Lunging is a wonderful way to gymnasticise your horse, meaning that you supple, strengthen and straighten the horse. But be careful: lunging can only be healthy for a horse if it happens in a responsible and correct way. Unfortunately a lot of mistakes happen during lunging. That is why I have listed the 7 most common mistakes, so you can make sure you don’t make them too(anymore)!
Lunging mistake #1: Lunging with a bit
This is a very common mistake during lunging. By lunging with a bit, the mandible of the horse is placed inwards, when the handler asks for flexion with the lunge.
However, for a correct flexion and also bending the upper jaw needs to be positioned inwards, which is only possible when the mandible is placed outwards.
Working with a bit makes it is more difficult for the horse to take a correct flexion, and therefore also a correct lateral bending. It is best to train with a good-fitting cavesson, because with this you act on the upper jaw of the horse, and during a half-halt you request the upper jaw inwards instead of the mandible.
Lunging mistake #2: Using draw reins, side reins, pessoa, …
They place the head and the neck of the horse in a certain position which the horse would not take naturally. Whatever the proponents claim: you would not use draw reins or other tack that puts the horse is a certain frame if the horse would walk correctly. In other words: this kind of tack “force” the horse in a position and this is associated with tension and therefore a wrong way of moving.
That’s why we also don’t put the lunge through a girth ring (this is from the head to the girth ring and from the girth ring to the hand). The trainer cannot give directed rein aids, because the handlers hand isn’t directly connected with the horse’s head.
Think about a half halt up, down, forwards, or backwards. The horse cannot be helped correctly.
So you’re unable to respond to the natural crookedness of the horse when using draw reins/side reins or when you put the lunge through the girth, because you “lock” the horse. You cannot influence the center of gravity of the horse anymore, and you will not be able to properly help the horse because you cannot “use” the head-neck position to help the horse finding its balance.
This way of lunging has therefore nothing to do with a logical, constructive training, where you systematically gymnasticise your horse step by step, at the horse’s tempo.
Lunging mistake #3: No solid foundation
Very often horses are lunged without a proper foundation. Some of these horses have a hard time to relax and that is why they don’t learn fast or well, or they learn the wrong things.
When the connection is strong you can continue to the basic groundwork so the horse can – among other things – learn to know and trust the aids and to learn to fluently yield for pressure. You also practice the normal circle work, which is a very important precursor of dressage lunging.
Those who take the time to create a solid foundation will have more fun and more success during lunging because the horse will understand and trust you and all your aids.
Be watching for my next post. I will conclude with three more common mistakes in lunging.