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by Charles Wilhelm
Question: Why is it important that I lunge my horse? I would also like to understand the essentials of this exercise.
Answer: This is a question that I have been asked many times but it remains a good question. This time, I’d like to answer it from a different perspective. I just saw something on Facebook about someone who never lunges but just gets on and rides and has done this since the horse was a colt.
This may be fine for this person and this particular horse, but for most people, lunging is a very important tool for working with a horse. The same work can be accomplished in a round pen, but not everyone has access to a round pen. All of the principles I am going to discuss can apply to round pen work as well as lunging. Since most people don’t have a round pen, I’m going to focus on lunging.
Why do we lunge? We lunge our horses for various reasons but primarily to get the freshness off the horse. On average, most people only ride one to three times a week. I have clients who ride more and there are those, because of their schedules, who ride less. Those clients are fortunate in a way because in the meantime I’m working with their horses. However, not everyone has a trainer.
We don’t train on weekends, however, so if the owner comes in on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, the horse will probably be fresh. The horse may have been in a stall one or two days with a turn out, and the horse is eager. The horse isn’t thinking about anything other than getting out and moving. Most riders must deal with this when they come out to ride.
Why would you want to get on a horse that’s wound up? We all want our horses to feel good but we don’t want them to be yahoos, feeling like all they want to do is buck and kick. So, we need to get the freshness, or the ‘play’ as we sometimes call it, out of them. Working on a lunge line or in a round pen will deal with any need for the horse to kick up its heels. Lunging will also deal with any resistance and the exercise will get the horse thinking and paying attention to what it’s being asked to do. This warm-up will result in a better, more enjoyable and safer ride.
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