Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Thinking Of Taking Up Lunging....And A Related Story

I've only ridden once this week, Monday was still too wet, Tuesday I rode, Wednesday I came down with a sinus infection. I'm feeling more energetic today, perhaps I'll get out to ride this afternoon.

Tuesday's ride was OK, something's still a little stiff in Spider's left hock. That's troubling me a bit. He worked out of it, but was a bit hesitant to take the left lead canter and 10m circle's tracking left were difficult for him. It seems I'm going to have to formulate a Plan Of Attack for this. I'm thinking lots of strength building exercises for the stifles and hocks. I'm also thinking I need to find a hill to work on. Too bad Southern NJ doesn't have hills. I'm also going to start lunging him more.

I very rarely lunge. Mostly because I'm lazy. By my reckoning, by the time I get the horse all kitted up to lunge, I could have just saddled him and rode. I also get dizzy easily, which means that I have to run around with the horse while he's on the lunge or I just end up getting disoriented and confused. And thirdly, I don't have a set of side reins.

I know, I know....what self-respecting dressage rider doesn't have a set of side reins? Well, since you ask, that's actually a funny story............

As covered in my last post, when I first bought Spider he was a little *ahem* high strung. He was also quite unfit, so I put him on a strict regimen of work. I lunged him frequently in side reins to help him build up the muscles in his back without the weight of the rider interfering. One particularly windy day we were lunging out back of the barn near the shavings pile. The shavings were covered by a tarp. You see where this is going, right?

Sure enough, a particularly violent gust snapped the tarp and Spider spooked. His nose went out and hit the end of the side reins. The inside rein snapped at the buckle on the surcingle. These particular side reins had an elastic insert, wich acted just like a rubber band, snapping the rein back into Spider's face and wrapping around his head. Spider did what any reasonable horse would do when being assaulted with a large peice of leather and elastic- he reared (breaking the outside side rein in the process). And then, in slow motion, he fell. It was the most gentle fall I've ever seen, almost as though he did it on purpose. He rocked back onto his haunches, then slid onto his side. But then he didn't get up. Every other horse I've seen fall like that jumps right back up, but not Spider. He just laid there, motionless. I rushed over to him, convinced that he was dead. Panicked thoughts rushed through my head.....I had just convinced my husband to buy me this horse, I'd owned him less than a month, we'd re-financed our house to buy him...and I'd just killed him. I stood over him, tugging on the line, "C'mon Spider, get up. It's OK, get up." He stared up at me, eyes as big as saucers, clearly not dead. But not getting up. I petted him, pulled on the line a bit more and tried to coax him into standing up. He wouldn't budge. Now I was really starting to panic. Had he broken a leg? His back? Wouldn't he be showing some signs of pain if he were injured and couldn't get up? What was wrong with this horse?

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes, he heaved a huge sigh, stood up and shook himself off. I trotted him out, no signs of lameness. The next day there was no swelling, no heat anywhere, he was fine. The only thing I can figure is that he must have scared himself so bad that he froze.

A few weeks later one of the grooms called me in a panic. She was bringing Spider in from turnout and the gate had slammed into the fence while he was going through it. He spooked, reared up, fell down and laid there for a few minutes, completely motionless. Then he got up and acted as though nothing happened. The poor girl was beside herself. I told her not to worry, he's part fainting goat.

I never did get around to replacing my side reins. Any recommendations?


  1. Considering the circumstances, I'd say poor Spider did really well to just lay there and think things through. There would have been a major and destructive explosion had any such thing happened to Izzy.

    As for side reins, I have a pair or two, but I've never actually used them. I got them for a steal on craigslist, but our lunging is more about going freely forward than developing a frame. I'd offer to send you a pair (leather with donuts), but they're not really in glowing, gorgeous condition.

    PS You can have one of our hills if you want. We have oodles.

  2. I don't use side reins - but that's just me. I can't get the feel that I want using side reins, and there's no way to give the horse a full release where they can stretch out and down. Lots of people use them, and I used to, but I don't any more.

  3. After the catastrophic demise of my last set of side reins, I'm also open to suggestions for side rein alternatives. :)

  4. Long lines....Much better as far as I am concerned. I lunge on the circle with them and can control the stretch as I want it. Added benefit, if you do get dizzy, you can go off the circle and go almost anywhere.

    As well, when you want to reverse direction, just turn the horse to the outside and you're there! You can do all kinds of neat exercises and change the horse's frame at will. Great for building muscles, suppling, etc. I run the lines through the upper rings on my surcingle when I am lunging so they kind of act where my hands would be and I don't have to worry about one line going around the horse's tail. Instead they both go over his back.

  5. Poor Spider - half fainting goat that is awesome!!!! I personally don't use side reins either but I love long lines. I can't do it properly so I drive more than 'lunge' with them but agree with Jean you can do so much more and make it more interesting using long lines than just lunging. Good luck in your choices!!!


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