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Getting A Horse To Calm Down Without Lunging

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  • Getting A Horse To Calm Down Without Lunging

    So my horse has been in his stall the past couple days because of some bad weather, and I know from experience that he gets very spooky and energetic in situations like this. Now would probably be a good time to mention that he's 4, and obviously, kind of green. xD

    I would lunge him, but he had some bad experiences with lunging with his previous owner, so while we've almost gotten the problem fixed, it's safer for me to lunge him with my trainer around to supervise.

    Sorry, I know it's a kind of random question, but it seems to be a recurring problem that I have.

    Any ideas? Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    can you turn him out in the arena for a bit to get his noodlieness out?
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      round pen or free lunge in the indoor is about all I have. . .


      • #4
        I am not sure what you do but could you set up a jumping shoot in the indoor. Do some gymnastics before you get on?


        • #5
          as others have said, if your barn permits you to free lunge in the arena or round pen, that might be your best bet. i did that a couple times a week with my old greenie and she had a blast (i'd always put at least some front boots on her).

          or, if you're able to, perhaps get on and try to funnel the excess energy into work.


          • #6
            Find some cannon fodder, AKA a good riding kid that bounces well?
            The Evil Chem Prof


            • #7
              If he's not a nasty bucker/spooker that's difficult to stay on, I recommend the "human lunge line." My guy is 13 now and doesn't get forward very often, but when he's feeling a bit fresh I usually just hop on and trot/canter on a loose rein and let him get the silliness out. During this time, I do very few transitions because he's definitely one to anticipate, and those can make him even more forward. Sometimes this means cantering for quite a while but eventually he does level out.


              • #8
                I HATE lunging just because I'm stubborn/ a little dumb so I've become "cannon fodder". Most horses come back to you pretty quickly (5-15 minutes) if you just let them do their thing at the trot/ canter i.e. no fancy transitions, no challenging patterns, no hanging on their mouth. On the flip side if there are a ton of people in the ring and going outside isn't an option, I do tons of nitpicky transitions and random seeming turns so that even if they're not quiet per say, they are REALLY listening.
                My Horse Show Photography/ Blog


                • #9
                  Either free lunge or bite the bullet and get on expecting to go for a nice 10 minute canter. Just think flowing and forward, contain vs control.


                  • #10
                    I have a young one that I just get on and ride it out of her. She can be stupid on a longe line and more likely to get hurt. She will be a bit silly for a 10 minutes or so when I get on but seems to settle down after that. Its always good to reaffirm you can "stick on" too lol

                    Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare


                    • #11
                      Free lunging is my first choice, but I find groundwork really helpful too -- Gets the horse listenning to you before you get onboard --

                      Also, anything you can do to relax their back is helpful -- I'll put a Back On Track cooler on before riding on cold nights -- A friend gives her horse a massage before riding --

                      Ride some ground pole exercises -- It helps keep the horse focussed on work/the ground ... rather than 'airs above the ground' --
                      "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


                      • #12
                        Free lunge if he can be sane about it. If he's going to go as fast as possible bucking and sliding out on turns, don't free lunge. Get on, get in a half seat and play 'the human lunger'. Just let him go trot or canter for 10 minutes on a loose rein, doing nothing more than steering and keeping a semi-reasonable pace. Don't ask him for anything else until he's let out the extra energy and is ready to listen


                        • Original Poster

                          Thank you, everyone! I actually normally am the cannon fodder of the barn, it just gets annoying trying to get actual work done while my horse is focused on spooking at anything possible (once on one of his fresher days, he went into hysterics over a ground pole I was trying to trot him over). I'll have to ask about arena turnout, though, I've never thought of that. I would set up a jumping chute or put him in a round pen, too, but unfortunately, my barn has neither. And I've never thought about relaxing the back, I'll have to try that!


                          • #14
                            I concur with the above poster who suggests ground work. Tuning in the brain is a great way to get them focused while still getting some energy out. For my horse, 99% of the time his attitude and energy level can be nicely adjusted by groundwork. The other 1% of the time he really just needs a canter on a loose rein for a lap or two. But I can tell the difference because he's not a butthead when he needs the canter option lol.

