Lunge Line Panick - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 02-12-2014, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Location: North California
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Lunge Line Panick

I always free lunge my horse because a few years ago I tried to lunge him and his heart started to race, beat hard, and he started to shake as we stood at the entrance to the round pen. Its happened more than once so I tried a few things, and getting rid of the line helped eliminate the problem. I free lunge in the round pen with very little problems, other than he doesn't know a halt command/takes a while to slow down to a lower gait. I want to work with him on his fears, and his (in)ability to halt. I think it is possible he was lunged before and fell down, felt trapped, possibly because of the pen being small. Perhaps that is why he became nervous, he seems to get panicked when lunging on the line and feels like he needs to race, gets confused and disoriented. I want him to be calm and to use the line to teach him woah and halt as well as a few other tricks and commands to improve our riding and ground manners. I am confident I am sending him the correct messages when we lunge my hips and shoulders are facing him and I am driving him forward with my body language.

What can I do to help my traumatized horse feel comfortable doing this exercise again?
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post #2 of 5 Old 02-12-2014, 04:26 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Oct 2010
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What breed? What age? What is his prior training? What do you use him for?

And has he been taught to lunge?

Is it necessary to lunge him? Many horses do fine without lunging at all, just mount and ride.

And if have video, that would help to see if it is your mechanics, or horse, or both.

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post #3 of 5 Old 02-12-2014, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Louie was trained to do it all. He was a professional athlete, dressage to 2nd level and a gran prix jumper. I would be surprised if this was left out of his training.
He is a Selle Francais and will be 19 this season.
I use him for trail riding now mostly, but occasionally like to jump him still and work with him in the arena, work on my riding on him, play games, and try new things to keep him thinking. It is not necessary to lunge him but I think it would add something to our routine to try and would help him learn to halt while being lunged. It would also help me and him to stretch his legs as he is lazy to the turnout and doesn't go out on trail after a long ride the day before.
I tried lunging him today before riding to see what he would do, if he is still fearful, since it has been a while since me discovering this.
I noticed he started tossing his head, and flicking his nose like rooting at the trot, walking fast, unable to relax at the walk or trot, panicked at the canter, faster at taking commands, still something causing fear for him though.
He relaxed when I was less commanding and just let him do his thing, though it did not necessarily coincide with what I wanted from him.
After I lunged him for only about 5 or 10 minutes to see his reaction I got on and went on a long trail ride, about 5 miles. He felt better than taking him right form the stall when I got on, though I certainly can do that as well. He listens a lot better when I work him on the ground even if its just for a few minutes before I get on.
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post #4 of 5 Old 02-12-2014, 10:49 PM
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If you are using a lunge whip get rid of it. Try a shorter dressage whip as horses find it less intimidating. If he starts to pick up speed back up two or three steps and put the whip behind your back. Drop your shoulders and let out a big breath. By letting out your energy it helps him let out his. The more you can keep him at the walk, the better your chance of keeping him thinking (relaxed).
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post #5 of 5 Old 02-13-2014, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so I tried again today just focusing on walk and halt.
It started well. It ended... abruptly as the horse in the next arena over fell and died... She has kidney failure so it was a long time coming but was still sad and hard to watch.
I had Louie walk around and stop on various size circles, he did well, he was calm, but likes to come in to say hi when asked to halt; not that much of an issue right now. I had him face the 2nd direction (to the right) just standing there and he flipped out. He immediately started trotting before I was even ready, then cantering, I hadn't gotten my things organized and didn't have control over the line and got a minor rope burn on my hand from him running and pulling the line so quickly. This is him in anticipation then panic mode. He got so startled that he slipped and all 4 feet came right out from under him and he thunked fell on the ground. He was okay but it frustrates me because there were no cues for him to go forward, as we were walking or stopped the whole time until this happened... and that he was so scared that he completely fell out from under himself! I bet the days he was too fresh to ride as a jumper they got off and he was lunged and he could view it as a form of punishment or a place to go bonkers, instead of us working together to achieve goals.
When he does something "wrong" he gets very sensitive and aware.
I let him stand for a few minutes to recover from the fall and to know I wasn't going to punish and treated it as an accident, then asked him to do the same thing we were doing before, going to the left jut walking. He seemed extra paranoid about the stick (trotters whip with the string part rolled up so its just a long stick) so I dropped it and he calmed down. I gave him a bigger circle and picked up the whip again at which point he trotted. I had him halt and relax and walked him off the line for a minute then desensitized him to the whip by placing it all over his body and tapping it around. He was fine with the whip until he fell then was worried about it.
After having the get to know the whip session he was able to walk relaxed again and to the right as well, and even had him do a little trot more walk and more halts. Maybe by then he knew what the goal was.
I do not believe him to be more sensitive to one direction than the other, he was anticipating too much and freaked himself out.
I personally prefer to use the long whip though I do have a dressage whip and a rope on a stick, however sometimes he charges me with the smaller sticks and that is why I bought the longer one. He will gallop full force and abruptly stop a foot or less away from your face, it is basically dangerous and I need to use it for self defense. I am not sure he would do this on the line but I wouldn't put it past him, he is a playful guy, perhaps I should bring all 3 sticks out and just keep them on the ground by me and switch between them as fitting.
Thanks for the advise, just doing the walking stuff was an improvement from yesterday even with his accidental fall in the middle of it all. Always a good reminder to keep it slow.
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