Monday, March 2, 2015

Lunging the crazy

Temperatures were in the high 20s this weekend which was a very welcome change from the 8-10 degrees we have been getting lately so I really wanted to get out and ride after I arrived home from the airport on Saturday.  I got a quick bite to eat, changed, and whisked off to the barn.  

When I fetched Quest from her stall, there was someone lunging in the dustbowl arena so I decided to tack her up while we waited our turn to lunge and use the space.  Quest stood nice and still for grooming but when I started girthing up the saddle, she would not stop scooting around in the cross ties. I think all the driving around/traveling I had to do while in Texas was taking its toll on me and I found myself getting fed up quickly. I decided to lunge without the saddle and we trooped into the dustbowl when the other person left. I sent Quest out at a walk with the 15’ training lead still clipped on and asked her to change directions, she started super trotting instead and hauling on my hands. I was already annoyed and in no mood to deal with her attitude so I unclipped the lead and sent her out to work. Sassy mare was rip raring to go. Quest did laps along the edge of the arena at a gallop. While she stayed out of my space the entire time, I was concerned about her slipping and falling. Which happened…sigh. She got right back up, kept moving and got her thinking brain back after that though. Maybe, just maybe, tearing around in circles like a crazy isn't a good idea.

I waited for my opening, saw she was beginning to look at me for direction and we got back to our normal programming with quiet, nice, controlled free lunging with lots of w/t/c transitions. At the end Quest came right to me when invited in. We ended on a good note, tacked up and I hopped on for a great ride afterwards. 

Mares. Crazy half-Arabian mares.

I know some people have different opinions about lunging before riding for various reasons. I don't agree when riders resort to it to exhaust a horse into compliance but I personally use it as a gauge to see where Quest's brain is for that day. We don't do it for more than 10-15 minutes and as Quest and I have gotten to know each other better, it has been pretty much 100% free lunging at liberty- plus there's something really neat about having your horse listen and connect through vocal commands. I think the time spent lunging has been invaluable for us and I always do some sort of groundwork review while at it too. I can count on one hand the number of times I have hopped on her without lunging or doing groundwork first. It's just too important to neglect, in my opinion.

Quest is usually perfect with lunging even with limited turnout so it could have been the warmer weather that amped up the extreme sass. But that’s no excuse for hauling on me so we’re going to revisit lunge basics the next few sessions starting tonight with lunging on the line and switching out the nylon for the rope halter. I was actually a little sore from this weekend's riding- I probably lost some fitness since it's been too cold to saddle up the past couple of weeks. Noses to the grindstone for both of us.


  1. Sassy mare!! That's the funny thing with these smarty pants little Arab mares- if we don't keep them busy they'll keep US busy lol

    1. Exactly! And also that fine balance between constantly nagging and changing things up just enough so they don't start thinking about other things. Our girls sure do keep us on our toes haha

  2. I used to lunge Griffin and Q prior to riding to see what their attitudes were going to be for the day, too. With time, I've found that I'm able to read them well without having to lunge. The times I tend to now are when they're being particularly ridiculous in behavior and I need them to realize it is time to come off it and work, shenanigans are for the field, not for work time. I bet within 6 mo. or less you're at the same place with Quest. You'll both be reading each other's body language on a more acute scale as things go on - a blessing and a curse with a part-Arab!!!!

  3. Aww thanks! I'm hoping we get to that stage soon like you say (: I think Quest would be fine without for the most part though with zero turnout and being stalled for hours during the past couple of months, lunging before rides has served a purpose lol

  4. Totally agree with Liz! I do the same as you and her with my non-Arabs. If they seem very amped when pulling them from the field, they will get worked about 10-15 minutes, on the lunge or at liberty, to gauge where their brains are, and let them get some sassiness out if they need to (I don't seek to tire them out, just to let them run and play if they feel the need to. You'd think being on field board they wouldn't need that, but both of them have surprised me before!), and once they are ready to listen (they always tell me when they're ready) we do a little formal lunging/liberty work with voice commands/ground work to see what they're up for on a particular day. It also allows me to see in advance how they're reacting to weather/herd dynamics/barn happenings before tacking up. They can both be deceptively calm when tacking up!