I have a mare in for rehab, who was being lunged daily until the physio saw her. To make it more interesting, after a few days, and for me to be able to analyse better how she was using her body, I added tiny obstacles to the lunge circle. So I’ll remember the configuration in future, I’ve called it the Trident, although the ‘handle’ is a bit off-set to make it even trickier if the horse deviates!
I did all of this with the mare wearing only a lunge cavesson or a headcollar (when she started playing with the rings on the front of the leather cavesson, flipping her head around enthusiastically, I changed it to a boring headcollar with no moveable ring to play with!) and boots, no gadgets of any kind. It’s all about seeing how the horse uses its body, and responds to different tiny problems/questions, mentally and physically, with no outside influences other than my voice. I try to bring them into it on a loose-ish lunge line too, so they are not being distracted even by a tiny pull.
I stand on the centre line between D and G, more or less, sending the horse on a 20m ish circle which will go over the narrow plastic plank (from Jump4Joy, fantastic bits of kit!) at X (parallel with the long side) and then I progressed to two of them right beside each other, to make it a tiny bit more of a stretch, and then a few days later added a low angled heavy pole further out on the circle. The ‘three planks in a row’ set-up further out is really for ridden work (as the horses find it very difficult on the lunge, as they meet it at an angle), but it doesn’t hurt that if the horse deviates outside the plank/pole I want her to go over, she runs herself into slightly more difficult territory… even more planks to deal with! This encourages straightness and honesty on the lunge, so I like to keep that part of the exercise there.
The yellow blok in the middle (in the second photo) was an afterthought, after the pole got kicked and dislodged (the blok is to help hold it in place), but in fact it provides another little test. I lunged Daisy over this set-up, and a few times she came in straight to the middle block, on a loose lunge-line, and every time jumped it perfectly straight without hesitation, which pleased me. A good honesty test!
The planks and pole were done first walking over, then trotting, then cantering. Sometimes being asked to canter as she went over the plank (good practice for those who are muddled about the upward canter transition), sometimes to trot immediately after it.
It has been a fascinating way of seeing how the mare learns, and uses her body as she improves. From tripping over, kicking or even standing on the plank at times, she has learnt to look down, lift, lengthen or shorten, every time. Once she came into it gazing into the distance, her attention caught by someone walking a dog on the footpath, glanced down at the last second and threw herself dramatically in the air. Good survival instincts, hopefully, although I hope never to ride her to a fence with that little attention on it!
After a week of plank-work, I added the heavy pole, raised at one end. This got the same treatment… initially she kicked it a few times, then she learnt to lift more to clear it, and is now really clever about it.
In canter, she was tightening her back and changing behind over the plank, or sometimes dropping to trot, but after a few days and some specific exercises in hand she has learnt to relax her back and increase her step while staying in true canter. The differences on both reins have been interesting: how much bend she showed, how she elevated on the different reins, etc.
I’d recommend this little exercise to anyone who has 15 minutes to kill and wants to learn more about how their horse uses its brain and body.
In response to questions on the Facebook thread about this post, here are a couple of very short videos of it being done. Please excuse the manic clicking, I can’t video and concentrate on the horse properly at the same time, and she goes idle the moment she realises I’m videoing!
Right Rein (you can clearly see her, on a very loose line, just after playing around with her head and neck, choose to veer towards the tiny jump and go over it, a nice instinct to see!)