Lunging in the wind

April 6, 2018. Today was a brilliantly sunny, cold, wildly windy day. The trees are dotted with red with the first flush of buds. It’s supposed to snow a little bit tomorrow. I was on my way down to the barn when Lauren texted: “It’s a lunge day only for Biz. She’s feeling good with the wind!”

It was good timing. Kevin and I had gone down just to hand walk her last Sunday, and I haven’t yet lunged her by myself when she’s feeling good. I had walked her for fifteen minutes when she decided to crow hop around a bit, then stare down at me. I knew she needed more than walking, but I’ve never lunged a broncing horse and wasn’t prepared to try, so I reluctantly put her away.

Today she walked right up to us in the paddock, veering from Lauren toward me when she saw me, which made us laugh. She thought she was choosing the easy one. But not for long, Biz. I’m going to learn how to handle you any time.

The first lunge was a wild, twisting, galloping bronc-fest, interspersed with long-piston trotting that could have won her a dressage ribbon. I watched how Lauren stayed basically still in the middle, bracing the lunge slack behind her back, wearing her deerskin gloves to be able to hang on.

When the mustang seemed out of her, and she’d settled into regular gaits, Lauren brought me in. She reminded me to hold the loops of lunge line in my left hand (but never around it!) and use that hand to take up the slack when I needed to, freeing my right hand to guide her forward. She reminded me to stand in the middle, not walk around in a circle after her – a reminder I needed several times.

Above all, she reminded me to relax. To drop my shoulders, keep my right elbow loose and in at my sides, to let the horse do what she knows very well to do – to keep on a circle walking, trotting, cantering as asked. And in this way, it became like riding. As I relaxed, she did. When I unconsciously started walking around, she went faster. When I stood still, she dropped her head. She sped up a few times and I experienced the tension on the line, realizing how big she is on the other end of it and yet not worrying about it too much. Just keeping things going.

There are so many subtleties to lunging though it seems you’re just supposed to stand there and hang on and not get tangled up in the line. Getting back around her when she decided she was done and turned in prematurely. Giving a very slight half halt when she was getting ahead of herself without goosing her for more.

Just learning to be with her, be with me, be together. Like riding.

This is not from today but a couple of months ago, and she’s being a perfect angel in the snow.




This horse loves to jump!

Once Bizzy had gotten used to going over crossrails while she was on the lunge line, Lauren and crew took her to the indoor to do something called “free lunge.” The person still stands in the middle with a whip (used to guide the horse to stay out on the perimeter) but the horse is not wearing tack or attached by a line.

They set up a line of crossrails, and you’ll see in this first video that Bizzy took to it.

Eventually, they added a couple of low verticals.

Learning to lunge.

Lauren started her on the lunge line, and started me lunging her, too. The first part was getting her to go out on the circle, and respond to voice commands to walk, trot, canter, whoa. She wasn’t strong yet, obviously, and her go-to was to do a downward transition as soon as she was tired. Not a bad trait for when we’re starting out – she didn’t, or couldn’t, just gallop and gallop.

She also needed to get the strength back to balance herself at the canter on a circle — this was easier going to the left, as it is for most racehorses. They race to the left, and there’s not necessarily a lot of training to get them to do much of anything else. What we want as Hunter/Jumper riders is a more refined set of capabilities – we want brakes but we also want balance and grace at the walk, trot, and canter. By the time of this video – taken about two weeks after we got her – she was just starting to get the hang of things.

(For some reason this video looks upside down, but it plays right side up.)