Going In Circles

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Everyone who lunged a horse this week, please stand up. Now, those who answer yes to any of the following questions may sit down:

Did you lunge consistently on a circle that was smaller than 20 meters (66 feet) at the trot or canter'

Did you LTD or work the horse on the lunge for longer than 20 minutes' (If you don’t know what LTD means, pat yourself on the back and then pat your horse.)

Did you let the horse fly around at his own pace rather than insist he walk first and then trot/canter on command'

Did you disregard the footing'

If you answered yes, even once, you may have jeopardized the safety and soundness of your horse. If you’re still standing up, now consider the following:

Did you forget your gloves'

Did you leave on your spurs'

Did you let the line trail on the ground'

Did you allow the horse to turn in on the circle and come toward you'

Did you hold your line arm out straight (not keeping your elbow bent by your side)'

Did you drop the whip on the ground while standing next to the horse rather than reversing it under your arm'

Those who answered yes to any of the second set of questions may not have endangered their horse, but they were taking chances with their own safety.

Now, those still standing up can go out to the barn and lunge their horses.

Those who are seated should keep on reading.

Lunging looks deceptively simple. You attach a long line to the horse’s head and make him go in circles. But it’s easy to injure a horse while lunging, although the damage may not be immediately apparent. Repetitive stress from lunging for too long or on too small a circle can strain muscles and connective tissue. Jerking the line or suddenly cracking the whip can cause the horse to jolt, lose his balance, and twist something vital.

It’s equally easy for the handler to be injured. The line can tighten on a hand and the hand broken. Or a line trailing on the ground can get caught around the handler’s leg. Or the handler can trip on his spurs while pivoting. Or get kicked while picking up a whip. Or get a twisted elbow because the horse bolted while the arm was out straight.

Two final questions:
Since it’s so useful to take lessons in riding technique, isn’t it also equally valuable to take a couple lessons in lunging technique, especially since correct lunging can benefit the suppleness, strength and training of the horse'

And, if you really feel that Lunge ’Til Dead (LTD) is productive, have you ever considered that maybe you and your horse have bigger issues in training and disposition than in lunging technique'

-Margaret Freeman