What is lungeing? As you read these words, what word or picture springs to mind?
Boring – Pointless – Dangerous – Interesting – Useful – Beneficial – Scary – Unsafe – Impossible??
As with many other things in life, our thoughts about lungeing will be influenced by our past experiences.
There are many reasons that we might want to lunge. We might lunge to exercise our horse rather than hack out or ride in the arena. We might want to introduce our horse to poles and jumping on the lunge. There may be times when lungeing is recommended by a therapist or veterinary surgeon, to exercise our horse in a controlled manner or in a certain direction. Maybe this is to tone or build up muscle or to relax muscles for them to work more effectively.
However, sometimes lungeing can turn into our worst nightmare and the temptation may be to give up.
When I first had Jack he was thin and had little muscle tone and was very unfit. He was unpredictable when being lunged, became tense in his neck and fell in on both reins. Recipe for disaster!
One day, although I normally used my own version of a running rein to lunge, I decided to use a Pessoa (a training aid designed to bring awareness to the horse of a preferred way of moving his body, encouraging him to step under his body with his hind leg and lower his neck and release his back muscles). However as soon as I put the roller around Jack’s tummy and the sheep skin strap under his tail I could sense more tension in him. The next time I moved Jack into trot on the left rein he charged forwards and sidewards at the same time, towards me. I had this image that he wanted to jump into my arms! I had completely forgotten about that image until some years later when I asked an Animal Communicator and healer to work with Jack. In one of her emails she described an image that she’d had; it was a cartoon image of Jack running and leaping into my arms! He wasn’t happy with the Pessoa.
From then on I decided to lunge without any training devices, despite the thoughts going through my head “but you were recommended to use the Pessoa” and “how else are you going to build up his muscles correctly?”
I remembered lungeing horses and just instinctively knowing where to be to encourage them forward, how to keep it interesting, how long to spend on each rein, what to do to encourage suppleness, when to reward, how to use my voice commands. The irony was that all those years ago I didn’t know what I was doing and how I was doing it!
As I thought back I connected to a time when I used to break in horses for other people, not long after I’d started my own business. I’d learned mostly from my Mum and from the horses that I’d ridden and worked with. During the early years of breaking in horses I followed my instincts, took the time I needed and learnt by my mistakes and from feedback from the horses. I had my own premises and I had no-one to question what I was doing. However, I often felt inadequate because I hadn’t done an apprenticeship at an Equestrian Centre. When I decided that I wanted to become a Riding Instructor and horse trainer (at the age of 26) I went off to Leigh Equestrian Centre in Dorset and on a day release basis, over a 6 month period attained my B.H.S.A.I. (British Horse Society Assistant Instructor)