Lately, I have been feeling extremely unmotivated. We are in the planning stages of building a barn and setting up our farm. I know it is supposed to be exciting but in reality it seems more stressful than exciting. I know when it is all built and the horses at home I am going to be happy so I have to keep focusing on that
This week has been hot and humid and the weekend promises more of the same. I get to the barn around 4:30pm everyday and when you look at the horses standing there sweating in front of the fans you feel guilty for riding them. That doesn’t mean they always get off the hook but I do alter the program a little bit.
I have become a huge fan of lunging horses over jumps. I never had any experience in how to do this so I just sorta wing it but it is suprising to see how this works on building confidence in horses and teaching them how to take care of the jumps on their own. I was reading on the COTH bulletin board that P. Wynn Norman, owner/breeder of the famous pony Teddy O’Connor, uses various lunging over jump exercises with all of her ponies/horses. I picked her brain a bit and she gave me a bunch of fun exercises to try. She told me how she customizes her program to each individual horse and also how she lunges her horses over x-country jumps. That got me wheels turning and gives me something to do when I feel unmotivated.
One word of advise is make sure your horse lunges well before you attempt to lunge the over jumps. A small ring works best to start out so you can get used to how to position yourself and how to get the horse to jump with minimal encouragement. For the most part I don’t take my own advice…you know cause that would be too practical. Instead, I get grand ideas on how we are going to go out and lunge in the big wide open field where the horses live. I have several x-country jumps in there. A black pipe which is 2’3″, a barrel jump about 2ft high and a coop that is 2’6″ high. They are all set near the fence in different areas of the field. The fence creates a barrier on one side of the jump which makes it a bit easier to steer the horses to the jumps.
This is how it normally works for me. Bring the horse out with cavesson and lunge line. I wear gloves (really never forget this…you will regret it if you happen to make that mistake). Start warming them up at the trot and watch horse look at you like you are crazy because you hardly ever lunge them. Most of the Tb’s are like what in the heck are you doing with that lunge whip and show off their airs above grounds until the realize I am pretty harmless.
Once we get some sort of control established I proceed to show the horse what we are doing. Horse look at this jump. I want you to trot/canter down and jump it and don’t jerk my arm out of socket and don’t run by it and almost run me over in the process okay??? Um, yeah sure your crazy mom but whatevah.
I spend a few minutes flapping around until we get the perfect positioning and then they normally jump the jump with no issues. Unless you don’t pay attention…I never do this
Dixie lunges well even though we don’t do it often. I had lunged him over jumps once or twice before but it had been a while. We start with the black pipe because it is the longest giving me a big target to get them straight to. He is confused and breaks to the walk. I believe they can walk right over because it’s small but he walks up and kneels on it and then spins around getting the lunge line under his leg. Oh no he says and promptly jerks the lunge line out of my hand and runs back to the barn. Did I mention a small ring??? I go back and collect him and he is looking at me with those big brown eyes thinking I am nuts but he is used to it by now. We head back out and somewhere along the run back to the barn he must have figured out that the crazy woman wants him to actually jump this jump. He trots right on over it. A few times he does a drive by because I am not positioned just right. If you have tried this then you know what i am talking about especially when you are not using poles as wings. You think they might run over you as they run by but they are Tb’s and are way to smart to do that.
We get in our groove and he is cantering right down to the base and just loping away really jumping nicely and using himself. Good boy! He was going around by himself and I do think he was having fun because I had to rein him in to get him to come back to a walk. We headed off to the barrel jump next. The barrels are just three blue barrels on their side together in a line. We actually did really good with these and managed to go over without running out the sides.
The coop is next and it is the most challenging. It is interesting to watch them handle the coop because it is narrow (8ft wide maybe?) and 2’6″ high but the sides are sharply slopping so it is a bit upright. I have a hard time steering to this one and I have to position myself near it so they don’t run by. It took me two times to get it just right and he made an awkward jump the first time sort of straight up like a deer. They always want to get really deep to the base which makes for an awkward jump. The next time he got it just right and then he cantered it once very nicely. Big pats and carrots for him. I think he was proud of himself when he was done.
In the ring you can use a lot of different exercises with grids, poles, oxers and more. I really do believe it teaches horses confidence in themselves and you get a better relationship with them as you learn what makes them tick. There always seems to be a learning curve but as long as you keep safety in mind you can be safe and learn at the same time.
I will say that my left wrist which is the one that was broken last year really hates me for any lunging I do. Getting jerked and pulled on by 1000+ lb animals is not in the therapy plan
I am not sure what the plans are for Dixie this weekend. It will be mid 90′s and very humid. He is getting his feet done on Saturday and maybe an off the farm trip on Sunday…well shall see.