I have always found lungeing a useful way of exercising Basil and I used to lunge Chesney often too, before he was retired! My first pony I lunged when I did not have time to ride and that is still sometimes the reason I lunge Basil. However, since then I have discovered the other benefits.
Another reason I like lungeing is to bring some variety to our work, so I mix it in with hacking, schooling and jumping. It gives me a chance to watch Basil move and make sure he is working through from behind too. He always stretches his neck down and I can see his back stretching and lengthening, I love watching him canter around as it looks so effortless.
This photo is from http://nobackpain.dk/en/fordele-ved-longering/ I wanted to use it because the horse looks relaxed and is stretching down, as Basil does.
I lunge with just a headcollar because Basil doesn't tolerate the cavesson well (I think it is the ring on the top of his nose) and unless it is a 'fresh' day it works well. I am not a big fan of attaching the lunge line to the bit because I don't want to be constantly pulling on his mouth! Horses need to work thorough from behind with impulsion before they should be gently 'asked' to come on to the bit. I find that Basil works with a good bend, a lovely rhythm and great balance on the lunge and it is a real pleasure to watch him when he is being good. He also drops his head to a lovely 'prelim' position so I don't feel the need to use side reins.
A lungeing session of 20 minutes is apparently worth an hour schooling or an hour and a half hacking - so he works harder in a shorter amount of time too. I suppose this isn't true though, if you don't get your horse working well through from behind with good impulsion, but not too fast.
Some of the other benefits:
· improve balance
· improve rhythm
· improve canter transitions
· helps the horse work on the correct bend
This horse is not working on the correct bend!
Lunging is an essential part of training young horses, it is great for helping them learn more voice commands which can then be used when riding initially. It also helps them strengthen their backs in preparation for a rider, by stretching down and engaging their hindquarters they will build muscle. It can be a great way to build trust too.
However, it is important that lunging is done properly - it is something horses need to learn. They must learn:
· not to pull
· to respond to voice commands
· to work on the correct bend, though the whole body
· to stay out on the circle
It is also important that someone experienced teaches a horse to be lunged, so they start off in the right way!
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Until next time!