Naked Lunge Lessons

Yes, I bet that blog post title got your attention & made you think what the hell is this one getting up to now! Well don’t be alarmed, no naked riding was actually involved, don’t let the title deceive you, this post is all about doing lunge lessons with no reins & no stirrups, sorry to get the hopes up of some of our male readers!! 

Lunge lessons are something everyone should try invest in and try to do as much as possible, they are so beneficial. Not only do they focus on your position, but also your seat & balance and lets be honest your fitness!!

What does a Lunge Lesson involve

All it involves really is a tacked up horse, a lunge pen or an arena, a lunge line & your trusted instructor!  I was lucky enough to have Heather who not only is a qualified instructor, but she has done a handful of lunge lessons that I have watched from the ground so I knew I was in good hands. We decided it was best not to use Dante but to use her horse Freya instead as she was used to previous lunge lessons.

My Aim

Simply to fix my leg position, getting myself to stretch down & wrap my legs around the horse, not gripping with my knees, and well sitting back in the saddle with my shoulders back (my absolute no.1 worse habit)

Exercises We Tackled

In Walk

Beginning in walk, heather got a look for my seat/position before we started tackling Photo 20-06-2018, 13 07 18_previewanything major! She needed to have a feel for what she had to work with.

We focused on doing some stretching exercises first, stretching my legs long and low, keeping my heels down and toes pointed in. (straight away bad habits came creeping in, those toes did not want to stay in!!) 

Focusing then on my upper body position, I placed my hands on my hips, Relaxing my elbows, stretching up tall in the saddle all whilst still pushing my weight down into my heels. As I got used to this we began doing some more complicated exercises as we progressed up the gaits with Freya.

In Trot

Photo 20-06-2018, 13 08 24Progressing in the trot we started focusing on my upper body position, the good thing with Freya, if your leaning to far forward she takes off & starts to take the piss. So with that it helped me sit back in my seat with my shoulders back. It took some time to get used too, keeping in mind that I still had to focus on keeping my leg stretched down & low, wrapped around her with those pesky toes pointed in, over time I was doing this naturally and didn’t had to think about it at all.

We progressed to do some upper body exercises in trot, including

  •  Trotting with my hands on my knees,
  • My arms stretched out wide like I was an airplane
  • Riding as if I had an imaginary set of reins in my hand, focusing on the correct position as to where my hands should be as if I was holding reins
  • Place my arms behind my back, then bringing them forward doing slow arm circles

We repeated all of these exercises on both reins, and by this stage I could really start to feel the burn! My body was definitely not used to using its core correctly, or using certain parts of my legs in the correct manner that I should be.

In Canter

In Canter, well lets just say everyone got a right oul laugh when we started. As we began to move up to canter, heather had instructed me that not a lot was needed to get Freya to move up a gait simply a squeeze and the use of the correct aids, well between a little excitement from Freya & possibly one kick to many from me, Freya took off farting adding in a slight buck/bunny hop on her way!

Photo 20-06-2018, 13 09 32

As Brave as I had been previous of course this happened as I wasn’t holding on, and realising I didn’t have the worse seat in the world as I managed to stay on… after the tears of laughter where whipped away we progressed to focus on me sitting still in the canter, this time whilst holding the neck strap & the pommel of the saddle at times in fear of take off!

Focusing again on my hand position by repeating the above exercises in canter,  we got a few laps in on both reins, before we called it a day so my poor body could have a breather!


Some Lunging Tips to go by

  • The rider should not wear spurs
  • If you are not confident enough to lunge in an open arena, do it in a lunge pen
  • If you feel more comfortable start of by keeping your stirrups, taking them away as you progress & gain in confidence.
  • Lunge on both the horses left & right rein, not only for the horse but for the rider also
  • Don’t try do any lunge lessons on a horse that you think is unsafe, for instant in my case Dante begins to panic when I do no stirrup work on him so doing this lesson on him would of ended terribly bad!
  • Use an experienced rider, or someone who has experience teaching you on the lunge. It will not benefit either horse nor rider if you have someone unexperienced on the ground

No matter what level your riding is at, doing lunge lessons are extremely helpful for your riding. It strengthens your foundations, improves your balance, corrects your position, improve your confidence and so much more.

Lunge lessons should be kept to a maximum of 30/40 minutes, try not to over do it. For the rider themselves, if you overdo it, it will only cause you to get sloppy therefore you are not really focusing on perfecting your position, 10/15 minutes to begin with is perfect, over time you can work up toward 20/30 minute sessions.