                            Start the ground work when you enter the stall. Continue it while tacking up/walking to the ring. He needs to pay attention to you the entire time, or suffer the (appropriate, helpful) consequences. Once you get on, just walk circles. But make them interesting circles, where you are paying attention to every little thing you and he are doing. Change direction. Keep him guessing. Circle... or serpentine? Walk-halt-walk, or walk-halt-turn on the haunches-walk?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jaideux View Post
                              I concur with the above poster who suggests ground work. Tuning in the brain is a great way to get them focused while still getting some energy out. For my horse, 99% of the time his attitude and energy level can be nicely adjusted by groundwork. The other 1% of the time he really just needs a canter on a loose rein for a lap or two. But I can tell the difference because he's not a butthead when he needs the canter option lol.

                              Start the ground work when you enter the stall. Continue it while tacking up/walking to the ring. He needs to pay attention to you the entire time, or suffer the (appropriate, helpful) consequences. Once you get on, just walk circles. But make them interesting circles, where you are paying attention to every little thing you and he are doing. Change direction. Keep him guessing. Circle... or serpentine? Walk-halt-walk, or walk-halt-turn on the haunches-walk?
                              I totally agree with this. I would STRONGLY caution against "free lunging" aka "letting him run" in an indoor. My then-4-year-old pulled a suspensory running in an indoor. If you don't enjoy riding your four year old after a few days of no turnout, you REALLY won't enjoy him on stall rest and hand walking for 6 months, followed by fully rehabbing him under saddle before he is allowed to get turned out again. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.

                              The ground work really does help get them thinking and burning some mental energy before you get on. I employ this option a lot with my horse (who is now coming 8).


                              • #16
                                Transitions, transitions, transitions
                                It may a few reps but it works.

                                I also have a 4 y/o mare. She has her days where she feels that she should go mustang.
                                I turn on the transitions.... keeping it between the halt-walk-trot until more settled. Keep calm but rooted in that saddle.
                                If he/she tries to prance when halted. Sit there and roll your eyes until they stop and ask again until they stand politely for 3 counts.

                                If you want to take it further. Do some shoulder-fore/in, haunches in, leg yeild.... this will naturally slow them down since they really have to 'think'.

                                I like lunging but I use lunging as a skill just like riding. I personally don't want to teach my horse that lunging means let loose time.
                                Free lunging.... You want to be careful as another said, you can end up with any number of injuries. Just not a great recipe.

                                Good luck.


                                • #17
                                  My 4 year old holsteiner filly is fairly easy and quite, but is still a 4 year old. I really dislike lunging. My flat work routine with her always starts out the same, weather she's been ridden daily, has had a day or two off, or has been stuck inside due to bad weather. I taught her good ground manners early on, and she has never been the slightest bit antsy in the crossties. After I tack up, I get on and we walk on the buckle for about 10 minutes (its winter here in NW Ohio). We walk a good working walk and I allow her to look around and see everything. If she trots off unexpectedly, I go with it for a few strides, pat her on the neck, and ask her to walk again. If she acts spooky about anything, I just give her a reassuring pat on the neck (a few good LOUD pats) and she immediately relaxes. We trot for a good 15 minutes on a loose rein. If she is really fresh I take a very light contact, otherwise, I completely throw her away other than steering. This seems to keep her very happy and relaxed. When we do transitions, I don't get overly picky if I ask her to extend the trot and she canters off, I go with it for a few strides and then try again. I also let her play at the canter if she wants. She shakes her head and acts like a baby when she is fresh, but nothing scary or earth shattering.

                                  One thing I have found that really helps, I put an old stirrup leather around her neck that I can use as an "oh shit handle" if needed. I really only use it when we jump, but it's nice to know it's there.

                                  I have found that keeping everything fun and happy makes life very easy with a 4 year old. Also, if she is inside due to weather, I absolutely make it a point to ride her that day, no exceptions.


                                  • #18
                                    With Tobias, I couldn't longe him. Seemed he NEVER ran our of energy, hes a TB. also Longing was hard on his navicular, and usually just stirred him up more than calm him down.

                                    My trainer told me to work his brain first. as soon as you get on, start asking hard things. I would be working on leg yields, turning on the haunches, bending in a small figure 8. So that he is thinking hard, that usually wore him out pretty fast.


                                    • #19
                                      I'd caution you about letting him run free in the indoor - a GP showjumper had not had turnout because of weather and she broke a leg in a corner and had to be destroyed - all that jamming of brakes and turning is a recipe for a disaster.

                                      I second getting the brain in gear with groundwork first and going for an in hand walk first.
                                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique