A few months ago I had written a post regarding the different types of exercises you can do while riding. One of the things I touched on was lunging and I would like to revisit that to elaborate on it a little bit more.
Lunging is a wonderful way for you and your horse to build strength as well as build confidence in your riding.
The first set of exercises I find particularly beneficial pertain loosening your body for your ride. People think it is so easy to jump on a horse and take off. What they don’t know is that if your body is stiff it can impact your ride in ways you don’t want it to. Therefore you want to make sure you are nice and loose.
Here are some things you can do: helicopters, leg lifts, single leg lifts, ankle rolls, reach overhead until your arms burn, arm circles and expanding your hips by moving your legs out to the side. Also, you can do leaning exercises such as stretching yourself forwards and backwards on your horse to reach their neck or tail. All of these exercises are ones I do when I am working with my trainer. I have found that I am able to ride in a much better position without worrying about how stiff my body will be. Being loose helps for a more relaxed and balance ride.
The next thing I would like to address while working on the lunge is dropping your stirrups…eeep!! This I found is not a particular favorites of riders because you have to use all of your strength and balance to keep yourself centered. Most trainers will want you to be able to walk, trot and canter without stirrups as it helps with your position whether you realize it or not. I use myself as an example in this case because I thought I was a darn good rider until I realized I was relying on my stirrups for everything….forget about that thing called leg strength.
I remember finding myself unbalanced, scared and wondering what can I do to hang on?! Dropping my stirrups helped me realize rather quickly that I need to use my legs as my means of staying on and as my means of communication with my horse. Who knew a horse would stop if you didn’t use your legs to ask for the transitions lol?
Finally I would like to express my thoughts of the sitting trot during lunge lessons. This is another thing I don’t think most riders fancy because it is so awfully bouncy and you feel like you are going to bounce right off (personal experience)! The idea behind the sitting trot is finding out you have core muscles that need to be used. If you don’t have the core strength you need you wonder how you will ever be able to transition in your gaits. Example: slow down, speed up, post up, post down, stay collected, extend……..etc. Sitting trot is definitely not the most fun you will have but can be beneficial if you take the time to learn it and do it more than once.
Overall I think lunging is a fantastic way for riders who are looking to build strength and have more confidence in their riding. It doesn’t have to be applied during every lesson but can be beneficial if you do it at least once or twice a week with your trainer. From personal experience I have gone from an okay rider to one who is fully understanding how to use her body more effectively through all the exercises listed above. The one thing I want to make sure you take away from this is just to remember to have fun with it and do not stress out if you don’t get things right away.
It all takes time and as riders, we should all know that.