Photo 20-06-2018, 13 07 10_preview

Don’t forget you & your horse may get dizzy going around in circles for long periods of time, do prepare yourself for some stiffness the next day it is a normal sign of progression, but if you’re so sore that you can’t walk, you overdid it.

Owning young horses, as challenging as it can be there are times where you throw your position out the window in the hopes of gripping for dear life most of the time or simply to get your horse working and listening to you. Sometimes position in this case literally does not matter at all. So give a lunge lesson a go, maybe its time to focus on you the rider for a while, sometimes its not all about the horse,

Be sure to let me know how you get on if you give it a go, comment & share your lunging exercises below!

Darielle 

January Monthly Exercise – The Square

This months exercise with Dante has to be one of my favourites, Introducing The Square”. A good while ago Orla tested this exercise out on Coco & it worked a treat, so I thought why not give it a shot and see how Dante takes it. Not only is this exercise extremely easy to set up, but it was so beneficial in helping him start to bend and flex in around my leg, the square” can be used to cover so many simple basic movements.

 

 The Set Up:

 You will need quite simply 4 poles, laid out on the ground in your arena, seen in the pictures below. Make sure that you leave a good bit of space to move in and around your square! Ideally it should be set up in the middle of the arena giving you space to work with.

What Exercises Can be Done:

  • Trot Work
  • Canter Work
  • Transitions
  • Working on Bending & Flexibility
  • Leg Changes
27294158_2000366376869528_366862913_n

Trot Work: The Square is great for establishing a great rhythm in your trot, from big / small horses, getting a consistent pace in between the poles is what you should be aiming for. Riding loops and circles, extending them out big & in small which is great for working & building up their top-line muscles. Keeping everything smoothly flowing  and collected is the aim. 

Transitions: Riding the square with transitions almost became a game towards the end! It can be slightly intimidating as bring your horse to a complete stop in the middle of the square can be quite challenging! Bearing in mind you only have a short amount of space to bring your horse down a transition! I find it great when going from trot to halt, the poles are quite a good guideline for your horse, that when you start to work on transitions out of the square they become very precise & clean! 

Canter Work: Getting your horse not to rush over canter poles or even a single canter pole can be a nightmare, It was for me at the beginning trust me! I have found using the square exercise extremely helpful, and it has slowly started to translate up into Dante’s Jumping too! Cantering over the square at a curve & not hitting it straight on worked best for me to begin with, riding 20 meter circles through the square. Not only did it begin to calm his canter down, but it helped shorten his massive long stride! 

Leg Changes: Continuing on from your canter work, using your square as a starter for teaching your horse leg changes is fantastic! Third time in & Dante had it down to a tee, the aim is to give your aids in the middle of the square, with the poles on either side helping them as they have to jump in and out of them.

Bending & Flexability: I wont give much of a description here, as all the above exercises include bending & circling you horse which in turn will help with your horses flexability. 

See the 4 Diagrams below for exercises to try out! 

 

To make this exercise a little harder,  if you have seen from my attached photo’s, you will have noticed that I have added in a second square next to the original for the likes of transitions so he can’t anticipate the exercises, you can add in as many as you wish, I have started to use them for bounces also, he is a lot calmer on his approach to the poles now, Dante used to get overly excited when he seen a pole, from doing his canter poles diagonally, he has learned that rushing them isn’t what he needs to do! 

Turning the flat square into four jumps is another option, it can be a great introduction to jumping your horse through big grids with a lot of bounces, also great for getting your horse to lift his legs & for working on that hind muscle. All of these exercises are great for control & will definitely let you know where you are at when it comes to working together with your horse as a team! 

Be sure to try some of these exercises out & do tag us your Instagram videos if you give The Square” a go, I would love to see how you get on & how your horse tackles it! 

 

In the meantime if you have any suggestions on what you would like Orla & Coco to cover on next months exercise, do let us know! 

Until Next Time, 

Darielle 

Bonding With Your Horse

Spending time with your horse on the ground is good for you, it is a proven fact that petting animals can lower your stress levels!! It can also be very rewarding & beneficial when it comes to your riding. Getting to know your horse, their quirks, their likes and dislikes will only improve your bond together and your horse’s overall trust in you. 

