Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
I suppose I ought to expand. I am NOT a professional trainer, or good at using round pens or lunge lines. I have been using both under a pro. It is not a way to run your horse silly, and it seems a horrible way to exercise your horse (to me).
My mare has a tendency to panic and bolt. When she bolts, she pays no attention to her feet. Just running around loose, I've seen her fall at a gallop too many times to want to be on her when it happens.
So I've been using a round pen and a lunge line. The round pen was primarily to teach her she can get wound up, and then transition down rapidly. At first, if she bolted in the pen, she would run 20+ laps in a panic, unless I did something. So when she would bolt, I would require her to turn, which slows her down and makes more work. If she started to trot on her own, I'd either turn her or speed her up. With time, she has learned it is both easier and 'safe' to go the speed I want, and now that is pretty much what she does. She pays more attention to me, spins herself up less and calms down much faster.
I've also used it with poles to make her pay attention to her feet. At first, she wouldn't cross a pole on the ground at a walk without smacking at least one hoof. We've worked up so now she can gallop across several poles at different heights without hitting them - which tells me she is paying more attention to her feet, even at a gallop.
The lunge work has been mostly to improve her balance. She has always had a tendency to flail with her head, throwing her off balance. The lunge line allows me to remove some of that. She is learning to 'turn corners' without falling on her side. And yes, she is 10 years old...
The trainer I've been working with has been on vacation for a month, but she returns next week. Hopefully Mia will be ready to ride. Maybe not...but we're close. She is much better balanced and much more watchful (and much faster to transition down) than before.
Once she is ready to ride, we probably won't go back to the round pen. In fact, I plan to take it down. The trainer I've worked with believes round pens and lunge lines are used...well, to train. You teach a lesson. Once the horse has learned the lesson, you graduate.
I'm not in any way a pro. I am pretty well convinced, however, that we shouldn't do anything mindless with our horses. When I ride, I have things I want to work on for MY riding, and things I want to have the horse practice. We're both always training, either for good or bad.