Thursday, May 26, 2011

Half-halts and the Lunge Line


I had a bit of a light bulb moment the other day while lunging Callie. It finally truly dawned on me how important half-halts and leg are while lunging a horse.

You may be thinking, "whaaaa? but I'm not riding, leg? are you crazy?" I might be lol, but just because you aren't riding your horse doesn't mean you can have your leg on.

Most people think of  lunging as a quick and easy way to exercise their horse, slap some side reins on, throw them at the end of a line, and voila, I can build fitness, exercise them, and help improve their balance. Right? Wrong.

Only if done correctly. The horse may have side reins on, may have a bit in their mouth and saddle on their back, but if they are just carrening around on their forehand, unbalanced, hindend disengaged, they are doing more harm than good.

In order to have impulsion in the gaits and to have a good, solid working walk, trot, and canter, the leg needs to be in. In lunging, the leg is the whip and voice. With Callie she is incredibly sensitive to these cues, I often only have to give a little cluck or lift the tip of the whip about a foot to get the desired response. This keeps her engaged and her hindend working up under her.

But then I need to be able to control this forward energy and not let her just run it into the ground by being on her forehand. So that means that the half-halt must be effective. There is where I see sooooo many people getting it wrong, their horse either doesn't understand the contact, or refuses to take it. When lunging there MUST be contact with the horse's mouth! If they keep cutting the circle and coming in towards you and giving slack in the line then they are not on the contact. Callie is awesome with this, she really likes a steady, solid contact with the bit and actually puts quite a bit of weight in the reins/lunge line. This is not bad and not to be punished, this is just what she finds comfortable.

So, whenever I give a "leg" cue with the whip or voice I make sure to give a little half-halt, just a soft squeezing of my fingers on the line, a subtle yet quick give-and-take of pressue, often many of them in a row as we go around. This reminds her to pick up her forehand and balance, and not plow around on her nose.

The result? A balanced, energetic picture of a horse working correctly, with implusion, responsive to the aids, and able to change gaits quickly and easily because... they are balanced!


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