When it came to working with Dante, working on the ground and translating things up into our riding became our go to routine at the beginning, and let me say it worked! He got over whelmed quickly and simply didn’t understand what it was I was asking of him, it came to a stage where you could nearly hear a sigh of relief from him when I used to stop to scratch him on the neck to calm him down whilst riding, it was as if he forgot I was on him at times! From lunging techniques to simply doing in hand walking exercises with him the techniques” were extremely helpful but when it came down to things, literally standing in the stable and putting time into getting to know Dante was all I really needed to do to really get a good grasp of his personality. 

When it comes to bonding with your horse bonding techniques” would be a term I would throw around loosely. Sometimes getting to know each other & gaining each others respect and trust can be the start of a blossoming relationship! I have listed a few things below, keeping in mind horses vary, different things work for different horse, but hey thats what this post is all about! Learning about your horse, and what he likes! 

Photo 30-12-2017, 20 50 14

Body Language when to Give your Horse some Space

Your horse is capable of doing a lot more than you think. He will show you signs of aggression & aggravation way before you have a chance to pick up on them. From pinned back ears, tail swishing to foot stomping and one of the most obvious his facial expressions. Learn how to react & how to avoid these reaction as soon as you can. 

Stomping of the feet or pawing at the ground can simply be from being bored tied up to the wall, but at the same time your horse has to learn how to behave in these situations, and learn how to stand still. 

When your horse swishes his tail, he could be swatting away flies, during the summer the tail swish” is literally constant! So I wouldn’t pay too much attention to this, it is normally a slow and easy going back and forth swish, way different to the aggressive type. If your horse is feeling agitated that tail will be flicking everywhere, if your horse does this, give your horse some space, give him 5 10 minutes to relax and calm down, with a reassuring pat on the neck. If your horse is reacting to something, for example being tacked up or being touched in certain spots, the aggression is communication from your horse. Without noticing your horse is forever giving you indications of things, it’s a matter of paying attention to them and taking that time to notice. Do remember to stay calm, if you loose the plot in these situations your horses emotions can escalate, turning simple situations into very dangerous problems very quickly. 

Facial expressions on your horse, well these can simply be learned by watching their reactions. Give your horse something he doesn’t like the smell of and straight away you will get the lip curl and teeth showing goofy face! If your horse is afraid & alert, the ears will be pricked forward eyes wide and alert with their head high up in the air.

Getting to know your horse over time will give you an idea of what they like & dislike, looking at your horses ears while you’re riding can also be another massive indication of their mood or attitude to the work their doing! It has certainly helped me!! 

In Hand Work

I love in hand work, it can be so relaxing! Dont treat this as a job for them either, keep everything simple and chilled. Please always remember to put a head collar & a lead rope on your horse for the love of god, you dont want to get your hand stuck in a head collar if your horse spooks and runs off!!  

Walking your horse around the place, as ridiculous as it may sound, but it can be the answer to some major problems. Does your horse always spook at a certain object in the yard? Walk him in hand up to them and let him sniff it out for himself, hold him on a loose line and dont interfere! You are technically bonding with him during this situation, you are both facing his fear head on, you are there with your horse reassuring him. 

Recently I have started putting Dante on a lunge line & literally sat in a field with him as he ate grass around me! The grass I would  walk him out to would be the long luscious grass that he wouldn’t normally have in his paddock, so its almost like a reward for him. Its crazy to sit back and observe him, I bring out a bucket to sit on and while he may be in a daze eating away, he will never come too close to me, he seems cautious of my personal space! 

 

Watch Your Horses Stance

From reading the above section about in-hand work, it is also important to notice how your horse is approaching certain things, their stand their expression certainly gives a lot away!

For instance, if your horse is trembling/shaking, or hesitant to move forward they are telling you that they are absolutely petrified of something either in front, behind or beside them. One of the most obvious stances to watch out for is if your horse lifts one of his front or back legs or starts swinging his hindquarters. This simply means that they are getting ready to kick. So get the hell out of the way, move as far back from your horse as possible to prevent hurting yourself.

Causes for your horse to lash out or to kick out at you can be literally a mile long, they could be uncomfortable, you could be in their personal space, some horse may even lash out with their front legs if you go near them when they are eating food, every horse is different! It is a matter of learning the body language of your horse, and realising moments to get up and walk away from them or to calmly reassure them with your voice!

