September 9, 2012

Lunge Lesson (for Connor, not for me)

In my last lesson wrap-up post, I detailed how my laterally-unbalanced body has led to unbalanced riding, which has led to an unbalanced horse.  Since then, my trainer has worked with Connor twice, doing ground work and lunging in side-reins in order to both build muscle and teach him how to use himself.  Today was another lesson, only I didn't ride, just learned how she is working him so that I can do it myself.

We are the furthest thing from a gadget-using barn, which is why my trainer and I had a good laugh over the very effective and somewhat gadget-y setup he's going in right now.  You'll see it more clearly in the video, but he's wearing a surcingle, his bridle without reins, side reins, a pad in order to make his pony-sized surcingle fit, and a Horse Hugger.  The Horse Hugger is an interesting and effective piece of equipment that goes around the neck and then drapes around the back legs, above the hocks, to serve as a gentle reminder to the horse to step under himself.

She started out by doing ground-work to get him warmed up and thinking about stepping under himself.  I've talked about it before: the front feet stay on a large square while she asks the hind legs to engage and step away from her with impulsion without going forward.  She also ideally wanted him to be stretching down with his neck since he's gotten so good at just curling and not using his back.

On the lunge line, she told me to hold the line like a rein and use it as the inside rein: same tension, same cues, and to use it in conjunction with my "legs" - the whip - to apply a sort of half-halt anytime I sent a cue across the line.  She was firm about sending him forward into the biggest trot he could manage without cantering since impulsion is one of our problems, and I had to keep reminding myself to focus on learning how she was doing it instead of watching him.  I've never seen him move that well before - ever.  I was floored.

To the right, his poorer side, I was fascinated to see that he is actually swinging his hindquarters to the outside on the circle to avoid using them.  In the video, you will see that the outside hind actually tracks completely outside of the outside fore (it's especially obvious in the very last frame).  So much of what she wanted me to do in this direction was sending the shoulders out in order to help with that.  I saw improvements, but a definite decrease in quality from the left side.  Hence, the problem.

So this is my riding for now, until we can get him fixed, and me fixed.  I'm enjoying it almost as much, knowing that we're working toward solving the problem (and getting closer to jumping again sometime!)

Green grass again, finally!


  1. We used to use leg wraps to make our own Horse Hugger. I never knew there was an actual product.
    If you ever have a chance to try a balancing system, you can see a combination of the hugger and side reins working together. A great, simple invention. Best part it fits draft to pony.
    Love these exercises for green ponies.

  2. You know, my first instructor was a licensed TTouch practitioner and she used the polo wraps like the Horse Hugger on our racehorses just like you said. She said it was to teach the ones that grew too fast body awareness, and she had it a bit tighter, but it would have had a similar action. Interesting, I haven't thought about that in years.

  3. That horse hugger is pretty interesting! And I really cannot get over how much your guy reminds me of my mare! Looking forward to reading more about your lunging experience. . .looks like I am about to start the same with my front wheel drive mare!