Now that winter’s here again, it can be hard to find the time to ride every day while the daylight hours are fewer. This can be a big problem if you work or look after your horse yourself. Lungeing is a brilliant way of keeping your horse fit and supple from the ground in a fraction of the time you would normally have to spend in the saddle.
If you’re using a roller rather than a saddle to lunge your horse, always attach the side reins to the highest rings. This is the closest point to where you would normally hold the reins and mimics your contact as if you were in the saddle. If you opt to use your saddle for lungeing, make sure that you fix the side reins to the very top of the girth tabs above the buckles or to the ‘D’ rings on the front of the saddle if you have them. Never fix the side reins in such a way that they force the horse to carry his head and neck too low. Your aim is to encourage your horse to work forward to the bit and to carry himself correctly, not to fix him rigidly into an outline.
- Spend the first 8 minutes of the session without side reins to allow your horse to swing forward and to warm up and stretch down and out. Keep your circle large – at least 15 to 18 metres in diameter.
- Once you’ve warmed up, attach your side reins. Make sure they’re not too tight and short but still provide your horse with a light contact to work into. For this five minute segment, begin by working on transitions. Your aim is for sharp, obedient and smooth upward transitions from walk to trot and for balanced, smooth transitions from trot to walk. Repeat a few times on each rein before moving on to the next part of the session.
- Now the horse is nice and warm and attentive to his work, really get him thinking and engaging his inside hind leg. You can do this exercise in walk and trot and on both reins. Gradually make the circle smaller – to around 12 metres – then allow the lunge line out whilst moving your horse out onto a larger circle to create a spiralling effect. As he reaches the larger circumference circle, send him forward into a bigger trot. This not only gets him more engaged but really gets him listening to you. 7 minutes.
- Now it’s time to up the ante and really ask your horse some questions. Spend 5 minutes mixing up more complex sequences of transitions; trot, walk, halt, trot etc. Don’t forget to change the rein midway through to make sure you work both sides of him.
- Finally, allow your horse 5 minutes to warm down. Unfasten the side reins and allow him to really stretch round and down on a big circle.
You can incorporate this 30 minute workout into your horse’s winter weekly exercise schedule but as it’s quite intense, it’s not recommended that you use it more than three times a week and never on consecutive days.
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