They're all useful tools depending on the horse and even the day of the week!

    Glad the weather is improving with you and that you are managing to work the horses despite the terrain being so boggy!

  9. Done well I think lungeing is an incredibly effective tool for working with a horse. Of course done poorly it is painful to watch, and I hate watching the "lunge-to-death" routine you see so often at horse shows.

  10. Hi Kate ~ thank you for your kind words on my blog. Enjoy your good weather!

  11. I used to lunge my horse now and then in spring before a ride--it would get a little buck out and get his attention, but now he's turning 13 and I can just jump on and go. Wait until I take my filly out for the first time. (Where's that long line?!?)

  12. Hi Kate,

    I like your description of lungeing. I have had some tuition here in Ireland from someone who has trained with Chris Irwin and her ideas on lungeing have really helped me and sound close to what you do. I think that keeping the connection as you lunge is very important.



Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.