9 Great Ways Lunging Can Add To Your Regular Riding Program

By Kathy Farrokhzad. Once we get into riding our

horses, groundwork can easily be left to the wayside, in preference to getting on and going places and doing things. But really, the qual- ity of your groundwork is a great indicator of how well your rides are going to go, and a reliable way to work on the basics with- out being on your horse’s back - even once in a while. These days, people get all

worked up about fancy ground- work that requires years of edu- cation and practice. In contrast, lunging is accessible, easily learned, needs just basic equip- ment, and can be done anywhere there is good footing and room for a circle. If you can add a lunging ses-

sion even once or twice a month in place of your regular rides, you might find that your horse does so much better later on when ridden. Here are nine ways lunging can add to your regular horsing around routine. While I can only get into a brief description here, I hope you can use these ideas with a little help from a mentor or in- structor.

1. Movement without the rider. First off, lunging allows the

horse the opportunity to move freely without the weight (and in- fluence/interference?) of a rider. There are many times in a horse’s riding career when he will actu- ally benefit from not being rid- den, and rather, be allowed to move on his own. When you feel that your

horse will benefit from a little walk/trot/canter, bring out the lunge line, even if you think you’ll get on afterward.

2. Controlled spiciness! While some people let

horses run loose in the arena to get their “heebie-jeebies” out, there may be times when it’s in the horse’s best interests to NOT get worked up or overly romping and lunging is a great way to moderate the amount of spiciness while still having the opportunity to move actively.

3. “Legging up” after a long winter’s break. I make it a rule for myself to

include more lunging after a lay- off, just to let the horse find his own strength, balance and supple- ness before I ever get on. I might stick to lunging only for a number of sessions, then lunging for a shorter time before riding, and then finally, riding without any lunging at all. The horse will benefit from

the straight-forward exercise, get used to moving again, and get a little huffing and puffing work- out. You’ll also notice that he’s much better to ride after the lung- ing sessions than if you were to just plop on and try to get him going.

4. Evaluation. Use lunging any time you

feel you need to evaluate the horse’s movement, or condition. There’s a lot of information that can be gained from observing the horse as he works in each gait. You might want to watch a horse move on the lunge for a pre-pur- chase exam, or to learn more about his particular movement, or to assess a physical problem.

5. Transition workout. Transitions are the best,

even WITHOUT the rider! Work on the quality of both the up and down transitions, do progressive and non-progressive transitions, and make sure you do them both ways. Ask for transitions at ran- dom times, don’t stay in one gait too long (or do the opposite and stay longer than usual, just to de- velop stamina), and get this one - you can even work on transitions within each gait, just to work the horse’s hind end!

6. Communication/responsive- ness to the person on the ground. It goes without saying that

the more you work together from the ground, the better your com- munication is going to be. You’ll have to learn enough voice and

body cues to get your horse to do all the things we’re talking about - from the middle of the circle! Over time, all the body lan-

guage will become second nature to both of you. There is such a thing as “great” lunging.

7. (Riderless) hind end striding under/half-halts. Now we can get more into

the training aspects of lunging. One of the things you can work on from the ground is getting your horse to reach underneath better with the hind legs, and re- spond to half-halts from the rein. Better yet - you get to be on the ground where you are stable, and watch the effect your aids are having! Use the lunge whip lifted

upwards to ask for “forward” and the lunge line attached to a “bit converter” to have even pressure on both sides of the bit. Then ask the horse to move forward, and “catch” the horse with the lunge line and ask the horse to half-halt. Teach the horse to NOT run faster with a go cue, and rather, become more powerful in the gait. See if you can influence the quality of the gait right there from the mid- dle of the circle.

8. Moving straight on the circle. We talk about this all the

time when riding, so why not start from the ground? Add a pair of side reins to help keep the shoul- ders of the horse straight, even while moving on the circle. Make sure they are even length so that

the horse can use both sides of his body evenly. Some horses will bulge one

shoulder or the other, even with side reins. In this case, ask the horse for more impulsion (#7, above), and see if you can get him to straighten out with that extra energy. Work the hind end to straighten out the front end.

9. Rounding over the back/stretching to the bit. This one takes a little more

explanation than I can give here, but it can be done. Once again, you can play with energy from the hind end, sent forward so that the horse learns to reach to the bit. If the side reins are long enough and allow the horse some room (not too long), you can teach the horse to stretch in a gait, right on the lunge line. Now don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying that you should go out and lunge day after day, hour after hour. In fact, too much lung- ing can be detrimental to the horse’s tendons and legs. But adding lunging into your regular riding and training routine can be of great benefit to you - and your horse!

Bio: Kathy Farrokhzad is an EC coach and author of the Horse Listening book collection, and Goal Setting For The Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. New Book! Horse Listening Book 4: 20-Minute Exercises To Add Va- riety To Your Riding Routine. If you liked what you read here, check out her blog at HorseLis- for many more arti- cles about horses, riding and life in general.

Results in from Guelph Study on Soaking and Steaming Canadian Hay

Guelph, ON June 26, 2019 - Exciting news! Re- sults are in from the Equine Guelph funded re- search that marks the first study to investigate steamed, soaked and dry hay in Ontario. Tiana Owens, a University of Guelph graduate student involved in the study, presented these results dur- ing her thesis defence last month. The research team, which also includes Madeline Barnes, Vanessa Gargano, Wilfredo D. Mansilla, Katrina Merkies and Anna K. Shoveller, found that steam- ing hay may be a superior method for treating hay when it’s being used to feed healthy performance horses. The researchers compared nutrient content,

feed preference, and glycemic response between dry, soaked and steamed timothy-alfalfa hay grown in Ontario. Standardbred racehorses were used in the study for researchers to examine which hay treatment may be most suitable for performance horses. Owens explains, “Horse caregivers often soak or steam hay to reduce its non-structural car- bohydrate (NCS), including water soluble carbo- hydrates (WSCs). A high dietary intake of these carbohydrates can be detrimental to some horses.”

However, these practices are based on research from the United Kingdom, so information on On- tario hay was needed. Check out Equine Guelph’s first article on this research project for more infor- mation on the study background and design. Owens explains, “Soaking hay reduced the

non-structural carbohydrate content of Canadian first-cut mixed timothy-alfalfa hay, as anticipated. Equine athletes have very high energy and nutrient demands and steaming hay was an effective method to conserve these nutrients to maximize nutrient intake. These horses also preferred to eat steamed or dry hay over soaked hay, further sup- porting a recommendation that steaming is a supe- rior method for treating hay for performance horses.” She adds that, “These results, combined with the loss of nutrients when soaking hay, should make performance horse owners consider steaming their hay to better maintain its nutritional in- tegrity.” Equine Guelph congratulates Owens on the

successful defence of her graduate work. Stay tuned to read the future publication of this work. If you’re interested in learning more about hay and

your horse’s nutritional needs, check out Equine Guelph’s Equine Nutrition course offered this fall.

Story by: Nicole Weidner

Photo Caption: Study finds steaming is a superior method for treating hay for performance horses. Photo Credit: Dr. Katrina Merkies

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