April 10, 2015

JLC Lunging Exercise

I only ended up riding for about five minutes in last night's lesson, but Connor ended up getting more accomplished without me than he could have with me.

Let me explain.

The windswept look he gave me when I pulled up.
All of the horses were nuts yesterday (warm weather, tornadic storms blowing later) and Connor was no exception.  His answer to everything I asked in my warmup was an emphatic "NO THANK YOU."  He was looking for excuses and trying to shoot out from under me.

My trainer saw this and said we should try something related, but very different from what we've been doing lately.  It was another Jean Luc Cornille exercise, this time a lunging exercise.

She ran the line through the inside bit ring, and instead of running it over his head, she ran it back to the saddle where she had attached a grab strap to the D rings.  She ran it under the strap, then back over, down the other side and clipped it on the outside bit ring.

She explained that this mimicked the feel of the riders hands more closely, and that this exercise is all about letting him find his balance.

Instead of the usual 20m circle, she made a square using half of the large outdoor arena, with approximately a 12-15m circle in each corner of the square.  In the beginning, there were also circles in the middle of the "long" side so that he didn't lose his balance when he didn't really have it yet.  Toward the end, we could actually get four circles instead of 6.

(To the right) She held the line exactly like you'd hold the reins in your right hand, with a loop in the line, and held the lunge whip in her left hand.  Because his prerogative was racing forward as fast as possible at the moment, she actually crossed her arms with the lunge whip under the line and the whip in front of him.

"I like this exercise because it gets them thinking and engaged, and doesn't just wear them out.  It's not lunging for the sake of lunging."

It was so interesting.  In the beginning, Connor looked like a scale, with the platform on the front of his body lower than the platform on the back.  He was going fast and somewhat braced and looking.
What Connor looked like to the right in the beginning (lower platform is his forelegs).

Gradually, (she really waited him out) he began working over his back and the scale became more even, back to front.  When that happened, his forefeet also took slower steps, and he licked and chewed the bit down.  Because I was on the ground, I could see this all very clearly.

Some things I noticed:
- Even on the lunge, he bends better to the right than the left.
- Even on the lunge, he would get it for a few steps, then throw his head up or move his body in some other intentional way in order to move differently.
- But after about 30 minutes of this (walk and trot), he started staying in the balanced/back lifted position and not losing it.  So maybe I need to wait that out too.

She turned him over to me 3/4 of the way through so she could guide me through learning how to do the exercise.  I really had to walk fast in between the circles to move down the straight side of the square, but not so fast as to startle him.  He did offer canter for both her and me a couple of times, which she did not intend to do with him today, but it was so lovely and balanced she let him go.

By the end, he'd trotted and cantered in self-carriage in a very consistent cadence for a long time with no signs of being taxed physically.  "He's really in better shape than I give him credit for," she said.  "Or he's playing me under saddle..."  We laughed.

Sweaty pony

I'm interested to see where this takes us.


  1. The way your trainer attached the lunge line is very interesting. Totally going to suggest it to my trainer, who restarts a lot of TBs.

    1. Very cool! The key with the way the line is run is to have a very light contact. I think I left that out of my post on accident. JLC has articles about it online. I'm not sure how safe it would be if the horse was really determined to buck and play either, maybe it would be fine, but I can't say for sure. Connor is the antithesis of buck and play, haha!

  2. REALLY interesting! Would love to see video of this... I think my pony could benefit from it too.

    1. I will try to make that happen! I would have felt awkward videoing during my lesson.

  3. Really interesting way to attach the lines. I wonder if simply long lining him would be a good exercise.

    1. I had that thought too, and almost asked, but forgot. I still think the line through the grab strap is going to provide a more steady contact than long lining, though, and clearly he is benefitting from that right now. I might try it in the future.

    2. Oh yeah. I think you're totally right. This is a slightly different exercise to long lining. It sounded like you were getting some really good feedback on what sorts of issues you're seeing under saddle that are actually just him, and which ones might be related to you. That sort of feedback is really invaluable, and might be something long lining can give you. I know he's such a thinker, sometimes you get really good results when you can show him something without your balance entering into the equation. Just a thought! :)

  4. That is super interesting! I'm going to try this sometime- thanks for sharing!

  5. Very fascinating indeed! I'm going to look that up!

  6. I had to laugh at the
    "He's really in better shape than I give him credit for," she said. "Or he's playing me under saddle..."
    Comrade and Rosemary constantly surprise me with the same thing.
    Would love to see a visual of how the line is run. Too tired to get a mental picture. I love exercises that make the horse figure it out on their own. Really works well for the Cobs.

  7. What an interesting exercise.
    +1 for video request when possible please

  8. Interesting! I definitely want to try this, my baby would just suck his face into his chest though... I'll have to find someone else to torment haha

  9. sounds like an awesome exercise! my biomechanics trainer apparently spent the winter riding with JLC and is super excited to share the wealth with us. too bad we missed her first clinic bc of the flu... womp womp

  10. I do love to incorporate lunging as a training tool when the horse is educated enough to accept it. You set up is very interesting. Take a picture for the blog land next time?

  11. Oh neat! I want to try that sometime