By Jenny Richardson BHSAI
If your horse is safe and balanced on the lunge, introducing jumps into the mix can really benefit his work – although it isn’t for all horses, or people! Some trainers do not advocate jumping on the lunge, as it is difficult to regulate the horse’s pace, while the handler, if inexperienced, can restrict the horse’s movement over a fence. However, other people maintain that jumping on the lunge aids hind leg flexion, develops carriage and boosts the horse’s jumping confidence, without rider intervention.
Ask your instructor for advice, if you are unsure!
If you are confident, try this simple, lunge-based exercise –
1. Place a single pole in the arena where you are lungeing, so it lays across the track. Lungeing the horse normally over the pole will encourage him to relax and lower the head and neck; poles also help to improve the paces and bring extra variety to the work. It is often useful to place the pole at the end of the school at A or C, so the fence can help ‘guide you in’.
2. Lead the horse over the pole initially, so he knows what you are asking him to do. Even experienced jumpers may spook at single poles if they were not aware of them.
3. Then add two more poles, around 9-12 feet apart, so you have three poles in a fan shape, with the middle one at A or C – you will be able to walk, trot or canter over these, obtaining around one canter stride, two trot strides and three walk strides, depending on your horse‘s gaits.
4. Bear in mind that it is tricky to get the distances accurate on a circle, and that you may not be able to ‘place’ the horse at the centre of the poles when lungeing. If the distance is too long between the poles, the horse will lose his rhythm, raise his head and stiffen his back. If the distance is too short, he may stumble over the poles.
5. You will need an assistant on the ground to move the poles and get them accurately placed, or re-position them if the horse knocks them. Ask your assistant to move the poles in or out as required, to match your horse’s stride length. Walk the horse over the three poles in hand first.
6. Lunge the horse in walk and trot over the poles, working on establishing an even rhythm.
7. When the horse is happy over the ground poles, alternate ends can be lifted onto blocks, which will help the horse’s stride and encourage more flexion in the joints.
8. Once the horse is happy lungeing over the raised poles, introduce a cross pole jump where your middle pole is. Jumping blocks are best as your ‘wings’, as they are sturdy and the lunge line shouldn’t get caught on them.
9. Once the horse has jumped, if he’s getting excited or too fast, lunge him away so that your next circuit will not take him over the jumps – return him to a circle to gain control and rhythm. Then re-approach the jump every two or three circles.
10. Work as evenly as possible on both reins; your jump should be able to be approached from either direction.
Do you need lungeing practise on a horse? Then consider a training break. Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, a venue that offers riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland. The team welcomes riders of all abilities and age groups and offers expert tuition on the lunge, as well as in show jumping and flatwork, plus gentle hacks and exhilarating cross-country rides – www.castleleslie.com