If your horse is safe and balanced on the lunge, introducing jumps into the mix can really benefit his work – although it isn’t for all horses, or people. Some trainers do not advocate jumping on the lunge, as it is difficult to regulate the horse’s pace, while the handler, if inexperienced, can restrict the horse’s movement over a fence.
However, other people maintain that jumping on the lunge aids hind leg flexion, develops carriage and boosts the horse’s jumping confidence, without rider intervention; ask your instructor for advice if you are unsure.
Try this simple lunge-based exercise…
- Place a single pole in the arena where you are lungeing, so it lays across the track. Lungeing the horse normally over the pole will encourage him to relax and lower the head and neck; poles also help to improve the paces and bring extra variety to the work. It is often useful to place the pole at the end of the school at A or C, so the fence can help ‘guide you in’.
- Lead the horse over the pole initially, so he knows what you are asking him to do. Even experienced jumpers may spook at single poles if they were not aware of them.
- Then add two more poles, around 9-12 feet apart, so you have three poles in a fan shape, with the middle one at A or C – you will be able to walk, trot or canter over these, obtaining around one canter stride, two trot strides and three walk strides, depending on your horse‘s gaits.
- Bear in mind that it is tricky to get the distances accurate on a circle, and that you may not be able to ‘place’ the horse at the centre of the poles when lungeing. If the distance is too long between the poles, the horse will lose his rhythm, raise his head and stiffen his back. If the distance is too short, he may stumble over the poles.
- You will need an assistant on the ground to move the poles and get them accurately placed, or re-position them if the horse knocks them. Ask your assistant to move the poles in or out as required, to match your horse’s stride length. Walk the horse over the three poles in hand first.
- Lunge the horse in walk and trot over the poles, working on establishing an even rhythm.
- When the horse is happy over the ground poles, alternate ends can be lifted onto blocks, which will help the horse’s stride and encourage more flexion in the joints.
- Once the horse is happy lungeing over the raised poles, introduce a cross pole jump where your middle pole is. Jumping blocks are best as your ‘wings’, as they are sturdy and the lunge line shouldn’t get caught on them.
- Once the horse has jumped, if he’s getting excited or too fast, lunge him away so that your next circuit will not take him over the jumps – return him to a circle to gain control and rhythm. Then re-approach the jump every two or three circles. The aim is for the horse to jump the fence without getting super-excited or adapting his rhythm. If your jump is low, you will still be able to approach it from walk, just popping into trot from a stride away – there’s no need for rushing.
- Bear in mind that you will need to move around the arena a lot – don’t worry about staying on a specifically-size circle – it is better to have the horse on a shorter lunge line, and move more quickly yourself around the arena.
- Work as evenly as possible on both reins; your jump should be able to be approached from either direction.
Use the right equipment
You will need some good quality lunge equipment if you plan to lunge regularly.
Here are some of our favourites, all currently discounted:
- Horze Orbit Textile Lunging Line, product ID: 10519. This is made from soft polyester cushion web, with a soft handled loop.
- Horze Nylon Lunging Girth, product ID: 24900. This nylon surcingle has back cushioning made from stuffed synthetic leather.
- Horze Two-Part Lunging Whip, product ID: 42211. This clever whip divides into two parts, with a long nylon lash.
- Horze Lunge Caveson, product ID: 10537. This high quality caveson is made from nylon with a soft-lined noseband. It is equipped with clasps that fit most lunging lines and aid-reins.
Many people advocate the use of boots to protect the horse’s legs when jumping. This is because tendon and ligament strains are very common injuries in the lower leg of performance horses. The most common damage in horses is damage to the superficial digital flexor tendon, which runs from the back of the knee down to the fetlock. The digital flexor tendons at the back of the leg support the fetlock joint, and act as a spring. Progressive degeneration of the tendon structure is not uncommon in hard-working horses.
- We like Horze Tendon Boots, product ID: 19415, – these boots protect the tendon area as well as the fetlock and cannon bone. The boot closes and tightens with an elastic strap and velcro. The outer shell is made of plastic with a neoprene lining.
- Or, try ProSoft Boots from Horze, product ID: 19302. The ProSoft Boots protect the fetlock and cannon bone, and can be used on both front and hind legs. It is recommended that you choose one size bigger for the back legs. The boots provide extra support at the stroke areas and are easily cleaned. They are made of neoprene with velcro fastenings. Sizes, S, M, L and XL. Available in black or white.
Visit our webshop for details of these and other products.