What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand the relationship between your position on the ground & in the saddle
- Identify the difference between ‘Neutral’, ‘Driving’ and ‘Resisting’
- Know when to move into the ‘driving’ position
- Know when to move into the ‘resisting’ position
Lunging is one of the more popular ways of working horses, especially when time and daylight are in short supply! It is a fantastic way of maintaining fitness and even moving your horses training forward. I highly recommend it to all riders and their horses.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast we are chatting about one of the biggest mistakes riders make when they are working their horse on the lunge. Namely, not paying enough attention to where they are positioned in relation to their horse as they lunge.
Your position when lunging is as important as your position when riding. When riding, a good position means that you can more effectively communicate with your horse. It is the same when you lunge.
What is Your Position when You Lunge?
I want you to imagine you are lunging your horse right now. There will obviously be a circle, which is the track your horse will work on while lunging. You are in the centre of that circle (although when you lunge you are not actually stationary, but rather working on a ‘smaller’ circle within your horses ‘larger’ circle).
Imagine this circle as being a pizza or a pie. You and your horse are a ‘slice’ of this pizza or pie. You in the centre, your horse at the edge. Your lunge line creates one side of your slice and your lunging whip creates the other side of the slice.
Your position is where you are standing in relation to your horse at any given time. Keep in mind that when you lunge, both you and your horse are moving.
One of your biggest responsibilities as the ‘lunger’ is to be in the correct position so that you can be most effective with your aids.
Your Position on the Ground and In the Saddle
When you are in the saddle, your seat is one of the most important elements of your position. If you are tipped too far forwards, you will ‘pinch’ or block the horse’s energy going forwards. If you are leaning too far back, it can have a similar effect – or it can drive your horse forwards.
Your position on the ground while lunging is as important as your seats position in the saddle when you ride. It is the foundation for the rest of your position and therefore how effectively you can use your aids to communicate.
When your position in the saddle is less than ideal, your communication with your horse becomes mumbled and, well, less than clear. Your lunging position has the same impact.
If you are too far behind or too far ahead of your horse while lunging, it will impact your horses way of going. If you are too tired to ‘keep up’ with your horse while lunging and rather just allow your horse to run circles, that will also negatively impact your horses way of going.
Just like when riding, mindfulness over how you are using your position will begin allowing you to refine it and improve it as a positive aid when working with your horse.
Neutral, Driving or Resisting
Becoming mindful of your position while lunging will mean understanding how your body language and position influences your horse. Are you in neutral, are you driving your horse forwards or are you using your position to create a little resistance to your horse going forwards?
Your seat can influence your horses way of going and over time will become one of your most influential aid in the saddle. Your basic position in relation to your horse when lunging can have the same impact on the ground.
Finding Your ‘Neutral’ when Lunging
Neutral will be the place you will find yourself in most of the time when you are lunging. It is the place where you can be ‘quiet’ with your aids and allow your horse to figure things out for himself. Neutral is the easiest place for you to take action if and when needed.
Think of your seat when it is in ‘neutral’ when riding. You are not driving, you are not resisting. You are moving with the horse. Neutral while on the ground lunging is the same. You’re not driving, nor are you resisting. You are simply moving ‘with’ your horse.
The easiest way to find ‘neutral’ is to position yourself opposite where you would sit when in the saddle. Too far forward and you will be opposite the horses shoulder or elbow. Too far back and you will be opposite the flank or hind quarters.
Think about where your seat would communicate with your horse, and try to place yourself directly opposite there while moving with your horse on the circle.
The Balance of Aids while Lunging
From this ‘neutral’ you can move either way. You can drive or resist. Remember, even though you are on the ground, lunging requires you to balance your aids continuously while in the saddle.
Yes, your aids are slightly different. You are substituting your legs for a lunge whip and your hands for a lunge line. However, the combined effect will be the same.
When riding your seat is not the only aid you communicate with from the saddle. When lunging your position is not the only aid you will use with your horse.
Like riding, in order for your other aids to be effective, your basic position must first be balanced and correct. This is neutral on the lunge.
