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When to Introduce Lunging Aids (Side Reins, Neck Stretchers, etc.)

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  • When to Introduce Lunging Aids (Side Reins, Neck Stretchers, etc.)

    Hello all! This is a question I've been pondering for quite some time. I have asked my trainer's opinion on the matter, and she believes to introduce these aids later in life (>5 years), but I have seen other trainer routines that contradict this and have young horses working with lunging aids ~3 years of age. By lunging aids, I am referring to:My filly is pretty weak in the hind end but I haven't considered using any of these aids until I receive my trainer's approval. I'm really just looking for a second opinion. For those of you who do utilize these tools on your young horses, how often do you use them? Reponses are appreciated, thank you!

  • #2
    You're not really doing much on a lungeline if you're not using something like sidereins. While I'm not at all averse to doing that--when I'd stable my old mare at shows, I'd toss her on a lungeline for 10 minutes in the morning to stretch her legs without anything but a halter--if you're doing it with a youngster, I'd assume you want to do it for training purposes and not just a stretch of the legs.

    Current 3YO TB is lunging lightly (~10-15 mins) in loosely adjusted sidereins on a nice big circle once a week or so. I don't love spinning them in circles too much as a general rule, but I do think it helps them figure out the concept of "forward into contact" on their own, which IME has been good with mares, who generally do better having things be their idea
    A Year In the Saddle

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    • #3
      I've got a 3 year old WB that I just sat on for the first time. He learned to lunge and long line/ground drive mostly with a rope halter and a little bit with the bridle/bit. I'm waiting to add balancing/vienna reins until he understands more about the bit and contact, so probably not until this winter.

      Now that he knows how to lunge, I just toss him on the line for 5 minutes to check his brain and get him responding to forward aids before I sit on him - our total "work" is 20 minutes 3 times per week. I'm not lunging to exercise him and if he's not in a good mental place to be sat on, we might work some more transitions and then go for a hand walk or ground driving on the trails.

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      • #4
        The answer for neck stretchers and other gadgets is never.

        Side reins are not a gadget and used by me from day 2 or so depending on the horse.

        I am very experienced and do not use side reins to pull in a horse's head and that is not what they are for.

        Side reins do not maim and kill horses. People using side reins incorrectly maim and kill horses.

        So horses I am breaking in are being lunged in side reins before ever being mounted, as well as long reined.
        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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        • #5
          Not terribly certain I agree with surcingle being included on the list above: if someone is ground driving a horse (or double lunging) a surcingle is something of a necessity - side reins aren't a prerequisite for a surcingle, if you're long lining a surcingle is a piece of equipment that's going to pretty inevitably show up. Compounded by the fact that ground driving/long lining can be a great way to start a horse's introduction to work, the surcingle showing up very early on in a horse's education isn't an issue to me.

          My 2yo is familiar with a surcingle and we will be introducing ground driving/long lining this summer.

          From my perspective with my young horse personally: I look at her and assess how young and undeveloped she is, and think that using systems like the pessoa rig, equiband, etc, would just be too much. I'm not a fan of neck stretchers in any situation regardless of age, so that's a moot point for me. Side reins maybe aren't the end of the world (if used correctly) but I don't necessarily find it as productive as, say, ground driving over different terrain (get out of the arena, hill work, work over poles/cavaletti) for improved fitness/strength, especially if the issue is a weak hind end as you mention above. Even just a good, active marching walk over inconsistent terrain (tack walk, hand walk, or ground drive) can be amazing at helping development.

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          • #6
            To me a surcingle is like a girth, but longer and goes over a saddle or a rug. I think you are referring to what I call a lunging roller. I lunge in both a roller or a saddle depending on the horse and what I am doing during and/or afterwards.
            It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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            • #7
              On my horse? Never. I was able to teach him to lunge with a soft inside bend and a relaxed top line without “tie downs”. In my experience, working the horse in a relaxed state of mind and and combining ground work exercises that ask the horse to step his inside hind leg under the center of his body built sufficient top line. Lateral and vertical flexions I taught in hand, first in halter and then in bridle. I didn’t use any extra lunging equipment on his dam either.

              Is there a particular reason why you are wanting to use the equipment you mentioned?

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              • #8
                I’ve posted this over and over and it’s just my .02 on side reins...

                when lunging with side reins my horse got to a point where he learned where his neck and head should be, but then never offered to stretch any farther. My former dressage coach taught me how to use them, so I wasn’t going in blind. A natural horsemanship guy taught my horse how to stretch, and my horse started moving through his back, forward, stretched long and low... and the result was a well muscled horse who went from “nice” moving to “wow!” moving. When it was time to pick up contact, my horse was way lighter than he’d ever been.

