GVDS Sponsored Lunge Clinic a Huge Success!

by Judi DeVore

Eleven horse and rider pairs and twenty-six auditors were treated to an informative hands-on clinic hosted by GVDS and supported by a grant from USDF. The grant we received allowed auditing to be free of charge and kept the clinic cost extremely reasonable for the participants. 

Judi DeVore’s mare Believe WS models Vienna reins, an overgirth, and lungeing caveson. The Vienna reins are a nice option for encouraging a horse to stretch down and out.

At the introductory session and pot luck on Friday night, Joan Clay, our USDF-certified instructor brought her assortment of lungeing equipment and explained the benefits and reasons for each. This gave everyone the opportunity to think about what they might want to try for their particular situation.

Our first clinic day began with a lungeing demonstration by Joan on the correct safety, positioning and techniques for lungeing. She started with the proper way to connect your horse to the lunge line with a couple of options.

One option being the lungeing caveson and another being a strap that connected through the caveson and bit ring which assured that there would be no pull on the bit itself.

Once the actual lunge lessons began, several participants realized they weren’t influencing their horses properly with a few of the following being the most frequent corrections by Joan:

  • Create a triangle framing the horse between the lunge line, and the whip. Think of the lunge line as your reins if you were riding, your whip as your driving aid or legs, and your voice bridging the whip and lunge line as a substitute for the seat. Make sure to keep your position square to the horse.

  • Pick a point and stay there, pivoting around your foot to keep your shoulders square to the horse, but don’t travel or let the horse drag you along. Keep them traveling along the diameter of the circle that you decide.

The next focus was determining how the horse was performing using the pyramid of training as our guide. She would ask the participants if the horses had a good rhythm, first focusing on the regularity of the footfalls and if that seemed satisfactory to the audience, she would ask about the tempo or speed of the gait. Although many of the horses had good regularity, they had to be encouraged to have a better tempo.

She then asked the audience to comment on the suppleness of the horse and if they were demonstrating the correct bend both laterally and longitudinally. Several of the horses had issues looking to the outside of the circle and she helped correct this, depending on the horse, in this way:

  • Increase the tempo slightly

  • Move the horse out a bit on the circle

  • Then increase pressure on the lunge line to turn the head slightly inward

  • The increase tempo and centrifigal force will aid in bending the horse in on thecircle.

Our second day started with a warm up of exercises on the ground without horses. Then we lunged a rider on their horse and, getting tips for things to help our seat and position our independence in the saddle. Joan first evaluated each rider as the walk and the trot and then offered specific exercises and methods for improving their position.

Joan appreciated the fact that each of us had different issues in the saddle, many of which were due to injuries or medical problems, and muscle memory was preventing us from using our bodies in the right way. She gave us tailored

exercises to improve these issues. Some of the more common problems and exercises were:

Donna DuBois on her mare, Persia, demonstrates how raising your arms above your head helps lengthen and stablize the upper torso.

  • Sit on the triangle of your pelvis and rotate forward on to your pubic bone, then neutral, then back on your seat bones, and then back to neutral to find where the pubic and seat bones have equal weight.

  • Rotate your hips (scrolling) inward and outward and then inward then find the place where your toes and knees are pointed forward. Most of us needed to scroll inward.

  • Keep a soft bend in your knee as though you have a tennis ball you are holding just behind the knee.

  • To lengthen the upper leg while being lunged, bend your knee, grasp your foot on one side and push your knee towards the ground while pushing your pelvis forward, straightening and opening the upper thigh. Be sure to keep your seat with your balanced pelvic triangle, as described before, while you are doing this.

  • Do a two-point position and imagine there is grease in your hip, knee, and ankle joints while you glide along with the horses movement. Make sure to keep a neutral spine as you do your two-point position.

  • When sitting the trot think of a granite ball in the bowl of your pelvis rolling backward and follow that movement to increase suppleness in the movement of your pelvis. The motion absorbed in the movement of the hips helps to quiet the upper body.

  • While being lunged on the horse, holding your hands in rein position but without reins, imagine you have a set of maracas in your hand and you gently shake them in rhythm to the trot to help relax the upper shoulder and elbows.

  • To stabilize upper body and eliminate excess movement, she had the rider ride with their hands over their head for a short period of time which helped her feel the horse’s movement in a more stable way.

The enthusiasm for the amount of learning that took place over the course of the clinic was infectious. Many of us who had been lungeing for years and thought we knew what we were doing learned so much more about technique and equipment than we thought possible. Our club was so thankful to Joan for helping us expand our ideas for this clinic. With her help it became so much more than we originally imagined.

We were also grateful to USDF for their sponsorship which helped us to reach a larger audience of auditors by giving us their financial support. If you have an idea for a clinic, it is an excellent resource to help make it a financial reality.

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