Also, just like riding, there are times in riding when you will have to ask for ‘more’ or drive your horse forwards a little more. There are also times when you will have to resist or ‘block’ your horse from going forwards. Changing your basic position in relation to your horse can help you do either, as necessary, when lunging.
Understanding Your ‘Driving’ Position
A driving position is often necessary when your ‘neutral’ position is no longer effective in actively encouraging your horse to move forwards. You may have already used your lunging whip to also encourage (not hit or whip the horse, just suggest) him, just like you would use your legs in the saddle. However, you find that your horse is still not actively going forward in the way you want.
Remember that lunging, just like riding, requires your horse to move and think ‘forward’ at all times. It is essential to make progress in your training.
By positioning yourself to being opposite the flank or hind quarters, you are now allowing the horse to move ahead of you a little. This is due to you now being more ‘behind’ the horse and, therefore, able to encourage him forward more effectively.
You can then use your other aids, from this ‘driving position’ to encourage your horse more forwards. An effective aid can be your body language itself when you take a purposeful step towards your horse. Or your voice to either encourage him on, or to help set the tempo for the gait. Your whip can be used in a ‘swishing’ way on the ground to ask him to ‘push’ a little more from behind.
Your aids applied from this different position will have a different effect than if applied from neutral. They will have a more ‘driving’ and ‘forward’ effect.
Understanding Your Resisting Position
Equally as important is your ability to ‘steady’ or resist your horse going forwards some times. I find that this ‘resisting’ position is especially important when working with young or inexperienced horses on the lunge.
The resisting position involves you getting a little ‘ahead’ of your neutral position. Being opposite your horses shoulder, rather than back where you would sit when in the saddle.
Your resisting position is a way you can ‘slow’ your horse down or actually have him halt, without turning into you and the centre of your circle.
Why I Suggest Not Allowing Your Horse to Turn In on the Circle
One of the biggest mistakes I see riders make when lunging is allowing their horse to turn in and face them, shoulders squared to the riders shoulders, on the circle. It seems harmless enough, however it actually really impact the quality of work you can potentially achieve with your horse while lunging.
Transitions are important when schooling horses. Lunging is no different. In order to really ‘work’ your horse on the lunge, transitions between trot, walk and halt are essential.
If you allow your horse to turn in and face you every time he transitions into walk or halt, you are breaking the concentration and the ‘contact’ of the work you are doing. You are literally undoing everything that has led up to that point on the lunge!
Using Your Resisting Position to Positively Impact Your Lunging
Along with being opposite the horses shoulder, you can also turn your ‘flank’ to your horse. Turn your side to your horse, your leading shoulder. You can also take a few steps ‘backwards’ to keep up with the horse.
If your horse is not slowing down or stopping, whatever you want him to do, you can take this further by using your ‘resisting position’ to walk your horse into the fence around your lunging area.
By using the fence to stop or slow your horse, he will still technically remain on the circle, not turned in and facing you. Meaning you can resume the ‘work’ without any break in contact or concentration.
Obviously, with all things related to horses, repetition and consistency are the keys to making this work for you. However, over time when you learn how much pressure to apply with your ‘resisting position’, it will become a handy aid you can turn to while lunging your horse.
If you are struggling with lunging and would like some simple step-by-step instructions to help get you and your horse off to a good start, make sure you sign up for the “3 Days to Successful Lunging” Guided Audio Training. It is completely free and will have you on the lunge and working with your horse today.
Links mentioned in the episode:-
- “3 Days to Successful Lunging” Guided Audio Training
- Get Lunging for Riding today for 4 weeks of planned training with your horse
- Lunging for You & Your Horse
- Understanding The Balance of Aids
- Starting a Young or Green Horse Part 1
- My Free Private Community / Group
- Lunging for Riding
- Groundwork for Riding
- 4 ESSENTIALS FOR GETTING STARTED WITH LUNGING FOR RIDING
- Groundwork; the ‘Bookends’ to Your Riding
- Lunging for You and Your Horse
- My Daily Strides Podcast
- Free 4 Essentials for Lunging Checklist