Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Bit Of A Lunge, And Some Improvement

Is it longe, or lunge? I've seen it spelled both ways, and they both look wrong to me. But I digress. On Saturday I decided to do a bit of lungeing with Spider to get him ready for the long lines. Spider is by nature a nervous horse and any deviation from his usual routine will start him worrying. Putting him on a lunge line is no exception. As soon as I put the line on and tied up his reins he started to get nervous.

To help calm his fears, we started out doing a little pseudo in hand work. Without side reins it was pretty awkward, as I could only really control the inside, but all I really wanted to accomplish was getting him used to the idea of me being somewhere other than at his head leading him. I want him to be used to the idea of me driving him forward from the ground. By staying by his side I was able to reach up and pat him to reassure him that everything was alright and the world would not end just because we were doing something different. Once he got used to the idea he calmed right down and went to work. We only walked and worked on halting, then moving forward agin. Once he was doing well with that I pushed him out onto a 20 meter cirlce and had him trot and canter. At this point I realized exactly how co-dependant my horse is! He does not like to be more than an arms length away from me and frequently tried to stop and come in to me. We presevered, though, and eventually I had him trotting and cantering in a nice, loose, forward frame. At that point I switched directions and started over again with in hand walk first, then pushing him out to trot and canter on the lunge. Even without side reins he maintained a pretty nice frame. When I lunge a horse I run the line up through the inside ring of the bit, over the poll and clip the line to the outside ring of the bit so that I can apply pressure to the horses poll and maintain fairly even pressure on the rings of the bit. It helps maintain a bit more control and keeps the horses frame more consistent.

Spider was visibly relieved when I unhooked the lunge line and brought him over to the mounting block. And I was pleasantly surprised when I got on. I usually spend the first 20 minutes or so of my ride warming up, getting Spider supple and moving freely forward. But I had already accomplished that with the lunging, so when I got on Spider he felt soft and relaxed already. It was quite sublime. I was able to pick up the reins and begin collecting his gaits almost immediately. We worked mainly on transitions between and within the gaits, with some lateral work thrown in between to keep things interesting. I played around quite a bit with figure eights, doing transitions through the middle. I like figure eights because the horse really needs to be off his forehand in order to get the shape right. A horse travelling on his forehand will tend to fall in when asked to change direction and the result will be a sort of oval, rather than two perfect overlapping circles.

Overall I was pleased with the work, but rather annoyed with myself for not doing more ground work with Spider before. Any good trainer will tell you how important lunging, long lining and in hand work is to the proper training of the dressage horse, but in my laziness I've been neglecting that aspect. It seems my laziness has actually been creating more work for me all these years!


  1. I started all my young horses on the long lines. Toby had the most work, Tucker the second "most", and Chance has had the least. It was pretty clear to me from the difference in how the riding went afterwards that the more in hand work you do, the better. I am making up for lost time, now. I do love longlining, though.

    "Longe" is, I think, more "French." Lunge is just as correct. Depends on how "uppity" you want to be when you talk about your training techniques. *G*

  2. Sounds like a very productive day - learning day as well!!!! Go Spider!


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