LOVE OR LOATH LUNGING?
Lunging is probably as old as riding itself; it is very useful and an art all of its own… but in some quarters it seems to have developed quite a negative image these days. I guess that’s not surprising when it is so often misunderstood and/or done so badly… Part of the problem is like many other things about riding: where the hell do you go to learn it in a really good way?! Long long ago in the dark and forgotten time that was last century I was fortunate enough to be riding on a clinic with an old master (I say ‘old’ but he was probably about the age I am now!) and he took over lunging one of the rider’s horses on the clinic. It literally brought tears to my eyes. It was watching him work so beautifully that made me realise there was much in lunging that was possible and amazing and that it was a whole art form that needed to be gone into if ever I was to be any good at this horse lark… Since that time I have lunged more horses than I can even guess at. I still find myself learning, seeing more and improving my feel and timing in the lunging. I’m still amazed at how subtle the art is and how well we can influence the horse from a long distance away with such precision and detail. I also see how the right kind of lunging can really help the horse to develop in so many ways. Lunging is often seen as a way of making the horse run round and round in circles and thats about all… but actually lunging can help to develop a good rhythm in the horse, help the horse to find its balance whilst on a curve, strengthen its inside hind leg, find a good carriage, practise all sorts of things like smooth transitions without the encumbrance of a human being sitting on its back… it offers ways to communicate and be ‘alongside’ the horse whilst he is motion too… And then there are the discussion about equipment, ancillary reins and all the other things up for arguing about… What I do know is that horses I started over twenty years ago I lunged in the beginning and when appropriate I used side reins as a part of their development; those horses went on to give many years of nice work and enjoyed great balance and happy relationships with the bit… on from there I went through a few years of not believing in all that stuff and didn't lunge and didn't use side reins… those horses never quite found the same constancy of balance in the work… what do I do now? Good question… what seems right at the time with each horse, and if lunging with - CORRECTLY and non-restrictive - side reins is needed I integrate them into my work because they can help the horse… lets be honest, horses haven't evolved to carry a human being and if the basic Classical training helps the horse to be more able to carry a human and is seen to extend the healthy working life of the horse then it sounds good to me… of course, as I said at the top of this blog, lunging is an art… and it needs to be done well… and since it is quite rare to see it done really well its understandable that it has acquired something of a negative reputation… what's the answer?… don't follow a religion, look at the horse, look at the work, and learn the art of lunging with the same humility and openness as we’d try learning to be a concert violinist or a master potter!!!