To Lunge or Not to Lunge
I was hoping some of ya'll may be able to shed some light on an issue I have.
I never lunge my TWH before riding him. I have been told by several walking horse folks that it can have a negative effects on their gaits. Is there any truth to this, in anyone's experience? Do any of you gaited horse owners lunge yours?
I know lunging is useful both to build muscle and increase fitness, as well as to establish a leadership role. There are times that he gets antsy, fidgets, and tries to turn back to the pasture, wanting to eat and socialize rather than work. If he tries to turn back towards home, I make him do tight circles as correction, and then point him back in my desired direction. Would lunging help curb this tendency, as he "gets some of his willies out" before we mount up? He's never violent when he decides to turn around, but at the beginning of our rides I have to correct him several times. A bit tedious. Any suggestions and/or insight would be much appreciated!:-)
I don't lunge but all the walker show people I know do. From what I can tell it hasn't hurt their gait at all. It also takes the edge off them and they are ready to work afterwards.
Now typically it takes 10-15 minutes for mine to warm up to the point they are gaiting properly, I could lunge or ride them for that time. I prefer to ride for that time and I enjoy that "edge". Plus I don't want my horses trained that they need lunging prior to riding. I enjoy trail riding and I'm not going to trailer them out to a mountain trail, lunge them then go for a ride. I pull them out of the trailer, toss a saddle on them and I'm gone.
It really depends on the situation mate....
How old is the horse? The behavior you describe is fairly common in the immature horse (under about 7 years of age) or in the poorly trained horse (who might need an "attitude adjustment") and some additional training.
Longing will not adversely affect gait in most circumstances. It is an excellent way to prepare a horse for work as it "re-orients" the horse's mind and enforces the idea that it's work time, not eating time, socializing time, etc.
Be careful with horses with a very lateral gait that your circle is not too small. The very lateral horse will have difficulty below about 20 m. in diameter unless it's been trained and conditioned to work with smaller diameters.
When working watch the horse closely. As soon as its attention drifts off you then correct that by making a change (in, say, gait from walk to gait or canter, or in the other direction). This will, in time, teach the horse to keep their attention on you at all times.
A horse can be energetic but it shouldn't change your respective roles...meaning if your horse is so energetic or perhaps distracted (as is the case with my SSH) that it doesn't want to listen to you, then additional work needs to be done to solidify your position in your relationship.
IMO this takes more than lunging. I would incorporate other ground exercises such as backing, yielding hind and fore, sidepassing from the ground, obstacle work, and other exercises from the ground to get him listening to you and respecting you.
I have seen other posts about this and there seemed to be a lot of controversy on whether it was good or bad. In my opinion if you can have your horse do proper gaits in a circle you're going to get better a more consistent walk. It stretches them out. I personally feel that there is no reason not to lunge a TWH.
I however don't think lunging him will help you so much here, I think youd be better off to turn and ride him harder when he tries to turn around. Horses learn very quickly that they want to do as little work as possible so if you make him work hard, serpentines, hard runwalk, bends etc he'll learn that if he stops fighting he gets to have an easier time.
hope that helps some..
thanks for the input all.
the horse in question is 13 years old and very respectful to me on the ground. it seems as though it just takes him a bit to warm up.
once we've settled into our ride he complies with every single thing I ask of him, no fuss. it's just the first few moments where he's antsy.
I will try lunging him on a long lead, and hopefully that will drive home the idea that when I say it's time to work, it's time to work.
Although... I don't know if he's ever been lunged. Will he understand what I am asking of him?
Wow. great discussion. I have a 5yo quarter horse, not a gaited horse. I won't even CONSIDER riding him without first lunging him. He has too much energy otherwise.
maybe someone can lunge him with you riding him, if he is good on the ground and the problem is at the beginning of the ride under saddle you'll want to correct the issue while you're in the saddle. You may find that doing the ground work helps to establish more of a respect for you, but I have found that if my problems are occuring under saddle correcting them while I am in it is what works best. If he calms right down and isn't hot then your problem likely sin't too much energy but rather he's somewhat herd bound and doesn't want to listen to you at first because he wants to be with his herd, once they're out of sight he lets it go.
If he wants to turn around when you ride out, carry a whip and if he turns to go back, don't let him and give him a tap to remind him that you're in charge and he must go forward. Be gentle but firm. My mare did this on her first ride out and it was like asking her to cross a creek for the first time, don't let them turn back and ask for them to go forward as you as little force as necessary, but enough to get the point across that you are the leader.
Rule of thumb is work on training whatever your horse shows your first that he needs to work on that day and focus on that until you make progress.
Anyways let me know if lunging him does have any effect as i am interested to know.
The lunging part is ok --- it's how "tight" you lunge a gaited horse that isn't ok.
They cannot and should not be expected to lunge as tight a circle as a trotting horse. They need room for their shoulders to make those sweeping movements that allow them to gait.
That being said, I've never lunged any of my Walkers. I trail ride, they never needed it. They "flex" and "give" everytime I make them go around trees and rocks. I don't ask for show ring perfection - good manners and willingness to try/learn and not get me killed on dangerous trails, are more important to me.
I've never had any problems with any of mine gaiting either. Never had to work with any of them to "set" their gait. I just get on them and they go.
They range in age from 16 - 24 and three distinct blood lines if you're only looking back as far as grand or great-grandparents:-)
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