                It was after that I sold my draw reins and neck stretcher. I’ve kept my side reins only because other people at the barn borrow them, but haven’t picked them up since.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by c0608524 View Post
                  I’ve posted this over and over and it’s just my .02 on side reins...

                  when lunging with side reins my horse got to a point where he learned where his neck and head should be, but then never offered to stretch any farther. My former dressage coach taught me how to use them, so I wasn’t going in blind. A natural horsemanship guy taught my horse how to stretch, and my horse started moving through his back, forward, stretched long and low... and the result was a well muscled horse who went from “nice” moving to “wow!” moving. When it was time to pick up contact, my horse was way lighter than he’d ever been.

                  It was after that I sold my draw reins and neck stretcher. I’ve kept my side reins only because other people at the barn borrow them, but haven’t picked them up since.
                  I have been taught to use side reins correctly. I cannot tell you how your dressage coach trained you, but yes my horses stretch when I lunge them. If they cannot the reins are too tight.
                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post

                    I have been taught to use side reins correctly. I cannot tell you how your dressage coach trained you, but yes my horses stretch when I lunge them. If they cannot the reins are too tight.
                    Loosest hole! And I know the next I will hear is 1) still to tight or 2) not being pushed forward enough into them. I won’t argue they have their place in some hands, and with certain horses. If pro dressage riders use them, who am I to argue?

                    But I do like sharing my experience with them, as a AA, because I found (with my skill set) that I didn’t achieve what I wanted. Perhaps more of a word of caution what can happen if you use them incorrectly?

                    This was in no way a jab at people who use them! And I’m sorry if it came across that way.

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                    • #11
                      No I am not offended as I hope you are not. Lunging is as individual as riding.

                      It is something I can just do and Mum said she used to lament that she wished I lunged the horses as much as I lunged the dogs! When I was only old enough to walk.

                      By individual I mean we would get 2 different outcomes with the side reins on the same holes as we would if we ride the same horse in the same saddle and bridle.

                      I do not know why your horse was not stretching if on the loosest hole but with one horse with a long neck I put extra holes in the reins to make them longer.

                      Also it takes a week or so for it to start to work as they relax and learn from the reins, if they have no knowledge of contact. It does not happen in the first or second session. It does not happen with the tightening of the reins. The same as that would not happen in the first lesson with riding.

                      and I swear this is true. You may not believe it. But he was tense and not relaxed when I lunged him a few times when coming back home. I had ridden and competed on him for years but not lunged him. I was now injured.

                      He was nearby when I lunged Vinnie. Pepper was out and could have been anywhere.

                      When I went to do him he was a completely different horse. Maybe he would have been anyway. But I think he actually watched. Anyway it seemed like a miracle that day.
                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't use lunging aids (including side reins) because I don't think they teach proper self carriage. Getting a horse to accept contact and be on the bit comes from behind, not from the front. There's also no release with lunging aids, even if they are elastic. I prefer to work them over hills and poles to get them to use their backs and hind ends. I try not to lunge that much, though. It's not great for their joints and it's boring for both parties. I use it to get the horse listening to my commands and moving their feet before I move on to ground driving etc.

                        I'm very much not a fan of neck stretchers because while they do make a horse stop giraffing, they don't make them engage their back at all.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          OP, what is your goal with this horse? Is it to have a horse who moves well, carries herself, is soft in the bridle, responsive to your aids of seat and leg and hand? Is longeing supposed to muscle up her hind end?

                          I don't think you'll achieve any of those goals with devices. I could be a longeing crank, but I see way too much longeing, horse going around strung out or cranked in (neck stretchers! geez louise), side reins cranked in. These are all people who are (a) actually trying to tire their horses so they feel safe getting on, and/or (b) people trying to get a shortcut to some gold ring of training, without putting in the in-saddle hours it takes.

                          Ride your horse at a great walk. Trot her up small hills. Make sure she's stepping under and moving out well. Ride your horse. The devices won't ride your horse for you. And they just give the horse a huge translation problem once you finally get on.



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                          • #14
                            I'm one of those who would respond "never" to most of that stuff. Engagement and carriage comes from the hind end, and restricting the front end is counter productive IMO. Where the head is carried is not important, and head and neck position comes correct when the horse is relaxed and hind end engaged and the back is round. But, I never say "never" with horses, there may be circumstances where equipment is helpful to teach something that the horse has not discovered on his own. But that would be an exceptional situation.

                            When lunging a young, green horse, I want him to stretch his neck down and long and low. I want him to do that himself, as I encourage him to step up under himself from behind at all gaits. I want him to learn how to carry himself, how to regulate his speed and balance, hold his gaits and respond to my cues. I don't want to interfere with his front end while he learns that, it would be counter productive. I love to watch a horse learn this stuff, what he can do that he didn't know before. He doesn't need equipment on him to learn this. I like to see him stretch his nose right down to the ground, at the extended trot, no side reins needed for that.
                            www.cordovafarm.weebly.com

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