Day 6 Of The Confident Rider Challenge
I want to start today’s challenge with a disclaimer. I have been working with horses for the past 30 some years. And the things that I do with my horses and share with you, works for me. I am not a professional horse trainer, nor do I claim to be. I have done a lot of research, had professional lessons, and made a lot of my own mistakes along the way on my own personal journey of being a more confident rider. I don’t push my ideas out as gospel, or the only way to work with your horse. But these are things that I do that have helped me, and maybe they can help you too.
But we are all individuals. And we all have our own way of doing things especially when it comes to working with horses. If I say or do anything that you don’t agree with or would never do, that’s fine. Do what is best for you and your horse. Ok, enough of the disclaimer, lets talk about something fun, working with our horses!
Let’s Lunge Our Horses
Lunging is an exercise for improving suppleness, strength and straightness in your horse. Lunging can also be used as a tool to exercises your horse and help him to learn how to balance himself, before adding the weight of a rider.
To get all these benefits from lunging, you will want to work your horse on a circle. And you will be in the center of that circle. Basically, your horse will be walking circles around you, only in a much larger circle. And for your horse to get the most of lunging, it is best to use a lunge line, 20 to 30 feet long. But if you are just getting started, it is ok to start with a 14-16-foot-long lead, like your yacht rope lead. I use this a lot with my horses.
How To Lunge Your Horse
When you are first getting started, it is better to start with a more controlled circle for lunging. Once your horse has the hang of it, then you can move him out in a larger circle. Remember, for your horse to get the most out of the lunge, you need to be intentional with your lunge work. Just allowing your horse to do what he wants on the end of a very long rope isn’t going to help him to improve his balance, or suppleness. It’s also important to remember that you control the size of the circle, not your horse.
When you first start trying to lunge your horse, it might seem a bit confusing of how you get him to move away from you out on a circle. But fear not! I can walk you through it, and in no time at all your horse will be working on a lunge line.
If your horse is going to the right, hold the lead, or lunge line in your right hand. And then hold the stick and string, or your lunge whip in your left hand. You want to think of a triangle when you are lunging. Your horse will be the base of the triangle, your lead rope to your hand is one side of the triangle, and your stick and string and other hand make up the other side of the triangle. You are the top point of the triangle.
Getting Your Horse To Move Forward
To get your horse to move forward, you want to stay behind his shoulder. If you move in front of his shoulder, he will not understand what you are asking him to do. So be sure to stand behind his shoulder, more at the girth area like you were up on his back.
Next you will raise your right hand and point in the direction you want him to go. It’s your right hand, so lifting your hand high enough for him to see you want him to go to the right. Then using your left hand lower, flick the whip and cluck to him and ask him to walk. If he seems confused, give a louder cluck, like you mean it and ask him to walk again.
If he still doesn’t get it, give a little flick with the whip while you say “Walk!” This should encourage him to move forward. The whip is an extension of your arm. It’s a tool to motivate him to move away from the whip. Remember you are encouraging your horse to walk or move forward. The whip is merely a tool to help you get the job done. It is not meant to be used as a punishment to your horse.
Keep Him Moving Forward
Once your horse is moving around you in a circle and seems to understand what you are asking of him, you can ask him to trot. Give a cluck and a light flick of the whip. And you can also give him a little more rope so that he is able to trot around you in a larger circle.
And once he is moving around you well on the lunge line, or your extra long lead rope, you need to make sure this is an active exercise. This isn’t him just running around you in a circle without him paying attention to you. You need to keep him engaged. Try to keep his nose tipped in toward you a bit while you are driving his hind end up and under him. You want the front end to capture the energy of the hindquarters.
Work In Both Directions
Once he is moving well around you to the right, you need to have him halt, or whoa, and then change direction. You want to work him on both sides, to the left as well as the right. And when you change directions for the first time, don’t be surprised if your horse doesn’t understand again. He needs to do be able to lunge in both directions. And the first time he does it on each side, it will be like he has never lunged before. So be patient with him.
Working Circles On The Lunge Line
And something that I like to do, which some people may not agree with and that’s ok, but I like to walk and trot my horses up and down the arena in large circles around me as we make our way from one end of the arena to the other. Some say that it is confusing for the horse, but I disagree. By working my horse, still in a circle, in circles around the arena. I am engaging the thinking side of his brain because he has to pay attention to the circle, and me as we work through the entire arena. This isn’t something that every one does, but it works for my horses, so I do it.
While working with my horses, I ask for lots of changes of direction while I am lunging my horses on the 15 foot lead rope. You can see me do this a lot in videos that I have on YouTube, and I have had a couple of people tell me I’m doing it wrong. I just smile and remember that what works for me and my horses may not work for others.
But when you are just getting started with lunging and working on a circle with your horse, start with a traditional circle. Then progress with your horse as he progresses through his training.
Keep It Simple
I also feel it is important to lunge with the least amount of artificial aids as possible. Products like side reins and draw reins have their place and purpose. But when you are just starting don’t rely on artificial aids to help you get the job done. They can force your horse into a false frame which can create tension. This means he hasn’t learned how to balance on the circle. And if you add artificial aids, it can cause extra pressure on your horse that he doesn’t understand or know how to get the release from the pressure. Your horse should always have the opportunity to get a release of pressure when he chooses to do the right thing.
Once your horse is walking and trotting well around you in a circle with the lead rope you are ready to try cantering. This is when it’s time to use the longer ‘real’ lunge line. And be sure to warm him up with walking and trotting before he starts cantering around the lunge circle. You want to eliminate any potential injury by allowing your horse to warm up fully.
Like I said in the beginning, lunging is an exercise in encouraging straightness, suppleness, balance and strength. So practice correct lunging to get the most out of your training with your horse.
Confident Rider Daily Challenge
Today I want you to spend some time teaching your horse to lunge. Or if your horse already knows how to lunge, work on getting him in the correct frame when he is lunging. Be sure to work in both directions and be clear in what you are asking your horse to do. See if you can get him to walk, trot, and canter in both directions. Work with intention and give your horse clear directions of what you are asking of him. Spend 15 to 20 minutes with your horse on the lunge line and remember to end on a good note.
And if you want to get the calendar for the Confident Rider Challenge, just click here. The you can join in on our challenge, and know what we will be working on every single day.