Tips On Lunging: Part 1
Hi this is Will Faerber from Art2Ride and I am here with Dave Murphy and he is lunging his horse Zoe. We have had quite a few questions come in on the internet asking about lunging and how to start their horses, so I thought this would be a good opportunity. You can watch Dave who is still learning himself and we can talk about what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong.
As I have stated before in some of my answers to some of you, the most important thing you have to establish when you are lunging a horse is the horse staying out at the end of the line. Don’t worry about if the horse is trotting or walking and especially whoa. Most people worry about whoa, when in fact you need to worry about go. The horse needs to go out to the end of the line using the whip as your leg essentially. You are basically moving the horse into your hand, which is your rein. If this is done correctly the horse will move out and stay out there. The next important thing once you can keep the horse out there, is you can begin to worry about what gait the horse is in and the quality of that gait. But the first thing that has to happen as I said, is the horse has to stay out there.
As you can see in the video, Dave has let Zoe become too slow so he needs to keep his whip up and send her on forward so she will go out into the rein a little more. He has to be a little more active, notice how he is always walking forward with the horse and never backing up, which was a problem that he had when I first started working with him, he was always backing away from the horse. Body language is so important! It is so important that you stretch up and stand tall when lunging because that will help the horse respect you. Once again there is a visual aspect, the horse must respect your position on the ground. Zoe gets a little too slow again, can you see how she started to come in on the line? So once again, he needs to send the horse out on the line and keep her more active. Then Dave must begin to look for a working trot, that is when the horse is reaching deeply underneath the body.
Now this is a horse that is quite nervous so she goes into a little tizzy fit there because a car drove by. A few months ago, that little fit would have lasted a half an hour or so with her running around like a lunatic, now he is able to bring her right back down by sending her forward. So the most important thing to remember, just like when you ride, you can’t constantly stop and let the horse look at everything that it wants to look at. If you do that, you will never get from point A to point B because pretty soon they will want to look at everything and you will get nowhere at all. So the best advice in the classical school is to ignore whatever it is that is making them nervous and just send them on forward. Just send them on actively forward, even if it’s too actively forward you can just settle them down after the fact, just don’t try to whoa! That’s the biggest mistake that people make with horses, especially hot blooded horses, is they worry about if the animal will stand still before they can actually channel the horse forward.
So you kind of have to think how a stallion works a herd, watch what a stallion does (you can probably find some videos on youtube), he controls the herd by pushing it forward, just like we are controlling this mare by sending her forward on the lunge line. A stallion never stops a horse, in fact he has to woo the lady to get her to stand still and that’s only after he has had her moving around a while. So if you watch a stallion move a herd, it is exactly how you must lunge a horse. The stallion will get right behind them and nip them right in that fleshy part of their buttocks above the hocks, which is the place that you ought to touch the horse with the whip. There are only three places that we ever want to touch the horse with the whip: the fleshy place above the hock, right at the point where your leg would be and want the horse to move away, and the third place that is okay to use the whip on if the horse spins around on you is the shoulder because it get them to switch back around to the other direction.
So now we see that Dave has Zoe moving better, she has a nice swinging trot now and she is relaxing over her topline though she tends to go up and down. This is a horse who’s mouth was very nervous and busy, so we spent quite a bit of time just letting her relax. Notice how the side reins are correctly adjusted on this horse, they are at such a length that the horse is not confined in any way but if she were to throw her head way up in the air it’s going to encounter the contact with the bridle. If she stretches down there is something there for her to stretch down into and accept that contact. So that is the correct length of side reins, unless you are working a much more advanced horse into collection, and that’s a whole new lesson. For right now, most of you and even advanced level horses they need to mostly lunge in this length of rein. The idea of lunging is getting them soft and round over the back and stretching into the contact instead of confining their necks as most people are doing today in riding. You see all these horses with their necks crimped in and that’s not the same thing as collection. After the horse has developed the back, collection is the degree to which the horse lowers the three joints of the hind leg. It’s very simply one thing, it’s not a horse that is actively snapping it’s legs up either as we see in the show ring today. Those horses are just active, they are not really collected.
So happily, we see Dave on his way to some good and active work there now, she is starting to swing into the contact and she is starting to relax even though there are cars going by. He is keeping her working. She spooks a little bit, same thing here, he is not going to try and stop her, he is going to send her on a little bit with his whip and then he is going to settle her down. Instead of making her whoa first, he is going to make her go a little bit. My father taught me at a very young age that if I had a horse that was a runaway, he would say to take it out into a field and gallop it until it doesn’t want to gallop anymore and then ride it for a few minutes and it won’t runaway anymore. That is the most important lesson you will ever learn with horses, if you try to force them to stand still you will be in trouble.
Remember our primary goal that has to happen before anything else before the pieces will all work is the horse needs to stay out on the lunge line into the hand so that we can control it. Just like when we ride, we want the horse to move into the contact with the bridle not fall behind it nor bear down on it. We want it to respect it yet take soft and supple contact with it that allows us to communicate with the horse. Very nice, this is Dave Murphy lunging Zoe today. I hope some of these points have helped you by watching Dave lunge. You can see the proper development of the horse now, she is starting to stretch into the contact though she could be a little more active there and once we get everything else we have to be sure that we get the working trot. The working trot is the horse working over the topline with a good swinging trot, that is the deepest step underneath with the slowest rhythm. Those are the things we are trying to put together. When we put those things together we usually have the working trot, that is the horse working over it’s back. See how nicely she is starting to stretch into that contact now?
Thanks a lot, this is Will Faerber from Art2Ride and we will see you next time!