As a rider, it can be easy to think that the only way you can improve your skills is to ride. And yes, riding is important; obviously! However, you can also use lunging as a way to develop your coordination and aids. And not just on the ground, but also to benefit you and your horse when you’re in the saddle as well.
Lunging gives you a different perspective when you ride. And often, this one simple change can be enough to burst through limitations in your riding. You see, when you are riding, it is easy to believe that things are happening a certain way. That things ‘look’ a certain way. However, if you have ever watched a video of yourself riding, you will know that this is often not true.
Lunging gives you second by second feedback on how your horse is actually responding to your aids; not how you ‘think’ your horse is responding to your aids.
And it is so easy to get started with, even if you have never lunged before. I have a step by step system HERE you can use.
Natural Aids & Artificial Aids
Just like in riding, you have different aids at your disposal when lunging your horse. All aids are merely simply ways of communicating what you want, your ask, to your horse. No one aid will stand alone or be used singularly. There is always a balance happening in your riding.
Natural aids are the ones that are part of your body. You’re attached to them!
Your thoughts, voice, position, and body language are the most used and effective natural aids when lunging. All are used in different combinations and timing in order to communicate different messages to your horse.
Artificial aids are used to ‘back up’ or clarify your natural aids. They are external to you and usually in the form of equipment.
When lunging, the most commonly used artificial aids are the lunging line, the lunging whip, the arena fence or railing, and also ground poles. No artificial aid should cause pain or physical discomfort to your horse. They are merely ways to clarity or support your natural aids, especially when your horse does not understand. Again, they are used in all manner of combinations and sequences.
The ‘Ask’ and the ‘Reward’
All aids are used the same, whether they are natural or artificial. There is initial pressure applied. This is the ask. Then, when the horse responds, the pressure is released. This is the reward. It is the continuous cycle of ask and reward that makes up the conversation between riders and their horses.
This is also the place where you get to begin refining your coordination and aids in order to produce different results.
Pressure can be as simple as a change in the tone of your voice. Or it can be as obvious as moving your position in relation to the horse. It can be a subtle shift in your shoulders or a disengaging of eye contact. As you begin to work on developing your coordination and aids on the lunge, you will find that your aids will become more refined.
Refined simply means that you get a more accurate response with less movement or effort on your part.
Mindful Application of Your Aids
However, in order for your horse to become more responsive, it first begins with you and your initial dedication to your aids. Again this is much easier to work on from the ground. You can actually see the results of your actions. You can notice the smaller shifts in your horse’s way of going.
And you can then repeat this with slight tweaks and notice the differences.
Over time, your aids will become more refined. Just as in riding when you move from your more obvious aids being the biggest part of the conversation to your more subtle ones, your aids on the lunge will also improve. From a greater reliance on artificial aids to clearer communication using your natural aids.
It begins with your commitment to learning. And your ability to respond rather than react.