Grooming Your Horse

Grooming is one of the key tasks when it comes to bonding with your horse, not only does it give you some quality time together but you get to find out spots your horse dislikes, and spots your horse likes. Grooming and touching your horse all over for just a few minutes each day, even if its before you tack up,  will not only gain your horses trust, but by being gentle with him you show him respect in-turn he will only want to return in, making that bond stronger! 

Grooming your horse will not only teach your horse about personal space, but he will learn boundaries, young horses in particular may try to groom you back so be aware of this when you go to groom them! I have had a few nips on the shoulder from Dante trying to scratch me back when I give him rubs on the neck or on his withers, it is up to you to teach them that they cannot do that either! Its all about personal space, they need to learn where they stand, establish those boundaries!! 

If you are working with a young horse, one who is only getting used to human touch, start by touching him all over with just your hands. Doing this everyday will get him used to your touch. Be aware of the areas where he doesn’t feel comfortable being touched, some horses can be particular with their legs, but take it step by step and slowly begin to introduce grooming brushes, do let your horse sniff and snort and suss them out before hand, it will let them know that the object is safe, that it wont hurt them! 

Always try to focus on the areas your horse likes when your grooming, Many horses enjoy being touched around their withers and mane. Remember you are trying to bond with your horse its a different situation when your vigorously trying to get them cleaned up for a show! 

Remember that horses are social herd animals. They establish a social hierarchy in a herd, meaning that one horse will lead and the others will follow. You want to aim to be that herd leader, through consistent ground training, earning each others respect and bonding with each other you can establish the same type of leadership role that your horse will respond to and want to follow.

Photo 13-01-2018, 14 17 33

Working at Liberty

Orla here, jumping in with one of my own helpful tips for growing that bond with your horse. Over the last few months I have started to work with Coco at liberty. For me, this essentially means that I let her off in the arena to wander and do her own thing. It originally started as a way for me to get some energy out of her without keeping her confined to a small space meaning she’s much less likely to hurt herself. But it has now turned into more of a bonding exercise for us.

I start these sessions by sending her off to go for a trot and a canter around the arena. This usually turns into a full on gallop run until she decides she’s ready to calm down. When I first started doing this, she would stop and stay out around the outside of the arena but the more we did it, the more she gradually started to come into me in the middle of the arena instead. It was like when she decided she was done having her fun, she was ready to come in and spend some time with me. From there I could walk anywhere around the arena and she would follow me. She’s gotten better and better each time and we are working our way up to her following me over jumps but it’s incredible how much of a difference it’s made. For such a basic exercise, it is quite effective. I definitely feel like she has much more trust in me now.

Bonding_Coco

If you have the opportunity this is definitely something I would recommend trying. Of course liberty work can go so much farther than what I’ve detailed here. Coco has responded so well to what we’ve done so far, I’m contemplating learning more about it and maybe seeing how far we can go with it. But for now, Ill be happy to keep doing our little bonding sessions.


5 Simple Ways To bond with Your Horse

  1. Treat them to a massage! They may not technically need one, but who doesn’t love a good muscle rub out every now & then! I know Dante always feels like a new horse afterwards.
  2. Establish a routine & stick to it, If your horse can rely on you for certain things such as feeding him at a certain hour and bringing him in from the field the same time every day, they will rely on you & therefore you will earn a bucket full of trust.
  3. Have fun with your horse, go for that hack, bring them out of the yard for the day horses love & appreciate the adventure. And it will prevent boredom, as well as bond you together as a team, going out of the yard, you & your horse have literally only each other to rely on!
  4. Stable toys! Its winter, your horse is more than likely in that bit longer, tie a few carrots on strings and hang them from the roof, or throw in a few turnips they are guaranteed to give him an hour at least of chasing around after it!
  5. Be firm, consistent & patient. Stick to your guns! don’t give out to your horse for eating out of the haynet before you hang it up one day and then let him do it the next.

Patience is the key working with horses, especially when it comes to getting a that good bond with them. The moment you lose your patience or get aggressive with your horse, wave bye bye to that bond, you’re literally back to square one again! Horses will show you in many ways that they have a connection with you like running up to you in the field, neighing every time they see you (doesn’t count when they’re being fed!), to following you around the place, over time you will have your own specific bonding” rituals that will be unique to you both. So just be patient and do things you both like doing such as grooming or washing or even bringing him over to graze on the good lush bit of grass (one of Dante’s favourites!) 

Bonding with your horse is upto you, no one can do it for you, and unfortunately time will be the test of everything! 

Thanks for reading!

Darielle