“She was not some machine that I could get on and press a button and go. She was a sentient, feeling, thinking creature who responded to each new day in a slightly different way.” Tania Kindersley, Author of Words Matter: The English Language and the Happy Horse
Tara had a prolonged case of spring fever that the summer storm season didn’t remedy. Whatever was going on in the horse pasture at night, she seemed unsettled when I went to get her most mornings. Her unease fed my unease then back again in a downward spiral. We were becoming the equivalent of the comedy duo in a haunted house where one of us would make a noise and the other would say “W-w-what was that?” But it wasn’t funny. There’s no place for the jitters in the arena, equine or human.
Whatever the root of the anxiety was, my friend Karly knew how to put an end to it.
“Try lunging her before you ride.”
I had only done a little bit of lunging with my previous horse and neither one of us had really enjoyed it. My stable time is limited enough that I just want to spend as much time as I can riding my horse, not looking at her. However, I wasn’t enjoying our rides as much lately anyway, so we walked into the arena to give it a try.
As soon as I hooked on the lunge line and sent Tara off in a circle around me, I immediately noticed how hard it was to keep her inside eye on me. I realized if she was that distracted during groundwork, no wonder I couldn’t keep her attention from the saddle. I kept coaxing her to pay attention as she did transitions and reverses and it all got easier as we progressed. It didn’t take long, just ten minutes, and as I let her walk up to me at the end she seemed much calmer and focused. More importantly, I realized that I, in turn, felt calmer and focused on her. We went on to have the best ride and best connection than what we’ve had in weeks.
Lunging was the perfect remedy for both of us, and I now try to make time for it to be the rule for us rather than the exception. Why would Tara bother focusing on our partnership when I’m not? It takes two to lunge and it’s so worth it.