LUNGEING - How to perfect gait to enhance muscle tone and develop flexibilty

The Walk
 
Lunging R-L www.horseanswerstoday.com has already featured 'Learning to Lunge' Parts 1 and 2, now we cover each stage of walk, trot and canter in further detail. For these exercises, you will require a minimum of a lungeing cavesson, lunge rein, lunge whip, a hard hat and suitable gloves. If you don't have the use of an arena you can use the corner of a field where the ground is level and not slippery.
 
In any situation involving your horse, your attitude should be assertive and confident -

The walk is the building block of your horse's overall movement and is the perfect gait to enhance muscle tone, strengthen weak areas and develop flexibility. It should not only be considered as a warming up or cooling down exercise after a schooling session.  

As your horse begins to walk on the circle around you, observe his movement, carriage and balance. Encourage your horse to walk forward by always standing behind his eye line and using the lunge whip held out at an angle to create the triangle between you and the horse.

Your position should be maintained throughout the session as the horse will stop and become confused if you move in front of his eye line. Calmly encourage him with your voice, the lunge whip and your body language until he achieves a constant forward motion. 
 
A positive active walk is very important in the show ring and in dressage tests, this is the first impression a Judge will see and is a critical movement where significant points can be lost or gained.
 
Lunging grey_L.RAn energetic walk is when the horse is 'tracking up'. This is when the hind foot steps down at a point just in front of where the front foot has just lifted off, (the ideal distance being about 10 inches), this is a clear indication that the horse is actively engaging his hind legs and 'quarters'.

To maintain this activity, focus on your horses' inside front and rear legs as he moves around on the circle - You may need to give more forward aids to encourage and improve the quality of the walk. 
 
To keep the horses' attention and interest, gently tighten and release the lunge line - ensuring the triangle is held as this will encourage him to drop his neck and stretch all of the muscles along the spine.

It really doesn't matter if his head is on the floor - this shows the horse is totally relaxed which is a bonus, however if the horse holds his head up high and stiffens his neck when walking introduce a single pole on the circle which will encourage him to look down and stretch.
 Don't forget to change the rein regularly to work both sides of the horse evenly. Lunging Vertical

 
Resist running a continual narrative with your horse as you lunge, be very firm and consistent with your verbal instruction and only lighten your tone to praise. Work on communicating your instructions through the lunge line and by using confident body language. 

 
This simple yet important exercise will show the horses' natural movement without the use of excessive training tack and gear. Lungeing successfully will help you and your horse bond and respect each other.  
 
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