Working on Throughness on the Lunge Line

Last week we discussed the pyramid of training as part of our 3-part series on working through issues on the lunge line. Now we’re going to move from working through issues to building up musculature and a solid foundation for your horse.

The pyramid of training is largely used in the dressage world but it is useful for all disciplines! Dressage riders and trainers primarily use it for developing a horse’s “thoroughness”. Let’s look at how we can apply those same principles to lunging.

What is Throughness?

Throughness is understood to be a horse who has successfully mastered each of the components to the Pyramid of Training. These include rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion straightness, and collection. Riders and trainers work to develop throughness as a way to build muscle, connection, and finishing of their horses. It’s important to remember that thoroughness isn’t something that is achieved overnight but instead is a series of steps working together to achieve a well-balanced horse. You can use lunging training to develop your horse’s throughness as a means of additional cross-exercise on the ground that you wouldn’t get under saddle. 

Understanding the Pyramid of Training

As we set out with a goal of throughness using the lunge line, we can use the Pyramid of Training as a guide. Each block of the pyramid is a stepping stone to the next expectation. You’ll need to first assess where you think your horse is on the pyramid of training. We don’t advise jumping straight to the top without going through each building block first. Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your horse at each of the levels:

Rhythm: You can define rhythm as the even footfall of your horse’s feet. Does she have an even footfall in all three gaits? If not, what exercises or equipment can you add in to help her balance? We recommend trot poles and lots of transitions!

Suppleness: Is your horse relaxed? Signs of a relaxed horse include a swinging tail, a free-moving hind end, snorting, and stretching their head long and low. You also want to look for an even lateral bend through your horse’s shoulder on the lunge line. 

Contact: Does your horse feel steady in your hand? Where could you be providing more contact and where does your horse need less? Ideally, your horse has an even and firm contact with you in all three gaits before you continue. 

Impulsion: Is your horse pushing from his hind end and lifting his back? Does he look propelled forward by the flick of his back toes? Is he lifting his inside shoulder and resting comfortably in his center of gravity? 

Straightness: Does he bend from his poll, through his neck and long back muscle down to his tail on the turns? Are his feet tracking up into the footfalls in front of him? 

Collection: Is he pushing forward and driving through the bit with his hind end? Does he have firm and even contact with you throughout the session? Does he feel light in the hands, supple through the shoulder, and lifted through the back?

Applying Throughness on the Lunge Line

Now that you have a guide on what questions to ask yourself about your horse on the lunge line, you can start to apply different exercises as part of your training plan based on what stage you’re at. Start with rhythm and work to expand on you and your horse’s knowledge of that step before moving forward. 

You’ll want to incorporate each of the pyramid’s blocks into your training plan over time.

Focus on one area at a time. If your horse needs to work on rhythm, you could add in trot poles and focus on transitions. If you’re working through suppleness, encourage your horse to relax into that long and low stretch.

Be sure to focus on the building blocks consistently each week and track your progress. Imagine how exciting it will be to build up the pyramid as you lunge!

Curious to Learn More?

We cover all of these issues and more in our Basic Course – The Art of Lunging! You will also receive clear and detailed instructions about how to create your lunging training plan and how to use it to improve your horse’s lunging. Over the course of 10 self-study modules, you will learn from our comprehensive guide to lunging including a how-to video library! Check it out today!