Picture this: You’re out of shape. You go out on the road and run two miles. You come back from running those two miles, sit down in the classroom covered in sweat, and then try to learn Geometry. How well do you think that you’re going to learn and absorb that knowledge? The answer is not very well.
It has become an equine industry standard to lunge a horse before riding. The one thing that most people don’t understand is why they are lunging their horse. Are they doing it to wear the horse out? Warm the horse up? Or maybe even to get the buck out of it? Now, ask yourself the following questions: How much more athletic would that horse be doing their job if they didn’t waste two hours lunging before the show to wear them down or warm them up? How much clearer could we make our initial training process to not allow for bucking as an option, therefore preventing it from happening on a regular basis?
Unlike any of the other world-renowned clinicians, I didn’t come from cold horses. What I mean by the term cold horses are breeds such as quarter horses, draft horses, and other horses breeds that are more calm-mannered by nature. I came from the world of Paso Finos, a very hot breed. Unfortunately, horse breeds that fall into the hot horses category are often written-off as hard to train, too hot, too strong-willed, etc. All that means is that people don’t understand how to train them. If you would try to lunge a hot horse to get them to look for submission, you would be lunging your horse for years and years. Every day that you lunge them, they are going to get stronger and more in shape. By the end of the week, the horse would wear YOU out.
Now, why does this matter? Since I come from this hot horse background, I’ve had to learn to develop a training program that works for any breed, any age, any background, and any discipline. This all starts with working the horse from cold. By cold, I mean that the horse is not going to get lunged first, it’s not going to get worked first, and it’s fresh out of the stall or pasture. How much better would you learn if you weren’t sweating or breathing hard?
My goal is to start every horse from the very beginning, regardless of how advanced they are. As they pass each grade level, they are able to move on to the next. Some horses will fly through this process while others will struggle with Kindergarten and that’s okay. If a horse sweats at all during this grade school process, it’s because they are putting mental pressure on themselves. Although there is not much exercise movement involved in the grade school process, the 1stgrade “Lunging For Attention” level is about getting the horse to bend their head and look at you while moving forward so it may seem more physical if the horse is resistant. As long as the horse can do it freely, they may only go a couple laps each direction doing the movement correctly to prove they can do it.
The huge benefit to working a horse from cold is that they are sensitive and willing to listen to what you are asking. When a horse hasn’t been lunged or worn out, they are much more sensitive and attentive in their face. This makes it much easier and clearer to ask for specific answers. I also have found that it is very effective to take breaks in between getting the desired response and moving to the next thing. This allows the horse to relax their head and let it drop below their withers. This releases an endorphin that repels adrenaline. Every time that their adrenaline drops, they lick their lips, and then they relax, the horse also becomes sensitive again and is ready for the next learning experience. There is no comparison to the learning capabilities that this concept allows any horse to have, even if they are already nervous or sensitive in nature.