"To Lunge Or Not To Lunge..."

From: Jen Bourbeau

We're trying to teach Olie to lunge and are running into some trouble...He'll only go a few steps and then he turns to face me.

One thing that became apparent is that he does not like being alone on the end of a line...he gets very nervous... I tried doing some "separation" exercises.

Over the last few days, he's been a real frady-cat, and I'm not sure why?

Hi Jen,

Right now he's confused and frightened...he's been asked to be on his own and he isn't ready.

Remember the basic principles...help the horse learn to follow the feel (that you are offering...whether it be up, down, to the side, back, etc.) and break down the goals into small steps...your body position is important...as you can see, starting at where you want to end up has him lunging you!!!

  1. Why do you want him to lunge? I have begun to accept that in a partnership, either partner has the right to say "why do you want me to do this" and the other partner is obligated to give him an answer that makes sense to partner being expected to do. IOW, its not ok for me to say 'because I say so or because I want you to'...again...this is just how I am coming to feel about things...may not be where you want to be!

  2. I don't want to discourage my horse from wanting to be with me, but yes, I do believe he needs to be able to be sent away...lameness test, send him thru a gate with having to lead him, send him into a trailer, etc, etc, etc!! All this has to do with his knowing how to follow the feel you are offering him...lunging will just be another aspect of that feel.

  3. Sooo...in *his* mind, sending him out to the end of a 12' or 20' or whatever length is like banishing him from the herd...he has no support out there. So the question is...how do you show him that you are 'out there' to give him the support he needs, while being physically many feet away from him?

  4. How does he lead up? How are his transitions while being led? Is he backing soft? Will he truly yield his hindquarters (i.e. disengage by reaching under himself and in front of the opposite hind leg)? Will he truly yield is front end...or is he only moving his head and neck, but the shoulder is still pushed out towards you? Can you ask him to disengage the HQ, then switch hands and ask him to bring his front end around (kinda like half of a figure 8)...these are all prerequisites that he needs to be comfortable doing before expecting him to be 'way out there all by himself'!! All of this is about following the feel that you are providing...

  5. With the exception of lameness check, etc, I guess I'm not too big a fan of lunging...I would rather do changes of direction (the half figure 8), backing, lead past me along a fence, send him in front of me thru a gate or over a log or under a limb...these will exercise his brain not just his body. And if a person is thinking about lunging to get the 'edge off', then these are still better, because they will put him in his thinking brain rather than his reactive brain (which is where they are instinctively all the time, unless we teach them how to learn...to use the left brain).

  6. Driving from the behind the drive line (how's that for being redundant and obvious???!!!), is also great to get them to be aware of your focus and follow the feel. Just be sure to focus on an object so he learns to 'see' what you are looking at....pretend your eyes are attached with a line to the object....stump, tree limb, cone, fence pole, leaf...and if you take your eyes off of that object, it will hurt!! So no matter where he is, keep your focus and your position....rearrange his body, not yours.

Soooo....yes...how to teach him to lunge is in all that mess above....and I have no doubt you will be able to figure it out!!

With all my clients/students, I require them to read Mark Rashid's books to get an understanding of the mindset I believe so strongly in...and they are so easy to read and entertaining stories.

Then I suggest 2 'how to' books...though they are so much more than just that. One is Marty Marten's Problem Solving....though I have no idea why he called it that!! If a person takes his horse thru that book chapter by chapter, he will have a well started animal....to me the steps and exercises in it are Problem PREVENTION !!

The 2nd book is Bill Dorrance's True Horsemanship Thru Feel. It is a huge book with so much information.

Take care~

Ima Mary

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