Lunging for a better horse
I know i can rely on all you lovely horse folks to help me through this...
so i will stay away from the depths of the internet for a moment, get some honest opinions from ya'll, and then work from there.
Okay so, tonight is the first night i have ever lunged my horse. Actually, it was the first time i've ever lunged a horse, period! I have watched the lovely hispanic guys that run our facility lunge horses... so i came prepared with the lunge cavesson, gloves, helmet, boots, hell we were ready for any kind of behavior! So let me get to the part that matters here and what my questions are...
My boy trots around tracking left, we do a few downward transitions, a few upward transitions, etc. Then i tell him to whoa. He turns and faces me. Just stands there. Licking his lips and looking at me. So i walk up to him to change the direction of the line and we start tracking the other way. He's fine until i ask for the canter. He bucks a bit and i have to literally crack the lunge whip to keep him from breaking to the trot. This is also a problem we are having under saddle. His canter in this direction (right lead canter) is very unbalanced and he tends to break if i don't ride him up the WHOLE time.
So here's my questions:
when you stop your horse and he turns to face you, is this what you want from him when you're lunging?
i am really working on getting that right lead canter under control and more balanced. is this something i should work on exclusively under saddle, or should i continue to address it on the lunge line as well??
One last question... The Pessoa. I know... it's kinda' cheating. But how do we feel about it? My trainer uses it on all her horses. I haven't ever tried it before. Is this a possible option when lunging as well?
You should definitely keep working your horse on the lunge with the canter. This will help him to become stronger and more balanced on the right lead and it will transfer into your work under saddle. In my experience it is fine for them to buck or pigroot on the lunge when fresh. Better them do it when you're not on them. Sorry I can't be any help with the over problems :)
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To answer your first question, I usually like horses to swing in to face me when I lunge them and ask them for a stop. However, what I do not like to see at all is either the horse walking towards me when I ask for a stop, or the horse predicting a direction change. I would rather have the horse stop without turning in than have him do either of these things. Make sure that you do not always change directions when you stop your horse on the lunge, or he may come to anticipate this change and move off in the other direction before you ask.
As for your second question, it will actually be easier for your horse to canter on his "off" lead without the additional weight and challenge of supporting a rider. Of course, riding does give you more specific control than lunging, so you may prefer working this out under saddle; however allowing him to develop and become comfortable with this lead without balancing you at the same time will be easier for him. So yes, it is not only fine to let him canter on this lead on the lunge, but I would recommend doing so. In fact, on the ground you can encourage him forward a lot easier than in the saddle. When I want my horse to go more forward on the lunge (or in this case, to not break from the canter), I start with a harsh vocal tone, then raise my whip and bring it closer to him, then shake it, and if I still have no response I will then crack it. This way he has a chance to learn that if he responds to vocal cues, he can avoid the scary whip-cracking. Make sure that you don't have any pressure on the lunge line when you ask him to go forward, as this can cause mixed signals and confusion.
Finally, I posted a few days ago about the Pessoa system. What is my opinion? It's junk. It's not teaching your horse much of anything useful. You need to be able to teach your horse to round down and collect with your aids and with proper training and muscle development. This comes with time and correct use of aids and exercise. If you are having trouble with this, you can always ask a trainer to help you (although if your trainer is using this system, I would probably not stick with her for such advice, no offense). Devices such as the Pessoa only force your horse into a false frame, which not only does not help building in up muscle development and proper training, it also teaches him to fight pressure on his mouth or to overbend. Not only is there never a need for such a system, but its use is a crutch that only do harm in the long run.
Lovely post, Aviara.
As stated, it is generally not a good idea to allow your horse to stop and turn in completely towards you, or approach you. The lip-licking is a good sign, because he's showing you submission, but you should not allow him to feel as if he can stop working as soon as he does this. Praise him, then send him off again. I usually have my filly halt squarely, with only her shoulders and neck positioned towards me, not her whole body. This way she can easily be sent off again at a moment's notice. Lunging is not really a relationship builder or fix-it-all, and really shouldn't be used for more than light exercise when you can't ride, or as a tune-up device such as with his canter.
As for that canter, have you had a chiropractor look at his back? Unsteadiness/bucking at a canter and wanting to slow down could be signs of pain. Otherwise, just practice practice! Most horses are less balanced on one side than the other, sort of like how we are right or left handed.
Lots of great information here, thanks everyone!
I have been continuing to stick by my choice of not putting him in the Pessoa since i bought him a couple weekends ago. He was someone's backyard western horse, so everything i'm asking of him is very new! But surprisingly, he is pretty light to my aids, my voice, and my seat... so i thought it'd be interesting to see how he would be on the lunge line.
He isn't in the greatest shape just yet, but he naturally drops his head down and has a very nice athletic trot. I'm glad to hear that everyone is in agreement of working on our right lead canter issue on the ground. I am able to see what he's doing with his body... as he tends to drop his shoulder and lean in when cantering around on that lead. Which i can feel under saddle, of course.
I also hadn't thought about the issue of allowing him to anticipate the change of direction. we will work on that a bit as well, since i assume that's exactly what he's doing. haha! smart boy.
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