Monday, 13 October 2014

Lunging and Lateral Work

At the end of September I attended a British Horse Society training day. It was a really interesting day and I really enjoyed myself.  Held at a local training centre there were several different sessions.  The day was titled 'LUNGING AND LATERAL' work and was actually a Continuing Professional Development Day for Registered Instructors, however, any BHS members are able to go along.  

This was the agenda for the day:
9.30am                 Registration
10.00am               Introduction
10.15am               Lunge the school horse
11.00am               Break
11.15am               Lunging to develop suppleness in the rider
12.00am               Ridden exercises up to Stage 2 for horse and rider
12.45am               Lunch   
1.30pm                 Ridden exercises up to Stage 3 for horse and rider
2.15pm                 Suppleness Exercises using poles
3.00pm                Discussion
3.30pm                 Finish

The day was taken by a FBHS (Fellow of the British Horse Society) but was a really friendly and informal day and I met some interesting people too.

During the first session we had 2 horses to watch.  The school was divided into 2 using ground poles. One horse was being lunged for work with a saddle on top and side reins attached and the other was for training with a roller and side reins (obviously they were worked in without side reins first). 

The first horse was quiet on the lunge but quite lazy.  From lunging on one larger circle they tried lunging on 4 smaller circles in each corner at the one end of the school.  The horse was on a shorter lunge line and so the whip was more effective at encouraging him forward.  Using this different approach really seemed to work with this horse.  Unfortunately, with the side reins attached to the girth straps there was little ability to alter the height of these to see if they affected the horses way of going.

The other horse was also quiet but much more responsive, he had lovely rhythm and a good attitude.  The roller made it possible to play with the side reins to see what improved the horse's going.  Changing the length of the reins, putting the outside side rein shorter than the inside and putting the outside rein higher up than the inside.  By trying different ideas (just for a couple of circles) we were able to see what worked for this horse.  It was interesting but you have to be sensible and think about what the horse you are working with  is used to in terms of time lunging and working in an outline.

Lunging for suppleness in the rider was again interesting.  Although it became more about balance as the 2 riders were asked to stand in their stirrups at halt to see how their  balance was.  As is often the case one found it easier than the other and this is an exercise you can take on to do in walk, trot and canter - as was done in the following ridden session.  For example; sit for 6 strides, rise for 6 strides, stand for 6!

Ridden exercises for Stage 2 .  This session included standing in stirrups in halt to gain balance and looking at where the riders weight is on their feet and where they take the strain.  Not using thigh strength but ensuring their calves are against the side of the horse so that they can still ride effectively.  This was taken on into walk with the riders having to stand in their stirrups to do 5 metre loops in from the track down the long sides.  Moving this forward into trot meant mixing in rising, sitting and standing.  The riders were asked to stand for the loops and then do rising trot for 20 metre circles at each end of the school.  Introducing some canter on the 20 metre circles meant standing on the loops as before rising as they regained the track, sitting for a couple of strides and then asking for canter.  These exercises give the riders something to think about but also really allowed the horses to 'swing'.  Without the riders on their backs they were stepping up under themselves and moving really well.

Ridden exercises for Stage 3.  During this session the riders worked on developing leg yield.  In walk just moving the horses bottoms in off the track initially.  This moved on to ensuring the horses also had the correct inner bend and were not drifting through their shoulders.  At this level you would usually have horses that understand what leg yield is and it was interesting to see the reaction of the 3 different horses to this exercise.  One little cob who it seemed had not done this before actually got a little stressed and so in between attempts at the leg yield he was rewarded with a walk on a long rein.  He was very pleased to try it though and really picked it up through the session which then moved on to trot.  In trot the horses were asked to  come down the 3/4 line and then go straight before asking for leg yield back to the track, so many people forget that it is still important to go straight for a few strides.  The session finished there as the horses had all tried really hard and it is always better to finish wanting to do more than wishing you did less!  

Suppleness Exercises Using Poles.  This was always going to be an interesting session and we had the same group as for the Stage 2 session earlier.  The group initially (once warmed up) were trotting and going over single poles on a serpentine.  Using changes in direction and the poles to get the horses bending and raising their feet.  It was more interesting when they were asked to canter a 20 metre circle at each end of the school, picking up canter at the pole.  They had to then return to trot as they  returned to the serpentine.  None of the group were able to do this, they were all a few strides late.  So after a short rest they were asked how many strides they thought it would take from their asking to the horse responding to get the canter and then to return to the trot!  Their task was then to achieve that and then improve on it.

I really liked this exercise, although there was a lot to think about with the pace change, poles and change of direction all happening in a short space of time.  It kept the horses attention and the riders thinking, however, I can see this would make a 'hot' horse quite keen and perhaps too excited.

To finish off we were shown something I have not seen before - building a 'box' with ground poles.  This was then used again for suppleness, this time by avoiding the poles, not going over them.  The 'box' was used as the basis for a circle (20 metre or less) for the horse to work in .  Each of the group had a go separately.  At first the horse just walked around the circle inside the poles.  Once in trot if impulsion was lost on the circle the horse exited the box and went further down the school to re-establish the trot before returning to the box.  This can then also be used in canter once the horse is reasonably balanced.  This was a really interesting way to control the circle and ensure it is of a certain size and shape because usually it is easy for the horse to drift outwards.

All in all I had a great day and now have lots of new things to try at home with Baz over the next few months.

NB: Please excuse the drawings, art was not my best subject at school!

Until next time!

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