The weather in my area is finally improving and it's starting to feel like spring. My horse and I are both happy about that! But my horse seems to have "spring fever and has been acting a little out of sorts. One of my barn friends suggested it would be safer I lunged him before I rode him. Is this what you would suggest? I'm not very good with lunging!
Dear suffering from spring fever,
I'm grateful too that the weather is finally getting nicer outside! It is about time! There are pros and cons of lunging depends on how skilled you and your horse are with it.
If you and your horse are not experienced with lunging, there is a good chance it could negate your purpose of settling your horse down. A lot of horses being lunged just run like crazy and buck. I know that is sort of what you want them to do so they don't do it under saddle, but it can be counterproductive.
When I lunge a horse, my goal is to get it to go on the ground just like it would if I was under saddle. I encourage the horse to keep the rhythm/speed I want and focus on me. If you are just holding onto the end of the lunge line while your horse puts on a rodeo, there's a good chance he may just get more wound up. We don't want to bring our horses energy up, we want to settle it down. If your horse runs around you out of control on the lunge line, then you aren't doing anything but getting your horse more wound up.
Some would say that at least by lunging you are tiring the horses out. This will only be the case if you don't lunge regularly. If you start lunging your horse before each ride, he will just end up gaining fitness and you will just have to lunge longer to get the same effect. Obviously, this would also be counterproductive.
If you are not experienced at lunging, it is a skill that is definitely worth perfecting with the help of your trainer or instructor. If you have not learned how to lunge, I don't suggest trying to learn how on your horse that has "spring fever". That is not a recipe for success for you to learn and be able to accomplish your goal of settling down your horse.
Safety first of course! What I would do if you don't have anyone experienced to help you with lunging is to do some simple groundwork exercises. Control your horse's body and get him focused on the ground before you get on.
Things like getting your horse to move his haunches away from you on the leadline are part of teaching a horse to lunge. Control the hind end (the motor) and you control the whole horse! This will help to get him to focus on you, which should, in turn, relax both of you.
Another exercise you can do to help get your horses respect and focus is to move your horse back out of your space without moving towards him or her. Ask him to back up with a tug on the leadline while you keep your feet in one spot. You may need to push your horse or use the leadline or whip tapping his chest to help him get the idea. Essentially, you're trying to assert your personal space with your horse and ask him to respect you enough to back away from you without you moving towards him. That is a good way to help with respect and focus.
Consider your level of experience and your horse's level of experience to decide which option is best and safest for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I think your horse will get the "spring fever" out of his system soon and then both of you can enjoy the spring weather!