Have you ever had the feeling that you just can’t get your balance right while riding? Or maybe you want to be able to focus less on your seat and more on what your legs are supposed to be doing.
Maybe your trainer told you that you need to get your hands out of your lap.
For these reasons and others, your trainer might suggest a lunge lesson on horseback.
What is a lunging lesson on horseback?
This can vary from trainer to trainer, but generally, your riding instructor would attach your horse to a lunge line and give him directions and commands from the ground. You would be on your horse either on a bareback pad or all tacked up. What you use during your lesson depends on the goal that you’re trying to work towards.
Can’t I just ride like I normally would?
While it seems like you might not get much done during a lunge lesson, there are actually many positive takeaways! Being able to have a lesson on the lunge line can improve your seat, your core strength, and your balance. Sometimes trainers will have students start off with lessons on the lunge line to develop their independent seat before they ride on their own.
If you’re struggling with balancing yourself on your horse’s neck, you might want to consider a lunge lesson. This will help you learn to balance yourself better in your seat. By being able to take the focus off of all the moving parts we use in riding, you’re able to better yourself in the areas where you might be struggling.
Additionally, a lunge lesson can show you areas where you might want to improve. For example, you might get on the lunge line with your horse and realize that you’re gripping too much with your knees or that you’re off balance. You or your trainer might see that you’re overcompensating with your seat, hands, or legs, to make up for another part of your body that needs more work.
What should you expect from a lunge lesson?
Lunge lessons with your horse shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes long. It’s important that you warm up your horse and yourself before you begin a lunge lesson. This will allow for more freedom of movement and lessen the possibility of injury. If you’d like to be able to focus on yourself, or for riders who are off-balance, you can also add side-reins. Before you do this, be sure you know how to attach side reins correctly and what they’re used for.
Exercises to Practice
- Take off your stirrups
The dreaded no-stirrups! As hard as this exercise can be, it is great practice for lengthening your leg and developing your independent seat. Without stirrups, you are able to follow the horse’s motion without pinching at the knee. Practicing without stirrups also gives you a feel of where your leg should naturally hang.
- Take off your reins
While this may seem nerve-wracking, know that your trainer has it all under control! Removing your reins allows you to stop balancing with your hands or holding your hands in your lap. It also helps your core strength and your balance as you learn to use your seat.
- Leg Lifts
Try this five times on each side and see which leg is stronger. This will help you to develop stronger abdominal muscles and balance as you try to lift each leg up to the saddle and back down.
- Arms Out Like an Airplane
You can do this exercise at the walk, trot, and canter – as long as you feel comfortable! Place your arms out to the side like an airplane and use your seat and core to balance yourself over your horse.
- Hands on Hips
Place your hands on your hips as you move between the gaits. Are you able to communicate with your horse using just your seat? This exercise takes away the habit of pulling on your horse’s mouth before you use your seat to move through transitions.
- Hands on Helmet
When your hands were on your hips, your balance was more centered. Notice how that changes as you move your hands to your head. Be aware of what this does in your body and how you compensate for balance changes when you ride.
- Toe Touches
You can do this at a stand-still or a walk. Bend down with your left arm to reach your right toe and vise versa. Are you able to balance and use your seat as you move? This exercise helps to strengthen your core and improve your balance.
Want more exercises to practice?
As equestrians, our goal should always be to improve. Lunge lessons with your horse will be able to improve your riding while strengthening areas that might need work. These lessons are also beneficial for your horse, as they strengthen your horse’s neck and top line. If you’re interested in learning more about how to lunge your horse without a rider on it’s back, check out our free e-course! Happy Lunging!