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Starting a horse with minimal lunging

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  • Starting a horse with minimal lunging

    Vet has told me to start working my 2008 filly in January as part of her rehab.

    Back in August she detatched a ligament in her pasturn and took a chunk of bone with it. The area has scarred down well, and the pasturn shows no signs of arthritis, so my vets want me to start working her, but does not want her to spend too much time on a circle. Riding would be ideal...but first she has to be started under saddle!

    The filly is an opinionated girl, but she has shown herself to be quite trainable. All she really knows though is leading walk/trot, lunging walk/trot, and ponying walk/trot...and minimally at that.

    So, any idea suggestions on how to proceed with her training without lunging? I am thinking ground driving with a leader (at first) and ponying in the indoor will be the place to start, as well as ground work to teach her to give to pressure (leg and rein).

    I mostly use lunging to get them to understand voice commands, and to get used to the saddle, but I think I can get her used to the saddle by ponying...maybe voice commands too?
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

  • #2
    That's great that your filly is healing so nicely!

    I really like your idea of ground driving and long lining to start. These skills will come in handy when you are ready to ride her. Once she wears the bridle, you can introduce yeilding to pressure, bending, and turning right and left from the ground. Then your ground person can help you with introducing the ground driving.

    What you are talking about - starting under saddle with minimal lungeing - is very doable. My rule of thumb is I do not proceed to the next step until the horse is confirmed at the current task at hand. Less is always more. Good judgement required at all times!! (see my thread about a free lungeing diseaster where someone turned a horse loose with side reins on for the first time ).

    Personally, I do not do always do a ton of lungeing before I get on, but that is just me. Mine learn free lungeing and lungeing in a 62' round pen. WTC, whoa, turn, and come to me. I put a bareback pad on them in the stall and practice climbing up and down the mounting block, hanging over their back from both sides, etc. The first time I sit on them, I do it with the bareback pad, then I get on off, on off. I am then lead around by an assistant and we walk and turn both directions, and whoa - mainly with assistant in control, but I also start to give the aids. I tap tap with my leg to get the horse to walk forward. Tons of praise.

    Introducing the saddle has never been a big deal. Put the saddle on in the barn, get the leather to squeak, slap, etc. I then do the same routine that I did with the bareback pad. We work on mounting - on off, on off.

    Personally, I *always* use a neck strap and western saddle until the horse is confirmed WTC. I introduce the dressage saddle the same way as I did the bareback pad and western saddle. I continue with the neck strap with the dressage saddle for quite awhile (like months). I really like having the neck strap in the event that they jump around, so I won't get them in the mouth.

    I require a good ground person that can operate a lungewhip and one that has impeccable timing to keep the horse moving forward. Otherwise, no thank you. The horse walks forward, stops, turns, and trots on the first ride. I always canter asap - sometimes 1st ride, but usually like 2nd ride, and always by the 3rd ride.

    Anyway, that is how I do it. Everything is really easy and non eventful.

    Good luck with your filly! You must be so excited about her progress and the potential of sitting on her sooner than later!


    • #3
      I don't usually do much lunging, and never any cantering on the lunge with my babies as I feel too many small circles are not good for them. I work on voice commands in hand (just W/T). I have the horse just with a halter and lead shank in my right hand and a lunge whip in my left. Start at the walk and randomly say "WOAH" and hit their chest with the handle of the lunge whip. For the first couple of times make a big enough of a deal to make them stop without touching their head (obviously don't beat the heck out of them, but make your movements and voice big enough to back them off). Then say "walk" and tap them with the end of the lunge whip behind you and WAIT for them to move before you do. Repeat this and usually they have picked it up well by the end of a 15 minute session. Then repeat with trot.

      Then I use these commands on the long lines to get turning and to have the a little more confident going out "on their own". Once you get to this point you can proceed as normal with breaking her.

      I'm glad your girl is going to be okay! Good luck with her!


      • #4
        IMHO there is no need to lunge or round pen prior to starting them under saddle. I do teach them to lunge at some point because it is a very good thing for them to know. Ground driving teaches them to go forward from a signal on their sides and stop from a signal on their head. It teaches them to go, stop and turn without someone at their head (at some point). They need lots of work learning to give to pressure in many places of course.

        There is a great section on ground driving in "The Ultimate Horse Training and Behavior Book" by Linda Tellington-Jones.

        Good Luck!


        • Original Poster

          Fantastic, Free lunging would also be out for this horse. Keep in mind she was on complete stall rest with a special wrap to pretty much immobilize her fetlock for three months, then just a stable wrap with turn out into a tiny pen (24 x 24 feet). For the last month she has been out in a 60x70 foot pen. As she is pretty much missing a ligament now, I am working her to help her develope scar tissue, but I have to consider the joint still unstable and protect it as much as possible.

          I am excited to be able to ride her; we were worried she would not be sound enough to ever be ridden, but it is odd to start a horse under saddle with the awareness of her having this injury and a still uncertain prognosis.

          Reagan, thanks for the ideas! I need to try to get her approved this year, so that work will also help with her inhand training.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


          • Original Poster

            Lookma, I have that book, and will review that section. I have started older horses without lunging (ones who had been previously frightenned by trainers who scared them by round penning the cr@p out of them), but I admit lunging them to get them used to a saddle gives me comfort. I find it easier to control/contain them on the lunge vs driving. It is likely more me that needs to be confident in skipping lunging...the filly won't know a step was missing/different!
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


            • #7
              I had a yearling break his hip several years ago and after a year of mostly stall rest, etc the vet wanted him put to work on straight lines. Sure-no problem! Since I am not much for lunging anyways (but usually do some lunging with youngsters) I happened to have access to a good pony horse. We did everything that way. Ponied until comfortable and well behaved at the walk, then added trot, then canter. Added saddle, then bridle w/t/c. Added rider and ponied while rider took over asking for turning and stopping with the pony horse still there. That made the transition as smooth as knowing verbal commands-the pony horse was familiar and my colt knew what was expected of him so the rider just had to make cues/commands go with the familiar territory. It worked really well. He was off the pony horse (but in the ring with him) on ride 3 and was alone by ride 5.
              Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!