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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
The dark nights have started to set in and every night it’s getting darker earlier and earlier. It’s hard not to lose motivation when the weather starts to change, but here are a couple of great exercises if you find yourself short for time, just want a quick but beneficial workout, or you don’t really feel like riding but your horse needs to keep fit. A 20 minute lunge session (10 mins each side) will stretch their legs and help to keep them fit. Bailey and I love doing ground work so we switch up every lunge session with different exercises. We do a lot of work with a pessoa, running side reins or with no training aid at all. Training aids are a personal preference to each rider; some love them, some hate them. I personally don’t like to use them constantly, but there are many beneficial exercises you can do on the lunge.
Remember, lunging puts more strain on the joints and is equivalent to an hour schooling session. Keep your circles big and equal, doing an equal amount of work on both reins. I would recommend no more than 2 lunge sessions a week.
Spiralling in and out on the lunge
A good exercise to increase suppleness and ask for more bend in the horse is Spiral circles - increasing and decreasing the circles to get the horse to develop more bend and engagement of the inside hind leg crossing, which allows the horse to push onto a more consistent outline and you’ll see the muscle under the crest come out like a sausage in the neck. The back will rise up between the neck and hindquarters like a rounded bridge. This exercise works really well on the lunge as well as when doing a schooling session.
Lunging with poles
Like schooling, you can use poles on the lunge. I have two preferred ways of using poles, the first is placing one pole at every quarter of the circle (12, 3, 6 and 9 as if it was a clock) and the second is placing 5 trotting poles on the circle keeping the inner ends of the poles closer together than the outer ends (in a sort of fan shape), meaning you can ask the horse to shorten or lengthen their stride, depending which route over the poles you take. You can eventually build this up to raised poles too.
Low jumps on the lunge
Jumps on the lunge is also a good exercise. Bailey and I need to do more of this, as on his weak rein he does tend to land on the wrong leg, so doing this helps him learn to land on the correct leg. For this we currently just have one low jump on the circle. When you and your horse feel ready you can introduce more jumps, such as one every ½ of the circle, then build this up to one every ¼ of the circle, keeping the jumps low and the circle big. You can also do a couple of small bounces (ideally 3) on the straight, remembering to do work equally on both reins.
Double long reins / Long reining
The benefit of this exercise is that you can really take advantage of the school, changing from lunging with double long lines, to going down the length of the school long reining, and back again. You can also add in poles, and even include more lateral movement when you are long reining.
Top Tip: If you don’t have flood lights, Portable Workman lights work brilliantly to help light up your arena.