Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
We Aren't the Only Ones Who Get Spring Fever!
As spring approaches, the weather in most areas is starting to improve. It finally gets warmer, and the sun starts really shining. I don't know about you, but I get "spring fever," and our horses do too. Some horses get it because they just are enjoying the warm weather or because they have had a lot of time off in the winter.
If you are apprehensive about riding, your horse will feel your nervous energy. You want to get your riding season started on the right foot, so getting your horse to focus on you and relax before you get on is a great idea!
To Lunge or Not to Lunge?
If you and your horse are not experienced with lunging, there is a good chance it could negate your purpose of settling your horse down. A lot of horses being lunged just run like crazy and buck. I know that is sort of what you want them to do so they don't do it under saddle, but it can be counterproductive.
The Goal of Lunging Is Not Just to Tire Your Horse
When I lunge a horse, my goal is to get it to go on the ground just like it would if I was under saddle. I encourage the horse to keep the rhythm/speed I want and focus on me. If you are just holding onto the end of the lunge line while your horse puts on a rodeo, it is a good chance he may just get more wound up. We don't want to bring our horse's energy up, we want to settle it down. If your horse runs around you out of control on the lunge line, then you aren't doing anything but get your horse more wound up.
Some would say that at least by lunging, you are tiring the horses out. This will only be the case if you don't lunge regularly. If you start lunging your horse before each ride, he will just end up gaining fitness, and you will just have to lunge longer to get the same effect. Obviously, this would also be counterproductive.
If you are not experienced at lunging, it is a skill that is definitely worth perfecting with the help of your trainer or instructor. If you have not learned how to lunge, I don't suggest trying to learn how on your horse that has "spring fever." (This is unlikely to help you accomplish your goal of settling your horse down.)
What to Do If You Don't Feel Comfortable Enough to Lunge
Safety first of course! If you don't have anyone experienced to help you with lunging, do some simple groundwork exercises to help get your horse focused on the ground before you get on.
Things like getting your horse to move his haunches away from you on the leadline is part of teaching a horse to lunge. Control the hind end (the motor), and you control the whole horse! This will help to get him to focus on you, which should, in turn, relax both of you.
Another exercise you can do to help get your horse's respect and focus is to move your horse back out of your space without moving towards him or her. Ask him to back up with a tug on the leadline while you keep your feet in one spot. You may need to push your horse or use the leadline or whip tapping his chest to help him get the idea. What you are trying to do is assert your personal space with your horse. Asking him to respect you enough to back away from you without you moving towards him is a good way to help with respect and focus.
Consider the Experience Level of You and Your Horse, Then Decide!
Consider your level of experience and your horse's level of experience to decide which option is best and safest for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I think your horse will get the "spring fever" out of his system soon and then both of you can enjoy the spring weather!
© 2019 Ellison Hartley