DRESSAGE TRAINING - Make the most of lunging

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This series concentrates on training for dressage, but not as you know it.  The aim is to refresh your training regime, encourage your horse to want to work and to show that you do not need an arena to be successful 
in dressage.

Lunging (Click here for more tips and advice on lunging your horse), a fundimental in assesing the condition, strength and self carriage of your horse 
Lunging is often an under utilised and miss-understood aspect of a horse's training and fitness program. I use lunging as a major part of training for un-backed horses and rehab as well as a fundamental part of assessing and conditioning a horse's strength and self carriage unhindered by the weight of a rider.  
Sarah Ridd_roll_barBefore lunging a horse and before you even tack-up, you need to look at your horse's confirmation preferably after grooming.  
Ask yourself what your horses' key confirmation faults are. From this and assessing the muscle development of your horse you should in your minds eye be able to see where your horse could be more developed to have an ideal shape for your horse's type and bone structure.   
Prior to lunging you should know roughly how your horse moves, if not then lunge your horse in just a lunge cavessen on a circle and watch
1) if your horse runs forward as if unbalanced
2) is stiff more in one limb then the others
3) finds it difficult to bend more to one side then the other.  

Assess the picture in your minds eye as to the way you think your horse's ideal muscular confirmation should look. Lastly always consider the age and level of education of your horse.
Once all the above has been considered think about the tack. I have tried and tested most pieces of equipment over the years for different training reasons and confirmation issues.  But ninety five percent of the time I use my lunge cavessen, lunge roller, straight leather side reins and or both training Long-reins.  On my roller I have three rings to attach my side reins and space from the top of lunge roller to above the girth. I tend to always use the side reins because it gives a consistent contact for the horse to learn to push into and gain confidence from this consistency.  For now I am just going to explain how to fit the standard leather side reins, which I will fit to the middle ring down the side of the roller.
Once your horse is tacked up start lunging in the arena by sending your horse out on a twenty meter circle standing in the centre, by making a V with your posture so your outside shoulder is pointing to the horse's hip and carrying the lunge whip on this side too and your inner hand holding the lunge line to the cavessen.  Hence making a V-shape with your outside driving shoulder, which simulates what, would be your leg aids to drive the horse forward. Use your inner hand to create an inner bend of the horses' neck and body. Use the lunge whip in a big circular motion clockwise from the horse's hip to eye to send the horse out into a bigger circle. 
Warm the horse up on the circle using both reins in walk, trot and canter allowing the horse to loosen up and check for any stiffness, asking if the horse is rhythmic, supple and happy to stretch and isn't showing anything abnormal. 
Use a turn on the forehand when you change rein and to assess the horses' suppleness, which also gets the horses use to the lunge whip and not something to fear. Do this by standing in front of the horse with your inner hand and hold the coiled up lunge and then use the lunge whip holding the tail at the handle and stroke and light tap the horse's quarters to ask the inner hind leg to step away and under its self to turn on the spot in front.  If the horse try's to walk forward use a slight pull on the cavessen to make the horse wait and almost halt.  But remember to keep a small inside flexion.
Fitting the Side reins stick with using the middle ring and fit the side reins to the contact, to the length you would ride with when first warming up. Then change this halfway through lunging to a shorter contact than you would do when riding, asking the horse for greater engagement of the hindquarters.
When warming down repeat the warm up without any side reins so the horse can stretch out their muscles.
Sarah Rid_mirror_and_arenaExercises you can use for lunging include Spiral circles i.e. increasing and de-creasing the circles to get the stiff horse to develop more bend and engagement of the inside hind leg crossing allowing the horse to push onto a more consistent outline where you will see the muscle under the crest come out like a sausage in the neck. The back will rise up between the neck and hindquarters like a rounded bridge.
Also practice sending the horse in a straight line up the long side of the arena with you running parallel to the horses' shoulder but not in front, have your outside hand raised with the lunge whip to drive the horse forward into medium trot.  Then at the end of each long side lunge the horse into a small circle before repeating the exercise down the other long side.  
Lastly always remember that every few minutes take the pressure of driving your horse forward and let him stretch to the contact on his own and of course have a good stretch at the end of session without side reins.
Have Fun and Enjoy www.sarahriddressage.com
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